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this is America

Last year, I spent the Fourth in Panama (yes, yes, I know that I owe you more chronicles…they are in the works, I promise).

This year, I was back on US soil and my friend Rachela and I drove out to Berkshires for the long weekend. It was a colorful weekend on so many levels, so please bear with me as I test out my new camera to capture it all. Our adventure started with berries plucked straight from the bushes. It ended with the most non-PC gentleman you could even imagine pointing us towards the nearest gas station. In between: farm animals, a swimming hole (yes, a swimming hole), the local Independence Day parade complete with the Chesterfield Chicken and the town mime, dance, fireworks and a long line of traffic, art, a lake, and the largest popovers I have ever seen.

And just when I thought I was a little out of my comfort zone, the Israeli photographer we shared breakfast with reminded me that “this is America.”

Remember those black raspberries? Did I tell you they were picked from the bushes behind our B&B? Or that when we met the proprietor his hands were stained from his collection? Or that they starred in the muffins that made up part of our multi-course breakfast? Or that I snagged the recipe to share with you? Yes, I may be slowing down on the recipe front, but this one is well worth the wait.

Black Raspberry Muffins

Generously shared by Denise at Seven Hearths. Makes 12 muffins. You will eat them all.

- 2 C flour

- 1 T baking powder

- 1/2 t salt

- 2/3 C sugar

- 1 egg, beaten

- 1/3 C sweet butter, melted

- 1/2 C milk, warm

- 1/2 C sour cream

- 1 1/2+ C black raspberries

Pre-heat oven to 400.

Mix. Mix all dry ingredients. Add remaining ingredients except fruit and stir until just blended. DO NOT OVERSTIR. Fold fruit in lightly.

Bake. Scoop batter in lined or greased muffin tins. Bake approximately 20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 7-10 minutes and then remove.

Variation: you can substitute 1 1/2 C other fruit, but adjust the sugar (and other ingredients) accordingly:

Blackberry: 1 C sugar
Raspberry: 2/3 C sugar
Blueberry: 1/2 C sugar, 2 t lemon juice, 1 t grated lemon rind
Bing Cherry:  2/3 C sugar, 2 t grated lemon peel
Nectarine: 1/2 C sugar
Peach: 1/2 C sugar, 1 t vanilla

And it’s been a while since I shared some dance videos with you, so here are excerpts from the performance we saw.

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photo by Barry Munger, downloaded from http://www.thehighline.org/galleries/images/tags/barry+munger

photo by Barry Munger, downloaded from http://www.thehighline.org/galleries/images/barry-munger

Last Monday (June 8, 2009), Section 1 of the NY High Line opened and my sister, RySq was asked to serve as one of the greeters for the ribbon-cutting event as a volunteer with the Friends of the High Line. This afforded my talented lil sis — a budding architect,  photographer, graphic and jewelry designer, and all-around talented creative person to take pictures of this historic event and to be a fly on the wall. She has been talking about this urban planning and landscaping project for years since we both moved to New York in 2004, she to start her architecture career, I to continue in health care. So when her interest came full circle, I was so proud.

bench detail, photo by RySq

bench detail, photo by RySq

Ry shared over 200 frames and summarized her own thoughts on opening day in an email to friends and family (she rarely uses caps):

only the first phase [of the high line] has opened from gaansevort to 20th street. there are so many interesting moments … it really was  a treat to get up there and see it under construction the last few months and meet the founders of the organization. very inspiring that people can work together to make a difference in their community like this. the high line has truly transformed the entire far west side of chelsea for the better i think.

Ry heard Mayor Bloomberg speak with the press, and Diane von Furstenburg, an early supporter of the High Line with her flagship studio in the Meatpacking District, echoed a sentiment from a 2-minute video (where she described the High Line as “a green ribbon that follows the river into the sunset”), “‘the High Line is like a green ribbon running through the city… and I like ribbons … therefore I like the HighLine…‘”

DvF studio as seen from the High Line (picture by RySq)

DvF studio as seen from the High Line, photo by RySq

In looking through some other “High Line Stories” to be broadcast by the Sundance Channel, I found one featuring Adam Gopnik, New Yorker writer and author of one of the first books that I read about an American in Paris, an essay collection called Paris to the Moon about his 5-year sojourn in Paris. In his 2-minute vignette, he shares his thoughts about the High Line after having written an article about it in 2001:

‘It’s a sort of classic romantic subject: the ruins of industry,’ I thought as I say that it was a documentary of something passing. I did not imagine that it was really the foundation of something new. It seemed about as improbable a notion as anything could be that they would actually turn it into a park like the Promenade Plantée in Paris which is exactly like what this will become. And that is it’s an old abandoned railroad that had been turned into a long skinny high park. So when I wrote that piece, the effect was what had seemed to be merely a quixotic scheme suddenly seemed like a sane, rational, and necessary piece of urban planning. What were needed were new green lungs for the city to breathe with.

Sundeck, photo by RySq

Sundeck, photo by RySq

"Pavement Meets Horticulture" - photo by RySq

Pavement Meets Horticulture, photo by RySq

On the High Line website, there are numerous galleries of photographs, including this one of the “High Line in Operation” with black and white photos such as this one of a train chugging along the West side of lower Manhattan.

One of these iconic photos has even been incorporated into an Anya Hindmarch tote as part of the High Line Merchandise Program, whereby local designers including DvF, Trina Turk, and Zero + Maria Cornejo (who created a gorgeous abstract loop scarf) designed commemorative products, some proceeds of which support the High Line.

Anya Hindmarch tote

Anya Hindmarch tote

When Ry gets excited about something, her enthusiasm is infectious. And I often try to learn about what is inspiring her (like when I took a class on Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Architecture to round out my Freshman year pre-med load to give us a common lexicon), of course, adding in my own special touch. So when my sister introduced me to the High Line a few years ago, I became interested in “NY Export: Opus Jazz the film” – a film of a Jerome Robbins ballet, NY Export: Opus Jazz (that originally premiered in 1958 and was more jazz dance than ballet, often referred to as “an urban ballet in sneakers”), performed by NYCB dancers in locations all over NYC, including on the last untouched area of the High Line.

Opus Jazz 2

Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall in "Passage for Two," photo by Yaniv Shulman (downloaded from earlier version of http://www.opusjazz.com, no longer available)

Opus Jazz

Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall in "Passage for Two," photo by Yaniv Shulman (downloaded from earlier version of http://www.opusjazz.com, no longer available)

The trailer for the documentary compares the original ballet, placing it in 1950s context when it aired on the Ed Sullivan show, with its modern adaptation and reinterpretation , and contains commentary by some of the original and current performers. The contrast of the same moves and lifts then and now is breath-taking against the Robert Prince music and urban backdrops, old and new.

Trailer: Jerome Robbins’ NY Export: Opus Jazz The Film

The behind-the-scenes video provides additional footage of the shooting of the film on the High Line, including capturing a scene in the last moment of sunlight of the day against the setting sun with the coming together of the art, luck, and skill that is film-making.

Behind the Scenes: Opus Jazz The Film

My sister ended her email with some closing thoughts.

the motto:

keep it simple
keep it wild
keep it clean
keep it slow

it is a passive park, designed via competition winner diller+scofidio… one of my favorite experimental  and visionary firms in the city

"Keep it Wild" - photo by RySq

Keep It Wild, photo by RySq

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hagiga

The past two days in the US (sundown May 28 – sundown May 30) marked the Jewish holiday of Shavuot that celebrates Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. One of the ways that many people celebrate this holiday is by staying up and learning Torah all night in what is referred to as a “tikkun leil shavuot.”

green roses for shavout

one shavuot tradition is to decorate with flowers

In recent years (or perhaps not so recent, but I can only speak about what I know…), I have noticed a trend towards incorporating less traditional ways of learning into these tikkuns. I first participated in one of these a few years ago at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan and co-sponsored by Alma NY and several other organizations. It was described this year as follows:

Learn, laugh, and nosh your way through an evening of music, film, dance, traditional (and not-so-traditional) study along with coffee, cheese cake and more! Educators and artists from New York and Israel will present engaging programs  until sunrise in a contemporary twist on the age-old tradition of Tikkun Leil Shavuot, free and open to everyone at every level of Jewish observance or knowledge.

- The Alma Tikkun

In attending these tikkuns over the past few years, I have participated in discussions about the election of Sarcozy in France with a political history expert, gone to cooking classes (my favorite and the source of a great summer salad recipe to be shared when I have a chance) with Israeli chefs, seen a re-creation of a Tel Aviv night club with trance music for those comfortable listening to music on a yomtov (holiday), and tried out an aerial yoga class. Classes span the height of the JCC building on at least six of their floors including the indoor pool, and the building is literally crawling with all generations, manners of dress, religious levels, and languages. I loved that there was truly something for everyone and that so many different people came together for this celebration of learning and art in what some think of as a “just religious” holiday.

When I was given the opportunity to teach a class this year at the tikkun run by my own minyan (lay-led prayer group, for lack of a better term), I embraced to chance to attempt a not-so-traditional class. I led a dance and movement session for a handful of friends and community members (with a diversity of dance, yoga, and movement backgrounds), based largely on key elements of jazz dance. In researching other dance-related Shavuot celebrations for inspiration, I came across two that took place in Israel this year, one called Hagiga (celebration or festival in Hebrew; article in DanceInIsrael.com) and hosted by Vertigo Dance Company in their Eco-Art Village and another called Hagiga Levana (“White Festival;” article in DanceInIsrael.com) hosted by Adama in the Negev desert. Below is a video about Vertigo Dance Company’s “Birth of the Phoenix” piece that they performed at this year’s Hagiga (the set incorporates a traveling geodesic dome — think Epcot Center).

In my own jazz class Thursday night (the first one I’ve taught in a while), I tried to incorporate some of the fluidity of modern and contemporary dance movement into a workshop focused on isolating body parts (head, shoulders, ribcage, hips) and counting out different rhythms.

***

Another Shavuot tradition is to eat dairy, so my minyan sponsored a dairy potluck before our tikkun. I prepared this tart as an alternative to quiche. I have to say that though I am rarely a fan of potlucks (how many pasta salads can one person eat???), I think our minyan must be the foodiest of all groups I have ever encountered. There was amazing variety (polenta, veggie chili, watermelon feta salad, and bucatini just name just a few), healthy options, and lots of vegetables. I am in the process to pulling together everyone’s recipes to share.

Zucchini Tart with Raclette

zucchini and raclette tart from above

Adapted from a recipe prepared by Natasha at 5 Star Foodie when she made a 7 course French-inspired brunch for her daughter’s birthday (!!!). I’ve been waiting for the right occasion to make this tart and Shavuot seemed perfect. Most people make quiche, but I hate making crusts and I’m not a fan of heavy creams or custards.

The original recipe calls for swiss cheese, but I wanted to try something a little  bit different and was planning to make it with brie. When I couldn’t find Président brie in Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods (what, you think I plan these things in advance after thinking about the food for weeks? No, I just embrace spontaneous action after way too much thought — see my first ever post, “notranches de racletten pensare, fare” — and it usually works out pretty well!), I discussed various options with the cheesemonger at Whole Foods and realized I had an amazing cheese – a Raclette made by Ermitage and imported from France – right in my fridge. Raclette is a Swiss cheese that I think has a nicer texture and flavor (nutty?) than the traditional holey and plasticy “swiss cheese” I grew up with in the US. It has a semi-hard texture and is fabulous melted with apples or pear thinly sliced and poached in white wine.

Serves 10-12 as side dish.

Ingredients:

- 2 cups large zucchini, grated (about 2 zucchini)

- 1 cup leeks, minced (1-2leeks, white parts only)

- 2 eggs

- 1/2 cup flour

- 1 tablespoon baking powder

- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

- 1/2 teaspoon salt

- 1 1/2 cup shredded raclette cheese – 2 oz (1/2 a package) – this is a pricey cheese from France ($18/4 oz from the Kosher Marketplace — see Resources) – aha, I still have some left to make a fruity, winey melted dish!

- Butter

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients together to blend well.

Batter will be thick. I initially freaked out because unlike quiches, this is not liquidy and there is no custard. But, it’s OK. Just butter your tart pan (you can use one with a removable bottom or a nice porcelain one like I did…either should work since this won’t drip out), spoon the batter in, and spread it evenly. The tart will rise a bit as it bakes.

zucchini and raclette tart entering oven

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. At 45 minutes, mine was still a bit jiggly, so I kept it in for another 10 minutes — if you’re counting, that’s 55 minutes total. At that point, it pulled away beautifully from the sides of the pan. Mine showed a little bit more green zucchini than Natasha’s, cut beautifully, and was dense and tasty without being overwhelming.

zucchini and raclette tart

And of course, I will leave you with an excerpt of one of Vertigo’s more recent pieces, called White Noise:

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playing hooky

I was supposed to go to a dance class last night (my new Wednesday evening ritual…yeah!), but after a few too many days of forgetting to wear sunblock (1 day is too many and I really should know better!) and then relishing in the sunshine that had been hiding from us here on the East coast, I realized that I was just a little too pink and weary to make it through a 2+ hour fabulous but exhausting and requiring-full-concentration modern jazz class.

Of course, I had already prepared a light veggie dinner in anticipation of a hungry return from class on which I gladly munched away  as I readied myself for an evening of dancing that would be a little less about concentration, technique, positioning, and placement. My friend Tammie and I decided to kick back and check out a live Brazilian band at Beehive. Complete with caiparinhas (the national drink of Brazil made from Cachaça [a sugarcane alcohol], sugar and lime that I first tried at my friends’ wedding in São Paulo), a demonstration of the  steamy Rio-style partner dance called Samba de Gafieira (followed by our own feeble attempts at emulating some of the hip-swaying fast-and-fancy footwork), an ad-hoc capoiera circle, and good conversation with friends new and old, the evening provided a wonderful respite from the sun.

Rejuvenated and armed with two different kinds of sunblock (yes, they are both from Europe – Piz Buin and La Roche-Posay Anthelios), I’m ready to spring/summer smarter and return to the Wednesday dance classes that I have quickly grown to adore.

Marinated Zucchini Salad

-163 sharp

Many marinated zucchini salads call for cooking your vegetables first, but in a heat wave, I try to do anything to avoid turning on my oven or stove. This salad, drawing from a Greek-inspired dish from Saveur and an Italian recipe from RecipeZaar, is a great use for zucchinis that are in abundance starting this time of year through the end of summer. Some of my other favorite recipes for zucchini include zucchini bread and zucchini parmigiana (instead of eggplant).  Choose zucchinis that are firm and dark green and not too large.

Serves 4-6.

- 2 medium-sized zucchinis or 3-4 small zucchinis

- 6-8 white mushrooms

- 1 bunch spring onions (4-5)

- fresh dill

- juice of 1 lemon (~1/4 C) or 1/4 C white wine vinegar

- 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

- kosher salt or other coarse salt

- pepper

zucchini, mushrooms, dill, wild spring onions

Cut zucchini into thick matchsticks. You could use a mandoline or a julienne peeler, but I don’t have the former and the latter makes strips that are far too thin for this recipe. I just hand slice everything.

Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel to remove any clinging dirt or debris. Don’t submerge in water or the mushrooms will become water-logged and soggy. Remove ends of stems and slice lengthwise.

Slice whites and light greens parts of the spring onions into thin circles.

Rinse dill, pat dry, and finely chop. Add as much as you’d like. In the batch I made without mushrooms, I added a few T. In the batch I made with mushrooms, I added a large handful.

Toss all vegetables  and dill into a large bowl.

Make dressing: juice one lemon into a medium sized bowl (should yield ~1/4 C) and then pour in an equal amount of extra virgin olive oil while quickly whisking the mixture to make a quick emulsification (this is pretty cool when you realize you can do it yourself and it’s really easy — it took me about 30 seconds). Add salt and pepper to taste (~ 1-2 t of salt or more, 5-6 grinds of pepper) and whisk again. Taste by dipping a thin slice of mushroom.When the dressing is to your liking, pour atop the veggies and dill and toss everything together.

If you’re feeling particularly lazy, you can just drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the veggies and throw salt and pepper on top, then toss everything together. I was feeling a little fancy.

If you don’t have a lemon, or want a slightly different flavor, you can use white wine vinegar as your acid, or even try a mixture of the two.

marinated zucchini with lemon and white wine vinegar (no mushrooms)

Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. The salad gets better with time. After a few hours, I usually taste it and find that I need to add a little more salt (much better than it being too salty).

Enjoy after a dance class, while dressing for a night out on the town, or at a picnic with friends.

zucchini and mushrooms marinated in lemon with loads of dill

***

Since I did indeed miss my dance class to go see a Brazilian band, I wanted to share a video of the great contemporary Brazilian dance company, Grupo Corpo, that I saw a few years ago at BAM. Lau had come to visit from London, and the infamous foursome – Jeremy, Thierry, Lau and me – was reunited for an amazing non-date evening. Here is a video of one of the pieces that we saw that night. What I love about this number, besides its infectious music, is the choreography’s playfulness and freedom, the use of light and shadow to make it look almost like there are extra dancers, the simplistic costumes so the audience can focus on the purety of the dance, and how the dancers incorporate the unique back curtain into the entrances and exits.

What I love about Grupo Corpo is the incredible variety of their numbers and their musicality, their pulling from folk dances and rhythms from their local environs and the broader cultures (Asia, Africa) that make up the melting pot of their own home. Below is a trailer to a documentary with excerpts from many of their numbers, showing off their versatility.

Another one of my favorite numbers is Lecuona – a series of duets filled with longing, desire, and passion (of all types) danced to music written by Cuban Ernesto Lecuona, including this sexy tango…

… culminating in a waltz of 6 couples (starts at 3:25) that looks like a black-and-white movie.

I want one of those white flowy dresses with the open backs!

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shake it off

Hangin’ around

Nothing to do but frown

Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.

That Carpenters song is sometimes hard to kick when the beginning of the week goes something like this:  rainy Monday, rainy Tuesday, rainy Wednesday, rainy Thursday…

I like songs that go with my mood, but there’s a problem when that mood sticks around for too long. And, I don’t need to tell you how hard it is to get a song out of your head once its stuck.

But then there’s the power of music to change your surroundings. My friend Tammie suggested a song yesterday when we were chatting, and I liked its title, “Shake It Off” and its chill beat. (Apologies for not embedding, but Mariah’s business team seems to be blocking all embed abilities – which I can respect – protect those artists’ dollars!).

The best part of yesterday was my decision to take a modern jazz dance class. And it was a great class. Just what I needed and long overdue. The teacher (more info below the recipe) focused on technique and positioning and placement. Her warm-up and choreography were organic and felt good. And there was no rush to end class – the 90 minute class ran well over 2 hours. We finished the evening with a several minute cool-down and stretch. I returned home feeling great.

Knowing that I would be ravenous after class, I was thankfully prepared. I made a salad that required several hours of marinating. So it was waiting patiently to replenish my body after the music and dance class had replenished my spirit.

Panzanella

Panzanella is a bit like a savory Italian version of pain perdu (French toast) — coming up with a use for one- or two-day old, stale bread. I make it with baguette because that’s what tends to go stale on me these days. There are endless varieties and I found a few that I’ve tucked away in my files, such as an artichoke version from Sam at Becks & Posh and Giada De Laurentiis’ traditional version with capers, olives, and peppers in addition to tomatoes. I just stuck to what I had in my fridge and pantry – the cucumbers give it a nice crunch. This can be tossed atop a bed of greens, or eaten as is.

Makes 3-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are. All measurements are very approximate.

Slice stale baguette and then cube (~3/4 inch).

2-day old baguette

Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and toast in oven for 5-10  minutes (250ºF).

Prepare remaining vegetables that you will add to salad by cutting into bite-sized pieces. I decided to use 1 cucumber for crunch, 1 yellow tomato, and about 3/4 C of slow roasted tomatoes (the remains of a pint that I had roasted the other day – directions here). Chiffonade some basil as well.

my mise-en-place!

Place the toasted bread cubes in a large bowl with the cut vegetables and basil. Toss with ~ 2-3 T extra virgin olive oil and ~2-3 T good balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to marinate for 1-3 hours at room temperature, adding additional oil and vinegar (in equal quantities) if necessary to help bread soak up (but not drown in) the vegetable juices.

panzanella

***

As usual, in any post that mentions dance, I must leave you with a video. I chose my class carefully based on location (so that I could hopefully return) and the reputation of the teacher. Andy Taylor-Blenis teaches at the premier Boston jazz dance school – the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio where I took classes when I was in college (I only took with Jeannette) — so I knew she was quality. She is a senior company member with Prometheus Dance and has a history in folk dance which I explored last year when I performed with Nishmat Hatzafon. This seemed like a great blend of where my dance has come from and where it’s heading, since I want to start a Nishmat-like group up here mixing lyrical jazz, emotion, Jewish and Israeli themes, hopes of peace, and a rich sense of history. I found this excerpt of some Prometheus pieces to share.

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stand proud

My first encounter with Irish culture was through dance.

I had moved to NY after college and a friend who had been in my college dance company, then working for an entertainment lawyer, was able to get us comp tickets to see “Riverdance.” Not just any comp tickets — the best in the house, which in case any of you are wondering, for a dance performance or musical theater, is generally front row center mezzanine, not orchestra. This (as opposed to “Lord of the Dance” which is all about Michael Flatley taking off his shirt and prancing around) remains one of my favorite shows because it gives a version of Irish history through music, song, and dance.

Initially I had a difficult time relating to some of the dance — the performers on stage seemed so stiff. Their ramrod torsos  with arms on hips or straight at their sides while their feet seemed to go a mile a minute in military rhythms, heel and toe clicks, high kicks, fast knee bends that made me repeatedly flinch for fear of a flying shoe. The real action starts around 2:20 in this excerpt from the finale:

The explanation for the posture came about mid-way through the first act when right before one number, a disembodied voice commands, “Irish dancers, stand proud!” A proud army they were, straight posture, heads high, shoulders down, feet-a-flutter.

I was so excited, too, when I took a few Irish step classes and the first thing we learned was to put our hands out in front of us, palms up, fold our thumbs in, curl our fingers over our thumbs, and lower our arms to our sides. A proud army ourselves even in our mishmash of leotards, jeans, tights, and tap shoes.

Wanting to make something for St. Patrick’s Day, I tried to learn a bit about the Jews of Ireland (through food of course) to find something to cook that would incorporate Jewish traditions and Irish pride. I couldn’t find  any “Jewish Irish dishes” in searching through my multi-cultural Jewish cookbooks and few of my Irish Jewish friends seem to cook.

"Irish" butter cookies made by The Baking Architect

“Irish” butter cookies made by The Baking Architect

I turned to Ellie,  The Baking Architect, who participated in a bike trip through the Emerald Isle a few years ago to raise money for Miklat, to suggest some authentic Irish recipes, maybe made  by Jews in Ireland,  but she could only send me some beautifully decorated butter cookies. I have little patience for such fussiness  and sweet icing (sorry, El).

In looking around on the web, the main thing I found about Jews in Ireland vis à vis food is that they were traditionally involved in city life, acting as merchants and business people (surprise, surprise…), and therefore bought most of their food rather than growing it. Many Jews came to Ireland from Lithuania and Russia in the late 1800s/early 1900, so much of their food is AshkenaziThe Bretzel Bakery, that makes traditional Ashekenazi baked goods (including rugelach) has been non-Jewish owned for decades and is no longer kosher (though apparently the non-Jewish owners did keep up with kosher certification, working with a mashgiach for several decades).

Back to square one.

So, forget Jewish…I might as well make something sort of Irish. And something that I’ll want to eat. Scones. Perfect. Plus, it’ll use up some flour before Passover (do the holidays ever end???).

cinnamon chocolate scones

Cinnamon Chocolate Scones

Adapted from Molly O’Neill’s New York Cookbook.

I found a Scottish scone recipe — close enough to Irish? — that didn’t call for fancy flour or buttermilk. This recipe does use a LOT of butter. 3 sticks! I’ll keep playing with some of the proportions, but this makes a really nice, moist scone that is not dry. I replaced whole milk with skim milk, increasing 3/4 C to 1 full C. Replaced raisins with cinnamon chips and chocolate chips  and added some cinnamon to the batter.

If you’re going to bake with butter, you might as well use Plugrá or another European style butter with a slightly higher (82-84% vs. 80-82%) butterfat content than American-style butter. The cinnamon chips (parve) I used are from Peppermill, a high-end cookware and bakeware with gourmet products. The Schokinag semi-sweet baking chunks (dairy) are available at Williams-Sonoma (thanks, Mom!) — and have a nice half-barrel shape. Really, any good chocolate chunk will do. My other alternative was to chop up some Callebaut (see the Resources page about this chocolate).

Makes 12-16 scones

4 C all-purpose flour

1 C sugar

2 t baking powder

1 t salt

3/4 unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (YES – THIS IS 3 STICKS OF BUTTER)

1 egg

1 C skim milk

1 C chips (I used 1/2 cinnamon chips, 1/2 semi-sweet chocolate chunks)

Cinnamon (optional)

Turbinado sugar aka”sugar in the raw” for sprinkling (or, for you, Ro – sprinking)

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment (or grease baking sheet).

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl.

Cut cold butter into dry mixture with pastry blender, 2 knives, or my personal favorite, your hand. Resulting mixture should resemble a course meal.

cutting butter in with your hands - it gets a bit messy!

cutting butter in with your hands – it gets a bit messy!

Add in beaten egg and milk – stir until well combined and then knead in  bowl until smooth, about 5-10 minutes. This is not a tough dough, but it is a bit sticky. Add a little extra flour as necessary.

Add chips and a few dashes of cinnamon — so there are swirls of cinnamon, but not a brown dough.

011-cropped

Refrigerate dough ~3o minutes so it is easier to handle.

Shape the scones.

Option 1: Make triangles that are just barely attached — like the proud Irish dancers standing in close formation. To shape into triangles, take out ~ 1C of dough and flatten into a 1-inch thick round patty on a floured board. A good estimate of an inch that I learned from my architect sister: distance from most adult thumbs to the first knuckle is approximately 1 inch (obviously depends on the size of your hands). Cut patty into quarters and transfer onto parchment-lined (or greased) baking sheet, separating quarters by a finger width (~1/2 inch) because scones will rise and spread a little – I think it’s nice for the quarters to meet a bit in the middle, but not so much that they need to be pulled apart. As they bake, they will make a 4-leaf clover, er, shamrock, for good luck – and who can’t use a little extra luck (random interesting  note, most shamrocks are 3-leaf clovers and are said to represent the Trinity)

Option 2: Make “drop scones” with a small ice cream scooper (should be ~1/4 C). You might need a second spoon (or your hands) to get the dough out. Flatten a bit with a floured hand to 1-inch thickness (see “Option 1″ for thumb measuring stick approximation).

Sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar so the scones will glisten slightly after cooking, but not so much that there will be a hard sugary crust.

Repeat with rest of dough. I had to make 2 batches.

Bake for 25 minutes. I had to move my first batch from the middle rack to the top rack for the last 5 minutes because the bottoms were getting a bit too dark, so check your scones after about 15-20 minutes and adjust position as necessary.

Cool on rack.

scones cooling

ready to packed up and shared with friends

ready to be packed up and shared with friends

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a taste of my NY

I was in NY this past weekend and my time can be summarized in a few words – family/friends, food, and art. Not surprisingly, much of the latter two were shared with the former. It was such a NY weekend. And for the first time in a long time, the only thing I bought were things to fill my pantry and fridge.

pantry and fridge items purchased in NY

my NY goodie bag

I got everything on my list and then some. In addition to good balsamic, parmesan, and fun demura (and white) sugar cubes, I found kosher beef jerky, gnocci from italy, ras al hanout spice mixture (which honestly I could have found up here, but I saw it in Fairway so I just bought it), and the pièce de résistance…Hazelnut oil. I found the hazelnut oil in Zabar’s (specific info on the oil on my resources page) and had bought the same one a few years ago but let it go rancid because I didn’t realize it needed to be refrigerated. I was SO happy to find this oil again!

Besides visiting the old classics foodie haunts on the UWS (Zabar’s, Fairway, Gourmet Garage), I stopped in to the newly renovated Kosher Marketplace — one of the higher end all kosher grocery stores in my old “chood” to see what it looked like. No longer a cramped tiny store, and still carrying some very high end products and interesting products, but check out the pictures below, and giggle along with me about some of the product placement issues they’re still working on (Meira — these are for you) …

expensive chocolate + bean dip!

yum...Payard's kosher collection...

fancy french apple sauce - French Lau in London used to order these to remind her of home

Delis compote aux pommes: authentic fancy French apple sauce - French Lau, living in London, used to order these to remind her of home

I didn’t just shop for food … I took advantage of NY’s culinary and cultural variety.

I got into the city only 3 hours before sundown, wanted to catch a small photography exhibit at a Chelsea gallery, and needed to find food for shabbat for my sister and my friend. This is probably only possible in NY and a handful of cities. We went to the exhibit — photography of female Israeli soldiers and dancers in Russia (captured poignantly not in performance, but behind the scenes which is where, as Elvera, who I met when we were in a dance company together, and I know only too well, the real emotion is), met the artist (!), and managed to pick up Indian food just cross town in “Curry Hill” and get back to my friend’s apartment more or less in time for shabbat to begin. Only in NY!

Saturday afternoon, we ate Indian leftovers and then walked to The Jewish Museum to see their exhibit on Chagall and the Russian Theater which is only around for 2 more weeks. What made the exhibit really interesting was that Elvera is originally from the Ukraine and could give her own commentary about life and the theater (having trained in dance there) in the more modern Soviet Union, when it was still united.

And then in the evening, I went to a CityStep benefit held at the Alvin Ailey building. Right outside the room where our benefit was being held, there is a stunning mosaic of Judith Jamison (who, I might add, received an honorary Doctorate of Arts the same year I walked…) that I just can’t resist sharing with you.

mosaic of Judith Jamison at Ailey

mosaic of Judith Jamison at Ailey

I had Sunday brunch at Pain Quotidien with some of my international friends that I so sorely miss. And interestingly enough, a guy wearing a yarmulke was eating in there too…Romy and Thierry wouldn’t let me take a picture of him eating his baguette and butter. And I wasn’t in the mood to approach him to start a discussion. Clearly we both subscribe to the “traditional French (and Belgian) baguettes are kosher; check that they are made on a floured (not greased) baking sheet/stone” rule and believe that this rule does not only apply to France (Belgium) … <ignoring the fact that I have become a bit more lax about eating out>.

After strolling through the MoMA and seeing some classics that I’m embarrassed to say I had never seen before in person, I was treated (and I mean treated!) to one of my favorite meat places for an early dinner. It has been so long since I’ve eaten meat out in a restaurant — and especially red meat — that I truly savored each bite of my Wolf&Lamb ribeye  burger with grilled onions. This was no meagre hamburger. This was the kind of burger that melts into the bun. No ketchup required. I couldn’t decide whether to eat it with my hands or a knife and fork. So, I alternated between hands and cutlery. It may not have been pretty, but it tasted pretty great. And the company, my dear friend MD, made it all the better. And thanks for the help with the picture — otherwise it would have been all bun!

Wolf&Lamb ribeye burger

And then it started to snow.

And snow.

And snow.

And eventually I got home.

But, wow…I did a lot in just a few days. You always hear about a NY minute. I think it took me six months away to realize and appreciate the vivaciousness of this city. And these were just a few tastes of my NY. I can’t wait to return for more. Imagine what I can do if I actually plan…

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I have been writing content for this blog for several months, have told scores of friends about this endeavor, have been cooking and baking and trying to take pictures of my experiments, but have put off actually “going live.” I’m not sure what I’ve been waiting for.

I made the decision to pull together all of my recipes and cooking adventures and travel after meeting Clotilde clotildeDusoulier in Paris last November for a book reading and signing. If you don’t know who she is, you should. She writes Chocolate & Zucchini (she’s at the top of my list of favorite blogs…check out her French “edible idioms” if you love the French language as much as I do), and everything I have ever made from her site and cookbooks has turned out well. Coming from me, that’s saying a lot. At the signing, she suggested using a blog, at the very least, as a way to keep track of your recipes and maybe to eventually share them with the world. She signed one of her books to me: “Pour Gayle – le bonheur est dans la cuisine! Clotilde” — “happiness is in cooking/the kitchen.” More on Clotilde later, but suffice it to say that my visits to France have led to many memorable experiences.


A year and a half ago, I spent about a month taking dance classes in Paris and Nice. At a later time, I’m sure I’ll write about the amazing food I ate, the (mostly positive) reactions I got to wearing a Jewish star the whole time, but right now, I’m going to focus on the issue at hand and some words of wisdom I received from one of my dance teachers in Nice. I was taking a jazz and tap dance atelier (workshop) at OffJazz that taught me so much more than dance. Given the world renown of the the school as well at its amazing location, students came from all over Europe and the world to train with Gianin Loringett and Gianin's classother teachers. (I hung out with people from London, Paris, Cannes, Prague, the Hague, Denmark, Brazil, and Cuba, and have gone back to visit a few dancers in their home cities.) What I found amazing, besides the instruction, was Gianin’s ability to switch seamlessly from one language to another. I consider myself lucky to speak passable French, but this guy is amazing. Our last week, we had several Italian students in one of our classes and as Gianin was demonstrating some steps, he stopped and stared at one dancer standing back and watching rather than practicing and yelled out, “Non pensare, fare.” For the rest of us whose common language was English, he translated as only he could: “If you sit around and think and wait, the train will leave you at the station.”


So there we go. I’ve started my blog. I’m on the train. And since this is about food, I guess I need to post at least one yummy picture. So, here is an authentic salade nicoise from, yup…you guessed it, Nice.

salade nicoise a Nice


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