April 10, 2013 § 23 Comments
I have been having an absolute love affair with raw fennel lately. Every night and/or every time I’m at the market my little conversation with myself goes, “what kind of vegetable should we have with dinner? Broccoli? Nah. Cabbage? Not today. Kale? Meh. Ooh, how about a salad with shaved fennel. Oh, yes that sounds perfect.” And it keeps happening. Over and over. So what if I just ate a whole bulb? More fennel please.
It could just be one of my recent cravings. Or perhaps it’s because it’s the closest we’re getting to spring here right now. Still. (Not talking about the weather. I’m not talking about the weather. I’ll just put on another sweater, and not mention the weather.) But, on the whole, I’d say the jag started with this salad.
Fennel salad with burrata? Sign me up, and then give me seconds! Anything that includes buratta tends to be my dream meal. But, the fennel, with its sleek coat of lemon and olive oil and the icy cool of mint leaves was no second fiddle to the burrata’s main act (or what I thought would be the main act, before I sat down to eat).
And, that, in sum, is why I can’t stop eating fennel. I mean, a) I get to use my mandoline, which is always an exciting process because you flirt with losing your fingertips but then get parchment thin delicate sheets of fennel, all in a noodle-like tangle, out of the deal. And then, b) the 15 minute waiting period where the fennel bathes in a lemony dressing ever so slightly softens its crunch and freshens its flavor with the brightness of the lemon – both in juice and zest form – bolstering the anise notes of the vegetable. I fall for lemon-in-both-juice-and-zest-form’s show every time.
This salad, with grapefruit and curds of soft goat cheese is my most recent use of lemony fennel. There is nothing new about combining fennel’s sweetness with the juicy bittersweet of grapefruit. I feel like I have seen it in many a restaurant in past years at this very time of year, the transition time where we start picking up spring while still trailing a few threads of winter along with us. (Once I even had it as a fennel grapefruit salad with pine nuts and chunks of salted brittle candy. That was pretty tasty.) But, look at the word “marinated” there. Marinated makes it different! And new! « Read the rest of this entry »
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.
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.
June 28, 2011 § 7 Comments
Having lots of pots of herbs growing on our little balcony has allowed me to develop another brand new obsession. Salsa verde. I’m telling you people, this stuff is magical.
Imagine someone walking out to a lushly growing herb garden and snipping a bountiful spray of fresh herbs from each patch. Then, grinding them all together into an emerald green paste, with some garlic, capers, and anchovies because, you know, why not?!
The result is a massive wave that breaks over your taste buds in a spray of woodsy, grassy, briny, garlicky flavor. I’ve been racking my brain, and I don’t think I can think of anything else I’ve had in quite a while that packs so much beautifully blended and balanced flavor into even a tiny bite.
I discovered salsa verde when making a riff off of the summer squash gratin from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin. My mother and I cooked it up while I was at home, with a few tweaks and the addition of a hefty amount of extremely good Italian sausage. It was seriously delicious (though it had too much bread-crumb action sprinkled throughout for my taste).
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.
May 19, 2011 § 12 Comments
Alright, so since we’re talking about favorite children’s books (or at least, I am, and I really do think you should be too), let’s talk about peas shall we? If there is any better vegetable for a snippet of action in a children’s book to center around, I’m sure I can’t tell you what it is. Peas have it all. They have a funny name. They look funny, all green and rotund. They come in pods…It’s the ultimate trifecta of catchy vegetable characteristics! Of course, mostly peas are the subject of disgust in children’s books, especially if they’re in soup form. Though, I distinctly recall that the girls in the Little House books loved peas porridge (hot or cold!).
But, when I think of fresh spring peas, I think of a scene from one of my all time favorite books, The Ordinary Princess. In this scene, having run away because she hated how boringly proper she had to be as a princess, Princess Amy is hiding and has gotten work as an assistant kitchen maid in the kitchen of the royal palace of the neighboring kingdom. Amy and her friend Belinda (who really is a kitchen maid – rather than a princess pretending to be a kitchen maid, you see) are sitting shelling peas for a royal banquet and discussing what it might be like to be a princess. Wonderful situational irony. All the while Belinda keeps absent-mindedly popping peas into her mouth as they shell them and talking in a thick dialect. When she gets excited, she drops her Hs.
Anyway, it was this jolly image that I had in my mind as I prepared the peas for this soup, listening to the pop, pop, plop, plop of them tumbling into a bowl. I had peas leftover from making my spring vegetable jumble, and I had quite simply fixated on making a soup of them. I wanted to keep it light and fresh and was at first planning to let the flavor of the little peas carry the dish. But, then I remembered that I had some leftover coconut milk from the sauce for the lamb. Waste not, want not! Why shouldn’t this work just as well as cream for stirring into the soup for body and depth and, well, creaminess?
The coconut milk then compelled me (perhaps compelled is a bit strong, but it did drop a rather strong hint) to grate in just a little gnarly knob of ginger to tie the pea and coconut flavors together.
January 11, 2011 § 11 Comments
Wait!!! Before you cross your arms with a “harumph,” and turn away muttering, “Celery? Seriously? This is taking the whole healthy eating in the New Year thing too far. Celery is what you put in your rabbit’s hutch when it looks at you with big brown eyes that say ‘give me something crunchy but flavorless.’ It is not real human food…” Before you do that, first listen to me when I say, “I agree!” I really do. Unless it’s a vehicle for eating peanut butter and raisins, I rarely put celery into the category of food. Rarely. But, I do make occasional exceptions. After all, you do need celery to make a good mire poix for starting off many a soup or stew. And I wouldn’t have quite believed it, except that I tasted it myself (and by tasted, I mean devoured it), this salad gets a big old exemption as well.
The reason I made this salad it that I dreamed it. Literally. I woke up after having this salad in my dream, and I figured I really ought to give it a try in a waking state too. Not that being in one of my dreams necessarily makes something a good idea. Quite the opposite. I frequently dream about things like being in a train depot on the back of a giant turtle that is about to dive under the water, or climbing an endless staircase into an orange sky surrounded by people with balloon heads, or polar bears reenacting tragic love stories by Shakespeare (actually, that one might be a good idea. Venture capital investment opportunity anyone?). But, I had such a good feeling about this salad as I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and the rest of the details of my dream slipped into the fog of lost memories, that I couldn’t resist digging up the ingredients and giving it a try.
January 6, 2011 § 18 Comments
I’m really into “nibbles” right now. Ooh, doesn’t that just sound shee-shee and a little obnoxious when I say it?! “Why yes, dah-ling, I’m ever so posh, and I just adore nibbles. Don’t you?”…Oh well. So be it. Because I am. First off, I love the way the word sounds. It’s so much more fun than “hors d’oeuvres” (which is nearly impossible to spell, anyway), and way more fun than “small-plates.” I suppose I could go with “tapas”, but I just like “nibbles” better. And, of course, I also love eating them. In my mind nibbles are dishes that are small but immensely satisfying. Bites that explode with flavors and textures in your mouth! And because they are just little mouthfuls, you can have a wide variety of them in one meal, giving you a chance to sample a bit of this and a bit of that without finding yourself bursting your belt buckle by the end of the evening.
Because of this, lately I’ve frequently been finding myself creating meals that feature a spectrum of nibbles rather than a single coordinated main dish with sides. Especially for parties (which there was a rash of lately. What’s that about??! Joking.). You can coax your nibbles into a lovely unified theme, if you wish. All Italian or Eastern Asian, perhaps. But, because you eat each piece separately you can also give in to the desire to have a profusion of flavors with morsels representing cuisines from across the globe, or maybe just from your imagination.