February 2010

I love a great many foods and a great many cuisines, but there are a handful for which I have a full-out obsession. My craving for these foods gets a desperate, addicted edge to it; once I start thinking about them, I can’t rest until I get what I need.

One of these cuisines is Ethiopian food. I don’t know when I first tasted it, or when my casual enjoyment of it morphed into a dangerous addiction. All I know is that I want it. I need it. Now.

Luckily, I live in a city that supposedly has the largest Ethiopian population outside of Ethiopia, so my cravings can be satisfied with relative ease. Unlike, say, in Alabama—there are no Ethiopian restaurants in the entire state, so pretty much every time I went to Atlanta, I made a beeline for Ethiopian. And recently, I’ve discovered that some of my favorite Ethiopian dishes are not difficult to make at home. I really wish I’d known this when I lived in Alabama.

Imagine that this plate is made of bread.



Like  a lot of people, I’ve been experimenting lately with various different grains. I’ve been doing so for a bunch of reasons: to attempt to wean myself away from my shameful reliance on pasta, to get more of those whole grains that all the health nuts are talking about, and to have the sheer fun of the experiment. I was never one for science class, but apparently I can’t get enough of kitchen experiments.

I’ve been playing mostly with quinoa and bulgur for cooking, as well as buckwheat and rye flours for baking. I haven’t yet gotten around to millet or amaranth or wheatberries, but I’ll get to those at some point. For now, the clear winner: farro. Oh, farro. It tastes and looks similar to brown rice, but it’s nuttier and chewier and more complex. I heartily recommend it.

Of the various farro concoctions I’ve tried so far, this Jamie Oliver recipe is my favorite. It’s really more of a starting point than an actual recipe: cook the farro, roast some vegetables, toss with herbs, olive oil, and vinegar or lemon juice.  Some good feta made a spectacular addition. All told, this recipe made for some of the best lunch leftovers I’ve ever had.

Best leftovers ever.


As a novice baker of bread products, I’ve come to accept the fact that I may have to try recipes multiple times before I can get them to work properly. Sweet potato biscuits took three tries. So did almost-no-knead bread. I tend to lack this degree of patience and perseverance in other areas of my life, but apparently I’ll do just about anything to get my carbs.

Wouldn't you do anything for these?

So far I’ve only tried this pretzel recipe twice, and both times they’ve been almost perfect—and suffering from the same fatal flaw. You see, the recipe calls for brushing moist pretzels (they’ve just been poached in baking soda) with an egg wash and then baking them.

Taking a nice baking soda bath.

When baked, this egg wash turns into glue.


On the cusp of yet another snowstorm (seriously, what is going on? The snow is currently flying straight up), I braved the grocery store to buy milk. I did not, however, buy bread.

The main reason I didn’t buy bread is because I don’t generally use that much bread at home. But ignore that, please.

The other reason I didn’t buy bread is because I’ve been MAKING bread. And please believe me when I say that if I can make this bread, you can too. It took me three tries, because I am not good at following directions and superb at making simple things harder than they ought to be. This bread is simple, and if you can follow directions worth a darn it is easy. Not quite as easy, perhaps, as the original no-knead bread, but definitely worth the tiny bit of extra effort.

The missing piece is in my belly. Just like the rest of this loaf will be soon.


There are, of course, far more than two kinds of people in the world. But when it comes to breakfast/brunch food, people tend to fall into two camps: those who want savory breakfast (some variation of eggs, usually), and those who want a more dessert-like breakfast (pancakes, waffles, french toast). Then there are the people like me, who can’t decide. Ideally, if I’m at a restaurant, I’ll be eating brunch with someone who’ll share with me, so I can get a little of each. But if I have to choose, I tend to go the savory route, just because the sweet breakfast foods are usually nothing but overwhelmingly sweet, in addition to being nutritionally vapid.

I don’t often cook breakfast—usually, in the morning, it’s all I can manage to pour milk over cereal—but that might change now that I’ve discovered these pancakes, which are anything but nutritionally vapid and which reheat beautifully in the microwave. Chock full of blueberries, oatmeal, and whole wheat flour, they might actually count as health food, but they don’t taste that way. They taste awesome. Tender, moist, and not too sweet. Plus, since I used buttermilk powder and frozen blueberries, they were made completely with ingredients I happened to have on hand in yet another massive DC snowstorm.

Even better with bacon!


These are the best cookies ever. And that is, actually, all I have to say about that.

Best cookies ever.


I love winter squashes, but my love for them is somewhat conditional. I love them only when savoried-up, spiced and roasted. The more desserty applications do nothing for me—the squash is sweet enough to start with, so I want salt and spice and contrast. Maple syrup is for pancakes.

The problem has been that I’ve been running out of new ways to gussy up roasted winter squash.  My favorite may always be this panzanella with squash and brussels sprouts, or maybe this salad with chickpeas and tahini, or maybe this spicy application. (I confess, I’m terrible at picking favorites. I can’t even pick a favorite color, let alone a favorite book or winter squash recipe.)

But now there’s a new entry in my roasted winter squash recipe book. This gratin is as warm and comforting as the other squash recipes, but it adds a lush richness with goat cheese and cream. It would be a wonderful side dish for Thanksgiving—or, really, for any meal. Rather, any meal where you have some kind of bread to scoop up the gorgeousness that is the cream, goat cheese, leek, and hazelnut goo you’ll find on your plate once you’ve eaten all your squash.

The squash is quashed.