Ice Cream in the Wintertime

I've gotten used to microwaving water for tea and never having to tell a single person what I'm thinking.  I slept for fifteen hours yesterday, my body exhausted from the flu, and no one would ever have known if I didn't tell people.  For pity, for a connection to someone else.  I've become this different person, a liminal character between two worlds--the moorish memories of California, the Shangri-La future of central Texas.  If the sun hits me at noon, my fingertips become smoke rings, I float away into my own imagination.  I never have to tell a single person what I'm thinking. Last week, I stopped by a Salvation Army and looked for an ice cream scoop.  I wanted an old one, one that looked rustic and used.  One that survived birthday parties and anniversaries, graduation parties and the Y2K scare.  I found a chipped crock and an Ace of Base CD instead.  I forgot my wallet in the car and felt oddly embarrassed, oddly unsure of myself, self-conscious of my windowshopping.  I went back out to the car and noticed how few parking spots there were for how many customers the store had.  It confused me, how people got there.  I left without buying anything.

The reason I needed the ice cream scoop is because I was determined to make ice cream.  Chantilly Meringuèe, to be exact.  I was given twenty-two eggs from a coworker whose fridge was overflowing with them.  So many delicate egg whites, cracked open on the sides of mixing bowls and countertops.  My fascination with the egg white's transformation was last seen with the Italian Meringue Buttercream, but I wanted to take it one step further.  Because, egg whites, too, are so liminal.  So between-worlds.  Too viscous for liquid, too amorphous for a solid.  The more air you incorporate, the more velveteen and shapely it becomes.

I wanted to see this transformation, I wanted to feel as though my sublimated body could border-cross the way this dessert did.  I wanted to create magic without the unnecessary equipment of an ice cream maker.  I wanted something cold on my tongue, the sharp bite of winter melting in my mouth.  I wanted to feel alive this week, after sleeping for fifteen hours and only speaking when I needed something.  I wanted to feel like a kid again, taking change from my pocket and buying ice cream across the street from my school, at a place called Shaffer's Snack Shack.  I wanted to share this recipe with you.

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Mountain Cedar and Chicken Noodle Soup

I was five when I told my first lie. We lived in Kentucky then.  In a little ranch house with not enough room.  My sister slept in the laundry room, her bed was by the washer.  The house had one big tree in the backyard, broken bricks in a corner of the lot.  The fence on the left was overrun by blackberry bramble.  My sister and I would see who could fit the most in our mouths, the juices running down our chins like well-fed wolves. In that house, I told my first lie.  I told my mother I was sick, that I couldn't get out of bed, that I couldn't move.  She said I looked pale and I held her hand while we watched a movie on the bottom bunk of a bed I shared with my brother.  My mother had long hair then, thick and that kind of black hair that turns blue in the right light.  She was 29 then and worked in a warehouse for produce and generic-brand food.  Her whole life was over by then, I think.  She was never really her own person by the time I came along.  But she sat on the bed with me and we watched movies.  I lied to her and we both took a nap together.

In that same house, that small little house in Kentucky, with the vinyl siding and it's creaky front door, a tornado hit and my 29-year-old mom drove home to protect us. She drove a green pickup truck.  She tied a sun-bleached red bandana on the mirror the day she got it.  It was a summer then, hot on the skin and the heat broke the sky. She put that same mattress we fell asleep on over our heads and we watched as a tree branch smacked the window pane, leaving a scratch that was still there when we left two months later.

I haven't stopped lying since I was five.  I do it every day.  I do it over small things, like if I put cream in my coffee.  I do it about big things, like when I tell people I love them.  I do it as a way to get attention, as a way to hold someone's hand.  I do it for pity and for protection.  I do it for fun.  I lie to my mother more than anyone else.  I tell her I forgive her for everything, for the missed birthdays and the time she hung up the phone on me when I called her from Italy, drunk and alone and only had ten minutes left on the pay phone, only a few cents left in my pocket.  I lie to her to make it easy, because I remember how she sat on the bed and held my hand and loved me even when I was lying to her.

Every time I was sick after that day, she'd stay home with me and watch a movie.  She'd take my temperature with her hand flat on my forehead and at night she'd have my dad carry me to my room.  We had tradition, we had rituals.  We had moments that I haven't been able to share with anyone else.  I lied to her over and over again for seventeen years now, but every time I call her and tell her I'm sick, she always remembers this day, too.

Last week, I called her and told her the mountain cedar was blowing.  I told her that my eyes itched and how I didn't want to go to work.  She told me about her chicken soup with big noodles and roasted chicken.  Carrots and celery and oil.  She told me who I used to eat it and ask for seconds and thirds.  She told me how she wished she could be here now, in my kitchen in Texas, making it for me.  I lied to her again and said, "Yeah, me too."

Instead, I did it myself, like so many things these days.  This soup is an apology, a memory, a souvenir from when we all played sick and tried to get out of school with the flu.  It's a revisionist tale of how life should have gone.  It's to my mother who was 25 and young when she had me.  It's to a little boy who still has family in Kentucky he's never met.  It's to the 1,500 miles in any direction to the closest people I love.  It's a warm soup, a comforting soup.  It's a soup you eat when the tornado heat breaks and you have three small children to stop crying.  It's the soup you reheat when the dollar has to stretch because you're saving up to move out of a house where your daughter sleeps in the laundry room.  It's a soup for a home, not for a house.

Chicken Noodle Soup and a Boule

Chicken Noodle Soup and a Boule

Chicken Noodle Soup


  • 2 large chicken breasts, defrosted
  • 3 sprigs rosemary, divided
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • 96 oz chicken stock (as always, preferably homemade, but there is a lot of flavor in the soup for store-bought)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon chicken base (found in supermarkets)
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 16 oz egg noodles, cooked separately in another pot


  1. Preheat the oven to 450
  2. Rip two aluminum sheets off big enough to wrap your chicken in.  Place chicken breasts on respective foils and rub salt, pepper, and olive oil all over.  Add four lemon wedges per chicken breast and rosemary.  Wrap tightly.  Bake on sheet for 25 minutes or until cooked through.
  3. Set chicken aside to cool.
  4. Begin on the mirepoix.  In a large dutch oven, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat.  Before butter burns and when oil is almost smoking, add carrots, celery, and onion.  Cook down 10-15 minutes and stir occasionally, until vegetables are tender and onions are translucent
  5. Add garlic and remaining sprig of rosemary (diced finely).  Cook only for a minute to release some flavors and not burn, stirring constantly.
  6. Pour in chicken stock.  Allow to heat through and bring to a low boil for five minutes.  While waiting on that, tear the cooled chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks with your hands or a fork.
  7. Add the chicken base, pepper, and lemon pepper.  Stir thoroughly to ensure that the seasonings have incorporated into the soup
  8. Add the shredded chicken
  9. Cover and let simmer on low while you prepare the egg noodles in a separate pot (follow package instructions here, but add a little bit of chicken stock to the liquid for some added flavor)
  10. Drain noodles and add to soup.  Simmer to warm noodles up.
  11. Serve with Laura Calder's Miracle Boule and have for the rest of the week

We have brioche at dawn.

This all happened before I left for Pennsylvania, before I was reminded of the as it was.  Of the constant state of charm and chaos that exists when you visit a family home.  The kind that you can recognize the tired floorboards, the kind that are imprinted with your dad's shape on the couch.  All the good memories flood back and haunt you like a contorted zoetrope, and you're never really sure if you're dreaming or awake. I made these rolls with no intention of making these rolls, with no intention of being up until one in the morning, making sure I had turned the oven light off.  Intention wasn't the cause, but the end goal of having these with ham and jelly kept me going.  The soft pillows were enveloped in a hard crunch and I could taste them before I could smell them.  I knew they were special and simple and delicious.  I knew I wanted them to be impressive, I knew it before I ever intended on making them.

I have always felt that the grey morning light is terrifying.  One of the first poems I wrote, read out loud in the back of my parents' '98 Nissan Pathfinder, was about how I wanted to die when that grey light extended to my southward-facing bedroom window.  That was in Pennsylvania, when the whole month of December is one grey streak on virgin snow.  Out here in California, it can taunt you for two hours and be gone by the time you pull into work.  It's different here, but still frightening.

I've never been one for armor, but you can't hide from the ambient greyness.  Instead, you have to confront it.  Distract yourself from it.  Make it feel invited in a way that it can't smell the sick in you.  I distract myself from it, too.  I serve myself a beautiful breakfast when I realize how much I hate this kind of season, this kind of light.  The mild distortion of ephemera that only comes between the hours of five and seven in the morning.  And that can all be abated for a moment or two.  At the calm of the table, with the coffee pot scorching on the burner.  The small hiss of everyday life while the man you once loved and will love again sleeps in the next room, never aware that you only made the breakfast so you didn't think about your own mortality.  How you, too, could be gone by the time you pull into work.  And after that you would do the dishes, and after that you would take a shower, and after that you would get a towel and sit on the bathroom floor trying to stay warm.  The ritual of these brioche buns meant I was distracted, meant I didn't have to, for one moment, think about how suffocating mornings can be, when all you have is yourself.

Morning Brioche Buns


Ingredients: (this is for six buns, but I had doubled the recipe to share at work, as seen in photos below)

  • 8 TB milk, slightly warmed on stovetop or in microwave
  • 1/2 sachet of active dry yeast
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in pieces, room temperature
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar or honey
  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked (1 tablespoon of eggs for washing), room temperature
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt (such as La Jolla Salt Co.)


  1. In a bowl, activate the yeast in the warmed milk until beginning to bloom and bubbles appear
  2. Cream butter and sugar (or honey) until light and fluffy with mixer
  3. Add eggs and continue to blend gently until combined
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together flour and salt for lighter, airier dry ingredients
  5. Gradually add these to the wet mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until crumbly
  6. Pour in yeast mixture and stir until all ingredients are wet
  7. Oil or flour hands gently and turn onto a lightly-floured board.  Knead by hand until gluten and yeast begin to activate.  The dough will become springy and malleable in about 5-7 minutes
  8. Put in an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel for about two hours, or until doubled in size
  9. Put back onto floured board and cut into six equal buns.  Roll and shape into rounds, place on parchment-lined baking sheet for another hour and a half to inflate again and become puffy.  During this proofing period, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  10. When the oven is preheated and rolls are puffy, you can either keep them on the baking sheets or place them in a skillet or other oven-proof bakeware for a visually-stunning breakfast.  Either way, they taste great.
  11. Gently brush all balls of dough with reserved tablespoon of egg and lightly salt with flaked seasalt.
  12. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden
  13. Allow to cool and serve as immediate as possible.  Put in airtight container for morning.
  14. Note:  I found that, with all brioche, these dry out really quickly.  To reconstitute them a little, place in a microwave with a damp paper towel for about 10-15 seconds.  The steam should help to soften them up a bit.
  15. Serve with jam, butter, or some honey-baked ham I'm sure we all have received in a Pepperidge Farms box from a relative or two this time of year.

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And one more thing...

I want to give a special shout out to La Jolla Salt Co. for their great deal on this denim apron I purchased in support of small businesses in my area.  I was lucky enough to have a little bit of their salt for this recipe and I can say it gave it the perfect amount of balance and crunch the brioche needed.  Baking gets pretty messy and I've finally graduated from using old flannel shirts to a full-blown profesh apron now!



I've been thinking of dimensions.  Sizes and expansiveness.  How, if I shout at you, you hear me only so far away. How memories echo like voices and it gets muffled the longer it rings out. A king size bed is 80 by 76 inches, but it's been the smallest island nation these last couple weeks.  Dimensions and space-time, moments that feel like static, hopping between eyelashes and rug burns and the small, prickled hairs that cover the nape of your neck.  All of it in the in-between, the almost-touching.  Like God and Adam's fingertips. It thunderstormed in San Diego, the world was a grayish colored that's normally reserved for mothers who stress too much and the dawn fog at the marinas.  it made me lazy and hopeful, a little insane and I tried to convince myself that I was the same person three years ago.  But the country is expansive and it would take me thirty-odd hours to drive home in my rented, Japanese-made car.  Thirty miles to the gallon, they advertise.  How many gallons until I'm seeing the same rainy storm clouds, when I turn my head and look westward behind me?

I'm going home soon, the real home.  The one with five bedrooms, six cats, and two parents who don't love each other, but love the comfort of one another. It's a big house and it floods once a year.  I grew up in that house and they remodeled since I last saw it.  Two years ago was when I was in Pennsylvania last and even then I told my mother I wanted to move.  And when the opportunity presents itself, I'd get in my rented, Japanese-made car and drive fast, fast, fast on the turnpike.

I'm going home soon and I want to see rainclouds and if the world fell apart without me there.  I want to be as cold-to-the-bones as possible, where you're almost burning because it's so cold.  I want to keep my window open and freeze to death under flannel sheets.  I want to experience feelings again--good and bad, repressed and resented.  I will come home to one lonely dog and parents hopeful that I haven't just fucked my life up.  And maybe there will be snow on the ground and maybe there will be patchy, grey-brown grass.  The mall is going to close soon.  Maybe it's exactly how I left it, because Appalachian time moves in a slow-fast past in space-time.  You can drive twenty miles and the engine can echo off an apple orchard and you never have to apologize for nothing.

I made a pie this week and brought it to work.  The office flooded the next day. The pie was made from foods in that state of in-between.  Frozen cherries and almond paste made a month ago.  It was cold when I made it and there was steam coming from my fingertips when I got out of the shower that morning.  I wasn't home, but I was frozen to my bones.

Balsamic Cherry Tart with Frangipane

Balsamic Cherry Tart with Frangipane


  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 3 egg yolks (depending on altitude and dryness of flour), separated
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • a large pinch salt
  • homemade almond paste from here (make ahead of time), room temperature
  • 2 TB heavy cream
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • 3/4 lb frozen cherries
  • 2 tb balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tb honey
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • water to cover


For the crust:

  1. Prepare a tart pan (with a removable bottom, preferred) with butter or a light cooking spray
  2. In a food processor, pulse butter and sugar together for about two minutes until incorporated and light
  3. Add 2 egg yolks and pulse to combine
  4. Add flour and salt and mix until ball forms
  5. Knead very gently onto a floured surface (should still be pretty crumby, but solid)
  6. Press into prepared tart pan and set in fridge.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 (do this step now, so it doesn't seem like you're waiting forever for the oven and to save energy)
  8. When oven is preheated, take tart pan out of fridge and bake 10-12 minutes, or until just golden brown
  9. Let cool while preparing other ingredients


  1. In a mixing bowl, use a hand mixer and whip almond paste, one egg yolk, cream, and brown sugar together until light and full incorporated.
  2. Using a rubber spatula, fold onto tart crust and spread evenly.  Set aside
  3. In a small saucepan, combine remaining ingredients and simmer until juices begin to come from fruit and liquids reduce by half.  Stir occasionally.  Here, we are trying to steep the cherries with balsamic flavor while cutting some of that sweetness and replacing it with a brightness from the honey and lemon.
  4. When cherries are fragrant and just beginning to break down, take off heat and strain.  Making sure to be gentle on the cherries as to not break them completely
  5. Position on top of almond paste mixture and press gently
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes, until frangipane is puffed and cherries are bleeding their juices
  7. Allow to cool completely, serve for breakfast

Balsamic Cherry Tart with Frangipane

Fall Galette - Persimmons and Rosemary

The word rustic is used a lot, and authenticity is faltering.  I think it would be disingenuous to call this a "rustic pie" in my black-and-white tiled, sun-dappled kitchen in California.  Rustic, to me, means the antique shop in my Pennsylvania town that takes up half a block.  The one that had a bakery and sold clam chowder out of season.  The one that caught fire and the landlord fed the first responders pizza and Coke when they were done.  This is a place where price tags are handwritten, negotiable.  A place where there is no kitsch in the idea of the "country craft".   Rustic is authentic, in my part of the country.  I'm on rented land in California, this isn't mine at all.  So, for authenticity's sake, I'll call this by its French name.  A galette. This galette is fresh, light, crisp around the edges. It is sturdy and autumnal in ingredients and gesture.  Let it be a reason to celebrate, let it be a reason to go to the farmer's market and buy 20 bruised and shiny persimmons for $3.  Let it be fall, even in the 80 degree noontime heat.  Let it be fall, because it's those last few moments of the autumn harvest that always seem to count the most, the kinds you try to remember and collect like lightning bugs in that old Mason jar of sentimentality.

Persimmons and Rosemary Galette

Rosemary and Persimmons Galette 


For the pie crust:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 TB packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 TB finely chopped rosemary (more if desired)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I used a little more smoked salt for some depth to the mineral)
  • 1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 TB ice water
  • 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

For the filling:

  • 4 small or 2 large persimmons
  • 2 TB packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup quick oats
  • Zest of one clementine, or 1 TB orange zest
  • 1 TB lemon zest
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 TB clover honey
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. For the dough: In a food processor, pulse flour, brown sugar, salt, and rosemary together until mixed (5-6 pulses)
  2. Add butter, pulse until dry mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-sized bits of butter throughout
  3. While processor is running, pour in ice water into feeding tube
  4. Keep motor running until a ball just forms, turn dough out onto a lightly flours board
  5. Wrap and refrigerate for 45 mins to an hour
  6. While dough is resting, preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. To start on the filling: Simply combine all ingredients for persimmons filling into a mixing bowl, gently stir them together with a wooden spoon, and allow to rest and macerate while dough is in the refrigerator
  8. When dough is ready, place directly on parchment paper and use a floured rolling pin to roll into a circle, about 1/3 inch thick
  9. Spoon filling mixture into center of circle and spread evenly, leaving about a 1-inch margin
  10. Fold edges inward and over one another to keep center in.  Seal edges and brush with egg wash add a little finishing salt on the edges for some flavor
  11. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbling
  12. Allow to cool.  Serve plain, with vanilla ice cream and peppercorns, or with cream cheese mousse (below)

Cream Cheese Mousse


  • Package of 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 TB softened butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 TS orange zest
  • 1/2 TS cinnamon
  • 1/2 TS allspice
  • 1/2 TS nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Cream butter, cheese, and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, set aside
  2. Whip the cream until peaks form, mix into the cream cheese mixture, first by stirring in a small amount with a rubber spatula and then combining in halves
  3. Add all remaining spices
  4. Refrigerate for half an hour, add as a dollop to galette slices

Persimmons and Rosemary Galette