A Tart, A Baby, A Breakfast

breakfast: yogurt, lemon curd, granola

Last week, a flat-rate box arrived at my door filled with the most amazing sight: dozens of Meyer lemons. Could anything be more heart warming for a Northeasterner this time of year? When the high for the day is 21ºF? With snow in the forecast for Friday? Maybe only that the box came from one of you — thank you, Ellen! You are a dear.

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Whole-Roasted Cauliflower with Fried Capers and Brown Butter Breadcrumbs

whole roasted cauliflower with brown butter breadcrumbs

Last Friday, for the first time in months, Ben and I braved a dinner out with the children, an exercise that most often leaves us asking ourselves, “WHY?!” and swearing off future dining excursions with the children for life.

Much to our surprise, the dinner at Ali Baba in Troy, which began with a wood-fired, manta ray-sized, puffed, blistered and seed-speckled lavash, transfixed the children, keeping them mostly content throughout dinner, allowing us to shovel down our kebabs, smoky eggplant salads and pickled onions at a relatively civilized pace.

Inspired by our Ali Baba success, we joined friends Sunday evening at Ala Shanghai, where we ordered nearly everything on the menu — cold spicy cabbage, cucumber salad, fish soup, pork and leek dumplings, to name a few — and two dishes — scallion pancakes and fried rice — that again, along with the lazy Susan in the center of table, kept the children seated, happy and (mostly) quiet.

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Holly’s Babka

baked and cut babka

Last week, I visited my friend Holly — yes, Holly of challah lore — for coffee, conversation, and of course, a little snack, a slice of babka from a loaf she had made the previous day. Upon serving it to me, she, as if she were any of the women in my family, instantly began critiquing it.

It’s very lovely, she acknowledged, but noted it was kind of fussy to make, so much work for what it was. I, content as ever, tucked in but was happy to hear I was in good company. The dough was denser than she had hoped, and she wondered if she could just use her challah dough recipe as a base, spread it with a chocolate filling or Nutella, and shape it like babka.

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Bircher Muesli | Homemade Muesli | Bulk Food Shopping

Bircher muesli

Thanks to an amazing co-op in Albany, I’ve discovered the joys of bulk food shopping. A quarter (wild guess) of the 31,000 square feet that is the Honest Weight Food Co-op is lined with tubes, bins, and barrels holding every nut, seed, grain, flour, pasta, oil, butter, extract, paste you could imagine. It’s an astonishing site — really, I’ve never seen anything like it: whole aisles dedicated to unpackaged food, which you can cart home in your own vessels or in an array of glass jugs and jars sold at the store.

I had never found myself drawn to bulk food shopping until I started making this toasted muesli (granola, really), which everyone in my family adores. It’s truly the only thing I make that instantly silences my children, that keeps them sitting at the table focused on what’s before them, that they invariably ask for seconds of. When I found myself making double batches of it twice a week, I started paying more attention to the prices of the teensy bags of almonds and flaked coconut and large jugs of maple syrup I was ripping through.

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Vergennes Laundry

front door

There’s nothing like a good stomach bug to make you appreciate health, to inspire an outing in sub-zero weather, to revive an appetite nourished by ginger ale and dry toast for too many hours.

Last Friday morning, after a day spent on my deathbed, my aunt, Wren and I drove to Vergennes Laundry, a wood-fired bakery located in a former laundromat in Vergennes, VT. Run by a husband and wife, this gem of a café is the kind of place you could lounge in all day, beginning with a latté and croissant, moving onto fresh-squeezed orange juice and cheddar-and-tarragon gougères, finishing with an espresso and chocolate crème fraîche truffle. Every bite will make you wish you lived two doors down and kindle dreams of opening up your own Vergennes Laundry, which your town (that you love dearly) so desperately needs.

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Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse, And A Simple, Stinky Valentine’s Day Menu For Two

Julia Child's Perfect Chocolate Mousse

There was a period last summer when I was obsessed with making parfait, not the layered fruit-and-yogurt parfait, but the French parfait, which is like ice cream. The parfait-making technique calls for heating a sugar syrup to 230ºF, then pouring it into beating egg yolks. The hot syrup cooks the yolks as they whip, then whipped cream is folded into the mixture once it has cooled. The parfait is then frozen until serving.

I was intrigued by the method, which I had read about in the Tartine Cookbook, for a number of reasons but mostly because it allowed for making ice cream without an ice cream machine, which many people appreciate. And while I loved the taste and texture of the finished parfait, I never posted the recipe because parfait, despite not requiring an ice cream machine, isn’t necessarily a piece of cake to make. As I noted, it requires heating syrup to a precise temperature, pouring the syrup, which tends to get tangled in the whisk, into the whipping yolks, setting up an ice bath, folding in whipped cream, etc. — I don’t find these to be easy tasks. That said, parfait, which is French for “perfect,” is just about that, and I will certainly be revisiting the process this summer.

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Vanilla Bean Pots de Crème

bite of vanilla bean pots de creme

A few weeks ago, I snuck up to see my auntie in VT, where I spent most of the time on the couch in front of the fire, dogs at my feet, cookbook in my lap.

I was in a baking sort of mood and found myself engrossed in the dessert chapter of Bouchon, drooling over images of bouchon au chocolat (cork-shaped, brownie-like cakes) and dreaming of crème anglaise-soaked French toast. As I flipped through the pages, I drafted an ambitious grocery list, along with a mental wishlist of gadgets, including pots de crème vessels, flexi-timbale pans, and this Bouchon Mold, which I can’t stop thinking about.

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Smoked Gouda Grilled Cheese with Curried Apple Chutney

smoked gouda grilled cheese with curried apple chutney

More often than I would like to admit, I open the fridge and think: How can this be? How can there be nothing to make for dinner? Again.

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Garlic and Thyme Monkey Bread with Spicy Tomato Sauce

just-baked monkey bread

This past fall, a friend who was traveling, cooking and eating her way through Italy, sent me the loveliest book: Pasta, a collection of recipes from the kitchen of The American Academy in Rome. She had learned about the book and the story of the Rome Sustainable Food Project during her travels, and found the recipes in the book, many of which she made during her stay, matched the food she was eating out and about on a daily basis. [Read more…]

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies

I need another cookie. You?
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