Sunday, May 30, 2010

I've Moved!

Hello friends,

I have moved to a different blogging host, You can find me at Thanks for following me on Blogger, and see you very soon.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cranberry Applesauce, or, 'Hey you'

Although apple season is far from its peak, I find working with apples wonderfully calming and delicious at any time of year: they behave perfectly when being sliced or diced, for one, and peeling them is akin to meditation. We're getting our share of last-gasp apples through our CSA, and while they may not be Edenic hand-to-mouth specimens, they lend themselves well to those--how shall I put it?--more saucy moments.

This is my go-to recipe for applesauce. It's sweet (but not cloyingly so), flavorful (but not aggressively cranberry), and the bit of butter makes it almost velvety and utterly delightful. I've made it three times in the past few months, and am already planning a rhubarb variety once it appears on the market. See--it's just so darn inviting, slipping effortlessly into your daily routine and calling hey you, wouldn't it be sweet in those early morning moments where you'd like to cook something for breakfast, afternoons when you've got a pile of work and want a productive break, evenings when you want a quick dessert (with cream or ice cream on top), and especially--(oh, especially)--those moments you open your fruit drawer and find a handful of scraggly apples just calling for a better life. Appel-sauce, indeed. That's my kind of interpellation.

P.S. I happen to think it's perfect warm.
P.P.S. Did I tell you it's pink? Bright pink? The cranberries cook down as well as the apples, to the point where they aren't really berries as much as a sheer, gorgeous, perfect color. Yes I said yes they will yes.

Cranberry Applesauce
adapted from Epicurious

Another invitation? Gustatory variation. Rhubarb would be a great substitute for the cranberries, orange or lime peel instead of lemon, and any number of sweeteners (I recently used Trader Joe's dark agave--only $3, fyi, not as crazy expensive as I'd thought--and it was really good.) Oh, and the texture is up to you; Epicurious has you milling it for a smoother sauce, but I rather like the apple-pie feel to leaving larger pieces unmilled. You could also smash it with a potato masher or a fork.

4 apples (about 2 pounds), peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup fresh cranberries, picked over
1/4 cup sugar (I use 1/4, but you could use up to 1/2 a cup depending on the tartness of your apples. You could also sub agave nectar, if you're so inclined; it's really good.)
1/4 cup apple juice or water (Water works fine)
a 3-inch cinnamon stick
a 3-inch strip of lemon zest
2 tbsp. unsalted butter (I use 1, which is fine)

In a heavy saucepan cook the apples, the cranberries, the sugar, the apple juice or water, the cinnamon stick, and the zest over moderate heat, stirring, for 15 minutes (or less), or until the apples are very soft. Discard the cinnamon stick and the zest, force the apple mixture through the medium disk of a food mill into a bowl (optional), and stir in the butter. Serve the applesauce warm or chilled. The applesauce keeps, covered and chilled, for 1 week.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Happy January!

Hello everyone, and happy January!

Though it's currently the beginning of a new semester here, with all the frenetic and expansive energy attending the return to academia, it seems to me that the food world holds its own temporal court, keeping us in something like a stasis of old apples, sweet carrots, potatoes and cabbage. I still can't shake the sense that January is so very much locked between November and March, in the culinary doldrums of sister winter. There is no freedom in a root vegetable, if you catch my drift. Its flavor-fullness comes through a sense of warmth, comfort, perhaps even staidness--but at the moment, I'm ready for all that is solid to melt into air (wink). I'm ready for the giddiness of spring, mainly for fresh rhubarb and salads--oh, salads!--that you feel are necessary rather than salutary, ones you don't even have to think about, the components just jump right into your bowl.

Now don't get me wrong, I happen to like winter produce, especially when it comes in your farm share:

It's true: everything does taste better when from a CSA share. Alice and I are splitting a half-vegetarian share from Keystone Farm, which is pretty much perfect. We also get eggs, granola and cheese every week, which is wonderful! West Phillians, if you're thinking about doing CSA, you should definitely check out this option. Plus they give you a print-out about your weekly share, detailing what type of produce you've gotten as well as recipes to try featuring--you guessed it--the inexorable march of apples, onions, carrots, and potatoes. I'll post one ASAITO (As Soon As I've Tried One.) But for now I've been turning to all of Molly's really great braised vegetable recipes, the ones that make cabbages really lush and lovely, an unforgettable symphony of tenderness and savoriness. I happen to really like braising with its mixture of simplicity and time; it's perfect for the winter when it's harder to care about you food, and yet you still want your food to care about you in complex, interesting, layered ways. Roasting also gets me there, but somehow it's not as exciting (at least right now, at least to me.)

Here's a great recipe for braised red cabbage, a sweet-and-sour take on the theme that really pops. For a winter vegetable, it's so flavorful and bright, almost in a summery way. The first time I made it I ate almost all of it. Dolefully scraping the last bits of it out of the container, I honestly considered making it again that night--and I'm telling you people, that was no small amount of cabbage. Trust me. You're going to like it.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
From the Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook (I know. But it was only 8 bucks at Marshalls and the recipes are really quite good. Its holiday spirit got me through paper-writing.)

1 small head red cabbage (about 2 pounds)
2 T vegetable oil
7 T red-wine vinegar
3 T honey
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch allspice
salt and pepper to taste
1 Granny Smith apple

1. Halve cabbage lengthwise; remove core, and slice leaves as thinly as possible.
2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar, honey, cinnamon and allspice. Season with salt and pepper. Add 3 T water, and continue cooking until cabbage is almost soft, about 1 1/2 hours. Add more water as needed if pan looks dry. (NOTE: I usually just cook it for one hour before adding the apple. Life is short. More to the point, I am impatient.)
3. Halve apple lengthwise, remove core, and slice apple into very thin wedges. Add to cabbage, and continue cooking until cabbage is soft and almost dry, about 20 minutes more. Serve warm. (NOTE: Also strangely good cold, straight out of the fridge!)

ps: We got a green cabbage in our last CSA share! It was so beautiful; when I sliced into it, it looked just like a giant brussels sprout.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

School may begin, but foodlove never ends

Well, Philadelphia is certainly a foodie haven.

Here I am at the White Dog Café, sitting in front of the most fresh and delicious cobb salads I've ever tasted (turkey, bacon, avocado, beets, bibb lettuce, blue cheese and tomato, all locally grown and raised):

And here's Ali, my younger sister, with (if I remember correctly) seared halibut atop a bed of delicious golden orzo, served with a cool lumpmeat crab salad:

Oh, how happy we were.

And how could I forget the dinner at Parc, where Geoff and I had country paté with cornichons and mustard?
And for my entree I decided on the monkfish:

I'd never had monkfish before, so I was a bit surprised to find the texture springy, yet tender. If a fish could be al dente, this would be it. And just take a look at that beautiful golden crust--it was divine. Overall, I'd say the various components went quite well together, with the effect of being both a clean and complex dish. The meat was perfectly roasted, the broth warm and rich, with the tomato and eggplant salad a savory and fruity accompaniment. Harmonious.

Of course, you need not reach for the cream of the crop (and deep into your wallet) to be satisfied here--these were just the two times I did, and I wanted to share them with you. On the other hand, I could wax terrifically on the food carts, with students and faculty alike lining up for the falafel and vegetarian chili; a great coffee shop with the best beer happy hours (I got a brown ale that was just perfect, with dark fruit undertones of fig); a chocolate gelato so rich you'd swear you were eating fudge. But I think I'll focus on the other side of Philly food culture...

...that is, the community you build, the company you keep.

These pictures are from a brunch with some fellow first-years. Ana and Lydia graciously and beautifully adorned a mascarpone tart with nectarines, while Divya made multigrain pancakes on my stove that--minutes later--would fill the apartment with insidious smoke. (No fault of anyone! My stove just doesn't have a hood.) Luckily we survived intact; my smoke alarm, however, did not. I certainly plan on having a food gathering again; despite my studio's limited capacity (which I plan on testing quite thoroughly one of these days) and dangerous of near asphyxiation, we had a lovely time. There's nothing like good friends and good food in a warm kitchen. And the tart--oh, the tart! That tart deserves its own post.

But it is with this picture that I close my post today:

I think this is my favorite one. It's a loaf of bread, the first successful one I've ever made. My first attempt was actually years ago in one of those bread machines, and it turned out bland, unpromising, and above all, empty.

Bread, my friends, should never taste empty.

The bread pictured above, however, was everything but empty. It was sweet, soft. It had the texture you hope for from a white bread, substantial and pliant with a gentle crumb. It was golden in color and cream-like in taste, with a hint of warm sweetness from the maple syrup. In short, it was a lovely first bread to bake in a new city that, while having a vibrant food scene, also offers you the pleasure of standing in a kitchen, watching as you take in the peace and sweetness of slowly rising dough.

Maple White Bread
makes 1 loaf

● 1 cup milk
● 1/4 cup maple syrup
● 4 tbsp. sweet butter
● 1 tsp. salt
● 1 package active dry yeast
● 1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
● 1 tsp. sugar or maple sugar
● 1 egg beaten
● 4 cups (approximately) unbleached all-purpose flour


1. Place milk, maple syrup, butter and salt in a saucepan and scald. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

2. Dissolve yeast in warm water along with the sugar. Set aside for five minutes until the mixture becomes frothy. Transfer the milk mixture to a large bowl, stir in the yeast mixture and then stir in the egg.

3. Stir in two cups of the flour. Then add more flour about one-half cup at a time until a ball of dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for about eight minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn the dough to oil on all sides, cover lightly and set aside to rise until doubled, about an hour.

4. Punch down dough, turn onto a lightly floured board and knead for another minute or so. Roll dough into a rectangle about nine by 12 inches, then roll tightly, jellyroll fashion, starting from the narrow side. Pinch the seam and ends closed. Fit the dough seam side down into a greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch baking pan.

5. Cover and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread in the oven and bake about 45 minutes, until well browned. Remove from pan and allow to cool freely on a rack before slicing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thoughts; Time Out

Okay, so the first week at Penn has been incredible and incredibly overwhelming. I'm in the midst of a total life-shift right now--not as enormous as the Great Vowel Shift (which was pretty huge, as I've been told)--but something quite akin to the matter.

The reorganization involves thinking spherically (in every direction), but as a sphere without a center. An unthinkable object. A puffed-up rhizome crisp. It has to do with cathecting to everything and everyone without stopping to think why or how--a wild, endless desiring that cannot be measured except in the moment. It's the first-year-of-the-rest-of-your-life syndrome, you see. Some might even say it's healthy, productive and nutritive in a schizoid way. Some might call it neurotic. I'm banking on both, putting a lot of faith in the power of the tranformative...and hey, all good academics have their neuroses, right?

Unfortunately, the Great Shift also implicates the ontology of this space. It can no longer remain purely foodie (I know! sorry!) and it might also lose its image-density (double sorry!) It may even change colors. My hope is that this will become another space of thought for me--loosen up a little, you know?--and help me through this dense jungle of ideas and the search for intellectual kinship. This doesn't mean I've given up food as a major theme--I'm not that deluded; the aliens haven't eaten and automaton-ed me yet--but it will mean that from time to time ginger roots will nudge up against rhizomatics, pork chops will come to terms with conceptions of the animal, kitchen burns and knife wounds will find companionship with the inexorable necessity of History (for after all, "History is what hurts") and the notion of a homemade life will find itself confronted with the deeply sad, deeply unsettling notion of homelessness and alienation in our modern age.

And we're off!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


When summer time is over and school time sets in, what better go-to, quick-and-easy dinner do we have than homemade pizza? I've heard it's the new thing, prompting an outbreak of gourmand pizzerias--but I guess I just haven't caught on to the trend of going out for pizza, not when you can make such scrumptious versions at home for super-cheap. You can find ready-made dough in the supermarket fairly easily (I like Whole Foods' whole-wheat variety, for under $2!), and what you put on it is up to you.

The first pizza pictured was a mixture of dried figs, Gorgonzola, bacon and caramelized onions. (Hold on, don't rush to the kitchen quite yet!) Pictured above is a delectable white pizza, made with ricotta, mozzarella, a sprinkling of Parmesan, fresh tomatoes and garlic-sautéed spinach. I've also made a great mushroom pizza with onions, Fontina and rosemary--although I don't have a picture for that, I can assure you it is so good. And of course there's the classic Margherita, a revelation when, in the confines of your own kitchen, you can douse that baby with as much mozzarella and basil as you want. You don't need a pizza stone. I usually sprinkle a foil-covered baking tray with cornmeal and slap the dough right on top. Just be sure to crank your oven as high as it will go, unless otherwise directed; the pizzas will bake and bubble merrily for around 12-15 minutes before your judgment (or impatience, for me) deems it done. Oh, and a drizzle of olive oil and light crackling of salt pepper doesn't hurt either.

Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Figs, Bacon and Blue Cheese
from The New York Times

● large onion
● 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
● 2 bay leaves
● Kosher salt
● 4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch thick batons
● 1 ball pizza dough (see above)
● Flour, for dusting surface
● 12 dried mission figs, stems trimmed, cut into quarters or small pieces
● 3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
● Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
● Freshly cracked black pepper.

1. At least 45 minutes before cooking, preheat the oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees.

2. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the onions, thyme and bay leaves. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onions begin to wilt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and turn a deep, golden brown, about 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and transfer the onions to a small bowl.

3. Place the bacon in the pan and set over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a small bowl.

White Pizza, very casual:

(Ingredients: ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, spinach, tomato, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper)

Put a glug of olive oil in a pan and heat to medium. Add some garlic and stir until fragrant. Sauté a whole lot of spinach in this mixture until cooked down, and drain off excess liquid. Cut up the tomato in a medium dice. Open cheese containers, and assemble at will. Just before sliding in the oven, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with light hand of salt and a liberal hand of pepper.

Wild Mushroom Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Fontina, and Rosemary

● 7 tbsp. butter, divided (I used less--you don't need 3 Tbsp of butter to caramelize onions)
● 2 tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil (I just used olive oil)
● 3 onions, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise (about 6 cups)
● 2 lb. assorted wild mushrooms (such as crimini, oyster, chanterelle, and stemmed shiitake), cut into bite-size pieces
● 6 garlic cloves, minced
● 2 tbsp. minced shallot (about 1 medium)
● 2 cups dry white wine
● 1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
● Pizza Dough
● Cornmeal (for dusting)
● Garlic oil
● 3 cups grated Fontina cheese (about 10 ounces)

Melt 3 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until golden, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter with 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil in another heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, and shallot. Sauté 4 minutes. Add wine and simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently, about 13 minutes. Add rosemary; season with salt and pepper.

Position rack in bottom third of oven. Place heavy 17x11-inch baking sheet on rack (invert if rimmed). Preheat oven to 500°F at least 30 minutes before baking. Roll out 2 dough disks on lightly floured surface to 8-inch rounds, allowing dough to rest a few minutes if it springs back. Sprinkle another baking sheet (invert if rimmed) with cornmeal. Transfer 1 dough round to second baking sheet. Lightly brush dough with garlic oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Scatter 2 1/2 tablespoons onions over cheese. Scatter 1/2 cup mushrooms over onions. Sprinkle with salt.

Position baking sheet with pizza at far edge of 1 side of hot baking sheet. Tilt sheet and pull back slowly, allowing pizza to slide onto hot sheet. Repeat with second dough disk, garlic oil, cheese, onions, mushrooms, and salt, and slide second pizza onto second half of hot baking sheet. Bake pizzas 6 minutes. Rotate pizzas half a turn. Bake until crust is deep brown, about 6 minutes longer. Using large spatula, carefully transfer pizzas to cutting board. Let rest 1 minute. Slice into wedges and serve. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tomato (and non-tomato) derivatives

As a tomato-hating child, I was never a huge fan of salsa or--perhaps more shockingly--its distant cousin, ketchup. In terms of salsa, I routinely found it watery, toned down and tinny, preferring my food plain rather than subject it to a demoralizing (and soggy-making) dip. Granted, this was the twist-and-pour canned variety. But even though Cook's Illustrated assures me there's at least one acceptable brand one can buy (Pace Chunky, I believe, at least in 2007), I for one need more convincing.

(And don't even get me started on ketchup. Blegh. It's where tomatoes go to die a sickly, cloying death.)

On the salsa issue, however, I duly stand corrected. First of all, I discovered how easy it is to make your own (and how delicious tomatoes are when in season!) Secondly, I realized that not all salsas have to be tomato-based. These two revelations, my friends, have made all the difference. Thus today I'd like to share with you two delicious salsas: the first, a simple tomato; the second, a cantaloupe and red onion variety. The tomato one is just gorgeous--translucent and Two very different tastes, each delightful in its own way. O salsa! I have to admit you're growing on me.

And as for ketchup? Eh. Check back with me later.

Fresh Tomato Salsa
lightly adapted from

2 lb. red and/or orange tomatoes (about 5 medium)
2 fresh chiles (I omitted this)
1/4 medium onion (white)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice

Quarter and seed tomatoes. Cut tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice and transfer to a bowl. Wearing rubber gloves, seed and finely chop chiles if using. Finely chop onion and cilantro. Stir chiles, onion, cilantro, and garlic into tomatoes with sugar and lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Salsa may be made 1 hour ahead and kept at cool room temperature. I like to pour off most of the excess water for a fuller texture, but salsa fiends may hotly debate that point.

Melon Salsa

This originally was paired with a grilled flank steak (a delicious pairing), but you could also serve it alongside chicken or fish to great effect. It's also lovely served in the hollowed out half of a used melon.

1 large cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and diced (or scooped out in large pieces)
1 medium red onion, diced
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp. white balsamic (or cider) vinegar (can also use plain balsamic)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Toss in bowl. (And if you want enough to serve with your dinner, hide your spoons.) Canteloupe was especially nice in terms of color and flavor, but you could also use any other variety of fleshed melon, such as honeydew.