October 21, 2014

autumn escape

It had been sometime since I had retreated to the mountains. Longer than I can remember really. An Autumnal excursion was the norm for my family and annually we would excitedly pile in the car and make the two hour drive from Philadelphia, wandering and winding up into the Pocono Mountains. Sometimes there were cabins and overnight stays but most often we made do with long day trips paused by afternoon picnics. Always there was spectacular color. The mountains, burning bright with their harvest palette, always struck a chord in me. Like I mentioned, it is lost to me how long ago I spent this season anywhere near a forest or a cabin and so when I was faced with a choice to spend a few days during the end of Autumn by the sea or in the mountains I chose the later.

Blairsville, Georgia is about a two hour drive from Athens and at a little past halfway the ride it was time to put down any maps or reading because the scenery truly becomes a feast for the eyes and the roads start curving and curling pretty wildly. This change in the landscape can be attributed to the entrance to the Chattahoochee Forest which is a part of the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains. This is an area that is fertile with farms, parks, hiking trails, waterfalls, vineyards and local artistic and folk culture. Our retreat from our everyday would be a brief one but as long as we were surrounded by trees and trails and had a sturdy roof overhead we would have just what we were looking for. We rented a cabin far up the mountain road surrounded by kaleidoscope hills and spent grape vines. This tiny pinewood home was charmingly rustic, thoughtfully decorated, clean, cozy and inspiringly simple. I immediately felt at home. Rocking on the porch was enjoyed equally as much as a long soak in the jacuzzi tub or falling asleep to the sound of acorns rolling across the roof. After only one night and day I began to imagine life paired down to the bare necessities. Fantasies of getting rid of everything, cooking from one pot, eating from one plate with one fork, sweeping out my simple wood shanty in the mornings and rocking away the afternoons on the front porch grew in my mind. This humble hearthstone immediately begged me to stay longer than planned and now I sit here at my computer typing and simultaneously scheming a return. Though admittedly too brief, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing more of my new southern surroundings and am now even more curious to return and really dig into this neck of the woods.

September 20, 2014

mushroom galette

Often times for me, a meal gets inspiration from one ingredient. That usually comes from what is on hand and needs to be eaten before it turns to waste. Mushrooms are usually a staple in the kitchen here because we love them and because of their versatility and the flavor they add to almost any dish. Now that summer is finally receding, the time seems ripe for baking and also perhaps, more mushroom eating. I had an open pint of Baby Bellas, my go-to market mushroom, unless of course they are offering something more unique and interesting. Bellas are firm and fleshy and stand up to being sautéed, baked and even roasted. I decided to add more flavor by using dried wild Porcini mushrooms as well. Start by cleaning and soaking your mushrooms.

Cleaning mushrooms can be as simple as a rinse under the kitchen faucet with a drip-dry in a colander but cleaning them this way does tend to leave them water logged. Since I knew I was going to have to soak the Porcinis I opted to clean the Bellas by gently brushing them with a dry towel. Time consuming, slightly, but effective and better for the recipe I believe. The Porcinis I set in a bowl and covered with hot, not boiling, water and left soaking for about a half hour. After straining the Porcinis, I reserved the mushroom "broth" and put it in a ziplock inside the freezer for a future meal. Risotto perhaps.

Now, to the business of making the pastry. This recipe can surely be made with a store bought pastry dough but I urge you to try your hand at making your own. I love making dough mostly because after a few rounds of trial and error I have become good at it and more importantly I love eating it. It is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying pleasure to eat something so simple and delicious that has been created with your own hands. For this crust I used Thomas Kellers pâte brisée recipe. This was definitely a more buttery, flakey crust than I have used in the past for my quiche or crostata rustica doughs. Take note that his recipe is suitable for using with both savory and sweet dishes and it is a doubled recipe so you can make enough to freeze the extra batch and use on a rainy day.
I opted to blend the pastry by hand rather than my food processor but doing either will work equally as well, it is honestly up to you. Putting a physical effort into a dish tends to instill a meditative calm in me while blending the flour and butter together until it turns to a fine crumble. Buster, my kitchen assistant seems to enjoy it as well.

Once the mushrooms have been cleaned and/or soaking and the pastry is finished and is chilling, it is time to prep the filling. I based my recipe off of one that the lovely Miss Beth Kirby posted on the Local Milk blog, but the real beauty of it is that I used what was on hand. Don't limit yourself. Be inspired to use what is in your cupboards, crispers and coolers!

pastry recipe here

ingredients for filling
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 of a yellow onion
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 pinches of kosher salt
  • small bundle of 5-6 sage leaves
  • tsp dried oregano
  • large pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 6-8 Baby Bella mushrooms sliced thickly
  • 1 oz of dried wild porcini mushrooms
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/8 cup heavy cream
  • 2 oz good, pungent soft cheese (I used a gorgonzola dolce)
  1. in a skillet melt the butter over medium heat. add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt, cooking without browning until fragrant & turning translucent, about 1-2 minutes.
  2. add in the herbs and another pinch of salt.
  3. add in the mushrooms, lemon juice, and the final pinch of salt and cook just until mushrooms are softened and just cooked through.
  4. remove from heat and stir in cream and set aside in a bowl to cool completely.
  5. heat oven to 425°f
  6. meanwhile roll out your dough on a well floured work surface into a rough circle.
  7. gently place dough onto a sheet tray, and mound the cooled filling in the center, dot the top with the pieces of cheese and fold up the edges, trimming them to make it a move even shape if desired.
  8. bake at 425°f for 25-35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
  9. remove from oven, allow to cool slightly at which point it can either be served warm or allowed to cool further and be served at room temperature.

September 19, 2014

keep in touch

Just a brief post here to let you know that I have been doing some tweaking to the old Peregrine Papers and have finally added a subscribe button in the sidebar since it was most definitely beyond time for something like that. Please feel free to submit your email address to receive updates when new posts go live. Cheerio!

Photo by Saul Leiter, Café des Deux Magots, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, France 1959

September 18, 2014

three of cups

Today I was able to get my hands covered in the slick and slippery clay of a ceramics studio for the first time in over four months. It was also the first time I had the opportunity and pleasure of throwing clay on a pottery wheel. Up until now I have only built ceramics by hand, all the while eagerly awaiting this day. It was immensely enjoyable, from the use of the pedal to activate the wheel (which is comfortably familiar to using a sewing machine) to learning about centering, pressure and using some muscles in my arms that do not often get engaged. And I surprised myself... I felt like I had a very good hang of it right out of the gates. I managed to make three humble cups or cylinders without them collapsing or running off out into bowl territory, which, by the way, a bowl shape comes quite naturally on the wheel.

Being back in this class kicked a switch on in my brain. A creative switch. So much that when I finally got back home I was inspired to get out my lino blocks and start carving a new stamp to print fabric for a lamp shade I want to hang in the living room but I was sidetracked by getting a to-do list together for the next few days. You see, I am entertaining my first houseguest since my move to Georgia and I have some preparation and plans I would like to carry out before she arrives. So this afternoon, with inspiration still flowing, I made my list of things to do and food items for meals that I want to get working on. I hope that I do get to my block cutting somewhere in the mix maybe tomorrow or the next day. I look forward to this week ahead.

August 29, 2014

settling in

In the past two months I have started to call Athens, Ga my home. It's been a pretty immense adjustment for me as someone who has never relocated in their entire life. More importantly it has been a magnific learning experience. Most especially about myself.

After a month of unpacking, taking it easy, getting my bearings and creating a sense of home, I finally started working. Work will snap you right out of any vacation-like state and I welcomed that. For me it was time. It feels good to not only be making money but having a bit of a focus and schedule.

In an attempt to understand the layout of this town I started exploring it by going out early in the mornings, before the temperature rose too high, for a brisk walk. Along the way I really fell in love with all the fetching cottages, bungalows and domiciles and started documenting them via snapshot on my trusty iPhone. This simple act and pleasure lead to a photo essay that was recently published by one of Athens local guides, The Broad Collective. I couldn't be happier about this collaboration. It really gives me a sense of being a part of my new town. Please feel free to have a look HERE.

July 10, 2014

home is where the hearth is

I have been in my new home for just over a week now. It is amazing how fast time rushes by when all you are busy doing is unpacking, organizing, settling and making sense of your new surroundings. I haven't even started working yet, or for that matter even began the search for work! Though through all the haste and stress of relocating I have been happy, happier than I can remember for some time now. You see, this is the first time I have ever done anything like this and now that it is complete I have a new and quite enormous sense of accomplishment.

The few months proceeding this shift, I have been planning and working for July to be a time to pause, reset, explore and assimilate. I am truly savoring it and trying to make the most of each day. Beyond unpacking and setting up my belongings in my new home, I have managed to explore the immediate neighborhood in small bursts and spend plenty of time getting comfortable at home, most especially in the kitchen.

Here is what the first week of new town living has looked like...