June, 2013 Archive

Thursday, June 27, 2013

pickled vegetable sandwich slaw

mustard seed-pickled sandwich slaw

If you’re one of those people who saw the word “pickled” in the title and said “Ugh, no, sorry, not for me,” do know, I was the same not too long ago and encourage you to fight the good fight for as long as you can, because once your tastes cross over to the vinegar side, there’s little going back.

fact: colorful things taste better

Something of a gateway pickle, these should be eyed suspiciously as well. The thing is, one day you’re eating the foods you’ve always liked — sandwiches, salads, tacos, cheese — and you wouldn’t change a single thing. And then, once day, the quadruple-threat crunch/sweet/salty/punch of a pickle gets under your skin and suddenly, the food landscape is a bleak, depressing place without them. You need pickled red onions on your tacos, pickled celery in your tuna and egg salads, cucumber slices in your potato salads, grapes with your sharp cheeses and pickled carrot sticks in the fridge whenever the mood strikes, and nothing’s ever quite right without them again. I can find a clear demarcation in my pre- and post-pickle junkie days (it’s just about 10 (!) years ago, when I took up with this Russian I married) and think there’s still hope for you. Here, how about some granita instead?

julienned radishes, maybe not recommended

Continued after the jump »

Monday, June 24, 2013

espresso granita with whipped cream

granita di caffe con panna

One of my favorite desserts on this planet (yes, we’re going for High Melodrama today, also, it’s that wonderful) is affogato, which translates from Italian as “drowned.” The lucky drowner is top-notch vanilla gelato, and it is draped in a single shot of freshly-pulled espresso. I see you arching your eyebrows and you are full of questions, aren’t you? Isn’t that horribly bitter? Doesn’t it melt the ice cream? How can it be your favorite dessert if it has neither butter nor chocolate with it? All are legitimate concerns but the thing is, when it’s done right — and there really is a magical balancing point between the volume of ice cream and the amount of espresso, that is, sadly, rarely achieved — the resulting mess is a semi-slumped mound of cold and sweet vanilla cream with a trench of faintly bitter latte around it. It is the ultimate grownup dessert — sure, you get the ice cream you’ve been angling for after dinner since you were 3.5, but you also get a bracing hit of espresso, just enough to keep you up past your bedtime, you know, when all the fun begins.

espresso granita, unsweetened cream

Of course, we’re not going to talk about affogato today because, well, you already know how to make it now. Instead, we’re going to talk about the cups of granita di espresso con panna we fell head over heels for in Rome, which reminded me of an inversed affogato. Instead of unsweetened espresso coating sweetened creamy gelato, it’s the coffee that’s icy and sweet and the cream that’s plain and soft. The result is the same contrast of bitter versus sweet, soft versus icy that I love in affogato, but stacked in a cup that you can eat with a spoon as you wander the ancient cobblestoned center of Rome on blazing hot day when even the dapper businessman we passed along the Tiber was licking a gelato cone with the utter abandon of a kid. (Rome, you are wonderful.)

looking upkeeping the kid out too laterush hour in romefrom villa borghese to piazza navonasweet balloons and an e-reader at the vaticanthis is a pizza flour delivery little wanderertonnarelli cacio e pepe

Continued after the jump »

Friday, June 14, 2013

bowties with sugar snaps, lemon and ricotta

bowties, sugar snaps, mint, ricotta, lemon

So, I didn’t really know how to tell you this earlier, but we’ve gone to roam. I mean, we are in Rome, here, for a week and a half. Why so long? Why Rome? Does it even matter? The itch for travel that was more than an overnight book trip to one city or another was intense, as I remember a time pre-kid when we used to go places all of the time, just following the promise of cheap airfare passable-enough hotels to Vienna and Prague and Paris, just because. But we were scared of travelling with a three year-old because I don’t want to wreck the reputation of the one that’s been assigned to us, but you see, as normal as this makes him, he doesn’t always listen. Sometimes he yells? He’s not so good at airplanes. Or fancy restaurants. But I knew there would be a point where the inconveniences incurred by travelling with a preschooler would feel less of a burden than spending another minute taking a serious family vacation somewhere we’ve always wanted to study up close, to linger in long enough that it might almost feel routine after a few days, and here we are. At last.

places a three year-old will lead youwhy would you eat lunch if you could run, run, run?the only tourist-free view is upone of the many hideous alleys of rome
vroooomsweet feet and a dapper jacket just this old building in our 'hoodespresso granita, unsweetened cream

My obsession with travel, and finding a way to do more of it again, is more of a desire to do things that take me out of my comfort zone. I like studying the way people walk or talk, or even take their coffee, in other places, and I like trying to figure out why. I like learning that everything I thought I knew about something (currently: pizza; soon, hopefully: everything else) was wrong. And I like being far enough away from home that even figuring out small things, like where we might buy some milk, or what all those buttons on the washing machine do (just cross your fingers we did it right, okay?), requires full concentration and at least one furrowed brow. Because while I’m having my mind bent by maps with streets that have no name, or streets that have names but aren’t on maps, things that plagued my brain earlier are neglected, and when revisited, have found a way of readjusting themselves into really no longer a big deal. How could they be, in the bigger realm of things? How could they be, in a place with “alleys” so stunning?

sugar snaps, get extra for cook's snacks

Continued after the jump »

Friday, June 7, 2013

rhubarb cream cheese hand pies

rhubarb cream cheese button pies

A few weeks ago, I retold the sad tale of the late rhubarb meringue tart that met its end when it slid off the plate and managed to coat nearly every part of the open fridge I’d intended to put it into with smears of curd, puffs of meringue and crust of crumbs. Rhubarb, although not to blame, and I took a break after that, and it might had continued longer had I not been haunted by an Instagram commenter (hi!) who urged me to try my hand at a rhubarb cream cheese danish. I imagined the tart pink rhubarb against a lemony slick of cheesecake, enveloped in a puff of orange-scented pastry and I could not bear it.

rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb
sugared rhubarb

However, as I began researching danish dough, my interested waned. I don’t think it will be a bad project for one day, but all of that envelope folding and yeast and butter and carefully timed steps seemed a bit much for six to eight folded pastries that wouldn’t survive beyond the breakfast meal. And certainly not when it is finally high pie season, that blissful period from May to September when we in this hemisphere are lucky enough to have more fruit than we know what to do with.

rhubarb, cooking until slumpy and reduced

Continued after the jump »