There are, in the great encyclopedias of cooking and baking, very few things that require as little written embellishment as the humble cinnamon raisin swirl bread. It is perfect the way it is: sliced fresh, toasted with butter. The aroma wafting from a toaster as it crisps it up smells like childhood, like home. Never complacent to buy a loaf of something that’s been packaged in plastic, when I saw a recipe for it on the Tasting Table, I had to get it in my oven. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
What grounds you? For me it’s the gentle purr of a cat. The peaceful fall of snow against lamplight. A warm, firm embrace. And cinnamon. No matter where my mind is, whether it be under stress or on the high of a possible opportunity — an electrical current coursing — they bring me back down to earth. They give me a moment to pause, to breathe, to close my eyes and smile.
So when it snowed on the first day of spring, my brain frustrated from staring at research and trying to edit on an 11-inch screen, I stepped into my kitchen and watched our one tree being blanketed swiftly with white as the sky became greyer and greyer, then darkened towards nightfall, pink and purple in the cloudy city sky, and knew that I also needed to inhale the aroma of butter and chocolate and oatmeal and cinnamon. The frustration of technology, and not having a printer, required a double dose of grounding. I needed oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies to connect me back with the earth, my sanity, myself.
So there’s apparently a thing in the Midwest where people put ranch dressing on everything. Hailing from the NYC suburbs, I still don’t really understand it. I’d definitely prefer a nice balsamic for my salads, barbecue sauce for my chicken fingers, and my pizza plain — without any dipping sauce, thank you very much. I still furrow my brow a little when my fella of four and a half years takes out the bottle when we reheat day-old pizza, but I mostly just shrug and let him do his midwestern thing. When I first made calzones a couple of years ago, I made him his favorite: a “Rocky Mountain High,” nostalgia from his college years, stuffed with chicken, mozzarella, blue cheese, and hot sauce, with a side of ranch. I, meanwhile, prepped myself a traditional cheese calzone stuffed with mozz, tomatoes, and basil, convinced that it would blow his weird midwestern concoction out of the water. Oh, how wrong I was.
My calzone was flat and boring. His was rich, creamy, and full of all kinds of explosive flavor. I ate mine sadly while looking over at his wistfully, probably much in the same way my Pema cat looks at my Lhamo cat as they’re eating their food (which is actually exactly the same). Needless to say, I haven’t made that sad calzone since. 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 →
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 →
A Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York grows up on, among other delicious things, three basic staples: bagels, pickles, and chicken soup. Saturday bagels for energy to run and jump and play; sour pickles for, uh, probiotics and a strong stomach; and chicken soup, for everything. At holidays, the soup, served with matzoh balls or Grandma’s Passover noodles, is always simmered for a long time, tenderizing the chicken that would be plucked out and used as an hors d’oeuvre in chicken salad (with challah or matzoh, depending on the holiday). The halved or quartered veggies are separated from the broth and passed around the table, so family can pick and choose whether they want carrot, or parsnip, or celery, or nothing at all. During the winter, my mom makes it exactly the same, but keeps everything in the pot, pulling out one chicken breast at a time to shred directly into bowls filled with extra thin egg noodles and topped with broth and whatever vegetables we’re craving that night, and we would cut into the veggies ourselves, with a spoon, and heal our winter blues. Mom’s soup is delicate but hearty, uncluttered, uncomplicated, and, in a word, home.