Pressure-cooked fresh tomatoes–even better than canned.

I’m finally finished with my cookbook project–after nine months and change, I’ve cooked or made at least one thing from every cookbook in our primary collection, all 105 of them. In retrospect it was a really valuable exercise, not only because it gave me a new appreciation for the recipes that I had at my disposal, but also in helping me develop some really helpful techniques. Had I not set out to do this I wouldn’t have tried Massimo Bottura’s method for making pasta completely by hand, or Alton Brown’s shrimp scampi, or Mimi Thorisson’s dry pan-roasted mushrooms. I’ve pushed myself in ways I wasn’t expecting, and because of that I feel like I’ve grown as a cook, and I feel better-equipped to improvise where necessary. Read More

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My thyme going nuts.

Welp: it’s finally starting to feel a bit more seasonal. Saturday was the first in ages that hadn’t gone above 70 degrees as the high, which is weird considering we were dancing close to 90 earlier in the week. (I know this personally for a fact because a post-work jaunt across the harbor to Whole Foods left me a pretty drenched mess, even with a boat ride to cut into the walk itself.) When we lived in Stamford this would have me feeling both wistful and worried over how I could possibly my herbs before the winter temperatures took them out; at least here, with my indoor windowsill garden, I don’t have to fret over that.

I’ve been meaning to offer an update of sorts to my gardening exploits, and now seems as good a time as any to do so. My plants from last year are all still going strong. We were worried that something was wrong with the basil, but it turned out it was likely only suffering from a few nights of having the window open when it was still cool at night. The most exciting development among those plants is that my Meyer tree has not only blossomed, but is gestating a lemon as we speak! Apparently they can take up to 6 months to mature and turn yellow, and based on my calculations that might be happening sometime within the next few weeks. In the meantime a new branch of the tree has sprouted up and seems to grow like a weed, and I’m hopeful that a few more buds might be forming, but to be perfectly honest I am simply glad that the tree seems to be doing well and hasn’t died yet, you know? Read More

Shrimp scampi via Alton Brown.

Few dishes scream “I was big in the nineties!” like shrimp scampi, maybe because even writing words takes me back to a table at a Red Lobster with a plate of butterflied fried shrimp and shirmp scampi before me, with the latter drowning in too much butter and probably some crappy white wine. It was so ubiquitous (to the point of nauseatingly generic) that it served as symbol in the ’90s romantic comedy Only You* that a shared love of the dish was a superficial connection at best.

So color me surprised when a few weeks ago I was flipping through the remainder of my cookbooks that I had yet to use and I found myself flagging a recipe for shrimp scampi in Alton Brown’s first cookbook I’m Just Here for the Food. There was no butter involved here–just a couple of tablespoons of olive oil–and not even a mention of wine. Instead, the idea is that you broil the shrimp with the garlic and some seasoning (salt, pepper, and some Old Bay) for a couple of minutes, and then stir in some lemon juice, panko breadcrumbs, and parsley, and put it back in the broiler to let the shrimp cook through and the breadcrumbs attain a lovely golden color. Intrigued, I put it on the list of things to make for dinner this past week. Read More

Chicken teriyaki from Ivan Ramen

Despite taking that unexpected break from this project back in July and August, I’m actually really, really close to my goal now of making something from all of my cookbooks. Per the spreadsheet I’ve been using to track my progress I’m now 93% of the way there, and I only have seven books left to go before I’m finished. Most of this was due to me returning to this project with a vengeance in the last couple of weeks, and I’ve since flagged stuff to make in every single remaining book so I have a plan–I just have to figure out when I’m going to make everything.

One of the hopes I had for this exercise was to be able to introduce new recipes into our repertoire, because we had been leaning hard on old favorites a bit too frequently lately. My big hope was to find a few new ideas on what to do with our weekly boneless chicken thigh staples, because as I alluded to in my last post I had been resorting to throwing them on the Griddler and then tossing them with some sort of mango salsa or herby pesto. A fine idea to have, of course, but also kind of boring after doing it too frequently. Read More

Sunset at Rehoboth Beach, splashing in the gullies that formed every evening.

It’s a little surreal to think that it’s September already. I’d normally wonder where July and August went, but this year I can chalk it up to a lot of traveling, between day trips and weekend trips to PA for birthday celebrations to a long weekend in Rehoboth and even a short trip to Bethesda to hang out with close friends. I feel like we’ve barely been home most weekends since the Fourth, and so I was pretty clear that I wanted to spend as much of Labor Day weekend home as possible.

In the midst of all of that chaos, I also managed to get myself a new job. Read More

Cava Sangria

Sangria was something I dabbled with in New York but fully embraced when we moved to Stamford–many a weekend during the spring and summer months would I make a big pitcher for us to sip on, often relaxing out on our balcony. My sangria-making frequency went down significantly since we moved to Baltimore, likely because we’ll spend many weekends either traipsing around the city looking for fun or we’re on the road to visit people. Read More

Pigs in a blanket with black pepper pastry.

In the section on entertaining in Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites: A Cookbook, one of his suggestions is to always keep some frozen pigs in a blanket on hand because from his experience, no matter how fancy the affair everyone will come clamoring for some meat in puff pastry. It’s a fine idea, and one I’ll probably keep in mind for our next New Year’s Eve celebration, but if I’m entertaining a smaller group of people I want to do something a little more special. Read More

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