April 2010


I don’t know if this blog has made it evident yet, but I like strange desserts. I fall for the unexpected techniques and ingredients, the recipes that make you wonder how this process could possibly result in dessert. The clementine cake is definitely like that, and the macaroons kind of are as well. Don’t get me wrong, I love the classics, too—I will not turn down a chocolate-chip cookie or a piece of apple pie. But it’s the odd ones that win me over every time.

A sure sign of a dessert that’s just my type is a baked good with ingredients that you’d normally associate with dinner, not dessert. Like, say, (1) polenta, (2) rosemary, and (3) olive oil. You mean to tell me those things go in a CAKE?? Sold.

Ceci n'est pas un gâteau.

This cake is herby and crunchy and savory in all the right ways, with just enough sweetness to remind you that you’re not eating dinner. It’s delightful.

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I am so tired. I was up at 5 a.m. this morning, and I am not a girl who does 5 a.m. As a result, cooking dinner tonight was on a long list of things I really did not want to do. The list included going to the gym (skipped), returning important emails (skipped), getting Comcast to fix my cable bill (skipped), and taking out the trash (would have skipped, but it smelled too bad).

But there was a significant roadblock between me and my frozen pizza for dinner: some defrosted tilapia and a three-day hiatus before I’d have another chance to cook dinner. If I skipped cooking tonight, that fish would go to waste. Horrible, detestable waste.  And so I dragged my weary self off the couch to cook dinner and chided my chipper yesterday self for thinking that defrosting the fish was a good idea.

As it turns out, my chipper yesterday self was right. This fish IS a good idea. It’s fast and healthy and way better than frozen pizza. Plus, the sauce is absolutely delicious on broccoli and cauliflower, which I sauteed while the fish was baking. And now I’m back on the couch, sated, and rushing through this post so that I can go to bed.

Okay, the fish fell apart. And looks a little undercooked in this picture. But let's face it, you're not here to learn tips about presentation. Or photography. I'M TIRED LEAVE ME ALONE.

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I seem to have stumbled into a Greek Week here at Felony Kirsch—first pastitsio, and now tzatziki sauce. (The matzo spanakopita from a couple of weeks ago, while Greek-inspired, really shouldn’t count.) As a general matter, I do enjoy Greek food, but this tzatziki sauce may actually have changed my life: it makes me want to eat celery. Lots and lots and lots of celery. And any other crudites that I can get my hands on. This stuff is amazingly, shockingly good. I’m on a perpetual quest for new items to add to my roster of healthy snacks that get me through the workday, and this one is a keeper. All you do is salt and drain cucumber and then whiz it up with garlic, lemon juice, and dill, then stir into Greek yogurt. It could not be any simpler.

Green goodness, pre-yogurt

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So that thing I said before? About celebrating? Scratch that.

A bunch of keys on my new computer stopped working. I have this strange hangup about brand-new expensive electronics: I want them to work. I’m picky like that. Also, it may be spring, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. If it’s too cold to sit outside at my favorite neighborhood bar with a beer and some tater tots, it’s not spring. I don’t care what the calendar or the sniffles of my beleagured allergy-prone friends say.

But, my friends, there are cures for these woes. Best Buy gave me a computer whose keys seem to all work, and the cold-weather blues can be beaten back with pastitsio, a hearty Greek mac and cheese full of eggplant and meat and feta. It’s an amazing hybrid of pasta with meat sauce and pasta with cream sauce—why should you have to pick just one kind of pasta sauce, when instead you can layer one over the other?

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You guys, it’s time to celebrate: I have a new computer! It can do crazy things like browse the internet and check email without freezing! I can’t guarantee that this new development will have me blogging more, although it certainly can’t hurt—it’s now possible for me to make it through a post without (a) resorting to reading a magazine while the computer works through its issues, or (b) cursing violently.

Also, while we’re celebrating, let’s celebrate spring! And fresh green vegetables! And the carby beauty that is bread! A perfect way to celebrate whatever vegetables are in season is with panzanella (this winter one is one of my very favorite dishes ever)—essentially a hearty salad with toasty homemade croutons. The vegetables are lovely, but the real prize here is the croutons, tossed with olive oil and parmesan and garlic. Can you blame me if they don’t all make it into the salad?

Note to my sister: I've forgiven you for the time you ate some of the croutons that were supposed to go in the winter panzanella for Thanksgiving. Believe me, I understand.

Because I don’t want to stop the celebrating, let’s ignore that there was no asparagus at the farmers’ market and that the peas came from the freezer. I’m sure the party can continue all spring long.

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Passover is over, so bring on the bread. So profound is my yearning for bread that I’m choosing recipes like this one, that sneak extra bread into the sauce and also call for serving with bread. Bread as both ingredient and delivery system—this was the stuff of my Passover daydreams.

There's bread in there, I promise.

You may also notice that, once again, this recipe centers on greens and chickpeas, my perennial standbys. In other words, even if this recipe didn’t call for bread at a time when I crave it desperately, I wouldn’t have been able to stay away. But regardless of your greens-and-beans proclivities, you should make this dish, pronto. Even as an aficionado of all these ingredients, I was astonished by how delicious it was. No question, it’s going in the non-Passover repertoire.

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SEVEN THOUGHTS ABOUT MACAROONS*

1. Until I tried these macaroons a year ago, I thought I disliked coconut in desserts. Savory applications, yes. Desserts, no. These macaroons converted me. (I did once have a kind of savory macaroon, though, and it blew my mind. I have since searched in vain for a recipe.)

2. Macaroons are, I have learned, not the same thing as macarons. Macarons are suddenly trendy—I’d never heard of them a year ago—almond paste cookies with fillings, and they are notoriously tricky to make. Macaroons are coconut-egg white-sugar confections that come together with no effort at all.

3. This fabulous article about the White House seder tells the story of the Macaroon Security Standoff: a guest was bringing macaroons (which the article calls “flourless cookies”) from Chicago, but the Secret Service doesn’t allow food into the building. Drama ensued. Having made macaroons, however, I can tell you that that whole kerfuffle was just silly, because those Chicago macaroons can’t possibly be as good as these, which could be easily made in the White House kitchen by Sasha and Malia.

4. As a matter of semantics, I don’t think it’s accurate to call macaroons “cookies.” They’re more like homemade Mounds bars. And they’re actually little mounds, unlike Mounds bars.

5. These macaroons disappeared faster than any baked good I have ever before brought into my office.

6. How did macaroons become traditional for Passover among Jews of Eastern European descent? It’s not like coconut was widely available in the shtetl.

7. I’m pretty sure the macaroons are supposed to be more evenly coated in chocolate, but I like them with little chocolate caps like this. They remind me of Lego people.

This is the extent of my talent as an artist.

* In the style of mimi smartypants.

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