Over the last few weeks I’ve become increasingly annoyed by the number of people talking about summer drawing to a close, the fall catalogs piling up at my door, and Halloween candy appearing in the grocery store. I wanted to scream, “No, summer is not over! There’s tons of summer left!” But now that August is almost over and Harvard Square is suddenly getting a lot more crowded with students returning, I’m starting to begin to come to terms with the fact that summer is coming to a close. Yes, I am almost ready to bring myself out of denial. But not yet, because it’s still summer, dang it. And as much as I love fall, it’s followed by another season that in Boston involves a lot of a certain four letter word that I refuse to think about now.
Cherries are one of my favorite things about summer and I usually just eat them straight up. And as much as I really, really love fresh, unadulterated cherries, I suddenly feel like an expiration date is drawing near on my supply and it’s been inspiring me to do more than just pop them in my mouth. I started off with the cherry almond muffins, and with Jessica and Adam visiting us last weekend, I knew I wanted to try something else with cherries. Adam loves cherries almost as much as I do and we have a family tradition of Belgian waffle brunches, so cherry compote seemed like the perfect, well, cherry on top.
In addition to the two cakes I made for the bridal shower, I also made an onion jam. Actually, no, Joseph made it and I stood around and tried to be useful. When I did step in to help, my reward was a splatter of oil and butter jumping straight from the pan to my hand. It was all in the name of some really yummy jam, so it was totally worth it.
I had been craving onion jam ever since seeing an French Onion Tart on the Food Network. I love caramelized onions and Joseph is a master at making them (coming soon, some tips on caramelizing onions). With the two cakes and a punch I was also making, I took a shortcut and decided on just making onion jam and getting some bread from the local bakery. I saw a few recipes that looked good, but when I came across this recipe on Cook’s Illustrated, the recipe browsing came to a screeching halt. Fresh thyme, rum, and caramelized onions? No, there was no need to keep looking.
Whew, this has been one crazy long weekend! When we weren’t busy seeing friends and family, running errands (including multiple visits to grocery and liquor stores), we were in the kitchen cooking. Trust me, you’ve got lots to look forward to in the coming days!
Joseph e-mailed me at work earlier last week telling me that he wanted to make some oven baked fries and a ligher, healthier aioli. I wasn’t going to argue with him. And let me tell you, he was a man obsessed. He picked up some potatoes before he picked me up at work on Friday and was ready to go home and make them right then and there as an appetizer to the pizza that we were going to make. These may be healthier fries and our homemade pizza may be healthier than a the pizza joint down the street, but I don’t know if the two of these things together is so healthy. I told Joseph he was welcome to make the fries, but I was heading to the back porch with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. And you know what? He decided to wait another day and joined me on the porch. And then another day became another day, and then another day, but today Joseph finally got to make his fries. And I have to admit, they were definitely worth obsessing over!
When we did finally get to the fries, I suggested that Joseph try the nice OXO mandoline that we got for Christmas but still hadn’t used. He sort of shrugged it off, but then came back to look at it and then decided against it once again. I told him he could go ahead and cut up all the potatoes by hand if he wanted, but what did he have against the mandoline? Turns out he just didn’t want to learn how to assemble and use it. He later admitted that the 5 minutes that it took him to figure it out was definitely worth the 10 minutes it saved not having to cut up the potatoes by hand. The mandoline is frankly nothing short of magical. It comes with a little handle thing to spear your food so you don’t have to hold it as you glide it over the razor sharp edge (I rather like having all my fingers) and just a few swipes and your potato goes from spud to beautiful pile of perfectly shaped fries! I’m just sad we’re just now using it. It was the winner in America’s Test Kitchen’s mandoline equipment test (and doesn’t cost $200 like the other one they loved), so we should have realized how easy it would be to use and enjoy.
Oven baked fries are often kind of soggy and less fun than fries from the deep frier. Joseph went to Cook’s Illustrated to find out how to make the perfect oven baked fries. (I know, here I go again. I promise, I don’t get any kickbacks from Cook’s Illustrated or America’s Test Kitchen, I’m just obsessed with them because they are right about everything). First, soaking the potatoes in hot water before cooking them removes some of the starch. Next, Cook’s Illustrated recommends letting the fries cook covered in the oven for five minutes so they can steam, and then letting them cook 20 – 35 minutes uncovered in the oven till they’re crispy and golden. Continue reading
True to form, I’ve told you about dessert before dinner. What can I say, I was really excited about that key lime coconut cake! But the dinner definitely held up to the dessert that followed. We didn’t really have any plans for Easter dinner, but wanted something that was easy and celebrated spring. We had planned to make an asparagus and bacon quiche with a goat cheese and strawberry topped salad, but things took a turn when we got to the Whole Foods and saw that Vermont Smoke and Cure had a table set up with a bunch of different samples. We love their pepperoni but had never tried any of their other products. We both tried the ham, took one look at each other, nodded, and I picked out the smallest ham they had while Joseph returned the quiche ingredients that we no longer needed.
I hadn’t even known that ham was a classical Easter dish until about a week ago. I have no real memory of Easter dinner growing up. My Easter memories revolve entirely around the chocolate cake with green coconut grass and peeps that my mom made, and the absolute best Easter egg hunt you could imagine. Our good family friends had a cabin in the Shenandoah’s and we would all head out there for the weekend. After a hearty scrambled egg breakfast, we would venture out into the woods where the “Easter Bunny” (aka our fathers) had hidden eggs. As the youngest, Stanley and I would get a head start before our older sisters raced past us and got all the eggs in the higher branches.
The eggs were a mixture of hard boiled eggs that we had dyed the day before and plastic and metal (yeah, really old school) eggs filled with candy. After we scoured the woods for eggs, we would sit on the floor, decide who had won the biggest loot prize, and commence trading of candy for our favorites. Every year there was a “winner” of the special egg: a plastic egg with a carrot or piece of broccoli in it to the great delight of our mothers. We were considerably less amused. Continue reading