Rosemary Spiced Cashews

December 14, 2009

I was at my friend Nicole’s wedding last weekend, and one of my friends stole my camera momentarily and started flipping through my photos only to discover dozens of pictures of pots of this and that. Long story short, I’ve been doing lots of cooking but hardly any writing. But here I am again, with all sorts of ambitions to start posting lots of yummy things.

Which brings me to this treat: rosemary spiced cashews. My family postponed our Thanksgiving celebration this year to the following Saturday, as my sister, a second-year resident, was on call on turkey day and thus had to spend her day away from us, instead watching Home Alone over and over again (um, best thing ever?) and going out for dinner. Two days later, our whole family came to our house not just to celebrate the holiday all together, but also to celebrate my sister’s newly-announced engagement (woo!) with her soon-to-be in-laws.  My mom has a tried-and-true Mama Z version of all of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes–a particularly awesome stuffing recipe and a luscious green bean casserole among my favorites–and I didn’t really want to step on her culinary toes at the dinner table. So I thought I might make a snack to serve along with the hors d’oeurves.  This recipe really couldn’t be easier or more addictive.

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Chocolate Cinnamon Bundt Cake with Mocha Icing

November 14, 2009

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What you see here is not just a Bundt cake; it is a birthday Bundt. How did this come to be, exactly?

It all started with a Bundt pan lying around unused in my cabinet. I bought it because I overestimated the number of cakes I’d be baking, I suppose. I justified the purchase by convincing myself it wasn’t a unitasker, so it would be good for more than just cakes (word has it that Bundts are handy for roasting racks of lamb–not that I ever make lamb, but you know it’s good to have just in case).

Now, I consider myself to be a fairly thrifty person to begin with, but I am especially frugal on a nonprofit salary. So when I saw this recipe for a Chocolate Cinnamon Bundt Cake in the September issue of Bon Appetit as I was looking for a recipe for Jason’s birthday cake, I noticed two things: 1) it claims to make use of ingredients that are probably in one’s pantry anyway, and 2) it gave me an excuse to use my bundt pan.

I just wanted to clear it with him first–Bundts aren’t exactly birthdayish; after all, there’s a lot of surface area missing for writing “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!” in icing. Nevertheless, my heart was set on trying this particular recipe.

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Minor Disasters: Gingerbread

October 28, 2009

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How could something that seems so simple–so easy–so, so, so…elementary turn out so disastrously?

I bring you my newest kind of post: “Whoopsies.” Here, a baking whoopsie: I bring you gingerbread.

My excuse: okay, I grew up in a household that didn’t do cakey gingerbread. Instead, twice a year, we baked (and we still bake) gingerbread cookies: turkey-shaped cookies for Thanksgiving, and bears for Christmas.  Everyone has a role: my mom expertly pipes the icing, and my sister and I get sprinkles/sugar/red hots duty. You should see the way Mom crafts it. You have never seen more realistic-looking suspenders-wearing bears.

Even though I’ve never made gingerbread in its true loafy sense, I didn’t think that it was going to be hard. And maybe it isn’t hard. Maybe Sunday just wasn’t my day.

How did this ever begin? Well, I should take a second to mention that I live within walking distance of one of New York’s best-kept secrets: Two Little Red Hens bakery.  When I was writing my Master’s thesis, I used to go on long, procrastinatory walk down along the East River, and on my way back I’d stop in for some kind of treat. “You can eat this (cupcake/cookie/key lime tart) when you finish writing a page,” I’d tell myself, but I’d always end up polishing off half of my purchase before I made it to my building. It became such a habit that the counterstaff remembered not only my name but my previous orders. “How was the apple cake yesterday?” the girl behind the counter would say as she handed me a slice of peach pie. For some reason, though, I tended to shy away from the gingerbread because it was one of the only items that was consistently available. Maybe I felt the same way about this gingerbread that pretty girls tend to feel about nice boys: it was too available, too easy to get. It would always be there when I needed it. Until one day, disenchanted by the promises of cheesecake and eclairs, I realized maybe what was in front of me was what I really wanted all along.  So I got the gingerbread. I raved. I swooned. I wanted to make it myself.

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Worth Repeating: Fig and Prosciutto Pizza

October 13, 2009

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Oh yum, look at that.

So what’s new in the many days and weeks since my last post? Well, autumn is here, and New York is wearing it beautifully. This is by far my favorite time of year and I’m really excited for the next couple of months.  What else have I been up to? Well, I’ve had time not only to discover new favorite recipes but also to actually repeat the especially good ones.

Exhibit A: fig and prosciutto pizza, which I found, as I find many things I write about, in Bon Appetit magazine (though, for anyone reading, let’s have a little moment of silence for the institution that was Gourmet, which didn’t survive the nasty cuts at Conde Nast last week. This is going to come back to bite them in the butt, I hope).

The first time I made this recipe, I was making dinner for my friend Michael after a spree at Whole Foods. They had some really gorgeous figs there, and luckily when I was making my way into line I passed by a selection of pizza doughs and remembered having seen this recipe. Now, I come from a family where homemade pizza is taken very seriously. My mom’s dough recipe (by way of Wolfgang Puck’s cookbook) is to die for–the kind of dough that is the main event in itself, and where toppings play second banana. Well, I did feel some guilt going for the premade stuff, but  I used the excuse that I lacked both time and a food processor and went for it. I do have to say that Whole Foods’ pizza dough is a steal (less than $2 for a one-pound package) and it was also very good–so not too much guilt here. But still not as good as mom’s (like most things).

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Olive Oil Cake

August 26, 2009

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To my great delight, the heat in New York has given it a rest (knock on wood) for the time being. Of course, the first thing I did was to heat up my kitchen–first by making a lasagna, and then by whipping up this little delight. I’ve been hankering after an olive oil cake since I watched Top Chef: Masters (don’t judge) last week, when Michael Chiarello made one as a dessert for his three-course meal. Or was it his buffet? I don’t remember.  His didn’t come out that well–it was judged too soggy. I was kind of glad because in the long run it helped to lead my man Rick Bayless to victory, but nevertheless I thought the recipe itself was a good idea that I hadn’t tried before.

Anyway, this past weekend I was headed downtown on the second avenue bus to meet Jason for dinner, forgetting, of course, that the second avenue bus takes forever to go eighty blocks. Luckily, I was in possession of the September Issue…of Bon Appetit, that is. One of the first recipes to catch my eye was this little number, straight from the pages of the RSVP section (basically the mad libs section of BA: “I ate ___(food)____ at __(restaurant)____ in ___(city)___and it was __(adjective)_______.  How do you make it?”)  And what did I find there, but a reader’s request for the recipe for olive oil cake from Abraco coffee shop here in Manhattan!

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Summer Vegetable Soup

August 20, 2009

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As much as it jars me to say it, summer is rapidly winding to a close (where did it even go?). Still, the farmer’s market in my neighborhood is only in its first couple of weeks of operation for the season. While I do not consider myself a vegetarian by any stretch of imagination, I’ve found myself gravitating more and more towards meatless recipes in general lately, and especially because there’s so much great produce this time of year.

This week is hot and steamy and gross, the kind of late-August weather that makes ice cream the only really acceptable thing to eat for dinner. Luckily I’ve been lazy enough about keeping up this blog to have things to write about that I prepared before this heat wave went full steam ahead (cue groan).

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Things You can Make with Very Few Ingredients: Zucchini with Parmesan

August 11, 2009

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Sometimes you just want to be able to look inside your fridge, pull out just a couple of ingredients, and whip up something that is fast and delicious that doesn’t also come in a box containing the words “mac” and “Yellow Number 5.”  And sometimes you are lucky enough to have made a trip to the local greenmarket just before such a feeling strikes.

Year-round, but especially during the summer when it is at its most abundant, zucchini makes its way into my kitchen.  The possibilities for it are endless–you can grill it and put it on a sandwich; you can make really delicious bread or muffins out of it; put it in soups or chili (yes, chili!), make ratatouille, etc etc etc. But if you’re feeling less than ambitious (ie, hungry and lazy), you can also prepare it really simply with just some lemon, parmesan, and salt and pepper. It’s great as a side dish for a grilled piece of meat or fish, but I’m not sorry to admit that sometimes I’ll make a heaping plate of it and enjoy it on its own. It’s so easy I feel bad calling it a recipe!

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Claire’s Blueberry Buckle

July 10, 2009

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Well, this was originally going to be my Fourth of July entry with some sort of groan-inducing name like “Red White and Blueberry Buckle,” but I made this right before going to a party on the Fourth and fell asleep almost as soon as I returned home.  So we’ll just have to keep the spirit of the Fourth with us all through the year, or at least through the week, so I can write about it almost a week later!

I’ve really been craving blueberry-infused baked goods of late, and have perused dozens of recipes from tarts to pierogies to good ol’ fashioned pies. But then I was flipping through my copy of the Clarie’s Corner Copia Cookbook, which I bought on Amazon for two dollars when I first moved to New York and was feeling a bit homesick for one of my favorite hometown and college-town haunts. My best friend Sharon and I used to go there all the time, particularly during summers and college breaks, and sit at the round table in the front window, eating desserts and catching up over coffee, so I felt particularly compelled to try this one out (many more of Claire’s recipes will follow this one–hers is one of my favorite go-to cookbooks).

To tell the truth, I had never really tried or even heard of a blueberry buckle before I tried out this recipe, but I was really pleased by the results. The cake is dense without being dry, and the topping filled my apartment with the really comforting, lingering aroma of the mingling of brown sugar and cinnamon.

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Whatever-You’ve-Got Brownies

July 6, 2009

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I will tell you right now that it is a fact–not my affection-clouded opinion, but a completely indisputable truth–that my mother makes the best brownies in the world, ever. I had friends in college who said that their moms made the best brownies, and I would argue with them about it. And then they would try my mom’s brownies and shut up and perhaps cry themselves to sleep.

This, unfortunately, is not my mom’s brownie recipe.

No, the brownies whose recipe I am about to disclose parade on Epicurious.com under the name “Best Cocoa Brownies,” but in my heart and in my stomach they are still not quite Mom’s. But they are pretty damn good anyway.

How did I come to the point of settling for another recipe, you may ask?

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In America We Just Call it a Sausage: A (Culinary) Recap of my Trip to England

July 3, 2009

Lest you suspect that I wrote one entry and gave up, fear not, dear reader (hi, mom)!  I’ve just returned from a jaunt to jolly old England for a just-shy-of-two-weeks trip with two of my wonderful college roomies. We did our own bit of cooking, but for the moment I’ll just share a couple pictures of things we ate but didn’t prepare ourselves. English food is generally given a bad rap as overcooked and flavorless. I have to say, though, that pub grub is fairly palatable after a long day of sightseeing–especially when you eat it at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, the former haunt of my main man William Butler Yeats.  I love how snooty and British the sign out front is–oh, you were rebuilt in 1667, huh? Aren’t you steeped in tradition! Well, yes, actually–this is where  Samuel Johnson lived in the eighteenth century, where the Rhymer’s Club formed in the 1890s, and where many other canonical writers like Dickens bought their pints.  Perfect for an English Lit nerd like me:

Foodie Paradise? No. Awesome anyway? Yes.

Foodie Paradise? No. Awesome anyway? Yes.

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