Robin’s Egg Blue; Super Cheesy Rye Bread

Birgerbird’s going blue today.  The background of my blog I mean.  I am forever playing around with color in my cooking, dressing and blogging.  Last night as I was enjoying a scoop of basil ice cream at our neighborhood creamery I spied the espresso & coffee cups at the java station and they were the most beautiful shade of blue.   And their shirts are blue.

The proprietors of this fine ice cream shop also run 3, soon to be 5, restaurants — Milo and Olive, Huckleberry and Rustic Canyon.  The love children of Zoe Nathan Loeb and Josh Loeb, they each have their distinct personality, but all serve fresh, seasonal, creative, soulful food, Milo and Olive and Huckleberry with an emphasis on Zoe’s now-highly-pedigreed, uber-delicious and personal baked goods.  Their team is dedicated to good food, good people, and good vibes, good sustainable practices, and they’ve nailed all 4.  Since all of the restaurants are within 2 miles of our house and my office, I cannot complain about living in Los Angeles.  It just wouldn’t be right.

When Milo and Olive first opened they offered “Super Cheesy Rye Biscuits” and I’ve been pining for them ever since . . . . they don’t appear much any more, if ever.  But Zoe has assured me that the recipe is in her forthcoming book.

So these little blue espresso cups and the TShirt reminded me of when I was a little girl hanging the ornaments on the tree while my parents’ records played in the background, specifically Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Cat Stevens.  And we had a little ornament that was a little bird’s nest, with a robin and her little blue eggs inside.  And the Joan Baez song “Diamonds and Rust” describing, apparently, Bob Dylan’s eyes as being “bluer than Robin’s Eggs” would play over and over.

In the song, Baez recounts a surprise call from an old lover, which sends her 10 years back in time, to a “crummy” hotel in Greenwich Village; she remembers giving him a pair of cuff-links, and summarizes that memories bring “diamonds and rust.” Baez is on record stating that the lyrics refer to her relationship with Bob Dylan.

Well I’ll be damned
Here comes your ghost again
But that’s not unusual
It’s just that the moon is full
And you happened to call
And here I sit
Hand on the telephone
Hearing a voice I’d known
A couple of light years ago
Heading straight for a fall

As I remember your eyes
Were bluer than robin’s eggs
My poetry was lousy you said
Where are you calling from?
A booth in the midwest
Ten years ago
I bought you some cufflinks
You brought me something
We both know what memories can bring
They bring diamonds and rust

Ah, music.  So I put a little Joan Baez radio on iTunes while I put together my experimental cheesy rye bread loaf.  It turned out pretty good, I must say, even if a little wet and dense.


I basically used a gougere dough recipe because my sourdough starter wasn’t fully ready, and figured the eggs would help with leavening.  No recipe today, guys, gotta work on perfecting this one.

Happy Easter!



Fig n Pig Pizza

The Mulberry Pancakes Mike style were a hit and there were no trips made to the ice cream store or even refrigerator.  But then for Mike’s birthday dinner I made pizza with figs, bacon and ricotta . . . and it got Miked.  Let me explain.

I made a nice crust with some of the last bits of my sourdough starter before I chucked it to try a new starter method.  A simple mix of rye and red fife wheat flours, an overnight rise, a stretch into a rectangular baking sheet, and into the oven with unfiltered olive oil (killer strong and funky!!), grey sea salt and Peads & Barnetts mangalitsa bacon.    Everything’s pretty much artisan and/or heirloom up to this point except the Brita filtered tap water I used.  After about 5 minutes on near-broil, I stuck a mound of salad greens mix and sliced first-of-spring figs that I’d tossed with oil n balsamic.  Another 5 minutes, out of the oven, and I crumbled some fresh ricotta on top and some sunflower sprouts around the perimeter.  That last flourish wasn’t part of the plan but I had to come up with something to cover the burnt crust on one side.

This was the night we had the “blood moon,” so I took the finished creation out onto the porch where Mike was relaxing & enjoying the lunar event.  He pretty much inhaled it.  A hit!

I felt good that there was plenty of the pizza left, because I would need to work late the following night and wouldn’t be home to prepare dinner.  Not that I’m the only one who can cook in our household . . . far from it . . . but during the week when we’re both working I like to have on hand one or two partially prepared dinner options in the fridge.

When I came home from work later than normal bedtime time the next night, I was half awake.   I opened the fridge for a drink . . . saw the pizza dish empty . . . and then this woke me up:



The pizza had been Mike-d.  I would never think to add tomato sauce to figs . . . but then again ask an Ohio native if figs even belong on pizza!

Cowberry Yoghurt Muffins Parfait Style

Cowberries are also known as Lingonberries, a small tart fruit which is a staple in Northern Scandinavia, picked in the wild and used to accompany a variety of dishes.  If you’ve been to the IKEA cafeteria you’ve seen them as a sauce for the Swedish meatballs.   They are also grown in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, but not seen very often here in California unless in jam or preserves.

Having been an English major in college, I developed a fond relationship with wordplay, so you can imagine my delight at the other common names for the Lingonberry:  csejka berry, quailberry, beaverberry, red whortleberry, cougarberry, mountain bilberry, and even partridgeberry!

My best friend from college moved to Sweden 20 + years ago and one of our very closest family friends, Stig the mad genius carpenter, is a “Sami” (formerly known as a “Lapp”; from Lapland, Sweden), and I visited Sweden once many moons ago.  I love most things Swede, in homage to my friends and for 2 other reasons:  (1) meatballs; and, (2) open faced sandwiches.

This week it’s been cold cold cold, by Southern California standards, so I’ve been feeling downright Nordic.  In addition, last Sunday we had a wonderful pie at our favorite cafe that was made with jam and a layer of yogurt, and I’ve been wanting to re-create those flavors and textures since then.  So for this Fiesta Friday I dreamt up this cowberry muffin, parfait style.  It has a bottom layer of cooked lingonberries (or you can use jam), a layer of drained greek-style yoghurt mixed with an egg yolk and some flour for firmness/bakeability, and a top layer of bacon.  The muffin dough uses a combination of rye flour and coarse polenta mixed with a little more yoghurt.

I experimented with more use of natural light in my photos this week and would love your input on the different shots.  Believe me, the whole production did not bode well for my husband this morning, who during Lent does not eat until after 5 p.m., so as he calmly did his morning reading/meditation, I was scuttling baked cowberry muffins, halved and whole, around the house pulling up blinds, moving chairs, making all kinds of noise and trouble to snap my shots.

Natural Light, from above

Natural Light, from above

From Above, Instagram enhanced

From Above, Instagram enhanced

Side View, Natural Light

Side View, Natural Light

Side View, Instagram enhanced

Side View, Instagram enhanced

Whole Muffins, Natural Light

Whole Muffins, Natural Light

Natural Light

Natural Light

I Made a Mess, Instagram enhanced

I Made a Mess, Instagram enhanced

Here’s the Recipe:


1/2 cup lingonberries or lingonberry jam

1 Tbps cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp water

1 1/4 cup greek style (full fat) yoghurt

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp rye flour

1 cup coarse polenta

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 Tbsp baking soda

1/2 cup water

8 slices bacon, cooked to 75% of how crisp you would normally like it

(Makes 4 large muffins)


1.  Gently warm 1/2 cup lingonberries, or lingonberry jam.  Mix 1 Tbsp cornstarch with 1 Tbsp. water and add to lingonberries.  Stir for 2 minutes then let sit for at least 10 minutes, or to cool.

2.  Mix 1 cup greek yoghurt (full fat) with 1 egg yolk and 2 Tbsp flour.  Set aside.

3.  Mix 1 cup rye flour and 1 cup coarse polenta and 1 Tbsp baking powder.  Add 1/4 cup greek yoghurt, 1 egg and mix well, and 1/2 cup water and mix well.

4.  Layer large silpat muffin molds or pour into muffin tin as follows:  2 large spoonfuls of lingonberry, 2 spoonfuls of yoghurt mixture, 2 spoonfuls of flour mixture, repeat layers but with 1 spoonful of each mixture.  Break bacon slices into pieces. Top with bacon.  Cover the tops of the muffins for the first 35 minutes of baking.  Uncover for the last 10 minutes of baking.  Let cool well before unmolding.



A little more history on this delightfully sour berry:

  • In Sweden and Norway, reindeer and elk steak is traditionally served with gravy and lingonberry sauce.

  • A traditional Swedish dessert is lingonpäron (literally lingonberry pears), consisting of fresh pears which are peeled and boiled in lingondricka (lingonberry squash) and then preserved in the pear-infused lingonberry squash and not uncommonly eaten during Christmas. This was very common in old times, because it was an easy and tasty way to preserve pears.

  • In Sweden and Russia, when sugar was still a luxury item, the berries were usually preserved simply by putting them whole into bottles of water. This was also a home remedy against scurvy.

  • In Russia this preserve had been known as “lingonberry water” (брусничная вода) and is a traditional soft drink. In Russian folk medicine, lingonberry water was used as a mild laxative.

  • A traditional Finnish dish is sautéed reindeer (poronkäristys) with mashed potatoes and lingonberries, either cooked or raw with sugar. In Finland, a porridge made from the fruit is also popular.

  • In Poland, the berries are often mixed with pears to create a sauce served with poultry or game.

Porridge Files

I love a bowl of porridge for breakfast or lunch, don’t you?  Here are some recent versions at our household: