Monday, September 28, 2015

ina garten's corn muffins

One of my favorite weeknight dinners is Deb Perelman's chard and white bean stew. It's easy, healthful, and readily lends itself to all kinds of modifications depending on what you have in your larder (spinach instead of chard, white vermouth instead of wine, chicken broth instead of vegetable broth, onions instead of shallots, etc.) I've made it dozens of times since Ms. Perelman posted the recipe on her blog some years ago and in that time, I've begun experimenting to find the perfect accompaniment. 

In her blog, Ms. Perelman suggests serving the stew with a piece of toast rubbed with garlic. I have done this several times and it is indeed excellent. But because I don't always top the stew with a poached egg, I looked for something a bit more robust than a piece of toast and landed on corn muffins.

Coming back from a week of rather decadent eating in Tahoe, I decided that white bean stew would be a good choice. I started scrounging around for an easy corn muffin recipe that wouldn't require me to make a trip to the grocery store and, lo and behold, Ina Garten delivered. 

I've made lots of corn muffins and many of the best contain sour cream or buttermilk, but if you don't have those ingredients on hand (as I often do not) these muffins will do the trick. They're definitely on the sweeter side, so take note, but I personally prefer a sweet corn muffin alongside savory stews.

Slightly modified version of Ina Garten's corn muffins

1 cup plus two tbsp whole milk
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 cup cornmeal
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp baking powder

Turn the oven to 350F. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin and set aside. Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl; mix together the eggs, milk and melted butter in a second bowl and then add to the dry ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Spoon batter into the muffin tin and bake for approximately 25-27 minutes, until muffins take on a golden brown appearance and a toothpick emerges clean when the muffins are tested.

I tend to make a batch and freeze the majority of the muffins, warming them up in the oven a few at a time, covered in foil in the muffin tin, when I want them. It works beautifully. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

end of summer, lake tahoe

When I was growing up, my family spent a lot of time in Tahoe during the winter. We'd fly into Reno or Sacramento and drive from there for the skiing. It wasn't until college that I visited during the summer and realized that there is basically no bad time to visit Tahoe. A few months ago, Daniel's parents made plans for a late September vacation at a cabin near Tahoe City and invited us to join them.

Join them we did, and we spent several absolutely gorgeous days in Tahoe, sightseeing, hiking, and of course, eating very well. Daniel wasn't able to join us until partway through the week because of work commitments, so I drove up with Daniel's parents and their dog Katie. Naturally, we stopped at Ikedas and stocked up on pies (apple! cherry! marionberry!) for the cabin. After reaching the cabin and settling in, we drove to Truckee for some window shopping then took Katie to the beach (oddly, there seemed to be few places that allowed dogs; fortunately we found Lake Forest Beach and Katie was able to run around and dip her toes in the water.) As the sun set, we found ourselves on the deck at Sunnyside and toasted to vacation and the last day of summer.

The next morning we were up bright and early to make the drive down to Emerald Bay. I'd never been to that part of the lake before, so it was a special treat to see how beautiful it was. We also had the chance to tour Vikingsholm, which was great fun. 

After our house tour, we lunched down near Camp Richardson then took Katie to Kiva Beach. Aside from some alarming warnings about squirrel-borne plague posted along the trails, it was a lovely place to walk around and also allowed us to stop in and see some of the Tallac historic sites.

After our day of adventures, we had happy hour on the deck of the cabin and then headed to dinner at Wolfdale's. Everything was delicious but the ahi cones we had as an appetizer were particularly special.

Daniel arrived late in the evening after making the drive up from San Francisco. Since he still had some work to do the next day, the rest of us cleared out of the house and drove to Sugar Pine Point State Park to go on a tour of the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, which, like Vikingsholm, is another of the grand old Tahoe summer homes. After our tour, we picnicked out on the lake and strolled around the property.

In the afternoon, Daniel finished up his work and we enjoyed happy hour on the deck of our cabin before heading to Moody's in Truckee for dinner and some live music.

In the morning, Daniel's parents headed back to Napa and we continued on to Reno, but not before making a quick detour to Eagle Lake. Once we got to the lake, we were lucky enough to see a bear swimming around (!)

After a few hours of hiking and fishing, we had lunch and then rented kayaks to go out to Fannette Island. The water was refreshingly cool and it was a quick trip to the island, where we scrambled up to the ruined tea house on its highest point.

It was the perfect way to end a lovely couple of days in Tahoe. I already have my fingers crossed that we'll be able to get back there soon for the winter ski season.

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