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herbs & spices

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

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Chestnut-ricotta dumplings with butter and sage

A week before Christmas we had spent a quiet (and slushy) afternoon at Dinosaur Barbecue, and then like we always do we walked over to Whole Foods in order to get some food to make for a relatively light dinner given that we had just eaten some wings and sliders. I’m not sure what came over me while we were shopping, but I saw that they had bags of fresh chestnuts and I decided then and there I’d make something with them for Christmas dinner. (I partially blame the addition of the Silver Spoon’s Tuscany cookbook for this inclination.) After doing a little research I decided that I could fold in chopped up chestnuts into my favorite ricotta dumpling recipe, and the only question remained was how to cook them. Read More

Heirloom Tomato Pizza with Mozzarella di Bufala and Basil

Heirloom Tomato Pizza with Mozzarella di Bufala and Basil

It’s been over five months now since we moved into our place, and once we were able to organize the space the way we wanted to we haven’t done much in the realm of home renovations save for adding potted herbs to the window sills and finally installing some curtains in the living room that weren’t hideous. Naturally we have a little wishlist of things we’d like to do, but we’ve been trying to show some patience on that front because these things cost money and we want to be sensible about this. (Plus we have to replace our hot water heater soon because it’s at the age when it can go and two others have already gone within the past year in our building.)

Now, one of the great things about our place is that it didn’t need a ton of work to make it look good since we had things like the original hardwood floors and the gorgeous anaglypta wallpaper, but that doesn’t mean improvements don’t abound. The biggest project will be redoing both bathrooms, as I loathe the tiny tile lining the floor and the wall tile is just bland as hell, but that’s going to be down the road a bit still because it’s going to be a really big project. Besides–unless you really have any interest in me babbling about bathroom design inspiration, I’m going to keep the house talk to at least be tangential to food. That, of course, means some sprucing up of the kitchen. Read More

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Back when winter was finally starting to draw to a close, I had decided not to add on any new silly spring and summertime aesthetic to my arsenal, because between rosés, caftans, vermouths ans stripes I felt like I had more than enough to work with as it was. Both scratch that ever-present itch for the Mediterranean that I get once the temperature heats up but in different ways, and I felt that I had barely explored the possibilities of vermouth especially. Then, back in March when I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one evening, I came across a post from Food and Wine magazine and wouldn’t you know, it was a recipe for making your own rosé vermouth. Immediately bookmarking it, I then went to see if J.Crew happened to have any striped caftans (because why wouldn’t they?) and of course they did, and so I decided that this year would truly become one giant mashup of everything. Read More

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

Maccheroni alla Chitarra with Meatballs

As you may or not be aware, Elizabeth and I hail from southeastern PA.  Therefore we have family and friends in and around the Philadelphia and up and down the northeast from New Hampshire to DC.  Saturday morning, we were all a buzz amongst ourselves, bracing for the snow to make all other snows feel awkward for causing such a fuss, we made movements to secure a warm, delicious meal for a snowy night.

While plenty of friends (especially in Philly and Maryland) got Snow’d in a very real way, we of the Empire state of mind were only grazed by what I insist is less than six inches of the fluffy stuff (even though the weather service insists it was more).  Despite the lackluster blizzard, our dinner was delightfully appropriate for the forty-five minutes of powerful winter we saw.

San Marzano tomatoes

I’ve been fantasizing about San Marzano tomatoes lately.  The previous week I had decided on making fresh pasta and we tossed up on whether to do a mushroom or tomatoey sauce; we opted for mushrooms, but that’s another post.  This weekend then I made it up to myself.  I don’t love spaghetti and meatballs, but somehow it felt perfect at the time.  Elizabeth has been extolling the virtues of this light tomato sauce she whipped up while I was away several weeks back, and I wanted to give it the old college try–only this time, I insisted on adding a good amount of shaved fennel to the mix.  A liberal topping with shredded fresh basil brightens the whole affair.

I wanted to keep things very simple, so I decided to go whip up some meatballs… I mean, why not?   Again, to keep things light, we stuck to one package of 93:7 ground turkey.  I added 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs (a bit much, and had I had some white bread I’d have used that), one egg and I seasoned with 1 1/2 tsp each of oregano, dried parsley and my new Epazote from Penzey’s in the Grand Central Terminal Market.  I rolled the mix into twelve balls and cooked them at 400 F for 20 minutes in greased muffin tins.

So, on a dark snowy night, we encourage you to break from the norm and do something traditional.  Until next time, stay warm and cook on!

Sockeye Salmon with a White Wine Mustard Sauce with Piemontese-style Agliata

Sockeye Salmon with a White Wine Mustard Sauce with Piemontese-style Agliata Verde

While it’s been in the seafood case for a few weeks now, we’ve resisted the call of the sockeye because it had yet to come down in price to about 10-11 bucks a pound–until this week.  L was coming over to dinner and Michael had absolutely no idea what to cook, but she wanted to pay for it, so off they went to Stop & Shop to see what they could find.  I had proposed doing a light agliata verde–a Piemontese-style pesto of basil, mint, cheese, garlic and olive oil (and a little lemon thrown in for good measure), but it was up to the two of them to decide on a protien.

While we resisted the sockeye earlier in the week–the Alaskan cod looked too delcious and was cheap to boot–it felt right for the three of us, and Michael’s fail-safe mustard sauce is always delicious.  They also picked up some asparagus to roast, and while I can’t say that asparagus is my favorite veggie, I enjoyed these particular ones because they were thin, delicate, and not too fibrous.

For a meal that was conceived on the fly like this, the results were extremely satisfying, with the sauce adding just the right amount of flavor without being either bland or overwhelming.  And wouldn’t you know–the idea came from yet another Seriously Italian column, and it’s not the only one we’ve used in our cooking this week.  What can I say–Chef DePalma knows what comprises a simple, delicious, Italian-inspired meal!

Agliata Verde Piemontese

Adapted from Gina DePalma

  • 1 cup eached packed fresh basil and mint leaves
  • 3/4-1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil

Add leaves, cheese, lemon and garlic to a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle (if you’re feeling really ambitious), then season with salt and pepper.  Turning on the machine to puree (for a blender–use whatever is similar on a processor) drizzle in olive oil slowly, and blend until the whole thing turns into a smooth, but not too liquidy, sauce.  As Chef Gina mentions, this is perfect with either bread or hot pasta, and I bet it would also go well over beef, pork or chicken just as well.

Mangia! We’re headed to PA to visit our families as my grandmother is turning 90(!) on Sunday and we’re all headed to dinner Saturday evening–see you next week!

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