Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Strawberries Meet Their Just Reward

IMG_7538Before strawberry season is completely over, I wanted to share a new favorite dessert which I’ve made several times (at the behest of my family), ever since a pint of sweet little strawberries were included in my first CSA pick-up a few weeks ago…

This was my CSA farmers’ first summer providing strawberries in our share, thanks to a new plot of land they’re working that already had an established berry crop. You can probably tell from the pictures above that these are not the puffy, bland, monsters you normally find at the supermarket, but a smaller, sweeter, intensely flavorful variety that more closely resembles the frais de bois or wild strawberries that you find in Europe and the occasional farmer’s market. Honestly, they’re so good, you don’t have to do anything but rinse off a couple of bugs to enjoy them (Case in point: Most of the pints I’ve picked up with my share never made it home, having been devoured by Conor and myself on the car ride home.).

But…if you have the patience and willingness to put those berries into a confection, then this is the one: Strawberry Pavlova. A cake made up of a crunchy meringue base, topped with a well of thick whipped cream, and a crown of strawberries macerated with lemon juice and a bit of sugar. Behold! The perfect summer dessert.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that my family flipped for the dessert; three of them literally consumed a cake meant for at least eight people in a matter of minutes, and then demanded I make it again as soon as possible. Conor just nodded and chewed and stuck his thumb up while he ate about half the cake. I adapted my recipe from one by the clever Dutch cook and food writer Yvette van Boven. HERE is a version that ran in Bon Appetit magazine, which I recommend you follow but with a few tweaks:  The few differences I make is I skip the frills of mixing fennel seeds with the egg whites and adding a tarragon garnish. Both are all fine and good but I think completely unnecessary and I believe my family enjoys the cake more without the herbal notes. Also, van Boven combines her whipped cream with marscarpone, which is does add a wonderful richness, but again, not necessary. The whole point of this dessert is the combination of textures and summer flavors—crunchy, chewy, creamy, sweet, tart— and showcasing the best strawberries you can find (and once the season is over, you can easily substitute blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, macerating them with the lemon juice and sugar will help bring out all the sweet juices).



This is also a perfect dessert for a party/BBQ because you can make the meringue and whipped cream ahead of time, pack separately from the berries, and then assemble the entire thing on the spot. So grab those end of the season berries and make this dessert pronto, and if you’re in a part of the country that is already onto the next berry crop, then substitute away! I might even try this with ripe Jersey peaches very soon.


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Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Sick Kid Banquet

IMG_6581I just wanted to share a post I wrote for the wonderful site FOOD52 about the three things I make (and by “make” I mean deliver to them on the couch) the kids when they’re home sick with the latest bug. HERE’S A LINK to the story…and in the comments section afterwards, feel free to include the foods that always make you feel better when you’re under the weather!

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Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

“Sushi” Hand Rolls At Home? Yes, Please!

One of my favorite things to order when I sit at a sushi bar is a hand roll. In my opinion, it’s the ideal hand-held meal, a solo act that has everything you want elegantly placed inside of a nori cone. I remember the first time I had one (when a friend recommended I order the hand roll of fatty tuna, pickled radish and scallions) at a magazine-editor hangout called Sushi Zen near the now-former Condé Nast office in Times Square. Sushi Zen is a bit of an expense account place, and yet, the sushi was always so exceptional, the fish so pristine, that the eye-roll from the accounting department was well worth it… With the exception of the time I took a writer there for lunch because I had just assigned him an article about perfume, and he ended up ordering enough raw fish to feed a family of Kodiak bears, ate half of it, then requested to have the rest put in a doggy bag. After that experience, I learned to select my lunch companions more wisely, but always order the hand rolls, which were a thing of beauty.

For some reason I never thought of making hand rolls at home, probably because preparing and cutting raw fish normally feels like something best left to professionals. But then I realized that the fish need not be raw and that opened up a whole new world of hand rolls at home…
With just these basic items from the pantry and crisper—brown or sushi rice (the best use of a rice cooker…I’ve told you to get one, right?), crisp lettuce, sliced cucumbers, avocado, smoked salmon, and sriracha and toasted sesame seeds for garnish—you have everything you need for an DIY hand roll. I make them all of the time, especially as an afternoon snack for Belle, who can eat as many of these as my perfume writer friend. The combination of salty, crunchy, smoky and a little spicy is truly addictive (I highly recommend it for tween/teen girls…so healthful and they go ga-ga for them). I love to add a spoonful of miso mayo if I have some on-hand in the fridge (combine a cup of mayo and big spoonful of white or yellow miso in a jar; add a bit of honey and a splash of rice vinegar if you’d like to make it even better); but just a sprinkle of soy sauce, rice vinegar, or ponzu inside the roll will do.

My two tips are:

-Make sure the rice isn’t hot or else it will wilt your roll, a little warm or room temperature (sprinkled with some rice vinegar) is best.

-And try not to overstuff your roll or it might explode. I usually fold one sheet of nori in half, turn it so it’s at an angle, place a few of the fillings down the middle, and then gently wrap it like a baby in bunting.


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Thursday, May 28th, 2015


IMG_6709A few weeks ago, I was visiting my in-laws in the Twin Cities, which included an always fun eating and shopping excursion to Minneapolis with the ultimate tour guide, my sister-in-law, Sue. We ate, we shopped, we ate some more. Two of the highlights were lunch at World Street Kitchen —which is a must MUST stop if you’re in town for rice bowls of the most powerfully tasty and addictive concoctions like Korean BBQ short-ribs, marinated crispy tofu, and caramelized lamb belly (followed up my a mango soft-serve ice cream topped with puffed rice)–and then a stroll to a charming boutique called Proper and Prim. The shop is run by two sisters (there’s also a second location in Fargo, ND) who have created a perfectly edited collection of things that are just a little whimsical but still very wearable. I immediately honed in on this charm necklace with a hefty little fortune cookie on a chain. It opens! So you can write your own fortune to put inside. I haven’t yet thought of something to put in—THIS one made me laugh out loud because it’s so true—but when I do wear it, people can’t help but reach over and want to open it…such is the power of the cookie.

I you want to find your own fortune necklace, I recommend you try ETSY. I founds some similar ones HERE. And please send me some fortune ideas!


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Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Things I Like: RHUBARB


For me, the true harbinger of spring is not the appearance of daffodils or the sound of sneezing from allergy-sufferers (sorry if you’re one of those people afflicted by the dreaded tree pollen, it seems really awful this year); it’s when my neighbor Rita tells me her rhubarb is in. Rita is my plucky active-senior neighbor who has a phenomenal green thumb. Not only has she lived in the same house where she was born over 80 years ago, but she’s a master-sewer and quilter and grow things like she breathes. For someone like myself, who has absolutely no instinct for keeping things alive that are put in the ground, having Rita next door is a Godsend.


In exchange for my weekly supply of stalks—which grows lushly in several thickets in her backyard—I supply Rita with a portion of whatever dish I’ve made with the rhubarb, which is normally a strawberry-rhubarb crisp. For the rhubarb skeptics—and apparently there are several of you out there—I highly recommend you start with a crisp, which my family eats for breakfast, dessert, and after-school snack (Belle has also been known to eat crisp for dinner). The recipe (see the bottom of this post) is flexible and fun to make because it allows you to be a bit creative. It’s also a good one to do with kids because you don’t have to be a control-freak about measurements. Another recommendation for a crowd-pleasing rhubarb recipe is this Strawberry-Rhubarb Coffee Cake (rhubarb and coffee cake combined, how can it not be next-level good?) shared by my friend Jessica from an old issue of Martha Stewart LivingHERE’S a link.


Then there’s this rhubarb ice cream I had the other day at my favorite ice cream place, The Bent Spoon in Princeton, that was so pretty and flavorful that I want to try and make it at home. I’m going to try this Nigella Lawson recipe to start because it seems simple and purely rhubarb. HERE’S a link.

I feel like the Brits have a better touch with rhubarb than we Yankees do—perhaps because of their affinity for gardening and fruit desserts like fools and jams—so my other go-to guide for using rhubarb is the wonderful English food writer Nigel Slater and his cookbook Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard. Not only does he provide a slew of rhubarb recipes, but he goes in-depth about varieties (apparently there are over 1oo), as well as the history (it’s also known as “the pie plant”), and what ingredients it pairs well with, including: honey, vanilla, ginger, yogurt, almonds, pork roasts and the less obvious ones like mackerel and salmon.

Lately, I’ve been tempted to make more savory and cocktail rhubarb dishes, which I’ve been seeing with more frequency in new cookbooks and magazines, including:

-Rhubarb Rose Gimlet in the new cookbook Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady that includes a rhubarb simple syrup.

-Roast Chicken with Rhubarb Butter and Asparagus in the May issue of Bon Appetit.

-Rhubarb Compote in the new cookbook A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones

But at the end of the day, I’m pretty tied to my crisp recipe (I make at least one crisp a week when it’s in season). The crunchy oat-nut-cinnamon crumble topping, the warm mingling of sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb underneath, just cannot be beat.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and butter a baking dish (I use an oval ceramic gratin dish, a Pyrex dish should work as well, I prefer not to make this in a metal dish).

In a bowl combine: 1 cup thick-cut rolled oats, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup alternative flour (I have used graham flour [my new favorite, Bob's Red Mill makes a version], rye, almond, and whole wheat…all work well), 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, cinnamon (to taste, I like to add a lot) a little salt, and 1/4 cup of chopped nuts of your choice (I’ve used pecans, walnuts, almonds, and cashews). To the oat-flour mixture add 1/2 cup melted butter and then use your hands to make clumps. Place in the freezer while you prepare the fruit. In a large bowl I combine several sliced rhubarb stalks and 2 pints of quartered strawberries (about 3 pounds total) with 2 tbs of corn starch, a 1/2 cup sugar, some vanilla, and a little salt. Pour the fruit mixture into a buttered baking dish, top evenly with the crumble mix, then bake at 375 for 45 min (you might want to place a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil on the rack beneath the rack the crisp is on to catch any bubbling over). Let crisp cool for about 10 minutes before eating (it’s terrific warm but also at room temperature). ENJOY!



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