December 29, 2012 § 30 Comments
Hello there! ‘Tis really and truly the season, isn’t it?
I feel as though it’s been days since I’ve gotten to bed at a reasonable hour, drunk anything that didn’t come from a just uncorked bottle, or eaten a meal that didn’t end with cookies.
And it isn’t even New Year’s yet!
Which is terrifically fun. Obviously. Though is it horribly dull of me to say I’m ready to get back to our quieter everyday routine? What can I say, I’m a cancer. Home and hearth is where my heart is.
Plus, I’m looking forward to putting my shiny new Christmas gifts to use!
My family tried (and semi-succeeded) in going mildly minimal on gifting this year. That is to say, we gave presents that were things people needed (socks! Oh my gosh, I love socks! And I’m not even saying that in a sarcastic voice. I reeeeaally love getting socks as a present. Somehow I always need them.) or that were really high quality and would earn their keep with use.
December 8, 2012 § 13 Comments
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.
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 »
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.
January 6, 2012 § 26 Comments
Let’s take a moment to reflect on couscous, shall we? My family, as I recall, seems to have discovered couscous some time part of the way through my tenure in high school. I don’t know how my mother stumbled on it or decided to purchase it, all I remember is that she served it for the first time for supper one day (alongside pork tenderloin and acorn squash if my memory serves me correctly, which it tends to when it comes to meals), and it felt like the epitome of novelty.
I was certain we were eating something flashy, exotic, new, the food equivalent of getting the first version of the iphone, right when it came out. And this fit in lockstep with my budding epicurean ideals – which back in high school, I’ll admit, were more about the appearance of sophistication and taste than anything else. High school. Jeez.
Back then we just ate the Middle East brand couscous with the spice packet mixed in. That was fancy enough for us. (to extend the iphone metaphor: my phone gets internet!!! Oh my gosh! It totally doesn’t matter that it can’t seem to actually make phone calls most of the time…) But, as couscous has completely mainstreamed, I think most of us have come to expect a little more in the preparation of this tiny noodle. « Read the rest of this entry »
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.
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.)
June 5, 2011 § 11 Comments
Okay, I’m afraid this is going to have to be a short one. Like, a really short one. Blink and you’ll miss it! But anyways, I realized that when I was talking about my mushroom-falafels (or falafshrooms, if you prefer) I told you that I made a batch of homemade flatbread and then left you hanging. And, well, friends don’t tell friends about supple, chewy fresh-from-the-oven flatbreads and then not share the recipe. So, here it is!
It was partially inspired by a pita recipe, but then I remembered that, actually, I don’t like pitas as much as I like more tender, thicker enriched flatbreads, the style you might get at a Syrian restaurant for example. So, I fiddled with the recipe to make these breads more like those. With a little nod to naan, as well, since it’s my favorite flatbread. These are fairly easy as far as bread goes, and worth rolling your sleeves up and grabbing the mixing bowl for. Plus, you can make a bunch and freeze some (in freezer bags) to reheat later. If you’re me this will turn out to be a mere two days later. Oh well. I’ll just have to make another batch soon. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 1, 2011 § 41 Comments
Mushroom-falafel! (Yes, the exclamation point is necessary there.) It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, I’ll admit. But, what was I supposed to call it? Mushlafel? Falafshroom? See? Those are even worse sounding. But, like the kid with the weird name who is so awesome that by the end of the year all the other kids also want to be named Kermit too, this mushroom-falafel is so fabulous it straight-up owns its name.
I’m a little embarrassed that I get as excited as I do when I make something really good. But, I do. I get quite delighted with myself, in fact, and can’t wait to share how delicious said really good thing is. This dish definitely falls into that category.
It started with a falafel craving.
One of the most unfortunate things about having discovered an intolerance to a sprouting inhibitor enzyme (besides not being able to eat almonds, but I’ll save that complaint for another day) is that I no longer eat falafel because of the chickpeas. It’s a huge loss because I used to practically live off of falafel. I was obsessed with the stuff.
December 19, 2010 § 21 Comments
I seem to have a problem right now. A little glitch in the way my Christmas spirit is playing out. I am not a shopper by any means. For the most part I avoid it with an admirable (I think) level of assiduity. And when I do have to shop, I psych myself up, put on my game face…and then still only last 10-15 minutes before I start to get childishly irritable. Anything I thought that I wanted or needed evaporates from my mind and I enter this amazing ascetic state of not wanting anything except to get out (it’s especially bad in TJ Maxx, even though, yes, I know the store can be incredibly handy for finding things you need like new towels or work clothes that don’t have worn out hems and pockets that lead people to raise a slightly judgmental eyebrow at you). But lately, happily, it has been the time to do some shopping for others, which in general I much prefer.
We’ve been scurrying around, wish lists in tow, searching for the standard hopalong boots for Barney and Ben and that doll that walks and talks for Janice and Jen, and so on. And I keep finding things for myself instead! I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to buy more for yourself than for your entire family shopping list combined, but there these lovely things are sitting on the shelves begging me to give them just a little closer look. A book that I suddenly remembered I want to read. Some awesome eggplant purple running shorts on clearance. Adorable polka dotted napkins. Oh, and this fabulous little individual-sized, red Le Creuset baking dish – on super sale! How could I not buy it? (Don’t answer that.) « Read the rest of this entry »
June 22, 2010 § 6 Comments
If you picture yourself walking down the path of your life, what do you see? A straight path? Hilly with amazing vistas? Through deep dark woods? All of the above? I’m starting to feel like in my own life, I’m taking a rather circuitous, meandering route. It’s as though I’m putsing and poking about, the actual path way off somewhere to the left. Back there, before I got distracted by a berry bush or a patch of wildflowers and wandered off. Sometimes it feels as if there is no continuity, no path at all. But, then I find myself looking at a familiar tree or rock and thinking, ‘hey! I’ve been this way before!’ And, each time I touch back onto the path, I have come at least a very short distance further than I had before. It’s another way in which my cooking, amusingly, mirrors life.
Maybe you do this too. You discover a recipe, or try making something new, and fall in love with it. So you go through a spurt of making it over and over and over. Until it starts to come burbling out of your ears, and then you stop. And completely forget about it. Until you come across it in your old notes to yourself, or a meal somewhere else jogs your memory, or, I don’t know, it comes to you in a dream. Then you start making it again, maybe tweaking it or experimenting with it, making it more your own, and you wonder, ‘Why on earth did I ever stop making this? It’s totally the bomb!’ (yes, I’m sorry to say that inside your mind you still call things ‘the bomb’). But, eventually you stop making it and forget about it, until you rediscover it and reclaim it once more.
Okay, maybe you actually don’t do this, but I can tell you for certain that I do. And, these Turkish flatbreads are a prime example of it. I first encountered a description of Turkish flatbread a few years ago in the great Paula Wolfert’s, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. It’s one of a small handful of foods in the book that don’t take between 4 hours and a week to cook, but even if it had, I probably would have made it. In the preface to the recipe Ms. Wolfert conjurs up the aura of a steamy, bustling marketplace in Turkey where she bought slices of the slightly flaky, fragrant bread, bubbling and oozing with pungent cheese, still scalding hot from a coal fired oven. Upon reading it, I immediately went and checked on the price of tickets to Turkey. Yikes! Nothing doing. So, I settled for baking flatbread, though settled is hardly the right word for it. Her version calls for simply stuffing them with runny, stinky (in the good way) teleme cheese, which is what I did. And, for several weeks I did my best to monopolize the local cheese shop’s supply of teleme, and baked veritable stacks of flatbread. But, as suddenly as I started, I stopped. I probably got distracted by a desire to eat tomatoes, or kale, or something.