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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A Greek Salad in Winter

February 28, 2012 § 16 Comments

The weeks are continuing to double time it in their march forward.  The days downright hurtle.  I duck as something goes whizzing uncontrollably over my head, then stand back up muttering, “holy bleep, was that Thursday?!”

I feel the insight of Lewis Carroll’s winsome scene in which Alice, on the cooky side of the looking glass, runs beside the Red Queen as the Queen explains that they’re not going anywhere, but rather everything is moving swiftly by them and, “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in place.”  (I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting my work on believing impossible things before breakfast, though.)

As I run to stay in place, I try to remember to notice my breath, feel my hands and feet, and to keep around a bottomless pot of soup and a sturdy salad so I can dip into them for several days.

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Butternut caponata

February 17, 2012 § 24 Comments

I was thinking of calling this butternata, which, to me, makes it sound like it is a sonata of or about butter, which sounds bizarre and wonderful.  Don’t you think?  But, I didn’t want to mislead anyone.  There is no butter involved here – though a generous hand with the olive oil more than makes up for that – except of the ‘nut squash variety.

And, speaking of butternut squash, have I told you about my friend and the bulk squash episode?  I probably have already.  But, I consider us all old friends here now, which means you’re going to have to listen to my stories, whether or not you’ve already heard them, and laugh and gasp and nod in all of the right places.  I can’t wait.

We have a friend who, one fall when he and his wife lived near us, tagged onto our CSA to buy a bulk order of winter squash.  And bulk was what he received.  I’m not even quite sure how many pounds of squash he ordered, but it was on a magnitude you’d usually associate with a grocer’s.  Joel is piping in, “it was probably, like, a hundred pounds. At least.”

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Pizza with mozzarella, lemon, and olives

January 27, 2012 § 16 Comments

I love to look at the work of various chefs, always trolling for ideas to pocket and have turn up sometime later, perhaps a little jumbled looking from having gone through the brain equivalent of a wash cycle, in meals I cook.  I think there must always be a little ticker tape running in my mind storing up a restaurant meal here, a recipe there.  Not that they ever seem to come back to me when I most want them to.  But, they’re influential.

The food ideas from some quadrants are delectably comfortable, vindicating in a sense.  I see them and I think, ‘oh that’s exactly how I would have done that!’ Or, ‘ha! I’ve made almost exactly that before!  I should make it again sometime.’

Some food ideas shake you up a little, splash some cold water in your face to wake you up from the food ruts we all settle into, at times more frequently than not.  These are the dishes that inspire you with an ‘I would never have thought of that!’ nudge.  Sometimes that ‘I would never have thought of that’ is followed by an ‘and I’m intimidated by the very idea, and don’t think I actually want to try making something like that at all.’  Other times it’s followed by an ‘and I will make it the next chance I get!’

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“Em’s Buns

September 26, 2011 § 6 Comments


…They’re cheeky! (TM)”  That’s the name and slogan of my imaginary company. In my mind I even have caps and aprons with this printed on them, along with a little line drawing of a rotund bun speckled with sesame seeds. You see, when I threaten to drop out of my PhD program, (which happens at least once a week, if not more. The threats increase with the approach of each deadline and then subside after successfully achieving said deadline.  It’s kind of one of my ways of pretending like I’m rebellious, and of asserting my sense of autonomy – and the word on the street is almost every PhD student under the sun does something similar, well except for the part to follow) my plan for what I will do next is to start a bicycle-pulled food stand from which I will sell little stuffed buns as an afternoon snack from 2:30-5pm.  And, it’s my idea, so don’t steal it!! 🙂

The idea for afternoon buns was inspired by the buns they have at the St. John Hotel. I’ve never had their afternoon buns, but I read their description of them as “warm little buttock-like buns” and I thought it was the most hilarious and ingenious thing ever. Basically everything Fergus Henderson does is genius.

A little stuffed bun is exactly what I want as a snack in the afternoon every day. So, I decided I absolutely had start working on making them.

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Herb jam a la Paula Wolfert

March 26, 2010 § 6 Comments

I’ve been having an long-running debate with myself about whether it’s ever worth it to go buy a bunch of parsley.  I’m not really a parsley girl to begin with (cilantro is another story – I’m fanatical!).  Then, so many recipes that call for parsley call for at most a couple of Tablespoons in the recipe and as a garnish.  And then you have this big bunch of parsley leftover, standing in a jar of water, getting more and more wilted in spite of your best efforts to garnish everything in site, until finally it’s so bedraggled looking you have to sacrifice it to the trash/compost (sadly this even happens frequently with leftover cilantro as well).  And I HATE wasting food.  So what’s the point?  I can make do without garnishes.  I could cheat and use a bit of dried parsley in dishes that call for the fresh stuff.  Maybe I should just cut fresh parsley out of my life all together.  Would that make me a poor excuse for a cook?

Well, a winner has suddenly been declared in this internal debate.  And, exactly on the opposite side of the one towards which I have been leaning for a long time.  Never again will extra parsley go to waste!  Indeed, I may start buying it in extra quantities.  Oh yes!  It’s true.  I have contrived to put parsley to use in a delicious and unexpected way that has completely changed my opinion of the stuff: herb jam.  Yes, it sounds totally weird.  But it tastes totally phenomenal!  Salty, earthy, a little smokey, a little bright and acidic, and only very slightly green.  So good, it may be my new favorite snack, and appetizer, and sandwich spread, and…you get the idea. « Read the rest of this entry »

Greek-spiced Shepherd’s Pie

December 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

(once again, pardon my subpar photography skills!)

I apologize if it’s a bit hard to read this post over the sound of me patting myself on the back.  Yeah, I’m a little proud of this one – mainly because it rates pretty high on the tasty-deliciousness meter and it used up a hefty two pounds of mashed potatoes that I had leftover from a lefse party (lefse is a Norwegian potato flatbread that is really best made at a party, preferably with a beer in one hand!).  The temperature has finally gotten legitimately wintery here.  Of course, I grew up in northern Minnesota, so whenever the subject of the cold comes up I have to act all extra tough (I mean, because I am, of course), and say things like, “This isn’t cold!  It never even gets really cold in Boston.  Try a couple of weeks of minus 40 and then get back to me about cold.”  This generally gets a lot of looks of shock and horror at the idea of that kind of weather, and then everyone returns to complaining about how cold it is.  Because it is.  Certainly, it is at least cold enough to have me hovering near my oven every evening coming up with reasons to turn it on.  Even if I’m making something on the stovetop, I’ve been able to scheme up some way to end it in the oven.  Case in point, this spiced up rendition of something akin to shepherd’s pie.

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Eggplant Caponata

August 29, 2009 § 4 Comments

Eggplant caponata

I was going to wait a few more days before I posted again (I don’t want to set too high of a standard for myself for frequency of writing, after all!), but I’m afraid I can’t stop myself because I’m completely overexcited by the dish I made last night. True to form, I had an unplanned assortment of ingredients to use, but the fact I had an eggplant inspired me to try to make dish a friend of mine had once served me, called a caponata. Caponata is a Southern Italian stew or spread that has a delicious and uniquely zesty combination of flavors that would be a good spread on crusty bread – potentially with salami (works with salty-sweet) or chicken (works with almost anything!) or over pasta, even rice. I looked at some recipes, and (not surprisingly) didn’t have all the ingredients, plus I had some extras I wanted to use up. So, I experimented. The flavors you want in a caponata are sweet, sour, and salty on top of the tender, almost creaminess, of cooked eggplant. Kind of like a Sicilian version of Chinese sweet and sour chicken…except completely different.

Here’s what I had: 1 onion, garlic, 1 eggplant, 1 zucchini, 1 patty-pan squash (a summer squash that looks a lot like a ufo), 2 large tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, olives, capers, raisins, a little sugar, and butter (normally I would have used olive oil here, but I was out). « Read the rest of this entry »

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