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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When the Mountains Call

August 29, 2008

I’ve retooled my granola recipe—and, I must say, I love the results. This twist on my basic recipe plays up one of my favorite flavor combinations: cherry and almond. (Yes, I’m a wee bit taken by almond right now. I was afraid you might notice.) Accordingly, dried cherries provided the dried fruit component, while chopped almonds stood in for the normal assortment of nuts and almond extract replaced the usual vanilla extract for flavor. It’s not a huge deviation from the original recipe, but I think it’s one we’ll return to often.

I’m packing this granola into a container and stashing it in my suitcase later today. That’s right, the bags are packed and it’s time for (another) vacation! Kevin and I are headed to the Canadian Rockies for a week—splitting our time between Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta, and Golden in British Columbia. We’re planning to throw this granola in our day packs, so we can enjoy a handful here and there as we hike through the gorgeous glacial lake-studded mountains.

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

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Move Over Banana Bread?

August 19, 2008

I have to say, I’m kind of happy to have put the whole here-are-my-photos-from-my-vacation thing behind us yesterday. It’s not that I don’t love a good round of show-and-tell. And, after last season’s Mad Men finale, I am totally on board with the whole slideshow nostalgia. It’s just that I’ve been really, really wanting to tell you about this bread—an almond poppy seed quick bread.

Actually, this bread played a minor role in my road trip. I brought along a couple slices for the ride down to Nashville. It’s a good thing, too, because after we narrowly escaped the jaws of a speeding ticket (a warning!) a mere hour into the trip, we were hungry. Turns out that I’m-Sorry-Officer-ing is hard work. That, and the baggie full of tantalizing slices of this bread was staring us down from the console between the two front seats and we barely made it past Gary, Indiana before digging in.

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

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Multi-Tasking

July 28, 2008

I’ve always considered myself quite a multi-tasker. But for the last few weeks of bar exam studies (it’s tomorrow!), I’ve taken it to a whole new level. I’ve been multi-multi-tasking. I can study for the bar exam while doing just about anything. There’s the obvious multi-taskable activities: riding the El, sweating on the elliptical trainer, waiting for the coffee to slowly drip its way into the pot. But everything I actually like doing is not all that multi-taskable. Cooking and grocery shopping, for instance, are decidedly (blissfully) focused and single-minded. You cannot exactly flip through flash cards when you’re wielding sharp knives or hovering over an open flame. And one should not have her nose in a book as she wends her way through a farmers’ market. But! But I have found a way to make blogging multi-taskable. That’s right, today (Bar Exam Eve, if you will) I am not only blogging, I’m also menu planning for the week!

I’m taking a page out of Eggs on Sunday‘s Amy’s book, who has been allowing us a glimpse into her weekly CSA boxes, giving us an idea of how she’s planning to put her pretty pile of produce to use. I’m also kind of boasting about the gorgeous bounty I hauled home from the farmers’ market yesterday morning:

Can you blame me? As you can see, I nabbed some bi-color sweet corn, as close to candy as a vegetable can get; a collection of summer squashes, in various shapes and sizes; a heap of tomatoes, half bite-sized, half as big as apples; and a handful or so of beans, green, yellow and purple.

(Click more for the week’s menus, more photos & a recipe.)

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One of my favorite things about Chicagoans is that they (we) take summer very seriously. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, I challenge you to find empty tables in a beer garden, free patches of sand at North Avenue Beach, Lake Michigan’s blue expanse undotted with sails, or ice cream parlors without lines out the door. It just won’t happen, as long as the sun is shining. When winter is so vicious and summer is so fleeting, Chicagoans understand that you really have to get your bang for your buck.

Chicagoans take other things seriously too: baseball, neighborhood pride, and the predictable foods like hot dogs, pizza and Italian beef (a healthy lot, we are). But you might not know that there’s another culinary subject about which Chicagoans, at least in the neighborhoods I’ve lived in, are very serious: breakfast. Every weekend morning, then, is greeted with an enticing set of choices: unfurl cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather, much on Milk Duds while you wait in line at Lou Mitchells, take your omelet with a side of sliced tomatoes at Tempo, wait forever for your famous apple pancake at Walker Bros., or order your breakfast in, shall we say, liquid form (I suppose there are vegetables in bloody marys, right?) at any number of neighborhood bars?

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

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