Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back to School

School is in full swing and although I was terrified I couldn't be organized enough to pull it off this year, implementing some discipline for myself has made it possible to do a full schedule with Sam and Oliver, as well as some pre-school with Felix. Ryan helped in a big way by setting our reading room to rights. I found two more vintage desks at Savers for $7.99. We are using a smorgasbord of Classics-based curriculum, plus making up our own for things like art history, music, and the kitchen.
My latest issue of Gourmet paid homage to all the back-to-schoolers by doing a clever alphabet of foods and menu ideas. The boys learned to make a spicy barbecue sauce for our Chipotle Chicken, crumbled queso fresco for the Creamed Corn with Cilantro, and toasted cumin seeds for Cumin Vinaigrette Cole Slaw. That's a lot of C's. I was starting to get bored so we went to B for dessert. Bingo. Buttermilk Pudding with fresh fruit. A few of the key ingredients were missing from my shelves so I ended up using lavender in place of the bay leaf and orange zest. I have to say, I might never go back. It was total luck but the lavender was the perfect accompaniment to the strawberries and wine in the puree, balancing out the sweetness of the former and subtly enhancing the latter. It was the perfect dessert to come home to from our after dinner walk. I was pretty excited because it felt like a risk at the time and I wasn't sure it would pay off. My Mom is a wonderful cook, my brother and Dad are amazing make-it-up-as-you-go home chefs and since I've never been as good at tweaking recipes or making things up as I go along, I've always lived in the shadow of their creativity in the kitchen. For my own growth as a cook this felt like a milestone in my culinary adventures.
Buttermilk Pudding w/Sauce & Fresh Fruit
For the Pudding:
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1 cup whole milk, divided
6 tblsp. sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup buttermilk

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup of milk and let soften 1 minute. Scrape seeds from vanilla pod into small heavy saucepan, add remaining 3/4 cup milk and sugar and bring just to a boil over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture. Stir until well dissolved. Add buttermilk and then cool in an ice bath for approx. 5 minutes. Strain through fine mess sieve into large glass measuring bowl. Pour into waiting cups, cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.

Strawberry Sauce:
1/4 cup dry red wine (I used Malbec from Argentina)
1/4 cup water
3 tblsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dry lavender buds
2 3" strips of lemon peel
about 6 strawberries hulled and cut in half

Place all ingredients except the strawberries in small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Continue to simmer for about 10 minutes until liquid is reduced to 1/3 cup. Add strawberries and simmer for another 5 minutes. Carefully puree in a blender. Strain through fine mesh sieve into a bowl and chill for one hour.

To assemble, spoon some of the strawberry puree over each pudding and top with mixture of fresh berries.


  1. um. yummy. and, your boys...doing their school is too much...I love those kids...and their Mama.

  2. Those desks are incredible! And I want that pudding and that all fresh? It looks so delectable and magazine'esque!

  3. I love this. When you were in grade school, did you want to be a teacher? When my beloved 2nd-grade teacher left our school, I sent her math exercises that I'd whipped up for about a year, and she was kind enough to write back to me and tell me she used them in her classes. What a nerd I was (am).

    I wish I didn't work full time and could participate in the Baughn cooking experiments. Maybe you are raising a future Top Chef.