Friday, 14 September 2012 | 31 comments

A simple pear pie + more pear recipes

“Welcome to my office,” Ben says as we climb out of the car. Neat rows of pear trees stretch their limbs out of the morning mist. It’s kind of obnoxious, actually—does he have to brag?—when you consider that my “office” is a cube with padded, circa-1981 salmon pink walls. Ben, by contrast, makes his living here:We grab a ladder and start picking. The crew has been through here once already and most of the harvest is in—they’ll use it to make pear wine, which they then send to a local distillery to make pear brandy—but there are some stragglers. These get sold in the tasting room. We get to take home the “ugly” pears, the ones with spots or lumps or hard patches where they were damaged by insects. For the next couple weeks, bins of the fruit take up residence in our house, and I start thinking of pear pie and pear bread and pear butter. » Click to read more

Friday, 4 November 2011 | 20 comments

Gypsy soup

Mollie Katzen’s “gypsy soup” caught my eye for its name and name alone. The word gypsy is so evocative of something rustic, hearty, romantic and a bit tragic. I didn’t even look at the ingredients list before I decided I would make it. (This impulsiveness will likely get me into trouble someday.) According to the recipe, gypsy soup can be varied by subbing in various green and orange vegetables for the ones listed. (Incidentally, if anyone knows why this is, let me know. I became really curious about gypsy soup and did some research, and can’t find anything.) I decided on an autumnal riff on gypsy soup: acorn squash provided the orange, and some great kales and mustards that are happily growing in the cool November weather brought the green. » Click to read more

Thursday, 3 November 2011 | 11 comments

A week of soups: Fennel soup with julienned carrots

Ben and I have recently been toying with the idea of scrounging up an enormous, cast-iron kettle that can hang over a fire (think pioneer-era Americana). We’ve somehow latched onto this notion of a vessel in which we could simmer and ladle out a bottomless supply of good soup for a crowd of friends. The autumn air, especially, has us dreaming of a “BYOB” lunch or dinner—“bring your own bowl.” Is it weird to admit that you and your significant other want to buy primitive cooking paraphernalia for your next dinner party? The more I think about it, though, the more it seems to appropriately embody the reason soups are so great. There are few dishes that come together as gracefully, with such simple ingredients and easy effort, as soups. Soups and stews exemplify my favorite kind of cooking: deeply sensory, as minimal or dressed up as you like, and most importantly, easy to share (en masse, if necessary). Moreover, everyone equates soup with comfort. I like that. One of my resolutions this year was that I’d start making more foods to freeze. I am not the kind of girl who has trouble finding the energy or making the time to cook for herself, but cooking-for-later is a bit addicting. It may seem like work with no gratification when you make something to put away, untouched—-until the day when you reap the benefits. The first forkful of whatever you made for yourself ahead of time is a little pat on the back. It’s kind of like magic! Good job, self, you think, grateful to the past-you for having the foresight to store away. In that vein, I’ve been planning to take a few days to make a lot of soups to keep through the winter. » Click to read more

Tuesday, 1 November 2011 | 4 comments

Pumpkin Day.

My friend Laura inaugurated a tradition last year when she held Pumpkin Day. It’s a simple idea. I bet you can figure out the point of her self-proclaimed holiday: pumpkins. The picking of, the scooping the goop out of, the cooking of, the baking of…all of it. When I say “Pumpkin Day,” many people mistakenly think that I am referring to Halloween. This is not the case. On Pumpkin Day, pumpkins are the main event, rather than the vehicle for mood lighting. It is a lot of pumpkin-ing. It may deserve an exclamation point (which I use very, very sparingly). Pumpkin Day! That’s better.I wasn’t able to be present at last year’s Pumpkin Day. Had I known the extent to which I’d be hearing about the homemade pumpkin pasta in the year that followed, I would have flown from Tanzania just to preempt the sadness that would set in whenever my friends started to reminisce about it. Fresh pasta. Filled with cheese and pumpkin. Tossed in sage butter. It is possibly worth the plane ticket.Luckily for me, Pumpkin Day rolled around this year too, with an even bigger group of friends and a similar pasta-making agenda. Pumpkin Day, although sort of silly-fun in some ways, is a brilliant idea in that it gathers a bunch of people to explore and enjoy one particular veggie or fruit. We don’t often get the chance to do this. It’s also one of those good ideas that’s so good it’s dangerous, as now I’m scheming on how to ensure there are Strawberry, Tomato, Fig, and Garlic Days in my future. In the end, I’m just really happy I have the type of folks in my life who think it’s worth an entire Saturday to sit around a table and get their hands dirty, together.

Monday, 17 October 2011 | 9 comments

Pushing the envelope: Autumn vegetables en papillote with sage brown butter

Right now is that golden time of year where we’re all completely excited about winter squash and root vegetables and other things that signal autumn. I’ve been cooking long enough to know that this will inevitably wear off when it’s actually cold, and we’ll all be a little sad and tired of things that turn taupe or brown or burnt orange when roasted or mashed. But despite that knowledge, I’m not immune to the guiles of autumn vegetables.In fact, this is my dining room table after coming back from the market recently. I am so not immune to rhapsodizing about squash that that big basket you see was actually full of other things, and I had to walk home with a sweet potato, a butternut squash, and two enormous turnips under one arm. Embarrassing. It’s a bit disconcerting, being revealed to the public as someone who cradles turnips on her way home. People stop you on the street (I am not making this up), asking what they are and if they taste like potatoes. If I were the kind of girl who carried, oh, I don’t know, a bouquet of sunflowers as I walked on Saturday morning, people would smile, perhaps, at the lovely picture I made in the early fall sunlight. But, no. I’ve always been more the grubby turnip-toting type. » Click to read more

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