Black pepper shortbread with chevre, pine nuts, and marinated summer squash

August 15, 2012 § 9 Comments

As we get ready to leave Boston, people keep asking me if I have a Boston bucket list, the things I want to do – or do one last time – before we skip town for colder, more birch tree and lake filled climes.  I don’t for the most part.  My bucket list is really seeing people, the close friends or just the daily faces that are so familiar.

It’s entirely expected that I’ll miss our dear, wonderful friends, our neighbors, my fellow doctoral students.  I’ll miss them like the dickens.  What is less expected, but is a realization creeping up on me is how much I will probably wind up missing the UPS man, the hip barristas at the local coffee shop, the sandwich crafting artistes at the cafe, the goofy kids at the cash register at the dog bakery (yes, there’s a dog bakery in our neighborhood), the fellow dog owners I wave at every day when I’m out with Squid, the old guy in the short shorts and helmet from the early ’80s who rides his bike everywhere all year round.

These are the personalities, colors, faces, voices that make up what we have of community here.

Also on my bucket list is simply keeping my eyes open to appreciate the daily sights here.  We have a wonderful view from our apartment of lush tree tops and just the hints of skyscraper tops (Boston has all of 4 or 5 skyscrapers).  It’s Boston, so there are truly historic sites tucked in here and there and everywhere amidst daily life.  The trees and vines, flowers and bushes of the arboretum look like fairyscapes right now, so I’m trying to remember to breathe them in amidst the frenzy of everything else going on.

And, no surprise, there is a bit of a food bucket list.  We’re making quick runs to our favorite farm stands, an unhealthy number of stops at our favorite bakeries and ice cream shop, and by the end of next week, we’ll probably be floating away on a river of really excellent iced coffee.

Most exciting of all (well, maybe not of all, but it was definitely exciting), we finally went on a hot date to a rather fancy restaurant that we’ve been daydreaming about trying for a while.  For all my interest in food and reading of restaurant reviews in the Times, I have been to very few seriously fine dining establishments (approximately zero, before this).  I’ve been a grad student for a while, and all!  So, though I love the idea of it, I’m completely intimidated by fancy restaurants, and we probably would not have wound up going in the end had Joel’s aunt and uncle not brilliantly and generously given us a gift certificate as a birthday present.

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Crostini with squash and kale

October 21, 2011 § 7 Comments

Curse the design and marketing team at Crate & Barrel!  Curse them for being good at their jobs!  Here we are, still knee deep in October (arguably the best month of the year), and an idle flip through their latest catalogue has left me jonesing for Christmas (not only Christmas, but all sorts of related decorative elements that I truly do not need).

Christmas is, it must be said, my very favorite holiday and my favorite season (I have a major failing for twinkle lights and Christmas carols.  What can I say?  Character flaw, perhaps.), so it doesn’t take a ton to get me excited about it and chomping at the bit for it to come.  But, to do so to the detriment of appreciating fall, glorious fall, well that would be tragic.

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Zucchini Ricotta Fritters

September 16, 2011 § 10 Comments

I feel like I’ve been wanting to make zucchini pancakes (or fritters, I’ve seen them called both.  They’re the savory small kind of pancakes, not zucchini bread-esque sweet ones) since approximately the dawn of time.  Though, when I think about it a little bit more carefully, it’s more like since about mid-July.

Remember Sofra Bakery and Cafe, which I mentioned a while back? (More accurately, which I gushed over, swooned over, and nearly asked to marry me, even though Joel, I think, would have been slightly peeved if I had run off with a bakery-cafe.  I, on the other hand, would have been very well fed.  But perhaps starved for conversation.  Anywho…)  When we were there, I watched (I have a terrible staring habit sometimes) as a young woman, wearing aviator sunglasses if I remember correctly, sprang up to fetch her order when her name was called, and walked back to her seat carrying a dainty copper tray laden with a stack of slim golden cakes, flecked with green.  What were they?  Whatever it was, I had missed it.  My eyes darted up to the menu and scanned over it again.  They had to be the zucchini pancakes.  I was instantly consumed by food envy.

Then I turned back to my flatbread, stuffed with cumin-spiced sausage, oranges, green olives, and yogurt sauce, and I was pretty much entirely happy again.  But, zucchini pancakes stayed on my mind.

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Homemade ricotta (and a honeyed grape compote)

August 15, 2011 § 15 Comments

If you are of the ilk of people who spend a considerable (some may say disproportionate – I say proper) amount of time thinking, preparing, and reading about food (My people!  Hello!), or if you are an Italian nonna, then making your own ricotta cheese may be old news to you.  Old news, but then hey, you have no excuse for not having some sitting freshly made in your refrigerator right now, now do you?

If it is not old news to you, well then my friend, do I have some news for you!!!  Run, don’t walk, gather the ingredients, and make some.  Now!  Well, read this first.  I give you permission. 🙂

I will make no secret of my love for ricotta.  It is a profound adoration, really.  It’s nearly as passionate as my love for whipped cream (and it may be slightly healthier). I know it’s a fairly commonplace activity to imagine what clouds taste like – come on!  don’t even try to tell me I’m the only one who thinks about that – and while most dream up clouds of marshmallows or cotton candy, I think they taste like ricotta.  Smooth and airy, billowing in your mouth and then melting into a pool of cream on your tongue…

I would just eat it with a spoon.  I do just eat it with a spoon.  Though, generally only when no one is looking.

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Goat cheese crostini with Meyer lemon, olive, and fig relish

February 28, 2011 § 8 Comments

I had never cooked with Meyer lemon before this winter.  In fact, I don’t think I’d ever even tried Meyer lemon before this winter.  Not that this need be particularly surprising.  After all, Meyer lemons tend to be the provenance of California back yards and farmer’s markets, neither of which are exactly easy to find in New England.  And, if you’re not in California it’s a little bit harder to come by Meyer lemons because they have a delicate constitution and don’t much like traveling.  So, you mostly have to head to high end or specialty grocer’s to find them.  And there they cost a few pretty pennies more than your plain old workhorse lemons, which has always led me to pass them by.

But somehow about a month ago I found myself with my hand hovering over the sunny pile of Meyer’s tumbling voluptuously out of a barrel at the market.  I mean, maybe it was time to find out what all the fuss was about.  Or maybe it was just that the saturated goldenrod color of the lemons, the same radiant hue as the yolk of an egg from a very happy chicken, was too appealing in cold, dark mid-January to pass by.  I bought one.  Then I had to start searching for what to do with it.  There is certainly no shortage of options.  You can add zest and juice from Meyer lemons to pastas, sauces and soups or any variety of baked goods.  Because the skin of the Meyer is paper thin and supple you can eat it along with the rest of the lemon, allowing you to slice the lemon thinly and tuck it within the folds of the batter of cakes or quick breads or casseroles.  You can even batter and fry pieces of the lemon as a crispy appetizer.  I decided to go with making a tart.  Which was lovely, but left me with the distinct feeling that the custard filling of the tart was actually enveloping some of the character of the lemon in a haze (albeit a delicious creamy haze), preventing it from shining as much as I had a sneaking suspicion it could. « Read the rest of this entry »

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