Pasta with eggplant, tomatoes, and ricotta

August 18, 2011 § 24 Comments

Did you know that eggplants kick their blossoms off if they don’t get fertilized?  Just kick them off!  Like a bouncer unceremoniously tossing an unruly guest, by the collar, out into the back alley.  “And stay out!”  I know this now, after a bit of internet gardening-forum perusing, gasping, re-searching, and confirming.

As you may well have imagined, I developed a sudden, keenly focused, interest in the subject after I kept finding the blossoms of our eggplant lying scattered about on the porch below it, completely open and intact, un-chewed upon, as if they had been strewn by an industrious flower girl.  I had missed the wedding though.

At first I suspected birds or insects.  I imagined little beetles and ants popping the blossoms off and tossing them to the ground, laughing and egging each other on.  Like the insect version of cow tipping.  Until, finally, one day it happened right in front of my eyes.  One moment the blossom was on the plant, and the next it just fell off.  As if the eggplant simply didn’t want it anymore and was cutting it off, disowning it, which, I guess, in a sense, is what was happening.

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Leeks two ways – caramelized with pasta and leeks vinaigrette

May 6, 2010 § 8 Comments

Being a graduate student, where I work is mostly flexible.  And being that the people Joel works with are frequently out of the country, he too is sometimes able to work for a day or half day away from the office.  So, sometimes we go together and work in a coffee shop for the morning.  It’s a lovely little change of pace.  Of course, then sometimes Joel loads me up with the extra stuff that he doesn’t want to bike with to work.  Something like, say, hypothetically, a messenger bag full of 3 year’s worth of files and papers, and a computer, and a couple of books, and some New Yorker magazines, and some rocks or bowling balls or something that was really darn heavy.  And then, I wind up walking home carrying all of this, plus my own ungodly heavy bag of research stuff and text books and sketchbooks and some extra layers of clothing that I’ve had to shed because I’m all hot from the exertion of walking with so much stuff.  And of course, this would be the moment when I walk by the market and decide that I really need to buy a leek.   (No, not take a leak; buy a leek).

I don’t know if this is at all normal, but I have pretty powerful internal voices, at least when it comes to food (they don’t really help me much in other areas of my life).  So, if something in me says, “ooh, leeks! Buy some!”  I heed it.  Of course, given that I was already carrying half a gazillion pounds of stuff, it would only be reasonable to discover that all the leeks that were available were ginormous.  And heavy.  Each one was over a pound – I’d say normal for leeks is about one third of that.  But, I bought some anyway, and determined that if I did not break my back on the way home, I would have cause to celebrate.  Preferably by cooking some leeks, what else?! « Read the rest of this entry »

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Ever, in a sense

March 17, 2010 § 6 Comments

Happy St. Patrick’s Day (and St. Urho’s Day yesterday!).  I know according to some generally accepted food writing standard I’m supposed to be making use of this holiday conversation starter to share some recipe for colcannon or bangers and mash or Irish soda bread.  But, I’m afraid I haven’t made any of those lately.  Though I feel an affinity for Irish folks – my Viking ancestors having pillaged and conquered their villages and such (always have to give my Irish friends a hard time on St. Patty’s day) – I’ve never gotten into celebrating the holiday.  Ack, wait!  Don’t pinch me!  Here’s something green.  And not to worry, I’ll certainly be raising a pint tonight.

I’ve been musing about growing up lately.  I just don’t feel like I make a particularly good grown up (growing old is a different story – I have high hopes of being a totally eccentric, white-haired old spitfire of a woman someday).  Growing up has its perks, for sure.  But, why are we expected to get so darn serious as we grow up?  Life is too important to take seriously, I say!  I still secretly want to be a ballerina.  I still look for fairies and elves in the trees and flowers.  I would rather chase after falling leaves and stomp in puddles than go running and do yoga (though I enjoy both of those too).  It keeps things magical. « Read the rest of this entry »

Pasta with Butternut Squash and (optional) Sausage

February 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

Here’s another one, like that cabbage, that I have been meaning to write about for a while and somehow have kept not getting around to, even though it’s really good.  I don’t know what the deal is with that.  I think it just takes a bit of turning things over in my mind before I can think of anything to say about them, since I do keep trying to be remotely interesting.  I’m kind of like Mr. Collins who delights in spending some of his spare time in devising little compliments to pay the ladies, but tries to give them as unstudied of an air as possible (obscure Pride and Prejudice reference – I’m afraid I’ve read that book more times than I can count; I’m a hopeless romantic/geek).  That is to say, I often think for a while about a food or a subject to try to come up with at least one amusing (well, at least to me) thing to say about it, and then I’ll suddenly sit down and write in a stream of consciousness.

So now, after ample amounts of time to muse on the topic of pasta with butternut squash, what earth shattering insights do I have to offer?  Er, um, well, none, really.  Except that it’s just really, really delicious.  According to Joel, it’s one of the best things he’s ever eaten (unfortunately for my ego, this was in reference to a version that a friend of ours made, oh well).  It’s a great fall-ish dish for when butternut squash has just come into season, but it’s also cozy and warming in winter when you suddenly discover that you still have a box of butternut squash stored very cleverly under piles of aprons, grocery bags, tupperwares, and other miscellany in your pantry (I take a cue from squirrels, hiding things so “cleverly” I forget about them and can’t find them if I’m looking for them).  Sweet, mild butternut squash is so good with a little sharp cheese and olive oil tossed with pasta and salty, rich Italian sausage (sweet or spicy).  I’m sure it would be good with bacon or pancetta bits instead of sausage.   And, if you don’t eat meat, it’s just as good without it too.

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Ricotta gnocchi with goat cheese and artichoke sauce

February 3, 2010 § 2 Comments

It is February in Boston.  It is incessantly grey.  Moldy grey.  Grey beyond grey.  It is during short grey days like these that I am so very appreciative of simply having supper with people.  Whether it’s just Joel and me, or dinner with friends, that little evening ritual of sitting in each other’s company and sharing a meal together really keeps me going.  This weekend we were lucky enough to have dinner with friends both Saturday and Sunday (especially lucky because we’re painting the kitchen, which is going at about the rate of cold molasses, and it was pretty out of commission on Saturday).  On Saturday we were treated to the most spectacular meal!  Our friend Jamie must have spent the entire day in the kitchen.  Maybe the day before too.  While we sat like lumps – albeit talkative, appreciative, hungry lumps – he paraded out pizzas, artfully topped with creative combinations of fine cheeses, greens, and nuts; homemade sweet potato ravioli with brown butter, crème fraiche, and prosciutto; and dense, decadent chocolate pots de crème dribbled with freshly made caramel sauce, dollopped with caramel whipped cream, and dusted with just a hint of fleur de sel.  I mean seriously!  Wow!  Thank goodness we at least we brought a nice bottle of wine.  I decided right then and there a) I might just refuse to leave, or at least show up every evening for the rest of my life demanding to be fed, b) his wife is really lucky she has a fast metabolism, c) I really need (not want, need) to buy The French Laundry Cookbook, d) there’s really something to putting a lot of time and care into preparing food for friends.  Although the meal was transcendently delicious because the combination of ingredients and preparation were so perfectly executed, I am absolutely convinced that it also tasted that good because it had been sprinkled with the fairy dust of care. « Read the rest of this entry »

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