March 2010


The other day, I needed to make dinner out of some Swiss chard, leeks, and ricotta. A quick google for recipe ideas, and I found what seemed like a sure winner: Lidia Bastianich’s Swiss chard crostata.

Thanks, google!

Indeed, it was awesome.  And in the process of making it, I learned several interesting things. For example, a “crostata” is basically the same thing as a “galette“—that is, a free-form, rather rustic pie or tart.  Also, this recipe demonstrates something that is pretty much lasagna filling (greens, cheese, ricotta, and an egg) also works great in crostata/galette form, sort of like an open-face calzone.

But most revelatory is the third thing I learned from this recipe. YOU CAN MAKE PIE CRUST WITH OLIVE OIL. I recognize that this is heresy for pie purists, but I’m not a pie purist. I’m a pie idiot. My goal with pies is to bake one worthy of the name by Pi Day, 2015. In the meantime, the idea that I can make pies (especially savory ones) with olive oil just blows my mind. The dough comes together easily and rolls out easily. It’s not as divinely flaky as a butter dough, and I wouldn’t do it for a sweet dessert, but for something like this crostata it was just perfect. Next time I may even try it with whole wheat flour—it sounds frighteningly healthy, but if Chocolate and Zucchini says it makes a great savory tart crust, who am I to argue?

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Mornings are difficult for me. Difficult to the point that I’m sometimes surprised, when I get to work, that I’ve managed to dress myself in a socially appropriate way.

My stomach, like my brain, tends to take a while to fully wake up, so breakfast can be something of a challenge. Historically, my breakfast has been orange juice, cereal, and blueberries—something I can assemble and eat without a fully alert brain or stomach. The problem is that I’m ravenous again just a couple of hours later, and it’s still a ways until lunchtime.

So recently I’ve decided to experiment with an exciting new food product I’ve been hearing a lot about. It’s cheap, healthy, and full of protein. It’s an animal product, so vegans, this is not for you. And it’s a little gross if you think too much about it, but  somehow less gross if you shell out and get it at the farmer’s market from the local organic producer guys, who also happen to be really attractive.

That’s right, I’m talking about eggs. Specifically, taking eggs and making them into McMuffins. (When I was a kid, I called all chicken nuggets “McNuggets.” In hindsight, that’s depressing.) More specifically, making them into a Starbucks-inspired hoity-toity version of McMuffins; even more specifically, making them in bulk and freezing them so that they can be nuked and enjoyed first thing in the morning, even when brain dead. They’re cheaper, healthier, tastier, and—especially with farmer’s market eggs and gooey havarti with dill—much, much classier than the original. And hey, with the freezing-and-nuking, they’re faster, too.

WARNING! STUPID SHAKESPEARE PUN: I goo, I goo; look how I goo, Swifter than arrow from the Tartar's boo.

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It’s probably clear by now that I really enjoy eating vegetables. I feel no need to sneak them into foods, à la Jessica Seinfeld—I’m plenty happy to have them front and center in all their vegetal glory.

That said, it turns out that boiled and pulverized kale makes a mighty fine pesto when spread surreptitiously onto pasta. It just tastes bright, and garlicky, and lemony, without a hint that it’s a dreaded healthy green substance. It also whips up beautifully quickly—dinner can be on the table in just a minute or so more than it takes the pasta to cook.

Vegetables? Where?

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My system for organizing recipes is, um, complicated. It involves scores of google documents, two binders and counting, and innumerable post-it flags. By most people’s standards, it would probably constitute a disaster, so there’s really no point in explaining it further. But somehow it works for me, and this recipe is proof.

I had bought sweet potatoes at the farmer’s market some time ago, and it was well past time when I should be using them. So I went to my google documents and searched for sweet potato recipes that I’ve previously bookmarked. Up comes a recipe for a black bean and sweet potato hash, from Moosewood, and “fajita sweet potatoes,” from DC bloggers The Bitten Word. I’d never gotten around to making the former because, despite being an admirably one-pot meal, it seemed a tad boring; the latter had languished in my filing system because, what with my penchant for one-pot meals, I rarely make anything that is truly a side dish.

But now, looking at these two recipes together, I thought, “What if I spiced up the hash by substituting the fajita sweet potatoes in with the black beans?” And thus a winner was born.

Gold medal hash.

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Baking often seems magic to me, and perhaps no recipe more so than this cake. The instructions seem simply bizarre—boil fruit for two hours?? Then use the entire fruit, peel and all? And it only has five ingredients? What kind of monstrosity is this?

It’s an amazing monstrosity. And, provided you don’t let the water boil off and end up with a charred citrusy mess, it’s pretty hard to screw up.

At some point I want to explore all kinds of variations on this cake—meyer lemons, for sure, or maybe blood oranges. But as long as I can still find clementines at the grocery store, I’ll probably keep on making this cake out of clementines. The variations remain endless: I’ve added ground ginger in the past, and this time I added cardamom. It’s wonderful with orange liqueur sprinkled on top, with a glaze, or with whipped cream. This cake really just might be magic.

Monstrosity.

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