Nigel Slater’s Cake of Roasted Hazelnuts, Muscovado, and Coffee + A 30th Birthday/Housewarming Menu

Nigel Slater’s Cake of Roasted Hazelnuts, Muscovado, and CoffeeNigel Slater’s Cake of Roasted Hazelnuts, Muscovado, and Coffee

Nigel Slater’s Cake of Roasted Hazelnuts, Muscovado, and CoffeeNigel Slater’s Cake of Roasted Hazelnuts, Muscovado, and Coffee

Nigel Slater’s Cake of Roasted Hazelnuts, Muscovado, and Coffee

I turned thirty at the end of January. I meant to throw a birthday party/housewarming at our new place on the 23rd, but alas, Jonas! So, we rescheduled for the 30th.

I salvaged what I could from that first Saturday’s cooking–although we still have two-pounds of prosciutto in the fridge, God help us–and decided to cater bits and pieces to fill in the rest of the menu for the following weekend.

Below, a compilation of what I served, but also what I originally planned to serve, to aid in planning your next winter party, plus some tips and notes:

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Cardamom-Orange + Brown Sugar-Pistachio Ice Cream

Cardamom-Orange + Brown Sugar-Pistachio Ice Cream

Cardamom-Orange + Brown Sugar-Pistachio Ice Cream pistachios

We moved, from Brooklyn to Jersey City, where I don’t yet know where to buy fish or bread or meat or farmers’ market vegetables. But our apartment is finally set up, save one chifforobe, and I’m really proud of it–it has style–dare I say it is stylish?–and it is full, full, full of plants. (More on this in an upcoming post.) 

I turn thirty today. I’m finally adopting the cat I’ve long wanted, and I spend hours in bed when I should be sleeping, googling possible names to the glowy light of my phone, to the bemusement of my husband.

I’ve been struggling with some health issues that, while not dire, feel like they’ve swallowed me up. I avoided writing for too long, so now I don’t know where to start, except to list the highlights. This is list writing, not actual writing.

We have a table that seats eight now, and dish ware and silverware to accommodate that many. I’m trying to lure groups for dinner with the promise of three-day ragu and cakes. Do you live in Jersey City? Do you want to be friends?

I’m trying to go for runs in Liberty State Park, which is very close to our apartment, and also very beautiful. I walked there through the snow this weekend, and it was peace personified in whiteout, in chips of ice floating in the canal, in the geese idling between lolling reeds.

For now, there’s too much percolating in my mind to be eloquent in this space. This is a cop out, I know it. In the meantime, read When Breath Becomes Air and also Astonish Me. AlsoI’m not a beer person, but I recently discovered sour beers (thanks, Crissy and Ryan!), and maybe now I’m a beer person. I especially love Two Evil Geyser Gose at the moment.

Make some ice cream. It’s what I did. You won’t regret it.

Cardamom-Orange + Brown Sugar-Pistachio Ice Cream

Cardamom-Orange + Brown Sugar-Pistachio Ice Cream Cardamom-Orange + Brown Sugar-Pistachio Ice Cream

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Vanilla Rooibos Apple-Rum Punch

Vanilla Roobios Apple-Rum Punch

The Frenchman’s been away since the hem of Monday morning. Almost a week alone has meant the submission of all leisure time to the alter of A Little Life, which I listen to on my commute in the morning, and again in snatches throughout the day when I should be working, and then all evening and night until I finally fall asleep way past my bedtime. It’s one of those books that takes over.

Presently we’re in a strange limbo: half our current–soon to be “old”–apartment is packed up. We’re selling off our furniture piecemeal. The new place has brand new shelves and wallpaper, but no bed. We leave for our honeymoon (in New Zealand!) on December 18th, so–somehow–we’ll find a way to wrap up our work projects, and haul our lives across the river before then. Right? Is there an alternative? I have a premonition I won’t take a deep breath until I’m on that plane.

And now something happy to listen to in the background while you brew this punch: I’ve long been a fan of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. In a recent episode, Linda Holmes interviews Trevor Noah. I enjoyed the interview a lot; it’s thoughtful, funny, and smart.

vanilla roobios tea vanilla roobios tea

Vanilla Roobios Apple-Rum Punch Vanilla Roobios Apple-Rum Punch

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Pear and Cinnamon Tarte Tatin + A Move

bartlett pears Pear and Cinnamon Tarte Tatin Pear and Cinnamon Tarte Tatin

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall,” said F. Scott Fitzgerald

I love this–admittedly oft used–quote. It reminds me of starting school, which, even at almost thirty, is what I think I should be doing each September. But this year it’s particularly apt. The Frenchman and I got married (for the second time) in September, by which time two things were already true: I was deep into a recipe project that’s as exciting as it is overwhelming, and and and, we’d started mortgage paperwork for an apartment. And and and, we sign the papers today. Today! By tonight, we’ll be home (er, apartment) owners. (!!!!)

Soon, we’ll move from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn–where we’ve lived for almost five years, a near eternity in this nomads life–to Jersey City. I’m both excited and heartbroken. Heartbroken and excited. All of a sudden the Frenchman and I are doing very adult things, like biking to West Elm on blustery Saturday afternoons to test out every couch in the showroom, and sending each other paint color links. (By the way, did you know that there are about 8,000 shades of white? It’s ridiculous.)

I’ll have a lot a lot a lot more to say about our new place, and what it feels like to be moving not actually that far away, but what feels like very far away from our neighborhood, the place that’s become our home. For now I’ll just say: in our new place, I will have a pantry, and for that I’m very grateful.

And a few other good things: Sunday hikes to prepare for our honeymoon hike in December. This stunning piece of writing. This haunting show. Read more »

Honey-Roasted Carrot Tartines with Whipped Goat Cheese and Pistachio-Carrot Top Pesto

carrots peeled carrots

carrot peelings

“I come to a tree so rich with autumn’s golds and reds it makes for a mild ache. I lie down under it, close my eyes, and let my mind wander. I think of all that is happening elsewhere, as I lie here. Nearby, I can hear the sounds of a road crew. Somewhere else, monkeys chatter in trees. A male seahorse becomes pregnant. A diamond forms, a bee dances out directions, a windshield shatters. Somewhere a mother spreads peanut butter for her son’s lunch, a lover sighs, a knitter binds off the edge of a sleeve. Clouds gather to make rain, corn ripens on the stalk, a cancer cell divides, a little league team scores. Somewhere blossoms open, a man pushes a knife in deeper, a painter darkens her blue. A cashier pours new dimes into an outstretched hand, rainbows form and fade, plates in the earth shift and settle. A woman opens a velvet box, male spiders pluck gently on the females’ webs, falcons fall from the sky. Abstracts are real and time is a lie, it cannot be measured when one moment can expand to hold everything. You can want to live and end up choosing death; and you can want to die and end up living. What keeps us here, really? A thread that breaks in a breeze. And yet a thread that cannot be broken.” – Elizabeth Berg, Never Change

carrot top pesto carrot tops

carrot top pistachio pesto

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Apricot and Pistachio-Oat Bars

Here is a pocket missive: I’m sitting at the scrubbed wooden table in my parents-in-laws’ garden, among a riot of chirpy birds, colorful flowers in stoneware pots, patches of herbs, an artichoke plant, a cherry tree, some browning grape vines, and a fig tree that seems to ripen on the hour.

The day was bright and hot–we jumped into the icy blue water in the craggy village port at high tide–but it’s September and this close to the ocean, late afternoon cools considerably. The almond-colored stones under my bare feet are noticeably cold.

We’re getting married for the second time on Saturday. Friends from the States, some of whom live far away from New York and I barely get to see, arrive tomorrow. I’m thrilled. It will be a strange, happy colliding of normally disparate worlds.

I hope, wherever you are, you’re enjoying these last scraps of summer.

apricotsApricot and Pistachio-Oat Bars

Apricot and Pistachio-Oat BarsApricot and Pistachio-Oat Bars

Apricot and Pistachio-Oat Bars Apricot and Pistachio-Oat Bars

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Berenjenas con Miel (Eggplant with Honey)

In about an hour, we’re due to leave for the airport. We’re off to France to visit the Frenchman’s family, but also–to have a second, French wedding. We’re trading wedding cake for pièce montée, vanilla extract wedding favors for dragée, and the city for the seaside. I’m wearing the same dress because come on, but I did buy new earrings and lipstick.

Have you ever taken a wedding dress in a now very-puffy garment bag on a plane? Me neither, but here we go.

For reasons both mundane but also exciting-I-can’t-mention-yet, work feels especially crushing at the moment, which makes me a bit nervous for this trip. I’m worried that relaxing will feel irresponsible. If anyone has advice for overcoming this feeling/really enjoying time off when it’s presented, instead of obsessing over all the things you could be doing, I’m all ears.

Lastly for the moment–in my never ending search for exercise I actually enjoy–I’ve been taking this class. I’m by far and away the least fashionable/flat-stomached/coordinated person in there, but it’s so hard, and so much fun.

eggplant Berenjenas con Miel (Eggplant with Honey)

Berenjenas con Miel (Eggplant with Honey)

Berenjenas con Miel (Eggplant with Honey) Berenjenas con Miel (Eggplant with Honey)

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Blueberry Crumb Cake

I have a uniform when I fly: a black shift dress with sheer, three quarter length sleeves. The dress is roomy and comfortable, but has enough structure that my uber driver asked if I was traveling for business. (Even when I conceded vacation, he pushed for what I did for a living. I answered somewhat vaguely–real estate development–and didn’t elaborate, but he clapped his hand against the steering wheel, exultant. “See! You are a business woman!”) I wish I’d purchased ten of these dresses.

I keep a pair of leggings in my bag. I wear a big necklace, both to dress up the simple black dress, and to give me something to finger during turbulence, like a modern rosary. A French woman once told me, always look nice when you fly. I also carry a satiny, magenta scarf a friend gifted me in college. It doubles as a blanket. 

I fly often, both for love of travel, and because my in-laws live 3,500 miles from our Brooklyn apartment. Still, always, I’m a very nervous flyer. Exposure therapy is lost on me. I rely on various, western remedies to get me through long flights, but also: Harry Potter books on tape, the ones narrated by Jim Dale.

I always carry snacks. Currently, slow dried apples and teriyaki beef jerky. 

Last night, my sister and I arrived in Vancouver at 3am local time, 6am New York time. I woke up to water and mountains. By the time I climbed groggily out of bed in search of coffee, the Frenchman was at his desk, already working. This is the first trip in a long time I’ve taken without him, and I’ll be gone nearly two weeks. 

I drank almost an entire pot of milky coffee before venturing out of our room. I wish I’d had some of this blueberry cake to eat alongside it. 

Blueberry Crumb Cake Blueberry Crumb Cake Blueberry Crumb Cake

Blueberry Crumb Cake Blueberry Crumb Cake

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