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pasta

Tomato-Peach-Basil Salad with Burrata

Despite it being his birthday month, Michael hates the month of August. He’s also not that much of a fan of his birthday, come to think of it—the last few years we’ve gone down to Keen’s in Midtown so he could avail himself of a giant steak, but even that isn’t appealing to his senses this year. I have plans to take him to Momofuku this year, as we’ve never been but we are completely obsessed with Momofuku. I want to make sure it’s fully in the spirit of Treat Yo Self Day and we spend the day frequenting as many of his favorite places as possible.

It needs to be a good one, too, as this particular August had an..interesting beginning but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the bright spots here and there. We were able to celebrate a friend’s milestone birthday down at his new home in Maryland and had a mini-reunion of sorts with so many of our friends from the New Haven years which was a real treat. I also haven’t been south of Delaware for years, so it was a lot of fun to see places like Baltimore for the first time in so long—the last reason that brought me to that particular area was when I was scoping out colleges and Loyola was on my shortlist.

Hawksmoor at Home’s simple tomato-cucumber salad

The other bright spot, as silly as it sounds, has been the fact that heirloom tomatoes have been on sale at Fairway all month. Organic heirloom tomatoes, I should add. Every week I’ve ventured over to the organic section to pick up a few for weekend salads, and every purchase has yielded delicious results. Whether it’s the tomato-cucumber salad from Hawksmoor at Home or a lunchtime arrangement with peaches, basil, and burrata, I haven’ had to fret much over eating enough lycopene. Taking a cue from Ina Garten I also made a fresh pasta sauce by marinating some chopped heirloom tomatoes in olive oil, mint, and garlic and then stirred it into fedelini with some fresh mozzarella. The leftovers I had the following week were excellent, as each day it smelled like a margherita pizza was cooking in the work microwave.

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Obligatory beauty shot of  ramps.

Obligatory beauty shot of ramps.

A few months ago when we were in the throes of absolutely miserable weather, I had this feeling that ramp season would be embraced even more fervently than before, if only because it was definitive proof that spring was finally here and the long tyranny of this winter had come to an end. There had been some backlash against the ramp’s trendiness over the last few years, with some sniffing that while good, the hype surrounding them had ballooned out of control. Even by the time I had first gotten my hands on a few bunches back in 2010 the eye-rolling had already begun, but thankfully that hasn’t stopped the influx of ramps into the Union Square Greenmarket. As J. Kenji López-Alt rightly pointed out in 2011, part of what makes the ramp special is that we do have to wait for them to come every year and when they are available we have to make the most of them—in our increasingly on-demand society, it’s kind of refreshing to exercise some patience when it comes to food.

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Eataly storefront on Ohio Ave

Eataly storefront on Ohio Ave

Whenever we’re in the Flatiron district, I love to teasingly goad Michael into dropping in on Eataly; lately, his response has been simply “OK, see you at home then.” You may recall our initial impressions of Eataly New York when it first opened over Labor Day weekend in 2010; I’ve made a few visits there since then on my own, and I can’t say that my initial impressions have changed all that much. Any time I’ve purchased ingredients to make dinner I’ve been extremely satisfied with the results, and on my last visit I treated myself to a Neapolitan-style pizza that was easily among the best pizzas I ever had. But on the weekends the place was nearly as claustrophobic  as it had been on opening weekend, and for all of the text on the walls celebrating Italian food culture, I was still left rather…cold.

Over Christmas I had heard that there were other Eataly locations opening up in the next few years, with a Chicago location having opened in November and space on a spot in Philadelphia allegedly secured. In chatting with my brother-in-law and his boyfriend about the latter, reflecting on the good and the disappointing, I realized that it had been a while since I went there and maybe, just maybe I had been too hard on the place, that I was trying to make it into something it never set out to be anyway. So when we were in Chicago a few weekends ago and I realized that Eataly Chicago was open and right off of Michigan Avenue, I decided to see if perhaps the second iteration had improved upon the first.

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Oregano Pesto with Chicken Thighs

Oregano Pesto with Chicken Thighs

Welp. Well, I guess it’s really fall, even if the temperatures have crept close to the 70s a few days ago, and threaten to do so later this week. You know how I know this? The darkness has been making a hasty return sooner and sooner every day, and as someone who lives in the Northeast and prefers taking pictures of my food in natural light, I hate it. So please bear with me as I once again readjust to the awful artificial light in our apartment. Clearly, I will never take this transition well.

One of the few bright spots about this transition to colder weather is feeling the need to take the shears to my pots of herbs while they are still lush and vibrant. My oregano plant has been left to its own devices all season and has gotten positively unruly; because it’s considered to be really strong in taste, the only amount I’ve needed to use are a few sprigs here and there in recipes all summer. I despaired of finding a proper way to dispatch of it until I found this lovely pesto recipe from Saveur, which called for one and a half cups of packed oregano leaves and only half a cup of basil leaves. A little more than a week ago I trimmed back my plant to make the sauce to pour over pasta, and the results were not only really satisfying, but this pesto felt more autumnal compared to the ones I’ve been making all summer. Read More

Spaghetti tagliuzzati con zuppa di aragosta

Spaghetti tagliuzzati con zuppa di aragosta

Lobster and pasta: it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And doesn’t it sound like the epitome of the springtime or summer meal, something to enjoy after a nice day at the beach, perhaps served with a refreshing beer or glass of white wine?

Oh, were it so simple. The truth of the matter is that this is a dish that demands patience. Not only does it take some work to get all of the components ready, but it’s one that requires you to wait until the ingredients are in season because anything otherwise would result in a less-than-stellar meal. I knew this when I first saw the recipe in Made In Sicily months ago, so I abstained from even thinking about it. But then Memorial Day weekend came, and Michael was home after a long week in England, and Fairway had lobster on sale. Even the tomatoes smelled delicious, despite it not quite being peak tomato season just yet in our neck of the woods.

In short: I waited long enough to have this, and to borrow a phrase from Alton Brown, my patience was going to be rewarded. Read More

Roasted Grape and Goat Cheese Bruschette

Roasted Grape and Goat Cheese Bruschette

As a rule, I try not to be too precious about my cookbooks. They’re meant to be practical, after all, and the best ones should bear the stains of cooking: the pages a little warped from sauce splatters, little smudges here and there on the edges, even pages escaping the binding after years and years of use. When I pull a book from the shelf and sit down on the couch to browse it, those little signs of wear and tear remind me of successful (and even the less-than-successful) meals.

My practical outlook was almost turned upside down when I unwrapped a copy of Polpo on Christmas Day, because in my hands was quite possibly the most aesthetically pleasing cookbook I ever had the pleasure of owning. I instantly loved everything about it: the typeface, the photography, the paper used for the pages. But the absolute neatest visual aspect about this book is the spine:DSC_2854:

How cool is that? And then I found this fantastic article from The Paris Review a few days later on the evolution of the bookshelf and that back in the days when books were primarily found in monasteries they would be placed with the front edges out, all ornately illustrated. But I digress.

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Welp. I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I hit “publish” on this blog until I saw that my last update was in May. Early May. I can offer no good explanation for this–I know when this kind of extended silence happens elsewhere in the blogosphere, it’s usually due to news of great import, but I can assure you that is not the case here at all. Between the new job, various summer outings, visitors, and finally getting into Game of Thrones, the summer has been full so far. Read More

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