misc

Starting the Countdown

Hopefully over the course of the next week, I don’t go blind.  Between work and finishing up “Authors in the Kitchen” I’m not sure if there will be any spare moments when I’m not staring at my computer.  Its 11 AM on a Saturday morning and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that’s been awake for the past several hours transcribing interviews.

Something I’ve learned?  I am the worst transcriber of interviews.  Slow and steady does not win this race.  My issue is apparently not that I’m a slow typer (I’m not) or that I get easily distracted (I don’t) but that I’m a slightly-hard-of-hearing perfectionist.  I’ll “rewind” (not sure if there’s a word for that in the digital realm yet) just to get every “um” “yeah” “you know” that I can, so I have every painstaking syllable on paper (ok, on screen).  So that a half hour interview can take me 3 times that just to get all the words down!  It may or may not be worth it to invest in one of those speech-recognition programs… thoughts?

But the project is slowly coming together and when I’m not exhausted at the prospect of finishing this thing, I do feel hints of excitement.  Its been so much fun chatting with all of these authors about cooking and food memories, that I think I’ll probably need to extend my career a bit further in that direction.  Also, an awesome excuse for cooking up loads of delicious food, which hopefully will be revealed all in good time.

One dish that I did make this past week that had nothing to do with the project and everything to do with the gorgeous artichokes I picked up the other day was homemade hollandaise.  I can’t even begin to explain how many times I have tried and failed to whip up (sans machine!) hollandaise sauce of the right thickness.  I refuse to go the fail-proof blender way (although I think A would have appreciated that much faster method Tuesday night) but I finally whipped myself into a successful frenzy.  And have two enormous blisters on my fingers to prove it.

The sauce was actually thick! Very thick! Almost surprisingly thick! Maybe a bit lemony, but thats completely besides the point.  We then steamed 2 globe artichokes and ate them leaf by leaf.  We were a bit surprised when neither of us stumbled across the hairy choke (god, that makes me feel uncomfortable just typing – couldn’t they call it something else?) but besides that missing feature, the rest was delicious.  So, here you go – I made A take pictures while I whipped (couldn’t stop stirring, hence the blurriness) and then I tried to make him smile while eating so I could photograph the experience (although apparently sucking artichoke leaves while grinning simultaneously is a nearly impossible task).  Also, everything seems to be glowing a bizarre yellow color…

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Oh right, and the whole point of this post: the countdown!  Let’s cross our fingers and hope this thing launches the day after labor day… so 10 days to go!!

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Simple Sundays: Swiss Chard Pasta

We had leftover everything in our house: mascarpone from our eggplant lasagne, wilting Swiss chard from last weeks CSA, and half an onion that someone left in the fridge.  We always have pasta, so I concocted a quick dish that would be a little bit healthy, a little bit creamy, and wouldn’t waste what we have in the house.  That’s been one of the best parts about the CSA – its forcing us to be a lot more creative than we usually would be.  And more spontaneous.

This is a great recipe to throw together when you just don’t have time and you just don’t want to be cooking.  Its a quick meal without being processed, packaged, or frozen one.  Plus, Swiss chard really is that good for you.

Swiss Chard and Mascarpone Pasta

ingredients
Swiss chard
chicken broth
Mascarpone cheese
whole wheat pasta (I recommend spaghetti, but I used penne)
a clove of garlic
half an onion

preparation

Cut the stems out of the swiss chard.  Roll the leaves up like a cigar and slice the chard.  This will cut the chard into nice skinny, long pieces to wrap around the pasta.  Mince the garlic and chop the onion as well. Throw the garlic and onion into a saute pan with some butter.  Once the onions are translucent, add about a tablespoon of chicken broth and keep cooking.  After a few minutes, add the chard.  Let wilt.  Then add as much Mascarpone as you have (or as you want!).  It will melt into the other veggies when it hits the pan.  If the sauce is too thick, add more chicken broth (but most likely the melted Mascarpone will be enough).  Pour over the pasta (that you boiled while you were cooking the rest of the meal).

This will take you *at most* 20 minutes.  And you didn’t even have to use anything pre-packaged.  Okay, except for the pasta.  But I’m not going to ask you to make your own pasta…

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Call For Tasters

As I keep saying (probably more out of stress, less out of excitement) the launch of Authors in the Kitchen is just around the corner.  This weekend, as part of an entire month of finishing touches, is food photography weekend.

So many authors passed on delicious recipes to me, that I (naively?) want to include in the articles – as photographs.  Because I have little time, and no natural light in the evenings when I get home, I’ve decided to have a one weekend cooking extravaganza.  This means if you know me and are in the New York City metropolitan area, you are being mandated to come to my house to eat the vast quantities of food that I will be producing (and photographing).

Enticement? Besides my amazing cooking? I’ll definitely be remaking those limey gin & tonics…

See you tomorrow!

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Top Secret Gin & Tonics

Coming this September, as I must have mentioned a million times, is my “Authors in the Kitchen” project.  A friend of mine, who is a writer and also a fabulous bartender (and chef!) gave me her Limey Gin & Tonic recipe for the project. Trust me, you should get excited about it.  I can’t share it just yet, but J and I whipped up a test batch last night, to photograph for the project of course!  And then proceeded to drink the entire pitcher between the two of us… hey, its hot out!  So to tease you just a little bit…

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Oh Julia: Gratin Dauphinois

I am writing this post in the 95 degree heat in my un-airconditioned apartment, the sun beaming in (and the fan BLASTING).  Fortunately, I am also enjoying a bowl of yogurt with fresh blackberries, courtesy of our CSA: finally they realized berries were in season!

They also realized, after a fairly disappointing last two weeks, that they weren’t giving us enough veggies.  They loaded us up this week – so trust me, you are in for some treats.  For some reason, since they gave us potatoes, we decided to gratin them.  Even though, I know, it is not December, it is not snowing, and we do not have the fireplace going. But who doesn’t want to bake a hearty dish when the temperature is pushing 100? I didn’t know either.

So here is our variation on Julia’s Gratin Dauphinois.  It’s a tad bit unorthodox, but the method is spot-on Rhone Alpes, so just leave out the onions, mushrooms and pancetta if you please.  But you must use heavy cream: I implore you.

Gratin Dauphinois

ingredients
potatoes
milk
gruyere cheese
a clove of garlic
butter (this is french food we’re talking about)
1 pint heavy cream
salt and pepper

optional
mushrooms, quartered
onions, chopped
pancetta, chopped

preparation

Slice the potatoes.  As you slice them, place them in a bowl of cold water.  When all of the potatoes are sliced, rinse and dry them before putting them in a large pot on the stove.  Fill the pot with milk until the potatoes are covered.  Bring to a low boil, and cook the potatoes for 15-20 minutes in the milk.

While the potatoes are cooking, prep the rest of the dish: make sure everything is chopped and the cheese is grated.  Take the deep dish casserole dish you’ll be baking the gratin in (if only I had a Le Creuset…) and rub the edges and bottom with the glove of garlic (I then chop up the garlic and throw it in with the rest of the veggies, but this is again optional – though rubbing the dish is not!).  Then butter the dish.

When the potatoes are ready, build the gratin.  Layer about half of the potatoes into the dish, then top with half of the cream, half of the cheese, salt, pepper, and half of the veggies.  Put most of the rest of the potatoes on top of that, followed by the rest of the veggies and a little bit more salt and pepper.  Then put a last layer of potato, pour the rest of the cream into the dish, and grate the rest of the cheese on top.  I then dot it with butter (maybe 1/2 tablespoon – this dish is already rich enough!).  Bake in the oven at about 350 degrees for about an hour.

Let it cool before you eat it!  This is not worth waiting the 2 hours to get everything together, only to burn your tongue and not be able to taste anything!

We photographed ours (of course!), J and I, but the thing was so close to golden brown that it looks like its glowing in the photographs!

As my dad has been saying in falsetto since he saw a recent Meryl Streep film…

Bon Appetit!

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World’s Best Lasagne: Eggplant

Last night, my roommates and I stayed in and cooked ourselves up a giant lasagne… and then proceeded to devour the entire thing in one sitting (well, almost the entire thing – J’s brother showed up to help us finish it off).  This might now officially be not only my favorite way to cook eggplant, but my favorite lasagne.  Who can eat flat noodles anymore?  Not me.  Bring on the eggplant!  It helped that we had gotten two gorgeously deep purple eggplants from our CSA delivery last week.  I hope we get more, but not likely the way this weather has been going.  We cut them up into nice, thick slices, drizzled olive oil on top, sprinkled them with sea salt and black pepper, and tossed them in the broiler.

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While the eggplant was roasting, J mixed together 1/2 cup of mascarpone and 1/2 cup ricotta with an egg, sea salt, and pepper.  T made a fresh tomato sauce, using our fresh roma tomatoes and plenty of garlic.  We tried to get some basil out of our fireplace garden, but apparently we’d eaten it all!  So still waiting for fresh basil… but it tasted delicious anyway.  I busied myself setting the table.

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Then came time for the assembly of the lasagne.  First, a nice thick layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish.  Next, a layer of roasted eggplant.  Then, about half of the cheese mixture, spread across.  More eggplant.  More cheese.  Last layer of eggplant, and then pour the rest of the tomato sauce on top.  We grated fresh parmesan cheese over this and then threw it in the oven for 25 minutes, at 400 degrees fahrenheit.  You’re supposed to let it rest for 10 minutes after that… I think we made it 5.  And it was delicious! I can’t even exaggerate the flavor of the eggplant with the tomatoes, and the melted cheese just filling in everywhere else… Perfect for a summer evening, a nice pinot noir, and a night in the with girls.

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But when we did actually serve it, I’m pretty sure it looked even better than in the pages of Real Simple (the recipe was adapted from the September issue, with slight modifications).

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For dessert, we’d been planning to have watermelon.  Last week, our CSA dropped off an enormous watermelon, bigger than a basketball, and we’d saved it for this special occasion.  I went to go put in a movie while J headed to slice the watermelon.  When I heard her gasp and then yell “dammit!” I thought she’d cut off a finger – or something!  But instead, the watermelon was – unripe? Rotten?  We couldn’t tell, but it was definitely yellow.

We bit into the yellow flesh – just to check to make sure it was bad – and it was delicious!  It tasted like soft honey.  As J says, not as refreshing as pink watermelon, but almost as good. After some googling, it turns out that its ironically called “yellow crimson” watermelon.  Who knew?

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