Roasted cauliflower with harissa cream

December 8, 2012 § 13 Comments

cauliflower harissa pom 1

I’m back.  Phew.

I think 3 1/2 days at a time is my new favorite way to be in Boston.  In 3 1/2 days I can cram in almost all my favorite things (friends! colleagues!  Bread products! Riding along the river on a classic Dutch commuter bike that is beautiful but also insanely heavy!) and avoid the majority of the things that drove me slightly batty when living there.

But now I’m back, and in my kitchen banging out some semblance of meals including, a) some very awesome homemade pasta with butter and anchovies last night, and b) cauliflower with harissa cream several times.  The latter (at least for the purposes of this conversation) is the more important by far.

homemade harissa

Perhaps you have not been waiting with bated breath for this cauliflower, but I have!

I’m not even sure why I love this cauliflower so very much.  I just do.  I love the dark, charred frill that develops on the edges of the golden roasted cauliflower florets.  I love how the minute pocks and crevices of the cauliflower make the perfect surface for catching the sauce.

I love how incomprehensibly soft and mellow the garlic cloves become, and the wrinkled skin the olives develop.  I love how they all work together, if you carefully assemble a forkful with one of each, and how they are equally delicious each on their own if you can’t be bothered with focused bite construction. « Read the rest of this entry »

Slow cooked Greek green beans

September 10, 2012 § 10 Comments

Did you have to take timed tests in elementary school?  (To this day I’m still not entirely sure whether they were called timed tests or times tests, after all, they were used for learning the times tables.)  A couple minutes to complete as many problems as you can multiplying by 7.  A couple minutes to complete as many problems as you can dividing by nine.  Awful.  Awful awful awful.  There’s a pit in my stomach now, just remembering.

I’ve never done well with time pressure.  I freeze up when I’m in a hurry, making stupid mistakes, leaving a trail of minor disasters.  But, I also hate being late.  So, I won’t just take the extra time I sometimes need.  Basically, time, deadlines, and I all keep slightly different schedules.  And I occasionally lose my sanity  trying to force them into alignment.

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Grilled chorizo and flatbread with charred vegetables

August 9, 2012 § 14 Comments

Ok, I’m going to come out and say it.  There’s a certain point every summer at which I start to get a little annoyed by the sheer bounteousness of summer produce.  I mean, I love it, I really do, but it’s just so freaking beautiful and abundant.  It’s kind of like that person you know who is really smart and talented and beautiful and then they’re nice on top of it, and and eventually you’re like, “come on!  Can’t you at least be neurotic?!”  I get a little bit that way about summer vegetables.  (Please tell me this doesn’t make me a horrible person, though, clearly, I have issues.)

We put summer produce on sun-soaked a pedestal, cooing over it and the way it needs only a little sprinkling of salt, maybe a drizzle of good olive oil.  We rhapsodize perfect garden tomatoes or fresh sweet corn like we do our first love.  And it’s all true, and completely deserved.  Fresh summer produce is miraculous.  It really would be a shame to do much more than serve it in a minimalist state, an ode to the garden.  And the essays that have been written on the subject, well, I have nothing to add to them that hasn’t been said. « Read the rest of this entry »

Parsnips and dates with tahini-yogurt

January 31, 2012 § 24 Comments

I am going to start by saying that as a general rule, it is not a good idea to substitute ingredients for one another based on color.  At least, don’t do it all willy-nilly.  Sure, sweet potato bits can stand in for cubed butternut squash pretty well, and many leafy greens are swingers, changing partners and taking one anothers’ places at will.

But, you may not always get that lucky.  At least some small morsel of thought is required.

A cautionary tale: one of my very dearest friends lived along with my self and eight other fairly hapless souls in a large, elegantly dilapidated house on the edge of campus our junior year of college.  We all shared a kitchen and subjected each other to our culinary experiments, and dirty dishes, at will.  My lovely friend (who is now an excellent cook, so let that be a lesson in perseverance) produced a wide variety of extremely, um, innovative foods, many of which were about as edible as a chocolate truffle rolled in glass shards.

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Roasted orange chutney

January 24, 2012 § 12 Comments

English is a language with a lot of great idiomatic phrases, so I take slight umbrage at the fact that there is no good taste equivalent for the saying “I could see it in my mind’s eye.”  At least, I don’t think there is.  If anyone out there knows one, will you please share it with me?  I would use it all the time.  I would probably drive everyone around me to drink, I would use it so often.  (So maybe it’s actually good I don’t know such a phrase.  It prevents the need for an intervention – for my overuse of it, or for the induced drinking problem in those who are sick of hearing it, I couldn’t say…)

It’s how I think about recipes, ingredients, and cooking.  I think many people who cook a lot do.  I imagine ingredients and preparations and I taste what they would be like in my mind’s mouth (ergh, see, that sounds ridiculous) before even cracking open the cupboards in the pantry.  And, when I see a dish of some sort, I do the same thing.

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Really Crazy Good Brussels Sprouts

November 8, 2011 § 41 Comments

I hyperbolize now and then.   I just get kind of excited about things, you know.  And this results in my mind sorting through its shelves of adjectives and quickly reaching for the binder labeled, ‘superlative’ and then spilling the contents everywhere.

“Amazing!” “Perfect!”  “Even more perfect!” “Absurdly and/or uncontrollably great/fabulous/wondrous/awesome/stupendous” “The most mind-boggling, off the hook, and all together unbelievable paragon of X ever to have graced the face of the Earth…”  That kind of thing.

So I was thinking of trying to use understatement for effect, for a change.  Go all Garrison Keillor and say, “oh ya, these were pretty good Brussels sprouts.”  But, I couldn’t.  Because they weren’t.

They were really crazy good Brussels sprouts.  So I’m going to go ahead and call them that. « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted bell pepper soup

September 8, 2011 § 23 Comments

I feel a bit as though bell peppers are raining down on my head.  Tumble, plump, bumble, plop, boing… And then scattering across the floor.  Thankfully they aren’t actually, though I imagine it wouldn’t be entirely unpleasant.  But, it would make a lot of peppers to clean up – and they’d require extra scrubbing after being on the floor and all.

Anyhow, we do have bell peppers in abundance.  More than can be reasonably used, even through a well strategized line up of stir fries with peppers, pasta with peppers, salad with peppers, and sauteed melanges of who knows what but it definitely includes peppers…with peppers.

I thought about pickling them and packing them by the peck (into pints, of course), and it may yet come to that.  But, in the meantime, the clever, immediate, and entirely delectable solution was soup.  Roasted pepper soup.

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Beet Tzatziki

August 6, 2011 § 13 Comments

If you are like me, you have been existing for years in a sorry state of existence in which the only vegetable mixed into a tzatziki sauce is the cucumber (which isn’t even technically a vegetable, oh, and I suppose garlic is, but anyway, we’re not going to go there).  No more!  This limited viewpoint is about to come to an end.  Come with me into a brave new world, and allow me to introduce you to beet tzatziki, a delightful gem of a spread/dip/salad/midnight snack…

Backing up just a bit, I, oddly enough, have my recent packed schedule of research focus groups to thank for this discovery.  You see, I have somehow become one of my department’s experts in focus group moderating.  I don’t even quite know how it came about, I just know that now I not only do my own focus groups, I help out with those of other research projects as well.

I seem to have an affinity for it, especially focus groups with kids.  (The secret?  I find if you just stare at people expectantly for long enough, they’ll get uncomfortable and start talking.  No, but, actually, I think the most important thing is being genuinely interested in what people have to say. It comes across.)

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Kohlrabi slaw and flounder with lemon and garlic scapes (the rest of the meal!)

July 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

In spite of having a substantial dose of the type A in my personality, planning is not one of my strong suits.  Particularly not the detailed kind.  When I plan, checklists, and spreadsheets, and timelines usually fail to make an appearance. Instead, I make a broad sweep through the general idea of what’s going on, or what I’d like to have happen, and then I have a tendency to assume it will just fall into place.

I have been known to forget to order chairs for an event, or to reserve a room for a meeting, or assign tasks to people.  Sometimes I think it’s because I don’t try hard enough.  That if I were more patient and focused, I would be able to keep track of details.

But really, often it’s not for lack of trying that I don’t plan adequately, it’s because sometimes it simply doesn’t even occur to me to think about the things I miss.  I try hard, but they never make even a cursory appearance in my brain.   It has a bit of the same sticky mental feeling about it as the way, no matter how hard I think about it, I can never spell guarantee right on the first try.

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Hakurei turnip puree

June 13, 2011 § 19 Comments

So, for the duration of the Massachusetts growing season, I’m thinking about doing one post every week or so about cooking with some of the less common of the vegetables we receive in our CSA.  I’m thinking about calling it: “What the f$*# do I do with…?”

It seemed like such a great idea.  Actually maybe it still is a great idea, but my confidence in it is somewhat shaken.

Why?  Because, in our very first share this year, which I picked up last Thursday (in an impressively dramatic thunderstorm – quarter-sized hail anyone?) the first challenge I was confronted with was one I don’t think I can actually surmount.  Turnips.

I love vegetables.  Love them.  A lot.  There are very, very few vegetables I can think of that I don’t really like. The sum total that I can think of off the top of my head are: okra and turnips.

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