Mastering the Art of Eating Toast

This morning my boyfriend asked me politely to inspect a giant wasp buzzing ominously around the shower. With a deft and well-trained hand, I scooped the long-legged insect into a glass and carried her safely to the great outdoors. This is one of the many things my New Jersey boyfriend had to get used to when he signed on to date a girl from the Berkshires. …KEEP READING

Preserved lemon pasta with capers & anchovies

I was apprehensive to move back to Boston for the summer. Although I lived in the city for almost three years after college, I never fell in love with it. So when Sam and I lugged our haphazard collection of laundry baskets, backpacks, canvas shopping bags and boxes into the car for our move, I was filled with dread. I’d really started to feel at home in our rambling old house in East Rock, New Haven. We were leaving  just as the peonies in our back yard began to blossom, and only a few days after Shea and I filled pots on the patio with dahlias, petunias, and marigolds. …KEEP READING

Parsnip Pasta with Garlic and Lemon

I’m sitting in my sister’s living room in Minneapolis, MN on a sunny spring day. We’re both wearing slippers and drinking ginger tea. The shelves overflow with books and a vase of yellow tulips on the table catches the afternoon light. Everything seems as it always does when I visit, except that now, a beautiful, perfect little being lies beside us in her moses basket, eyes closed and dreaming, tiny hands in a field goal position, beneath a knitted blanket. My niece, Iduna Grace Lee, was born two weeks ago and I already can’t imagine the world without her.

I’m cooking for my sister and brother in law as they navigate the newness of everything; the sleepless nights, the little small yet monumental moments (a nice burp, for example). My mom and I arrived on Valentine’s day to await the birth, and she went into full-on grandma mode with dinners like slow-cooked brisket with mashed potatoes and black bean stew with avocado and dollops of cumin cream. Now that she’s gone, I’m responsible for feeding the new parents.

I wish I could say I’ve been whipping up three course dinners and multi-tiered layer cakes, stocking the freezer with flavorful soups, and making smoothies every morning. But the truth is, all I want to do is hold my little niece and stare at her incredibly expressive face for hours on end. Who knew changing a diaper could be so endlessly entertaining? My sister and I have reverted to the rounds we used to sing on endless car rides, harmonizing to soothe the baby’s cries, breaking out in fits of laughter with the melodies go awry.

The night before my sister gave birth, we all crowded into our AirBnB kitchen, strategizing a plan for dinner. I wanted to try out a recipe I’d been working on, but had a deadline the following morning. So I sat on the couch instructing as my sister, who by that point could balance a plate of food on her stomach, braved the tragically unequipped kitchen. We all agreed that dinner was perfection. Who knows…maybe it was just so good that Iduna decided to join the world!

A single parsnip loitering in the far reaches of my vegetable drawer inspired this dish, and it really has become my go-to weeknight pasta. As a kid, I remember thinking of parsnips as the the scourge of the vegetable world, their dingy off-white skins conjuring up vague images of 19th century orphanages and bowls of pale, amorphous gruel. As an adult, I can’t get enough of their sweet, earthy flavor, and would like to know why no one force-fed them to me at a young age. Paired with the zesty tang of lemon juice, the salty bite of parmesan cheese, and tossed with lots of garlicky spaghetti, it makes for a simple, surprisingly delicious dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 package spaghetti
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled and grated (the largest setting on a cheese grater works perfectly)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 heaping cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to tase

Instructions

  1. Add a generous teaspoon of salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/8 cup pasta water before draining.
  2. While the pasta cooks, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a medium skillet. Once the oil has heated, add minced garlic. Cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t brown. Add grated parsnip and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The parsnip absorbs oil quickly, so add the remaining olive oil little by little as you stir. Add the salt, pepper, lemon juice, and 3/4 the lemon zest and cook until the parsnip just begins to turn slightly golden.
  3. Add the cooked pasta to the parsnip mix, then sprinkle in the cheese and half the chopped parsley. Stir to incorporate, adding in the pasta water to thicken.
  4. To serve, sprinkle each plate with the remaining parsley and lemon zest.

Enjoy!!

A Guido’s Thanksgiving Feast

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When I daydream about coming home for the holidays, I think of wearing slippers and cozy sweaters for days at a time, sitting in front of the fire until my eyelids begin to droop, and waking up to views of the rolling blue Berkshire hills. Mostly, however, I think of cooking. I think of dreaming up menus at the kitchen table surrounded by a small fortress of cookbooks, writing out grocery lists, and going to Guido’s Fresh Marketplace. For someone who considers writing grocery lists a hobby and who thinks about food 24/7, Guido’s is like paradise. I’ve been there over 1200 times (I did the math), but every time I come home, in summer, winter, spring or fall, shopping there still feels like a treat.

Thanksgiving us upon us, but let’s be honest, I’m nowhere near ready to roast a whole turkey. I’ve seen my mom’s technique, which involves dunking the bird in a giant, plastic-lined industrial bucket full of brine a full 3 days before the feast, and then painstakingly spreading herbed butter under every inch of the bird’s skin. If you’re like me, you find that process slightly intimidating, but nonetheless adore the flavors of the classic Thanksgiving feast.

This year, I partnered with Guido’s to create a Thanksgiving menu, Little Sister style; in other words, fun, festive, and easy! I combined trusty resources like the New York Times food section, my favorite food blogs, and a few age-old family recipes with the gorgeous bounty of Guido’s Fresh Marketplace to come up with the following menu:

Shrimp Steamed in Beer with Tartar Sauce

This might be a little outside the usual Thanksgiving agenda, but it’s a quick, easy, no-fail hors d’oeuvre for entertaining season. My family learned the recipe in Key West, where they cook the shrimp whole. The tartar sauce is my grandma’s recipe. While its roots are Floridian, the warm flavors of beer, cloves, onion and bay leaves are perfect for a late fall evening. Mazzeo’s fresh-caught Alabama shrimp can’t be beat.

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For the Shrimp

1 lb. fresh caught shrimp

1 Bottle beer

1 T whole cloves

1 Bay leavef

1 Onion, roughly chopped

1 Dill pickle, roughly chopped

Combine beer, onion, cloves, bay leaf and pickle in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add shrimp, cover pan and bring to a boil again. Turn to simmer and watch carefully. They’ll be pink, firm and done very quickly!

For the Tartar Sauce

1 C mayonnaise

1 Clove garlic

3 Scallions

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. Capers

a sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper

About 5 leaves of parsley

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly combined.

Roasted Fennel, Satsuma Orange, and Pomegranate Salad

from Brooklyn Supper

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This salad is simple but gorgeous, the roasted saltiness of the fennel and red onion contrasted with the bright crunch of pomegranate seeds. Click here for the recipe.

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Stuffing-Stuffed Acorn Squash

If you ask me, the whole point of Thanksgiving is the stuffing. Everything else is just a vehicle. Why not showcase the flavors of stuffing—crumbly cornbread, warm chestnuts, sweet sausage, and sage—by piling it into halves of velvety acorn squash? The type of squash is up to you! From local butternut to speckled Kabocha to bright orange Kuri, Guido’s selection is overflowing.

For the Squash (serves 8)

4 Acorn squash

1 T olive oil

½ tsp. coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 425°. Halve each squash and scrape out seeds from center. Lightly oil the cut edges and center of squash. Oil the bottom of a baking dish or roasting pan, and sprinkle salt over surface. Bake squash cut side down for 25 minutes. Let cool slightly before flipping, as hot steam will escape. Set aside.

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For the Stuffing

2 T butter

1 Onion, diced

¾ lb. sweet Italian sausage (Guido’s sells it freshly-made, in bulk!)

1 ½ cups Olivia’s Original Cornbread Stuffing Croutons

15 oz. Whole roasted and peeled chestnuts (After years of agonizing over roasting whole chestnuts and multiple injuries sustained from the peeling process, we now buy Guido’s Blanchard & Blanchard’s Organic Whole Roasted and Peeled Chestnuts)

1 C whole milk

2 Stalks celery

3 Sage leaves, finely chopped

Salt & Pepper to Taste

Cook the onion in butter until golden brown. Add the sausage and sage and cook, stirring constantly until meat is browned and cooked through. Add the chestnuts, cornbread, milk, salt and pepper and mix well. Cook on low heat until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and the cornbread has lost some of its crunch. Once stuffing is done, pile it into the cavity of each squash half and bake for 5 -10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley to serve.

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Quick-Blanched Haricot Verts

Guido’s deliciously crisp haricots verts don’t need anything other than a quick blanch in boiling water to bring out their bright, cheerful flavor.

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Cranberry Orange Curd Tart

From the New York Times

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I couldn’t resist the locally grown cranberries that greeted me in a tower of deep red when I walked in the door of Guido’s. But instead of cranberry sauce, why not eat them for dessert? This New York Times recipe combines everything good about tangy cranberries and orange zest with the luxurious creaminess of curd, spreading it to bake in a buttery, roasted hazelnut crust (that just so happens to be gluten free!) I was initially intimidated, but take it from me: curd is not scary at all, and this will become a new staple on your Thanksgiving table. Click here for the recipe

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Roasted Vegetable Tart with Ricotta & Savory Almond Crust

IMG_4344Whenever I walk through a museum, I imagine which paintings and sculptures I would buy if I were deliriously rich. It’s not that I fantasize about owning art—I think it belongs in public where everyone can enjoy it—but I love collecting pieces in my mind. If I could have anything in my home as part of my daily existence, what would it be? Would I choose the sleek, shining orb of a Brancusi bust for my modern cliff-top bungalow, where its surface would catch the early morning light glinting off the ocean? Or a Matisse, its colors and patterns exploding with haphazard joy, to hang by a window tangled with sunny vines, overlooking my garden and the rolling countryside beyond? Or the Picasso I can’t look away from, its yellows somehow indistinguishable from its blues, for my city living room 20 stories high, where I’d  hang it just-so between shelves and shelves of mismatched books. Those garish colors would soften in the evening as I sat beneath it, drinking wine and eating fat green olives.

Every Tuesday and Friday I escape the frigid air conditioning of my office, navigate  stairs, escalators and an elevator out into the bright midday sun of the Copley square Farmers Market. I start my meandering progression at the corner of Dartmouth and St. James, where the giant black and white cookies from Cook’s Farm Orchard look like Keith Haring cartoons. It’s a new exhibit every week. I walk by each tent, observing the dark purple and fluorescent yellow string beans from  Stillman’s Farm, or the pasta exhibit from Valicenti Organic, where tiny, elegant rolls  and ropes are carefully displayed and labeled with ‘Pappardelle ’ or ‘Saffron Spaghetti’ like a Joseph Cornell shadow box. The Siena Farms produce always seems to spill from its crates and the delicate baby eggplants lounge like Modigliani ladies in shades of violet and green.

Yesterday the Romanesco caught my eye: bright green and growing in the shape of a conifer tree. I couldn’t resist those geometric whorls, imagining them tossed in oil and roasted on a savory galette. The Delicata squash, resplendent with yellow-gold and stripes of sturdy green, looked like an exhibit of Matryoshka dolls in an antique toy museum. I bought both and proceeded to daydream about how to combine them for dinner.  I was craving a tart (as usual), but since I have not only baked but also taken part in devouring 3 pies in the past week, I decided to go for a less decadent crust. The result was delicious; the warm, nutty crumble of the crust tempered by the lightness of ricotta and feta, topped with roasted, salty cauliflower and sweet, caramelized squash. Try it and let me know what you think!

Delicata Squash & Romanesco Tart with Ricotta & Savory Almond Crust

Ingredients

For the crust (adapted slightly from Cookie + Kate)

  • 2 C Almond meal
  • 4 cloves of roasted garlic
  • A few herbs, finely chopped (I recommend a spring of rosemary and 2 sage leaves, but thyme would be delicious here too!)
  • 1/3  C Olive oil
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • A healthy grind of pepper
  • 2 T water

For the filling

  • 4 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1 ½ C full fat ricotta cheese
  • ½ C crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 T plain yogurt
  • a healthy drizzle of olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • A spring of rosemary or thyme, finely chopped

For the Topping

  • 1 small Delicata squash
  • 1 large or 2 small heads of romanesco (or cauliflower)
  • About 3 T olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions

  1. Roast the garlic to its peak of soft, spreadable richness: Preheat oven to 400°. Slice an entire head crosswise, sprinkle exposed side of garlic cloves with olive oil, and wrap tightly in foil. Bake directly on oven rack for about 40 minutes.
  1. Prep and roast the vegetables: While the garlic is roasting, chop the Romanesco or cauliflower into individual pieces, wash, dry, and toss in about 1½ T olive oil and lots of sea salt. Clean the delicata squash (no need to peel it, the skin is delicious!) and slice length-wise down the middle. Remove seeds and cut off the tough stem and nub from the bottom and top. Slice into ½ inch half-moons, toss in a bowl with about 1½ T olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread the squash wide-side down on a baking sheet, and do the same with the cauliflower on another baking sheet. Place both in the oven. At 400 degrees, the vegetables should be roasted to perfection in about 25 minutes, but you’ll want to stir the cauliflower and flip the squash rings a few times so that they don’t burn. Once the sides of the squash touching the pan are slightly browned, flip them over.
  1. Make the crust: While your vegetables are roasting, grease a tart pan, baking sheet, or pizza stone with cooking spray or olive oil. To prepare the crust, stir together the almond meal, roasted garlic (should be soft and easy to mash), chopped herbs, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Pour in the olive oil and water and stir until the mixture is thoroughly combined, making sure there are no large lumps of garlic. Press the dough onto your prepared pan/stone until it is evenly dispersed across the bottom and up the sides (if you are using a tart pan. I made a free-form circle and formed a slight ridge around the edge using my fingers). Bake until the crust is lightly golden and firm to the touch, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.
  1. Make the filling: While the crust is baking, prepare your filling. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, feta, yogurt, olive oil, roasted garlic, salt, pepper and herbs. Stir together, making sure roasted garlic is thoroughly mashed and incorporated. Mixture should be light and smooth.
  1. Assemble and bake the tart: Once the crust has cooled slightly, spread the filling evenly over its surface. Arrange the roasted vegetables however you like and sprinkle with herbs. Bake for 10-15 minutes, just so that filling and topping are warm, being careful not to burn the vegetables. Enjoy!

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Tortillas with Fresh Corn & Swiss Chard

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I can always smell the seasons change. I know it sounds like something no one under the age of 70 would say, but it’s true. Spring and summer are easy, those full-on gusts of warm air hinting at stirring roots and blades of grass about to burst. Fall and winter are more elusive: a brief snap of cold air, the smells of brittle leaves and burning wood. I haven’t smelled Fall yet, but a few weeks ago, as I ate lunch in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library, lost in the pages of my book, there was a momentary shift in the season. Nothing changed in the air or temperature, the flowers planted around the gushing fountain still bloomed in lush color. It was merely a glint of the light, the sharp clip of a girl’s black boots on the brick, and I felt Fall coming. I’ll resist the urge to indulge in fantasies of Autumn (flannel sheets, boots and blazers, brisk walks, apple tarte tartin…), and instead take it as a sign to savor every last sweet kernel of summer in these final sun-drenched days.

I haven’t been cooking or baking much lately. My sister got married a week ago (more on that later!!!), and I spent most of my free time worrying about lace and logistics. My go-to for busy days is tortillas with greens. My mom has been making these for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I didn’t understand the simple perfection of a corn tortilla filled with sautéed Swiss chard, garlic and a heavy sprinkling of sea salt. No cheese? No beans? These were, in my opinion, the requisite staples of any tortilla, and without them it was an unworthy pursuit.

When my mom was my age, she traveled around Mexico by herself. I can picture her easily: dark wavy hair to her shoulders, huge smile, and wearing a long, brightly colored skirt. Whenever she talks about this trip, she mentions the kindness of the people she met and the tortillas. She met a guy on a bus whom she describes as “interesting and nerdy.” He was studying the last Spanish haciendas, and took her around to the grand relics of colonial manor houses, where horses roamed the big, open courtyards. (I interrupted her recollections to ask whether getting off a bus in a strange country in the middle of nowhere with a man you just met was the wisest idea, to which she responded “Oh, I could tell he was on the up and up.”) He took her to meet a local family, pretending she was his sister so as not to cause a stir. For lunch, they had fresh corn tortillas with garlicky Swiss chard and salt.

It’s an incredibly simple meal, but hearty and delicious. Because the days are shortening and the leaves are on the brink of fading, I’ve created my own twist, adding sweet, fresh corn, slices of avocado, and a dollop of plain yogurt and paprika. If you’ve never combined Swiss chard and corn, you’re in for a treat: the somewhat bitter greens become downright decadent against the bright, crunchy sweetness of the corn. Trust me on this one.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 bunch swiss card
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2-4 tortillas (I prefer Food For Life brand Sprouted Corn Tortillas)
  • 1 ear of fresh corn
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • Coarse seasalt

For the topping (if desired)

  • 2 T plain yogurt
  • Paprika
  1. Wash greens and remove tough end stalks. Remove kernels from corn and set aside
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet
  3. Smash and peel garlic cloves, chop into a fine dice and add to warmed oil. Stir garlic until translucent and just starting to turn golden brown.
  4. Add greens and sauté until tender and cooked. Remove from heat. Add corn and a generous pinch of salt, and toss to combine.
  5. In a heavy cast iron skillet, warm tortillas by flipping in the pan for a few minutes
  6. Add greens & corn to tortillas, top with avocado slices and yogurt and paprika (if desired). Fold or roll as your heart desires, and enjoy!

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Anna’s Avocado Toast

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In honor of my grandma (Anna) on what would have been her 93rd birthday. 

 My brother, sister and I used to walk down the beach, toward the distant pier, past the graying bungalows with their tinted glass windows, past the small stretch of beach with mismatched chairs and ominously taut fishing rods, finally reaching the neat monotony of blue and white umbrellas, positioned in a grid as if facing the water in battle. We’d pad up the sandy walk to the Beach Club, feeling conspicuous but blending in with the other damp, sandy kids.

The swelteringly crowded Snack Shack was pitch dark after the blinding sun and sand. It smelled of deep-frying oil and sunscreen. A huge fan hummed wearily somewhere overhead. The ladies at the snack shack never changed. They wore Hawaiian shirts as part of their uniform, but you got the sense that they’d wear them at home, too, the scent of their perfume mingling with eau de hot dog. They glared at us as we approached in line as if daring us to place an order. We used my grandma’s membership number, which was only supposed to cover the fancy restaurant, with its uncomfortable iron chairs and tangled awning of Sea Grape branches. There was something thrilling about giving our fake room number, 1468, and pretending we were guests at the hotel. My heart sped up whenever it was my turn, as if they might suddenly turn off the music and throw us out by our ears into the sand and sun.

While we waited for our food, we wandered past the giant chess set and took turns in the hammock, watching tan, shiny-nailed moms in white visors and lanky boys who really belonged. One of us guarded the food while the other two dove into the teeming pools, swimming around the fake tropical islands and doing handstands in the shallow end.

Then we’d head back, balancing our hot dogs and cheeseburgers, accompanied by the muted rattle of ice in our big Styrofoam cups full of pink, pink lemonade. It was a peaceful walk. Lost in our thoughts, no longer under cover, we’d drag our toes in the wave-washed sand and make up foreign languages together. We walked back past the fishing rods, the big swirling pines, and toward our little beach. My mom always looked up from her book in surprise, as if she’d forgotten she had children. She’d extend a slim arm and receive her order: half iced tea, half lemonade, on the rocks.

As the day waned, our sand ladies with their seaweed-and-shell necklaces lay forgotten. The great Dole barges were mere specs on the horizon, and the shadows of our umbrella were long past keeping us in the shade. I’d think of Anna, moving gracefully through her cool, quiet house. I pictured the sound of my flip-flops on the orange tiles of her sun room, the clink of the ice machine, the patient chime of her library clock. I longed to go home, stamp my feet on the spiky grass, hurriedly shake off my, towel and ring the doorbell. I’d press my nose against the glass and watch her walk toward us, stepping so lightly in her blue Keds and freshly-ironed shirt. “Hi Gang,” she’d say, smiling as she opened the door, “How’s tricks?”

Anna always appreciated beauty more than anyone I know. Toward the end of her life, she began to marvel at the simplest things, like the full moon, a flower in her back yard, or an avocado sandwich. She’d been making them for me my whole life, long before the combination of toasted bread and avocado became inexplicably hip. They always tasted perfect when she made them. In the last year of her life, it was as if she’d never tasted one before. I mashed the avocado with a little mayonnaise and lots of salt, spread it thickly on toast, and brought it to her as she sat in her flowered armchair in the alcove. “Delicious! This is the best sandwich I’ve ever had.” She’d exclaim after each bite, shaking her head and looking at me like I’d made her a feast. “Where did you learn how to make this?” “You taught me, Anna,” I’d say, unable to repress a smile.

Anna’s Avocado Sandwich (serves two)

  • 1 perfectly ripe avocado
  • 2 slices good bread (it doesn’t matter what kind. Bread is just a vehicle for the avocado. Sometimes Anna and I would skip bread all together and just dip crackers.)
  • 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise (trust me)
  • Lots of sea salt
  • A grind of pepper
  1. Scrape the avocado into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the mayo, and salt to taste. Mash it thoroughly, but don’t be afraid to leave a few chunks
  2. Toast the bread to your liking. I like it to have a good, loud crunch.
  3. Spread avocado thickly on toast and sprinkle with more salt and pepper
  4. Eat with someone you love.

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Eating My Words with Jane and April

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I’ve always been guilty of going straight to the pictures. Whenever a book had that section of thick glossy pages in the center, I’d spend about a minute and a half trying to resist, and then flip hastily to the middle and pore over every picture and caption in detail. Then I’d go back to the beginning and start the book. While my mom and sister sat reading the New Yorker cover to cover, absorbing every essay and critique, I made a shameless beeline for the back page, and then worked through the magazine Hebrew-style, cartoon by cartoon, ending on the cover art. It’s no wonder I love cookbooks.

I tried reading Jane Eyre in high school—it was one of those books you were supposed to read. I picked up the plain, black hardback, probably a relic from the school library, its cover long since lost, and simply could not do it. The austerity of the book itself seemed to increase the grimness of Jane’s boarding school. Everything seemed grey: the dull British weather, the dismal bowls of porridge, the stern governesses… Reader, I gave up. I left Brontë in the dust for Nigella Lawson, whose gorgeous, glossy cookbook, How to Be a Domestic Goddess, was responsible for many a rainy Saturday afternoon spent fantasizing about dessert. I’d drag a stool into the pantry, where my mom kept her cookbook collection, take a stack of five, and set up camp in what we called the Rose Chair (huge, slightly dilapidated, and upholstered in cream and pink roses).

One night a few years later, I proved guilty of that age-old saying about books and their covers. I was organizing the shelves at our tiny town library (this was my high school job) and there it was—a small, pale pink book, edged in a delicate flower pattern with “Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë” etched across it in a lovely, elegant font. And like that, I was off—just as susceptible as the next girl to Mr. Rochester’s macabre charms, the sounds from the attic, and Jane’s enduring wit.

These days, I regularly check out cookbooks from the library 5 or 6 at a time. I take the few I own down from the shelf almost daily to look for inspiration, read up on various methods, or just peruse the pictures. (Still guilty, all these years later.)

My most recent acquisition is A Girl and her Greens, the sequel to April Bloomfield’s wildly successful A Girl and her Pig. My friend Hillary, who understands my incurable addiction to food, gave me the book for my birthday. I haven’t read it cover to cover, and have only made 3 recipes from it so far, but each one has been intuitive, easy, and delicious. If a cookbook has one truly useful recipe, the kind that inspires you beyond the dish itself, it’s a smash hit in my opinion, and completely worth owning. April’s recipes aren’t intimidating (in fact, I didn’t follow any of them to the letter, but still achieved what the dish set out to do). Her writing voice is honest, unpretentious, and and very British. She is the perfect guide to these last gorgeously abundant months of summer. Here are the three recipes from the book that I’ve tried so far:

Stewed Zucchini with Basil—my new favorite way to eat zucchini. (This is saying something, as I could easily eat it at every meal.) You brown some of the zucchini while simultaneously stewing the rest, and the basil and lemon brighten the zucchini flavor to its full potential.

Kale Puree—basically a very simple pesto, but you can use it for anything! Lately I’ve been spooning it on quinoa, which, let’s be honest, could use a little charisma.

Roasted Carrots—I didn’t have all the ingredients April calls for, but I used her method of roasting the carrots in garlic-infused butter, and that worked out just fine.

I’ve included the zucchini recipe, which will hopefully tempt you to buy the book and try the others! After making it about 5 times, I decided to use the stewed zucchini as a pasta sauce, along with some other odds and ends from the farmers market I needed to use up. Here’s what I came up with:

Farmers Market Pasta with Zuchinni, Fresh Corn, and Basil

(I couldn’t resist the buying herbed pappardelle—it’s thick, ribbon-like noodles looked like savory sashes and made the dish taste richer and last longer).

  • One batch of April Bloomfield’s stewed Zuchinni
  • 2 ears fresh corn
  • Basil (a heaping fistful)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • About 1/4 C finely grated parmesan cheese
  • Enough good pasta to feed 1 or 2 (I’m no expert on what type to use when, and usually decide based on what looks prettiest or what the guy at the farm stand recommends.)
  • 1 T butter
  1. Make April Bloomfield’s zuchinni (recipe below)
  2. Remove the kernels form 2 ears of fresh corn and set aside. Take a handful of basil leaves, roll them into the shape of a cigarette, and slice into thin ribbons.
  3. Bring a medium pot of generously salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package specifications. Reserve about 1/4 a cup of the pasta water, and then drain.
  4. Add the pasta, pasta water, half the stewed zucchini, the basil, salt and pepper, and the corn back into the pot or a large serving bowl. Throw in a tablespoon of butter for good measure, and toss until the pasta is coated.
  5. I served the remaining zucchini on top of each pasta serving, as a garnish. Sprinkle with grated parmesan.

Stewed Zucchini with Basil (serves 4 as a side, 2 on pasta)

Adapted slightly from: April Bloomfield’s A Girl and her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden (Harper Collins,  2015).

  • 1 ½ lbs small zucchini, topped, tailed and halved lengthwise (Topped and tailed? How endearingly British can you get?!)
  • ¼ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 5 Medium garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ t Maldon or another flaky sea salt
  • A generous 5-finger pinch of basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • ½ t finely grated lemon zest
  • A few dried pequin chiles, crumbled, or pinches of red pepper flakes (optional—I left them out)

Chop the zucchini into 1 or ¾ inch cubes.

Use a medium-sized pot (one with sides high enough to hold the zucchini snugly in 2 layers—I used a standard 8 inch cast iron skillet). Heat the oil over high heat until it lightly smokes. Add all the zuchinni, carve out a little space in the center of the pan, and add the garlic. Don’t stir just yet. Cook until the garlic is golden and the zuchinni pieces on the bottom are golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Have a good stir.

Sprinkle on ½ teaspoon of the salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or so. Listen carefully—if you hear the zucchini frying in oil rather than simmering in a little liquid, then add two tablespoons of water. Cover again and cook, stirring occasionally, until some of the zucchini pieces are tender but not mushy and some are nearly tender, 3 to 5 minutes more.

Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and the basil. Cook, without the lid, and every 30 seconds or so use a sturdy whisk or wooden spoon to very roughly stir and strike the zucchini. Not to smash the pieces but just to knock off some of the points that have gotten soft. Keep at it until some of the softer pieces have broken down and turned creamy and the other pieces are tender with a slight bite, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, zest, chiles and more salt if you fancy (I do.) Eat straightaway.

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Try it and tell me what you think. Happy cooking!

Xo,

Grace

A Very Green Feast

IMG_3113My mom’s garden is surrounded by a 12 foot fence. The door swings open and latches shut. She wages a constant battle against the deer and voles that try to graze and tunnel through her most prized beds. She drives her car out over the lawn, pulls up close to the garden and blasts the radio on high, listening to A Prairie Home Companion or Diana Krall as she works. As the sun sets, she comes up the hill, smiling, exhausted, bearing baskets of greens, covered in dirt. I change the music to Cesaria Evora and we all pitch in, setting the table and lighting candles. We eat at 9 PM.

Of all her crops, I always loved sorrel, which grew wild as a weed just inside the garden gate. Its leaves were cheek-sucking tart and stung the back of your teeth with their sour twang, but I’d wrap them around sweet golden cherry tomatoes that exploded in my mouth. My mom baked sorel tart; the greens floating in a cloud of cream, red onion and eggs, surrounded by a flaky, golden crust.

Last weekend was rainy and cold and beyond lovely. I walked out to the garden as the grey evening skies began to drizzle. I felt rich as I filled baskets with leaves of kale (a soft, bluish green with iridescent purple stalks, curling slightly at the edges), bright, glossy swiss chard (its rainbow stalks impossibly jewel-like), mint (growing in tall, bushy stalks saturated with scent), and lettuce (huge, crazy heads, exploding from the earth in green tinged with deep red). That night we ate pasta carbonara and a salad of peppery baby arugula and drank cool cans of summer beer.

Back home in Boston, in my newly painted kitchen, I examined my loot and went straight to my recipe bibles: Food52, Splendid Table, and Smitten Kitchen. When I say I love planning meals, I mean it:

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I love writing grocery lists, planning the timing, and figuring out which cloves of garlic to chop, press and slice. Here’s what I decided on:

Zucchini spirals with mint and garlic. Mostly because I wanted to use my spiralizer, but also an intriguing combination. The mint and zuchinni spirals are briefly tossed in garlicky butter before serving. If you don’t have a spiralizer or a mandoline, a vegetable peeler should do it.

Kale Salad from Genius Recipes (a cookbook so beautiful and informative, I read it cover to cover like a novel). The salad has roasted butternut squash, the sharpest cheddar, and toasted almonds. I thought maybe this would taste too wintry, as butternut squash reminds me of cold November air and falling asleep by the fireplace. But against the peppery, light flavor of the Kale, the squash is the perfect burst of caramelized flavor.

Shredded  Swiss chard salad with breadcrumbs and parmesan from Food 52: Make your own crumbs from your favorite loaf, toss in garlic, and add to thinly shredded chard. Shower with parmesan and lemony vinaigrette. Not a lot of room for error.

Chard pancakes, or farçous, from Dorie Greenspan (via the Splendid table). An excellent excuse to eat fried greens, these pancakes are loaded with chives, parsley and chard. When I make them again, I’ll go even heavier on the greens! These are deliciously satisfying, and could bring the most adamant vegetable-hater into the light.

For dessert, Cherries with vanilla ice cream. What else do you need in life, really?

Northern Spy Kale Salad (from Food52)

  • 1/2 C cubed kabocha, butternut, or other winter squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 bunch kale (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 C almonds, chopped roughly
  • 1/4 C crumbled or finely chopped sharp cheddar (I like the good stuff–the sharpest possible)
  • Fresh juice of 1 lemon
  • Pecorino, for shaving (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 425° F. Toss squash cubes in just enough olive oil to coat, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven until tender and caramelized, about 40 minutes, tossing with a spatula every 10-15 minutes. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet in the same oven until they start to smell nutty, tossing once, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with the almonds, cheddar and squash. Season to taste with lemon juice and olive oil (about 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil–really just to taste). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Divide salad between two plates or shallow bowls. Garnish with shaved pecorino cheese, if desired, and serve.

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Zucchini Spirals with Garlic and Mint (from the Splendid Table)

  • 2 small to medium zucchini squash (1 pound)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 T finely shredded fresh spearmint
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Cut the stems and bottom tips off the zucchini and slice them on a mandoline or other vegetable slicer into long spaghetti-like strips, about 1/8 inch wide and 1/8 inch thick. Toss them with the salt in a medium mixing bowl, then transfer them to a fine sieve or colander and set it over the mixing bowl. Let the zucchini sit for 15 minutes at room temperature, then gently squeeze it in your hands to extract some of the water. It will give off at least 1/2 cup.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic to the pan and stir until it loses its raw fragrance but is not browned, less than 1 minute. Add the zucchini and mint and toss with tongs just until heated through, about 1 minutes. Taste and season with pepper.                                                                                                                                      IMG_3097 IMG_3095 IMG_3105

Shredded Chard Salad with Garlicky Breadcrumbs & Parmesan (from Food52)

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 lemon (for zest and juice)
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 1/2 C fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 C grated Parmesan
  1. Wash and dry the chard and remove the stems from the leaves. Set aside. Zest and juice the lemon. Combine about 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest and a few generous pinches of salt in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Warm the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until they are crisp and golden brown (about 5 minutes). Be careful not to burn them! Stir in the garlic and let them toast for another minute, then remove from the heat.
  3. Separate the chard leaves from their stems. Finely chop the stems. (To get them thinly shredded: stack a few of the leaves on top of each other, roll them like a cigar and cut the cigar into thin ribbons.) Put the chard stems and leaves into a large bowl and toss gently with the Parmesan and about 2/3 of the lemony dressing. Taste and add more dressing if you like. Toss in the toasted breadcrumbs and you’re ready to serve!

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Swiss Chard Pancakes (from the Splendid Table)

Note: The original recipe makes enough batter to feed a small army. I was cooking for 2, and we each ate about 3 pancakes. I’ve halved the recipe below, but if you’re cooking for a crowd, use the link above!

  • 1 C whole milk
  • 1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 large eggs (1 egg and 1 yolk)
  • 1/2 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 shallot, coarsely chopped, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1 garlic clove, split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
  • Leaves from 10 parsley sprigs
  • 10 fresh chives, snipped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 5 large or 10 small Swiss chard leaves, center ribs removed, washed, and dried
  • About 1/2 cup grapeseed, peanut, or vegetable oil
  1. Put the milk, flour, eggs, onion, shallot, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor and whir until the batter is smooth. Little by little, add the chard to the mix and whir to incorporate it. There’s no need to pulverize the chard — having some strands is nice.
  1. Pour 1/4 to 1/2 inch of oil into a large skillet and place the skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (a drop of batter should seize immediately), spoon in a scant 1/4 cup batter for each pancake — don’t crowd the pan: depending on the size of the pan, 4 pancakes is probably max per batch. Cook the pancakes for about 3 minutes, until the underside is nicely browned and the edges are browned and curled. Flip the pancakes over and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Transfer the pancakes to the paper-towel-lined plate, cover with more towels, and pat off the excess oil. You can place them on the foil-lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you continue to make pancakes, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

Traditionally, farçous are served with a salad as a main course. If you want to serve the farçous as an hors d’oeuvre, you might want to include a dipping sauce or topping of crème fraîche, or plain yogurt.

(We ate them plain and enjoyed every bite thoroughly!)

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Here’s the feast in all it’s green glory: (there were no leftovers!!)

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And finally, dessert:

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Happy cooking!

Xo