Eight Years & A Reboot

Whilst in the throes of fully reviving and redesigning this site, in the middle of a pandemic, in a new city we’ve barely been able to explore because of said pandemic, Nick and I celebrated eight years together yesterday. With few other safe options available, we decided to party our way: with a moderately-labor-intensive home cooked meal featuring some of our favorite-but-maybe-not-realistic-for-every-day dishes.

First I made Alison Roman’s Crushed Blackberry Cornmeal Cake (my second time making it, and second time using frozen berries instead of fresh, sorry Alison). This was meant to be for dessert, but our self proclaimed cocktail hour (prosecco for me and a beer for Nick) had us eat half the cake before we even started on the pasta dough. Yes, I said pasta dough, but first the cake.

While I greatly respect Alison’s genius, and I do understand that baking is one of those things where you kinda have to follow the rules… I still do whatever I want, or at least whatever the ingredients I have in my house will allow me to do. I used raw turbinado sugar instead of brown sugar, and used this for the 2 tbsp that go on the berries (which in this instance were frozen blackberries and blueberries). I used organic cane sugar as my granulated sugar, and I also added about 2 tbsp of lemon juice to the berries. This cake is truly fantastic, but I think the lemon juice is a new requirement when making it in future.

A high contrast image of the blackberry cornmeal cake on a white plate, a few tines of a fork peaking in on the right. In the background you can see the bottom half of my black electric kettle and the label for the Barton Springs Mill flour I used to make the cake.

Okay, pasta. I very rarely eat pasta / noodles of any kind, but I love… basically all of it. I have been known to tackle multiple packages of the Trader Joe’s lobster ravioli, and basically any other pasta creation you put in front of me – pelmeni, ravioli, and ramen are typically what I crave most – do you see why I rarely eat it now? My favorite of the non-stuffed Italian varieties is pappardelle: a glorious girthy noodle with folds in all the right places. So per Nick’s request we made pasta, and per mine, we made pappardelle – as per the recipe in Manuela Zagara’s Homemade Pasta Made Simple (which truly is excellent and easily the most functional/accessible of the three pasta-making cookbooks I own).

Nick has made pasta a handful of times, usually ricotta-stuffed ravioli for yours truly, but I actually participated this time and can I just say: making pasta is way less intimidating than I thought it was. I actually quite enjoyed that and would definitely do it again. That said, even though we cut the recipe in half from Manuela’s guidelines – we used 7oz flour and 2 large room-temperature eggs – it was still SO MUCH pasta. That definitely should have been two dinners worth of pappardelle. Naturally, we cooked (and ate) all of it.

A close up shot of the fresh pappardelle we made. It is not yet cooked and you can still see some of the flour on the raw noodle dough.

We knew that we were going to be cooking this meal in advance (who needs spontaneity when you can have coronavirus…again!) so as a gift to us both, I placed a small order with Barton Springs Mill, a local flour mill that also locally sources the wheat. Both the cake and the pasta were made with Texas-grown wheat that was milled in Texas. How cool is that!?

Right, onwards. You can’t have plain noodles for dinner. Not when it’s a celebration! Not when you’re over the age of five. So what was my protein contribution to this meal you ask? Duck breast, of course. If I could afford it, I would eat duck …a lot. I love duck meat. Some of the best food memories *of my entire life* feature duck. If you have followed me for a long time, you may remember my earth-shattering duck adventure when Nick and I were in Milan a few years ago that outranked The Duck I experienced when I was 13.

I digress. The last time I was actually inside the big grocery store, I managed to find some duck breast in the freezer so we had just shy of a pound of skin-on canard to feast on. I’ve realized I really need to write up a recipe for cooking said duck, because it’s really not as scary as it seems (or at least, as it seemed to me before I did it for the first time a few months ago), so that’s coming soon, but basically I just got the skin really crispy and then sliced it thin.

If you’ve ever cooked duck with the skin on, especially the breast, you might know that if you do it right you can render a lot of duck fat. That was not about to go to waste! First, let me backtrack a bit. Back in May, I switched out the herbs growing in our Aerogarden, but to do that I first needed to harvest everything that had grown. I cut the basil, dill, thyme, and parsley and then shredded it / removed any large stems. Then I stuck all the shredded herbs into the silicone molds I use for making fudge, poured ghee over all of it, and stuck them in the freezer for small golden nuggets of herb-y goodness whenever I needed. This was one of those times. Basically what I’m saying is I kept the duck fat in the pan and threw in a handful of these golden herb nuggets, let it reduce a bit, and voila: pan sauce. I then ladled that over the pasta. It was delicious.

A close up of homemade pappardelle and crispy sliced duck breast in a brown ceramic bowl.

After dinner we ate more cake and watched What We Do in the Shadows which is both absolutely hilarious and entirely ridiculous, and then I knocked over a full glass of ice water all over my bedside table and the floor. So that was our anniversary in isolation, and this is my way of telling you: the blog is back.

Make sure you poke around the new site and check out the updated About Me.

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  1. Yana Vinogradov

    Happy Anniversary Beka and Nick!!!! Great story, great photos, great food and cake!


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