Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Do any of you get the Zingerman’s mail order catalog? When I was in preschool we lived in Ann Arbor while my Dad was in grad school, and my parents were big fans of the then-new Zingerman’s Deli. They now have an amazing mail order service, and my mom always ordered stuff from them as gifts. I do the same—few things are a more surefire hit than a coffee cake in a wooden hatbox, especially when the coffee cake is a really, really good one. They also have exceptional customer service, with real people on the phone who want to help you. HOWEVER. The prices are a bit steep for personal consumption, which is why I’m grateful for this recipe, which my mom has been making for as long as I can remember. It’s a heavy, dense cake, extremely moist and long-lasting (if you don’t eat it all up!).

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
1 C. butter
2 C. sugar
2 eggs
1 C. sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 C. flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

½ C. brown sugar
½ C. pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon

* Preheat oven to 350
* Grease and flour a bundt pan; set aside
* Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy
* Add eggs one-at-a-time and mix
* Add sour cream and vanilla and mix
* Sift together the dry ingredients and add, mixing just until incorporated
* Pour half the batter into the prepared pan
* Strew streusel over batter
* Top with rest of batter
* Bake about 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean

One thing I’ve noticed (I made the cake twice so far): It might be a bit too much streusel topping. Try to make sure there is cake batter exposed around the edges, or at least not a thick layer of the streusel, so the cake doesn’t end up with top and bottom halves, unconnected to each other.

The tricky bit it adding the second half of the thick, sticky batter, on top of the streusel. Careful dabbing with a spatula seems to work:

I have had some trouble with my oven ever since we bought the Viking. It’s not noticeable when I’m cooking meat, but when baking I sometimes find that nothing is happening after I’ve put the pan in. As in, the temperature has dropped to 150 and the baked goods are just sitting there, flabby and pale and sad. I was on the phone with Mom the first time I made this, so I popped it in the oven and kind of ignored it until about 45 minutes in, when I saw that the batter had set a bit but definitely not baked. It took an additional HOUR to cook. Anyway, that’s my oven’s problem, not the recipe’s. But does anyone else with a gas oven have that happen?

Not the best distribution of streudel on that outing, but still a great cake. I baked the first one for a girl’s weekend a couple months ago, and Bridge declared it the best coffee cake ever! But really, how can you go wrong with 2 sticks of butter, a cup of sour cream, and all that sugar? Soooo healthy.

Read Full Post »

So here’s a problem I’ve never had before and doubt I’ll ever have again: We are the owners of too much steak. We received generous and delectable assortments of steak from two sources in the last six months, and our small freezer drawer was beginning to get a bit unruly. We gobbled down two of the NY strips at Thanksgiving with my parents, and by mid-December I thawed a couple filets for a randomly fancy weeknight meal.

I’m not a fan of filet mignon, to be honest. It’s a bit mushy and bland for me; I like strip steak or, better yet, hangar or flank. But who am I to look a gift cow in the mouth? I almost never buy any beef except the stewing kind, so grilled steaks are always a treat. I dug through the CSA bounty and emerged with some parsnips:

And a head of bok choy that needed to be used ASAP:

I pureed the parsnips. It’s the second time I’ve pureed parsnips, but the first time they were in a 50-50 mix with potatoes. I didn’t love that, and I definitely hated this; they are just too sweet for me. Next stop (I still have *more* in the fridge): roasting.

I sauteed the bok choy, stems first, and dressed with with a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce. Not bad for a Tuesday, right?

But I was bothered by that sickly-sweet parsnip puree. The next week, for Christmas Eve dinner with Bridge and Ben, I thawed two more NY steaks, and tried again. This time I made celeriac puree and a wilted spinach and bacon salad. Success! Without the nauseating sweetness of the parsnips (ahem. I hated them.) it was the perfect simple meal, requiring very little time in the kitchen and thus allowing more time spent with Bridge’s superior eggnog concoction.

For the celeriac I followed a recipe from Alton Brown, roughly. I had two heads of celeriac–celery root, for the uninitiated. They’re funny, knobbly, muddy things, and the hardest part was scrubbing them clean and peeling them with a paring knife.

After softening the sliced celeriac with garlic and oil, cover it with chicken stock and simmer until it is soft; about 20+ minutes. This part smells ridiculously good and will bring everyone into the kitchen to investigate.

Once the celeriac is soft, add in a bit of butter and cream and whizz it with a stick blender, making really weird sucking sounds and splattering it around a bit:

Appetizing! But trust me, it’s awesome.

Once that was ready I put it in a serving bowl, covered with foil, and put in a warm oven until we were ready to eat. I had saved about 3 tablespoons of bacon fat from breakfast the previous weekend, along with a giant freak-slice of bacon. That saved me cooking any specifically for the salad; I cut up the freak-slice, melted the fat in a big pan, and threw the bacon back in to crisp up a bit, along with a finely-sliced shallot. When the shallot was soft, I added some mustard and red wine vinegar, and a pinch of brown sugar. Mixed it around a bit to create another unappetizing mess:

But once I wilted the spinach in the warm dressing (I pulled the pan off the heat almost as soon as I put in the spinach, and I was using hearty, mature leaves–with baby spinach I’d pour the dressing over the greens in a bowl to avoid the hot pan)… Magic. It had been years since I’d had a warm spinach salad but I can’t imagine why. The bite of vinegar with the richness of bacon is so perfect. The celeriac puree is a great substitute for potatoes, with a nice mild vegetable flavor that keeps it from being too rich with red meat.

Bridge had brought a lovely bottle of wine, and it was, I have to say, one of my all-time favorite meals I’ve cooked. And so easy!

In other news, I am very flattered to say that there’s *another* tour of our apartment up online today, this time at Apartment Therapy Boston. Check it out!

Read Full Post »

I hope everyone else had a Christmas as relaxing as mine. My dearest friend came to stay (before flying out this evening) and we got to visit with another good friend—complete with much-delayed arrival and impromptu sleepover—on Tuesday night. We ate a delicious dinner Christmas Eve (more on that later) and slept in late this morning. Santa blessed us many times over.

Before Christmas is 100% over, a few shots from our holiday party earlier this month. I think about 30 people ended up coming; I focused on food that would let me enjoy myself for once, so I made a couple things in advance and the only hot food was a giant pile of mini pizzas that I’d par-baked in the afternoon and reheated during the party.

I made one dip with butternut squash, a bit of crème fraîche, roasted onions and garlic, lots of parmesan, and sage. That was ok but not something I’d make again. Another dip/spread was basic white bean spread like we’ve always made, but dressed up with a little rosemary and lemon. Easy and so good:

I sautéed the garlic and onion until soft, then added in two cans of organic white cannellini beans and some very, very finely chopped rosemary. Chop as finely as possible; that texture is not good. They are technically already cooked but I find that they always need quite a while to take the canned edge off. I added a bit of chicken stock every so often to keep things from drying out, and cooked uncovered for a while, then covered until the beans tasted good.

I mushed them around a lot with the spoon so that it turned into a chunky spread instead of a pile of beans.

I stirred in lemon juice (about half a lemon) and topped with a bit of zest. I’d seen a Bittman riff on a Marcella Hazan recipe for a bean spread (canned beans uncooked, but pureed in the food processor) that included lots of lemon, and I will definitely add it from now on. It brightens up the beans and really offsets their earthiness and the rosemary flavor. Yum! I could have kept this a little wetter; next time I’ll do a bit more broth towards the end. Still, very very good.

The mini pizzas were a bit of an ordeal but fantastic as party food–easy to eat, no mess, hot and comforting and tasty. I used dough from Trader Joe’s; four bags divided into six little pizzas each. I topped them with sautéed leeks and sausage.

(I cooked them until just golden; during the party I heated them up so they were nice and crispy and cut each one in quarters.)

The living room, ready to party:

Ben’s chocolate chip cookies top the dessert offerings:

A crowd in the dining room:

And, just because I promised, here are Ari and Alex from Ben’s office (they’re not a couple, ladies). Alex is a faithful reader of the blog and likes to inspect Ben’s lunches when I send in leftovers. I hear he’s quite a cook, too!

Now we’re off to our friends’ wedding in CT, then a visit to Long Island before coming back to Boston for New Year’s. Enjoy the weekend!

Read Full Post »

West coast tastes

Early in November I went out to Oregon for a short visit, to hang out with my family and help my mom with house stuff. Obviously, since what my family does is talk/think/obsess about and consume food, we….ate.

The first night, Mom made pizza bianca (from the America’s Test Kitchen recipe, I think), and a lovely cassoulet-sort-of-thing with sausages and beans and bread crumbs, as well as lentils and some other things. Lots of vegetables. Witness:

Since it was a house-decorating trip, Mom and I spent a wonderful day in Portland, where we visited the chains that Eugene doesn’t have (West Elm, Crate & Barrel). Then we headed across the river to The Hawthorne, where we had a killer lunch at Cafe Castagna. Oh man. We had their famous frisée salad, which replaces the usual poached egg with, I kid you not, a deep-friend one. When we saw that on the menu Mom laughed; I famously love anything fried, but to add it to one of the greatest salads of all time? Consider yourself lucky that I snuck a photo while there were still some shards on my plate:

(Oh, their burger was one of the best I’ve ever had, seriously. It comes with waaaay too many delicious fries.)

After lunch I dragged tired Mom around to a few indie shops that I thought would be up her alley. She has very modern, streamlined taste, and we had good luck at Life + Limb and Canoe.

Tom drove me to the airport on my last day, and we had just enough time for a stop at Burrito Boy, a Eugene classic where I have to go every time I’m in town. No visit home is complete without an order of beef tacquitos, served with the smoothest guacamole and a nice sprinkling of cheese.

Now *that* is good pre-flight fortification. I was in a good mood all the way to Salt Lake City.

Read Full Post »

Ok, so it’s happened again. I am weeks behind and I blame technology, even though I settled the root problem weeks ago. Ahem. Basically I hadn’t uploaded photos since I left my job at the end of October. …Happy December! Right. I am remedying that.

Meanwhile, um… There was a lot of eating last week. Mom and Dad were here the whole week, and my uncle was here for a couple days, and Thanksgiving was awesome. I recommend it, Thanksgiving. In case any of you forgot last week. Here, I will post some hastily-uploaded photos, because I feel really guilty, and because Thanksgiving is already sort of boring, food-blogging-wise (because who really wants to do anything different from what they have always had, deep down?), so if I post these any later it will be a joke.

I am always so entertained by brussels sprouts. I love them. We made them with pancetta in a recipe that I won’t recommend because they were more bitter than usual, though still quite beloved at the table.

I believe in dressing, not stuffing. And I don’t believe it should contain anything like nuts or dried fruit. I make it with bread cubes, celery, onion, parsley, and chicken stock. It was awesome. (In this picture it is also uncooked.)

Figuring out what I have:

Ben set the table, including the maple candies that my family always has at our places:


Clockwise from top left: Brussels, mashed potatoes, dressing, beans with shallots, turkey. Not shown: Carrot salad, cranberry sauce. My family eats what can only be described as a damn good, sophisticated diet year round. For Thanksgiving we tend to go simpler and keep things really classic.

Dude. So good.

Also not shown: Ben’s annual pies–chocolate cream and pumpkin.

The very best part of Thanksgiving, though, is on Friday night, when we make hot turkey sandwiches. Heat the turkey in gravy. Serve over bread you’ve toasted until hard. Agh!@!!
(I feel stupid explaining it, but Ben had never had one until a couple years ago. Because he’s a heathen.)

Oh, and to get in the holiday spirit, here I am trying to arrange lights at the top of our lovely tree. What you can’t see is the string of muttered profanity uttering from my lips as I toss the lights and get them stuck, over, and over, and over… (Also that is my t-shirt, not my tummy. I’m not quite *that* pale.)

BTW, I’m psyched that WordPress is once again cropping all my photos on the right side. Technology again!

Read Full Post »

Sigh, the recipe in the post has nothing to do with any of the veggies I received that week. But here they are, for the record:

-1 pound potatoes
-1 pound carrots (STOP THE MADNESS)
-1 acorn squash (with unnoticed damage; it rotted within a week, agh!)
-1 bunch purple basil
-1 head lettuce
-1 pound peppers
-3 asian pears
-2 hot chilis
-1 head garlic

Ok, The Best Pasta. We got delicata squash a couple times in a row, and I was reminded of the pizza I made with it last fall, with walnuts and other lovely things. But I didn’t feel like making pizza, and was leaning towards risotto or pasta until I saw this post on The Kitchn, suggesting a pasta dish with acorn squash and pancetta. It looked tasty, so I went with the pasta urge, though I didn’t follow that recipe. Instead, I made yet another absorption pasta, which even casual readers know I am obsessed with. First I got everything ready to go.

Delicata Absorption Pasta with Walnuts, Sage and Pancetta
For this I used about half of a 17 ounce bag, and it was three servings; it’s all very flexible
2 delicata squash (I used 1.5 in the pasta and reheated the other half the next night)
1 onion, diced
5 or 6 thin or 3 thicker slices of pancetta
A handful of walnuts
Sage leaves
Olive oil
Butter (to fry the sage)
Chicken stock (have 4 cups on hand; you probably won’t use nearly that much but better safe than sorry)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese, for serving
(For those keeping score at home, the squash, onion, and sage were from the farm)

(Ignore the arugula in that photo. I decided against it.)

I cut and cleaned the delicata squash and rubbed them with a bit of oil, then roasted face down at 425 for about 20-30 minutes, until they were very tender. Meanwhile I heated some olive oil in the pot I’d be using for the pasta and browned the pancetta, rendering as much of the fat as I could (you need oil to brown pancetta, btw–it tends to turn grey, then burn if you do it dry; I think the fat doesn’t render out as fast as American bacon). I pulled it out when it was nice and crispy, then softened my chopped-up onion in the delicious combination of lard and oil in that pan. I am not being facetious; that is good stuff. See the lovely color from the pancetta??

I also toasted the walnuts in the toaster oven and managed to just barely scorch them.

I added the pasta in to the onions and oil, and did the usual absorption thing–add stock, cover for a while, stir, add stock, uncover, etc. I use the covering/uncovering depending on how much stock I have/how fast I want the pasta to cook/how much more liquid needs to boil away once the pasta is almost done.

While the pasta cooked I crumbled the pancetta and chopped up the squash and walnuts. The nice thing about delicata is that the skin is usually so tender you can eat it. Test a sliver and if it isn’t tough, chop the squash up skin and all!

I fried a few sage leaves from the farm in butter, because why not add a third fat source? The more the merrier!

Once the pasta was al dente, I stirred in the chopped squash and about 2/3 of the pancetta and walnuts, along with a couple of the sage leaves, crumbled. I adjusted for salt and pepper, then plated the pasta and topped with the remaining pancetta and walnuts, a little sprinkle of parmesan and a couple sage leaves.

And then I died.


Actually I revived myself after dinner to chop up 900 peppers for Ben, because holy crap, our entire fridge? Full of peppers. I cut up at least 6 of these, I think (I just enjoy these colors):

Ben ate them in one workday, so I guess I shouldn’t worry too much about extra peppers, after all.

Read Full Post »


I just clicked on Tom’s Flickr stream and saw this photo of our parents unpacking a picnic on a day trip last week. I miss them and wish I’d been there!

Photo from Tom

Read Full Post »

Birthdays by the Lake

Let’s wrap up this vacation before I leave on my next trip, shall we?

Thursday was Ben’s Birthday!! And it was a big one, though he’s not happy about that. Happy birthday, honey–I love you times 30. (Not that Ben reads this blog. I can write anything I want about him and he’ll never know. His coworkers might, though.)

Our friend Kiki and her kids (they have a house one lake over) joined us for dinner. We grilled sausages and I made sauteed peppers and onions, greek pasta salad, braised baby fennel (…meh) and Ben’s favorite lemon-chocolate tart.

Pasta salad ingredients:

(we were blessed with a decent grocery store a few minutes away–next time we needn’t bring NEARLY as much stuff with us!)

(No finished shot, oops!)

Gorgeous spring onions from the farm:


Fennel–I was improvising and I didn’t get it quite right. Cut up the the bulbs:

Browned them in the pan I’d cooked the peppers/onions in, with a bit of broth to deglaze:

Then roasted in the oven (covered, mostly) for a while. I dunno, they were boring and not quite right. Not like the time I did the ones from the Molly Stevens Braising book.

I spent a while Thursday morning hiding in the kitchen and secretly making Ben’s favorite dessert, the Lemon Chocolate Tart from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. He asks for it all the time, so I thought it would be a good birthday surprise (and I’m really sick of making it now, so that’s it for a while!). It turned out to be the best one yet–I was using a thinner pan than normal to make the curd, which cooked faster than I’m used to, but I think I’d been undercooking it a little because the flavor and texture were better this time.

I got fancy birthday candles before we left, but when it came time to put them into the tart I ran into trouble: They were so tall and the tart is so shallow that while Greta and I (laughing hysterically) got them to stand up while we lit them, the minute I started to move the thing they all started tipping over and dripping wax on my hands, etc.

We blew them out in a hurry and I fished out the little old-school candle holders I’d bought at the grocery store that day. Those were able to stick through into the crust and stayed up a bit better. And the burn on my hand is all healed now.

The next day was MY birthday (and no, I was not turning a special age). Greta made Sausage Balls for breakfast. MMMmmm:

I had awkwardly insisted on cooking dinner that night, because I was holding a secret: Our friends Ann and Chris (the ones we and Chris/Greta went to the lake with last Memorial Day) were going to drive over from Ann’s parents’ place on Friday afternoon to join us for the day. We’d been planning it for ages, and I wanted it to be a surprise for everybody. And despite being tempted to admit the plan, I kept the secret and Chris and Ann wandered down the path from the house while we were all out in the lake after a slow start to the day. It was a wonderful moment, and everyone was so happy. Yay!

They stayed for dinner and I made what I SHOULD have made for Ben’s birthday dinner–the famous Triple Pork burgers, also from Sunday Suppers. Another thing he asks for all the time and that I don’t make often!

But that’s boring, since I’ve shown photos of making them several times already. Here are Ann, Jack and Greta, chilling out:

And the boys, acting ridiculous (yes, they tipped over within a minute of this photo being taken):

Oh, food? Well, it’s certainly easier making the pork burgers with fresh mexican chorizo (as the recipe calls for) instead of the hard spanish stuff I’d had to use previously.

Greta and I had a fairly hilarious time making fresh mayo (eventually aioli to spread on the burger rolls). She’d only made larger quantities, in a cuisinart, and I’d never made it. We did eventually figure it out, though it was tricky with the equipment on hand. Worth it, though, and I’ll be trying again soon.

Poor Ben had some struggles cooking the burgers over a charcoal fire, since he’s used to propane, but once we peeled off the scorched bit (they had the cheese on too early, per the directions, so he couldn’t flip them to keep the cooking even) they were extremely tasty:

We also had another take on the german potato salad I served with the tuna the week before (I added sugar to the dressing this time for some reason: not necessary) and local corn on the cob:

And then after dinner greta slipped away and when she came back it was with freshly baked cornmeal shortcakes covered in strawberries and whipped cream (blended with leftover lemon curd from the tart–SO good)! I was delighted:

And that was that. We packed up and left the next morning–another lake trip over. I can’t wait for next year.

I can’t be too sad, though: In a stroke of Best Husband Ever, Ben got me a ticket to go visit Bridget in London as my birthday gift. And I leave THURSDAY NIGHT!!!! OMG.

Read Full Post »

I was back in Oregon to be in my friend Kathrin’s lovely, lovely wedding last weekend, and amidst all the festivities we did eat at home two nights.

First, though, I always take the same photos when I fly into Eugene but I just love the moment when the Coburg Hills drop off into the Valley and you see the flat farm land like an ocean up ahead:

Mom asked Tom what he thought I’d want for my first meal home, and he apparently said “simple food after flying, Mom!” so we had a perfect and simple meal. I’d brought a bunch of stuff from Christina’s spice shop as a hostess gift, including another bag of that mysterious huge couscous (which turned out to be labeled “lebanese couscous” in the store). We flavored that with preserved lemon and mint and served it along with green beans (with preserved lemon) and grilled chicken. And by “We” I mean “My mom” (Dad does the grilling)–I focused on drinking a Pimm’s Cup and chatting with everyone while eating Kettle Chips, the ruffled kind with black pepper.

The next morning I ate bread with fresh raspberry jam (made days before my Mom and Tom) for breakfast:

By the way, the whole time I was home it was around 75-80 degrees during the day, perfectly dry, and 55 or so at night. I think in Boston is was 90+ with solid walls of humidity. I’m just putting that out there.

Thursday night we had another lovely meal al fresco.

Baby chioggia beets with arugula, feta and walnuts:

German-style potato salad:

Also chard from a friend’s garden, and pork sausages from a local farm:

I think only the potatoes and feta came were non-local–Mom, am I right?

For dessert we had my favorite: Flan with summer fruit, in this case blueberries from the backyard bushes, cherries and nectarine:

Last light over the golf course:


More pics are here.

Read Full Post »

Aaaand once again I’m a week late.

Week two CSA contents:

-1 bunch chard (green)
-3 medium red beets
-1 head lettuce
-4 oz. garlic scapes
-8 oz. summer squash/zucchini
-1 bunch dill

Tuesday night I stopped at Whole Foods after the CSA pick-up and grabbed the makings for a semi-homemade pizza. They sell bags of fresh dough, all ready to bake. I also got some mozzarella and a couple tablespoons of an artichoke-garlic spread from the antipasto bar. (I find that there are frequently useful little things in those!)

At home I spent ages washing greens, then I cut up:

…and sautéed the chard and set it aside. I rolled out the dough and brushed it with olive oil, then smeared the artichoke dip around and put on the cheese, lovingly grated by Ben. (“It. is. sticking. Why is it clumpy? Why?”–it was a humid night and even putting the cheese in the freezer to firm up didn’t do the trick.)

I baked that (on the highest heat below broil; somewhere north of 500 degrees) until the cheese started to bubble, then pulled it out and added the chard, and baked until it seemed done. Precise, no?

All in all it probably took about 10 minutes longer than throwing a frozen pizza in the oven and it was *delicious.* I will likely be doing this a lot this summer, and experimenting with grilling them as well.

We finished with a salad made from the lovely tender lettuce. For some reason the head this week had loads of little baby lettuces (clones? mutants? they were delicious so I don’t care) clustered around the base:

Eee! Tiny tiny lettuces! Adorable. *Munch* We both commented on how tender and delicious the lettuce was, eaten within 24 hours of harvest! And not to be all philosophical, but there’s something appealing to me about washing mud off the lettuce because the farm was hit by the same thunderstorms that hit us here, too.

Coming soon: Cooking scapes with Tom!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »