March 19, 2013 § 20 Comments
I wasn’t kidding about the soups (I even made another one today for lunch. This one, in fact, but with kale instead of cabbage). And, as you can see, I definitely wasn’t kidding about the spinach and pine nut soup. Actually, I used the soup and my desire to make it as an excuse to have an impromptu St. Patrick’s/St. Urho‘s day dinner for a few friends. Clearly there is nothing very Irish (or Finnish for that matter) about spinach and pine nuts, but check out how green that soup is! I decided that with a side of soda bread and some good Irish butter and cheddar it would suit us just fine.
And it did. It’s actually quite a wonderful soup. No wonder I used to make it as a starter for dinner parties all the time! Come to think of it, I think I first served this soup (or a version of it) at the first serious dinner party I ever hosted. That was back in the day, back during my sophomore year of college, if I remember correctly.
Courtesy of my first year of college, I developed such an aversion to the food at the school’s dining hall, I convinced the school to let me not be on a meal plan at all, and I started cooking for myself in the tiny – and usually disgusting with other students’ crusty leftover midnight macaroni and cheese pots and half eaten bags of microwave popcorn – dorm kitchen down at the end of the hallway.
That was pretty much my start of cooking seriously for myself, though in this context “serious” meant a lot of chicken breasts with steamed broccoli interspersed with granola or Special K bars for dinner. (The Special K bar dinner was the saddest.) I also discovered how very lonely it can be to sit and eat dinner in silence by yourself every single night. I suppose that must have contributed to my passion for sharing meals, and I started devising ways to coax others to dine with me. « Read the rest of this entry »
December 21, 2012 § 17 Comments
I imagine, if you are like me, what you need right now is not another cookie or another cup of punch. What you need is the world’s quickest and easiest tasty dinner, so you can be well fed between the events, between all the time commitments demanded by crafting the elegant meals and trays of cookies required for the days that are the events, between the traditions that can’t be monkeyed with.
And on some days, you may want that meal to be something other than spaghetti. Nothing against spaghetti. I love spaghetti. I went through a phase of hating it because I thought we ate if far too often during my childhood, but now I understand why we ate it so often. I 110% understand why because now that I’m the one making dinner, we eat it just about as often, though usually with spaghetti squash these days rather than actual pasta. But, even with that understanding, there are only so many days in a row one can stomach spaghetti.
Which is why these burgers are such a great find. I’m pretty sure the idea came from Food & Wine, or else Bon Appetit. It was one of the various food magazines that I was reading on one of my several recent work trips at any rate, and the idea stuck with me.
May 2, 2012 § 24 Comments
As any self-respecting, French speaking, art and food obsessed college student would do, I spent a semester abroad in Paris my junior year. According to my transcript, I was studying something along the lines of French language and literature. According to me, I was doing an intensive independent study in hot chocolate and pastries. Intensive.
I made a point of going to a different spot and trying a different pastry every day. I roamed the city, exploring quaint neighborhoods and corner bakeries, charming cafes and hyacinth-lined gardens. If my study-abroad major was pastries, my study-abroad minor was people-watching. And dodging men who were intent on getting to know me – solely because I was blonde, and because they were French, and that seems to be the way of things.
Choosing walking as my preferred mode of transportation, I also wandered through plenty of neighborhoods where I quite possibly shouldn’t have, or at least wouldn’t have selected as a destination. But, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to get from point A to point pastry.
April 11, 2011 § 16 Comments
Of all the vices out there, jealousy is one that I’m actually not particularly prone toward. I go in much more for some of the other ones (none of the interesting ones, I’m afraid, mostly just doubt. If I were to choose which vice I would rather have be my predisposition, I think I would choose sloth. I don’t know why. It’s an odd thing to think about anyway, so I’m going to stop now.)
However, all bets are off when we come to the realm of food. At times, I can be rather a slave to food jealousy. I’m that girl at a restaurant several tables over, craning my neck and trying to figure out what you’re having and wishing that I had ordered it (“I’ll have what she’s having”…) If we go out for ice cream, I take forever to decide which flavor to get, and then as soon as I have my little cup I’m immediately jealously eyeing everyone else’s luscious looking heaping cones of, I don’t even know what that is, butter brickle? Oreo? Purple razzle-dazzle chunky lola choco-madness? It doesn’t matter. I’m just jealous of it.
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.
December 4, 2010 § 7 Comments
I had the sudden realization during a conversation the other day that I have a tendency to go through, shall we say, unique obsessive phases. I was telling someone that I was really obsessed with igneous rocks – well, actually just obsidian and pumice – for about a year in middle school, and they gave me a look that clearly said, “I think that either you are from some planet that is separated from Earth by at least one asteroid belt, or else you probably grew up under one of those igneous rocks that you were obsessed with.” It had never really occurred to me before that this kind of obsession may not be entirely normal, and then I started thinking about some of my other obsessions. Scarab beetles, for a while. I was also fixated on Aquaporins (that would be the protein channels that allow water to travel through cell walls) and prions (the misfolded proteins that cause mad cow disease) at various points in time. And the concept of zero. And bloodroot flowers. And the “cerulean” Crayola crayon. And, well, you get the idea.
I also go through obsessive food phases (surprising no one). Like ricotta, or lemon zest, or chorizo, or mini turnovers. The phase I am currently in is Ottolenghi. That would be Yotam Ottolenghi and his eponymous cafes in London. One of my younger brothers is currently in London for grad school, which means that in theory he could get take out from Ottolenghi any time he wished. Ah, how unfair the world is. My obsession with Ottolenghi is by no means unique, however. He’s a bit of a buzzword in the food world, particularly because he has a new cookbook of vegetarian recipes out this year, and ever growing swaths of people are being extolling how fresh, curious, vibrant, and downright stunning his recipes are. He is the cure for food doldrums.
October 26, 2010 § 4 Comments
Who knows where we get the ideas for the things we cobble together on weeknights, right? Well, maybe you do know. I mean, sometimes inspiration is obvious – a bookmarked recipe page, a post on a blog, a family staple, or the fact that it’s midweek which very frequently means spaghetti. Other times, the places ideas come from are misty and obscure, like magical islands in distant oceans. This dinner most definitely came from the latter. And, it might have required seven-league boots or a ride on a magical eagle to make its way to my kitchen.
I’ve been calling it spanakopita-rice, which sounds kind of goofy, but really pretty much sums up what it is. All the spinachy goodness of spanakopita filling without the trouble of phyllo dough (which I like to call phyllo d’oh, even though a certain husband of mine says that if I keep doing so, I probably won’t have any more friends soon. But it’s totally funny, right? Right?). And, I think that’s vaguely where the idea came from. I had feta cheese to use up from those yummy muffins, and I figured I would make one of my standard Greek-y tomato-y sauces for chicken and sprinkle feta all over it. But then a vague notion of spanakopita crept into the recesses of my mind. Mmmm. I do love spanakopita. The notion became stronger when I remembered that I had leftover spinach as well. But no phyllo dough, because who just keeps phyllo dough around when you’re not planning a party with fancy hors d’oeuvres? So, then I thought I would make some filling and toss it with pasta. But, somewhere in the process of chopping onions, I started thinking about paella as well. And how I’d never made a paella. And how I wasn’t going to make paella that evening, but maybe I could use rice in place of pasta with my spinach-feta mix. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 21, 2010 § 40 Comments
What is it about fall? Really. I can’t get over it. There is something so splendid, so unabashedly glorious about this time of year that I feel almost ready to pop with abundance and contentment each time I put on a sweater, step outside, and feel the soft voluminousness of the clear fall air. I love the colors – deeper, from brilliant to brooding. I love the nostalgia. I love sweater weather. I love the cold that is just enough to most definitely require snuggling. I love the expanse of an electric blue fall sky. I love how spacious fall weekend days feel, even though the evening closes in earlier. I love the coziness of eating supper when it’s dark out. I love the smells and sounds of leaves. I want to bundle fall up in a fuzzy sweater and give it a hug. It makes me want to sing happy songs and write sonnets to it. Except that nobody – least of all fall – will be done any favors by my attempting to write sonnets. So, instead I cook to it.
Fall calls for food that is encased in dough, or splashed with some cream (in case work actually listens to your petition and lets you hibernate this year), or dashed with some nutmeg, or drizzled with some maple syrup. Food filled with all the deep colors and vibrant yet mellow flavors that echo the way fall feels. And lots and lots and lots of winter squash. There is almost nothing more autumnal than a butternut, or acorn, or kabocha, or buttercup squash. They just keep filing in from my farm share, and with all their different shapes, colors, and sizes, the pile of them in my pantry is starting to look like line up of circus characters. It’s truly fabulous.
April 1, 2010 § 4 Comments
It’s plausible (actually, make that highly probable) that I have talked your ear off about galettes before, in the guise of rustic tarts that is. But, I simply have to do it again because I’m practically giddy with how great they are! I mean look at them! They look lovely – fancy even! They taste amazing, with unbeatably flaky, buttery crusts and complex, savory fillings. And what are they doing? They’re using up my leftovers!! At the moment I’m kind of feeling like this is the cleverest way ever to use up leftovers, so please forgive me if I’m practically crowing, er, and using excessive quantities of exclamation points. (!!)
Also, I used a new galette dough recipe (I felt adventurous, otherwise I just make pie crust) that I made up by looking at several recipes specifically for galettes. I noticed that several recipes called for sour cream and lemon juice. I didn’t have either of those, but I had Greek yogurt, which is similar in texture and function (tangy, cultured dairy), and I had rice vinegar, which provides acid like lemon juice. I am never going back!!! Flaky beyond belief people! It was almost more like having a croissant for a crust, which is a very, very good thing.
March 29, 2010 § 4 Comments
I’m helping a friend out, right now, with testing recipes and taking photos for a cookbook that she’s making as a fundraiser for Re-Vision House Urban Farm, a really cool organization that provides fresh, local food and job training to women in an associated homeless shelter. It’s really awesome, the feeling of being able to contribute to an organization whose mission you really believe in, and it’s also pretty wonderful because I’m having ridiculous amounts of fun in the process of making this contribution. It kind of flies in the face of the message you’re subtly fed when you grow up Lutheran. Messages a la Garrison Keillor about how life is supposed to be hard work with a bunch of suffering in the mix, and it is your job to make the best of it because it could be worse. I have to admit, I actually believe a lot of that message, I mean, I’m old enough to know that that’s just being realistic. However, it seems that that doesn’t have to be the end of the message, that it could use a little addendum that reminds us: ‘and hey, sometimes it’s really fun too, and just because something is hard work or happens to be your duty doesn’t mean that it can’t also be occasionally quite enjoyable!’
Now, I’m afraid I’m going to be ridiculous and relate this train of thought back to food…because for me, everything seems to relate back to food (maybe because I’m hungry again!). It’s just that, the first dish I tested and shot photos of for this cookbook gave me the same message, in a weird way.