Monday, August 31, 2009


Assorted Sandwiches (Mozzarella, Pan Bagnat, Turkey)

Date Salad with Goat Cheese and Croutons

And I'm not talking about the place you pass on the way to Montauk. I'm talking about what I ate for lunch, not what I made for lunch...OR dinner. I went out for both. So here's a peak into my so called (occasionally cooked) life.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Just Grill It

I went out of town again this weekend and came home to a nearly empty fridge. Fortunately in my world, that usually means there's still something that I can cobble together to eat, avoiding the ever present delivery menus that I have shoved into a drawer. While there may be ingredients lurking, the end result is not always so obvious.

After opening and closing the fridge about 15 times (and finally finding usable ingredients), I came up with my dinner: Grilled Endive with Prosciutto and Pecorino. No, I don't have an outdoor balcony, patio, or backyard, but I do have a grill pan, which I ordinarily avoid because using it smokes up my apartment and sets off my smoke detector. Grilling salmon indoors? Absolutely not. Grilling endive? Totally. And since my endive was a little past it's prime, grilling it seemed the only way to rescue it from it's inevitable trip down my trash chute. The prosciutto was leftover from my fig extravagance last week, so although it was not in perfect shape (it was starting to get a bit dry) it softened over the warm endive. The Pecorino was stashed in my fridge just because I try to keep hard cheeses (also Parmesan) on hand because they last longer than soft cheeses (just be sure to keep well wrapped in wax paper and sealed in a plastic bag) and are great in a variety of recipes.

This recipe was inspired by the Grilled Radicchio appetizer at Bianca, my favorite cheap eats destination. The menu describes it as "grilled radicchio under a blanket of prosciutto and Pecorino." Hmmm...a blanket of prosciutto. Sounds cozy.

Grilled Endive with Prosciutto and Pecorino

2 medium Belgian endives, cut in half lengthwise
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 slices prosciutto
Shaved Pecorino

1. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the endive with the oil and season with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, place the endive cut side down and cook (without moving) until well browned, about 6 minutes. Turn over and continue cooking until softened, about 5 minutes more. Remove to a plate.

2. Layer the prosciutto over the endive and top with the cheese, to taste. Drizzle with additional extra virgin olive oil and additional pepper to taste. Makes one salad.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Miss Figgy

I somehow managed to come home from work with a pint of fresh figs, the way others might come home with some extra Post-It notes. I thought that maybe I would make an interesting, quasi-healthy salad, but then quickly realized what a mistake that would be. Figs lend themselves to being lathered in cheese and shrouded in pork. Dinner!

Here's all you need to enjoy a tasty dinner, devoid of any vegetables (my healthy vows are commonly short-lived):

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs

Fresh figs, sliced in half

Cheese, such as Manchego or Valdeon (a Spanish blue)
Balsamic vinegar

First, preheat the broiler. Place a piece of cheese on the cut side of a fig half. Wrap the fig and cheese with a piece of prosciutto (about 4-inches long - you don't need to use an entire slice). Repeat with the remaining figs. Meanwhile, simmer about 1/4 cup of vinegar until reduced to a thick syrup, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Broil prepared figs for about 2 minutes per side, until the prosciutto begins to crisp. Keep a close watch to avoid burning. (Do not take a phone call or use the restroom!) Remove to a plate for serving. Drizzle with the balsamic syrup. Enjoy immediately without a salad. Serves as many as you'd like.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Scream for Ice Cream

Anyone for avocado ice cream? I tried some today and it wasn't half bad. I'd say it was half good. I prefer my avocados with chips and salsa and my ice cream minty and filled with chocolate chunks. But I am open to some of the more savory ice cream flavors out there (olive oil for one) and hadn't had ice cream all summer, so, why not live on the edge?

I am interested in making my own ice cream flavors, but since I don't have an ice cream maker, someone else will have to please test this recipe that I found. (No, I am NOT shirking my blogging duties! Well, not exactly.) I like that it doesn't bother including eggs and it sounds pretty simple (I guess all ice cream recipes must be?). Also, if you do try to make this recipe, the consensus at work was that the avocado flavor is a bit more heightened if the ice cream is eaten a bit soft, rather than straight from the freezer. And maybe even better with a shot of tequila on the side.

Avocado Ice Cream

(Alton Brown/Good Eats/Food Network)

12 ounces avocado meat, approximately 3 small to medium
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1. Peel and pit the avocados. Add the avocados, lemon juice, milk, and sugar to a blender and puree.

2. Transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl. Add the heavy cream and whisk to combine. Place the mixture into the refrigerator and chill until it reaches 40 degrees F or below, approximately 4 to 6 hours.

3. Process the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. However, this mixture sets up very fast, so count on it taking only 5 to 10 minutes to process. For soft ice cream, serve immediately. If desired, place in freezer for 3 to 4 hours for firmer texture.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Frites Frites

My weekend spent visiting friends in the City of Brotherly Love was a little too lovely. I'd really like to detox and/or fast right about now, but because I have no will-power, I'll instead just try not to eat french fries with every meal. And since not eating french fries with every meal starts with me not going out for every meal, I need to refocus on making simple meals at home. This tofu recipe is one of my favorite quick dinners. So...I'm hoping that after a little more healthy eating (emphasis on little) and a few (hundred) more visits to the gym, I'll be able to enjoy steak frites, moules frites...frites frites...daily. Without consequence. Won't I?

Red Coconut Curry Tofu

1 one-pound package extra-firm tofu
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock or water)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon red curry paste
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons peanut oil
Chopped scallions, optional
Cooked rice, optional

1. Drain the tofu and cut into eight equal slices. Pat dry with paper towels.

2. In a small bowl whisk together the coconut milk, stock, fish sauce, lime juice, curry paste and sugar. Set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tofu and cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Turn over and cook for 5 minutes more.

4. Add the coconut milk mixture to the skillet and simmer, turning the tofu once, until the liquid has reduced to a thick glaze, about 4 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a serving platter and pour the glaze over the top. Garnish with scallions and serve with rice, if desired. Serves 4 as a first course, or 2 as a main course.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

To Be Continued...

Questionable Bread

What have I been up to, you ask? And why am I not writing posts? I was out of town again (it's almost the end of the summer - what else should I be doing?!). This is a brief photographic summary. See you tomorrow (for a real post)!

Babies in Bars (NOT mine!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Passport to XOXO

Have you ever been to Payard? Me neither. I mean, it's so far away it might as well be in another country. Like Canada. It's the Upper East Side, people! That's FAR. I think you need a passport to get there (in my mind). XOXO!

I've actually walked to the Met from my apartment (several times), but for some reason I've never been inclined to walk to Payard. I imagine getting there all hot and sweaty and then not wanting to sample a delectable delight from the patisserie. What a (potential) waste! ('Cab' isn't really part of my vernacular unless it's after midnight.) That, and I think I have a slightly tainted memory of François Payard from a cooking class I once took. Well, it was more of a demo where he made stuff, and we the audience, watched and then sampled. He kept referring to the women in the room as "homemakers" and I wondered when the demo had turned into an episode of The
Wonder Years or Leave It To Beaver (June's probably more homemaker-y than Norma). And then I thought, "Oh, that's cute. He isn't trying to be offensive. He's just French! It's a lost in translation thing." I wasn't really personally offended as I barely had a home to make at the time, so therefore he couldn't possibly be referring to me. It was all of those other women. They must have been mad!

Fortunately my laziness has been rewarded by a simple cookie recipe from Payard that I found some time later. (I have actually made a chocolate tart from that "class" several times that is always delicious.) It's essentially a 5-ingredient recipe, like my peanut butter cookie, but SO incredibly and delightfully different. My only small complaint is that it is a bit too sweet for me, so I would recommend cutting back on the 3 cups of confectioners' sugar the original recipe calls for. I would also appreciate biting into a chunk of chocolate along with the crunchy walnuts and chewy, chocolate cookie center, so I advise adding some dark chocolate pieces as well.
I don't think François would mind a homemaker taking liberties like that, but if so, c'est la vie.

Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies

(Adapted from Chocolate Epiphany)

2 3/4 cups walnut halves
2 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped high-quality dark chocolate
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spread the walnut halves on a large-rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. Let cool slightly, then transfer the walnut halves to a work surface and coarsely chop them.

2. Lower the oven temperature to 320˚F. Line two large-rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar with the cocoa powder and salt, followed by the chopped walnuts and chocolate pieces. Whisk in the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (do not overbeat or it will stiffen).

3. Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds per sheet, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through to ensure even baking. Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks. Let the cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Makes 24 cookies.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Popsicle Panache

It must be the heat and humidity that has me feeling lethargic (and not the extremely rich Gorgonzola cheese sauce that seemed like a good idea for a midsummer's night). The only way to combat this lethargy is by eating popsicles while floating in a horizon pool. Or by making a simple fennel salad for dinner. OK that lacks a certain panache, but the phytonutrients found in fennel are more likely to make me feel better more quickly (and affordably) than vacationing somewhere where I might actually find a horizon pool.

"Super Foods" is a common topic in the diet stories that we cover at my day job, and I found fennel on the latest list (more for it's 'anti-bloat' properties than for the vitamins and nutrients - it has it all!). I discovered that it's full of antioxidants, including Vitamin C, and is also a good source of fiber, folate, and potassium. Who knew? I just thought it was low in calories.

I normally slice up fennel and toss it with some fresh squeezed lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and then top it with some shaved Parmesan. However, fennel's unique flavor lends itself to many interesting combinations and preparations. Here's one.

Fennel Salad with Oranges and Black Olives

1 navel orange
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large fennel bulb (halved, cored, and thinly sliced)
10 black olives, roughly chopped

1. Using a sharp knife, peel the orange carefully, removing all of the white pith. Working over a large bowl, cut between the membranes and add the orange sections to the bowl. Strain out the juice and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon reserved orange juice, and honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Add the sliced fennel, olives, and vinaigrette to the bowl of orange sections and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Makes two salads.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Feeling Blue?

Yeah, I know. It's only Monday. But soon it will be Tuesday, and then it will be Wednesday, and then it's practically the weekend! So, why not embrace the blues with a pasta drenched in a blue cheese sauce?

Life's hectic? Maybe you've been feeling way too fit and way too energetic? Eat a little of this pasta and slooow waaaay doooown...Dig it. (Go back on your diet another day.)

Pasta With Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

1 pound dried pasta, such as shells or penne
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup or more to taste)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 - 10 minutes, or until al dente.

2. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter and Gorgonzola in a large skillet over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the cheese has melted and the sauce is creamy, about 5 minutes. Add the heavy cream to the cheese sauce and cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened and reduced slightly, about 3 – 4 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Drain the pasta and transfer to the skillet with the cheese sauce. Serve immediately with additional freshly ground black pepper. Makes 6 - 8 appetizer servings.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Truly Mad

Sunday nights just got better! Have the Monday night blues? Not anymore! Now you can watch an episode of True Blood followed by Mad Men! Outstanding. (What? Do I watch too much TV? I didn't even mention Entourage...)

Don't forget to madmenyourself. I chose a vampy red dress and red lipstick for my Mad Men avatar so that she could easily transition from vampires to blood sucking advertising execs, all while clutching a vodka gimlet. (Actually I believe she's pictured with a martini, but I think she'd really be drinking a gimlet - vodka not gin).

Goat cheese stuffed Peppadew peppers

What to serve while enjoying this bounty of television goodness? Why not start with a refreshing Bloody Bellini and then snack on some goat cheese stuffed Peppadew peppers and True Blood Tomato Toast?

When you're ready to switch from bloody bubbles to some serious Stoli, whip up a few vodka gimlets. I think that gin gimlets are the real classics, but vodka gimlets were also popular during the Mad Men era. Some recipes use fresh limes, some use Rose's lime juice. I rather like the version that appeared in the NY Times this week. It incorporates fresh limes and a tiny bit of sugar, essentially a fresh version of Rose's.

Vodka Gimlet
1 1/2 ounces vodka (3 tablespoons)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice (1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon sugar
Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain into a shilled cocktail glass. Makes one drink.

But don't get carried away with those gimlets! There's still a whole hour of television. I consulted my vintage cookbooks for appetizer ideas and while I could have made a classic "relish" tray, it sounded too healthy (well, in comparison to the deviled ham and cheese balls). I liked the idea of a canapé (mostly because it sounds so retro...and I had the ingredients) served alongside a classic shrimp cocktail.

Cheese and Tomato Canapés
Cover the canapé base (melba toast or other cracker) with a slice of yellow cheese. Place thick slices cut from a small tomato on the cheese. Arrange the rounds on a small shallow pan and place under the broiler until the cheese melts and the tomatoes begin to brown. Garnish with a sprig of parsley. Serve hot.

Shrimp Cocktail
Place chilled, cooked shrimp in cocktail glasses and cover with cocktail sauce. Serve lemon wedges on the side if desired. (I could have made my own cocktail sauce, but I was lazy and just bought a bottle. Make sure it's cold when you serve it.)

Bottoms up!

Vodka Gimlet

Tomato Cheese Canapés

Shrimp Cocktail

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Some Assembly Required

Look! An actual blightless tomato! And I ate it. And it was good. (The avocado, feta, and olive oil helped. A LOT.) It wasn't a local or heirloom variety, in fact, I think it was a hydroponic tomato probably sprayed with fungicide, so I'm guessing immune to the blight. (I should eat locally. I know. I try!) But look how red! Look how pretty! And it even tasted a bit like a tomato. Sort of.

Do you really need lettuce to have a salad? I think not. So here's mine, assembled with the only salad-like ingredients I had: one tomato, half an avocado, feta, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
I had to take a break from baking eventually.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Berry Delicious

Another baked good? Why, yes it is! I clearly have nothing to eat at home. And by nothing to eat, I mean I just can't seem to muster the energy to make anything. And somehow the cupboards look bare. In the same way that as a teenager you might have whined to your mother that there's nothing to eat when she clearly just went shopping, I can't find anything to eat (other than Fontina, rosemary crackers, green apples, and Gorgonzola). OK I have plenty to eat, just not the makings of an interesting recipe that you would be stoked to make for dinner. Thank goodness I went to the beach this weekend and have content that I can milk for all it's worth, which may be questionable...

For my friend's BBQ, we decided that I should make a berry cobbler/crispy thing. I made a blueberry peach crisp at one of her BBQs last year (and it was big hit), so I decided to make a variation on a theme. I found a berry cobbler recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Entertaining cookbook that looked like what we wanted. Though it wasn't a crisp, the cobbler seemed like it would be totally tasty. I mean, it's essentially a pile of scones on top of sweet cooked fruit. Hellooo! We picked up what looked good at the farmers' market and I just threw it all together. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of berries, but I improvised. You can't really ruin it. Use whatever fruit you like then serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Who knows? Your hosts may even invite you back.

Mixed Berry-Peach Cobbler
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Entertaining

2 pints blueberries
2 pints blackberries
2 ripe peaches, pitted and sliced into wedges
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
3/4 cup heavy cream
Vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. In a large bowl, combine the berries, lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and ginger and toss to coat the fruit evenly. Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly.

3. To make the topping, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder,
baking soda, and salt. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and, using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cream. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring and tossing with a fork until the topping mixture holds together.

4. Place dollops of the topping evenly over the fruit, leaving a 1-inch border uncovered around the edge of the dish. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over the top. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the cobbler until the top is golden and the berry filling is bubbling, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired. Serves 8-10.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Whenever I visit my friends at the beach, I bake something with my two young friends who are 6 & 7/8ths and 3 & 11/12ths. (I think it may be why I'm invited back.) One of the favorite (and simplest) recipes that we make is my five ingredient peanut butter cookies. Fortunately for me, my little friends are very helpful. (They clean spilled sugar off the counter by licking their fingers, scooping up the sugar, and licking their fingers again. Who needs a sponge?) They both help with stirring, and then one will roll the dough into little balls while the other makes criss-cross marks to flatten the cookies into their classic shape. All I have to do is supervise. And try to keep the batter in the bowl and not in their mouths.

This past weekend I brought a bag of mini-chocolate chips to change up our usual routine. The minis are great for these PB cookies because they are so tiny they don't get in the way of flattening the dough with a fork. My 6 & 7/8ths year old friend suggested that we make half of the cookies plain and the other half with the chips. So we did. I would suggest that everything tastes better with chocolate but she apparently thought that we should make something for everyone. (I guess.)

By the way, as much as I rant and rave about how impossible it is to cook and bake in the summer, I've discovered that it's not a problem to turn on the oven if you live in a comfortable house with central air. (Yeah, I'm a little late to that party.) Roast a turkey, then braise some short ribs. What's the big deal? Or, if you live in the hot box that I do, make the cookies in your toaster oven. It totally works.

Perfectly Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed (or with a wooden spoon), mix the peanut butter, sugar, egg, flour, and baking soda in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Stir in the the chocolate chips, if using.

2. Roll rounded teaspoons of the dough into balls and place onto baking sheets, about one inch apart. With the tines of a fork, flatten the balls, making a criss-cross pattern.

3. Bake until puffed and lightly golden, about 8 – 10 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely. Makes 24 cookies.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Beach Shopping

I FINALLY managed a beach weekend (the first, but most likely my last). Summer's almost over, people! While out prepping for a BBQ with my fabulous weekend hostess, I took a few snaps (with my iPHONE!) of some of the amazing items available at the Mecox Dairy market stand. We bought a bunch of berries for a dessert (more on that later in the week) as well as some gorgeous dahlias for the dining table. I wish that I had more time to sample and cook with...everything (particularly the local cheese)! Or, I wish that I at least had more room in my weekend bag to take everything home with me. fellow train travelers may not have taken kindly to me carrying on stinky cheese in my duffle. But then again, that Montauk/Jamaica train is an astonishing 40 degrees. (Practically! What's up with that?!) I'm still not defrosted. Maybe it's not such a bad idea...

Gorgeous Squash Blossoms. I have yet to ever cook with them, but, one day, my friend. One day.

Vibrant Orange Cherry Tomatoes. Clearly blightless.

Mr. Turkey. I am concerned for your whereabouts on November 27.

Intensely Magenta Dahlias. $12.50 a bunch!

Mini Summer Squash with Blossoms. And random insect.

Mature Heirloom Tomatoes. Blight be damned!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Buckle Up!

So. The other day I felt like making my blueberry buckle recipe, for no other reason other than that I had just purchased a bunch of blueberries from my local farmers’ market and that I wanted some crumble topping. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find my recipe anywhere. (Not because I am messy or disorganized, but because I have little binders/boxes/envelopes of recipes all over my apartment. OK. Maybe I am a little disorganized.)

While flipping through the stacks of mags that are slowly consuming my apartment, I found a blueberry streusel “cake” recipe in the July 2009 issue of Gourmet. looks exactly like a buckle. And it has an excellent streusel to cake ratio. Score. They recommend serving it as the dessert moment for a very strange lunch of black and tans, buffalo style grilled shrimp (totally trying that!), grilled chicken salad, and garlic-herb bread sticks. Is it just me or is that an odd combo of foods? And ending with breakfast? I mean, blueberry cake? Really? Maybe I’m just not creative enough. Well, whatever. The photos are gorg. To each his/her own.

The buckle/cake recipe looked super easy and I really liked that they added sour cream to the batter. I once experimented with using milk or yogurt or sour cream in a muffin recipe, and the sour cream totally won, hands down. (Anybody even know what that expression means? Hands down?) After reading the recipe more carefully (and actually making it), I found a few peculiarities:

  1. Lining the pan with foil. Why? I've never been a fan of that. If it’s a homey cake, then why do I care if I can lift the whole thing out of the pan to cut perfect squares? It cuts just fine in the pan.
  2. There are only 4 tablespoons of butter in the streusel topping. The texture of the topping turns out more sandy than clumpy, so not very streusel-y. I did find that if you squish it in your fingers, it will hold together and form clumps. Throwing it into the fridge helps the clumps to then harden a bit. OR why not just add two more tablespoons of butter? I’m just sayin’.
  3. Why do you have to add the streusel in increments? The recipe asks you to add half at the beginning right before baking, then says to add the other half after the cake is halfway through baking. I mean, I did it. But it didn’t make any sense. The cake puffs up quite a bit so I guess some of the topping could fall off if you add it all at once, but it almost fell off when I was trying to add it the second time. Maybe adding it all at once forces it down into the batter rather than allowing it to sit on top? I don’t know. I’m guessing that it doesn’t matter. I am going to write up the recipe the way they suggest, only because I didn’t test to see what would major calamity would unfold if I didn't. But feel free to live on the edge and let me know how it goes.

Definitely enjoy this buckle/cake the day (morning!) that you make it, but I recommend sharing it immediately (or eating the whole thing yourself in one sitting) because the topping starts to get a little soft the next day. Just a heads up. It still tastes good, you just lose some of the crunch.

And I still think that this is a breakfast item. I don't want blueberry crumb cake for dessert. I want chocolate. And calling it a buckle rather than a cake diverts attention away from the fact that I am eating cake for breakfast. Why do you think muffins aren’t called “Highly Caloric Individual Frosting-less Breakfast Cakes?" (Add directly to hips.) It's all about marketing! (By the way, I did finally find my buckle recipes stashed in a magazine in my office. Don't know why I didn't look there first!)

Blueberry Buckle/Cake
(Adapted from Gourmet)

Streusel topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar (or one heaping tablespoon)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (or one heaping tablespoon)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3 cups blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan, then dust with flour, knocking out the excess.

2. To make the streusel topping, stir together the flour, sugars, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Blend in the butter with a pastry blender (or your fingers) until the mixture forms large clumps. Set aside in the refrigerator while you make the cake.

3. To make the cake, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir together the sour cream and vanilla in a small bowl. Set aside.

4. Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed (or in a stand mixer) until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and beat until well blended. At low speed, mix in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the sour-cream mixture, mixing until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Crumble half of the topping evenly over the batter (or crumble it all and see what happens!).

6. Bake 25 minutes, then remove from the oven and crumble the remaining topping evenly over cake (or just rotate the pan if the full amount of topping has already been added). Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes more. Cool completely on a rack and then serve.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Up in Flames. Nearly.

I'll be honest. I didn't cook up a pound of pasta after whipping up my latest batch of pesto. The last thing I need is a tub of pasta available for feeding 24 hours a day. But I do like having some leftover pesto on hand, just never know. Instead of an obvious sandwich, why not make some little pesto toasts for a snack or for when your friends pop in to watch the latest reality series in HD. (Oh. Just me?) They only take about 5 minutes to make, and even though you're turning on the broiler, it won't heat up your whole apartment. Well, my whole apartment. You probably have a separate kitchen and central air. Lucky!

Pesto Toast

Preheat the broiler. Split a baguette in half lengthwise. Cut one of the halves crosswise into 1-inch wide pieces. (Reserve the other half for something, for a breakfast of Plugra butter and blood orange marmalade...or an open-faced Nutella sandwich...or...whatever.) Spread pesto on the cut side of each piece of bread, followed by a slice of a plum tomato, then a slice of fresh mozzarella. Place under the broiler for approximately 2 minutes, until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. DO NOT WALK AWAY. Food burns quickly under the broiler. Keep an eye on it. (My True Blood Tomato Toast nearly went up in flames when I decided to make a phone call.) Place the pesto toasts on a platter and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately. Still hungry? Cut up the other half of the baguette and repeat.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Green With Envy

Ever since I was an undergraduate studying in Italy, I have been trying to replicate the amazing Pesto alla Genovese that I had a few times while tooling around the country. I've gotten close a few times, but I think that I'm missing the fabulous environment in which to eat the pesto. That, and I'm not an Italian cook.

I did make some new discoveries after recently hitting up the farmers market for a bunch of fresh basil.
  • Buy basil that has not started to flower. I think that the leaves start to turn a bit bitter once they mature. The younger leaves are more delicate.
  • Buy super perfect basil that is free of any blackening or spots. No exceptions!
  • Wash and THOROUGHLY dry the leaves before making your pesto. This may seem logical, but I've been in a rush before and not dried the leaves all the way and my pesto turned out really sucky. I wash the leaves, then spin in a salad spinner, then dab with paper towels, then throw into the fridge for about 30 minutes in a resealable plastic bag lined with more paper towels. It really helps!
  • Serve your pesto over linguini. Other long pastas will also (obviously) work, but there is something about the linguini that somehow feels more authentic.
I know that anyone who makes pesto has their own perfect ratio of basil to pine nuts to olive oil to cheese. Some use garlic, some don't. Some toast their pine nuts, some don't use them at all. Some use parmesan, some use romano. Here's my version (and it will fit in a mini-prep!):

Classic Pesto

2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves (washed and thoroughly dried)
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix.

2. With the food processor running continuously, slowly add the olive oil until it is fully incorporated and the pesto is a uniform consistency.

3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Serve over cooked pasta. Makes enough for one pound.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sunday Bloody Sunday

I'm baaack! I had to take a tiny blog break. I was out socializing too many nights in a row (and, separately, stuck on I-95 for hours, but that's another story), so it cut into my recipe time. But I'm back and just to make up for it, I'm giving you two recipes for the price of one. Or something like that.

I haven't mentioned True Blood in a while, so let's start with that (I also just watched Rattle and Hum on TV so it was a doubly bloody inspiration). My intention was to write a True Blood themed post every week, but as you can see, that went down the drain a few weeks ago. I'm still watching the latest adventures of telepath Sookie and Vampire Bill, as well as succubus Maryann and sarcastic skeptic, Tara. (You have to check it out!) Since it's just too damn hot too cook anything, I present:

The Bloody Margarita

Kosher salt
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce fresh lime juice
4 ounces Blood Orange Italian Soda*

1. Rim the edge of a highball glass with salt by dipping the rim into a plate of grenadine, followed by dipping it into a plate of salt. Set aside.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake briskly and pour into the prepared highball glass. Makes one drink.

*(You can find this at Whole Foods. It's the same Whole Foods brand soda that I used for my Green Apple Snap.)

Recipe No. 2: I picked up my first fresh corn of the season at my local mini farmers market this weekend. I've been wanting to make a fresh corn salad ever since I spied this corn salad recipe in Real Simple a while back. It would be a great side dish at a summer picnic or cookout (you can easily double my recipe). Or if you're like me, you can just eat it for dinner with some lettuce when it's too hot to eat anything else. But be warned. You might not be able to stop.

Fresh Corn Salad
(adapted from Real Simple)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 ears of corn, shucked
1 medium jalapeño, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup crumbled feta

1. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts and toast, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat to cool.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the corn and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. When cool enough to handle, stand the ears upright, and slice down the sides to remove the corn kernels.

3. In a large bowl combine the corn kernels, jalapeño, lime juice, oil, walnuts, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with the feta before serving. Serves 4 as a (small) side dish.