You. Hey you. I saw you out there, splashing in the waves. Bathing in sunlight. Grilling on your patio. Saying good-bye to summer. I saw you dreading the cold of winter, still three months away. But I have news for you: it’s not over yet. Labor Day may have come and gone late this year, but it’s still hot. It’s still summer. We’ve got another two weeks of it, so if you’re in mourning, perk yourself up a bit and get thee to the farmer’s market. It’s peach pie time. Continue reading →
I am made of water. I crave it. I love to run beside the Hudson and East Rivers. I yearn salty ocean waves foaming at my feet. When I’m near it, in it, I feel whole. And yet — the power, its depths, the unknown, terrify me. The fear of being toppled and tossed around by a wave bigger and more powerful than any water within me has kept me from wading out more times than I care to admit. Sometimes I leave the beach without ever being further than knee-deep, when what I crave — nay, what I need — is to be in it and of it.
All of that changed — finally — last week, on my final day of a family vacation in Cape May, NJ. Let me correct that: in the final hour of that final day. With my fella and my dad beside me, I relearned how to face those waves. It’s the silliest thing, really, the truth of it. That it’s all simply a matter of preparation, of being ready for what comes, of accepting. See a wave that you can’t jump? Take a deep breath, before it’s on you, and duck. It doesn’t need to be a competition between you and the wave. Like jumping, you become one with it. Then you rise, unscathed, and simply wipe a bit of salt of from your eyes. In it and of it.
And so I left Cape May, land of historic Victorian houses, fudge and saltwater taffy, dolphins, and so many childhood memories, with a newfound respect for the phrase “roll with the punches.” It would be an understatement to say I’m ready for the cool embrace of fall. But I’ve spent too much time fighting summer’s existence. Thinking I can jump it even when it’s too big to handle. Feeling miserable from the heat. Sick and dehydrated from the humidity. But yet, I realize, with it has come the sweetest peaches I’ve had in years.
At this end of August, there are already apples at the farmer’s markets. I spotted Greenings at one of the stands in Astoria two and a half weeks ago. And I was tempted — so tempted. But I still haven’t had my fill of tender local peaches. Of sweet plums. Of juicy tomatoes and tiny kirbies and crisp peppers and all the wonderful things that are here because summer is a sunny, hot, miserable time of year. I’ve been eating peaches every day with my breakfast: diced up into oatmeal, as a side to toast and eggs, folded into Greek yogurt. And now this: baked peach crumble donuts. Because along with all the fresh ones unchanged by the heat of an oven, we need to incorporate them into flour and butter and sugar and make them more.
It’s a day to celebrate. A day to rejoice. A day to slick the sweat off your brow and smile because it’s here, it’s time. It’s the day the first kirby cucumbers arrive at the farmer’s market, or, if you’re lucky, begin to grow behind beautiful yellow blossoms in your backyard. It is, for me, the happiest day of the year.
If you have to ask why, you probably have never had a good kirby — or any kirby at all. You might even be asking: what the hell is a kirby? Fear not, I’m here to show you the way. What they are: pickling cucumbers; small, slightly sweet, crunchy. What they’re not: gigantic, waxy, seedy, watery. Kirbies are perfect peeled, sliced, and salted, especially before they hit the fridge and still taste of summer sun. They’re also perfect as these amazing refrigerator pickles.
My parents live in a house on a big hill on the edge of the woods. Even the landscaped sections are wooded — meaning not only is it difficult to grow anything that won’t do well in shade or, in some instances, among shallow tree roots, or that every inch is fodder for roving herds of deer, no matter how “deer-resistant” a plant may be, but that weeds grow — everywhere. Tiny beginnings of new forest, trying to take back the ground and the air. Growing up, I spent countless afternoons with my mom, batting off mosquitoes and pulling buckets and buckets (and buckets) of weeds to carry up the hill and dump into the woods. Especially irritating, and smelly, were the wild onions that grew in the mulch alongside the driveway. They were plentiful and pesky — their roots didn’t lift easily, and I ended up tearing more than I pulled. I hated them. Until a few weeks ago. Continue reading →
There are days when I dream of sun-ripened fruit and farmstand veggies and other fresh things. And then there are days when I try to Nutella everything. I’ve gotten into the habit of baking off loaves of peasant bread and schmearing warm slices with Nutella, or rescuing day-old peasant bread by toasting it and schmearing it with Nutella. It’s been my daily afternoon treat and I think it was saving me from the depths of everyone else’s winter depression. When we ran out of the sweet stuff over the weekend, we took advantage of the current thaw and took a walk up to one of our many local European markets (one of the great things about living in a Greek neighborhood) to see if they were selling it any cheaper than the supermarket on the corner. They weren’t, but they did have giant jars. Don’t worry, I said, I’ll find a use for it. But when I say “Nutella everything” I don’t just mean a schmear on things here and there — I’m talking about recreating Nutella in all kinds of food forms. Enter these chocolate-hazelnut banana muffins. Continue reading →
Picture it: Paris, 2001. The dollar is stronger than the franc, which would be replaced with the euro just a year later. Gigantic bottles of Evian cost less than 50 cents. Orangina is all the rage. And you can stuff your face with pain au chocolat for less than a dollar a pastry. It was a dangerous time to be an American in Paris, when every day was meant for gluttony, lest those previous months studying and meandering down those cobblestone streets go to waste before a return stateside, where even decent breads and viennoiserie cost several dollars a pop. “Indulge,” says the little voice inside your head. “Have one more,” says the little you sitting on your own shoulder wearing red pajamas and wielding a pitchfork. The little you on your other shoulder, wearing a white gown and sporting a halo above her head, is silent. She, too, is indulging in one more pain au chocolat, shards of crisp, buttery crumb falling from her lips and into the folds of her white, silken gown.
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I might actually have the worst time-management skills in the world. At 1:00 am last night, I was in my kitchen preheating my oven and seasoning my brand new cast-iron skillet. In my mind, the 1:00 am-to-2:00 am seasoning adventure was a time-saving initiative for today, when I would christen my beautiful new piece of cookery with this gorgeous, fluffy, delicious apple buckle. In reality, it happened because I baked up a dud in the test kitchen last night; spent a good deal of time wondering if this 12-inch skillet, which I bought at a discount home goods store thinking it was 10-inch, would serve my purposes long-term (I decided yes — worth the $15); thinking about whether I should season it tonight or in the morning; and researching, for maybe the third time this week, how one actually seasons cast-iron. Where in the baking gods’ name does the time go??
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Simplicity. It’s something I fear losing as I delve deeper and deeper into this food blogging thing, deeper and deeper into the world of the locavore. The other week I melted some chocolate and swirled in some peanut butter. Tried to let it set, become a creamy candy bar, but my impulse control left me and I ate it straight from the bowl, warm and melty and messy. It was heaven. And I didn’t tell you about it. It’s a relic from my teenage years, but just doesn’t seem sophisticated enough, mature enough, detailed enough, for a culinary blog. What is happening to us?
Yet besides experimenting with marshmallows and croissants, simple is oftentimes all I do. Simple is what I turn to when I need to whip up a batch of something for a dinner party or a whiskey party or a barbeque and I don’t have the time or attention span to devote to a tart or a cake. Simple is usually cookies these days, but simple used to always be brownies. These magical brownies, to be precise (not to be confused with “magic” brownies). This is a two-bowl, once in the oven recipe, which tickles me. Chocolate and butter. Salt and sugar. Vanilla and eggs. And flour — but just a little bit. No leaveners, no hand mixers or stand mixers, no food processors required. Just a couple of bowls and measuring spoons and cups, and a bit of love and magic. Continue reading →
There’s a sweet tooth gene that runs in my family, and the farthest I can trace it with any first-hand knowledge is my grandma — my mother’s mother, born and raised in the Bronx by immigrant parents, first-generation American. Incredibly smart, she was stunning in her youth, reserved, kind, funny, and sophisticated until the end, and always had a candy jar full of chocolates on the coffee table and a drawer full of marshmallows in the kitchen. And in the winter, Mallomars. Always Mallomars. She pretty much had it all figured out. Now, I’m not one to go out and buy a bag of marshmallows on a whim, but when I do, for s’mores or hot chocolate, that poor bag is in for a ravaging. And Mallomars? Forget it. I’m on the hunt for those always, and here in Astoria, for some strange reason, I can never seem to find them. Solution: homemade vanilla bean marshmallows with dark chocolate and sea salt. The hunger in my genes must be sated.