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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Roasted Garlic Soup... Again

On the morning of Christmas Eve I did a very brave thing. I went to Whole Foods. Yes, that is right. At 10am on the morning before one of the biggest cooking and entertaining weekends of the year (and as it happens also the calm before a giant snowstorm being forecast to hit the Boston area right after Christmas; yet another reason for the hoards to trample onwards in hopes of produce, meats, last minute prepared foods and every day staples) there I was, list in hand, forging forward with the masses, trying not to hit people with my shopping cart. (I narrowly avoided hitting the same whole foods employee twice, poor guy. Of course when I apologized the second time around, I quite exaggerated and offered an apology for nearly hitting him "about 6 times now!")

Luckily I was quite successful in my undertaking: in and out of the store within half an hour, did not wait in long in line, got everything on my list. Also, I managed to find something I didn't know I was looking for, and in fact did not know existed.

Lemon Poppyseed Cake

I own 2 Best of Gourmet cookbooks (1989 and 1996 I believe, thrifted), but until this week I had never actually made something from either of them. I guess I was a tiny bit intimidated. But I offered to bring dessert for Christmas Eve dinner (as well as a soup for Christmas night) and I wanted something lighter and a bit less sweet and rich to balance out all of the chocolates and cookies and goodies that we all seem to stuff ourselves with this time of year. Don't worry, I also made my favorite uber-rich chocolate fudge tart and even added a 1/2 tsp of orange extract to give it the chocolate/orange flavor combination I loved without the orange infused whipped cream.

I decided to make the Lemon Poppyseed Cake with Fruit Compote recipe from Gourmet. First I should say this: I was mildly disappointed by the cake, not the flavors, but the texture. It came out a bit too dry and crumbly. I was unsure whether I had perhaps overcooked it, or if the recipe was at fault. That being said, people seemed to enjoy it, especially served with the fruit compote, which lends it some extra moisture. I choose to make some lemon glaze to the top off the cake, which I think was also a good addition, lemon juice and zest gave it added interest and brightness, and made the top shiny and nice. I am open to suggestions if anyone has made a lemon poppy seed cake that turned out a bit moister, perhaps I will revisit this later with a similar recipe if I find something better. I quite enjoyed the delicate flavor though, and the compote was a nice addition to both the cake and the chocolate tart.

Smells like DIY...

Look at this terrible picture of the item I rescued from the snowbank (I mean sidewalk...) last night. Yep, it's a dresser. Somewhere along the line it seems to have lost its drawers (mercy!) but that's ok. I plan to give it a new life and whole new purpose. Right now I am deciding between finishing it out as open shelving, or creating doors and making it into a server type cabinet. More to come soon!

PS- a special thank you to my friend Gabby (Gabbie? Yo Gabba Gabba?) who rushed to my rescue to help me carry this thing home at only a moment's notice, and my roommate Danielle who helped us as we struggled to get it up the stairs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

A good friend came to me recently, after we had struggled to find time to spend together, and asked if our next get together could involve baking something for her mother. She had joined me last when I painted the chevron pattern in the kitchen, featured earlier this month, and while we worked we had been snacking on some pumpkin-chocolate chip cupcakes which we both enjoyed. We discussed, and decided to make something similar for her mother. We ended up making chocolate chip pumpkin bread, 2 loaves so my roommates and I got to enjoy the other. I dug up a basic pumpkin quick bread recipe in my trusty Betty Crocker Baking book, and all we changed was the spices, and adding the chips.

Monday, December 6, 2010

In which I go even more insane than that other time.

Remember that time crazy Hannah covered the refrigerator in patterned contact paper? Well I think I one-upped myself.

If you are thinking this looks familiar, it probably does. I posted about this project in mid-November right after its completion, but soon felt so embarrassed by the grainy dark pictures and took down the post. Anyway, want to see the crazy orange chevron wall in my kitchen? I think it is fun. And since I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen, it is definitely a place I like to have fun, so why shouldn't the space itself be fun?

Want to see a bit of the process?

First I taped out the pattern I wanted. I may have been a bit drunk when I started this. That would at least explain that weird gap of a few inches along the left wall.

The next step was painting white paint over the tape to seal any spaces where paint could bleed through with the existing wall color. My friend Gabby helped me out with this (if there is one tip I have when it comes to painting projects...invite some friends to help! We had so much fun!)

Then, up went the orange (we had ran out of the exact orange used on that rail, so we had to mix some up to match) Gabby and Sophie helped, as we hummed along to Janis Joplin and ate cupcakes and had a generally pretty awesome time.

After 2 coats of paint, the tape came down. Relatively cleanly, even. Though there were a few spots that were less than perfect.

Boo, peeling. Hopefully no one will notice!


Spiced mixed nuts

Spiced mixed nuts, yes. They are pretty sweet. And a bit spicy. And have proven to be more than a little bit addictive. A bowl of these added to the spread of appetizers at your next dinner party sounds like a great idea to me. Invite me over, I will help you put a dent in them!

This was yet another item I made in advance for my thanksgiving festivities out in great state of New Jersey. And I made a lot. Way too much. Even though I broke them out a night early and snacked with my parents, sister (this mix is peanut free, so she didn't die!) and aunt and uncle. 

So, okay, maybe you shouldn't make 10 cups of this mix and bring it out as one of many appetizers if most people are saving space for dinner because it is thanksgiving. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't make 2 or 3 cups before your awesome dinner party, does it? Or, that you shouldn't make a large batch like I did and squirrel some away for a rainy day (Bad pun? Squirel, nuts? ) or package them up in adorable jars and give as Solchamaszaali (Solstice/Channuka/Christmas/Kwanzaa/Diwali - term thanks to my very clever sister, Abbie, who as I mentioned, was NOT killed by this mix of nuts) gifts. But really, how could I resist more than quadrupling the recipe? Cumin, coriander and cayenne (great alliteration, huh?) mixed with the ware sweetness of maple syrup, sugar and salt, baked into a crisp crust on a mixture of almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts and brazil nuts? People are gonna want some of that! 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Roasted Garlic Soup

I got home just past 6 pm. I wanted something interesting to eat: warm, comforting, not one of my usual staples. I didn't want to go to the grocery store. I looked in the pantry. Not much to speak of besides several heads of garlic. In the refrigerator:  ends of a few pieces of cheese, a couple eggs, some spinach I had forgotten about which had gotten wilty and sad. Not that promising. But I kept thinking back to that garlic. I thought of a lovely and sharp soupa di ajo (spanish garlic soup) I had had at a tapas restaurant several years ago. After all this time it still stuck in my mind. I took out 2 heads of garlic and started to peel.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Best Oatmeal Cookies

These are THE BEST oatmeal cookies. Don't believe me? Ask my mom. That's right. She said so. But also, I say so, and a bunch of other people who tried these cookies seemed to agree. Also, they have cranberries. Who could turn down cranberries? They are such a pretty color, and add such a sweet-tart element that plays off the subtle fresh taste of the orange zest in the batter. Try these, they are just what you need right now. Really, I think you need a cookie. You're so thin! You look famished! (By the way, how have you all enjoyed your various events and family time over thanksgiving? Do I sound like anyone's grandma yet? Maybe an aunt?)

But truly, you deserve a cookie. Not crazy about cranberries? Change em out. Go traditional with raisins, shake things up with dried cherries, appease your sweet tooth with dark chocolate chips (orange and chocolate are a great pair!) go nuts (add nuts!).

This recipe works surprisingly well substituting margarine in place of the butter originally in the recipe, I used earth balance, and I swear you can't tell (I really mean it, and I am somewhat of a snob about baking with butter).

Ok, enough chitchat, go make these cookies. Then bring me a couple at my office; I could really use a cookie like this right about now.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I've been painting doors.

What have I been up to? I've been painting doors.

Like this blue door in the bathroom, with a custom mixed paint color thanks to one of my friends at the hardware store where I used to work.

I also added mirrored decals from TJ Maxx. Now I just  need to decide what to do about that old rusted doorknob. Ignore it since I rent, and with the lock mechanism it may be complicated to replace? I imagine a nice glass knob in its place.  

I also painted the door of our broom closet with chalk board paint, creating a kitchen message center for myself and my roommates to use. 

Also, see that blue tape in the upper left section of that picture? Consider that a sneak peek into a project to come. I just need to work out my final plan, and make sure my roommates don't hate it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kale & White Bean Soup (and the Dead Kennedys' "Soup is Good Food"?)

I did mention that this is actually becoming a soup blog, right?  After all as the Dead Kennedy's song says, soup is good food (OK, the rest of the lyrics of that song really, really don't apply- but every time I make soup, I can't help hearing that song in my head for a moment).

This soup is as simple as could be, but made with a flavorful homemade chicken stock, studded with firm canellini beans and curls of bright green kale, it felt healthy and healing after a near OD on Halloween candy (the mini butterfingers and york patties are my favorites, FYI).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Apple Tarte Tatin + The Pixies "Wave of Mutilation"

The last time it was this Cherry & Blueberry Tart and The Clash's "London Calling".  This time? Apple Tarte Tatin and The Pixies' "Wave of Mutilation". It seems I have found a formula that works for salvaging whatever bad mood may hit.

Apple Tarte Tatin, a classic french dessert with apples, caramelized sugar and a flaky crust, falls nicely into my recent category of culinary fascination: butter heavy french dishes. Also, it really isn't fall without some baked apple desserts, right? Besides requiring a careful watch, and sometimes nearly 3 hours of time from initial prep to final presentation, this is a very simple and easy dish to make. The key is allowing the sugar and liquid to cook down enough to reach a caramelized stage, without loosing track and allowing it to burn to the bottom of the pan.

West African Sweet Potato & Peanut Stew

I made this stew the first time last winter. The flavors were so intriguing to me,when I saw the recipe I just had to try it. The primary ingredients of this soup are sweet potatoes and natural peanut butter, flavored with hot chile pepper, allspice, ginger and garlic, and garnished with fresh cilantro. Now doesn't that sound like a  refreshing, hearty and unusual combination of flavors?

The Bike in the Bedroom

Firstly, doesn't that title sound like it should be the name of an episode of  Bones? No?

When I first moved into my apartment a year ago, my bedroom was the first place I decorated. In fact, I hung the curtains and artwork, and arranged vases and decorative items more than a week before I had a chance to move most of my furniture in there. After bringing in my belongings from my previous apartment, it took me all of two days to completely unpack. I wanted it to feel settled and homey, no boxes, no big blank walls.

I thought and planned out the room a lot ahead of time, picking a color scheme I thought could make the must-be-left-white walls look purposeful, incorporated into the room. So I wanted something calm and soothing. I picked a color palate of stone blue, chocolate brown and pure white. I scoured marshalls, TJ maxx and my favorite thrift stores for items that fit this theme.

At first I loved how well everything fit together. After a few months, however, I started to feel trapped by the matching-ness of it all. I felt walking into the room like it screamed "Hello, I have a color theme!!!" Recently I decided I had to find some small changes to make to keep the things I liked about the room, but get rid of some of the matchy-matchy-ness.

So I have been going through and making small changes to the room. New sheer gray curtains replaced the blue set that matched the ones behind the bed, a lavender throw, some new beige pillow cases and  a sage throw pillow I sewed went onto the bed to break up the chocolate quilt.

Also among the things that have changed is a 1972 Phillips bicycle has come into my life. After hours of scouring off rust (by the way, a little white vinegar and some steel wool go a long way) I wasn't enthusiastic about keeping it outside in the elements. This post over at Design*Sponge  inspired me not to worry about creative ways to conceal the bike, but to instead use it at a decor item in the room while it is not out on adventures.

The Search Is On

For a while I have been hoping to find a new living room rug which is cheap, but not as cheap-looking as the one I currently have.

My living room has evolved quite a bit in the past several months, here is a picture of it taken in late July, complete with party decorations:

And, how it looks currently:

changes include replacing the coffee table with the one I refinished here, getting a new couch, and loosing the blue and white couch and papasan chair (one was sold to a friend, one left us when a roommate moved out), and then simply rearranging what was already there (also, clearly the fiesta themed decorations were put away). I think it is looking a lot better already, but I keep wondering what a difference a new rug would make, especially given that the current rug (a $40 target find) sheds every time we vacuum, and is looking pretty scuzzy.

So now I find that I spend a lot of time looking online at rugs. I am hoping for something similar in size or a bit bigger than the one there currently (which is 4'x6'), but not too much larger- hopefully 5X7 or so. Since there is already a bit of the feeling of too much furniture in too small a room, I want to stick with a rug that is toned down, and somewhat neutral. It's also important that its colors work nicely in the room. A few that have caught my eye so far:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Meatless Cassoulet

This recipe from Gourmet for a vegetarian cassoulet (a hearty casual french stew-like dish traditionally compromised of meats and/or sausage and white beans cooked to delicious oblivion and topped with breadcrumbs) was recently featured on the kitchn, where it caught my eye. I was fresh out of my first night of  French cooking classes, and but 6 words into the recipe's description was a new word I had learned only that night. I looked at the word and felt such pride in myself. Mirapoix! I know what that is! How sophisticated it sounds; how french!

There was yet another draw to this recipe for me, besides its french name, simple ingredient list, and use of the word "mirapoix" in the description: this was likely to be a dirt cheap meal. And I am the kind of girl who really appreciates a cheap meal. Does that sound bad? Well, it's true. My trip to the grocery store for the ingredients for this meal totaled at $6 (at Whole Foods, even!). I will likely be eating this for lunch for a week. Time to pat myself on the back for being so frugal.

I made a few changes to the recipe as I cooked. First, though leeks may just be my favorite vegetable, I replaced them with onions to keep my costs low.  I prefer to cook instinctively: taste and add and taste and add, rather than actually sticking to a recipe. In this way I ended up adding butter, a couple tablespoons of red wine, rosemary, and chicken stock (oops, no longer vegetarian! oh well.). I made the bread crumbs using 2 types of bread I had on hand: 7 grain sandwich bread, and some of the spinach-herb bread I made earlier in the week.

What comfort food this is, a hot garlicky stew with tender cooked onion, carrot and celery (that's the mirapoix, by the way) fresh and dried herbs and white beans. It is filling and hearty, yet gives a person the distinct feeling that they are eating something healthful and nutritious. My final product used quite a lot of butter, so I knew that the sense of healthfulness from the vegetables and white beans was certainly a  ruse (not to be confused with a roux, if we are talking basics of french cooking).

Chocolate Truffles

First off I have to say that this may be the world's messiest dessert. Well, maybe not, but it is right up there. And I suppose it is really only the making of it that is messy, eating them carries far less risk of making a mess of yourself than, say, eating ice cream from a cone on a hot day.

There was something cathartic about the messiness of the process though. Something calming that reminded me of my childhood fascination with mud balls. And mud pies. And digging in mud. and really anything that involved mud.

Case in point:

Here I am at approximately 10 years old at a family reunion in Big River, CA with my cousin Cameron. Notice how muddy my hands are, and the fine display of mud balls we are proudly showcasing for the camera. Also notice that I seem to be wearing purple pants. That is unrelated, I just thought it was worth noticing. I suppose it should be no surprise that I found it very soothing and familiar when the process of shaping these truffles on a warm fall day turned out like this:

Monday, October 11, 2010

October DIY projects

I recently found these curtains in the clearance section at Marshalls. Having recently bought some fabric for a few different projects, I was surprised to notice that at their clearance price they were cheap enough that even just buying the fabric to sew them from scratch would have been more expensive. They were the wrong size, but both the color and the price were right.

 All it took to make them perfect for the space was adding a little extra fabric in a contrasting color to the bottom. I used two oversized dish towels which I already had on hand.

Project $$ breakdown:
2 curtain panels, $14
2 dish towels, on hand
total cost: $14

Thursday, October 7, 2010

french onion soup

This post has been updated and reposted...check it out here

 I have a feeling this is about to become a soup blog for the next couple of months. Now that the raw weather is starting, I am all about warm comforting food. This season started with a classic- rich savory-sweet french onion soup, topped with toasted bread and melty cheese.

French onion soup was the first thing we made in my first cooking course in September. Making the recipe again, I found it to be an easy (though not necessarily quick) process with a lot of possibilities for improvisation. Unlike baking, which requires certain proportions of different ingredients to create chemical reactions during the baking process, cooking is really all about opening yourself up to add this and that, and make something taste just the way you want it to. I didn't really use a written recipe while making this soup, nor did we in the class, though the instructor sent us home with a write up of the ingredients we used, and I expanded off that list here.

The main concept is simple: onions cooked slowly until sweet, beef and/or chicken broth, wine and herbs, topped with melted cheese and hearty bread.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The story about THE WINDOW

I found this old chippy 6 paned window on a curb in Kenmore square. I saw it and instantly wanted it, the only problem being that it was under a pile of other renovation refuse, bricks, wood scraps, sharp broken pieces of glass and tile... and I was on my way home from work wearing a hard to move in pencil skirt and heels! I managed to dig it out from the pile though (I got a lot of strange looks as I did).

Once I removed the heavy items on top of it, finally able to get to the window I was digging for, I had to pause for a moment, as I came eye to eye with a tiny gray mouse, who had apparently just been hanging out chilling on top of my window under cover from the other pieces of trash. He looked terrified, he completely froze in place on top of my window. We stared each other down for at least 30 seconds, my not wanting to try and shoo him for fear of getting bitten, and he perhaps thinking that if he waited long enough I would leave. We both stood our ground. I saw his body trembling, quick mouse-breaths and the whir of mouse-y heartbeats were almost audible to me, as I stood suspended, unnoticing of anything else happening around me. Eventually someone walked by on the sidewalk, and their movement seemed to snap the mouse out of his mouse-y trance, and me out of mine. He ran from the window, and down under a root of a nearby tree. I tried not to think of mouse-y germs and diseases as I picked up my window, and proceeded to walk it home. And let me tell you- it was terribly heavy, and the day was terribly windy, and as I mentioned above I was truly not dressed for the task, so I had a hell of a time. And yes, the first thing I did once i got it home was to wipe it down with disinfectant, and wash my hands for about 10 minutes straight.


Here is a list of a few things commonly known to be awesome.*
  •  Dinosaurs
  • Kalamata olives
  • cookies
  • drawing with crayons
 Well, what if one person could combine those awesome things, to make one, entirely awesome something? Perhaps the result would be so awesome, it would grant the creator the power to take over the world. Well my 2 or 3 readers, I am happy to tell you I have created just that. Only I actually have no interest in taking over the world, so instead I will share the secrets with you, and perhaps one of you will recreate such a thing and be able to harness its power.

Kalamata olive cookies, dinosaur cookie cutters, and a gorgeous crayon drawn landscape. Yes, I said gorgeous. What? you're not impressed? Also, I think it is important to say here, that while a cookies with olives in them probably sound a bit strange, everyone I have forced these on (some people take some convincing) seemed to like them quite a bit. They are sweet and buttery, with just a hint of briney salty olive flavor. Also, they are shaped like dinosaurs, and nearly as fun to play with as they are to eat. I ate the pterodactyl first, mmmmm.

The cookie recipe (which I really do suggest!) was recently posted by Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks. Go check out the post, she used tiny little scalloped cookie cuters and her tiny, adorable cookies are just too cute for words. But they would look quite out of place in my little prehistoric backdrop.

*OK, maybe this isn't all that commonly known.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cake day

Did you know that I am currently taking a baking course? This evening after work I have the second installment of my Intro to Baking/Pastry Course. The syllabus noted that the second class will be "Cake day" and we will be making a number of different types of cakes, and learning cake related techniques. I haven't done much cake making in the past, for some reason I lean more towards tarts, pies and cookies. Perhaps after today that will all change?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Movie Night Snacks

Tonight I had a few friends over for a movie night, and decided to provide more in the way of snacks than the traditional buttered popcorn. I made peanut butter flax cookies, served pretzels with two types of mustard for dipping (Trader Joe's garlic aioli mustard and honey mustard) as well as some pretzels which I dipped in melted dark chocolate, spiced almonds, and spiced roasted chickpeas. I served these goodies on cake stands I put together with candlesticks and plates found at goodwill (one of those projects that seems to be contagious right now in the diy/home decor blogosphere, and couldn't be easier!) Also, it is of note that the roasted chickpeas are food blog fad I am a couple years late for, but glad I have finally made them! I used the spice mix suggested on Kalyn's Kitchen, and made extra to use later on vegetables or all kinds of things just like she suggested!

I also got well on my way today on two refinishing projects: turning an old window into kitchen art, and updating a vintage dining chair for use as a boudour chair in my bedroom. Sanding, reupholstering and painting, oh my! 

I hope you all enjoyed your weekends! What is your favorite movie night snack?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

September is...

September is an exciting time of year. For many a new school year starts, vacations end, the trees start changing colors, and the air grows the tiniest bit brisk. In Boston, September is moving season. All the rentals turn over at once in a massive flurry of moving trucks, which cause traffic all over town on the first of the month. I, luckily, did not have to deal with the stress of moving this month, as my roommates and I have decided to stay put for another year. In fact, I have never had to move on September first, my last few apartments have had odd lease start dates that left me in the only moving truck on the street (November 1st, January 1st, November 18th- the last was a fluke related to delayed renovations). So instead of September equaling moving month in my mind, it is instead merely "sidewalk shopping month"- a time to take advantage of the discarded items left behind by those that moved. And this year I celebrated Sidewalk Shopping Month heartily. In the last week I have focused most of my energy on restoring the objects and furniture I picked up, and in turn, had very little remaining energy for cooking/baking.
A few of my finds

In the last week I did make a somewhat disappointing nectarine cake, and a few basic loaves of french bread, so it is not that I have not been producing food at all, simply that I have put less time toward it than usual.

There are many good food related holidays of note in September: it is National Honey Month, as well as Better Breakfast Month- plenty of potential for great recipes there! Single day holidays of note include Sewing Machine Day (September 10th- I have been contemplating picking up a used sewing machine I keep seeing at Goodwill, is this a sign? Should I go ahead and buy it come the 10th?) National Apple Dumpling Day (17th), and of course, the always amusing International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Ar- th' 19th). I think this month will require at least 2 little-known holiday posts.

As it has been keeping me quite so busy though, I do think I should show some pictures the finds/work I have done related to my very own celebration of "Sidewalk Shopping Day".

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On the way...adventures in bread making

I have begun a process of learning to make bread. From easy doughs prepared in the bread machine, to nursing my very own sourdough starter, this is a pretty new process for me. I am very interested to try new things, but also to find something that is simple enough to be realistic for me to make every week. Like a home that always has fresh flowers, I have always wanted a home which always has fresh bread.

Butternut Squash Soup with Pears and Cumin

I was so excited to see the first pears and butternut squash show up at the grocery store recently. I guess I should dread seeing them: signs the summer is coming to an end, and fall will soon be here. I've loved this summer: walking to work on sunny mornings, spending evenings on the roof of my building and never getting cold even as it gets dark, picnicking in parks, and wearing skirts and dresses. Summer is romantic, and freeing. But fall has butternut squash soup.

Peanut Butter Flax Seed Cookies

I noticed a product at Trader Joe's recently which intrigued me: natural peanut butter with flax seeds. I started wondering what peanut butter cookies baked with this product would be like. High in omega 3s, for one thing, and doesn't everyone need more of that? Studies have suggested that Omega 3 may do everything from prevent cancer to improve mood and lessen depression. Who wouldn't want all that? And in the form a crunchy little peanut butter cookie?  Also, these cookies are gluten free, so hey, you can even make them for your gluten intolerant friends you never know what to bake for...unless of course they are also allergic to peanuts.

New blog feature: little known holidays

So I have decided to make the little known holiday posts a new monthly feature, you can read the first one here if you are interested. I have discovered a whole host of strange holidays, many relating to food, some not, which seem worth observing at least once. So once a month I will pick a few days of note, cook something that relates to any food of the month that may be recognized, and find one way to observe another like I did here.

September is (literally) right around the corner, so I look forward to starting on that post soon. Posts related to this feature will have the subject line "this month is...." with the appropriate month filled in, of course. So get ready for a post titled "September is..."

Any suggestions of September's little known holidays you are aware of?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

White Eggplant Rollatini

Today I spent the afternoon at my friend Jamie's house, where we finally (after talking about and planning it for months) cooked together. It seems the two of us often talk about food and cooking, giving advice on what to make for dinner, or sharing our success stories (and failures) in the kitchen. We've tried to bake together before, when her daughter Lilly was younger, strapped into a baby carrier* Jamie was wearing. Baking while toting around a baby: apparently not so easy. We ended up switching from baking to arts and crafts projects on that occasion, which was only slightly easier, at least it didn't involve knives or a hot oven.

* I think it is worth noting here that in trying to find a more clear and succinct way to describe the across the chest style baby backpack I was informed by a visiting friend of one of my roommates that the name for a Native American baby carrier is a papoose. A google search informed me that "papoose" is also a name for this guy. Yeah. I was entertained.

Today, we had a mission. Make something that would use the white eggplant in her fridge, and some of the herbs growing so prolifically in her herb garden, that didn't require a trip to the grocery store for additional ingredients. After chatting for quite awhile about different eggplant recipes, and pouring through a number of cookbooks, we decided to make Eggplant Rollatini.

Happy sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch day!

 note reads: Happy sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch day! Y'all didn't have a porch, so...
Left this on my neighbors doorstep this evening, hope they find a nice way to use their sneaky (local!) zucchini! I was really hoping to leave it somewhere just a little more sneaky...inside their living room maybe, just chilling on the couch? (They've left the door unlocked at least once in the past, it seemed worth hoping) But unfortunately, as I tiptoed up the stairs to their floor, I could already hear the TV on in the living room, it seemed I was out of luck. Guess there's always next year, let's hope whoever moves in up there has a sense of humor, and a taste for zucchini.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

August is...

An email advertisement from eatingwell.com has recently alerted me that August is apparently National Olive Month. As it happens I have half a jar of Kalamata olives sitting in my fridge, awaiting their grand purpose (I used the other half in a delicious hearty Mediterranean vegetable pasta sauce I made a while back, I am hoping to wait for more hearty-pasta type weather before posting that one; who wants "hearty" when the humidity is at 75%?) and so I decided- why not observe national olive month like any patriotic American should?

As I thought about national olive month, I started to wonder what other grand and important holidays take place in the month of August that most of us have never heard of. A quick search through the interwebs informs me that August is also National Water Quality Month, Panini Month, Catfish Month, and Immunization Awareness Month. So in short, be sure this month to make the following recipe for an olive panino (yes, apparently the singular for panini, please correct me if I'm wrong), make sure to filter your water, perhaps go catfishing, and of course get up to date with your vaccines!

Some individual holidays that take place in August which may be worth noting include "Kiss and make up day" (August 25) "wiggle your toes day" (August 6th), "bad poetry day" (August 18) and "sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch day" (August 8th). I plan to observe as many of these important holidays as I can, though I may need to bend some rules on "sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch" day, as I live in an apartment building and my neighbors mostly do not have porches. That being said, to all my friends in the neighborhood: don't be surprised when a zucchini appears unexpectedly on August 8th on your porch/stoop/hallway/desk etc... Also, might as well go ahead and start bracing yourself for the bad poetry bound to be created (and perhaps read in public?) by yours truly on the 18th.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I-Love-Lemon Bars

I love lemon. On chicken, on fish, on greens, on pasta, in tea, IN DESSERTS, it just seems you can't go wrong. And lemon bars, rich and creamy, lemony (which may sound redundant, but such genuine lemon flavor is not always present in lemon desserts), not-too-sweet, refreshing served chilled, surprisingly good served slightly warm, seem like the perfect summer-y dessert. Also, their lemon-custard like filling is reminiscent of my great aunt Lossy's lemon pie.

I brought these to an outdoor movie event in a park near my apartment. They were a great snack to pass around and share.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stuffed Turkey Sliders and Blueberry Spritzers

My roommate Sam and I made this quick summery meal on the 4th of July before hurrying out to see the fireworks, and I decided it was so good it was worth recreating and posting. Besides the ground turkey meat and buns, we had all of the ingredients on hand, the blueberries in the spritzers were leftover from my Cherry-Blueberry Tart, the feta was bought for the Watermelon & Herb Summer Salad, and who doesn't have an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, a couple lemons, and a bottle of seltzer on hand? And even if you don't have those things on hand, wouldn't it be worth a trip to the store if a light, flavorful, summery dinner and refreshing fruity drink were at stake?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cherry Blueberry Tart - And How To Salavage A Bad Day

I made this tart with the 4th of July in mind- red cherries, blueberries, and pastry cream seemed like a pretty patriotic combination (though I will admit, the egg yolks, vanilla and liqueur in the pastry cream turned it a bit yellowy/tan rather than white) and since I have been trying to make desserts inspired by holidays this year (my green st. patty's day cake was a hit) I decided to make this to continue the theme.

As it happens, the day I made this was shaping up to be JUST NOT A VERY GOOD DAY. Things were not going my way, and I felt angry and hurt by a series of events that morning. I was hesitant to start a project while feeling that way, worried that I would not be able to concentrate and put my best effort in. After some convincing from my favorite (and only) sister, I ended up discovering that making this tart was in fact just what my day needed. I turned on London Calling (which makes for great "I'm angry and I'm gonna bake things!" music), threw on my apron, and sang along while I worked. And I may have danced a bit. I am sure I looked like a fool, but by the time the tart was done, not only did I have a delicious dessert to show for it, my bad mood had been magically repaired. And I knew how to make pastry cream.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Taste of Summer- Sweet/Savory Fruit Salad and a Southern Maine Adventure.

My extended family (including a few family members and many "should be family members" friends) took a trip recently to our favorite "BYO-everything but lobster" joint in Kittery point, Maine for father's day. The forecast in Boston called for unrelenting heat and possible thunderstorms, but Southern Maine was expected to have a lovely day in the high seventies. The group of 13 of us (Plus 3 dogs) caravaned out at 2pm, coolers loaded up with bread and cheese and hummus and crackers, and between the group of us not one but 4 salads (shepard's salad, corn and bean salad, an eggplant salad from The Family Resteraunt in Brookline, and my own watermelon-herb salad featured today). We arrived at the pier, snagged one of the only tables available, which happened to be under no cover whatsoever, and began to unpack. Tablecloths first, then out came the wine glasses and wine was poured for nearly everyone, then the cheeses and bread, chips, crackers and hummus, dishes of water for the dogs, we settled in as always as if we lived there.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A grilling lesson from my father: two types of cedar plank grilled fish

On a recent Sunday night, my father called to invite me to a dinner he and my mother were having with some friends. Of course my first question was "What are you making?". My second question was "Can I document it for my blog?".

 And so, I bring you a grilling lesson from my father, backyard grill master, whose many talents include but are not limited to: making some of the best, juiciest hamburgers ever, smoking fish and meats, grilling vegetables and fruit to smoky perfection, and making so many homemade rubs for ribs you can't keep count. He is a big fan of experimentation in the field of grilling (as well as in other cooking fields- he recently introduced me to French-toasted croissants, an odd idea that turned out actually quite good, if extremely high in calories), and has recently introduced grilled artichokes and fennel to our usual grilled vegetable lineup, two things I have to say would never have occurred to me to grill, but came out lovely.

Today he is grilling 2 types of fish on soaked cedar planks- halibut with a lemon white wine marinade, and mustard brown sugar glazed steelhead trout.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On The Way...Grilling with my Father

Currently working on a post about a grilling lesson from  my father, the post is pretty long- with lots of pictures. It should be up in a few days, but until then, I hope this picture will get your mouths watering:

cedar plank grilled halibut and steelhead trout

Back to Basics

Last month on an impulse I signed myself up for cooking classes through a local adult ed program. Basics of Cooking: I. There was an interesting range of students in the class, across a range of demographics, with incredibly varied comfort levels when it comes to cooking- from recent college grads just out of the dorms who haven't had much opportunity to cook, to a handful of 60+  men, one of whom made a joke on the second class (we had made 2 types of soup the class before) that he'd been eating soup all week, because it was the only thing he knew how to cook. While I do consider myself to in general be pretty comfortable with basic cooking at this point (at least compared to 6 months ago) I still felt like I was lacking an understanding of basic techniques and really wanted a solid foundation. There were some things I had tried to teach myself from articles or books (for example the proper way to dice an onion) that are so much better understood when you have a professional chef there teaching you, letting you know what to do differently and reassuring you when you do get it right.

At this point my class is nearly drawing to a close, and I decided to cook myself a nice back to basics dinner tonight and try out some new techniques and revisit my old standbys. So I decided on pan fried chicken, sweet potatoes and spinach salad.

Pan fried herb-y chicken thighs, rosemary sweet potatoes and baby spinach salad

I think it came out fabulous (and my taste-testing roommate agrees) my cooking class taught me to feel much more comfortable as I  chopped the sweet potatoes (though I wished I owned a bigger knife!) and I used my two big lessons on pan  frying learned in the class too- how to tell that the pan is hot enough before putting the meat on the pan, and that once the chicken is on the pan you better not move it or touch it until it is good and brown! I think it was misunderstanding these two things that had made pan frying such a challenge to me in the past- I would put food on the pan when it wasn't hot enough (or worse- too hot) and then I would turn and check it and move it around so often it never got nicely browned.

 I prepared the chicken just as we had one day in class- with a little olive oil and fresh herbs and that's it. The sweet potatoes were an old standby for me- cubed, coated in a little olive oil, and sprinkled with fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. And on the side a simple baby spinach salad with a quick vinaigrette: balsamic and red wine vinegars, olive oil, garlic mustard, and the remaining fresh cut herbs, and topped with a few unsalted almonds.

The whole process went so smoothly- none of the usual ridiculousness, nothing burned, everything was timed well,  I  didn't slice off any fingers... I think I should go back to basics more often!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

ice cream cookie sandwiches

On a hot, humid summery night can you imagine anything better than this homemade chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich? Me neither. Made with dark chocolate broken into chunks, and a bit of whole wheat flour, these homemade cookies made a perfect base for rich, cold vanilla ice cream. yum.


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