February, 2011 Archive

Monday, February 28, 2011

piña colada cake

pina colada cake

You might want to start rolling your eyes right now, you know, to get a head start before you hear what I’m about to say next: You know that time I dashed off to Aruba for a lazy weekend? I couldn’t find a decent piña colada anywhere. I know! Can you imagine having to suffer like this while on vacation? I mean, life is hard enough when your resort has a water slide with no age limit that deposits one mere feet from the swim-up bar; where you can cat-nap under your cabana while reading a book — with pages — any time being awake is just too exhausting to bear and wake up to gaze at the turquoise water meeting the impossibly blue sky until all of your thoughts file neatly into order. Obviously a watered-down piña colada from a piña colada mix is taking things just one step too far.

good things start here

All joking aside, can we eversobriefly have a moment of silence for a once-great drink that’s been drained of all frolic and joy — waves of sharp pineapple juice, creamy coconut foam and a dark island rum undercurrent — by beachside hotel bars trying to increase their profit margins? That pour corn sweetened weakly flavored mixes from cartons and clear rum from a no-name brand with ice into a blender and think this is what one travels all the way from NYC in the dead of winter for? Once upon a time, a coworker taught me the secret to astoundingly delicious piña coladas, and it is not pineapple juice but crushed pineapple from a can in its juice. You run this through the blender with ice, cream of coconut and enough dark rum to make you arch your eyebrows and blink a few times after the first sip, but quickly return for your second, pour it into a glass, pop a pineapple wedge and a paper umbrella — yes, even if you’re snowbound in your living room in the Northeast, actually especially if so — near the rim and beam yourself anywhere you want to be.

peelingpeeledquarteredfinely chopped

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, February 24, 2011

spaghetti with lemon and olive oil

linguine al limone

Look, it wasn’t my finest moment but my Happy Valentine’s Day gift to my husband was an epic meltdown over book deadlines and recipe flops and the near impossibility of getting anything done with a toddler underfoot in a kitchen that doesn’t actually fit the two of us. It wasn’t pretty. We ordered pizza and watched How I Met Your Mother.

Now, just in case that story elicited even a wisp of pity, you should take it back right now because the week, it got better from there. First, I realized that my “hey, let’s not do gifts this year” conversation with my husband may have never left my own head when he busted out tulips and a spa certificate. (Oops. I’m a real catch, aren’t I?) Then my very kind agent and editor talked me off the book ledge, they’re good at things like that though I suppose they have to be, taking on nuts like me. The following night, I made an actual dinner that involved those insane green beans and this little spaghetti dish I’ll get to in a bit because you know, it’s hardly as interesting as what we did the day after that:

so, this happened

Here’s where the story could continue in any of the following ways: How hard it was to be away from our little baby for the weekend (so hard! except for all of that sleep!) How quickly we adjusted to views like this, boats like that, beers like this and sunsets like that.

the viewasailbalashirequisite sunset photo

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

green bean salad with fried almonds

green bean salad

I’m pretty sure I had a normal relationship to all things stringy and green when I started this site, but if my archives are any indication, at some point in 2008, something shifted and I became a green bean fiend. It might have even been May of that year, a month that be began with a simple summery salad but by month’s end, I was forcing Alex to endure takeout from a medicore French restaurant up to twice a week, just so I could have their side dish of skinny green beans with a pat of butter, some shallots and tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice. (When he cut me off, I simply went into the kitchen and attempted them myself.) I began remembering which restaurants cooked green beans perfectly each time, like the one on 7th Avenue that served them with roast chicken, buried in jus under a pile mashed potatoes and I literally ate them before the salty, crispy skin. I began judging places harshly if my beans flapped or flopped on a plate. I could speak unhealthily at length about various cooking times and what texture they’d leave the beans.

haricot verts
trimmed and tailed

Little has changed since May of 2008, well, except now a certain 12-toothed toddler had joined me in my green bean enthusiasm. We cook a pound at least once a week and eat them with nothing but a sprinkle of sea salt on top. And at least once a week I force us to order takeout from a restaurant just because they make a great green bean salad. And last week, we were able to sneak out to a new pasta restaurant in our neighborhood and look, the pasta was great, but this is what I really remember: green beans, lightly pickled red onions, thinly shaved fennel, slivers of celery and almonds, so well toasted their insides were the color of coffee.

red onion

Continued after the jump »

Friday, February 11, 2011

white and dark hearted brownies

white and dark hearted brownies

White chocolate brownies have it tough. They share a name with a baked good that needs no improving on; their chocolate is rejected by self-titled “real” chocolate eaters for being a pale imitation of the rich, nutty and bittersweet awesomeness of darker chocolates; this same chocolate is so sweet that you must dial back the sugar in your brownies to adjust for it, removing moisture, risking leaving them cake-like and if it couldn’t get much worse, they’re barely white. More like, pale-yellowish-beige. Yum, right?

white chocolate brownies
brown brownies

I was one of those white chocolate rejectors for a long time but I finally made peace with it when I stopped judging it through the lens of chocolate — which is bitter and complex in ways that white chocolate cannot be — and accepted it for what it is, a buttery sweet confection that, when used carefully, plays exceptionally well with others, like mint, berries, nuts and, well, dark chocolate. And since I’d come full circle with my reasoning, I made a batch of white chocolate brownies and a batch of dark chocolate brownies and hadn’t figured out what I was going to do next, only that nothing bad could happen from there.

ready to trade parts

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

blood orange olive oil cake

blood orange olive oil cake with honey blood orange compote and whipped cream

I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect olive oil cake for some time now. I was hoping for one that would use olive oil alone for fat, and resist the temptation of butter, you know, better than I ever have. I was hoping for it to bake in a loaf pan, as rustic everyday cakes should, have a slight crunch at the edges, like a beloved one at a nearby coffee shop does. And above all else, I wanted it to be plain, simple, maybe a little zest for flavor but more less, about the olive oil which needs little in the way of a supporting cast.

blood orange segments

Well, I found most of those things, but I was tempted as most of us are in wintry areas by the startling red-rust-maroons of blood oranges and they landed up in the mix, too. Melissa Clark is convincing like that. Who is she? Well, take a walk over to your cookbooks shelf, if you will. Recognize any of these? Then you already know her. This woman has worked on more cookbooks than I can count on all of my fingers and toes (kindly, Jacob lets me borrow his from time to time, or he did until we did this to him) and has been writing the Good Appetite column for the New York Times for several years. So, when I learned that she was writing her own book, with her own recipes, under her name only, I was delighted. Her stories are brief but warm and her book seems like a natural fit for anyone who enjoys reading food blogs.

blood oranges, some red

Continued after the jump »


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