10.30.2009

Homesick Cider Donuts







chelsea, ny




There are two things in life that can assuredly make me homesick— trick-or-treaters and cider donuts. Both remind me of cozy fall days at home, where Halloween was the scariest thing I could imagine and the only tough decision was whether to have one donut or two, hot from the press on an afternoon visit to Edwards Apple Orchard. Edwards is a special place, run by folks that have become family friends, who load up families on their wagons and ride them into their orchard year after year to pick barrels of Macintosh, golden delicious and jonagolds, an apple that’s hard to find out East. It is there that I said one of my first sentences {“look daddy, I found one!” of an apple plucked from a ground littered with them}, there that Dad taught my three siblings and me to jump off the wagon when no one was watching and how to discreetly climb back on before we got caught. It’s there that we learned the smash-the-apple-core-under-the-wagon-wheel trick, how to navigate hay barrels and that a thick slice of sharp Wisconsin cheddar melted on the crust of a home-made apple pie makes it even more irresistible {try my recipe inspired by theirs, here}.


As a girl, I dreamed of my wedding in between the sturdy rows of apple trees far out in Edwards' fields, and when a tornado struck the year András proposed, I cried. But trees were replanted and barns rebuilt and those donuts are still made hot and fresh all day long. They remain one of the things in life that is always as good as I remember.


Right now, there are dozens of darling trick-or-treating tots in the Chelsea Market below the kitchen at work dressed as everything from Frida Kahlo {complete with unibrow} to Frankenstein. They make me miss home, and the little darlings in my own life, Indian Princes Kate, aka Sacagawea, Sir Benjamin Goddard, my knight in a shining costume and Baby Gracie, with her footed PJ’s and freckles painted on with eyeliner and love . The only thing I could think of to ease my suffering just a little was a stack of cider donuts from the Migliorelli Farm stand at the Union Square Farmer’s Market. They were delicious, but not quite the same as a donut straight from hot oil, a donut so fresh it perfumes the air with the scent of cider and melts into the memories of a family day at the orchard.



It’s times like these that I’m grateful for good friends that fill my life with new memories, and for those who happen to be good at conjuring old ones, like my buddy Bob at Food Network, whose recipe for apple cider donuts hits dangerously close to home. For today, my only tough decision is one donut, or two.

Happy Halloween!


P.S. If you make Bob’s donuts, and I highly recommend that you do, be sure to chill the batter for at least 2 hours, or even better, overnight to make the batter easier to work with. Or transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a metal tip as I did, and pipe it carefully into rings on the surface of the hot oil.

10.19.2009

Let Them Eat Baumkuchen


porva, hungary

It’s gotten cold in New York, and all of the girls are wearing their pretty new boots and cozy sweaters. It’s the kind of weather that makes me want to stay inside and tell stories, like the story of this breakfast, sweet and slow, that I shared with my parents on their last day with us in Hungary this summer.

It was a simple meal, but how it got there was not so simple at all. The trouble began last fall, back in the kitchen I share with András in New York, where he first told me that after two years of waiting that we’d finally be able to get into the little stone farmhouse in Porva, Hungary he bought just after we met. It was there that I sat at the counter with dozens of pages torn from Domino, House Beautiful, and Town & Country, dreaming up the haven we would create on the other side of the ocean.

“Look at this fireplace, it’s extraordinary,” I would say holding up a photo from inside a French chateau.  Or, “See how this couple turned a stone-barn into an artist loft? We could do that!”

Andras would look up from where he was invariably tending to more practical details of restoring a 200-year farmhouse, like plumbing, and nod.

“It’s beautiful. Just remember the photos in magazines don’t tell you the whole story.”

“I know.” I’d say. “It’s just for inspiration.”

But I didn’t really believe that.

András was constantly trying to reign in my expectations about this little house that until this year, I’d only seen from the outside, where its crumbling stone barn and fruit-tree-lined yard had charmed my imagination. But I was certain that with a few trips to the flea and a little elbow grease, we could turn whatever awaited us inside into our own version of chateau-chic.

The trouble really began when András handed me the keys to the house when we arrived in Hungary, for our Lakodalom, or wedding party, in July. I walked through the sterile hallway and straight into the kitchen that wore the signs of neglect from the previous owners. The sink was rotting, there was a faux leather couch in the corner and a raw bulb hung from the ceiling. But I saw possibility. It had high ceilings, a walk-in pantry and bright shutter-windows that opened up to a tiny chapel out back where András’ nagymamma {grandmother} attended mass each week, and where we’d repeat our vows in his native tongue in just a few days.

That unsightly gas stove would have to go of course, I thought as I lifted boxes and looked under every pile of cardboard, but….

Alors! A small wood-burning stove sat forgotten, tucked into the corner by the sink. Suddenly, I saw myself standing before the stove with a toe-headed toddler tugging at my antique apron calling me Anya as I baked him sour cherry struedel and pinched noodles above the crackling wood. I clapped my hands with delight.

“This is perfect!” I said. “Let’s take the gas stove out and store it in the barn. I’ll cook on this.”

András translated this to his father, who laughed and shook his head, gathered the little stove up in his arms and carried it out to the stone barn. I followed with the gas tank, enormously proud of my contributions to the restoration. Back in the kitchen, I removed everything that distracted the eye from this little gem, including an ugly rotting wood cabinet that held up the sink.

The ugly things, as it turned out, where quite functional. But the men in András’ family could work wonders with wood, so I was sure we had the tools and talent to replace them. The only trouble was, we also had a wedding to plan, plumbing to restore, a pile of birchwood to turn into four-post beds and a house we’d never lived in to make guest-ready in five days when my parents would arrive.

That week, we spent almost every day at the house, building beds, mopping floors, fixing plumbing, potting plants and arranging every detail of our little nest. I lovingly washed and displayed the old iron stone pottery we’d uncovered in the cellar, washed and arranged the antique Herendi China András’ mother gave us for our wedding, and hung botanical drawings of tomatoes in tattered frames I’d found in the attic. Each night we’d return to his parent’s house 30 kilometers away, where Anya would have a nourishing meal waiting for us. We’d eat, sleep, wake, and begin again.

After five days, almost everything was in place, except the sink. We fashioned a make shift operation out of an old wash basin and a rescued wooden bench that created the kind of romance that made dish-washing seem like a pleasure. I was so proud.

On the sixth day, my parents, my sister Amy, and my nieces Kate and Grace arrived just minutes after the mattresses they’d be sleeping on later that night. Anya and Apa welcomed them with a meal at their home. After dinner, the girls and I climbed the ladders high up into the sour cherry trees out back and picked enough cherries to line our wedding table the next day. Just before dark, we drove to the little house in Porva and tucked everyone into their new beds. András and I slept in the room next door, our first night in our new home.

I could barely sleep, already dreaming up the breakfasts I would cook in the morning. I got up with the first rooster’s crow, shuffled out to the wood pile and recalling everything I’d learned in girl scout camp 20 years earlier, built us a fire. My dad stirred not long after and joined me in the kitchen next to the stove.

“Oh, isn’t that quaint.” Dad said. “You know my mother used to cook on one of those in the old farmhouse. This will be fun!”

We gathered around a table of fresh bread and Anya’s jam, creamy yogurt, and strawberries from the back garden. While we ate, the water I’d put on the stovetop struggled to creep above body temperature. And just about every three minutes dad would ask, “did you get that water to boil yet?” We’d long since finished when the water boiled, so we drank coffee and tea for dessert, and let the fire die.

Over the next two days, mealtime conversations were laced with subtle suggestions from András and Dad that perhaps a gas stove would be more practical. Nonsense, I insisted. Dad offered to buy us one, and when I declined, citing aesthetic principals, he gave me tips on keeping the embers burning and best practices for building fires that start easily and got hot fast.

On the second day, we hosted 50 guests in the backyard to celebrate our wedding around a table András and his friends built in the morning while the girls and I arranged flowers. After the goulash was served and the bonfire put out and the wines from Lake Balaton long gone, Mom and Anya washed every dish by hand in the wash basin. Bless them.
The following day, my Dad’s attempts at subtly waned. While Mom and I set to work prettying the table at mealtime, Dad would breeze in and out of the kitchen with the broom whistling, stop in front of the wood stove and turn to me with a statement like “There’s this new invention called electricity! It’s just wonderful.”

On the third day, András slipped out quietly and returned home with an electric kettle that kept our table ready for tea in an instant. I did most of my cooking in bulk, boiling potatoes for the evening meal with the morning eggs, and creating spreads of Keilbash {cured sausage}, cheeses, long green paprika and other feasts that didn’t require cooking at all. Meanwhile Dad chopped wood and tended the fire, we all did dishes in the wash basin.

We ate beautiful things pulled out of the earth, fresh bread, strawberries grown in our own soil. We sat for long meals and talked for hours. We were content and satisfied. During one of these slow meals, Dad found the beauty and humor in my little wooden stove.

“This is fun Sarah, I haven’t been camping in ages.” He said.

It was fun. It was splendid even.

Until, on the fourth day, we ran out of hot water, and my hair desperately needed washed. Dad, who had turned into an excellent farm wife by then, offered to boil up a pot of water on the stove. When the water was warm, I leaned over the bath and Mom and Dad washed my hair, taking turns pouring hot water and cold, rinsing shampoo and conditioner down our antiquated drain.

While the stove was hot, and my hair clean, I decided to preserve what was left of the sour cherries we’d picked for wedding day. I layered them in a big pot with sugar and set it on the hottest plate on the stove. The pot never came to a boil, but it got hot enough to cook the cherries down, sweet and soft. For our final breakfast, we spooned this still hot from the pan over day-old bread, toasted and slathered in butter, a meal that rewarded us with an endless rush of nostalgia for my grandmother’s cherry cobbler.

As we spent our last day together in Hungary, I apologized over and over for the dishes, the lack of hot water and the stove, promising to fix them all before we invited them back again. But no one really seemed to mind, and Dad kept spooning on the sour cherries, asking for more bread and carrying on about how much it reminded him of his mother.
---
In the magazines I used to create my vision board for our house, they don’t tell you the cute couple standing in their stone-barn-turned-artist loft are actually bankrupt, or that the girl washed her hair in a wash basin because the plumbing shut down. Just like fashion and beauty magazines don’t show you the crease across Scarlett Johansson’s tummy. But these truths likely exist. There’s a journey that sometimes doesn’t make it in to the vision board, a few details that get edited out.

That’s why I’m particularly proud of my little batch of sour cherry preserves and this breakfast. I’m proud of the way it looks, the simple beauty of its flavor and all that it recalls, and the way it comes together so handsomely on film. Most of all, I’m proud of the truth it beguiles sitting there in its Herendi china with a stacked Baumkuchen in the back, looking like a meal fit for a queen, if only the queen of a teeny, tiny castle in the hills far away. I'll take that any day. 

10.12.2009

High on the Hog



tomales bay, ca
If ever there were a dreamy place to celebrate a first year of marriage, it is Nick’s Cove in Tomales Bay near the Point Reyes National Seashore, where we ended our trip out West. For an oyster lover, there are few things more exhilarating than eating a Hog Island Kumamoto oyster at sunset overlooking the very bay where they are raised.
This night requires no story, just a few words. Perfect light. Briny oysters. Blazing fire. Cold beer. My best friend.
If you happened to be celebrating your anniversary on a night when your wallet feels fat, stay over in one of their cozy cabins, handsomely decorated, that sit on stilts over the bay. Or, race like mad to San Francisco International Airport for the redeye back to New York and dream of the day you’ll do it all again.

10.11.2009

4,000 species, and none of them edible




“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul. ” ~John Muir
miranda, ca
It took 6 hours and three rounds of car snacks to get to Humboldt Park from San Francisco, but it was worth every minute to drive 1 mile between the old growth Redwoods that reach over 30 stories high on either side of the Avenue of the Giants. Even more moving was to stand among them in the hush of the late afternoon, when everyone else had disappeared and gone home for dinner, to lie amongst their trunks and strain our necks to see to the top where they reached endlessly toward the light.
But as grand as the tallest trees were standing upright, some reaching over 360 feet {taller than Niagra Falls}, it was the fallen giants that truly inspired awe. Laid out like tunnels and tracks in a giant playground, we ran their lengths and jumped from one to the next, stopping only to admire their impressive root systems yanked from the soil, exposing a massive web of wonder for the life it once lived.
There are a number of things that inspire wonder in a forest of this magnitude, facts worth committing to memory, memories worth making if you’re up for the drive. If you watched Ken Burns' National Parks series on PBS last month, or read the Redwoods issue of National Geographic, you may already know that the oldest recorded redwood, over 2,200 years old, stands in Humboldt Park. And if you’re a lover of cheese, you may also know that this is the county for which Cypress Groove’s illustrious and unforgettable Humboldt Fog cheese is named. But did you know this fact?
There are over 4,000 species that live in or on a fallen giant.
4,000 species, and none of them edible, at least by my standards, which is why we were grateful to find at the Avenue Café after sundown, right on Avenue of the Giants across from the cabins in Miranda where we stayed. Avenue could be classified as a diner, but a decidedly west of the Colorado River diner; the kind of place where wispy Teva-clad blondes from Oregon aren’t afraid to order sausage and eggs, where kids layered in colors and wools look like they’ve been styled for the outdoor issue of GQ toddler {this doesn’t actually exist} and where grilled cheese, made with artisan cheeses on a locally baked 7-grain bread, is a far cry from the American cheese laden sandwich {really, it’s not even cheese} most of us grew up on. It’s the kind of place where the only beer on tap is the local Eel River organic Blonde Ale, which is the perfect thing to get one in the mood for the obligatory tick-check, fireside in a cabin, that follows any good romp in the woods.

10.10.2009

Ferry Building Fantasia



san francisco, ca
I know, I promised you recipes. I promise, they’re coming. But András and I just returned from 72 delicious hours in Northern California in honor of our one-year anniversary, and I wouldn't dare keep such delicious discoveries from you.
A trip to see the California redwoods was a childhood dream for András, and since I’m happy to be included on the grown-up version of his dreams, we decided it was the perfect place to celebrate our first year as husband and wife. As we flew over Grand Canyon, playing footsie under our tray tables, András read about our national parks in National Geographic Adventure, and I flipped open the American Way. I tried to imagine us frolicking among the giant trees of Humbolt Park, when an advertisement of a young couple glistening beachside at a Sandals interrupted me.
Spend your first anniversary in luxury
I suddenly wondered if we shouldn't be heading to relax on a beach, get a massage, sleep in a big bed with fluffy duvets. I squeezed András hand.
He set down his magazine and kissed me. “We should make it a tradition to spend every anniversary at a National Park,” he said.
“Every anniversary?” I said. “I was just thinking maybe we should be going somewhere a little more, I don’t know, luxurious. Somewhere with feather duvets.”
“Luxury make people soft.” He said.
“I’m a girl, I like soft.” I said.
Being soft isn't such a bad thing, particularly because it also includes eating stinky cheeses and cupcakes, both of which can be found in abundance at the legendary Ferry Building and its epic farmer's market in San Francisco, our first stop when we landed. András found us a parking spot a few blocks away with a 1-hour limit, giving my enthusiastic appreciation for the culinary potpourri of the marketplace an unrealistic deadline. I tried to explain that this was like telling Carrie Bradshaw she has only 15 minutes at Manolo Blahnik. It didn’t register.
Undeterred, I clicked my heels on over to the market by which time we had 49 minutes, exactly enough time to discover homemade pop tarts with fruits grown on Frog Hollow Farm, chocolate persimmons, black mission figs, tasty, salted pig parts from Boccalone Artisan Meats, Vanilla Tomboy Cake from Miette Patisserie and Harvest Whoopee Pies from Recchiuti chocolates. The foods of the Ferry Building are poetic, charmingly arranged and packaged to perfection, rendering decision-making harder than the aged Mimolette at the Cowgirl Creamy stand. So we tasted and took photos, juggling between our cameras and wallets in rapid succession.
And then, like clock work, András signaled our time was up. He ran to get the car, while I snuck in a final stop at the stunning Boulette's Larder, a labyrinthine of delights where tiny fresh eggs and delicate pastries were displayed on pedestals like jewels. Every detail was so thoughtfully arranged, and each and every person standing in the eternal line was the picture of Northern Californian prosperity. I took my place behind the elegant mammas feeding their rosy wee ones concord grapes and fresh figs, and breathed in the bliss.
Just as I approached the front of the line and reached for one of the handsome pastries pictured here, my phone rang. András was waiting outside in the car and I had to come, immediately. I took their card, letterpress on recycled paper {naturally}, and plugged their details into my iphone as we whizzed north toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Online, I found out the namesake of their restaurant is their beloved Puli, or Hungarian Sheepdog, called Boulette {which in French, means little meatball}, making their stylish sensibilities all the more lovable. I met my first Puli on the night András proposed to me in Hungary, and it sat at our feet as I ate a plate of goose and saurkraut in a local Csarda {inn}. The pup, and Boulette's Larder, will forever hold a special place in my soft little heart.
My Photo
New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.