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.
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.
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…]
So, I really want to tell you all about this farro risotto, made with homemade vegetable stock, roasted and puréed butternut squash, and a handful of thinly sliced kale, but I can’t right now.
If any of you have listened to one minute of Serial, you understand. I just got to the part in Episode 4 where Sarah Koenig says: “If you want to figure out this case with me, now is the time to start paying close attention, because we have arrived, along with the detectives, at the heart of the thing.”
And, Friends, I do! I am on edge! I will not be able to sleep until I hear more. But before I leave you, let me share a few thoughts: risotto is something I feel moved to make about once a season — it’s delicious, everyone loves it, and when it’s made with whole grains and lots of vegetables, it’s healthy to boot.
But it takes FOREVER to cook. I used pearled farro, which still cooked for over an hour before it became creamy. My mother and I gobbled up the whole pan sitting by a roaring fire, which made every effort worthwhile, but, just to be clear, this isn’t something to whip up at the end of the day. You kind of have to be in the mood to make risotto, right?
Anyway, have you listened to Serial? A friend told me about it over the weekend, and I have spent every spare second since streaming it over my phone, completely gripped by each detail that emerges. It makes me realize I haven’t explored the wonderful world of podcasts enough. Any suggestions? What are you listening to? Would love to have a few more podcasts in queue.
Hope you all had a Happy Halloween.
Last week, while scrolling through emails on my phone, I came across one subject heading that gave me pause: Never Grill a Burger Again.
And then a depressing image flashed through my head: me, hovering over a sauté pan (albeit my favorite one), flipping burgers in my 100-degree kitchen as my guests reveled outside.
Did I dare make this vision a reality? How could I not? I’ve always considered burgers one of the hardest things to get right, and this post offered a path to burger domination. I followed the tutorial to a T (almost, notes below), and Ben, completely unaware of the experiments I had been conducting, declared it the best burger he’s ever eaten.
Unlike the Easter Egg Nest cake, which we loved — really, we did — the mint sauce returned to the table every following Easter, the fresh combination of mint and parsley, olive oil and vinegar, capers and cornichons the perfect accompaniment to lamb no matter the preparation — roasted racks, braised shanks, broiled meatballs, pan-seared chops.
I just spent a week eating cheese, making butter, growing sprouts, baking bread, snuggling with Golden Retrievers, visiting farms, driving through covered bridges, admiring snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes, and sampling microbrews while eating wood-fired pizzas. Could I have been anywhere in the world but Vermont?
Perhaps, but short of meeting a few friends for a morning snowshoe, my week couldn’t have been filled with more quintessential Green Mountain State activities. My siblings and I grew up traveling to Charlotte many times a year to visit my mother’s sister Marcy, master of pies, soup, and delectably melty appetizers. The five-hour drive always felt interminable, knowing what we had awaiting us: our cousins, a zipline, Uncle Wade’s waffles, Lake Champlain, dogs and endless outdoor fun.
For my parents, the drive was a breeze, the nature scenes providing endless distraction. I never quite understood the enthusiasm for the birds perched on the highway light poles or the first glimpse of Mount Mansfield, but on my drive north this past Sunday, I realized I had officially become my parents. “Children!” I would shout at every turn. “Look at the cows! The silos! The mountains! The sugar houses!”
I left Tara Kitchen on Saturday afternoon, my belly filled with chicken and preserved lemons, my bag with jars of harissa, tomato jam, and ras-el-hanout. I had just spent two hours learning about Moroccan cooking, scribbling notes while sipping on mint tea, assembling tagines, photographing each step, savoring every bite and finally departing, only hoping my brain might retain a fraction of what I had learned, already regretting not having purchased a tagine.
But before returning home, I had to swing by the Co-op for one thing — a bag of frozen peas and carrots — an integral mix in Tara Kitchen’s chickpea tagine, a dish I would make at home later that evening. Aneesa Waheed, the owner of Tara Kitchen, takes pride in the simplicity of the dishes she serves and noted as class began that all of the ingredients she uses can be found at any market. Her chickpea tagine, a slightly sweet mixture of vegetables and dried fruits mixed with chickpeas and her homemade tomato jam, is one of my favorites.
Never would I have guessed that such a flavorful mixture — a vegan, nut-free one to boot — could be so simple to prepare, but as I learned in class, this is the beauty of tagine cooking. Aneesa fell in love with Moroccan food for this very reason: she could throw a handful of ingredients in a tagine, set it on the stove, go take a shower, make a few phone calls, and return to a steaming hot, delicious and satisfying dinner. And while the success of the finished tagines certainly depends on the sauces and spice mixtures that have been prepped in advance, I can attest to the simplicity of the tagine-making process.
Can we agree that there never is enough crispy topping on the baked pasta gratin? Didn’t we just discuss this? Yes. I’ll keep this brief. Without a bread crumb topping, this sheet pan pasta gratin comes together even faster than the mac n’ cheese, and the addition of chopped raw kale not only provides some tasty roughage but also bolsters the crispness effect — think: kale chip meets gratin edge.
Like the mac n’ cheese, the elements in this gratin include a light béchamel made with equal parts milk and water, two cheeses, and parboiled pasta, something like penne or campanelle, whose fluted, petal-like edges brown up so beautifully.
You know how sometimes a day — a year — can rip by in an instant? But somehow the ten minutes while the steak is resting feel interminable? Without gainful employment, that steak will draw you in, those crispy bits will dangle and taunt, that carving knife will reflect light in your eye until you succumb.
The only possible way to survive those torturous ten minutes is to stay busy, and I have the perfect distraction: make a simple pan sauce, something like this red wine-shallot reduction, a delectable Daniel Boulud recipe. Those ten minutes never will pass so quickly. That steak, at last, will rest without fear.