as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
-Mary Oliver (“The Journey“)
Given my schedule, I sometimes don’t know why I persist in blogging on Monday nights (oh, if only the world were ideal and time would open up and stretch eternally before me!), but I really can’t help myself. Especially on days when I wake up feeling excited and refreshed, bursting with things to tell you…like why Matcha Pots de Creme may just be one of the easiest and most elegant desserts you could whip up on a Sunday evening. Yes, matcha notwithstanding, the weekend clearly treated me well. I finally finished The Lost Books of the Odyssey (a worthwhile read, particularly if you read the Odyssey and imagined the many possible paths Odysseus’ remaining years could have taken), which has given me room to start salivating over all the other gazillion books I want to read. Currently at the top of my list: Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot (a novel that engages with a concept that has fascinated me since I took a class on Adultery as an undergraduate) and Haruki Murakami’s IQ84 (a post-modern and Japanese take on 1984 since Q–kyuu–is 9 in Japanese)…Is the semester over yet? For now, fantasies will clearly have to suffice.
I also, on Saturday afternoon, went with a friend to San Francisco’s Omnivore Books (I biked there with the Greek over the summer), where the chef from Kokkari, Eric Cosselman, was talking about the new Kokkari cookbook. While I haven’t yet been to the restaurant, I’ve heard wonderful things from the people who have. And, clearly, it’s on my list of places to go, especially after the food that we got to sample on Saturday: fresh feta, taramosalata (roe dip, essentially), fresh pita and marinated octopus. It was a mini-feast and one replete with wine. A Saturday afternoon that involves a glass of white wine from Santorini is nothing to be scoffed at. Not to mention the fact that my companion and I avidly looked through the cookbooks before the talk (or, really, a question and answer session that involved asking the poor chef about his favorite restaurants and what he thinks of the Greek yogurt that American grocery stores sell). Several highlights were Melissa Clark’s new book, which was beautiful and seemed full of the kinds of doable and creative recipes she provides in her weekly column, “A Good Appetite” and I also found a cookbook that I could barely restrain myself from buying: Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume by Silvena Rowe, who is of both Bulgarian and Turkish descent. I don’t know if it was the gorgeous pictures or the fact that most of the recipes involved rose water, pistachios and coconut, but it literally skyrocketed to the top of my “most coveted cookbooks list.” Is it Christmas yet? And can I wait that long?
While these things were all good, another weekend highlight was the fact that I worked. I wrote paper topics, I graded a written assignment, I studied Greek vocabulary and, *drum roll please*, I went to the Elmwood Cafe with a friend, yet another one of my dissertation buddies, and wrote a few pages. Granted, they’re not very good pages, but it’s a start. I think there’s something about the Elmwood Cafe that inspires me to work. I wonder what they put in their lavender soda. Or maybe they put something extra special in their citrus curd that I more than liberally slathered on a buttermilk biscuit (writing makes me ravenous). An even better theory is that happy people produce results. Happy people work well, which is why taking a day off every now and then is a good thing.
And since I left the cafe both happy and feeling like I had accomplished something, I allowed myself the sheer joy of making pots de creme when I returned home. I’ve always had a thing for pudding (although pots de creme are surely one step above pudding)–creamy, melt in your mouth, pillowy pudding. Because I had heavy cream in the refrigerator, I decided it was time to indulge one of the many weaknesses of my sweet tooth. Matcha, given my love of the slightly bitter dark green powder and the fond memories it always evokes (my year in Japan often haunts me, but only in pleasant and happy ways), was the obvious choice for the dominant flavor. It’s been a while since I baked matcha cupcakes (a favorite of mine) or cake and even longer since I actually whisked the powder into a cup of hot water to drink it in the traditional way (as traditional as an American kitchen can get). I was amused a few weeks ago when I was flipping through Bon Appetit and they were talking about the matcha trend. It was one of the few times in my life when I well and truly felt like I had beaten a fad to the finish line. The only difference is that for me it’s not a fad–it’s a memory that calls to mind quiet Japanese temples and changing leaves. Fall and Japan are inexorably linked in my mind. It was nice both to celebrate and recreate that in my own kitchen, whisking the sugar and egg yolks, heating the cream and, finally, topping the pots de creme with dark chocolate shavings before refrigerating them. Of course, I had half of one before I went to bed (the Greek, who triumphantly returned from Seattle/Vancouver last night, ate the other half) and then read a preview of a cookbook on my Kindle.
No wonder I woke up happy today. That, my friends, is a weekend.
Matcha Pots de Creme
Yields 4 ramekins (or, if you broke one of yours, 3 ramekins and one glass jar) of green tea goodness
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup 1% milk (depending on what kind of milk you’re using, adjust for maximum creaminess potential)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 heaping Tbsp. matcha powder
1 piece Ghiradelli Intense Dark Twilight Delight Chocolate (72%), cut into small chunks or, even better, shaved into curlicues
-Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare your ramekins in a water bath.
-In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream and milk and heat the milk (it should not come to a boil).
-Add the vanilla and then whisk in the matcha powder (for optimal results, you should either whisk or sift the matcha powder in advance).
-In the meantime, whisk the sugar and eggs together in a large bowl.
-Once the milk/cream mixture is hot (but not boiling), slowly add (pouring it through a small strainer–I used a tea strainer) it to the eggs and sugar, vigorously whisking as you pour.
-Divide the mixture evenly amongst your ramekins and/or jars.
-Bake in the water bath for about 30-35 minutes, or until the center is set.
-Remove the ramekins/jars from the oven and water bath and let them cool on the counter.
-At this stage, add the chocolate shavings/curlicues.
-Once they’ve cooled off, place them in the refrigerator, where they will set completely.
-In 2-3 hours, complete joy will be yours! Enjoy!