Simple pleasures

Tag: detroit

Tapas for Brunch

by tableofcolors

Midnight sun

Midnight sun

Brunch has become a habit in our kitchen. It happens every year. And every year I tell myself that maybe this summer we will try hold a schedule. I have been trying to get up on some mornings early to go for a run, a bikeride, a little trip to the flea market or maybe some pilates. I don’t leave the house too early as it is usually already eight o’clock. When I return an hour or two later, as I often have met a friend along the way and ended up chatting for quite some time, the house is still quiet and only a few are at breakfast. June was chilly but July has really warmed up. Maybe it is all the swimming the children do that really tires them out or perhaps it is the light evenings that stretches bedtimes hours later than in the winter.

baking tin

On Saturday morning I slipped out to the outdoor flea market. Sometimes I take some of the children with but as they were all in deep sleep I left by myself. I found this baking tin with very shallow rounded forms and it says, made in England. It was looking quite worn but I think it will still work and it only cost an euro. It is sitting on my counter in my kitchen waiting for me to do a little research. Perhaps there is a traditional pastry that the tin was used for and perhaps someone brought it from England as a souvenir. The gentleman selling it had a whole collection of antiques and old things. I’m quite sure he had not baked with it as he didn’t seem to have answers to my questions. Perhaps one of my dear readers might know the original purpose of the tin?

tapasLast April when I visited my sister in Detroit we visited a tapas restaurant called La Feria. We had grilled portobella with a sauce of parsely, lemon and garlic, mussels in a white wine sauce and a fried eggplant with honey. They were all just perfect in their simplicity with clean and fresh flavors and we both agreed that fried eggplant drizzled with honey tasted similar to French toast. And so in my kitchen this July is fried eggplant.

fried eggplantI would suggest using the graffiti eggplant or Japanese eggplant which are lighter purple in color and have a thinner skin. I used the most common variety, globe eggplant, and the skin was a bit tough chewing. I first cut them into thick sticks, spread them on paper towels and sprinkled them with salt. I let them sit for about fifteen to twenty minutes. The salt help pulls out the excess moisture and will make frying easier.

breading eggplantThe eggplant at La Feria was deep fried but since I don’t have a deep fryer and I didn’t want to have the excess of oil leftover after frying in a sauce pan, I just heavily coated the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil.

Berenjenas Fritas – Fried eggplant

1 eggplant, cut into thick sticks
salt for sprinkling on the egglplants and a dash to mix with the almond meal
1.5 dl/ generous half cup almond meal
olive oil

After the eggplant has been sprinkled with salt and has rested for about fifteen to twenty minutes, gently pat dry with a paper towel. Place the almond meal in a bowl and mix in a dash of salt. Generously pour olive oil into the pan so that coats the whole bottom. Coat each piece of eggplant with the almond meal before placing in the frying pan. Allow to fry to so that it gains a bit color and then turn. You may fry several pieces of eggplant at the same time. In between batches I removed some of the almond meal that was swimming in the oil as it was starting to darken and added a bit of fresh oil. Enjoy for brunch or in the evening after a day of swimming. Serve hot with a drizzle of honey.
swimming in july collageThis post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series for July. Check out her blog for a great list of blogs from around the world that all invite you into their kitchens.



by tableofcolors

Ponyride started in an abandoned building but today the building and initiative is teeming with life. It is located in a previously abandoned building in Corktown, Detroit. On one exterior wall, volunteer graffiti artists have decorated it with color. The main entrance right off the street is rather unassuming but the stories within are everything but, and so I thought to share some of the efforts that are taking place. I think it brings a new perspective to constrast with the story told in the media. There is no denying that Detroit has had a hard time. There are telltale signs everywhere. But I think success is really measured in their resilience. I think Ponyride is one such success story that I hope investors notice. It is creating new fortunes out of misfortune.

ponyride graffitiPonyride is the brainchild of Phil Cooley, Kate Bordine and my sister Kaija E. Wuollet. It basically is an effort to provide a place for socially conscious entrepreneurs to practice their craft and give back to the community. Their mission:

Ponyride nurtures collaboration using shared resources, knowledge, and ideas to cultivate opportunities created by the strengths and crises of Detroit. Participants serve Detroit communities by sharing their craft and expertise.

Each business offers six hours of education or classes to the community per month. In return their rents are kept at a very low rate. To me it seems like they are finding the rough diamonds and and making them shine.

ponyride studioOn the second floor above the dance and yoga studio is an open area with a kitchen off to the side. The Empowerment Plan resides here. They hire homeless women from shelters to sew coats that turn into self-heating and waterproof sleeping bags. These coats have been handed out to the homeless and also delivered internationally in places of crisis. It started with one woman, Veronika Scott and at the time of my visit the initiative employed fourteen women, giving them an opportunity to work and regain their independence after living on the streets. It made me stop to think what it would be like to live on the streets. It might feel like an imprisonment of sorts. I would not be able to buy French lentils, espresso or dark 85% chocolate, Nike shoes or a Rose bike.  Really it is not at all about those specific ingredients or things but rather the option to choose to buy for our families the things they need and provide a home or the option to be without.  The women I met were so positive and I wish them all well. I hope they all regain their independence to choose.

empowerment plan collageOn the same floor, down through a narrow hallway opens up to another larger space. It is a co-working space that can be shared by different businesses and initiatives. There were a couple that sparked my interest. One such organization is edibleWOW. They produce a quarterly magazine highlighting local food. I met Robb Harper who is one of the publishers of the magazine and so very friendly. EdibleWOW has been coordinating a hydroponic education program at elementary schools to teach students how to grow herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers year round in soil-less conditions. Perhaps these children will continue the tradition of urban gardening.

Co-working space and Robb Harper, publisher of EdibleWOW

Co-working space and Robb Harper, publisher of EdibleWOW

Another initiative that uses the Co-working space is Detroit Soup which is a non-profit organization that provides micro-grants for local creative projects. It works in the following manner. Soup dinners are hosted around the city. For five dollars participants receive soup, salad, bread and a vote. During the dinner participants hear four, four minute long presentations about possible initiatives. Each presenter may answer four questions from the audience. In the end, the audience votes and the initiative to receive the most votes goes home with the money to carry out their project.

Anthology Coffee, the science of making perfect coffee

Anthology Coffee, the science of making perfect coffee

It is not so uncommon to hear of disagreements in a work place. I am not disillusioned to believe that there are no bumps in the road at Ponyride but there is a sense of collaboration. Perhaps it is because of the hardships that almost everyone has experienced in some way that petty things are put aside.

Detroit Denim, creating custom made denim jeans and products from delvedge denim

Detroit Denim, creating custom made denim jeans and products from selvedge denim

What an inspiring day it was. If I was to go again, it would be nice to bring a cake to share. I would set it down on the stone counter in the kitchen right next to the Empowerment Plan. If there are lots of people there on that particular day we would just cut the cake in slightly thinner slices so everyone could have a taste. If only a few are there we could slice it into slightly thicker pieces.

The recipe below I found on NancyCreative’s blog. The sweet potatoe pound cake turned out to be deliciously soft and with a dollop of whipped cream it reminded me of Thanksgiving, thankfulness and sharing with our close ones. Really the perfect cake to take to Ponyride.


Sweet Potato Pound Cake by NancyCreative

adapted from Taste of Home

225 g/8 oz/1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3.5 dl/1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 dl/1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, well-packed
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 dl/3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
7 dl/3 cups cold mashed sweet potatoes (if using canned, you’ll need a 40-ounce can)
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)

Orange Glaze

3.5 dl/1 1/2 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
3 tbsp orange juice
1 heaping tbsp of chopped pecans, for garnish
sweet potato poundcake batterBake the sweet potato in the oven at 200 C/390 F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until it is soft. Set aside to cool. Once cool remove the skin and mash with a fork.

Cream the softened butter and sugars until it is light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients. Alternately fold in the dry ingredients and mashed sweet potato. Pour into a greased 10 inch/25 cm bundt pan and bake at 175 C/350 F for about 55-60 minutes or until a test skewer comes out clean.

Once the cake has cooled make the glaze by mixing the ingredients together and drizzling it over the cake. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

sweet potato pound cake


Detroit Series: A Bankrupt City, Corktown



by tableofcolors

Perhaps if my life had taken different turns, I might have become an urbanist. I definitely could imagine it, as I’ve spent my childhood in a city and have always loved the atmosphere of a large city. Everything does not need to be too polished as often the oldest of structures has a story to tell and it can be seen on their door frames and floor boards. Even the wall might be rough to the touch with many layers of wallpaper and paint as remodelers of various levels of skill have attempted to make a space their home. And there is something fascinating about the people in cities. Everyone with their own stories to tell just as the buildings do, all living in a relatively small area of land close together sharing life yet living individually. One thing that I noticed in Detroit was the urban gardens. It is an idea that actually originated in Detroit and has been brought to other cities around the globe.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying life in the middle of the fields where the wild spring and summer flowers bloom in an unorganized pattern each spring and summer, as a part of me has really come to enjoy the life in the countryside. But, I think I could really get used to stopping at Astro with its menu of interesting salads and sandwiches and coffee that has acquired a true art form.

astro coffee collage

Salad: quinoa, fennel, radicchio, chickpea, mint and almonds. Heavenly.

astro coffee

One day we ventured on foot for about six or seven hours. We explored Corktown as well as the downtown area. According to Wikipedia, the name Corktown is the oldest historic neighborhood in Detroit and the name evolved when Irish immigrants moved into the area. Most of them were from County Cork and thus the neighborhood was called Corktown. Right at the gateway of Corktown, coming from the downtown area is the Detroit Institue of Bagels. It was started by Ben who was baking bagels from home and needed a larger space for the business. My sister Kaija, has her own architectural design studio called Laavu and the Bagel Shop is one of the significant projects she has been involved in. What I really liked was that whenever possible old things had been salvaged from the buildings and put into new use. The lights hanging above the bagel mural had a previous life in a different building and have now found a new home here. I could imagine that if I lived in the neighborhood with my kids we might ocassionally stop in for bagels when a quick lunch is needed.

detroit institute of bagesbagel shop collagebagel muralvisiting the DIBThe little pocket park outside with the stools is for days when the sun is shining. The magnolia was not in bloom yet as the winter had been cold and spring had arrived a little late but I can imagine  what it would be like to sit in the park on one of the Beech seats.


After a day of walking and a ride on the monorail, Kaija made a salad that was similar in style to some of the things in Astro. And now I think I will be on the lookout for French lentils. They are the ones that keep their shape after being cooked, although you do need to be careful to not overcook. Most lentils that can be easily found here are better in soups and stews as they fall apart after being cooked. If I can’t find them from Säästä & Punnitse, I might just have to ask them to order some for me.

french lentil saladKaija’s Lentil salad

4.7 dl/2 cups French lentils
1 l/4 cups water
sea salt
1 small red onion, finely chopped
70 g/2.5 oz capers, finely chopped
4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
large handfuls of fresh herbs roughly chopped, for example curly parsley
other options: cilantro, rosemary, dill (whatever is in season)
100 g/3.5 oz dates, roughly chopped

1/2 c white vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp. sea salt
2-4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground corriander seed
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp black pepper

Served with arugula.

Cook the French lentils in lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer in a covered pot for about 12-15 minutes or until soft, but do not over cook. Rinse and set aside to cool. Finely chop red onion(add more onion depending on mood or taste), celery,capers, herbs and dates. Toss in a large mixing bowl. Add lentils when cooled.

Prepare dressing. Mix vinegar, olive oil, and seasoning according to taste. Kaija loves the combination of cumin and lentil, so she often adds more cumin and doubles the amount of crushed red pepper. It gives the salad a wonderful dimension.

This salad can be served with greens. Kaija prefers peppery arugula, but is could be served with sea salt massaged kale as well.
To use leftovers, mix about 2 cups of lentil salad with an egg and fry into small “pancakes”. Serve with roughly chopped tomatoes. Delicious.

herbs and grainsdining room

And so, even though the last post had many pictures of abandoned homes and buildings, so many more are occupied and full of innovation.

Detroit Series: A Bankrupt City

A bankrupt city


It was a relaxed whirlwind of a trip, if a whirlwind could be considered relaxed. So many new and old experiences re-experienced. Yet the pace was not hectic. Sometimes the moments best remembered are ones that are hardest to record. A hug or the feeling that your heart might burst when you see loved ones after such a long time or the bitterweet feeling of leaving them once again; Wishing that the distance was only a car-ride away. It really was a wonderful trip full of emotions in addition to the experiences. Really, I can’t just sum it all up in one post, and so I have decided to string bits and pieces of Detroit and Minneapolis into my posts during the next few weeks and months.

Visiting Detroit was a first for me. My sister showed me the different faces of the city. In three and a half days we covered more ground than I could have ever done with just a city guide and my baby for company. The thing is, she has lived in the city for about eight years. First she studied to become an architect and now she is living her dream and is part of the effort of rebuilding the bankrupt city. It might sound romantic on paper but in real life it is anything but romantic. It is an effort that requires for the sleeves to be rolled up as your hands will get literally dirty.

Beach volleyball court in Roosevelt Park Design: Kaija E. Wuollet

Beach volleyball court in Roosevelt Park Design: Kaija E. Wuollet

As the city is bankrupt there is no sponsorship available from that direction and so it requires the time and effort of private citizens and the resources of private donations to clean-up and rebuild parks, trim and plant trees or acquire abandoned buildings to create spaces for business, community or homes. Some of the abandoned buildings are owned by millionaires playing the waiting game and for years they are empty. As is the case with the Michigan Central Train Station and Book Tower below. Efforts as large as these always involve some politics and differing interests but what I do think this whole effort brings at the grass-roots level is the sense of community. I often heard locals say, Detroit has a bad rap but they love it there. There is an energetic vibe in the city.

abondoned buildings detroit

Abandoned buildings top to bottom: Michigan Central Station opened originally in 1913, Book Tower 38-story sky-scraper opened in 1926. Both have been abandoned for years.

We explored and saw some beautiful homes and just a few streets aways and sometimes even next door were some homes that the scrappers had gorged, extracting anything of value. The windows were broken and and everything of value removed: water pipes, porclein sinks, siding, hot water heaters and furnaces. Anything that could be sold for money was gone.

detroit contrasts

2014-04-14 23.58.12detroit neighborhoodsAnd so after our long flight across the Atlantic we had  a bit of jet-lag as the time difference between Finland and Detroit is seven hours. The first two mornings my Hugo and I were up at around five or six o’clock. After trying to slumber for a bit a longer we eventually would get up and find our way to the kitchen for some breakfast.

happy boy

One evening in the upper floor of an old house in the historic district of Corktown, we made an apple-date-pistachio crumble and the next morning it was a perfect companion with Greek yoghurt as it was sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar and was not overly sweet in any way.

Apple crumble with dates and pistachios

to be served with ice cream or Greek yoghurt

1 kg/2.2 lbs apples, chopped (see this chart for the best baking apple varieties)
100 g/3.5 oz dates, roughly chopped
80 g/2.8 g pistachios, roughly chopped
120 g/4.2 oz butter
4.7 dl/ 2 c rolled oats
1 dl/ 1/2 c almond flour
1 dl/ 1/2 c maple syrup for the crumble + 1/4 c to mix in with the apples and dates
1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
juice of 1/2 lemon

Grease the pan. We used a loaf pan and a popover tin of six. Chop the apples, dates and pistachios. If preferred the skins of the apples may be left on. Mix the apples and dates together along with half of the cinnamon, cardamom, lemon juice and maple syrup and set aside. Melt the butter and mix with the rolled oats, almond flour, pistachios, maple syrup and the rest of the cinnamon. Spoon the apple mixture in the pans and tins and cover with the oat crumble. Bake at 175 C/350 F for about an 30-40 minutes so that the apples have softened. Remove from the oven an allow to cool so that the crumble is warm. Serve with ice cream or Greek yoghurt.

apple date pistachio crumble