November 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
Since enrolling in several design classes this fall, my cooking has taken a haphazard turn. Meals thrown together when I get home from class at 11 p.m. or pieced together in the office kitchen that’s large enough to just turn around, twice—provided there’s no one else trying to cook too.
So the huge kitchen we moved into in September hasn’t gotten as much use as I had imagined. Still, there have been Sunday pizza afternoons, numerous apple crisps, a birthday cake (that I didn’t even make!), and tons of large-portioned, casserole pan dishes meant to last the entire week. I had a chance to make the Bon Appétit October cover cake a few weeks ago and it had such an intriguing flavor profile—pomegranate molasses, cardamon, orange zest, caramel soaked pears—that I wondered why I don’t make recipes from magazines more often.
This fall, I have been relishing time outside, going out of my way to crunch in the leaves and taking that few extra minutes to just breathe in real, fresh air. When you spend most days and nights staring at grids and adjusting alignments to a minuscule point, you need it.
But as exhausting as it’s been, the past two months have been incredibly rewarding. I get to play with patterns and fonts and get real feedback from fellow designers. I’ve met people who are just as particular about color palettes and lines as I am, and that sense of community in itself has made these classes worthwhile.
So no recipe today, but please do make Bon Appétit‘s spiced pear upside-down cake! It’s sweet, but not very sweet, unexpected, and you get the added satisfaction of nailing the cake flip. That is, if you do nail it.
June 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
I have strawberry fever over here, which means strawberry shortcake, strawberry lemonade, strawberry drinks, and strawberry breakfast bars, and can you tell I am drowning in strawberries? The strawberry fields on the farm have been overabundant this year, with both the early and late varieties coming in at the same time due to strange weather patterns. Every week, we head out to the fields to pick four quarts!
It’s blazing hot, and we escaped for the weekend to my grandparents’ house on the Cape. On the way out of the city, we stopped by the farm to pick four quarts of strawberries. I made lemonade to match my painted toes, to sip on the patio after a run down to the beach. I whipped fresh cream and made sugar-crusted biscuits and piled zillions of strawberries on top for a quick summer dessert. This is the life.
It’s no secret that strawberry shortcake is one of my favorite foods. It’s so simple, and yet one of those things where the sum of all the parts (and there’s only three!) really makes something absolutely divine for a summer evening.
For this particular shortcake, I used Smitten Kitchen’s dreamy cream scone recipe (don’t forget the sugar on top!) but I’ve barely met a scone recipe I didn’t like—mind you, I can’t say the same for store-bought scones—so that’s really quite interchangeable. I’m also a fan of the coffeehouse scones from JoyofBaking and am more likely to have buttermilk than cream around the house. But then, you already splurged on the whipping cream anyway, right?
April 5, 2015 § 2 Comments
Rome was packed—packed full of middle school groups touring the monuments and museums. Luckily, the restaurants weren’t, which made my style of vacationing (which this time involved a multi-layered map, conveniently separable into “gelato” “pizza” “coffee” “restaurant” and so forth) much easier to accomplish than seeing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We ate well, and often. I was a particular fan of eating squares of pizza with just a simple tomato sauce for breakfast—a great savory alternative to breakfast pastries. In fact, while this blog tends to document an unwavering relationship with sugar, I veered pretty strongly towards the savory in Rome.
Some highlights: Pizza with prosciutto di San Daniele, and a bowl of fettucini with the most translucent, buttery and sweet, tomato sauce at Emma Pizzeria, a plate of melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi with strolghino and tomato from Roscioli, the dozens of different kinds of pizza, cut and weighed to order, at Pizzarium, caffe and caffee granita at Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè, gelato at Gelateria del Teatro (around the corner from our apartment) and Fatamorgana, a huge plate of rigatoni at Le Mani in Pasta, at Trapizzino, handheld triangles of pizza bianca stuffed with stewed eggplant and tomatoes, fresh burrata…you get the picture. There were also many plates (only two pictured here) of cacio et pepe, the Roman specialty of pasta with Pecorino Romano and pepper.
Food aside, another great thing about Rome in March was the opportunity to go outside without a winter coat. Oh, the novelty!
March 17, 2015 § Leave a comment
February was a time for big projects at work, and also a time of snowstorms and snow days, and a week-long complete office flood. With February good and over, my projects off at the print house, our city all-time snowfall record beaten, the rain coming down, and (sometimes, sometimes) the sun coming out, I have a bit of a lull this week.
I’ve had some time to see people I haven’t seen for awhile. I brought this soda bread to a Sunday brunch gathering this past weekend in Beacon Hill. I placed it out on the table, alongside some whipped maple butter (salted, of course), and fell in love with the light coming in from the bay window. It was such a welcome change from photographing in my apartment, which often involves sweeping the coffee table for stacks of abandoned mail, opening the blinds, and cursing the layer of dust on the window panes preventing the light from shining through.
I’ve been mulling over a lot of life changes recently, and too often this seems to end in a feeling of frustrated dissatisfaction with the present. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much more than a moment admiring a friend’s window curtains to propel me into a state of “Why can’t I have that?” and “Why can’t my life look more like this?”
I keep trying to remember that the prospect of big decisions, and the anxiety that comes with making those choices, is a result of already having a whole lot that is good in my life. Hopefully, that thought will sink in soon. In the meantime, there’s soda bread, and that’s not bad either.
You can find the recipe here. My skillet soda bread didn’t poof up much in the center, and I wasn’t a big fan of it the next day, but hot from the oven with a pat of butter, it was delicious.
February 15, 2015 § Leave a comment
I woke up from a Valentine’s Day induced slumber—read cheese fondue, crusty bread, roasted potatoes, lots of wine, and finished with chocolate pot de crème with fresh whipped cream—to another blizzard. It’s our second blizzard of the season, tempered only by a couple of winter storms, making for the snowiest month Boston has experienced, ever. We’re making history.
In the midst of all of the snow days (I count six in the span of three weeks) and time spent scurrying from building to building lest I spend more than ten minutes outside, I’ve make a lot of food. Not the most practical of foods though, for you know, the end of the world in one white, snowy combustion.
No, I’m making things like this vanilla bean pudding. Things that I can eat for breakfast while I sit in bed under the covers and watch the snow fall out my window.
Vanilla Bean Pudding
Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen
I made a couple of changes to the recipe, namely increasing the vanilla flavor, scaling down the salt, and using cream instead of milk. Oh, and ensuring a great silky finish by adding the tablespoon of butter as the final flourish.
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups milk (I used skim milk)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean
1 large egg
1 tablespoon butter
Split the vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a medium bowl. Add the sugar, cornstarch, and salt and stir to combine. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking so that lumps don’t form. Then, whisk in the egg.
In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a boil with the de-seeded vanilla bean for extra flavor. Gradually pour the boiling cream into the bowl with the egg mixture, again whisking continuously so that lumps don’t form. Once it has a smooth consistency, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken and leaves a thin coat on your whisk. Remove the whole vanilla bean.
Transfer your pudding to a clean bowl, and whisk in the tablespoon of butter until it is completely melted. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for 2+ hours. The chill time will help your pudding set up so that it keeps it’s shape (mostly) when you take a spoon to it.
And if you’re me, this makes a great breakfast in bed, kind of like a bowl of yogurt you know? If you’re uh, not me, feel free to eat it for dessert.
January 1, 2015 § 5 Comments
Soufflé Days went on hiatus for six months, and all you got are some pictures of Hawaii.
We’ve just returned from Oahu and Maui, where we ate lots of fresh poke, hiked to a 400 ft. waterfall, through bamboo forests, and beaches of all colors—red sand! black sand! white sand! salt and pepper sand!—floated over schools of colorful fish, and settled back with our tropical cocktails.
Right now, in the crisp air of Boston winter—about five minutes outside this morning had me chilled to the bone—the colors of the islands are just a memory. From spicy and shoyu ahi poke over fluffy white rice at Ono Seafood, to crispy and light deep-fried red snapper topped with crunchy, briny papaya salad or drenched in spicy drunken sauce at a small Thai hut in Hana, we ate delightfully well. I never could pass up raw fish and avocado, and so we returned to Ahi Bowl & Pot twice to get our poke fix before leaving Honolulu. Later on, we settled into the back of a roadside farm stand for weekends-only wood-fired pizza night. Spicy tomato sauce, juicy, caramelized pineapple, pulled “pork” jackfruit, and fresh, melty cheese, washed down with a Maui Wine red, out of the red solo cups I had tucked in my purse. Don’t you travel with solo cups too?
In addition to eating, we hiked the Pipiwai Trail, scaled the shoreline to get to the Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach, and sunk our toes into the Hamoa Bay Beach at sunrise. If you’ve never seen an empty Hawaiian beach, or felt the fluffy pools of sand beneath your feet at one of the top five beaches in the world, waking up at sunrise for Hamoa Beach is well worth it.
On Maui, we had a house to ourselves in an unkempt but beautiful, five-acre botanical garden. You could hear the rain pitter-patter or fall down in sheets on the thin roof while we lay in bed. We watched geckos scamper around the windowsill, and ate a whole pineapple for breakfast with large cups of coffee in the covered, outdoor sitting room. We wandered the garden, swatting at mosquitoes, in search of the avocado trees. And then, when it was all over, we piled back in our two-door car, up the winding Hana Highway, past the sugar cane fields, to our flight back to Honolulu.
And ended it all with half a dozen tropical cocktails, beachside. After all, who doesn’t love it when your drink—the “Tropical Itch”—comes with a wooden back scratcher? Seriously. I was surprised too.
July 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
I could say many things about our trip to Seattle and Portland in early June. That it feels like ages ago, that I never wanted to leave, that every part of Portland I fell in love with over and over again, and that, like any vacation, we had to come back from it. In essence, we ate. And we drank. And that’s about it. One morning we stopped to look at some cute backyard gardens in the Greenlake neighborhood of Seattle, and another afternoon we walked along the Willamette river, but mostly we ate and drank. Here’s what we did.
Some of our favorites – (Portland) Biwa with its Japanese pickles, gyoza dumplings, Japanese style fried chicken with nose-cleansing mustard sauce, ramen, and my favorite, the special snap peas and radishes, so creamy and crunchy and just singing freshness. PokPok and it’s signature papaya salad, fried mussels in crispy, broken crepe, and catfish marinated in turmeric and sour rice with vermicelli, fresh herbs, and peanuts. Also the best papaya salad we’ve ever had. We also managed to track down my favorite Lao dish, Nam Khao, or crispy rice salad, at a neighborhood restaurant along 23rd Avenue – I was so excited!
Then there were spicy seafood noodles at the downtown food trucks and Jalapeno cheddar bagels and savory thyme croissants at Nuvrei. Endless beer tastings, Stumptown coffee (which we are told is too mainstream for Portlanders to be into anymore), and a stop by the newly-opened Coopers Hall with it’s open floors, wide light, and industrial exterior for an impromptu wine tasting. We followed that with a visit to Eastside Distilling and topped off the night on the cushioned swing bench on the patio at the Roadside Attraction. Portland having the most breweries per capita in the world, we sampled tons of beers at Rogue, Deschutes, Lompoc, and Harvester, which in addition to having gluten-free beer that’s actually good, also has some great sourdough cornbread with honey butter and beer-braised collard greens.
And then there was my first meal in Portland, which I ate alone at a sunny table on 23rd Avenue, a tuna “poke box” sushi pictured below from Bamboo Sushi, a branch of the first certified sustainable sushi restaurant in the world. I was still blurry-eyed from travel but eager to cram in as much eating as possible into my three days in Portland.
More of our favorites – (Seattle) If our eating in Portland had an Asian theme, Seattle was pretty Mediterranean. I died again for the assorted kebabs with Greek salad, tzatziki, and crushed, fried potatoes at Lola (who doesn’t like crispy fried potatoes?). But by far the best meal we ate in Seattle was at Mamnoon, where my lovely friend Taylor works. We plowed through about five baskets of fresh, warm pita (so good!) while feasting on muhammara, a thick spread of roasted red peppers, walnuts, cumin, and pomegranate molasses, bateresh, charred eggplant and minced lamb, kufteh chicken meatballs with cherries, pistachios and almonds and saffron rice, and habbar charred octopus with a smooth squid ink hummus.
Our waiter not only kept refilling our pita basket, but also recommended we reserve a table at the Knee High Stocking Company as our next stop. A real-life speakeasy with a locked door, doorbell, and a host that comes to answer the door when you ring, you have to text ahead to make a reservation to get in the door. Once seated, we settled into a little dark room and an extensive menu of cocktails. Dan ordered the Widow’s Kiss – Calvados Boulard, Green Chartreuse, Benedictine, and bitters – a choice for which he received compliments from the waiter for ordering.
And then what trip wouldn’t be completed by a bourbon Moscow Mule and a stop in the photo-booth at Montana?
March 9, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m laying in bed this Sunday morning recovering from an over-the-top brunch of goat cheese and pear stuffed french toast with whipped cream and a side of home fries at the Ball Square Cafe, and thought I would share my sushi-making night. I got together with a couple of girls from work last Thursday to make veggie sushi with an array of ingredients – carrots, cucumber, mango, cream cheese, shallots, avocado, apple, watermelon radish, shiitakes, and even some homegrown pea shoots that Allison brought in from her backyard. I loved the avocado with mango and bit of crunch from the shallots, but the cream cheese with apples was also a popular choice. Making sushi was actually surprisingly simple, led by our in-the-know sushi-maker Beth who grew up rolling sushi with her dad for parties. I can’t wait to buy my own rollers so I can make it at home. I brought over my fourth batch of blondies in about two weeks, this time packed with Canadian smarties because that’s what I had on hand. At the end of the night, after cups of tea and some puzzling (that would be, working on a puzzle of insects, fish, and platypuses on the coffee table), I came home with enough sushi for lunch the next day, a potted plant that Allison had just separated from her mother plant, and a baby succulent. My plants are now sitting next to my windowsill, soaking in the sun of our first spring-like weekend. Whenever I complain about winter here, Boston people always tell me that having brutal winters and “real seasons” makes them appreciate the nice times more. I’m still not sure that I buy the idea that you need almost five months of freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and slush to appreciate spring in the air, but I sure am liking the sun. I headed out for a 12-miler with the team yesterday along the Newton hills of the Boston Marathon course and, even though my left arch continues to cause me problems, was inspired by the camaraderie of all of the runners out training. I won’t be running Boston this year, but I’m more driven to run next year as a result, and, of course, show up at mile 20 to cheer on the team this year while drinking beer 🙂 Now I’m equal parts giddy from all of the sugar from brunch and exhausted from eating so much, so I’ll leave you alone with this pecan sticky bun I had for breakfast the other day at Flour.
January 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
After rescheduling our getaway weekend due to the snowstorm last weekend, we finally made the drive down the Cape to the Old Manse Inn in Brewster. Just off of Route 6, the Old Manse Inn is a charming white 19th century house from the outside, with a bit of a kitschy antique interior with some nautical touches, notably model boats and some historical pirate information on the second floor. The Inn had recently changed hands, and for much of the weekend, we were the only guests, given that January is very much the middle of the offseason. The innkeepers Brian and Charlie did everything they could to make our stay enjoyable, from calling ahead to restaurants, to giving us a tour of the entire house and grounds, and providing us with a complimentary bottle of wine.
It was a quiet sort of weekend, and I had the feeling of having the entire Cape to ourselves. Traffic was easy, the beaches mostly empty, the wind forceful and assertive. Many of the shops were closed for the season, especially in more touristy towns such as Provincetown, where we sat by the window of one of the only taverns still open with frosty mugs of Cape Cod beer and plates of fish and chips. A rainy Saturday afternoon drove us back to the Inn for some reading (I’ve started Alice Munro’s Dear Life) and napping before dinner. After a glass of sherry in the inn’s living room, we headed to the Rock Harbor Grill for a dinner of wild mushroom pizza, lobster-stuffed cod over a bed of mashed potatoes and green beans, and fresh mozzarella with baby heirloom tomatoes (not so seasonal but that’s alright). We skipped dessert that night but I did go back to the Cottage Street Bakery for a second chocolate croissant the next morning, perfectly flakey, with the inside chew that I love. Sunday, we sat on the wooden steps leading to the Marconi beach, eating sandwiches from the bakery on slightly sweet squash bread before heading down for a walk along the water. The waves crashed on the shore but the intense wind had a way of pulling the very tops of the waves back, created a delightful misty puff coming up from the water’s surface every time a large wave surged.
We stopped in Sandwich on the way back to Boston for dinner at the tavern in the Dan’l Webster Inn with my grandparents. It was un repas correct, as my former co-workers liked to say in France — I had a nicely wok fired Atlantic salmon with a crisp exterior. Then we piled ourselves back in the car to start the drive back to the city. Back to the grind it is. But a three-day weekend to look forward to next week!
January 6, 2014 § 1 Comment
It’s not the most photogenic start to the new year, but it’s a start nonetheless. I’m deeply in that moment of time when I’ve been away for so long that it just keeps getting harder and harder to come back. I’ve made two batches of ginger molasses cookies with perfect crackly tops and sparkling turbinado sugar dustings, but haven’t been able to raise a camera to take a picture of what I’d call my ultimate cookie. For the past few months, my camera has sat abandoned at my desk while I made winter squash galettes with buttery crusts and dined on fried mussels and spinach falafel at Oleana and sole with romesco sauce and bittersweet chocolate pot de crème at Foreign Cinema.
Finally back from the holidays, I ended this weekend feeling fulfilled in a way that I haven’t for quite awhile. A snowstorm descended on Boston last Thursday and work was closed on Friday as a result. I spent the day working from home, teaching myself html, and was happy to step into the kitchen for lunch to make a simple spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and asparagus. There’s just something about preparing lunch in the moment that feels so much more like a break than turning on the microwave at noon. It was just a start to the weekend’s cooking. Friday night, we nestled into a bottle of wine, a movie, a batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and a towering load of pumpkin bread with pecans. We sat on the couch and ate bowls of risotto with the snow piled up outside our windows.
One of my new year’s resolutions is to start cooking out of my rather extensive cookbook collection, and this weekend, we tackled two new recipes — a Indian tomato-based vegetable curry out of Prashad, and Thai stir-fried brussels sprouts from Pok Pok. Both came out fabulously, and I’m feeling recommitted to the goal of tackling cooking projects outside of my comfort zone. The ingredient lists seemed daunting at first — this has always been the main hurdle for me in cooking over baking — but once we got started, I was happy to spend the afternoon in the kitchen and learning.
The recipe today isn’t a curry or stir-fry, but the pumpkin bread I made while we were snowed in. Chock-full of pecans and super moist, even days after baking, it’s become my new favorite pumpkin bread. The recipe makes a lot, so I ended up with half a dozen muffins in addition to a towering loaf.
Adapted from Laurie Bennett’s Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread at Allrecipes.com
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup pecans (chopped coarsely)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour desired loaf or muffin pans.
In a large bowl, mix pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water or milk, and vanilla. Add both brown and white sugars and stir until combined. Mix in the nuts. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture, being careful not to overmix.
Bake loaves for about 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean (muffins will have a shorter bake time).