Tag Archives: Food


Scape scape scape. It’s like a typo. I keep typing “ramps,” but that’s….not what these are.

Scapes are the tops of young garlic plants. From what I’ve read, they are trimmed off to encourage the plant to put energy into the bulb, rather than the flower. They have a mild flavor, slightly garlicky but more like a dense scallion.

When Tom stayed over the night before he went back to Oregon, we finally used my bag of scapes in a couscous to accompany some Korean-Style steak from Trader Joe’s. I chopped them up, which is time-consuming since they all curl different which-ways, so you have to do one or two at a time:

I sautéed them in peanut oil over medium-high heat until they were tender (this takes a while!)

Meanwhile, I cooked the couscous, which was even bigger than pearl/Israeli couscous, and appeared to be hand rolled. I bought it at Christina’s spice shop in Inman Square, in an unmarked plastic bag.

It had an interesting texture–slightly chewy, slightly grainy, in a good way. It almost felt like there was semolina in it, or something?

When it was cooked I sautéed it with the scapes for a few minutes, trying to get a nice browned exterior on some of the pearls. That didn’t really work; they just stuck–I have to stop trying to do it, but the image in my head is such a tasty one! It was still pretty good:

I had Tom slice up the baby zucchinis from the CSA into ribbons, and he grilled those (coated in olive oil, of course!) and the steak. I won’t buy that pre-seasoned steak again; the texture was great but the marinade was too sweet for me. Still, this dinner came together very fast and was quite delicious! And in real life it wasn’t blurry. Sigh.

UGH. On an unrelated note I just noticed that all of my photos that were posted at Shutterfly are now showing up as tiny thumbnails in my blog archives. I went and looked and they changed their systems–looks like if I update the image source links I’m ok, but otherwise it only shows a thumbnail. Annooooying.

CSA: Week two, fun with chard

Aaaand once again I’m a week late.

Week two CSA contents:

-1 bunch chard (green)
-3 medium red beets
-1 head lettuce
-4 oz. garlic scapes
-8 oz. summer squash/zucchini
-1 bunch dill

Tuesday night I stopped at Whole Foods after the CSA pick-up and grabbed the makings for a semi-homemade pizza. They sell bags of fresh dough, all ready to bake. I also got some mozzarella and a couple tablespoons of an artichoke-garlic spread from the antipasto bar. (I find that there are frequently useful little things in those!)

At home I spent ages washing greens, then I cut up:

…and sautéed the chard and set it aside. I rolled out the dough and brushed it with olive oil, then smeared the artichoke dip around and put on the cheese, lovingly grated by Ben. (“It. is. sticking. Why is it clumpy? Why?”–it was a humid night and even putting the cheese in the freezer to firm up didn’t do the trick.)

I baked that (on the highest heat below broil; somewhere north of 500 degrees) until the cheese started to bubble, then pulled it out and added the chard, and baked until it seemed done. Precise, no?

All in all it probably took about 10 minutes longer than throwing a frozen pizza in the oven and it was *delicious.* I will likely be doing this a lot this summer, and experimenting with grilling them as well.

We finished with a salad made from the lovely tender lettuce. For some reason the head this week had loads of little baby lettuces (clones? mutants? they were delicious so I don’t care) clustered around the base:

Eee! Tiny tiny lettuces! Adorable. *Munch* We both commented on how tender and delicious the lettuce was, eaten within 24 hours of harvest! And not to be all philosophical, but there’s something appealing to me about washing mud off the lettuce because the farm was hit by the same thunderstorms that hit us here, too.

Coming soon: Cooking scapes with Tom!

CSA: Week one, greens galore

Agh, I am terribly behind. I’m mere days away from picking up CSA week three, and I haven’t yet posted one and two! I’m hopping to it now.

Ok, so. Last week I picked up my first CSA share from Stone Soup Farm. I have a half share, 5-8 pounds/week.

The goods:

-3 oz. mesclun
-1 head lettuce
-1 bunch kale
-1 small summer squash (3 oz.)
-1 bunch radishes, in place of cilantro
-5 garlic scapes
-I small basil plant

The radishes Kabir and I ate with butter and salt:

The kale I made into a very tasty absorption pasta with sausage and feta:

(I just can’t resist those colors)

The summer squash I forgot in the produce drawer, oops.

The lettuce made several delicious salads.

Salad 1, for after the pasta:

Salad 2, dinner later in the week, with baby beets (vacuum-packed from Trader Joe’s, thanks Juree for the tip!), feta, chicken, etc. (Shockingly bad photo):

The basil I transported home like so:

It was in a tiny, tiny grower’s pot:

And I transplanted it a couple days later into a bigger pot:

I can’t say that it’s thriving. It still has that sad little droop at the top, even though it’s living outside and the soil is nice and damp. Germi, help me! Is it ok??

Pasta salad, Bridge-style

Last week on IM, Bridge (who is in London these days, and cooks all the time) mentioned the greek-style pasta salad she’d made, and how good it was. Then she mentioned it again. Then I remembered that I had olives and feta in the fridge, and a house guest to feed, so I picked up some cherry tomatoes, a cucumber and some chicken breasts. I had Ben grill the chicken while he was grilling burgers the night before (I marinated them in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, with some lemon juice towards the end (too early and it starts to cook the meat)), so on Tuesday night it was ready to go.

I peeled strips of skin off the cucumber and quartered it lengthwise, then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds before cutting it up.

I cut up the tomatoes and put them with some olive oil and salt to start getting juicy while the pasta cooked, then added in the hot pasta, olives, cucumber and feta.

After combining everything I added lemon juice, salt and pepper until it tasted interesting enough. The feta softened and coated the pasta, which wasn’t pretty but tasted great.

Sliced up the cold chicken, laid it on top, and voila! Dinner in the time it took to cook the pasta.

Definitely a keeper–this was more interesting than the Lydia Salad (with just mozzarella and tomatoes and basil) and would be great for a picnic.

P.S. I am headed West again this weekend, to SF. I want to post about my first CSA box but I might not get to it. If not, have a great weekend!

Summer wedding shower

Sorry it’s been quiet around here: It’s busy times in Kate-land. This weekend I went home to Oregon for my 10-year high school reunion (!!) and to throw a wedding shower for my oldest friend, Kathrin. My mom was incredibly generous about hosting at their house and preparing all the food, and she spent a lot of time scrubbing everything up all around the house and yard so that everything was perfect.

I wanted to use bright colors because when I think of Kathrin I think of reds and oranges. A couple months ago I went to Paper Source and found cute invitations with big abstract flowers on them, and then got wrapping paper with the same flowers, along with envelopes and flat cards and labels in the various colors from the paper. I used the wrapping paper to make a belly band holding the flat cards (which I printed as recipe cards) over the invitation text, and then held it together with the labels (I stamped them with a potato stamp, since I didn’t have a “K” stamp!):

Last week I went back to the store to get more of the paper so I could decorate with it for the shower. I also made a holder for the recipe cards, which all the ladies brought back with favorite summer recipes on them.

I lucked out when I went running errands on Friday to get ready for the shower. I didn’t think I’d find tulips this late in the year, but Trader Joe’s had them, in the perfect colors. We rented 48″ square tables and put them in the dining room, filling out my mom’s antique chairs with four rental ones. We rented the tablecloths and napkins, and I used the paper to make a table runner.

The dining table went in back of the sofa for the food, and the smaller table we usually keep there was moved to the side for drinks:

By the way, let’s take a closer look at those radishes (with butter and salt), because they are so lovely:

For drinks we had prosecco and Pimm’s Cups, which I love. I forgot to take a picture of the drink all made, but here are the pretty, pretty garnishes (strawberries are not 100% traditional but I wanted some color):

I made a whole pitcher of Pimm’s Cups (1 1/3 cups Pimm’s to 2 2/3 lemonade made enough for 12 people once the club soda and ice got involved), but the recipe scales up or down easily:

Pimm’s Cup
1 part Pimm’s No. 1
3 parts lemonade
Shake well and pour into a collins glass full of ice, filling about 2/3 of the way, maybe a little more
Top with club soda
Garnish with mint and cucumber (and lemon, orange or strawberry if you want)

Pimm’s is gin-based (which…I love gin, so that makes me happy) but honestly it doesn’t taste very ginny, and it’s worth a try even if you’re more of a vodka drinker. The drink is very mild on the alcohol front, and extremely refreshing for summer. Obviously I had to leave the bottle of Pimm’s in Oregon, so now I need to track down my own for Porch-top sipping.

Anyway, on to the food! My mom made grilled chicken (marinated in garlic and olive oil, with a bit of lemon at the end), asparagus with preserved lemon and a fantastic couscous from the Bouchon cookbook. I will try making that myself one of these days and will include the recipe then! It had more preserved lemon and mint in it and was amazing. Also a big salad. All the vegetables (and the strawberries) came from the farmer’s market that morning, and the mint was from a friend’s back yard–spring comes earlier in Oregon, even in a rainy, cool year like this one.

Lunch was perfect–light and summery. Everyone seemed to have a lovely time! And we finished with a goblet of strawberries, butter cookies and chocolate-covered pretzels while Kathrin opened presents.

Oh, and more Prosecco. Lots of Prosecco.

Crisp or crumble?

Ben’s cousin, his wife and their new baby came for a visit a couple weekends ago, and since the baby isn’t quite up to restaurant meals we stayed in on Saturday night. We had a simple dinner and topped it off with a strawberry rhubarb crumble I found on Smitten Kitchen.

The good news: Strawberry and Rhubarb! It’s nearly summer!

The recipe is easy and I loved the flavor of the topping. The lemon zest gave a lovely citrus scent, and the texture (it contains raw sugar and the large amount of melted butter) is fantastic.

Two things about the filling, though. I cut my rhubarb too big, so it took forever to cook and it didn’t combine with the strawberries quite enough. Still good, though. The bigger problem was the gummi-factor. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of flour and I think that must have been too much for the fruit I was using; I will investigate other recipes to see if that could be it. I felt like there was a gummy biscuit batter surrounding the fruit, and sometimes there wasn’t much fruit to be found in it.

I should have known I was headed somewhere doughy when the filling looked like this before baking, but honestly I haven’t made any fruit pies and have only made a couple cobblers, always with peaches:

Bleurgh, let’s cover that up with buttery deliciousness:

All in all I’d give it a B, all on account of the filling. I will have to try again; what a sacrifice!

That ice cream, by the way, is Ginger-Molasses from Christina’s in Inman Square. Mmmmm.

The rest of dinner, for the record:
Salad with crispy goat cheese cakes (squash slices of goat cheese gently, dip in egg white then panko (with salt and pepper); saute in olive oil):

Then grilled sausages and asparagus, and a big bowl of Lydia’s pasta salad.

Dolly’s (Almost) Crisp Toffee Bars

I have always read cookbooks, starting when I was in middle school or so. In my parents’ house there is a small built-in bookcase in the dining room where my mom always kept her cookbooks, so the easiest thing to grab to read over a snack or solo breakfast or lunch was a favorite tome. My usual pick was Barbara Tropp’s China Moon Cookbook (packed with hilarious stories in the sidebars, as well as fun recipes intros), but I also turned to Italy in Small Bites for mouth-watering descriptions of regional snacks throughout Italy, and to the various works of Maida Heatter for the most precise (and fascinatingly old-fashioned) recipes I’d ever seen.

Heatter, a master of dessert recipes, introduced me to the science of baking–one I’ve never really explored. I need to collect my own copies of her books and give dessert a try. My childhood was studded with Heatter recipes: My favorite was September Seventh Cake, which had a whipped filling, but my mom made the ultra-simple and (to adults–it’s spiked with rum) delicious Craig Claiborne’s Rum Chocolate Dessert for tons of dinner parties before she discovered crostatas. The brownie recipe (these are all from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, I think) is also killer.

But my very favorite cookies of all time are Dolly’s Crisp Toffee Bars. When properly made, the cookies, which contain no egg and LOTS of butter, are very thin and crispy, and have a shelf life of about a month. They’re sturdy and great for care packages, and perfectly toe the line between candy and cookie. I, of course, didn’t make them quite right, but we’ll get to that.

I found this recipe online–Mom, do you mind taking a quick look at the cookbook to make sure it’s right?

Dolly’s Crisp Toffee Bars
From Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts
Makes 32 bar cookies

1/2 pound unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark; I used dark), firmly packed
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
4 ounces walnut, cut into medium sized pieces (1 generous cup)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 cup)

Adjust rack to the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with a mixer.
Add the salt, vanilla, and sugar and beat well.

On low speed, gradually add the flour, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating until the mixture holds together.
Add the nuts and chocolate chips and mix well.

Spread the dough (it will be stiff) into an unbuttered 10 1/2 x 15 1/2 x 1 inch jelly roll pan. (This is where I went wrong: I don’t have that size pan so I used a quarter sheet, which is probably 9X12? Too small. I should have spread them in a half sheet; I could probably have even ignored part of the sheet and just not filled it all the way, since the dough is so stiff.)
With floured fingertips, press the dough firmly to make an even layer- it will be thin.

Bake for 25 minutes, reversing the pan front to back once to insure even baking. The cake will be golden brown. (I then didn’t compensate for the thicker dough by baking longer. Nope.)
Let cool in the pan for only a minute or so.
With a small sharp knife, cut into bars; let stand in the pan until cool.

Transfer the cookies to paper towels to dry the bottoms.
Wrap individually in wax paper or store in an airtight container.

Ok, so mine were just plain bar cookies–they never crisped up and got that toffee flavor or texture. I should have left them in longer. But next time I will make them properly thin and thus super crispy. Maybe I will do that this weekend. Or maybe not, since my 10 year high school reunion is a week from tomorrow and I suppose eating a sheet of cookies isn’t a great preparation method?

Super-easy snack food

Months ago I bookmarked a recipe on AT’s The Kitchn for oven-roasted chickpeas. Crispy! Salty! Healthy!

Last night I came home well before Ben was due back, and found myself rifling through the pantry in search of a bag of snapea crisps* I was sure were lurking there. I was wrong, and I found myself really wanting something besides salt & vinegar chips to snack on, so I finally pulled out a can of garbanzo beans and tried out the recipe.

Actually, “recipe” is a bit grand:

Crispy Chickpeas
-Preheat the oven to 400.
-Rinse a can of chickpeas (or two, if you’re a glutton like I am and you want enough to share) and blot dry (I actually skipped the blotting because I am lazy).
-Spread the rinsed beans on a cookie sheet (WITH SIDES, if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life fishing lost garbanzo beans out from under kitchen tables, shelves, etc.) and toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

-Roast for 30-40 minutes, shaking every ten minutes or so, until the beans are crispy all the way through.
-Toss with salt and spices of your choice.
-Try to share.

I used a random jar of steak seasoning that I got at a Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse event a while ago. The Kitchn used salt and garam masala. Next Time I might try something different, but they’re probably be good with plain old sea salt, too.

I could have roasted them an extra couple minutes; some of the beans were still a little soft inside. I didn’t mind the different textures, though–I’ll be doing this again as soon as I buy more cans of chickpeas. (By the way, I did manage to save about 12 beans for Ben…)

*You haven’t had Snapea Crisps? Dude. Ben thinks they’re gross but I can eat a whole bag at once, and I’m usually not a whole bag at once girl.

They sell them at both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, I think? And they taste just like snow peas, but crunchy and greasy.

Pork chops, redux, and the perils of cooking hungry

Last night it was 3 years since the day Ben proposed (aww!) and I vowed I would actually cook, since that has happened all too infrequently lately. Ben requested another round of crispy pork cutlets, and this time I was able to find the prescribed boneless pork loin chops, so I gave them another go. I also got snow peas and eggplant, thinking I’d make some slightly asian-inspired side dishes for a change of pace. Since I apparently only find recipes on the Everyday Food site lately, I searched for side dishes and scrolled down until I found a recipe for Spicy Sesame Eggplant.

Now, a factoid about me: My blood sugar sometimes bottoms out, and when it does I am a shaky, cranky wreck. It happens suddenly and what I have to do is eat some protein, as soon as possible, and then go on with my day. Last night I was starving before I even started dinner. I had a tiny sandwich for lunch and resisted snacking all afternoon, but then I didn’t start dinner until…I don’t know, 7:30? I was ravenous. And I had lots of big ideas about baking dessert while cooking dinner, etc. Anyway, Ben got home and mixed me a gin & tonic (good plan!) and I ate a couple potato chips but those didn’t help, and as the evening progressed I was absent-minded and very clumsy, to the point where Ben asked if I should leave the kitchen before breaking something or hurting myself.

So, the eggplant. Super easy. You cut up an eggplant into nice 3/4 inch thick logs, toss them in salt and pepper and then in a sauce made of lime juice, veg. oil, sesame oil, sesame seeds and some garlic-chili paste. Broil. La! Easy as pie! (Aside from the part where one of those tricky thorns on the eggplant top stabbed my finger and is still hanging out in there.) And look how pretty everything looks!

Pretty red sauce:

Artful eggplant slicing:

Nicely splotchy eggplant spears:

Horribly scorched eggplant shards:

…oops. So here’s what happened. I put the eggplant under our broiler on the top shelf, and a couple minutes later smelled scorching and moved them down to the middle. They were a little dark but ok. Did I take the pan out and flip the pieces over? Silly rabbit, of course not! I was busy creaming butter for cookies! 10 minutes later the timer rang and Ben asked if I’d heard it and I said “Yes, I’m going to leave them another minute” and then continued with whatever I was doing and about 8 minutes later I remembered the eggplant. Sigh. They actually turned out to be pretty tasty–if leathery-skinned (yum)–but Ben opted out and I ate the leftovers for lunch today.

Then I oiled the panko crumbs for the pork chops and tossed those in the oven. Didn’t set a timer. Remembered them just before they blackened–they were a VERY healthy tan, more like a heavy Mystic Tan than the result of a nice afternoon at the beach. Brown, really. Dark brown. Then I dropped the mixer bowl, which is when Ben asked if I needed to step away for a minute. I declined.

The rest of dinner went off without a hitch, luckily. I managed not to cook the chops to death. And prepping them was made much easier by having Ben on hand (I think he might have been babysitting me) to apply salt and pepper so I didn’t have to keep washing my hands between flipping them over. I sautéed the snow peas in a little vegetable oil, then tossed them with sesame oil, salt and pepper and they were very tasty. Still, I’m mad that I burned things. I almost never burn things, thanks to my crazy sense of smell. The usual exception is when I’m toasting walnuts in the toaster oven. Scorch City. In this case my nose failed me because there was already a scorching-eggplant stench from the too-close-to-the-broiler incident. Boo.

But this looks pretty good, right?

And I’ll post dessert later.

(Any less-putrid-than-usual lighting in the photos can be attributed to my use of the mini lightbox my uncle gave me for Christmas. It’s a little awkward to set up anywhere near my kitchen so I haven’t been using it, but last night I thought I’d add one more complication for my shaky hands and woozy head to deal with and set it up in the butler’s pantry. Fun!)

Distinctly un-springy

Here’s to pantry staples. Last weekend we had a neighbor up for a drink, and shortly before he arrived I realized we’d all probably want dinner and I hadn’t grocery shopped in at least a week. I scoured the pantry and the freezer and was able to patch together a quick risotto, which I cooked while the guys enjoyed second gin-and-tonics. I hadn’t made risotto in a really long time, but I love having it in my arsenal. If you have never made it, it’s so worth giving it a try–once you’ve done it a few times you won’t need a recipe and you’ll be ready to make an emergency dinner suited to casual company with whatever you have on hand!

I’m piecing this recipe together from memory–any basic recipe will get you started, and the theories are really simple!

Anything-You-Have Risotto
Serves 3-4
1 cup arborio rice
1/4-1/3 cup dry vermouth or white wine (if you have white wine already open)
2-3 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, diced
Chicken stock (probably 3 cups or so; have at least 4 cups on hand.)
Whatever you want to put in your risotto–trimmed and cut-up asparagus, dried or fresh (sautéed) mushrooms, sausage, pancetta, etc.

In this case I was relying on pantry elements, so I used dried porcini mushrooms, which I soaked in boiling water for a little while, then used the soaking water (poured carefully to avoid grit from the bottom) to supplement my stock. I rinsed the soaked mushrooms a few times because this batch is annoying gritty. Before soaking them I crunched the bigger mushrooms up a little bit so the pieces were uniform in size, but I probably should have left them bigger.

I also took two sweet italian sausages out of their casings and browned them (making them into small bits) until they were 95% cooked, then set the sausage aside. (Most times I brown a slice or two of pancetta at this stage, if I don’t have sausage around.)

In the same pan where I’d browned the sausage, I melted the butter and cooked the shallot until it was soft and translucent. Medium heat, I’d guess. Scrape your spoon around to get up some of the nice browned sausage bits, if applicable.

Pour in your arborio and stir it around to combine with the butter and shallot.

Pour in the vermouth or white wine and let it cook off, adjusting the heat as needed. If you’re using mushrooms and have some soaking liquid, add that once the vermouth is cooked off. This is when you’ll really be able to scrape up browned sausage goodness; it will release almost as soon as the liquid hits it. The liquids will make lots of steam so that you can’t take any good photos. I also added in the soaked mushrooms.

Try blowing on the steam and moving really fast–ah, that’s a little better.

(Seriously, I can’t believe I’m once again apologizing for godawful photos, but…sorry. Sigh.)

Begin adding stock about 1/2 cup at a time (though I go faster; I’m lazy!), stirring frequently to avoid sticking. Keep adding stock as it cooks away, until the arborio is cooked through.

Towards the end, add in the cooked sausage, sautéed mushrooms, etc. If you want to add raw asparagus, that goes in a little earlier. Do not let it dry out, especially towards the end–add enough stock that the final risotto is creamy and has a bit of broth to it. Serve in heated pasta bowls, topped with a bit of butter and some parmesan cheese, if you have it around.

We had nice big salads (and watched The Office!) after the risotto. Yum. It’s definitely time to retire mushrooms and sausage for the summer, though, and turn my sights to asparagus.