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 »

Spirals with Arugula Pesto and a Poached Egg

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After the laboriousness of those veggie burgers, I thought this next recipe should be decidedly easier breezier, lest you start to think I am some sort of kitchen masochist.

What separates this pesto from any other is a variation on composition: I”ve traded traditional basil for arugula, while toasted hazelnuts stand in for pine nuts. I think it”s a happy redesign. The arugula has a lemony bite, which the hazelnuts mellow and balance. A little roasted garlic, Pecorino cheese, and lemon juice, and you”re in business.

Because it makes a meal, I”ve added a poached egg to the dish. Mix the sunny middle into the pasta in your bowl and you have a sauce that”s more than the sum of its parts. A generous pinch of red pepper flakes takes it over the top. 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 »

Pulled Pork with Stone Fruit Salsa

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Cooking intrigues me for multifarious reasons, but chief among them is this: the learning process is endless. The opportunity for new challenges is endless. There will always a new ingredient to try, or a new technique to study. And even if you taste all the ingredients there are to taste, and try all the techniques there are to try (if such a thing is even possible), you would still be left with the enormous task of mixing and matching so many ingredients with so many techniques.

Learning to cook well takes time–this aspect of cooking at least is magic-less. The 700th clove of garlic you peel will naturally discard its coat more swiftly than the ones that came before it. You’ll sense vanilla custard is done now–right now, not thirty seconds from now, but now–without a thermometer only through exhaustive practice.

Writing a recipe requires imagination, yes, but imagination without context will lead you nowhere tasty in a hurry. The best recipes call upon knowledge assembled steadily over time. Like an unhurried braise, intuition in the kitchen is a gradually lacquered thing. Read more »

Lamb Meatballs with Fava Hummus

A few weeks ago, the Frenchman and I went out to dinner with a friend who was in town for a visit. Despite an après-dark temperature of 100°, we decided to sit outside. Apparently we like to be uncomfortably hot. We split a selection of small plates, and ran through more than one carafe of chilled red wine.

This friend (let’s call him Monsieur Macaroon, as he’s quite skilled at making them, and I’m still holding out hope he’ll teach me his methods) told a story about a recent, unpleasant trip to the French embassy. While MM does not have a classically French name, he does hold a French passport and birth certificate. As a result of his ‘foreign-sounding’ name though, the person behind the desk demanded further, written evidence of his Frenchness, before they would proceed with his paperwork. Read more »

Black Bean, Avocado and Pineapple Salsa

What is one to do when a fragrant pineapple and a tender avocado present themselves? Salsa seemed like a good option to me. I am a fan of this recipe for various reasons—first, I think it tastes pretty great. It is also breezy to pull together, helpful in the summer when there are far more pleasant occupations than loitering in a hot kitchen. It is also full of protein, fiber and antioxidants. So far, I have served it with halibut, swordfish and tuna, but I suspect chicken and pork would also marry happily. It tastes better after the ingredients have spent some time together, so feel free to bring it along to a BBQ, a picnic or camping. Read more »

French Vinaigrette

The first time I visited my boyfriend’s family home, nestled in a fishing village on the west coast of France, summer was fully underway. Lettuces, tomatoes and radishes grown in the communal garden next door routinely made their way onto the table. It was the first time I was asked to wash lettuce that came not from a bag at the supermarket, but instead directly from the ground. It was also the first time I experienced dressing made from scratch. “Surely,” I thought, “making a batch of dressing every single time you want a salad is simply too laborious to sustain.” Not so. You can whip up a vinaigrette in a matter of minutes, and this basic recipe is almost endlessly adaptable. Particularly now, as I am more and more conscious of trying to eat foods whose ingredients I can pronounce, it seems silly to buy commercial dressing when it can be made so easily at home. Read more »