Add a little spice

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.

#Cookiepocalypse

January 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

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Are you bunkering down for the #Snowpocalypse like I am? The world outside my windows is white, but so far it seems we have overreacted. The only signs that the world is ending were the lines stretching down the aisles at the supermarket yesterday, customers yelling when it looked like you might not take your place at the end of the line, and the shelves barren of bread, vegetables (I’m not sure about you, but I might not stock my house with kale if the world were really ending…), and milk.

But as it is, I don’t have to go in to work again until Wednesday afternoon Thursday, so what better to do than make a bunch of cookies! I love a good crackle on top of a chewy ginger molasses cookie and turbinado sugar does just the trick. I also love the chewy strands of coconut and flakes of oatmeal in these “Chunky Lola” cookies from the Flour cookbook, juxtaposed by blobs of melted bittersweet chocolate. Can you tell, when it comes to cookies, I am firmly in the chewy camp.

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I do hope these cookies will make up for the things I didn’t post…ahem the stickiest sticky pecan buns ever. But if you have something to say, drop a line in the comments section. Oh, and be sure to mention your favorite pizzeria in Rome. I’m so glad spring break trips extend to post-graduation life!

Sushi and Sunday brunches

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. photo (7)

A weekend on the Cape

January 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

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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!

Resolutions and a return

January 6, 2014 § 1 Comment

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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.

Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Laurie Bennett’s Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread at Allrecipes.com

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
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).

Bourbon Butterscotch Ramekins

October 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Outside my window at the office is a row of orange-hued trees separating the parking lot from the train tracks. On the other side of the tracks is a smaller, vibrant red tree. If you just prevent yourself from looking below, you can almost cut out any signs of civilization from your line of vision, and before you stretches a field of color. I often get to the office before anyone else has arrived and have a few moments to myself, a way of steadying myself for the day ahead, in the silent, dark office, before anyone turns on the lights, the room lit only by the morning light outside the windows. By 4 p.m. my head is pounding from staring at my computer screen for hours, and on my way home, my thoughts are preoccupied in the internal debate “run or nap.” Today, we’re finally starting to feel the real depth of fall, not the light, crispness of early fall, but that time when the leaves crunch underfoot instead of lighting up the horizon, and you can feel—just short of seeing—your breath in the air. Winter is coming.

I’m on my third pan of apple crisp this season. I picked up the last week of our CSA this week, loaded down with butternut squash, stalks of brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes—there was even a bit of popcorn thrown in. I’m finding it hard to resist the urge to go into hibernation mode, and it’s not even the end of October. It’s getting harder and harder to get out of the house for a run, though I did have a great 9-miler last weekend with the club team that seemed to fly by because I was out, not only meeting new people, but actually feeling like I was connecting with people.

With hibernation comes wintery flavors, sweeter, heavier, flavors that allow me to burrow down in comfort. My mind is coming back to a recipe I tried from Bon Appétit. Bourbon. Butterscotch. Cream. What couldn’t there be to love in that? In the end I had mixed feelings about the recipe. The quick turn in the blender, which was supposed to give the pudding its smooth texture, resulted in a bubbly top. I found myself wanting a lighter texture, which I associate, for reasons that may not be based in fact, with custards over puddings. So I burned a brulée on top and that made everything slightly better. Still, I expect I’ll come back to these flavors soon…perhaps in the form of a cake? Perhaps as a tart filling? That seems to recall Momofuko’s crack pie, and an article I read awhile ago, “No, Your Favorite Food is Not Like Crack,” which rang much truer with me than I initially thought it would.

Fernie, British Columbia

January 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

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I was going to talk about whole-wheat everything bagels, and croissants the size of my head from the local bakery, and glasses of red wine every night, but somewhere along the way I got lost in all of the snow and didn’t want to come back out. There’s just so much of it, and it’s everywhere, clouding all my pictures in a foggy white haze, and I sort of want to jump in a huge pile of it, like the kid we passed one night on the street who dove into a snow bank, first time he had ever seen snow.

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On Christmas Day, my family took off for a week in the Rockies, to the sleepy little town of Fernie, British Columbia. The food wasn’t much to write home about —though I quite enjoyed those everything bagels — but the snow, oh the snow. The tops of the peaks were so white you could barely see the bumps and riffs underneath you, leaving you to put all your trust in the skis and your legs. Perfect six-point flakes came down almost daily, catching on my scarf and gloves while I rode the chairlift up, minuscule icy beauties. But the real treat was the last day, when we put away our skis in favor of snowshoeing and took off alongside the cross-country trails. We stumbled upon icy ponds; fallen, burnt out trees; layers on layers of snow mounds, which seemed to mimic ocean waves; narrow, winding creeks, which skiers had attempted to cross. We had to stop every five feet or so to take a picture, for my brother to carve another happy face in the snow, or hit a snow-covered branch with his makeshift walking stick, only to have fluffy snow descend on the person unfortunate enough to be walking directly behind him.

On the cross-country trails, locals were out getting an afternoon exercise, most being chased by a dog or two. Some people stopped to chat, but the real beauty was in the silence of the woods. No thrills, no adrenaline rush, just cold fingers and untouched snow.
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