Monday, December 27, 2010

baking in the witching hour

Some time over the summer, a friend helped me name my imaginary public access cooking show (which will result in unimaginable fame and wealth, eventually).  Because he couldn't believe how frequently I bake at night (probably 95% of the time), he suggested "Late Night Baking with Natalie K" but I think I prefer the title to this post.

Although I suppose there could be some debate over the exact time of the witching hour, my scones were safely baking as the clock struck midnight, foisting my baking adventures officially into tomorrow. 

Banana Chocolate Chip Scones

Let's build up to the scone/overinflated cookie story, though, shall we?

After a deeply satisfying night of sleep (the first of many, I hope), I wandered, sleepy-eyed and wanting coffee, into my kitchen.  Once I had gathered my wits and looked out the window, I was profoundly disappointed to see not a flake of snow floating gently down from the sky.  There was a light dusting on the street, but not at all what I was expecting.

Never fear, rapt readers - it did not take long for snow to join me in welcoming the day.  Before I poured my second cozy cup, little glittery flakes had begun their descent from the low, grey cloud cover to cold, black pavement.  This continued throughout the day and I watched giddily as the snow began to accumulate on sidewalks, cars, and my husband upon his return from Steve's Steaks, veggie cheesesteak in a brown bag, canister of lemonade mix under his arm.

It seemed fitting that the only item left on my menu (and by default, the only thing I had the ingredients to cook, which is why Mister went out for lunch) was Warm Chickpea Ragout with Swiss Chard, Carrots, and Harissa from Vegetarian Times: Fast and Easy.

The advantage to having such an extensive (and growing) cookbook collection is that I repeat dishes so infrequently that I'm [almost] always as pleasantly surprised as I was the first time I made something.  This was no exception.  The heat of the harissa is just right - it intensifies the flavors of the dish without traumatizing my tastebuds too severely (unless I accidentally inhale an unmixed dot of the stuff...then I choke and my eyes tear and Mister laughs at me... no matter how sick he is). 

I served it over what was left of the Coconut Rice I made with the Jerk Seitan oh-so-long ago.  Between the subtle sweetness of the rice and that which is coaxed out of the tomatoes as they were fire-roasted, the whole dish has a surprising but perfect undercurrent of dulce.  It balances the heat of the harissa and the creaminess of the chickpeas in a way that made me contemplate every single bite I took.  This, surely, is the road to mindful eating.

After dinner, the snow was still going strong, despite my newly kindled internal fire.  Every time I hear a plow or shovel outside, I want to chase away the one who wields it, screaming something insane like, "Leave my snow alone!"

Instead, I occupied myself by making these incredible scones.  VegNews directed me to the recipe and I thought it seemed very much like single-serving banana bread, so I jumped on it.  I was a little worried when I started plunking down the batter - I can't call it dough - it spread a little much for my comfort level.  In the end, they came out looking like huge banana-chocolate-chip cookies.  The texture is somewhere between a nice, soft, right-out-of-the-oven cookie and the top portion of a muffin.  Divine. 

I really shouldn't have another....should I?

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