May, 2008 Archive

Monday, May 19, 2008

mushroom strudel

miniature mushroom strudel

I am not proud of this, but I’m really just a one trick pony in the language department. Sure, after four years of high school French and the shortest exchange program ever, I can get by in Paris and because of this, can occasionally make sense of written Italian or Spanish, but Czech? German? I couldn’t be further from makings heads or tails of it.

cremini

As you might expect, as Alex and I luckily found ourselves at some untouristy eateries in Vienna–without a waitstaff that catered to the language-deficient or menus reprinted in 16 world languages–quite a bit of Hilarity Ensued. After many hours of walking on a hot day, Alex and I were beat, so we flopped down at a cafe and mindlessly asked for “iced coffees” completely forgetting that “ice” equals “eis” equals “ice cream” in German, and ended up with a big cup filled with coffee, cream, whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla gelato. I wish all mistakes were this tasty!

eis kaffee (sp?)

Looking to offset the heavy dishes Central Europe, I also ordered something that I guessed was going to be a light, healthy vegetable strudel, something I’d imagined dreamily warm with crispy, flaky edges and something I was certainly going to want to repeat at home. Unfortunately, I received a brick of rice with a few flecks of carrots and parnsips, wrapped in phyllo and smothered in a creamy herb sauce. It all went very well with my eis Kaffee!

phyllo, you always win

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, May 15, 2008

cherry cornmeal upside-down cake

cherry cornmeal upsidedown cake

This is the cake in which I did everything wrong.

1.It was impromptu, on a week that I have been trying to embrace salads, vegetables and water, or all those things I got too little of on Alex and Deb’s Central European Vacation. But I’m a sucker for any and all upside-down cakes, and this one sounded so good, my resolve was immediately weakened.

2. Cherries are not in season around here, not even close.

cherries

3. I said if I couldn’t find frozen cherries, I’d take it as a sign and skip it, but then Alex went to the store for me and he’s so good, so eager to get everything on the list that he bought fresh ones that cost so much money, I cannot discuss it in mixed company. But it was still really sweet of him.

4. I do not own a cherry pitter. Oh, I have looked at them, marveled at an extra-cute one at Williams-Sonoma last summer, but that time, like all of the times before it, I determined such a purchase fussy and of little use. Halving and pitting cherries took forever, a forever I would have happily swapped for a $10 limited-use gadget.

life without a cherry pitter

5. I do not own a cast-iron or oven-proof skillet that is 10 or 11 inches, though this, too, I have often discussed buying one but the thought of lugging it home always talks me out of it.

6. I had worked until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, swam a mile at the gym, got home after 9 p.m. and still determined that I would have time to bake this cake, cherry pitting included. I hate rushing through recipes; something always goes horribly wrong and I forget an egg or the sugar and swear I’ll never rush again. Yet this is exactly what I did.

cornmeal cake

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

prague, vienna and a mixed salad

prague alley

Not to make the understatement of the century or anything, but Prague is stunning with its pastel contrasts, village-under-a-snow globe cityscape and cobblestone sidewalks, not to mention beer so delicious I’m still craving it with breakfast today, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there. We walked from one end to the other twice, ate leaden dumplings and paperweights of smoked pork while accordion players stumbled around us. We failed to hunt down the Golem, or even a chunk of mud from the river for my father, as he requested, but had fun trying. I’m really glad I finally made it there.

trolley linesa hundred wishescemeteryprague vista

So were the other ten million people in the city last week, where the tourism, I’m sorry to say, is near-paralyzing. (We, of course, were not tourists but world citizens. Right.) Sure, we were warned, but we live in New York and understand that any place worth wandering around will be filled with others who had the same bright idea. But this was like Times Square, minus the cozy neighborhoods twenty blocks in any direction, and the small city seems to be struggling under the weight of all of the world’s citizens wanting to take a peek. You know, people like us.

coffeeoutside the bookstorerye breadsp

But Vienna, Vienna my love. Vienna waited for me, just like Billy Joel promised me it would when I had my monstrous crush on him throughout middle (coughhigh) school. I fell instantly in love with its cafe society, late nights, lush park space, walkability and impeccably dressed masses. We’d been warned that there wasn’t a whole lot to “do” in Vienna, that we wouldn’t need more than 48 hours there, but I don’t think these people used their time as I did: imagining our expatriate lives there, and taking late night swings into to sidewalk restaurants for a glass of wine and a slice of cake, with our Westie in tow.

Continued after the jump »

Friday, May 9, 2008

crisp salted oatmeal white chocolate cookies

crispy oatmeal white chocolate

These are scandalously good, yes, scandalously. Do you want to know why? Because I had one bite of one of these cookies and honestly think they’re one of the best cookies I have ever made. Like, top five good. Like, I think that the homemade Oreos just got the boot because I had to make room at the top. I hope the dozens of you who have made them can forgive me.

nom nom dough nom

It took me a long time to get an oatmeal cookie recipe on this site, and the reason was that most people really like oatmeal cookies, but they have a very specific view of what they should be. Some people like them heavily spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, others want them buttery and nutty and still others think that if they don’t have chocolate chips or large gobs of dried fruit, they weren’t worth the oats they were cooked with. To add further complication, 99.9 percent of oatmeal cookies fall into one of two categories: thick and cakey or thin and lacy, and oh, how it all made my head spin.

smashy

Well, meet the new category: thick and shatter-y, and you’ll have to make your own to believe it. They’re crispy, but not because they’re hard or because they’re thin but because they practically hollow out when they bake, leaving you with this… shell of an oatmeal cookie with rich bits of white chocolate scattered about and the tiniest flaking of sea salt on top.

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

martha’s macaroni-and-cheese

martha's creamy mac

I’m sorry. I know, this isn’t right. Not fair. Totally cruel. We’re just weeks from bathing suit season and this here is no friend to lycra.

avert thine eyes!

But I had to. I promised you this and I had to make it right.

portion

Continued after the jump »