Blueberry Buttermilk Corn Muffins — The Weekender

by in In Season, Recipes, July 26th, 2013

Blueberry Buttermilk Corn MuffinsWhen my husband was little, he and his brother went to spend the night at their aunt’s house. The next morning, she made pancakes for them. Scott thought that the pancakes were studded with chocolate chips, so took a giant stack. Turns out they were filled with blueberries.

Because he wasn’t mentally prepared for blueberries, he spit out the first bite in surprise and yelled “yuck.” His aunt was mightily offended and despite his protestations, made him eat the rest of the stack. He has not touched a cooked blueberry since.

What this means practically is that when I’m cooking and baking for the two of us, I take care to avoid making things that involve blueberries (it’s the nice thing to do). I dearly love a blueberry baked good, however, and so at least a couple times a summer, when blueberries are in season, I make up some treat that my friends and neighbors might like so that I can have all the enjoyment of it without eating the whole thing on my own.

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Slow Cooker Georgia Pulled Pork Barbecue — The Weekender

by in Recipes, July 19th, 2013

Slow Cooker Georgia Pulled Pork Barbecue - The WeekenderWhen I was in my early twenties, I went crazy for slow cookers. At the age when most young women are spending their discretionary cash on shoes or nights on the town, I was saving my pennies for a sturdy slow cooker with a built-in timer and an auto-off feature.

In those days, money was tight (as it so often is in those first years out of college) and so I was always looking for ways to trim my food budget. I took lunches to work, had friends over for dinner instead of going out and turned all my scrap celery leaves, carrot peels and chicken bones into stock.

My fleet of slow cookers made a lot of that frugal eating possible. I regularly used a tiny one to make overnight oatmeal (with a little dried fruit, it was delicious and cheap). I made batches of lunchtime soup in an ancient 4-quart cooker I’d gotten for 75 cents at a yard sale. And I bought tough, unlovable cuts of meat and cooked them tender in my oval 6-quart cooker.

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Roasted Apricots with Mascarpone and Pistachios — The Weekender

by in In Season, July 12th, 2013

Roasted Apricots with Mascarpone and PistachiosOf all the wonderful fruit that comes into season during the summer months, apricots are my very favorite. It hasn’t always been this way. When I was growing up, it was nearly impossible to find truly good apricots unless they came from someone’s backyard tree. As those were pretty darn hard to come by back then, I spent most of my formative years eating terrible, mealy grocery store apricots.

Five or six years back, I discovered just how good a locally grown, never-refrigerated apricot can be. Because I know their season is short, I always order at least half a bushel from one of my local growers. (I get the seconds, because they’re so much cheaper and really, who cares about a few bruises and blemishes?)

Once those apricots are in my kitchen, I spend the next week finding ways to use them up. I make jam. I make chutney. I can them in halves in honey syrup. I eat the ripest ones in just a couple greedy slurps. Once I’ve done all my favorite things, there are still more apricots to be used. That’s when I start digging through my collection of apricot recipes, looking for other things that are begging to be made.

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Panzanella Verde — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, In Season, July 5th, 2013

Panzanella VerdeEach summer I choose a salad that will become my go-to barbecue and party contribution for the season. One year I spent three months making variations of potato salads (my husband really liked that year). The next time around, I declared that it was to be the summer of slaw and ended up shredding cabbage, carrots, beets and kohlrabi well into the fall. The year I got married, I was all about quinoa salads.

I find that I really appreciate having a particular genre of salad to work with each year, as it gives me some structure (always a good thing in a busy life), but also allows me to explore the many different varieties that each kind of salad embodies. There’s a great deal of pleasure in trying on different combinations and seeing how the various flavors mix and marry.

Recently I decided that the summer of 2013 is going to be all about panzanella. This is a traditional Italian salad that stars cubes of toasted stale bread and often features tomatoes and a variety of other crunchy, savory things. It can be made with grilled vegetables, sweet potatoes and even chicken or tofu (I do love a salad that can become a full meal).

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Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken with Harissa — The Weekender

by in Recipes, June 28th, 2013

Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken with HarissaDry, flavorless chicken. It’s something that every backyard griller has faced at one point or another in his or her outdoor cooking career. Once it happens, even an easygoing home cook will start taking extreme measures to ensure that future grilled chicken stays moist.

Some swear by an overnight rest in a seasoned salt brine (much like what is recommended for Thanksgiving turkeys). Others choose to perch a whole chicken atop an open can of beer, thinking that the vapors help keep the bird tender. Truly, there are enough dry rubs, soy-based marinades and tangy sauces out there to fill a small stadium.

Thanks to Alex Guarnaschelli, however, and her recipe for Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken with Harissa, I’ve discovered that you don’t need any of that stuff. All it takes to make a gorgeously tender and burnished grilled chicken is a sturdy pair of kitchen shears, a little bit of yogurt, a few spices and some steady, indirect heat. She also includes a recipe for homemade harissa (a spicy sauce with roasted red peppers as its base) that makes this chicken positively dreamy. The whole thing is easy, nearly foolproof and just perfect for The Weekender.

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Beef and Bean Burritos — The Weekender

by in Recipes, June 21st, 2013

Beef and Bean BurritosBurritos were a staple food during the Southern California portion of my childhood. We made them at home, ordered them at restaurants and kept a few pre-made Trader Joe’s bean and cheese burritos in the freezer for quick lunches and after-school snacking.

Oddly, once we headed north to Portland, burritos fell out of the rotation (replaced, I imagine, by grilled salmon). Still, I’ve always had a soft spot for the burrito.

Recently, while plotting out the next couple weeks of meals, I realized I have a great deal of travel in store during the course of the summer. I’m the primary cook in my household, and while my husband is more than capable of managing his own meals, I like to leave a few homemade things in the freezer for him when I’m going to be away for more than two nights.

So far I have frozen several portions of vegetable-heavy turkey chili, made a couple homemade frozen pizzas and wrapped up half a dozen homemade burritos.

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Striped Bass and Preserved Lemon Dressing With Grilled Carrots — The Weekender

by in Recipes, June 14th, 2013

Striped Bass With Preserved Lemon Dressing and Grilled Carrots - The WeekenderEvery winter I order up a large box of Meyer lemons from California. I make marmalade, lemonade concentrate and a big jar of salt-preserved lemons. I spread the marmalade on toast, drizzle the lemonade concentrate into glasses of sparkling water and stare at the preserved lemons, wondering what the heck to do with them.

And so I search out recipes that feature these lemons. I make a few tagines (a traditional use for these salty preserved lemons). I whiz a few slivers into hummus. And I blend up a creamy salad dressing to eat with tomatoes and avocado. Still, there are more preserved lemons to eat.

Because I always have a jar of these lemons in my fridge just begging to be used, any time I spot a recipe that includes them, I sit up and take notice. The recipe that most recently caught my eye was Ina Garten’s Striped Bass and Preserved Lemon Dressing With Grilled Carrots. It’s a gorgeously simple preparation. The fish is pan-roasted, then settled on top of a sunny pool of dressing that’s made from preserved lemons, mayonnaise and vinegar. It’s fresh tasting and the perfect thing for these summer Weekenders.

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Peas and Potato Soup With Tarragon Pesto — The Weekender

by in Recipes, June 7th, 2013

Peas and Potato Soup With Tarragon Pesto - The WeekenderMost people I know put away their soup pots when summer rolls around. And while I understand the inclination (who wants to heat up their kitchen with a long-simmered thing when it’s 90 degrees F?), I am of the belief that soup is a four-season food.

In my mind, there’s no better way to make quick, easy work of all that garden and farmers’ market produce than with a simple soup. All spring I’ve been making pureed soups with peas, asparagus and sorrel, and I’m happily anticipating the coming glut of tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant.

Those three make a blissful soup when roasted, pureed with a little stock and seasoned with garlic, basil and grated Parmesan cheese. They can also be grilled, if you insist upon keeping the heat out of your kitchen.

I always take note when I spot a good soup for the spring and summer months (I shop for recipes the way other women hunt for shoes). Thanks to this habit of mine, when a giant head of escarole appeared in my first CSA share this weekend (along with parsley, tarragon and spring onions), I knew just where to turn: Rachael Ray’s Peas and Potato Soup With Tarragon Pesto.

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Crunchy Salad With Cocoa Vinaigrette — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Recipes, May 31st, 2013

Crunchy Salad With Cocoa VinaigretteI learned to make basic vinaigrettes when I was in my early 20s. It was my first summer in Philadelphia and I was living alone in my grandmother’s old apartment. She had always been more of an entertainer than a cook, so my inherited kitchen featured every kind of cocktail glass, but not much in the way of durable cookware.

Her library of cookbooks was equally paltry. There was a community cookbook compiled to raise funds for the Philadelphia Orchestra, a coffee table tome from local celebrity chef Georges Perrier and a copy of the The Frog Commissary Cookbook (the Frog and the Commissary had been a pair of innovative Philly restaurants in the ’70s and ’80s that my grandmother had loved).

I found that I never had much use for those first two volumes, but Frog Commissary rapidly became my cooking primer. I turned to it at least once a week for guidance on soups, salads, muffins and desserts. I was most drawn to the 15 pages of vinaigrettes and dressings because the recipes were written clearly and gave me nearly endless options for improving my salads. I learned how to make a basic vinaigrette and how to enhance it with herbs, spices and aromatics. Eleven years later, the things I absorbed from that book stay with me.

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Turkey and Blistered Green Chile Burgers — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Holidays, May 24th, 2013

Turkey and Blistered Green Chile BurgersFor the last few years, my husband and I have been in the habit of visiting friends in Northampton, Mass., for the long Memorial Day weekend. We make the trek from Philadelphia on Saturday morning, arriving sometime in the early afternoon, very ready for several days of catching up, early cocktail hours and lazy meals.

One thing that’s always particularly fun about these weekends is that these friends take their grilling very seriously. We live in an apartment without a stitch of outdoor space, so I’m always excited to have an opportunity to cook outside on a real, live flame (my everyday cooktop is an ancient, soul-less electric stove).

Two years ago we experimented with grilled pizzas (a huge success!), and last summer we cooked up a buffet of sausages, from-scratch veggie burgers and a mountain of grilled vegetables. As our visit approaches, I’ve had my eyes open for new recipes that might work well on their deluxe grill.

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