August, 2012 Archive

Thursday, August 30, 2012

vanilla custards with roasted blueberries

custards with roasted blueberries

Today is my sister’s birthday. Every year, I ask her what kind of cake I can make her and do you know what she says? “I don’t want a cake. I just want a big bowl of vanilla bean custard.” I hope you understand how hard this is for me (and please read that back in your brattiest little sister voice; it is, after all, all about me, right?) Making elaborate birthday cakes for family and friends is my thing. It has launched an entire section of this site, and portion of my cookbook (which includes my son’s 2nd, my husband’s 37th and 38th, and maybe even your next birthday cakes, too). I delight in trying to find a layered summary of everyone’s favorite things that fits in a cake carrier, and I think it’s awfully mean of my sister to deny me this outlet every August 30th. (Huff. Puff.) A bowl of custard? There’s not much to say about it.

getting ready to make custards
to begin

Or, there might not be if your narrator wasn’t such a blabbermouth. To wit: Custard, or pastry cream, is a pretty big deal in my family. My mother and sister especially consider it among the dessert greats, whereas others mostly look at it as just an element of grander things. It’s the filling of cream puffs and eclairs; it forms a delightful layer underneath freshly sliced strawberries or an artful arrangement of stunning fruit. Sometimes, it separates cake layers, fills the hollows of doughnuts and Boston Cream Pies, too. But it rarely gets its own day in the sun — or you know, single serving bowl with a spoon — and my sister thinks that it should.

whisk, whisk, whisk

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

leek, chard and corn flatbread

leek, corn and chard flatbread

We are at the beach this week and even though there was a point when we were trying to pile the toddler, his 55 favorite toys including a full-sized tricycle, me, my 25 kitchen necessities including, apparently, a meat thermometer and the serrated peeler one of you told me about a few weeks ago that I now can’t live without, the beach towels, blankets, umbrellas, sandcastle-shaped bucket, toddler bed bars, a box of groceries and my husband (happy anniversary, baby!) in our little car that we thought we should really just stay home instead, it wasn’t long into our drive onto the North Fork, passing miles of farms, leave-your-money-in-the-box roadside blackberry stands, dilapidated barns, impeccably kept houses, and more grape vines than you could count in your lifetime that we were unwaveringly certain we were back where we were meant to be.

early north fork

It’s so quiet here that the days feel longer, virtually distraction-free. We’ve been beaching in the morning, adventuring with the toddler in the afternoons and cooking up a storm for dinner each night. We had a mash-up of Molly’s Dry-Rubbed Ribs and Harold McGee’s Oven Ribs (that I really have to reassemble here one day, with some streamlining) one night (with corn and an heirloom caprese), and last night, we had a tiny dinner party with friends that are in town with sugar steaks (a recipe I’ve only been promising you for a year), a crunchy Greek salad and this old favorite potato salad. Are you around? You should come over for dinner. We tend to make too much.

making pizza, eh, flatbread dough
leeks

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Friday, August 24, 2012

mediterranean baked feta with tomatoes

broiled feta with tomatoes and olives

A few summers ago, I discovered what I consider to be one of the greatest things that has ever been placed over oiled grill grates on a beachy summer evening, preferably while a glass of rose trickles condensation down your hand: grilled haloumi cheese. Maybe you’re Greek Cypriot or better versed in the world of grill-able cheeses than me and are nodding silently right now, lucky enough that this is old news. Or maybe you’re confused because I just said grilled cheese and really? There is nothing new about two slices of white bread fried in butter until the gooey orange runs over the crusts and your freak-of-a-toddler won’t touch it. But, of course, this is an entirely different kind, no bread, no butter and absolutely better in summer than any other time.

a big block of bulgarian feta
a basket of pretty tomato marbles

Haloumi, the star of the saganaki show, is like the hardest feta you’ve ever seen, and quite rubbery when cold. I bet that made you really hungry, right? But the thing is, when heated, it becomes tender in the center but not runny; it doesn’t fall apart, just blisters and sighs. The easiest way to eat it is sakanaki-style, with lemon juice, black pepper and pita bread. But my favorite way is finely chop a salad of fresh tomatoes, olives or capers, red onion, olive oil and red wine vinegar and spoon it over the grilled haloumi slices. You dig in immediately and wonder where it has been all of your life.

halved cherry tomatoes

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Monday, August 20, 2012

my favorite brownies

one-bowl, chewy-fudgy brownies

I understand that when a website but 5 11/12 years old boasts not one or two but eleven brownie recipes that it’s possible, perhaps, or at least worth considering that the brownie category: it’s been exhausted. The brownie beat reporter can retire. The archives are full. I get it, I do. Shouldn’t we be discussing blueberry pie, summer harvest tians or backyard grillery? Probably.

unsweetened chocolate
butter

But the thing is, I really wanted a brownie. And more so, I wanted my favorite brownies. And despite having an alphabet of brownie recipes on this site from Adorable Hearts to Baked Bakery to Cream Cheese, Cocoa, and Creme de Menthe, I actually haven’t shared my go-to brownie recipe in its purest form, what I dub my Forty Minute Naptime Brownies. And for that, we need to talk about, well, Jacob.

melting the chocolate and butter

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

charred pepper steak sauce

skirt steak with charred pepper sauce

This is Alex‘s birthday week, which, in case you’re new here, means that there’s an open package of bacon in the fridge, the promise of oysters, shrimp cocktail, small-batch bourbon and babysitters on the horizon, butter and chocolate will soon align to meet their many-candled cake destiny and I, well, I bought some steak. I bet you’d imagine that a guy married to gal who likes to cook things that make people happy would be frequently entitled to his favorite food on earth, made at home, just because it’s a Tuesday. Well, once every year or so, that is exactly what happens.

broiled red pepper
so you don't lose any pepper juices

This is also that point in the summer where pretty much every human being I know is either at their own beach house or a guest in someone else’s right now. If you’re in the former category, well, la-de-dah, okay? If you’re in the latter category, I know a secret: You are totally going to get invited back next year because I have just the hostess gift for you to bring. You’re welcome.

peppers and tomatoes and spice

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