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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On Football & Brownies

August 28, 2008

What is it about brownies and football that seem to go together? They’re both quintessentially American? They’re both often consumed in excess? People go downright mad for both of them? Sure, there are these commonalities. But I think there was something else that had me in the mood to make brownies to bring to a fantasy football draft last night.

For me, football season ushers in a spike in my weekend cooking and baking. As Kevin arms himself with the remote control, his Bears jersey (cough, Rex Grossman jersey, cough) and his laptop computer (to check his stats for the aforementioned fantasy football league and the several other leagues he’s in; again, cough), I happily head into the kitchen. The length of a football game affords me a window of time ripe for making a slowly-simmered chicken stock or a freezer-bound pan of lasagna. Or a baked good that promises to flood our house with dreamy scents, which is where the brownies come in.

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

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I am in the middle of trying to re-create a sesame-kale salad served up at one of my favorite local breakfast/brunch/lunch spots. To start, I really haven’t the faintest idea of the best method for cooking the kale for a recipe like this: steam it over boiling water, or steam it right in a shallow pool of liquid, or saute it in a glug of olive oil? I’ve tried a couple variations and I’m having a hard time getting it just right—the kale comes out too wilted, too strongly flavored, lacking punch, and the list of complaints goes on. To top things off, it seems that kale is exceedingly difficult to photograph once it’s been cooked, if, you know, qualities like “appetizing” are among those you seek in your food shots. Raw kale, however, is a different story; beautiful and photo-friendly:

Given this series of setbacks, I’ve decided it’s time to take a hiatus from trying to recreate this salad and, even better, from trying to photograph it. Instead, I’ll turn to photos past and, in the process, check an item off my blog to-do list (one that’s been languishing for some time). I was tagged by Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake a (very long) while back for the Ten Favorite Food Photos meme, which requests that the person tagged select—you guessed it—her favorite 10 food photos that she has taken. How fun is that meme? Much more fun than soggy kale, I’m quite sure. So here they are, in no particular order, my Ten Favorite Food Photos (after the jump).

(Click “more” for the 10 photos and the rest of the story.)

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A Second Chance

August 26, 2008

We’ve all got recipes that are inextricably bound to cherished memories or experiences. One, it seems, can hardly exist without the other. For me, Thanksgiving is just not right without my grandmother’s Thanksgiving stuffing. Similarly, nothing signals autumn like a burbling pot of chili on the stove. And I wrote not long ago how connected this recipe will always be to my wedding day and, now, my anniversaries. But the flip side of all this warm fuzziness is that there are also some recipes that are associated with memories perhaps best not remembered. A dinner party gone awry, for instance, or the meal you were tucking into when a great storm blew through. Today’s recipe holds the inauspicious status as one of these kinds of recipes.

When we lived in D.C., I made this pasta salad quite a bit. It’s a twist on a Michael Chiarello recipe and it’s also an excellent excuse to salami (which is a good thing, because Kevin needs absolutely no excuse to eat cured meats and I need some convincing, especially after reading Heat, which goes into some detail about the butcher’s craft). In the summers, we’d frequently make a big batch over the weekend and have it for lunch throughout the week, packed into tupperware containers and often eaten together in a park near our offices and across the street from the White House. I also remember packing it into a cooler for a day trip to the Shenandoah and for a longer road trip up the East Coast and into New England. All these memories, of course, are fine and good. But then

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

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Local Surprises

August 25, 2008

My infatuation with farmers’ market-going began in high school, when I would relish Saturday mornings, waking up at a ridiculously early hour and hopping in the car with my step-dad. We’d head to Minneapolis and roam the rows of stalls at the farmers’ market, some selling the produce you’d expect at a Midwestern market; others pushing their hand-crafted cheeses, honey, eggs or meats; and even a few providing exotic (to me) vegetables key to Hmong cooking, all in the shadows of the beautiful Basilica. We’d grab a couple cups of steaming coffee (I’ve been a coffee drinker for a long time; I don’t really believe the stunt-your-growth theory, but I do measure a mere 5’4″, so you be the judge) and do a reconnaissance sweep of the market, keeping an eye on the tastiest morsels, familiar purveyors and most beautiful flowers. Before our second lap, we’d each devour a grilled breakfast sausage—peppery and succulent, nestled in a good quality hot dog bun and striped with ketchup and mustard. Thus fueled, we’d gather armloads of tomatoes, corn, fresh fruit and flowers “for your mother,” as my step-dad would always say.

I’d hit up the Evanston Farmers’ Market every now and again in college, but I mostly looked forward to revisiting the Minneapolis market when I’d be home for a weekend visit or, even better, an entire summer in Minnesota. I didn’t fall into a regular market routine again until I moved to D.C. after college. I was immediately smitten with the Dupont Circle market, conveniently located smack dab in between Kevin’s apartment and mine our first year in D.C. It was a miniature market, in comparison to the bustling market in Minneapolis, but it was charming. And I loved that the warmer climate brought an earlier arrival of peaches, tomatoes and other typically late summer delicacies.

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

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Birthday Lessons Learned

August 22, 2008

It’s my sister’s birthday on Sunday and, shockingly, the celebrations only started as early as Wednesday of this week. She clearly has not learned from her older, wiser, beautiful-er sister: birthdays should last an entire month, not a mere five days. We did our best to jumpstart her birthday on Wednesday night, having a Family Dinner Fiesta, complete with a birthday gift, burritos, salsa, guacamole and drinks. Better late (and, yes, when the first celebration occurs a mere five days before the big day, it is late) than never.

Falling just a bit outside the night’s fiesta theme was this birthday (cheese)cake. But it was the birthday girl’s request. Er, sort of. My sister and I can be impossibly indecisive. As in: “I don’t know what do you want to eat?” “I don’t know where do you want to go?” And the most oft repeated inquiry of all: “What should I wear?” We make a sorry pair when in it’s just the two of us deciding what to do with ourselves. Perhaps that’s why we often find ourselves staying in, being homebodies.

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

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That Time of Year

August 21, 2008

I know, I know. It was tomatoes yesterday and it’s tomatoes again today. But, it is August after all. And today’s recipe is actually quite different from yesterday’s. Instead of the über-simple slice-and-salt method at the heart of yesterday’s sandwich, this recipe requires some elbow grease. But, trust me, it’s worth it. Here’s how it works. First, take a gaggle of romas (bonus points for multiple colors) and halve them. Using a melon baller (or a grapefruit spoon or regular old spoon) scoop out the insides and gently tap out any excess liquid in the tomato:

But, don’t forget to save those insides! Roast them up in a baking dish with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and red pepper flakes. Pour the whole melty result into a blender or food processor and whir until you’ve got yourself a very tasty marinara. I speak from experience.

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

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