Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Farewell, Pud!

Here are some photos taken by the lovely Karen at a farewell brunch for Pud at my house in early October. Thanks Karen!

Steamy waffles:

Kitty & mimosas:

Spiced dates and haloumi with pears:

The remains of baked eggs, spinach & parmesan:

Not fakin' bacon:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Farewell, Gourmet!

Welcome to the second annual Naughty Table function, farewell Gourmet Magazine! We all brought something from a Gourmet recipe, though funny. . . no one brough aspic!

Here are some cooling galettes (apple and squash-sage-caramelized onion-goat cheese) and pretty tiles:

Among the seven of us I think there were like. . . 12 desserts??? Totally spectacular. I tried to take a photo of one of the plates representing slices of each dessert but the combination of my laughing too hard at the absurdity of it all and the lovely candle-lit victorian dining room didn't make for a great photo. Yum.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Apple Pie Bake-Off 2009

I won again. I don't think I'm going to be invited next year! The first year I made a very traditional pie. It had boiled cider in the filling and maybe in the crust, so it was quite good. Last year I made a pie with cheddar cheese in the crust. This year, I decided to make something completely different - so different that I thought I might have been disqualified. I made a candy apple pie. I found the recipe online, it won Apartment Therapy's best pie contest last year. It's insanely sweet - my teeth still ache. It began with a graham cracker crust. Once the crust cooled, I smothered it with caramel and chopped pecans. I cooked the Granny Smith apples in butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Once they had reduced, I poured them into the crust. The final layer was a thin cheesecake layer. The original recipe calls for a layer of whipped cream and then more caramel & chopped pecans. I decided that whipped cream would have been overkill, so I drizzled more caramel on the top and decorated the whole thing with whole pecan halves. It was good, but VERY sweet. The other contenders were fantastic as well. One was a French apple tart, another a pie with raisins and almonds, and another a very good traditional pie with a soft crust.

Here's my pie pre-carnage. The caramel dripped down the sides in transit, and I see that the pecans aren't where they were originally obsessively placed:

Here are all four contestants:

Here's my pie stratigraphy:

And because we hadn't had enough sugar, here's a lovely rootbeer float:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pistachios, before you knew them

I found fresh pistachios at the Armenian market. They're covered in a squishy skin.

Which you peel away to reveal the familiar shell, which you struggle to crack to reveal sweet, delicately green raw pistachios.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

No, not Amanda Hesser, nor Judith Jones.

The Naughty Table! Before I explain who the Naughty Table is I need to backtrack even further. This has been an exceptionally tasty and educational summer! It all began when my friend the Kurdish Nomad, or K.N., and I started going to the Talking Taste series at The Institute of Contemporary Art. TheTalking Tastes were a lecture series where members of the restaurant community spoke and cooked. And they fed us, not an entire meal, but just enough to get our taste buds watering and our stomachs looking forward to dinner. The first guest speaker was my favorite chef from my favorite restaurant, Ana Sortun from Oleana (and Sofra Baker). K.N. and I left the museum totally blissed out (not without a tour of the Shepard Fairey exhibition) and drove straight to Oleana. That set a precedent. After each talk, we went to one or more of the restaurants belonging to the speaker. Or to Oleana, if the restaurant wasn't in the area; Pane e Salute sounds lovely, but a drive to Vermont wouldn't have been very practical.

Since then, we've been unabashed members of the Ana Sortun fan club. I think we've been to Oleana at least another 4 times between us, and to Sofra Bakery (just a fifteen minute walk from my house) too many times to mention. I think we went like, three Sundays in a row or something crazy like that. I can't really explain the menu. . . just look at their Web site.

A few weeks ago we went to a Dutch beer and food pairing at the Peabody Essex Museum as a tie in to the dutch seascapes exhibition. I had the best shared table experience ever - everyone at the table was interesting and funny and likes talking about food as much as I do. We had so much fun talking that we ignored the less than stellar lecturers, resulting in the group tag "the Naughty Table". We exchanged email addresses and vowed to share especially good information and to hopefully meet again

I took the commuter rail back to Boston with the two of the women who are about my age. It was spooky how much we had in common, spooky in an exciting way that made me feel happy that I'd found some of "my people". We all like visiting museums, traveling, (eating and cooking obviously), going on culturally edifying (read nerdy) field trips, and Mad Men (but who doesn't, right?) Upon further chatting, we discovered that their third musketeer is none other than my long lost fellow camp counselor from 1989! (I'd always wondered what had happened to him.)

Last Sunday, after a beer tasting at Formaggio, the Naughty Table AND my long lost camp friend came to my house for dinner. K.N. and I decided to make a selection of recipes from the Talking Tastes and from Ana Sortun's cookbook, Spice. We had a test run a couple weekends before, so we knew pretty much what we were dealing with. The goal was to have a light and fresh dinner that took advantage of the great late summer produce. Light was key, since we'd have just come from a beer and cheese tasting. We made:

Haloumi with Spiced Dates and Pears (from Ana Sortun's Spice): This is always a crowd pleaser, at least to those who aren't grossed out by haloumi, the cheese that squeaks when you bite it! Halloumi has a high melting point, so it can be fried to a lovely golden brown crisp on the outside but not melty on the inside because it doesn't really melt. When it's paired with sauteed pears and dates spiced with cardomom, cumin & coriander cooked in lemon juice, olive oil & brown sugar it's a winner.

Spoon Salad with Sorrel Granite (from ana Sortun's ICA lecture): spoon salad is a cucumber, grape, mint, dill & onion salad atop a dollop of sorrel flavored labne, embellished with a spoonful of sorrel granita. Before Ana's talk, I'd never had sorrel. It's a green with a light, fresh, almost lemony green apple flavor. It can be very difficult to find - it had a definite season, and it's not very in demand. It's work seeking out.

Heirloom Tomato Soup with Succotash: (from Frank McClelland of L'Espalier & Selle de Terre): Despite the tomato blight, the giant heirloom tomatoes were spectacular.

Nectarine and Lemon Verbena PaoPaos. (Ana Sortun's Spice, served regularly at Oleana): A few tablespoons of pureed nectarines and lemon verbena infused sugar syrup topped off with prosecco. We made the pear cardamom version a couple weeks ago, and I have to say that despite my unfailing love of nectarines, I prefered the pear cardamom

I didn't take photos of any of the finished products, but here are some of the works in progress:

Here's a blanched nectarine. I learned an awful lot about blanching!

Here's the sorrel on the way to being granite. It's such a spectacular color! It tastes just like it looks:

Heirloom tomato puree- not as pretty as the others:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dates, before you knew them

In case you were wondering, fresh dates left on the counter don't turn into the tasty dried dates you know and love. . . they turn into moldy fresh dates.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stay tuned for. . .

Photos from ZURICH!!! We were all totally smitten with this giant challah. I'm not even sure if it's a good bakery. . .

Monday, August 24, 2009

When the cat does not approve of my reading selection

The kitty doesn't approve of the Twilight series. She thinks I'm wasting my time, and that I'd be better off with some Kierkegaard or John Maynard Keynes.

She's serious. . . (Fortunately I had another book on the table next to me - otherwise my choices would have been to nap or to disturb the cat sleeping on my chest.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lunchtime Walk: Cambridgeport

I really like Cambridgeport because it's so architecturally and socioeconomically diverse. Because it's around the corner from where I work, it's the destination of many of my lunchtime walks. Last Thursday, I finally brought my camera.

I like this old fashioned firebox:

I walked by this perplexing assemblage and wondered whether it has anything to do with the handmade war memorial a couple feet away:

WHAT IS THIS??? It's embedded in the sidewalk, about the same size as the metal water caps. I take a lot of walks and I've never seen another like this. I've seen little embedded clovers diamonds advertising sidewalk makers, but nothing as mysterious as this scuba diver plaque. Maybe it's related to the "no dumping" square plaques with the fish? Though, I've walked over this particular thing at least 100 times and didn't notice it until last week. Maybe I'll ask at City Hall.

I like the moss growing on the bottom of these flower boxes:

Condemned house, unconventional color:

Car horsies:


I bet their pizza deliveries never get lost - this stained glass house number is taller than I am:

Rusty metal table out for the next day's trash pickup:

I'm really not sure what this place is. I don't think I've ever seen it open:

But there's interesting stuff in the windows:

The end! I need to remember to bring my camera more often. I'm always seeing things that I find peculiar.

Chemistry Lesson (Muffin Failure!)

After numerous attempts, I've finally created the perfect breakfast muffin. They can be made with numerous combinations of fruit and nuts, and they contain a good balance of monounsaturated fats (olive oil & nuts), protein (yogurt & eggs or eggbeaters) and fiber (wheat or oat bran and whole wheat flour. Despite all of this healthy stuff, they have a lovely cakey crumb and aren't at all dry or heavy. Usually.

Tonight I mixed up my current favorite, cranberry orange. They taste just like the box mix of cranberry quick bread that we made when I was little. (Was that the first marketed use of dried cranberries?) I didn't realize that I forgot the olive oil until the batter was already in my reusable silicon muffin cups. I scraped it out back into the bowl and added the olive oil. As I suspected, it negatively affected the texture of my finished muffins. Instead of being fluffy, they're leaden and kind of oddly smooth. To make things even worse, the orange I collected the zest from was a little too squishy for zesting and doesn't taste all that great. I just realized too, that I used baking powder instead of baking soda. They didn't rise very much, but I'm assuming that's mostly because they were overworked with the late addition of the oil. Over all they taste ok, they're just not the incredible success that was the previous batch.

These are the good ones. I can't wait for cranberry season!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

China cabinet before and after

I really love branch coral and branch coral decorated household items. I feel guilty buying the real stuff, so environmentally correct fake-o branch coral stuff is great. I saw these branch coral drawer pulls on a bookcase on a design blog this spring, and then I was delighted and surprised to see them in Anthropologie the next week. I couldn't resist buying a set for my china cabinet, which was sadly in need of a makeover.

Sad, boring china cabinet with missing & shattered old glass drawer pulls (they're in the top drawer so that I can replace them if move, ha ha):

Here's the after:

And here's a close-up, because it's difficult to see much from the photo above:

I really don't love these photos - they're not very visually informative and they don't do my makeover justice. However, the drawer pulls I love. They're coated metal, so they're very sturdy and I don't feel like they're going to break when I yank open my drawers which probably need a good sanding or at least a soap rubdown.

I'm back!!!

I did something really crazy this winter . . . I made a 14 layer cake. Or at least I planned to make a 14 layer cake, but as things worked out it was only an 11 layer cake. That's still a heck of a lot of cake, even if they were only about as thick as hefty pancakes. I don't think anyone missed the "missing" 3 layers. Because I'm not totally insane and because I wasn't about to buy 9 more cake pans, I used foil pans. Here are the pans with the batter:

Here are the layers glued together with an annoyingly drippy chocolate glaze:

Here's the cake before it's trip to the party:

And here it is cut open!