Tag: The Weekender

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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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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Bobby Deen’s Ricotta Cheesecake — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, April 26th, 2013

Bobby Deen's Cheesecake

My birthday is less than a month away, so I’m in the process of conducting my annual cake audition. I got in the habit of making my own celebratory cake some years back as a way to try out intriguing recipes and to stretch my baking skills a little. In the weeks before my big day, I make a few new-to-me cakes, in the hopes of finding something fun and tasty to serve.

Three years ago, I made lavender-infused cupcakes to take to a party in a friend’s garden. Two years ago, I layered and frosted my way to a triple-decker chocolate cake. Last May, I mixed things up with a strawberry-rhubarb pie. It didn’t hold candles well, but it received raves from my friends.

Recently, I’ve had cheesecake on the brain, so I decided to tackle a few different versions in the hopes of finding a worthy candidate. I started with Bobby Deen’s recipe for Ricotta Cheesecake. I was attracted by the fact that it’s lighter than traditional cheesecake — and it’s easy to put together. It can be made in a single bowl and doesn’t require a water bath to keep it tender.

My tasters and I came to the conclusion that while it’s not indulgent enough for a birthday, it may be the perfect spur-of-the-moment cake for casual gatherings. That makes it just perfect for The Weekender!

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Spring Chicken With Carrots and Peas — The Weekender

by in Family, Recipes, April 20th, 2013

Spring Chicken With Carrots and PeasLike so many American households, we eat a lot of chicken in my little family of two. And, of course, like so many of our fellow poultry eaters, we often fall into a rut and end up making the same four or five recipes over and over again.

Recently, after working our way through another round of the same old roast chicken, I started doing a little searching in the hopes of injecting some fresh inspiration into our routine. I bookmarked recipes for stews, pan-roasted birds and new-to-me marinades.

Because I know her dishes to be pretty darn reliable in the taste department, I started out by trying Rachael Ray’s recipe for Spring Chicken With Carrots and Peas. You begin by browning the chicken in a little olive oil and then turning down the heat so the chicken cooks through.

Once it’s done, you pull the chicken out of the pot and add chopped shallots. Once they’ve cooked and picked up all those gorgeous bits of golden chicken from the bottom of the pan, you add some white wine, carrots and peas. Finally, the chicken is nestled back into the pot. You can serve it immediately, or you can let the chicken stew a bit longer and pick up some of the flavors from the pot.

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Eggplant Parmesan Meatloaf — The Weekender

by in Recipes, April 12th, 2013

Eggplant Parmesan MeatloafThe first time I made meatloaf for the man who is now my husband, he took one look at the slice on his plate and asked, “You call this meatloaf?” And while it was certainly meatloaf to me, it was many moons away from the version he grew up eating.

Mine, which was closely related to the one my mom had always made, featured strands of grated carrots and potatoes running through the ground meat, and it was seasoned with plenty of minced garlic.

His meatloaf of memory was more closely related to the classic version, complete with moistened white bread kneaded in and a baked-on glaze of ketchup and brown sugar. I’m still trying to find an approach that marries our two ideal versions into one harmonious loaf. (I think there might just be deep lessons about life and marriage embedded in this search.)

I’ve actually found that we’re both most-happy when I don’t try to replicate either of our traditional meatloaves but, instead, opt for recipes that do entirely different things with ground meat, binders and seasonings. These days, we’re digging Eggplant Parmesan Meatloaf from Giada De Laurentiis.

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