Back from Bermuda

May 30, 2008

As I mentioned yesterday, we’re fresh off a long weekend in Bermuda. We were there for a wedding and we had a fantastic time. It was one part rowdy fun with our college friends and one part complete and total beach relaxation. We managed to tear ourselves away from said carousing and said lounging only long enough to snap a couple photos and enjoy the Bermudian cuisine.

We quickly learned that rum is a staple not only of the Bermuda, shall we say, liquid diet, but the regular diet as well. It’s prominently featured in the ubiquitous Bermuda Fish Chowder, a sultry, meaty stew that’s unexpectedly dark and sweet and altogether delicious. And it also laces the island’s popular rum cakes.

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We’re back from beautiful Bermuda, but more on that tomorrow. As I wistfully remember the sand and surf and swizzles of our long weekend, I am also longingly thinking about these chocolate cookies. You see, I made a mere half-batch of these molten orbs before we left last week and I was foolish enough to give the leftovers to our friend Seth, rather than stashing a few in the freezer to greet us upon our return. Too bad, because they would’ve been the perfect antidote to the post-vacation blues.

Actually, they’d be perfect for just about anything. And that’s coming from a girl who typically opts for oatmeal or chocolate chip or peanut butter or ginger snap or just about any type of cookie in the jar other than chocolate. I prefer the chocolate in my cookies to come in the form of chips or chunks that punctuate a cookie, or a chocolate glaze that drapes on top. Or so I thought.

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It’s very often that I ask Kevin what we should make for dinner. It’s extremely rare, however, when he actually answers me. So, when he does, it’s sort of a done deal. Last week, our friend Seth was in town for a couple days for business and we had him for dinner one of the nights. Almost without hesitation, when I asked Kevin what we should make, he responded: “Mmmmm, those steak sandwiches.” Done.

It was a perfect choice. For one, the sandwiches are delicious: simple but bold flavors, resplendent with the textures of crunchy grilled ciabatta, languid sauteed onions, lush blue cheese and flank steak, with its dense chew. Plus, the sandwiches are really easy—thanks in large part to the fact that you only need to make one big sandwich (which you slice into individual servings) rather than a bunch of small ones.

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It’s only appropriate that I post this Rhubarb Tart today, on Memorial Day. Because it was on another quintessentially American holiday, the Fourth of July, that I made my first pie ever. Kevin and I had just moved in together in D.C. and we woke up to a rainy day, realizing that making the short walk from our apartment to the National Mall to watch the fireworks would be soggy and crowded and not that fun. And then we realized that our apartment would provide an excellent view of the fireworks, not to mention a dry place to ooh and ahh. So, we called up some friends and officially threw our first impromptu party.

We spent the better part of the “holiday” hatching a menu, driving to grocery stores and cooking. The menu was perfect, but it was also a little over-ambitious. We frantically mixed up salads (panzanella and a red-white-and-blue (okay, fine, purple) potato salad). And as Kevin commandeered one of the apartment complex’s shared grills, I set out to make my first pie ever. I think it might’ve been delicious, but I’m quite certain that it was also a terrifying experience. Is the dough too dry? Have I handled it to much? Have I crimped the edges firmly enough? Have I piled in too much filling? Not enough? In the end, it was an act of faith. I carefully topped the pie with its pastry lid, pinched together the edges, cut small slits and slid it in the oven. And then, I waited.

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As you are reading this, chances are that I’m in a airplane, making a beeline out over the Atlantic and straight toward Bermuda. As in Bahama, Come on Pretty Mama. And I could not be more thrilled. After a week of post-graduation nothing, I could really use a vacation. But, don’t you worry. As I spent yesterday gathering passports, packing and daydreaming about pastel colored buildings, pink sand beaches and Bermuda fish chowder, I also tied up some loose ends with this site. For instance, I couldn’t let the first Farmer’s Market Finds series of aught eight (after Part I and Part II) languish until we return next week. Because I’m sure you’re dying to learn just what we did with our green garlic and rhubarb. Well, good news: green garlic is coming your way today and the rhubarb will be quick on its heels.

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The other day, I was cleaning out the freezer and I hit pay dirt. I found a pint of frozen raspberries from my grandparents’ garden. When they came to Chicago last August for our wedding, they arrived bearing a small Igloo cooler, packed with a Ziploc of fresh herbs, tucked inside paper towels; a cucumber, completely free of that weird supermarket wax; and a mother load of tiny raspberries. I felt so lucky to get the contents of that cooler, which I knew were the product of a garden my grandpa had been working on as early as the preceding winter, in his greenhouse. I made sure we used the herbs and cucumber before we left for our honeymoon and, after popping a couple like candy, I nestled the berries in the freezer.

And every few weeks, I’d excavate one of the pints for just the perfect use, thinking of my grandparents as I made whatever it was I was making. And then, when it was still very much winter, I sadly used up the final bit of my cache.

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

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The “Farmer’s Market Finds” series continues today. So long spring onions, hello purple asparagus! As if asparagus weren’t already interesting enough—with its nubbly stalks and pinched tips and its penchant for shooting ramrod-straight out the soil in all corners of a backyard garden, with no rhyme or reason—it also comes in purple. Who knew? Well, apparently some kind Wisconsin farmer, who smiled knowingly at me when I requested a bundle of purple asparagus, knew. I prefer to think she was thinking to herself: “This girl knows pretty produce when she sees it.” More likely, though, she was smirking: “This girl is a sucker. Ha! She’ll pay an extra buck a pound just for a hue that suits her eye.” Whatever, it’s my purple asparagus party and I’m not letting anyone ruin it.

I had a thick stack of asparagus recipes all lined up for the spring. We’ve eaten our way almost entirely through them over the past few weeks, but I’d never gotten around to this one: a Warm Leek, Asparagus and Potato Salad. I imagined it would be delicious and all, but I had a hard time getting excited about a plate of greens and whites, colors slightly muted by a slick of dijon vinaigrette. But a salad of pale greens and whites started to sound not only delicious but also beautiful when I realized I could stud it with morsels of purple asparagus.

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