Grown in Detroit

A month after wandering the lofty halls of Eastern Market, it’s the people that I remember above the food, mouthwatering though it all was. (Although, of course, I do still dream about the carrot cake from Avalon International Breads.)

I remember the persistent, lighthearted hustle of the salesmen at Mrs. Pruitt’s Cha Cha Salsa; our warm conversation with the proprietor of Sweet Potato Sensations; and the sweet, soft-spoken kids of Grown in Detroit, who’d been learning how to tend a vegetable garden, and how to sell the produce they’d grown.

Upon returning to Chicago, we preserved the memory of our Eastern Market trip in the sweetest vehicle possible: ice cream. In doing so, I obtained proof for my theory that the sweet tanginess of sugared-up rhubarb would couple nicely with the rich tanginess of goat cheese. Once cooked, the vibrant red stalks we picked out in Michigan faded to a gorgeous pink swirl, which I managed to immortalize in a couple of snapshots—pictures that, at this point, serve as the only evidence this quart of ice cream ever existed.

Cameras: Fuji X100, Canon 6D

GOAT CHEESE ICE CREAM WITH A MICHIGAN RHUBARB SWIRL
Makes 1 quart
Ice cream adapted from David Lebovitz and Food52, rhubarb swirl from Melissa Clark

Ingredients:

Goat Cheese Ice Cream
– 2 cups heavy cream
– 1 cup whole milk
– 3/4 cup granulated sugar
– pinch of salt
– 5 egg yolks
– 6 oz. goat cheese
– 1 tsp. vanilla
Rhubarb Swirl
– 3/4 pound rhubarb, diced
– 1 cup granulated sugar
– 1 tsp. vanilla

Preparation:

Goat Cheese Custard
1) Before you begin, set the goat cheese in the bottom of a medium-sized bowl and pour in the vanilla.
2) Heat the cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over low heat. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks.
3) Before the cream mixture reaches a boil, whisk some of the warm cream into the egg yolks, then slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan, whisking quickly all the while.
4) Cook, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
5) Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer over the goat cheese. Stir until the goat cheese has melted and is fully incorporated into the custard; chill overnight.
Rhubarb Swirl
6) In a medium saucepan, bring the rhubarb to a simmer along with 1 cup sugar. Cook until the rhubarb is tender and has begun releasing its juices, but is not yet falling apart (about 5-7 minutes).
7) Using a slotted spoon, transfer rhubarb to a bowl. Continue simmering the juices until syrupy, about 10 minutes more.
8) Pour the syrup over the rhubarb and chill overnight.
Ice Cream
9) Freeze the goat cheese custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
10) Layer the ice cream with the chilled rhubarb in an appropriately-sized container (a loaf pan works perfectly), then swirl the rhubarb into the ice cream with a butter knife.
11) Freeze and enjoy!

Detroit vs. Everyone

On Sunday, Detroit wrung itself out and started to dry under warm rays of sunlight. I was glad for that, considering that we’d be spending the day outdoors, exploring two of the city’s public art projects.

Our first stop was the backyard and garage that Ukrainian immigrant Dmytro Szylak converted into a joyful place called Hamtramck Disneyland. We stood quietly in the alley, soaking in the bright primary colors and whimsical artifacts in the early-morning light.

Our second stop was the Heidelberg Project, a blocks-long burst of color and creative energy surrounded by neighborhoods that exist in stark, sobering contrast to the Project. Its mission? To improve a struggling community through collaborative artwork. Even before you’ve walked past the placard reading “Detroit vs. Everyone,” it’s clear that the stakes of that mission are incredibly high.

But man cannot live on art alone. Over the course of the day, we’d go on to devour radish and cream cheese scones at Sister Pie, pulled pork and brisket sandwiches at Slows Bar BQ, and a healthy sampling of filled Lebanese breads at the New Yasmeen Bakery in Dearborn. If you happen to find yourself in the neighborhood, you’d be well-served to do the same.

Camera: Fuji X100

Detroit’s Largest Art Object

Detroit is rarely in the headlines for its suitability as a road-trip destination, but despite its highly-publicized and very real problems, the city has so much to offer. Inspired by a few different write-ups, we made a long weekend of it recently, driving five hours east before reaching the beautiful, crumbling Motor City limits.

On Friday night, we fueled up on pierogies, potato pancakes, and dill pickle soup at the Polish Village Cafe, then holed up in our little studio loft in Hamtramck. We were steeling ourselves for the next day’s forecast of driving rain and unrelenting wind; we had a lot to do, and as self-respecting Chicagoans, we refused to let weather get in the way.

As sheets of rain fell around us early Saturday morning, we ducked into Detroit Institute of Bagels for life-giving cups of Anthology coffee, and a rosemary-olive oil bagel piled high with goat cheese, bacon, arugula, and red onion jam. Back in the deluge, we raced to the Guardian Building and found respite from the rain under its awe-inspiring ceiling.

We lost track of time wandering the covered sheds of rambling, open-air Eastern Market—which I’ll tell you more about soon—and People’s Records, where we picked up a handful of soul albums to spin back at home. And then came the Fisher Building, for a free tour given by the passionate employees of Pure Detroit. We listened, rapt, to the story of the place billed as Detroit’s largest art object, which to us seemed an indisputable claim.

I won’t lie; we were a little bit crushed after braving still more precipitation on the way to the Motown Museum, only to find that their tours were sold out for the day. But the short-rib pizza and sour beer we found at Detroit’s Jolly Pumpkin outpost made almost everything better—even the pouring rain that wouldn’t leave us alone till we were well on our way to Sunday.

Camera: Fuji X100

Growing Up | Root Vegetable Tarte Tatin

As blasphemous as it may sound, I love getting older.

With each passing year, I’ve gained a better sense of who I am and what my place in the world is. Leaving my early twenties, though, has meant leaving behind a sense of endless possibility, as each choice I’ve made has narrowed my set of future options, one by one.

Fortunately, that closing of doors hasn’t given me claustrophobia. Quite the opposite: it makes me feel focused, and free of that creeping sense of panic I always associated with having too many options. Instead, I get to settle into the enjoyable work of getting good at the hobbies and interests I’ve chosen very intentionally to pursue, as well as deepening the relationships that anchor my little world.

That focus couldn’t have come at a better time, because while there seemed to be no ceiling to my energy levels a few years ago…oh, how things have changed! In my early twenties, I was able to exhaustively analyze my endless options and still have the stamina to accept every happy hour invitation that came my way. Now? It may have taken more seasons of overcommitment and burnout than I care to admit, but I’ve finally learned what it means to prioritize.

Over the winter, my priorities were all thematically related to self-care; as I trained for a half-marathon in the Blue Ridge Mountains (which went swimmingly, by the way!), my days revolved around workouts, nourishing meals and early bedtimes. When I crossed the finish line, my springtime priorities all shifted to professional pursuits—acing the financial planning course I was taking, and getting really good at my new job. Now that summer is undeniably upon us, I’ll be prioritizing adventure and play. That means drafting itineraries for our summer trips to Detroit and Colorado, and dusting off my cameras for the occasion.

For a long time, I’d be haunted by guilt when I (inevitably) failed to maintain equal focus on forty things at once. But now I know that getting older means picking your battles, and picking your pleasures too.

A few words on the root vegetable tarte tatin you see pictured here. I spent a full afternoon on my first attempt at this recipe: mixing and rolling a disk of all-butter dough; slicing, seasoning and roasting the vegetables; melting sugar into a caramel that would mingle with fresh rosemary and sage in the bottom of the pan. And as I transferred the assembled dish from fridge to oven, it slipped from my hands and landed upside-down on the floor.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things land upside-down on the floor. If you can, it’s best to give yourself a few minutes to mourn the mess and all it could’ve been, and then start again. That’s something I’m still learning how to do.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400, pushed one stop

The Waiting Game | Winter Citrus Tart

It can be hard to avoid thinking of Chicago winters as one big waiting game. The sidewalks have become a network of icy Slip ‘N Slides, but it’s not just the bone-chilling cold that’s incubated my restlessness. Nor is it the slog of commuting through the pre-dawn blackness without the promise of an imminent getaway—although, of course, neither of those things are helping matters.

Rather, it’s the tension between having big, important, meaningful goals and the deeply tedious, tiring, and sometimes stressful daily work that goes into making them happen. And nowhere has this tension felt more visceral to me recently than on the athletic and career fronts.

My first endurance run in five years—a half marathon—is coming up in April, and I’m thrilled to be making my way back into the racing game. It’ll be Dan’s first race ever, so I’ll be doubly excited to complete the course together. But a spring race means trudging through winter training runs, into slushy gray snowmelt and over patches of black ice, with numb extremities and frosty wind-bitten cheeks. On the rare days when the mercury has risen and the sidewalks cleared, our tempo runs through the neighborhood have felt like flying. But we’re still months away from making those unencumbered workouts the norm, so during each week’s snowy long run, I maintain the mantra that all this work is going to pay off. Sometimes, I even believe myself.

And on the job front? Well, I landed a new gig that I’m really excited about! But as everyone knows, the path to job-search victory is paved with nail-biting uncertainty—from the first nerve-wracking interview to the last stomach churn as you wait patiently by the phone to learn whether you’ve been accepted or rejected. Plus, as I’ve snagged that late-twenties Holy Grail—stability in most areas of my life!—it’s cleared the way for bigger considerations than I’d previously been ready for, such as that of the capital-C Career. After five years in the workforce, I’ve developed the kind of confidence in my abilities that my wide-eyed, freshly-minted college grad self could only dream of. That means moving onto more interesting questions than the ones I had back then, ones that are bigger than any one job. How can I use my particular talents to best serve others? What pursuit do I want to wrestle with mastering over the course of my lifetime? Is it possible for me to focus on following just one path, and even if it is, do I want to?

But despite grappling with tough workouts and tough questions this winter, I haven’t succumbed to the inclination to simply count down the days till spring. After the Super Bowl Sunday blizzard, Dan and I trekked through snowdrifts to see Tosca at the Lyric Opera. We’ve also ventured out to try paratha tacos and Hungarian plum brandy cocktails; at home, we braised a pork shoulder with Caribbean jerk spices and tackled an Oscar movie marathon. (I’m rooting for Whiplash this weekend!) We attended our first beer dinner at Half Acre on another snowy evening, leaving no trace of the banh mi or coconut-lime caramel corn on our plates. We tried a new Greek restaurant with a group of friends, and devoured amazing homemade gumbo at a dinner party. This past weekend, we made a meal of bread, prosciutto and cheese, two outstanding sour beers, and a gorgeous salad of radicchio, pomegranate, and blood orange from Ottolenghi’s Plenty. I’m looking forward to getting to know that cookbook a lot better.

I’m proud of the way I’ve run headlong into 2015, taking on big projects while still prioritizing fun along the way. But winter, like a thick blanket of snow, has a way of weighing on you a bit more heavily than the other seasons, and so citrus has been my midwinter blessing—close your eyes, and those blood oranges, Meyer lemons, and key limes will bring back the now-unfamiliar feeling of warm weather in an almost tangible way. For the next few months, we’ll all have to be content with that.


Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400, pushed one stop

WINTER CITRUS TART
Serves 6
Citrus curd adapted from Melissa Clark, and crust from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients:

Whipped Cream
– 1 cup heavy whipping cream
– 10 large basil leaves
– 1 tsp. confectioner’s sugar
– pinch of citrus zest, reserved from citrus curd recipe
– freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Crust
– 7 ounces graham crackers (200 grams)
– 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Citrus Curd
– 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice, from about 2 large lemons
– 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, from about 1 large orange
– 2 tsp. citrus zest, grated
– 1 cup granulated sugar
– 2 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
– 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
– pinch of salt
– 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
– 1/4 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
Topping
– 3 oranges, peeled and sliced crosswise (I used a mix of Cara Cara and blood oranges)

Preparation:

Whipped Cream
1) Combine whipping cream with basil leaves in a small saucepan. Bring just to a simmer, then immediately remove from heat. Let steep for 15 minutes.
2) Remove basil leaves from cream; discard. Refrigerate cream at least 4 hours, or overnight.
3) Add confectioner’s sugar, citrus zest, and black pepper. Using a hand mixer on a medium-high setting, whip cream until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Crust
4) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5) Pulse graham crackers in a food processor until crumbs resemble sand; this should yield approximately 1 1/2 cups of crumbs. Add the melted butter, and pulse until combined.
6) Press graham cracker mixture onto the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom, using the bottom and sides of a measuring cup to ensure mixture is dispersed evenly.
7) Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Set aside.
Citrus Curd
8) In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine citrus juices, sugar, eggs and yolks, cornstarch and salt. Bring mixture to a boil to activate cornstarch, but do not let boil for more than one minute. Remove from heat.
9) Add butter, then olive oil and zest to the citrus mixture, stirring until butter is completely melted. Strain curd through a sieve and into the graham cracker crust.
10) Bake tart until curd is just set, about 15 minutes.
11) Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to cool completely before topping.
Topping
10) Arrange orange slices on top of tart. Slice and serve with basil whipped cream.