cranberry pecan muffins

Cranberry muffins in the dead of summer may seem a strange choice, but I discovered some forgotten bags of cranberries in the freezer, and in the interest of not throwing out everything before I move, I decided to do something with them. I also conveniently happened to have some pecans and some buttermilk that was on its last legs lying about, so muffins seemed clearly written in the stars. I made these last weekend, when I was still in the “Hey, I’m moving soon so I should use up this leftover food” stage, rather than the current “JUSTTHROWALLTHEDAMNSTUFFAWAYNOW!!@&#%” stage.

So, “real” moving sucks worse than a lot of things. I made it out of my apartment yesterday, and I have all the aches and pains to prove it today, including a slowly mending pulled back muscle from lifting boxes improperly during a fit of rage at the landlady. I knew I was a messy cook (as my mother noted when I was at home a few weeks ago), but there was stuff splattered on every wall, cabinet, baseboard, door, and appliance (maybe the ceiling too?) in the old kitchen, which I somehow never noticed when I was actually living there. I’ll blame some of them on spilled drinks at parties, but oof, scrubbing each and every one off was not so fun. Now we’re on to stage 2, in which we pack, clean, and move everything out of Mark’s apartment, which will be followed by stage 3, in which Mark drives a big scary moving truck with all of our life’s possessions in it to Jersey City. From there, it all becomes a lot easier (we hope).

In the meantime, this recipe hearkens back to a less stressful stage of moving, when it still seemed worthwhile to do something creative with odds and ends that wouldn’t survive the move, before I became exhausted and vindictive towards all items too troublesome to pack. You may want to save these till autumn, when they will be more in tune with the seasons, but in any event they are lovely and tender, tangy from the buttermilk, tart from the cranberries, and, er, nutty from the pecans (ok, I’ve been “helping” Mark finish off some alcohol while writing this, so my command of adjectives is failing at the moment).  Read the rest of this entry »


goat cheese and summer squash pizza, plus pizza dough

Here’s another recipe using summer squash, since it’s the time of year when markets are overflowing with the stuff. I’m a huge fan of baked goat cheese, so when I saw this recipe awhile ago on SmittenKitchen, I knew I’d be trying it as soon as summer squash were in season.

My love affair with baked goat cheese began in a far away and much cooler clime, when I took a visiting friend to Hall at my Cambridge college, and the starter for the evening was a round of goat cheese on an oat biscuit (the British kind of biscuit), baked. Hall at Cambridge is pretty much like the dining hall in Harry Potter, minus the magical ceiling and floating candles – everyone wears black robes, servers bring out 3-course meals on silver trays, there are stained glass windows and an ornate vaulted ceiling. The food was of good, solid quality most of the time, with the exception of a certain dreaded “assorted crab” risotto, which seemed to go away halfway through my second year there, only to be reincarnated into crab cakes that suspiciously contained all of the same ingredients (minus the rice). Occasionally, the food was truly excellent, as it was the night I had the baked goat cheese (followed by duck with some sort of prune sauce, if I remember correctly). The goat cheese was tangy, creamy, warm and gooey, a revelatory eating experience. At my sad local grocery store, I can only get chèvre, a soft, young goat cheese, not the firmer kinds with rinds, which is what I had in Hall. It is still delicious, especially once it is made warm and creamy through baking. Note the creamy, lightly-browned cheese poking out at the edges of the pizza:

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nutella swirl cheesecake bars

I’m a little obsessed with Nutella. Before I went to GA last week, my mother sent me a recipe for Nutella cheesecake layer bars that she said we must make. The idea of somehow incorporating Nutella into a cheesecake struck me as brilliant and inspired. I would pretty much never turn down a demand to make something involving Nutella anyway, so make them we did, and they were quite good.

I thought of some ways I could improve them, though, so I tinkered with the recipe when I got back to Jersey, and I will now say that if you are a fan of Nutella and cheesecake, it is imperative that you make these. After looking at different cheesecake recipes, I realized that the special ingredient that takes a cheesecake from being good to great, at least for me, is sour cream. It helps to play up the tartness that is in the cream cheese itself, and ensures that that tartness isn’t overpowered by the sugar in the cake. The original recipe did not include sour cream, and I thought that the sweetness of the Nutella canceled out the cheesecakey flavor, which saddened me.

So this recipe is a combination of a basic cheesecake by Dorie Greenspan, a very well-regarded writer of cookbooks, and the Nutella-themed original recipe. It is exquisitely tangy and creamy, with bites of Nutella interspersed throughout. The original recipe called for a chocolate graham cracker crust, and my local grocery store, which consistently fails to have things that I need, did not have any chocolate graham crackers. I used chocolate teddy grams instead, a trick I picked up over here. It does feel a bit sadistic measuring out the little teddies for their food-processor doom. They have faces!  Read the rest of this entry »

linguine with lemon cream sauce and salmon

This is not a great title for this recipe; I wanted to add “and seasonal vegetables” at the end, but that was getting too long. In the version I made tonight, I used zucchini and summer squash; when I make this in the spring, I like to use asparagus, and I imagine that fresh peas and even chopped green beans would also do nicely here. This recipe is something of an original; I found the sauce online, but it wasn’t intended to be a pasta sauce, and everything else was my own little invention. I think it’s a lovely spring/summer pasta that tastes light and fresh, and contains lots of things that are good for you (salmon, vegetables), to make up for the heavy cream.  Read the rest of this entry »

blueberry muffins

Here’s another breakfast recipe involving blueberries (hey, they’re in season right now). Blueberry muffins were one of my favorite breakfast foods as a child – granted, they were always Duncan Hines, and we used to slather on the margarine, before it came out that margarine was evil. These muffins aren’t quite as simple as the ones from the box mix, but they are still a one-bowl recipe. They are definitely superior in taste and texture – they have a tender crumb that is given a little extra flavor by adding lemon zest. They pair very nicely with your morning coffee.

This is the first time I’ve made blueberry muffins with fresh blueberries (since box mixes always include canned berries), and, as you can see from the picture, they turn into lovely bursts of jammy goodness. I got these beautiful berries at the Market on Broadway, which I highly recommend to anyone in Columbus. They had a nice selection of locally produced fruits and veggies, and some tasty-looking baked goods. I’m a bit sad I’ve only just learned about this farmers’ market’s existence.  Read the rest of this entry »

cherry clafouti

I may be posting this a bit late considering that cherries have completed their (all too brief) season here in the northeast. But I thought perhaps they would still be around in other parts of the country, and in any event if cherries are gone for this year, you should plan to try this recipe when they are around again next year. Cherry clafouti (or clafoutis) is classic French peasant cooking. It’s quite simple and easy to make, a lovely dessert of cherries with a sort of pancake batter poured around them, baked in the oven till it becomes a custard. Traditionally, you leave the pits in, as they contribute a subtle almond flavor to the custard (this is because, like almonds, the pits of stone fruit contain the chemical benzaldehyde, which is responsible for almondy flavor). I’m certainly not one to buck a culinary tradition that is in keeping with my own laziness, so I did not pit the cherries when I made this. Now, for some unimaginable reason or other, Mark objected to me spitting out the pits onto the plate we were sharing when we first tried the finished dessert (and, to be honest, I found his caveman-like method of clawing them out with his bare hands rather distasteful myself). So if you plan to serve this for finicky guests, maybe you should pit the cherries before baking. If your guests have a sense of adventure, however, then by all means leave the pits in. Centuries of French cooks and Larousse Gastronomique support you (also it takes less effort).

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