On Cast Iron and Strata

November 16, 2008

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I’m bone tired right now, but in the best possible way. It was a jam-packed weekend that included about 18 hours in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and also a very, very busy day back here in Chicago today. But this is the kind of exhausted that I love: I had people to see, things to do—and see and do I did. And, of course, I cooked too.

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Our visit to Ann Arbor was tightly edited (we were visiting Kevin’s sister, who’s a surgery resident, and we wedged our stay between her shifts): in less than a day, we caught the football game, which is truly the show in town (but, sorry Ms. Arbor: Go Cats!); sampled beers at two breweries; ate a great dinner; took a spin around campus; talked politics and celebrity gossip and music and wine and food; and skipped down memory lane. Oh, and I managed to ferret out the best kitchen store in town.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Maple Nut-Apple Scones

October 30, 2008

As if it weren’t already painfully obvious: we have officially arrived at the “Seeeee, I told you fall was my favorite season” portion of the program. I know it’s been a full-on assault around here of apples, pumpkin, squash, potatoes and braises. But I simply can’t help myself. And today is no different: apples (again!), maple and toasty nuts. Yup, breakfast doesn’t get much more fall than these scones.

Fall, as a season, feels to me a little like lightning in a bottle. As the steamy summer winds down and the dog days have me at my wit’s end, I find myself trying to hurry fall along. But all too soon, it’s the end of October and I am holding on white-knuckled to the last days of this fleeting season. When it boils down to it, you really only get a few flawless fall days: sunshiney skies, warm golden light, tree limbs feathered with leaves that were once green and will soon be gone altogether, the scarf wrapped around your neck fluttering in the breeze.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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The Least I Can Do

October 7, 2008

Well, well, well. It seems you all are just not that excited about beef stew. A very delicious beef stew, I might add. Sure there was a comment or eight, but most people, according to my site’s analytics, stopped by, took one glance at the stew and clicked elsewhere (I feel sort of like a Wizard of Oz behind the curtain having access to that sort of information, but I can’t resist). Because I had such a fondness for the stew, I was kind of baffled. I posited several theories. Too old-fashioned? Jumping the gun with full-on winter fare when we’ve only just ushered in October? Many of you are vegetarians? All these hypotheses are plausible, I suppose. But I don’t think any of them gets it quite right.

No, I think you, like me, are still transfixed by the homemade pumpkin puree that I showed you last Friday—the plump folds of silken pumpkin flesh, vibrantly orange and full of promise. The photos of the pumpkin roasting and pureeing sat atop this page all weekend. And I bet you thought that, come Monday at the latest, I would deliver on my promise of bringing you, and I quote, “baked pumpkin goods galore.” And when I didn’t, you responded with a boycott of sorts. No pumpkin, you said, then no enthusiasm for a measly beef stew. Nada. Crickets! And, well done: the silence was deafening.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Dimply Apple Cake

September 29, 2008

Happily, some recipes trade glamour and offer instead reliability. It’s kind of like the little black dress hanging at the edge of your closet. (Men, take heart: there’s cake in this post for you, even if you can’t relate  to the metaphor with which I’m about to hit you over the head.) You know the dress, ladies: you rarely pull it out, usually buying a new dress for a special occasion—one you might only wear once. But when the moment is right, you know it’s there for you. You can pull it out with only a moment’s notice. You can dress it up or down and you can make it work in any season, with the addition or subtraction of nylons or a scarf (or, in the case of the recipe, a variety of fruits and spices).

This recipe is much like that black dress. It’s unassuming and simple but, when the occasion is right, it’s the perfect choice. The adaptations are endless and the recipe can serve as a culinary merry-go-round for the various fruits as they come into and whirl out of season. The recipe, well known to many of you in the food blogosphere, is Dorie Greenspan’s and in its original carnation it’s called Dimply Plum Cake—in the running for most charming recipe name ever, I’m sure.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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It’s my first day at my new job today. That’s right, after a three-year, law-school-induced hiatus, I have rejoined the full-time work force. And it feels suprisingly un-momentous. I’ve known that I will be working at this law firm for two full years now, so I think it’s about time we got this show on the road.

Shifting from the student lifestyle (and the third year law student lifestyle, in particular, which is, shall we say, not exactly demanding) to the working lady lifestyle will usher in a host of changes, I know—not the least of which will be in my kitchen. Gone are the days when I can languidly pore over recipes by morning, grocery shop around noon, spend the afternoon snapping photos in the kitchen and cobbling together blog posts by night (oh, and eating somewhere along the way too!). I will have to be more deliberate, efficient and edited with my cooking. But I’m not sure that those are bad things.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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