June 2010


So I go on vacation for two weeks and carefully mete out prewritten posts so that my devoted blog fans will not have to suffer in my absence. Then I come back and promptly neglect to post for almost as many days as I was away. Sorry about that.

I was here.

I hope these eggs—poached in a spicy tomato sauce—will make up for my absence. I made them the morning I got back, and they went a long way to helping me making me feel better about the sad fact of no longer being on vacation. They are just superb eggs. On mornings where I don’t need to console myself but am instead merely delighted that it’s the weekend, I’m sure I’ll like them even more.

Vacation consolation.

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Chances are good that you already have in your refrigerator the two ingredients required for making the best condiment known to humanity: sriracha sauce (sometimes also known as rooster sauce) and mayonnaise.

Before.

Combine them, in amounts of your choosing, and you will create instant flavor heaven. It is glorious on french fries (if you don’t believe me, check it out at Good Stuff Eatery) and on roast beef sandwiches. It perks up bland vegetables and is what gives a spicy tuna roll its kick. Lately I’ve been using it on crunchy roasted broccoli, but there are really no limits. I imagine it would be killer on a crabcake, or even as a binder, instead of plain mayo, in tuna salad.

After.

I’m sure there must be some kind of food that doesn’t taste better with this on it, but I haven’t found it yet.

It is perhaps no secret around here that I love the recipes of one Ms. Smitten Kitchen. If you have never been to her site, I implore you to leave this meager blog RIGHT NOW and immediately go make some of her recipes instead. Then you can come back and hang out with me while I express my adoration of her. Then we can jump up and down together in glee at the fact that she’s writing a cookbook, and maybe we can also join forces to lobby heavily in favor of a D.C. stop on her book tour. She has never led me wrong, and this salad is an apt demonstration of the extent to which she can lead you right.

I am smitten.

I don’t know that I ever really tasted carrots before I made this salad. I guess I saw them as nondescript crudites, valuable only as crunch or a vehicle for tzatziki sauce. But now I know that they are deliriously sweet and fresh-tasting, even when they’ve been languishing in the crisper for months, and that they perk up dramatically with salt, lemon, and spice. Smitten Kitchen describes this salad as “fascinating,” and she’s absolutely right. The only real change I made was to add cooked shrimp, which take on some of the salad’s fascinating flavors and help make this a more substantial meal. But with or without the shrimp, you should make this salad immediately. After spending several hours browsing Smitten Kitchen, of course.

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It is, perhaps, my greatest failing as a food lover that I do not like raw tomatoes. Yes, I’ve tried the gorgeous tiny ones that everyone says are like candy. Yes, I’ve tried them more or less fresh from the vine, at the peak of their season. On a very few occasions I have tried them and felt merely indifferent;┬ámost of the time, though, I find them slimy and foul. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to call tomatoes evil, since I do enjoy them when cooked or otherwise altered from their raw form. But despite all my attempts, raw tomatoes remain goopy and gross to me.

One of the uses of tomatoes that always tempts me most is the glorious summer salad of tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella. I look at those beautiful Italy-striped plates and wish that, to me, they could taste as lovely as they look. Instead, two things that I adore are tainted by a third that I just can’t stand.

So I’ve worked out this alternative for myself. I take small eggplant, slice them into rounds, brush with olive oil, and roast until brown and crispy. They’re basically eggplant chips, the salty crunch of which then pairs wonderfully with the milky fresh mozzarella. Even if you do like tomatoes, this variation is worth a try.

Please ignore the browning basil. It was fresh, I swear.

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Once again, I heard the siren song of a weird dessert with olive oil and herbs, and once again I am so glad I did. These tender little cakes are bright and lovely and are made almost entirely in a blender or food processor. Plus, I always enjoy a chance to use thyme—it seems to last longer in the fridge than any other herb, and I want it to know how grateful I am for that.

It's thyme.

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