Fried Padrón peppers, i.e. the goal dish of the pepper experiment.

Fried Padrón peppers, i.e. the goal dish of the pepper experiment.

When we first moved to New York, Michael mentioned the possibility of taking some planters and setting them up in an empty air-conditioning caddy as a way to grow some plants given how much sun that part of the building got. I never took him up on his offer, and in retrospect it was probably for the best: not only was I woefully inexperienced in growing things and keeping them alive (oh, the failed experiment of my New Haven garden still stings) but given that we were on the first floor, I feel like the temptation for some college kid to knock them off would have been too great and one day I would wake up and see terracotta and dirt all over the sidewalk.

Since our relocation back to Connecticut, I’ve embraced the container garden because our balcony is surprisingly well-suited for one: despite not getting as much sun as I figured would be necessary, the herbs I’ve grown over the last three years have thrived fairly well, and last year’s garden was in particular quite successful. I had a pot of oregano that yielded several batches of oregano pesto in the fall, and a bountiful amount of jalapeño and serrano peppers to throw into various recipes, and lots and lots of sage leaves to fry up in butter and serve with cutlets. The miserable winter killed off everything, sadly, as we don’t have a good indoor place to keep things, so once again I started afresh at my favorite herb nursery. Read More

Ramp Butter and Pancetta Crostinis from Franny's

Ramp Butter and Pancetta Crostinis from Franny’s

Back in December when I was going through my stash of new cookbooks and flagging recipes to make, one of the first that spoke to me immediately was for Franny’s ramp butter and pancetta crostini. After I rued the fact that it was December and that ramp season was still months away, I turned the page and lo and behold the good folks at Franny’s realize that one cannot live on ramp butter alone. An assortment of seasonal compound butters were listed,  including a divine chili butter that is also quite easy to make and an excellent foil for pancetta, even if you are using butter straight out of the freezer.*

After I got my hands on some ramps a few weeks ago, though, I was determined to make the ramp butter. Not only did I want to make the crostinis, but Michael suggested putting pats of it on some butterflied trout and veal porterhouse steaks we had purchased at Stew’s in the place of making a sauce. Kept frozen, the butter would be able to sit for a few months in the freezer, so unlike most of our ramp preparations we’d be able to enjoy it long after the season had ended…provided it lasted that long. Read More

Prosecco cocktail with poached orange peel.

Prosecco cocktail with poached orange peel.

Two weeks ago we finally decided on where we’d go on vacation this year (our first trip together since New Orleans last spring), and while I’m really excited about that, I am determined to not wish away the late spring and summer months because that will only lead to massive seasonal affective disorder/depression come November.* (For this reason I’m not going to say where we are going until the date gets closer .) Instead, I have resolved to savor everything I can from now until then: short trips to the local beaches, wearing short sleeveless caftans around the house, making delicious sangria and other cocktails, welcoming visitors, and heading into the city for various escapades.

I don’t want to feel that it’s going to be a good summer: I’m determined to make it so. Read More

Chilean sea bass tiradito

Chilean sea bass tiradito

[Ed: I’m trying to write some shorter posts to get me in the habit of writing much more regularly. So we’ll see how this goes.]

Chilean sea bass is not a fish that comes to our kitchen often, mainly because it’s both expensive and generally believed to be horribly overfished. The latter point might not be as troublesome as I had previously thought, though, because apparently measures have been taken to atone for overfishing and there are now viable options that are considered good choices. So I now feel slightly less guilty over succumbing to the temptation of buying Chilean sea bass (that was on sale!) last weekend in order to make this tiradito from The Family Meal.

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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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DSC_7686

A few weeks ago after seeing the Spain episode of Mind of a Chef one too many times, I finally broke down and bought myself a whipped cream siphon (specifically, this one). You may be wondering why I wanted to do this, given the fact that:

  1. My husband is lactose-intolerant and therefore we usually have little need for whipped cream in the house,
  2. I am not much of a baker and therefore do not whip up desserts on the regular that would call for whipped cream,
  3. It’s not a small amount of money to pay for what on the surface feels like it could very much just be a fun toy.

All valid points, I grant you. But if you watch “Spain” and specifically watch the segment in which David Chang and one of his pastry chefs make Albert Adrià’s microwave sponge cake too many times, a yearning to recreate this for yourself becomes far too persistent and annoying to ignore. Moreover, I actually had the recipe to make the cake because it’s included in the second issue of Lucky Peach, so it wasn’t as if I’d have to scour the internet in order to cobble together some incomplete facsimile. A quick search on Food and Wine’s website yielded a few more recipes that could be made with the siphon, so I felt like I had created a sizable argument in favor of getting one. Read More

Ramen with quail eggs, scallions, quick pickles, and chicken thighs

Ramen with quail eggs, scallions, quick pickles, and chicken thighs

A few months ago when the weather was extremely cold and grey and we were in search of serious culinary projects, Michael and I finally broke down and made ramen completely from scratch, including the noodles. The stand mixer and pasta machine were brought out, dough was wrestled with, and we watched the “Noodle” and “Tokyo” episodes of Mind of a Chef at least twice that Sunday as I wrestled with the extremely elastic dough. Our copies of Momofuku and Ivan Ramen were splayed out on the counter as we needed to reference them, and the whole apartment was infused with the scent of roasted pork bones and poached chicken as the broth simmered all day.

I had to bake a few batches of sodium carbonate so I would have more than enough to add to the dough mixture, and Michael felt compelled to write out the equation on the kitchen chalkboard because of course he did.

Science!

Science!

That first batch of from-scratch ramen came out exceptionally well: light, hearty, and oh those noodles had just the right amount of chewiness. We didn’t use all of the six-ounce portions that night so the rest went into the freezer, and this weekend we both decided it was time to finally use them. Read More

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