Roasted chicken with dill and leeks

September 22, 2012 § 16 Comments

I think I have mentioned it before (yup, I have – just checked), but there was a lucky day once when I was home from college on winter break when I got to cook with the Norwegian food writer, cook, and TV personality Andreas Viestad.  Ok, it’s not Anthony Bourdain or Jamie Oliver, but for me it was pretty dang close.  Even better, actually, being the cooking and writing obsessed Scandophile that I am.

He was giving a book talk and signing at our church, accompanied by a cooking demo.  Our family friend and cookbook author Bea Ojakangas recruited my mother and me along with another friend to help with the food preparation.

I’m pretty sure, when it comes down to it, we were asked there more for our Norwegian language skills than our cooking skills, but I wasn’t concerned, I still felt special.  From the experience I took away some cooking pointers, a minor crush, and a signed copy of Viestad’s cookbook.

It’s a beautiful book.  One I have loved as much for the beautiful landscape pictures that reminded me of all my childhood summers in Norway as for the simple, flavorful recipes.  After break, I brought the book back to share with my college housemates as I excitedly told them about getting to cook with the cute Norwegian chef.  Soon, everyone in our house – boys and girls alike – referred to Viestad as the “cute Norwegian chef” rather than by name, and a number of recipes from his book had become regulars in the rotation of our household meals (we cooked for each other and ate together 5 nights a week). « Read the rest of this entry »

Spiced sweet potato and leek cakes

April 3, 2012 § 20 Comments

Were I a poet, I would write odes in celebration of cardamom.

Actually, now that I give my bold statement a little thought, were I a poet, I would probably have much more profound and brooding things to write about.  For example, what a sparrow isn’t.

(This is an actual discussion that Joel and I once had, after hearing a pair of essays by a husband and wife one of whom is a poet and the other a novelist. What a sparrow isn’t comes up as a poetic theme.  Later on a walk, I asked Joel what he thought of when he imagined what a sparrow isn’t, and he launched into a long musing exploration of the fluttering energy each little life on this earth has and the vacuum that could be left were it not there and how this might change the overall universe.  Then he asked what came to my mind when I thought of what a sparrow isn’t.  “An elephant and a beach ball,” I replied.  Joel writes poetry.  I don’t.)

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Savory pear Dutch baby

November 24, 2010 § 15 Comments

Boston is a brunch city.  This is one of the first things I really noted about the place after moving here a few years ago.  Other characteristics I was more prepared for, the Red Sox fervor, the horrendous driving (you could use Bostonian driving to define the word abysmal), the unfortunate weather, the massive quantities of students stuffed into every historic nook and cranny.  But, the brunch fanaticism, I was not prepared for.
Somehow, and who knows how, it has become a deeply rooted issue of culture and identity out here.  Discussions about the best places for brunch are loving gush fests centered on hollandaise and stuffed French toasts, though disagreements can come close to blows.  Oh, and any meal on the weekend that comes before dinner is called brunch.  That was the most confusing part for me.  People would invite me to brunch and when I’d ask what time they’d say 2pm.  Isn’t that a late lunch??
Apparently not.
I enjoy brunch foods, but I am not a brunch person.  I am a breakfast person.  One of those people who wakes up already reaching from their bed for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.  And if I don’t eat within approximately 30-45 minutes of waking up, I melt into an incapacitated, shaky, whiny, grouchy lump of low blood sugar.  So, if I’m going to have brunch, I usually have breakfast first.
This works especially well on the day after a holiday like Thanksgiving.  I languidly wake up – a couple of hours before everyone else – and while they slowly creak their eyes open and take a few hours to contemplate the idea of having something to eat (a hair of the dog that bit you after an extravagant feast like Thanksgiving, you could say) I get to dive into the leftovers of the pie, with some whipped cream of course, for breakfast.  And by the time everyone else is ready for brunch, well, I am too!

What to bring to a potluck with foodies – rustic butternut squash tart

December 11, 2009 § 9 Comments

No, I don’t consider myself a foodie. Seriously, I don’t.  Sure I like to eat, but come on, that’s just human nature. The species wouldn’t have survived very long if we were anti-eating. I like to eat good, high quality food, but I’m not going to freak if the texture or flavor of something I make doesn’t measure up to an ideal standard in my head. And I like to cook (well, on my good days), but I think I have too utilitarian of an approach to food preparation to be a foodie. Most of my cooking adventures are born out of the desire to make something that will taste good and be nourishing, without having to make an extra trip to the grocery store. And, If I see a recipe that looks inspiring, my first step is usually to figure out how I can do it with fewer steps, less complicated techniques, and fewer dirty bowls.

That said, now and then we all want to be a little bit impressive, whether it’s cooking for a date, a special party, or as was my case yesterday, for a potluck for a bunch of friends who actually are foodies. For these occasions, I have discovered that the best ways of being impressive are: making something actually complicated and unbelievable – probably involving phyllo dough, bringing a really nice big salad because that’s really hard to screw up, or making something that is visually impressive but is quite easy to make like a trifle (ie. layers of whipped cream, cake chunks, and berries) or a rustic tart.

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