Saturday, September 15, 2012


Friday, September 14, 2012

green gazpacho

Whenever someone near me on a plane orders tomato juice, I always wonder. When did they start drinking tomato juice? Was there some kind of pro-tomato-juice propaganda circulated during the war that makes grandparents love it? Are some people just more virtuous? Is it a Southern California savory-juice thing?

But last weekend we ended up with triple the normal amount of produce. Which meant triple the sprouts. A visit to a local sprout farm (my day job?) instilled a sudden craving. All of a sudden, growing sprouts didn't seem like a weird thing for other people's moms, the ones who served carob milk and listened to NPR... it seemed kind of fun. Like a science experiment. I crunched on them as they grew-- from lifeless white beans to green-tasting still-white beans. I sat writing all day, and all day the sprouts grew. All watched over by machines of loving grace! It was great-- I felt like the Dr. Frankenstein of healthy snacks. But then, what are you gonna do with all those sprouts? I don't even like sprouts. I made a salad. It did not look appetizing. Kedar's suggestion was to blend it-- probably the only thing that sounded worse than eating a salad with such a sprout to cheese ratio (a lot to zero). But then, it's hot out. Why not?

Most of the recipes were for throwing spinach into sweet smoothies with bananas, which turn out a kind of brown-green-grey and probably deserve their reputation. Green smoothie lovers, email me! Spring to the defense!

We figured that going full-savory was the only way to save dinner. Years of watching people drink virgin bloody mary mix and not gag supported the hypothesis. Into the blender with the salad: an onion, a head of romaine lettuce, bzz bzz. Half a cucumber. Handful upon handful of sprouts. Bzz Bzz. Pickled garlic. Oregano, I think.

I was skeptical. It tasted ok.: then salt salt salt, three tomatoes, another tomato, two hot peppers from the farm-- anchos? On top: some roasted squash seeds from a hopeful transition to fall-flavored root vegetables.  I started thinking of it as green gazpacho. I imagined myself saying the mere phrase "green gazpacho" while wearing a maxi dress and drinking white wine. Nigella Lawson was there. We discussed her weight loss. And I felt virtuous. Vegetables in a blender! I get it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I love milkshakes, but the place we go over the summer is so sweet, so perfect, that I try not to disappoint myself by drinking them throughout the year.

The guy who runs the place we go over the summer-- the place where the pastor goes in the Methodist camp, the place that has not changed since the 1920s-- has an ice cream cone tattooed on his arm and, I like to think, respects our family's stamina when it comes to milkshake consumption.

In one of our daily chats, he offered the secret to his outstanding malteds:

1. A heavy hand with the malt. Duh.
2. Malt syrup. U Bet makes it, the internet has it.
3. High quality ice cream. Just because it is getting blended does not mean you don't deserve the very best.

If you can't get an extra-thick vanilla malted from the source, make one in your living room and stay cool.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

plum pie

"If there is one thing Lily is good at, it's making desserts."-- said yesterday, to me, and I guess its true. I spent my formative, learning-to-cook years with above average cooks, and so I think nothing of cowing to a late-night desire for cookies with making cookies or coming home to cupcakes. Frankly, I always thought of myself on the lazy side of dessert development. A cookie here, a birthday cake there. And yet, in grad school, I am the one bringing the pie.

Last time, I overstepped my bounds: lemon-meringue, which was intended as a birthday gift and-- with its watery rim around the edges-- seemed to capture the melancholy of a grey beach birthday in February. This time, the fruits themselves let the sunshine in. 

I think one time, a couple years ago, Mark Bittman suggested the same move in a column: only make a top crust for a pie. Now, Mark Bittman and I share one capital failing: we are no great lovers of pie crust. It must be truly exceptional to inspire me to love it more than sugary baked fruit... and usually my penchant for subbing whole wheat flour or living where it is always hot but then not freezing the butter means that my pie crust, well, isn't. THIS crust, though, is so unfussy, so shortbready, so citrus-zesty! Kedar, no great maker of pies, started hopping around: can we put this on an apple pie? What if we put this crust on top of a pumpkin pie? I went all Marion the Librarian-- "no, because apple pies need a bottom crust because... uh... and this and a bottom crust wouldn't work, because, uh... pumpkin pie has a bottom crust and no top crust, well, because, well..." And as I started to hear what I was saying, I realized, well, there is no good reason to say no to this pie crust.

(in this case, plum-strawberry.)
(originally from Smitten Kitchen, originally originally from Nigel Slater)

+ 7 T butter, at room temperature (YOU HEAR ME! ROOM TEMPERATURE! take that, food processor! take that, making room in the freezer for my butter! Take that, crackery piecrusts! Your days are numbered!)
+ 1/2 cup sugar
+ zest from an orange, or half an orange, or a lemon, I suppose, depending on your filling fruit.
+ an egg
+ 1 cup plus 6 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
+ 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
+ 1/4 teaspoon (kosher) salt

-- Oven to 350. 

-- Cream the butter, sugar, and zest with a stand-mixer or hand-mixer or your awesomely-honed-thanks-to-biking-to-school forearms. 
--Now add that egg.
-- Now add the dry stuff and beat until combined. Conglomerate it into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze while you prep the...


+ 2 lbs of fruit: we used a pound of plums and a pound of strawberries.
+ 2 T sugar
+ a shake or two of cinnamon
+ a squeeze or two of whatever citrus fruit you just zested

-- Butter a pie dish-- or, because this has some crumble-like qualities, a crumble dish. Otherwise known as a lasagne dish. Otherwise known as a casserole. I once got into a long supersophistic conversation about what makes a casserole-- isn't it anything baked in a casserole dish? Would that make this pie a casserole? Sure. I just like saying casserole. UH, just go out and buy a pie dish, it's freaking summer and this pie crust makes me want to eat a pie a day.

-- Toss all the ingredients together in the dish.

-- Roll out that now-chilled dough. If you asked for Silpats for Christmas and now have three because everyone you know got you one (uhhh they are oddly expensive you guys)... roll out the dough between two Silpats! No sticking! Otherwise, roll it out on your marble pastry counter. Or your other counter, with plenty of flour. 

-- Place the crust on top of the pie and crimp the edges into the double-thick parts you will fight over, fork in hand. Good luck.

-- Bake for about 40 minutes. If you want to brush the top with cream or milk and sprinkle with sanding sugar, good for you-- the crust might ripple and tear and bubble with fruit juice anyway, so I figure it has enough rustic charm as it is. Or late-Saturday-night-in-a-now-broiling-apartment-because-of-the-oven urban charm. Either way, I demolished this pie.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

double grilled pizza

Being on campus over the summer is weird. I expect it to have a kind of empty, hushed, library-late-at-night quality... but it doesn't. Sure, not everyone is here. But a lot of people are, and it's kind of bizarre to run into people in the hallways, or listen to tours breeze by, or stand and wait for the library elevator.

Grad school is funny that way-- like college (few responsibilities, learning) but also... not (revising a paper as soon as a draft is in, having an office, showing up at that office in July). So I'm reminding myself that it's summer by grilling pizza.

I just inherited my grill, so I need to make an active attempt to use it. So after making pizza last week, a lightbulb went off. Grill + pizza = grilled pizza. I have been prosthelytizing for everyone who has a BBQ to make this for years, so I decided to just do it. The days have been, somehow, packed-- reading and writing, biking here and there, errands, so by the time I was actually standing in front of the grill assembling the pizza, it was nighttime. Even without that sunshine-feel-good-beer-in-hand grilling thing, this pizza was a delight.


+an eggplant
+pizza dough (make or buy)
+tomato sauce (optional)
+cheese (also kind of optional, but delicious) (I used mozzarella and cheddar) (but seriously, a minty goaty cheesey version of this pizza would probably also rule).

1. Cut a big ole globe eggplant into wide flat slices, like for eggplant parmesan. Meaty! I may have "way crazy oversalted" my eggplant. Salt your eggplant if you have the skills to do with without making the inside of your mouth taste like the bottom of the ocean when you are done. By that I mean cover the eggplant with salt and set it in a strainer to firm up, if you dare. After about half an hour, rinse the eggplant and press firmly between paper towels.

2. Or just go ahead and marinate your eggplant slabs in olive oil and some hot red pepper flakes and maybe Italian-y herbs (oregano, thyme). Or maybe mint, garlic, and lemon for aforementioned babaganoush goat cheesey pizza? Somebody do this and tell me if it's awesome.

3. Hopefully your timing is better than mine and it is daytime. Fire up the grill. Bonus points if you are wearing some kind of apron. Double bonus points for beer in hand. Quadruple bonus points for pizza BBQ party (the two best kinds in one!) and echoes of laughter and the Beach Boys.

4. Grill the eggplant, about 5 minutes on each side. While you have a second, get that mise en place all ready to go. For example, uh, wipe yr hands and unscrew your sauce lid and make sure the cheese is already grated and all that.

5. Stretch the dough and lay it across the grates. Grill about 2 minutes on the first side, until it's bubbly.

6. Flip and assemble! Go go quick! Sauce, cheese, eggplant, cook until the crust looks golden brown and awesome. Carefully remove from the grill, pat yourself on the back for making such a festive weeknight dinner, rejoice: it's summer!