Roast Eggplant Dip

I spent most of my kitchen-time last week testing ice cream recipes, none of which were successful. I had high hopes for a ripe market cantaloupe and buttermilk ice cream, but the results were consistently too icy. I moved on to a doughnut peach base, swirled with rivulets of deeply purple blackberry quick jam. But the flavor was always too muted; doughnut peaches might be better for eating juicily, messily over the kitchen sink than stirred into ice cream.

Now I have three new ice cream recipe ideas burning a hole in my pocket (did I mention I really love ice cream?), but I needed a break–ice cream can be finicky to make, it’s time consuming to test, and it makes me grumpy-pants when I get it wrong. And August is not a month for finicky, time-consuming recipes.

Instead, I went in the opposite direction: a (relatively) quick, savory dip, starring a deep-summer vegetable. Read more »

Korean-ish Short Rib Sandwich

Last weekend, the Frenchman and I journeyed to Charleston, South Carolina, and it was delightful. It felt like a proper break, a real disengagement from the ho-hum of everyday, and there is nothing I adore more than traveling avec mon amour. The monsieur travels to Atlanta for work on the regular, but I had never been to the south before.

I loved the narrow houses of Charleston, the skinny side porches, some adorned with hanging plants or wind chimes, some old and listing like a tipsy uncle. I loved the real gas lamps burning, picturesque but inexplicable, in the light and heat of a May day. I loved the properties overlaid with vines, such bombastic vegetation and the smell of honeysuckle everywhere.

I loved the drive to Sullivan’s Island, across the long, modern bridge; rising with airs over the flat brown water and the skeletons of industrial machinery. I loved the walk across the packed, wavy, clay sand, to the receding line of the water where we found razor clam shells as long as a witch’s fingernail.

I loved the heat, thick enough to jar and only May, and the soundtrack of bug callings, and the line of oaks as old as this county: Imagine! they will outlive us all. I loved the weeping tree by the lagoon, the branches so thick and so low they meant to scoop us up and carry us off to who knows where. And then the lick of poppies, in front of the old house and beside the pecan tree, so loud and red and unembarrassed. Read more »

Fennel, Merguez, and Preserved Meyer Lemon Braise

Here is the thing about trying to recreate childhood dishes for the Frenchman: it is invariably a petit désastre. I have tried my hand at lentils, white beans, croque-monsieur. It’s not that my attempts are bad per se (well, except for the beans. I am bean-impaired), but they simply don’t live up to expectation; they aren’t the same. What can I say? Childhood memory is a cruel competitor, particularly in the kitchen.

The following “braise” was one such attempt. The Frenchman lived in Tunisia for six years as a kid, so the man knows his way around a couscous. He loves couscous. I, on the other hand, am quite new to the dish.

I did some research, but mostly I relied on techniques I was already familiar with (to me, winter is spelled b-r-a-i-s-e), and employed ingredients I thought made sense together. I even bought couscous imported from Tunisia, which I hoped might add some authenticity to the proceedings.

When the dish came out of the oven, I though it tasted really good: the vegetables were soft, and flavored with pan juices. The sauce itself was complex and spiced, a little spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. The couscous was downy, and tasted ever so slightly of the good olive oil I stirred into it. Read more »

Butternut, Apple, and Parsnip Soup with Smoked Duck

Hello/Bonjour! Long time no see. My self-imposed winter break lasted a little longer than I originally intended, but now I am back and raring to go.

Let’s get right to this soup. It is perfect in every way you hope a January soup will be. It is oh so easy to make (like, actually easy), and quite economical too. If you make it a day ahead, it will only taste better upon reheating. It freezes beautifully. (Make a double batch to tuck into the freezer for some other night.)

The squash, apple, and parsnip balance together famously. The soup itself is a little sweet, a little sharp, and incredibly rich in flavor, while low in calories. (You know I don’t normally care about such things, but what with January being a month of resolutions, I figured it was worth mentioning.)

The only bad part about this soup is peeling the butternut squash. I abhor peeling butternut squash. Alas, we can’t have everything in life. Read more »

Pear-Vanilla Bourbon Warmer

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Since the holidays are fast approaching, I wanted to fashion a weather-appropriate drink with enough versatility to please a crowd. I think I’ve succeeded. (At any rate, I think it’s pretty delicious.)

The result of blending pears with nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla is a warming, satisfying cocktail that takes a hint of freshness from Meyer lemons. As a bonus, whipping up the syrup will make your house smell insanely great.

The pear-vanilla syrup recipe yields about 1/2 cup. If you don’t use it all for cocktails (or mocktails for the kids), warm it and pour it over: yogurt, ice cream, fruit, hot cereal. Stir it into tea, or a hot toddy. It can be brushed onto cake or pastry as a glaze. Read more »

Sausage with Apples and Garbanzos

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I am swimming in apples.

I just can’t get ahead of them. The whole kerfuffle started when a friend went apple picking and brought me home a massive bag. Since then, my CSA has provided a steady supply, and well. My recipe-brain has been stretched this fall, trying to think of more and more creative uses for all my apples.

Most often, I eat them simply: to lend a sweet snap to a ham sandwich. Or alone, with cheese and charcuterie (goat cheese and triple-crème are special favorites). They are nice with soups, as the weather turns, like tomato, carrot, or squash.

You can bake them in a crisp until the apple melts into itself, stirred together with nutmeg and golden sugar. Or bake them as they are until caramelized, with butter and apple cider. Top with ice cream or Greek yogurt. Read more »

How to Make and Use Fruit Syrups

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The Frenchman and I recently fled the city to visit a friend who is finishing her PhD on Long Island. For the year, she is renting an impossibly charming cottage with overgrown woods to its back. A crescent stone wall encloses a slate patio, bursting at the seams with fanning dandelion greens. There is space enough to enjoy the working fire pit.

To the front, a covered, wrap around porch gives way to a flagged path, gives way to a gravel drive, gives way to a bay strewn with boats. At low tide, they cant like children napping in the car. The air smells of wet piles, of salt-licked weeds, of secret bivalves buried in the silt.

The house is small, but windowed on all sides, so that even on the rainy day we visited, gossamer light followed us from room to room. Read more »

Duck Breasts with Concord Sauce

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Like many Americans, I grew up eating seedless, thin-skinned grapes. It wasn’t until I visited the Frenchman’s family that I tasted my first sour grape, small and green as a jade bead, thoroughly packed with bitter seeds. Neither variety left me particularly inspired.

And then, and then. I received a punnet of Concord grapes in my CSA basket this week. Holy milkshakes. Are these ever game-changing grapes.

First of all, they are very nice to look at: inky in shades of dusty, Prussian blue, their skins lightly variegated like crushed velvet. But what really gets me is how they smell. There is no other way to say it–they smell like candy. They smell like grape Jolly Ranchers in perfume form.

My apartment is small. When I lay them on the kitchen table, I can smell them from almost every corner. I feel like some kind of crazed addict, pulling long, conspicuous sniffs as I go about my writing. Read more »