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Salade Nicoise

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Summer is a tough time for cookery, especially in a hot city of small kitchens. Although there’s great produce to be had, the idea of spending much time in front of the stove is unappealing to say the least.

Which is why summer cooking takes some adjustments: Nothing in the oven unless you’re able to leave the room while it’s in there, nothing that requires constant attention on the stove top, etc. This is why hearty salads – like Salade Nicoise -are such a good summer option.

Salade Nicoise is a classic French composed salad – “composed” is just a fancy work for a salad that has all the ingredients piled on top rather than tossed in – and although it does have cooked ingredients, they can be prepared in under 30 minutes. And it’s a Julia Child favorite, so – in honor of the upcoming movie that I can’t decide whether or not I want to see – here it is:

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squash tart

What to do with all that awesome homemade ricotta from last week (other than boasting about it incessantly)? Here’s a recipe I dreamed of, and the reason I made the ricotta in the first place — the ricotta’s raison d’etre, if you will.

I’ve been seeing ricotta-squash tart everywhere recently, by which I mean at both Buttermilk Channel and Vinegar Hill House, both in Brooklyn, both homey new American style restaurants with a farmhouse decor. Aww.

And both with food that — while delicious — I felt pretty confident that I could duplicate at home. Well, this isn’t either of their tarts exactly, but it was pretty good nonetheless. What did I learn? I learned that if you make a good enough tart crust, and have good enough ricotta for the filling, and have good quality toppings,  you can make just about any kind of savory tart you want. Continue Reading »

Fresh tomato salsa

Salsa

Technically, this is called pico de gallo. Wikipedia has all sorts of interesting etymological explanations for why it’s called that. But to me, this is fresh tomato salsa. Easy to make with summer ingredients, and delicious as a condiment or as its own salad. The funny thing is, it’s so simple and easy. But it’s rare to see on the table. Maybe salsa is now universally associated with the soupy stuff you find in a jar, and the thing about those jars is that you’re constantly trying to use them up once they’re opened. So no one ever thinks to make it from scratch.

Well, as they say, your first time is always special. My first time, I was spending a depressed summer in Paris and a friend came over and said ‘hey, let’s make fresh tomato salsa!’ It changed my life. My second time came the very next day, when I invited three other friends over and promptly passed it off as my own invention. They were duly impressed, and I’ve never stopped eating it since.

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Homemade Ricotta

making ricotta

This is incredible. It’s quick, it’s easy — it’s magic. It’s homemade ricotta cheese, using just whole milk, lemon juice (or vinegar), and a little salt, as well as a few pieces of equipment. It’s homemade ricotta cheese for less than the price of buying commercial ricotta. It’s homemade ricotta cheese that tastes fresh and pure in a way the stuff from the tub never will.

It’s homemade ricotta cheese! Continue Reading »

Your standard gin and tonic, seen here not bringing it’s A-game in the sweltering LA summer.

Your standard gin and tonic, seen here not bringing it’s A-game in the sweltering LA summer.

A minor California news item this week, lost in the tidal wave of economic gloom and lingering Michael Jacksoniana, mentioned that the LAPD had enacted California Penal Code Sec.  7749er-B, an obscure provision from the “Martial Law” chapter authorizing the use of deadly force against anyone caught using the phrase “… but it’s a dry heat.” You see, it’s that time of year again, that point in the Losangeleno summer when the weather decides to remind you that human beings really have no place living here; that no matter how lush the lawns or plentiful the Uggs, this really is a desert. I find it’s usually possible to survive these hot weeks with frequent trips to the beach and adherence to a strict regimen of ice, citrus and clear liquors: gin and tonics sustained thousands of pasty Brits for 300 years in India, so surely they can get me through a week-long heatwave.

At least that’s what I thought until the past few days, when the ozone-depleted heavens unleashed an asphalt-warping, mirage-inducing string of Daily Highs that no refreshing summer beverage could stand up to. Imagine the sun as Godzilla, and the drinks as little Japanese tanks: “The gin and tonics only amuse him! Ruuun!” Clearly I need something colder…

Which brings us to today’s recipe: gin and tonic sorbet.

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Zucchini “Pasta”

100_1866As I’ve said before, you really don’t need any fancy kitchen equipment to cook 99.5% of the things you’re likely to want to make at home, and I think investing in any big, expensive equipment (Antigriddle, anyone?) when you’re first starting out is a poor decision.

There are, however, a few intermediate toys that are nice to acquire along the way. Ones that aren’t too expensive and will get used often enough to make them worth the storage paper. A food processor is one. A mortar and pestle is another.

And a mandoline is one I highly recommend. It looks like a medieval torture device, but it’s much more affordable and it will make perfect thin slices of zucchini for this “pasta” faster than you can say antigriddle.

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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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