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).

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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

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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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BYO Policy

August 14, 2008

A couple years ago, we discovered one of our favorite Chicago restaurants through a happy accident. It was a Friday night and both Kevin and I had a hankering for guacamole and tequila (not necessarily in that order), so we made our way to our favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant. As we rounded the corner onto the restaurant’s block, though, we heard the unmistakable sounds of mariachi. We both looked at each other and groaned. It was the Friday after Cinco de Mayo and our normally half-full (on a good night) Mexican place was in the throes of a raucous fiesta. We kept walking.

I vaguely recalled reading about a newish little Italian place and I thought it was only a few more blocks away. (If I am known for my directional skills it is not in a good way and, really, it’s a miracle that Kevin walked even a block further in any direction that I advocated.) As I’d read, the restaurant—called Terragusto—was making homemade pasta and garnering some early glowing but quiet praise. When we found the restaurant, bookending a street of classic Chicago brick two-flats and a striped-awning-ed dry cleaner, we noted, with excitement, the old-timey pasta rollers and cartons of fresh eggs visible from the front window. We were seated at one of the dining room’s dozen or so tables and told that the restaurant was BYO. (Do you non-Chicagoan readers know about this? That there are at least a handful of restaurants in any given neighborhood that forego a liquor license and instead invite diners to tote in a bottle (or, ahem, bottles) of their choice? It’s a major selling point for our fair city, I think.)

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

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Days We Will Miss

August 13, 2008

One night last week, while Kevin was off at a pre-season NFL game, my sister and I fashioned a two-person family dinner. It was more of a girls night in, but we called it family dinner out of habit. We threw together a salad—Ali had requested something salad-y and fiesta-ish—of grilled corn and vidalias, multi-colored tiny tomatoes, avocado and ribbons of romaine, all bound up in a cool, creamy chipotle-lime dressing. We sat on the deck and ate, watched the sun set, let the wind whip our hair, curled our feet up under us on our chairs and, as sisters are known to do, talked well into the evening.

It was a really nice night and one when I felt really present. It was the kind of the night that made me think: I will miss nights like this. Nights when it’s light for a couple hours, even after work; when the produce is so fresh and bursting with summer that you barely need to cook to experience a delicious dinner; when I’m lucky enough to have my sister live only a mile away; when we get to be together, just the two of us. Be it the inevitable arrival of autumn, busy schedules, or moves, I know these kinds of nights are precious and I did my best to savor it.

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

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