Lemon pine nut chocolate-covered cookies

Pine nut cookies

My ex-sister-in-law used to talk about totem animals. I’m not sure precisely what she meant, (I’m simple!) but to me it’s always meant the animal that you’d be, if you could be an animal. If your spirit could leave your body (at night, say, in your dreams) and slip into a body that felt more comfortable, what body would that be? For me, it’s always been an otter. They used to live around here, but they were hunted out of existence in this area. It makes me sad that you can only see them in zoos, but when we do visit zoos, I find the otters mesmerizing. I saw this video yesterday, and I can’t stop watching it! I think I’m losing it! I’m not a person who LOLs and posts cute things. But this video kills me. I love Nellie’s ridiculously beautiful otter belly, and the sound the cups make when she hits them against it. I love her speaking face and paws – every expression and gesture is so perfect. I love how slick and cool she is. I love her otter friend, who’s just kicking back, happy to be with her. I feel bad for her that she’s in a zoo, and that she’s performing for fish. But I love how she looks at the zookeeper, when she’s given the cups in the wrong order, with a sweet look that seems to say, “There’s no fish in here, and you got the order all wrong. Sheesh.” I love that when she holds her friend’s paws, which she’s told to do, she half-closes her eyes.

What’s your totem animal?

Holy Smoke, I’m waaaaaaaay behind on telling you about recipes. I’ll never catch up! I won’t make it to everything. Some recipes will get left behind. These were nice, though, so I’ll tell you about them. I wanted do make a sort of shortbread cookie with pine nuts. I realized that I always think of pine nuts in a savory setting, but they have such a smoky sweetness that I thought they’d be nice in a cookie. And they were! I could have probably left it at that, but I felt that they’d be good with a touch of lemon zest. And everything’s better with a coating of bittersweet chocolate, right?

Here’s Jean Redpath with Song of the Seals

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Hazelnut, pear, chocolate tart

Pear-hazelnut tart

Among life’s most pressing philosophical questions is this one: When is frangipane not frangipane. We have a think tank, here at The Ordinary, entirely devoted to solving this riddle. Another pressing question…why am I so fascinated by frangipane? I don’t know! Frangipane is a sort of baked custard of eggs, sugar and ground almonds, at its simplest. (As I understand it! Feel free to correct me, if you know otherwise.) So, if you take the sugar out, and make it savory, what’s that called? If you add a little more flour than is customarily used, and rather than being soft and eggy, the custard has a bit of a crispy top, what’s that called? If you use hazelnuts, instead of almonds, what’s that called?

That’s what I did, people. I’ve experimented in the past with the delightful trinity of pears, hazelnuts and chocolate, in cake form. Well…*breaking news*…I bought a tart pan. I’m so excited! It really is something I should have had all along, because I’m such a tart person (sharp, bitter, sarcastic…). I used it the day I bought it, to make this tart.

We have a layer of paté sucrée made with brown sugar. We have a layer of bosc pears caramelized in rum, and then we have a layer of hazelnut frangipane (until somebody gives me another name for it!). The top layer was the slightly crispy on top kind, rather than the dense and eggy kind. This means that you can break off little pieces to have with your coffee in the morning, as well as eating a slice on a plate with lightly whipped cream for dessert.

Here’s Common & Mos Def with The Questions. (caution, might be a bit sweary) Why do I need I.D. to get I.D.? Why, indeed.
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Drambuie & dolce de leche ice cream with bittersweet chocolate

drambuie ice cream

I’m a huge fan of ice cream. I can’t think of a more enduringly perfect food. I worked in an ice cream parlor for an embarrassing number of years, long after I should have gotten a “real” job. I dream of ice cream flavors, I really do! So when I found myself with some dulce de leche, and then my mother-in-law brought us a bottle of drambuie (thanks, Ellie!) you could see the little wheels spinning madly in my head. And the one food I find completely irresistible is melting ice cream. There’s something about the contrast between the still-frozen part, and the increasingly creamy melty part that’s about more than the delightful textures. It’s about time passing! There’s a wonderful feeling of risk, almost – you want to take your time, but if you wait too long, it won’t be ice cream any more. There’s a perfect moment, or series of moments, when the ice cream must be consumed! I could eat a whole gallon of ice cream, in this state! The thing about adding drambuie to ice cream, or any alcohol, for that matter, is that it preserves the ice cream in a perpetual state of perfect meltiness! It never freezes completely, so from the minute you scoop it out, you MUST EAT IT!

I should probably mention that since the drambuie’s not heated, the alcohol doesn’t cook off. I wonder how much you’d have to eat to get drunk? Hmmm… We let the boys have small bowls after dinner, and they could still balance on their roller skates. But when Malcolm asked me for some at 9 o’clock this morning…well, I drew the line!

I don’t have a real ice cream maker, I have one of those donvier ice cream makers. Remember those? Do they still make them? Anyway, it does the trick. I’ll give you the recipe, and you can freeze it however you like.

Here’s Ice Cream man, by Tom Waits.
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Bakewell tart with cherries, cassis and bittersweet chocolate

bakewell tart

My love of black currants is the legendary stuff of legend. Unfortunately, they’re not readily available in America, and my tiny black currant bush doesn’t produce very much in the summer, let alone in January. What bad luck! But black currant jam and creme de cassis are readily available in America. What good luck! For a while now, I’ve been wanting to make a bakewell tart…a tart with a pate sucree crust, a layer of jam, and a layer of almond-cake-like frangipane. I have such fond memories of eating them as a child, when we lived in England, out of a little box, with fondant and a cherry. Mine would be a little different, though. Of course I wanted to use black currant jam. And then I decided to add dried tart cherries and chocolate chips, for a balance of deliciousness. I soaked the cherries in cassis, then mixed them with the jam and the chocolate, and, I must say, the combination is killer! Especially together with the crispy cookie-like crust and the soft fragrant almond topping. A wonderful combination of crunchy, chewy, sweet and tart.

Bakewell tart

Here’s Ska Jam by Tommy McCook and the Supersonics

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