Posts tagged ‘savory’

In the Kitchen with Dad

This morning I woke up to Tilly and Otis. They were both sitting on top of me. Otis was staring at my bedroom window, eyes locked on a fly buzzing on the glass, and Tilly was lying on my stomach and gazing intently at me. Ever since we got Tilly back, I appreciate every moment with her more than ever and she seems to appreciate it too.

Although it’s been a week since Tilly came home, Dad still gets calls from people who think they saw her. While most are mistaken, a few have been right, and we’ve been able to piece together a bit more about what happened to her that night. Once again, I’m utterly amazed by how compassionate people are. Tilly was smack in the middle of a four lane 40 mph road, at night in the rain. A woman saw her and actually parked her car at an angle across multiple lanes to block traffic. Then she jumped out of her car to get Tilly.

Tilly ran, but this woman chased her between houses and through neighborhoods before finally realizing she couldn’t grab Tilly. She walked back, sopping wet, where a police car was parked, lights flashing, and an officer was directing traffic around her car. I honestly can’t believe it! Knowing people like that exist make me feel all warm and soft inside. Warm and soft as… a fresh bagel.

By the time I got out of bed, the house was warm and smelled like flour and yeast – one of my all time favorite smells. Dad was in pajamas too. He had already made the dough and it was rising in the microwave, one of my mom’s tricks. The kitchen counter isn’t warm enough in Seattle, so she microwaves a small cup of water for 3-4 minutes. This makes the microwave warm and humid, a great place for the bread to rise.

“Bagels?” I asked, seeing the open cookbook. “Can I help?”

The first thing I helped do was punch down the dough. As some of you might know, I have no bread experience at all and get a little nervous about it. But I’ve always wanted to make bagels, and I love the feeling of the dough. It’s soft and firm and elastic all at once.

Even though I mostly bake cakes, cookies, and sweets, there’s something about baking breakfast that brings me unique happiness. It’s something about the soft natural light, streaming in through the windows, and the birds making their first rounds around the yard. It’s the warmth of the kitchen in comparison to the cool wood floors of the rest of the house… And the fact that I’m in pajamas still and there is no stress whatsoever.

I watched Dad separate the dough into 8 and then we started forming the bagels. He formed each 1/8th of the dough into a ball by cupping the bottom between his palms and squeezing together. He rotated the ball and kept cupping and pressing together, so that it formed a smooth sphere. Then he floured a finger and made a hole in it, pressing straight through. Then he worked the entire thing, using more fingers, to expand the hole and smooth the sides.

The bagels rise a bit longer, then you boil them and bake them. And wow… there’s really something about pulling a rack of perfect, golden, puffy bagels out of the oven. It makes your heart flutter a little bit. It makes you wonder why you even bother with cinnamon raisin or chocolate chip or blueberry when you can make these simple, delicious ones all by yourself.

Of course, I have yet to make them all by myself. But my Dad is a good teacher. He mostly cooks dinner, which may or may not interest me depending on my mood. He bakes a little… not as well as me :) But his eclairs are always delicious and he will always make me a birthday cake if I want one, even though it’s admittedly not his thing. But the one thing I always like to see him make is bread. Challah, parker house rolls, Italian flatbread, spinach rolls, it always fascinates me and makes me suddenly forget all about chocolate and vanilla beans.

We ate our bagels outside with the dogs, and it was perfect. I went pretty simple. I spread some slightly cold cream cheese, which softened right away on the warm bagel. Then I topped it with some homemade blackberry jam that our friend A- made for us. The bagel was chewy and soft and puffy, and the jam and cream cheese was perfectly sweet and tangy. I think I ate the whole thing in record speed.

But Dad is a bit more sophisticated. He went for cream cheese too, but added some capers. Then he grabbed a Mr. Stripey tomato that he grew himself in his own garden and sliced it into thick, juicy rounds.

I was starting to wonder whether I should have forgone the jam.

He topped the bagels with the tomato and pulled out some of his very own homemade lox. If there’s one type of fish I can’t resist, it’s salmon, and his lox is the best.

How can any day go wrong when it starts like this?

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August 22, 2009 at 2:47 pm 67 comments

Happily Ever After

Has your heart ever dropped so fast, you were too shocked and jolted to even cry?

This is Tilly. She is… indescribable. She is solid sunshine. She is warm, real comfort… friendship, beauty, and unfiltered goodness. She is the neediest, sweetest, most skittery dog I have ever met. She is family and I have loved her like family from the moment my dad brought her home, a pound puppy of unidentifiable breed, ten years ago.

I found out at work, a few hours before my lunch break. The heat wave in Seattle has been replaced by a pouring of rain, real rain – dark skies and fat drops that fall like bullets. We think something must have happened to Tilly as a puppy, something awful, because she is frightened by the strangest things… the sound of ripping paper, fireplaces, motionless soccer balls… Rain is one of her more ordinary fears. And in the torrent of rain on Wednesday night, Tilly vanished.

At first, I was so worried I could hardly keep working. But deep down, I felt certain that Tilly would come back. Dad was looking for her, and she was smart enough to know her way around the neighborhood. But the whole day passed. Dad spent hours calling her name, not even eating. He put up hundreds of posters and received two calls, both false alarms, not Tilly but unfamiliar dogs roaming the neighborhood. His calls and texts grew more and more hopeless, and as his outlook deteriorated, so did mine.

I’ve seen lost dog posters before. Everyone has. You look into the dog’s eyes a moment, read the phone number, tell yourself that you’ll keep an eye out. “Poor thing,” I always think. “His owners must be so worried.” But unless your own dog has ever gone missing, without a collar or chip or source of identification, it’s impossible to understand how worried you really can become. How guilty and pessimistic.

I imagined Tilly slinking, still frightened, in dark alleys and shady neighborhoods. I imagined her streaking through the rain between speeding grey cars, barely avoiding them. I couldn’t bear to imagine her hit by a car. I thought about Tilly injured, scared more horribly than she’d ever been in her entire life and never so alone. It was physical pain to want to hold her and I tried to remember the last time I’d hugged her, whispered to her.

Suddenly, for no reason at all, I thought about an image that I’d always wanted to photograph. After dinner, we always clear the table and mom washes the dishes, humming. Tilly stands at her side, ears perked, tail wagging like a metronome, waiting for the moment when a scrap might accidentally fall. I love the way Tilly looks at that moment and every time I think to myself, “I ought to get a photo.” But I never do. Driving back home, as I realized I might never get that photo, I started to cry for the first time.

It was late, maybe 9 PM, when I felt my phone vibrate. It was a text from my dad – “I have Tilly!!!!!” And the relief was so overwhelming that I sat down and nearly cried again because I was so happy.

When I saw Tilly again, I just wanted to hold her and never, ever let go, to make sure she was really there and really just fine. Tilly seemed to know too that she was the luckiest dog in the world, because she had been rescued by the nicest people.

We don’t know what happened to Tilly the whole night, but at one point she was seen by a family driving by in the rain. They said Tilly looked terrified (understatement) and “out of place.” Amazingly, they decided to turn around, go back, pull over and pick her up. I mean, I am a compassionate dog person, and I wouldn’t have done that for a strange dog.

Tilly was so freaked out and distrusting that she turned and ran. They chased her into an open garage, where she tried to claw through cement to escape. They scooped her up and took her home. They even gave her a bath, so that when I hugged her for the first time, she smelled good. They were planning to take her to the shelter the next day when they saw one of my dad’s posters. And just like that, it was a happily ever after, after all.

I’d wanted to make dog treats for a while. In fact, I’d thought about blogging them so I’d have an excuse to show you  my dogs Tilly and Otis. But I never did, and it might have never happened. But with Tilly in my lap, I knew today would be the end of stalling. The first thing I’d do was make some yummy dog biscuits and the second thing I’d do was bake a killer cake for the family who took care of Tilly.

And tonight, after we polished off the bread and meatballs and cucumber salad, as mom began to tackle the mountain of dirty plates by the sink, Tilly took her place by the dishwasher. And me? I took out my camera.

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August 15, 2009 at 11:08 pm 49 comments

Mom’s Carrot-Flecked Dinner Rolls

Sometimes when people find out that I like to bake, they assume that I have great knife skills, can whip up fresh tomato sauce, and know how to fillet a fish. “Oh,” they say, “you’re a cook! That’s so cool.”

No. It would be very cool if I were a cook, but alas, I’m scared of the big chopping knife, I have no idea how to make tomato sauce from scratch, and I can poorly fillet a fish (just barely.) I am a baker, even though I’d love to expand my abilities.

My parents, on the other hand, they are good cooks. My father is the sort of person whose shopping cart is filled with eggs, butter, fresh produce, and milk, never frozen dinners or Hamburger Helper. The kind of person who cooks salmon and mushroom roulade without a recipe and gets asked to do dinner parties.

My mom, too, has her specialties. The limited Chinese terms my father knows are all for describing the foods she makes. Her rice is the best we’ve ever had, anywhere. Her pot stickers are so perfect that when one of my friends said she loved Dragon Wok’s dumplings, I forced her to come to dinner so she could see what she was missing. And unlike my father, the cook, and me, the baker, mother’s favorite is something unique: bread.

My mother ate like a bird as a child. She loathed meat, hated most vegetables, and didn’t care for fruit. Instead, she bought freshly baked bread on the way home from school and ate the whole loaf herself. When she moved to this country and was first introduced to my father’s family, the only thing she ate was mashed potatoes and dinner rolls. To a group of thick steak and buttered greens loving foodies, this was unimaginable, prompting my grandfather to title her the Carbohydrate Queen.

My mom eats basically everything now, but she still loves bread best. And so it was she who baked these delicious rolls with freshly grated carrots. Me, I’m scared of yeast. But my mother, she’s fearless.

On another note, thank you to Eliana of A Chica Bakes for passing the Friendship Award onto me. It’s so sweet! I have to pass it on to 8 other bloggers…

friendshipaward

“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated.”

Thanks to all of these bloggers for supporting 17 and Baking, and inspiring me with their delicious creations.

- Amanda of Is This Thing On?
– Marta of Just Call Me Marta
– Alicia of Bakeaholic
– Alana of The Good Girl Gone Blog
– Darina of Gratinee
– Jenny of Raising Our Kids in America…
– Danica of Think It, Bake It
– Kristen of Dine and Dish (A special thank you for hosting the Adopt-A-Blogger event… More on this later!)

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April 25, 2009 at 10:30 am 33 comments

Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria

So I’ve developed this new bad habit of bringing my camera with me everywhere. It’s in my backpack at school, my purse when I go shopping, even my pocket when I’m going out to lunch.

Maybe it isn’t a bad habit in the way biting your nails or burping loudly is a bad habit. But like those things, it’s occasionally rude, distracting, and slightly embarrassing. I whip out my camera before the waiter even leaves the table, saying to my family, “Wait – just let me get a few shots of it first.” Yeah, it’s a little weird even for me.

Then again… When the photos look like that, who can really call it a bad thing? (:

I think I’m going to include something new once in a while on 17 and Baking and see if it’s a welcome addition. There is so much great food that I don’t make and isn’t necessarily sweet. Since I always have my camera on hand, and I already photograph pretty much everything I eat – why not blog about it? Seattle restaurants, bakeries, farmer’s markets…

Another issue is that May is approaching. I’m an IB/AP student, meaning I have some really big tests to take throughout the entire month of May. I should really be studying right now, in fact. So I don’t have as much time to bake as I’d like to for a short while… These posts about eating out can let me keep up the blog and practice my photography without taking up as much time. (In summer, though, I plan to bake like crazy!)

So let’s dig in, starting with Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, a charming little pizzeria in beautiful Columbia City, Seattle…

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April 22, 2009 at 5:21 pm 13 comments

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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