Friday, December 30, 2011

Paris for a Day

If l had my way
I'd just … wander
Down the Champs Elysées
(Joni Mitchell, Free Man in Paris)

I sang this about 100 times today.  We had so much fun.  After the hundreds of kilometers we’ve logged across the heartland of Europe over the past two weeks, we felt like we made some kind of triumphal reentry into Paris yesterday, where we began.  We know each other a lot better now and have a bunch of great, shared memories. 
Today was a celebration of our time together, and of Paris, and winter.  We started at our groovy B & B about 20 km outside of Paris.  I haven't stayed in a B & B since the early 90s.  This really took me back and made we wonder why I stopped seeking them out.

The morning was spent gaining a little perspective at the Versailles grounds.  I love formal gardens in winter when you can see all of their structure and design.  

The afternoon was dedicated to the Eifel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, finished with the wished for wander down the Champs Elysees.  It was a little cold and a little drizzly, but never so much that it dampened the day.

We finished the day with a supper of bread, cheeses, salami, and pate in Le Sucrerie’s living room, before retiring to big fluffy beds upstairs.

  Boys go home early tomorrow morning and I can say we’ve lived every minute to the fullest.  Great young men.  Fantastic company.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Relying on the Kindness of Strangers

           We have had some gracious hospitality on this trip from friends (Thank you again and again Greens and also Rops.).  It has been really fun to see how they are living their European lives and so nice to stay at the Green home and eat at the Rops table.  What we didn’t at all anticipate, however, is the unreserved help from people we don’t even know.  It began soon after we crossed the border into Germany.  At about the only restaurant open in Freidrichsberg on Boxing Day, the uncomfortable proprietors went and fetched their young adult son when they realized we spoke mostly English.  Their son was so cute, much like ours,  and gave us a charades walk through the menu so we could order something, sometimes flapping his hands to help him think of a word or making very literal translations like "The pig meat is covered with wheat".  We took his suggestion for his favorite menu item and it was excellent:  their house schnitzel.  So sweet.  Lots of warm goodbyes from his family when we left.
            We are trying to travel through Europe as economically as we can and so we asked a friend who teaches at an international school in Germany if anyone on his staff would be interested in a vacation home exchange.  This would involve a place in Germany for a few days in exchange for a vacation in mild Tunis.  A single woman immediately responded to the request even before she knew there was an exchange offer on the table.  She was happy to have five people she doesn’t know stay in her beautiful apartment in Munich while she is away on Christmas vacation.  Absolutely unbelievable.  I hope so much that she takes us up on our end of the offer, brings along a friend, and gives us a chance to say thanks in person and return this whole-hearted gesture.
            When our study of the train schedule and ticketing options went from 5 minutes to 10 to 15, an engaging woman wearing big white sunglasses came to our assistance.  She had worked in Florida for six years and recognized our type.  With her help, we successfully purchased our tickets from the vending machine and then she went ahead and walked us to the station so we could visit for a few more minutes.  She gave us several gut busting laughs enroute and then she said goodbye, shaking each of our hands, and left us to our day. 
            Finally, we have only kind things to say about the staff at the Pasing Klinikum where we took our Jordan (Steelquists, he’s our Jordan for the time being) to finally deal with the possible parasite he has been carrying around for about 12 days.  Shy receptionists rushed off to get coworkers who spoke some English to help us.  A bilingual doctor got accurate information and some tests to diagnose the problem and get some antibiotics started.  Everyone on duty pitched in to serve the Americans and we got the treatment we needed.  
            This all reminds me of the quote from the Bible about being kind to strangers.  In that quote, the strangers are made out to be the angels, but in our case, it’s the other way around.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Where You Find It

            I haven’t tried yet to completely explain myself about Christmas.  I go along as the butt of jokes my sons make about how we don’t celebrate Christmas.  It’s not true, entirely, but it might look that way to most people and maybe to them.  The best way I can say it is that over the past few years, I’ve lost my tolerance for contriving Christmas.  I didn’t say I grew to hate Christmas.  Even as Thanksgiving approaches I start feeling the giddy joy of the Christmas season.  I look forward to gatherings with friends and family, relishing the preparation of special foods.  I get thrilled at the first sightings of Christmas trees and snow, the playing of favorite recordings of songs and movies.  That’s all normal, right?
            All through the advent season I get stopped dead in my tracks at found Christmas beauty.  It can be the simple interplay between a bare branch with white berries against a foggy fence post, a performance of a piece of traditional music, a gathering of friends and family that comes together so perfectly you know you just “had Christmas”.  There is was.  It happened right there.  I have a lot of Christmas in December.  It happens upon me almost daily and I’m really full, and reflective, and happy. 
            The problem, and this is only from the perspective of Christmas traditionalists, is Christmas Day.  This is the part about losing my tolerance.  For the most part, I don’t want any of the “stuff” of Christmas Day:  the big tree gift exchange, massive family gatherings where there are awkward expectations and too much of everything.  None of that feels to me like an apt conclusion to a really lovely few weeks of advent. 
So I guess we have a fairly austere Christmas Day.  While we know families all over the world are tearing into mountains of wrapped packages, we get up and enjoy the morning, cooking a good breakfast and eating together.  My sons say that we clean the house for Christmas.  We do tidy up because having the house clean and simple enough to really enjoy the ambiance of a tree, or some outdoor branches, or lit candles is what sets it up.  We often have a walk, and then we cook a lovely dinner.  There is one more nonnegotiable:  we listen to choral music.  Getting lost in the mysterious complexity of choral performances, whether modern or The Messiah, takes my mind in many directions as I appreciate our beautiful surroundings, the good people who envelope us, and the pleasure of working and making.  Keeping Christmas a little austere feels very full to me. 
            So I bravely follow my intuition with this.  Every year I get a little criticism.  People may think I am depriving my children of Christmas traditions, but I hope I am actually modeling to them to see a lot of Christmas at many moments and to deeply appreciate what we already have, along with pondering the ongoing mysteries of Christmas Day.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Better for Being in Poland

Krakow was cold, cold, cold.  It’s so hard to remember what cold really feels like until you’re in it again and then it comes back to you.  You have to cover every patch of exposed skin.  You must stay completely dry.  Much as I encouraged my sons to consider proper winter footwear before meeting us here, one of them showed up with simple canvas shoes.  Just a few hours of walking on the cobblestone streets in slushy snow and he was suffering.  We rescued him with some emergency boots and wool socks, but we all began to appreciate the harsh conditions of a Polish winter.
We entered the Birkenau concentration camp this morning in a thick fog and couldn’t see where we were until the arched brick wall with the train track leading in was right in front of us.  We were the only ones there at 8:00 AM and made the first tracks in the snow, tromping from barrack to barrack.  Still the fog was so heavy we could only see a step at a time and  we heard dogs barking and gunshots in the distance as if a soundtrack was being played to unnecessarily add to the atmosphere.   Following those long train tracks to their terminus, we stood at the well-documented spot where they were unloaded and the fates of millions of lives were decided with a hand motion.  

I never knew if I was capable of visiting Auschwitz.  At least 20 years ago, I stopped watching Holocaust movies and reading books on the topic because I just couldn’t bear the inevitable any more.  There would be the dear elderly character with wire-rimmed glasses who you adored, but knew terrible things were in store for.  The middle of the story would be filled with the chaos and fear of the train loading and unloading, followed by the separation of families.  Finally, there would be the gradual deaths of everyone you were pulling for and the hopeless feeling of loss at the end.  I knew the plot and I just couldn't watch it reenacted one more time.
Twisted mound of wire-rimmed glasses

I walked into these infamous sites today and as I suspected,  I did cry when I saw the case of gnarled wire-rimmed glasses and the room of baby clothes and shoes.  I saw photos of the very real victims, Jews from Poland, but also Hungary and almost every other part of Europe.  Additionally,  there were also thousands of non-Jewish Poles, and Gypsies, and Russians.  There were a lot more people than I realized who were considered undesirable and were murdered there by the thousands.   I listened, spellbound, to our tour guide, Symon, who had also needlessly lost an uncle in that camp.  He led us through the story of Auschwitz, helping us connect with the humans, but also working on some answers to the enormous question, why?  He actually answered that question in a basic way right at the beginning.  They were Jews and Hitler was obsessed with hatred for them.  He also needed a scapegoat on whom to blame the dire economic state in Germany.  There actually wasn’t one grand beaurocratic plan for the mass extermination of Jews except to gradually eliminate their rights in Nazi-occupied cities throughout Europe and then transport them to labor camps in several locations.  They were just truly work camps for the first two years, but then the extermination steam-rolled and in just over a year, over a million Jews were killed.  Again, you play the why game.  Why didn't Polish villagers try to do something?  Answer:  they had all been relocated and it was SS soldiers and their families living in the nearby villages.  Why did the Jews go along?  Why didn't they resist?  Answer:  Their choices were narrowed further and further until their only chance of survival was to cooperate and make the best possible conditions for themselves within the camps.  Why didn't more of them escape?  Answer:  The SS were ruthless.  If you resisted you were punished through the torture or death of those you most loved.   
The SS made a game of systematic dehumanization, humiliation, and terrorization.   The Nazis had effectively sealed all levels of society in the region in terror.   It was effective and pervasive.  These were simple people and they all had to make the best choices they could given their own circumstances and information.
By the end of the tour, I had a much better mental structure to which I could attach my emotions.  I feel now like I can take another look at some of the films  and literature and rather than wait for the foregone ending, I can study them for what they say along the themes of power and choice. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taking in Prague

            I feel like I’ve come for Christmas to the place that invented it.  The most elemental images of the season:  chestnuts roasting on an open fire, trees in city squares, trimmed with simple bows (more tree than decoration), chapels, and sleigh bells.  You, yourself, feel like you are inside of an ideal Christmas village, walking, bundled, with friends. You are spontaneously singing, laughing, and stopping, frequently, for a hot drink (did someone say gluhwein?) to warm the hands and insides.   For as hard as we try to conjure that spirit in most other parts of the world, it is just happening here in Prague.  
Angelic gift wrappers in the Swarovski store window.

            When people tell you you’re going to visit one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it’s hard to know how to think of it.  There are a lot of types of beautiful and some things in life that are said to be beautiful don’t feel that appealing because they’re not relatable.  And this is what I would say makes Prague truly beautiful.  It is almost visually perfect and yet you explore it in small, intimate vignettes.  You can’t often see very far ahead and so you simply cross a bridge and enjoy being there, not trying to get on to what you see ahead.  You round a corner, pass through a gate and then there is an exquisite church or castle and it’s all you see of Prague for that moment so you can pause and really take that in.  Prague makes you take your time and expect surprises.

            After a day of wandering and amazing, thawing and rechilling, it is so, so nice to come home to our friends’ apartment, where the Wi-Fi and the water pressure are strong.  The washing machine is efficient.  We drop off in cozy beds, surrounded by the artifacts of their family, thinking of them and imagining how it feels to be them, living in Prague.  And we wish they were here.

Friday, December 16, 2011


            Oh, how quickly a week goes by.  The boys have been here nearly that long and we’ve done all we could.  There was a caroling party with mulled wine by the outdoor fireplace, chill-out time to watch old favorite movies or play at the beach, and a big-bang, Mexican feast birthday dinner.  
For festive occasions, I often plan to make homemade tamales.   It is probably partly because I know I can put on a huge pot of pinto beans, braise some falling-off -the bone meats, and simply add a really tasty cooked salsa and a salad and I’ve got the meal.  Then, it’s the little tamale packages that make it special and just a couple per person adds enough of the corny side dish to bring the whole plate of flavors together. 
When you make tamales, you have to enlist an assembly-line of recruits.  This is double fun, however, because as you facilitate and begin to steam them off, you get to enjoy all of the hilarious conversation amongst the filler, wrapper, tiers. 
Many, many years ago, I bought a cookbook called The Kingston Hotel Cafe  Cookbook.  The subtitle of the book  free-spirited recipes to warm the soul is accurate to the type of recipes within:  inventive takes on comfort foods.
From Judith Weinstock I learned two things about making tamales.  First, for the liquid, use a puree of milk and whole kernel corn to give the tamales some fresh kernel liveliness.  And second, use butter instead of lard.  Lard alone might be the reason many people don’t attempt tamales.  Just use butter instead of lard.  Consequently, this also makes the tamales appealing to vegetarians.
I don’t have my Kingston Hotel Café Cookbook at hand, but I’ve adapted a standard tamale recipe and have had great results.  Making the dough is the main deal.  From there, you can fill them with the smallest amounts of whatever you have that is delicious:  cheese (my favorite is actually goat’s cheese), cooked meat, or roasted vegetables.  You can make up your own fiery salsa (I prefer a cooked one) or even buy an artisan-quality premade jar.  The main point is to get your storytellers around your kitchen counter where tamales will fly.

1 bag of dried corn husks
4 cups masa harina
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups milk
2 cups whole corn (canned and drained, frozen, or fresh from the cob)
1 cup butter, softened
Go through the dried cornhusks, separate them and discard the silk, be careful since the husks are fragile when dry. Soak them in a sink filled with warm water for 30 minutes to soften. 
In the bowl of a mixer, combine the masa harina, baking powder, and salt.  Add softened butter and incorporate well.
In a blender, puree the milk and whole corn kernels.  Add to the masa and beat until the dough has a spongy texture.
Rinse, drain , and dry the corn husks. Set them out on a sheet pan covered by a damp towel along with the bowl of masa dough and your filling.  Start with the largest husks because they are easier to roll. Lay the husk flat on the countertop with the smooth side up and the narrow end facing you. Spread a thin, even layer of masa over the surface of the husk with a tablespoon dipped in water. Do not use too much! Add about a tablespoon of the filling in the center of the masa. Fold the narrow end up to the center then fold both sides together to enclose the filling.  The sticky masa will form a seal.   Alternatively, you can roll it like a cigar and tie the ends with string
Stand the tamales up in a large steamer or colander with the pinched end up. Load the steamer into a large pot filled with 2-inches of water. The water should not touch the tamales. Lay a damp cloth over the tamales and cover with lid. Keep the water at a low boil,  checking periodically to make sure the water doesn't boil away. Steam the tamales for 20 minutes to an hour, depending on size.  The tamales are done when the inside pulls away from the husk. The tamale should be soft, firm, and not mushy. 
To serve, unfold the husk and spoon about a tablespoon of salsa on top.

          This concludes the home cooking segment of my blog for the year.  I now switch into travelogue mode where you can expect to read about Christmas markets and opera houses in Germany, castles in Prague, and my quest for the best darn pierogi in Poland.  Lots of fun to come.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Triple-Ginger Cookies

Star anise is a nice change from the cloves, ginger, and cinnamon of the season.  Plus, it's so pretty.

The blog 101 Cookbooks is beautiful and I love to see what’s going on there, but it’s like stepping into a very private world.  The author strives for a level of purity, both with ingredients and in technique, that makes regular recipes seem a little silly and undisciplined.  It’s esoteric which precisely means it is intended for a small audience (though her readership is huge).  It might not be for everyone, but it is a nice Zen place to go to now and then.  Like at the finale of a cookie bake-a-thon.  These cookies require  some chopping, grinding, and grating, but they are nice ingredients to hang out with and the final cookie is a delight.  You will find the recipe on her blog.
And now, I have to run to the airport.  Seriously.  Through sheer force of bakery, I willed my sons home.  Let the fun begin!

Dried Fruit Cookies

         I already know before I make this that it will be the last one left on the cookie tray.  It sounds suspiciously like fruitcake and implies more character development than celebration.  Why persist?  Well, I like dried fruit when it’s real (not that candied cherry stuff) and we have a great selection of dried fruit in Tunis year-around.  But it was the markets in Nice (France) that really inspired me.  There, I saw authentically dried and candied fruit of every variety and stall after stall had them arrayed in their jewel-like glory.  It made me really want to work with them in some way.  So can we please consider these cookies to be French and “oh so Provence” and not just another attempt by me to slip 70s hippie food into unsuspecting lives?
I also really liked that this is a log cookie that you cut and bake.  This way, you can bake them up hot and fresh for the moment and who can resist warm cookies?
            Joking aside, these cookies have none of the disjointed texture and flavors, not to mention the unfoods, of annoying fruitcakes.  These cookies are buttery and the fruits each have delicious flavors which are enhanced by the dough.  These might actually get snatched off the tray first thing.

Dried Fruit Cookies, adapted from Ina Garten

1/2 pound dried pears  
1/4 pound raisins  
2 ounces dried Montmorency cherries, coarsely chopped  
2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped  
1 tablespoon honey  
2 tablespoons dry sherry  
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice  
6 ounces chopped pecans  
Kosher salt  
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature  
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves  
1/2 cup superfine sugar  
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed  
1 extra-large egg  
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
    Snip off the hard stems of the figs with scissors or a small knife and coarsely chop the figs. In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.
    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Don't overmix! Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl. 

    Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm.
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on ungreased sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden. 
              Brown paper packages tied up with string.  A favorite thing, indeed.

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    Sesame Seed Cookies

    Do you like tahini?  Many years ago now (well, I was still in the morning sickness stage with my Gabe, who is 22),  we had breakfast with some of our best friends, the Bryants, at a little hippie café in Seattle.  I ordered Tahitian Toast with a glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.  I think I expected it was going to involve pineapple in some form, but it was two thick, moist slices of French toast with a slathering  of tahini in the middle, like a French toast sandwich.  With maple syrup drizzled over the top and the tart citrus juice on the side, I fell in love with the bitter nuttiness of tahini and sesame seeds, in general.  I always have French toast with tahini now and freshly squeezed citrus when I can get it, which these days is pretty often. 
    Sesame seeds are next in the ingredient line-up (see Cookies Till They Come) and I didn’t want to hide them.  I wanted them to be toasted and slightly bitter in a crispy cookie.  This recipe is by Martha Stewart.

    Sesame Seed Cookies
    Martha Stewart Living, October 2000
    Yield 48

    o   1 cup all-purpose flour
    o   1/2 teaspoon salt
    o   1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    o   8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    o   1 cup packed light-brown sugar
    o   1 large egg
    o   1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    o   1 cup hulled sesame seeds, toasted

    1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line four baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda, and set aside.
    2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add reserved flour mixture, and beat until combined. Add toasted sesame seeds, and beat until incorporated.
    3. Using a spoon, drop cookie batter, about 1 tablespoon at a time, onto prepared baking sheets, allowing at least 2 inches between cookies for spreading.
    4. Bake until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack.

    These are a little chewier than crisp.  They are simple, but the flavor is fantastic:  buttery, toasty, bitter and the seeds crunch in little bursts in your mouth.    I would always prefer these now to peanut butter cookies. 

    Chewy Chocolate, Oatmeal, Coconut Cookies

              Cookies are cool because they are absolutely ingredient driven.  Whether it’s the pure simplicity of a butter or sugar cookie  or the lumpy texture of a chocolate chunk, you know what you are going to be tasting.  This is unless the cookie has a silly name, like a Lu Lu or something, but I don’t think I eat any of those cookies.  Well, I do eat Tam Tams from Australia when I can so that’s not true.  My insight into Islamic cookies so far is that they are exquisitely beautiful and also delicious (ingredient driven, too), but have unsettling body part references like Fatimah’s Fingers.  Mmm.

              Go back to Cookies Till They Come to catch the storyline and understand where we are.  If you’ve read along, you will recall that one of the ingredients I bought in bulk this week was coconut.  For this cookie, I certainly did consider an upfront coconut feature, like macaroons, but I feared that basing all of the cookies on a nut or dried fruit might make them all seem like Middle Eastern treats, which is nice, but doesn’t necessarily say Merry Christmas.  Chocolate and oatmeal are what we need to make everyone feel at home.  The coconut just snuggles right along side.

    Chewy Chocolate, Oatmeal, Coconut Cookies

    1 cup butter, softened 
    1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar 
    1/2 cup white sugar 
    2 eggs 
    2 tablespoons milk 
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
    1 teaspoon baking soda 
    1/2 teaspoon salt 
    3 cups rolled oats 
    2 cups semisweet chocolate chips 
    1 cup chopped walnuts (optional) 
    1 cup shredded coconut

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). 

    In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the sugar mixture until well blended. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips. walnuts and coconut until evenly distributed. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. 

    Bake 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven for a chewy cookie or 14 minutes for a firmer cookie. 

    Cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet and then remove to wire rack. Cool completely and then store in tightly sealed container.

    Cookies Till They Come

    My boys are coming.  My boys are coming.  It’s Saturday morning and we were up late at our staff Christmas party last night, but I sprang out of bed with the call to prayer at sunrise.  We have that auditory time regulator here in Tunisia.  I love it. 
    I’m Tabitha Tittlemouse today.   Oh gosh, I love The Tale of Mrs.  Tittlemouse and her fastidiousness over every tiny detail, every tittle.  How about this line from the Wikipedia synopsis:  Mrs. Tittlemouse fears she "shall go distracted" as a result of the turmoil and takes refuge in the nut-cellar.  You know where to look for me if I need a little time out this week, though all that’s in our cellar is wine, no nuts.   
    There’s so much I want to do:  make up heavenly beds for jet-lagged boys to sink into, prep the basics of some midweek feasts so we can have friends over to enjoy the season and visit with the guys, and make cookies.   I think that this is going to be my nervous distraction for the next 24 hours, minus sleep, while I’m picturing them at every stage of their journey.  
    I can’t just pick any cookie recipe and pull it off, here.  I looked at Bon Appetit’s  31 days of cookies and  I can get many of those ingredients here, but often there is just one missing ingredient, like corn syrup, that makes me think they won’t come out right without it.  As with all things in Tunisia, it’s best to begin with what we’ve got.  There is actually a treasure trove of special ingredients available at the moment.  A local store had bulk-packaged quantities of the following this week:  hulled pistachios, shredded (unsweetened) coconut, dried apricots and hulled, toasted sesame seeds.  Added to that are some plump golden raisins and dried pears I bought in Nice and finally, some dried Montmorency cherries gifted to me by Shelly.  And I have ginger.  My friends and I are always so concerned  that we can’t get ginger here that we buy it in large amounts every time we see it.  It turns out that ginger has been available recently, both fresh and dried, like the stuff you see in the Chinese apothecary shops in China towns, and I now have all of the forms required to make a triple- ginger cookie, one of my very favorites.
    Because I knew it would occupy the most oven time, I began with biscotti.  Cranberry/pistachio biscotti must be ubiquitous.  Recipes kept popping up all over.  My one unavailable ingredient in this recipe was almond extract and I do think it would have been a fine addition.
    I dried the cranberries in my food dehydrator on Lummi Island when I was home in October.  They took an extremely long time to dry.  For about 24 hours, they were just hot, plump, berries not looking like they were getting any more shriveled.  So I started poking them and squeezing air out and finally some of them dried out and some didn’t so much.  I tossed them in a Ziploc anyway and brought them back here, keeping them in the freezer.  These are the end of them.  

    Once baked, sliced, and then oven dried, the pistachios in the cookies become deliciously nutty and the little bit of tart cranberry creates a bright accent.  I’m not even going to dip them in chocolate because I really like the vanilla/nut balance as it is.  


    Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti


    1/4 cup light olive oil 
    3/4 cup white sugar 
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
    1/2 teaspoon almond extract 
    2 eggs 
    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
    1/4 teaspoon salt 
    1 teaspoon baking powder 
    1/2 cup dried cranberries 
    1 1/2 cups pistachio nuts

    Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). 

    In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts, then beat in 
    the eggs. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder; gradually stir into egg mixture. Mix in cranberries and nuts by

    Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12x2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
    Dough may be sticky; wet hands with cool water to handle dough more easily. 

    Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until logs are light brown. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool 
    for 10 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C). 

    Cut logs on diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay on sides on parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake 
    approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry; cool.

    So that’s the first cookie and I am planning on a line up of five in the next 24 hours.   I just gave the boys a wake up Skype call and they are officially underway.
    I’ll keep posting as I bake (is this fun?).   You can bake along with me if you’re inclined.