Archive for the ‘Good stuff’ 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 »

Deal alert: Short Ribs

At my Whole Foods, at least, bone-in short ribs are on sale for $3.99/lb this week. That’s about $2 cheaper than usual. I picked up a few to freeze. Things I’ve made with short ribs:
Beef-barley-leek soup
Suzanne Goin’s braised short ribs (a few times) and Boeuf a la Niçoise from Sunday Suppers at Lucques.

Read Full Post »

Oh, brussels sprouts, I love you so. The one downside to the CSA was the fact that they didn’t grow (or had bad luck with) sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower last year, and since I was working my way through what they DID grow I never bought any, either. Ben actually accused me of withholding sprouts, can you believe the nerve?

In response, I bought two pounds from Trader Joe’s and went to town. Herewith, a window into how food and leftovers live out their lives Chez Girl Reporter.

The first night, I roasted all two pounds.

brussels sprouts

brussels sprouts 2

roasted brussels sprouts

I won’t lie, I don’t have the roasting quite perfect. I feel like they get smooshy by the time they are cooked and not bitter. Maybe next time I’ll parboil them? Actually, next time I’ll shred them in the food processor and then roast them on high heat like Greta does. Oh god, that’s good.

Anyway, we ate them with polenta cakes and sausage.

sausage dinner

Now, two pounds is a lot of brussels sprouts, even once you’ve trimmed about a third off. The next night Ben was at a meeting, so I was on my own. We had some no-knead bread that was bordering on stale, so I toasted it up, heated up some sprouts, and fried an egg in olive oil. Truly an awesome dinner.

fried egg brussels sprouts

The next day at lunch there were still a few left. Also, two rounds of polenta. I don’t have a photo of the cold brussels sprouts (sue me) but here’s what I ate on the side while I fished them out of the pyrex bowl, still cold and more delicious than ever:


Ok, so Ben, who was so concerned about Sprout Deprivation, only got to eat them for one meal and I ate them for three. But I also cleaned them all: fair’s fair!

I finally caved and joined Twitter, after watching Aileen …tweet….things all weekend. If you are interested in scintillating stuff like what I’m eating for lunch or what the squirrels outside my office are up to, I’m here.

Read Full Post »

I am unnaturally obsessed with vegetables, but even I know that most people don’t get too wound up about the root vegetables that locavores in northern climes are working their way through this time of year. I also think we should all give up on the word Rutabaga altogether, and follow the Euro lead in calling it Swede. No wonder no one cooks the poor thing; what an awful name. But my Bubble and Squeak didn’t use a fraction of the vegetables I’ve got in cold storage, so prepare yourselves for a few more entries on how to use The Other Root Vegetables.
(Alternative slogans:
We’re not sexy but we sure store well!
Lumpy but delicious!
Off your feed? Try some Swede!

(Oh my god, someone help me.)

ANYWAY. Look, turnips!

I tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for….a while. A long while. I kept tasting every so often once they looked cooked, and by the time Ben had grilled [more] steaks they were wrinkled-looking but tasted awesome.

Now for the really photogenic stuff. Go get some swede. Seriously, go. It’s a huge wax-covered lump in most grocery stores, though mine were much smaller than normal since they came from the CSA. I used two small and one medium; a normal-sized large one would do all by itself.

Peel and cut it up into smallish pieces so it will cook quickly and evenly. Be careful while cutting it and keep in mind that before pumpkins were common in the British Isles, the original jack o’ lanterns were made from swede. These things are tough. Cover the pieces with water, add some salt, bring to a boil and cook until soft.

Drain, add butter and get out your trusty masher (I found an Oxo one
that resembles Jamie Oliver’s, and I like the design a lot.)

Mash. Add salt and pepper to taste. Do a little dance to celebrate how tasty this nutritious vegetable is (wiki tells me it’s a cross between a turnip and a cabbage! I love cabbage!). Serve with something good: in this case, crispy pork cutlets and corn from the farm that I froze in August.

Oh, and by the way. While this is what winter looks like in these parts (snowier, actually; it’s snowing as I type)…

(The beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA in mid-January)

…I have to celebrate our wonderful annual visit to our friends Josh and Keren and The Amazing Adley in Florida. This is their reality:

Here I am, baffled by this “sunshine” and “warm weather” of which I’ve heard so much:

It was hard to come back to this:

But I have pretty tulips this week and I know spring will come eventually.

Read Full Post »

You know, if I were to write a parody of Real Simple and other magazines aimed at over-scheduled upper-middle-class suburban moms (and those of us who will no doubt be OSUMCSMs (catchy) in a few more years, heh) I would probably focus the food section on how rotisserie chickens are The Answer! To Everything!

And I’ve never bought one.

But last month I was down in CT visiting Greta and Jack, along w/ our friend Ann, while all the husbands went skiing for the weekend, and Greta turned out a series of awesome meals while also chasing after a toddler, and one night she pulled out a rotisserie chicken and we pretty much just ate it while standing around the kitchen counter and pulling pieces off with our hands, and I thought “Genius! Ready-to-eat meat, plus leftovers!” as if I hadn’t read that exact tip 9000 times.

So I had Ben pick up a rotisserie chicken, and when he got it home I looked at the weight and thought “good lord, a pound and a half? It’s minsky!” but then I got three meals out of it and still had leftover shredded meat, which I never did use because I’m a mess.

Anyway. Night one: Chicken w/ fried polenta cakes and cavalo nero slow-cooked with garlic. Oily and delicious, just the way I like it.

Night two: Shredded chicken quesadillas. (I shredded the chicken and heated it up in a bit of broth with taco spice from Christina’s spice shop in it, but I don’t think I used enough spice mix.)

BTW, I use greek yogurt instead of sour cream. My mom always used plain yogurt and you don’t really notice the difference, especially w/ greek yogurt, since it’s so thick.

Night three: Nachos! It was Friday.

Once again Trader Joe’s impressed me: I used their “longboard” corn chips, which were delicious, and the mild salsa that isn’t chunky, from the refrigerated section. That was *awesome*.

I’m in a funk, guys. I miss NYC and I’m kind of lonely in Cambridge. I don’t leave the house enough, especially when the weather is bad. I feel like there are art projects or something exploding inside me, but I can’t seem to actually do anything. I am excited to work on updating my downstairs neighbor’s apartment: He has loads of great antiques and things, but needs a hand picking paint colors, rearranging the rooms, and paring down. I already found him a leather chesterfield sofa on craig’s list for a song, which was satisfying. And yesterday I amused myself drawing a floorplan and playing with furniture placement. But what am I to do with all the inspiration pictures I just put in Domino Deco File books last week? Sigh.

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 »

Months ago I bookmarked a recipe on AT’s The Kitchn for oven-roasted chickpeas. Crispy! Salty! Healthy!

Last night I came home well before Ben was due back, and found myself rifling through the pantry in search of a bag of snapea crisps* I was sure were lurking there. I was wrong, and I found myself really wanting something besides salt & vinegar chips to snack on, so I finally pulled out a can of garbanzo beans and tried out the recipe.

Actually, “recipe” is a bit grand:

Crispy Chickpeas
-Preheat the oven to 400.
-Rinse a can of chickpeas (or two, if you’re a glutton like I am and you want enough to share) and blot dry (I actually skipped the blotting because I am lazy).
-Spread the rinsed beans on a cookie sheet (WITH SIDES, if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life fishing lost garbanzo beans out from under kitchen tables, shelves, etc.) and toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

-Roast for 30-40 minutes, shaking every ten minutes or so, until the beans are crispy all the way through.
-Toss with salt and spices of your choice.
-Try to share.

I used a random jar of steak seasoning that I got at a Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse event a while ago. The Kitchn used salt and garam masala. Next Time I might try something different, but they’re probably be good with plain old sea salt, too.

I could have roasted them an extra couple minutes; some of the beans were still a little soft inside. I didn’t mind the different textures, though–I’ll be doing this again as soon as I buy more cans of chickpeas. (By the way, I did manage to save about 12 beans for Ben…)

*You haven’t had Snapea Crisps? Dude. Ben thinks they’re gross but I can eat a whole bag at once, and I’m usually not a whole bag at once girl.

They sell them at both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, I think? And they taste just like snow peas, but crunchy and greasy.

Read Full Post »

TJ’s meal + a weekend trip

Well. I inadvertently made a meal from all Trader Joe’s ingredients:

That’s a Harvest Grain mix (israeli couscous, some orzo, baby garbanzo beans, quinoa), mahi mahi marinated in garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, and a bag of baby spinach.

Doesn’t that look promising? Just wait, in the finished photo it looks even better. Sadly, this product was a total bust–the couscous and orzo, as you’d imagine, cooked just fine in the 10 minutes instructed by the bag. Any longer and they’d have been mush. The dried baby garbanzo beans? Not so much. As a result the texture was upsetting.

The fish Ben grilled according to the package instructions–7 minutes/side–and it was perfect. Juicy and very flavorful, though the marinade was too salty. Still, Ben liked it, so that adds another fish to our list! And I love mahi mahi, so I was happy despite the high sodium content. As for the spinach, I just sautéed it quickly with garlic and olive oil. Yum.

That extremely healthy dinner (if only the pilaf-ish thing had been better!) came together in about 15 minutes. Long Live Trader Joe’s!

Over the weekend we were down in Rockland County for a family event, so we decided to make a weekend of it and visit my cousin at Bard College, see a concert, and spend the night. I was stunned by how cool the Bard Campus is–it’s got about 90 buildings, many of them darling quirky houses scattered around as dorms or faculty housing. I took tons of photos of the Blithewood Mansion and its gardens. We went to a good concert at the Gehry-designed performing arts center, then had dinner at the bistro at Terrapin, in Rhinecliff. Fun place in an old church.

We stayed up in Hudson, in a really cool house/B&B run by a very fun couple, The Inn at Hudson. (Read all about the house and the owners in this New York Times story; the guest room they show is the one we stayed in.) On Sunday morning one of the owners, Dini, showed us his video (as his Drag alter-ego, Musty Chiffon), “(I wanna be) Jackie Onassis.” It was a cover of the song, which his New Wave band first recorded in the early 80s. The whole thing was amazing and I still have the song stuck in my head. You can watch the video, too, if you want…

Photos from the weekend…

Read Full Post »

I made a variation on this back in October (complete with stunningly ugly photo), but I thought I’d post this anyway, especially since it’s the first time I’ve used the new mini-photo studio I got for Christmas.

This is a quick weeknight meal. I started with Trader Joe’s lemon pepper pappardelle, which I’d read about on Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchen last fall. It has a bright lemon flavor and good pepper kick, which makes it worth buying, to me, despite my dislike of long, flat pasta. (Hard to eat! Sticks to itself!)

I cut up two small pieces of broccoli, lopping the florets off and slicing each one lengthwise into two or three sheets. I peeled the stems and then shaved them into ribbons with a vegetable peeler.

I sautéed those in a bit of olive oil, starting with the florets, leaving them undisturbed for long enough to caramelize a bit, then tossing in the ribbons towards the end. The broccoli got nice and crispy in some parts and wasn’t overcooked; I had to be careful not to eat it all plain. Next time I think I’ll make it as a side dish and just squirt a little lemon juice over the bowl.

(Photo taken in the regular lighting of the kitchen, not the interesting light box where the rest of these were taken.)

Meanwhile Ben grilled some sausages and sliced them up. When the pasta was cooked I tossed it with a bit of olive oil, then with the broccoli florets and ribbons, and topped it with feta and the sausage.

I can tell I’m really ready for spring because whenever I think about what to cook right now, I think of bright and light colors. I don’t want anything heavy or stewed, even though I didn’t do any braising this whole winter. I’ll have to get over that, especially since after two days of temperatures in the 50s and 60s, and a lovely sunny afternoon, I noticed as I walked back to my office to write this a little while ago that it was suddenly snowing hard. And blowing sideways. Hmm.

Read Full Post »

I haven’t really done this before, but I thought I’d start mentioning products that I really love once in a while. I’m inspired to begin the product plugging because a few weeks ago I want wandering helplessly through Trader Joe’s (I don’t know why, by grocery shopping turns me into a confused, helpless little thing; it’s pathetic), trying to remember why I was there, and I found myself standing in front of the refrigerated part of the produce section, eyes slightly glazed. I quickly unglazed when I spotted this (only not opened):

Mâche!!! And for half the price of one of those “mesclun plus mâche” mixed plastic boxes at Whole Foods! I love mâche, it’s my very favorite salad green. It’s also called “Lamb’s Ear,” because the delicate little leaves are shaped like, um, lamb’s ears. Somewhere deep in my psyche resides a Best Salad Ever, made with mâche, but sadly at the moment I can’t remember what else was involved, because I was so excited about the tender little greens. The leaves are bound together at their bases in little clusters–they are darling, as well as delicious:

We ate pizza one night, and then lovely salads of just the mâche and my plain mustard/sherry vinegar vinaigrette.

Salads in winter taste so good.

Read Full Post »