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Archive for the ‘Recipe’ Category

lemon raspberry cupcakes

I am not a big fan of lemon desserts. Or fruit in desserts. But for my going away at work (way, way back in April), my lovely lovely boss decided we’d make these lemon-raspberry cupcakes (and also some super chocolatey cookies). And, as it turned out, they are adorable. And tasty! So hooey to me, and everyone like me, who is a lemon and/or fruit dessert detractor.

I think I am still partial to a more robust cupcake — red velvet, I’m looking at you — but there is certainly a place and time for these sweethearts. Tea time, in particular, I’d say. And, if you use neon food coloring like we did, then anytime really. Because, as the photo above demonstrates, neon food coloring makes everything way more awesome.

Plus, they have buried treasure…

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IMG_1799

There was a point when I spent most of my time in the kitchen in a state of inspired panic, lurching from one almost-disaster to another. I wondered sometimes about the nonchalant calm that seemed to reign in other people’s kitchens, but I was enjoying myself, for the most part, and it seemed clear that such total zen kitchen mastery was out of the question without a lifetime of practice behind me.

Recently, though, I discovered a brilliant way to short-circuit the process. Here is the secret: learn to do one thing well. Make it a dish or a Skill, as flashy or as humdrum as you like. Bake a mean soufflé! Poach an egg to perfection! The only requirement in this regimen is that, as soon as possible, you do it again. And again. And again. Knead it into your muscle memory until your mastery of the poached egg is out of all proportion to what it by rights should be.

There is something intensely gratifying about making a little study of a process like this. It is not, or at least not mostly, about the poached egg, or about basking in the afterglow of the praise it may inspire, although those can be collateral benefits. It is in the psychic payoff of being able to spend a peaceful hour in a familiar space feeling like you know exactly what you are doing.

In the last few weeks I have turned my attentions to roasting peppers.  I am still a few cycles shy of zen mastery, but I thought I’d share my observations on the process and two tasty dishes that resulted along the way. (more…)

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gougeres

In America, we have Cheetos. In France, they have gougères. France: 1; America: 0.

Maybe that’s not the best comparison, but I can’t think of anything in America that quite compares to gougères. Maybe garlic bread, but then France still wins. Or popovers, which is closer, but not traditionally cheesey, so France still wins. Moral is: start making gougères.

Gougères are magical little creatures — I still don’t understand how the baking chemistry works — that start out as a really sticky dough made from butter, cheese, eggs, and flour, and become puffy balls of cheesey wonder after 30 minutes or less in the oven, with a crunchy outside and a gooey inside. They’re best fresh, but are yummy for days after, and are perfectly paired with a sweeter white wine, but will be happy with any white wine, sparkling wine, or rosé. They are an easy, splendid treat that I am going to add to my party repertoire. In future tries, I plan on pushing the quantity of cheese and black pepper as far as it will go (will report back), but for now, this recipe is pretty classic. And, most important to note, you serve these beauties fresh from the oven — just the right steamy/gooey/crunchy/cheesey way to start a meal. (more…)

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100_1840

Another of the wonders of the CSA is occasionally receiving something you’ve never heard of before. Like lamb’s quarter, which I received a few weeks ago and which Wikipedia tells me is a varitey of goosefoot. Thanks, Wikipedia.

Lamb’s quarter, as it turns out, is a plant in the same family as the one that produces quinoa. It’s scientific name is chenopodium album or “white goosefoot” and it makes a mean pesto.

Observe:

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Polenta finalOften, when I’m looking for a quick dinner, I try to make a large serving of something typically considered a side but load it up with veggies and proteins enough to make a proper meal.  Read: I’m often eating rice or pasta at home.  While I love rice and pasta, and try to vary what kinds I’m using and what I’m serving them with, I was looking for something different recently.  Bingo: Recipes for Health in the New York Times recently suggested polenta.

I went to Raffetto’s in Manhattan, an Italian-foods specialty store that thank God is cash-only, since I am perpetually cash-strapped, or I would have serious credit card problems there.  Since quick was what I was after, I purchased a bag of pre-cooked polenta that only needed five minutes on the stovetop to be ready to eat.  I also picked up a can of San Marzano tomatoes and a zucchini at a small market nearby, and I was set to make polenta with zucchini and tomatoes.  This recipe is great because it can be fully made in about 30 minutes, or, if you are particularly pressed for time, many parts can be made ahead of time, and can be mixed and matched. (more…)

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Ah, the underrated beauty of a spring onion.
Dear Ah-Yee*,

One of the first meals I remember you preparing for me and my step-brothers is a tuna fish salad with fresh apple chunks mixed in. I was young and it was different, so I thought it was pretty weird. But like our new family, I started to appreciate the combination more the older I got.

This sandwich is inspired by the juxtaposition of savory and sweet, gamy and mellow, chewy and crisp I remember from our lunch table long ago. As with so many other things in my youth, you were right and I was wrong.

Like my tastes and our family, it’s grown up a bit. The white bread has bloomed into organic whole grain, seed-studded, thick-sliced brown bread. The tuna has evolved into low mercury, gloriously fishy, skinless and boneless sardines. The mayo has stepped aside for a smoother, healthier greek yogurt emulsifier. But the heart of it, the apple, remains constant from my childhood.

Thanks for the inspiration, the meals, and the heart.

Love,
***Alice

*My family’s romanization of “step-mom” in Mandarin.

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egg salad

Egg salad is another thing (like coleslaw) that I thought was pretty disgusting until I made it myself. And then I realized that it’s delicious — and easy, and cheap. And endlessly variable. Here are some guidelines: egg salad is best when it’s freshly made, slightly warm, not too mayonnaisey, and served open-faced on a piece of toasted bread. It needs something a little acidic, something a little onion-y/crunchy, and a little spicing.

Another guideline: Egg salad likes to have other things mixed into it, or eaten on top or alongside it. Consider egg salad your canvas! I have listed a couple suggestions for toppings and side munchies below, which I’ve distinguished by whether you want to put them directly on top of your sandwich and eat altogether in one bite (toppings) or whether you want to eat between bites of sandwich, for a change of flavor/texture (side munchies). Side muchies can, I suppose, also be toppings, depending on how adventurous you are.

And, as the last feather in egg salad’s cap of endless flexibility, it should be noted that it can serve as any of the three meals of the day: a savory breakfast, a quick lunch, or a light supper. So get crackin’. (more…)

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