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Rhubarb Galette

galetteWhoa, Spring. Just four weeks ago, Brooklyn was mired in clouds, cold rain, and the dirge of winter that is March in the Northeast. Now the streets are bursting with life. Cherry blossoms and tulips are in bloom, and every patch of sad grass in this city is dotted with crocuses and snowdrops. I’m so thrilled that I’ve started buying fresh cut flowers every two weeks to bring some Spring inside my apartment, like these red ranunculus that have taken up residence in a mason jar.

ranneculusSpring also marks the beginning of prime farmer’s market season. We push aside root vegetables to make way for asparagus, ramps, and of course, rhubarb. It’s a star player in one of my favorite pies (strawberry rhubarb) and it can be deadly (well, only the leaves). It’s like the fugu of vegetables, but much safer.

rhubarbInstead of using it in a pie this past weekend, I put rhubarb in my most successful galette to date. The crust was crisp, but not too crisp. The filling was sweet, but not too sweet. And it all went well with a pint of strawberry ice cream. Continue Reading →

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Colcannon

colcannonI slipped up last Friday, pausing my month-long gluten-free diet for slices of soda bread at my office. We held a bake-off, and as one of three participants, it would have been rude for me not to try my competitors’ bread. Right? That’s how I rationalized it. I was just getting in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit, but I haven’t had gluten since.

When St. Patrick’s Day arrived on Sunday, I couldn’t celebrate with green beer or whiskey, so I chose red wine, beef stew, and colcannon instead. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made with mashed potatoes, milk or cream, kale or cabbage, salt, and pepper. I love the flavor and vibrant green of kale leaves, so I used them instead of cabbage, along with thinly sliced leeks.

kaleAnd did I mention butter? There’s a lot of butter in this dish. If you look at the photo at the top of this post, that’s a whole tablespoon melted in the middle just for serving. It’s all part of the tradition and immortalized in this Irish folk song: Continue Reading →

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Ultra Chocolate Pudding

ultra chocolate puddingI had brunch with friends this past weekend. It was the first time we’d been together in ages, so we went to our favorite spot by the park and ordered plates of French toast and omelets. Over the last few years, some of us have moved far away, some not so far. Careers have begun to solidify. One friend brought their young son who sat at the head of the table in a highchair, teething on coffee creamers and smiling between bites of his pancakes. We were newer versions of ourselves in the same old context, and yet, it felt just as comforting as our lazy Saturday brunches years ago.

Seeing them sent me on a nostalgia bender for most of Sunday, drawing on sources of comfort from years before—indie music circa 2005, old novels, and of course, food. Maybe I was looking for remedies to stress and the dreary end of March, when the Brooklyn sky alternates between gray with clouds and gray with clouds and freezing rain. Maybe I was trying to recapture what I’ve been lacking in recent months: moments when I’m completely at ease.

That’s all to say that I have a pudding recipe for you. It’s a dessert to make on a Sunday afternoon when all you want is to feel content, with a spoon in one hand and a cup of decadent chocolate and fresh whipped cream in the other.

milkI call it Ultra Chocolate Pudding because I increased the amount of chocolate by a third from the recipe I adapted. The result is a thick pudding with a near-custard consistency. Continue Reading →

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Thyme and Parmesan Popcorn

parmpopcornI’m going on day fourteen of my gluten-free experiment. I wish I could say that I don’t feel any different, that cutting cookies and bread and pasta out of my diet has done nothing for my body, but alas. I feel better and lost two pounds. The weight loss is probably tied to just eating less, but my body isn’t as fatigued and my ongoing battle with acid reflux has reached a truce. It could all be psychosomatic, but we’ll see how the rest of the month goes…if I can make it that long without a cookie.

I’m turning to different kinds of snacks in place of sweets that call for wheat flour. Popcorn is my new favorite with different toppings like dried herbs, cheese, cinnamon and sugar, or a handful of peanuts. Tonight I popped a bag of plain, unsalted, unbuttered popcorn and tossed it with Parmesan cheese, thyme, salt, and melted butter.

parmpopcorningredientsI used a bag of Newman’s Own, but did you know you can pop any amount you want in a plain brown lunch bag? Just pour a few tablespoons of popcorn kernels into the bag, fold the top over a few times, and cook it in the microwave for about two minutes. At 50 cents per pound vs. $3.53 for the pre-bagged and buttered kernels, it’s cheaper and healthier. Continue Reading →

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Baking for Katie Fisher Day: Vanilla Macarons

macaronsKatie Fisher baked cookies for her brother Matt every single week he was away at college. She was killed in a car accident in 2010, and to honor her memory, Matt declared March 12 “Katie Fisher Day.” The goal? Get “everyone in the world to follow Katie’s example and send some cookies to someone they love.”

I hope you’ll take part, and if you do, share what you make over at katiefisherday.org.

In honor of Katie Fisher Day, I made cookies for Ramsey. It seems like an easy choice, and there’s no mailing involved, but this man deserves some cookies. He makes me laugh more than anyone and helped pull me out of some stressful times over the past year. He’s also dedicated to his work, exhibiting laser-like focus at his home office desk late into the night while I refresh my Facebook feed for the millionth time.

One of my favorite memories from our trip to France last summer was eating macarons on the steps of the Pantheon, so I made him vanilla macarons with bittersweet chocolate ganache filling. macaronsandchocolateIt wasn’t easy, but the results were worth it. And did I mention they’re gluten-free? Recipe and more photos after the jump. Continue Reading →

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Parmesan Polenta with Tomatoes and Spinach

polentaplatecloseGluten-free March is off to a good start, but I’m already craving wheat. I went to a bar with friends on Saturday, and while everyone ordered grilled cheese sandwiches or burgers with beer, I got an arugula salad and hard cider. Now, I love a salad and cider, but when you’re craving a burger on a brioche bun with a cold, hoppy beer, they just don’t satisfy. I hope the wheat cravings diminish as the month goes on.

To help quash my craving for something warm and wheat-like, I made polenta squares for lunch the next day. It was my first time trying them at home, and I was amazed at how easy they are to make: boil, whisk, pour, cool, cut, broil. And good goodness are they cheap at just $1.75 for a two pound bag of cornmeal. Throw in a can of diced tomatoes, garlic, spices, and a handful of spinach, and you have a meal.

cornmealCornmeal has the color and consistency of a fine sand when it’s dry. Once you add it to boiling liquid and start whisking, it plumps and thickens. Continue Reading →

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Roasted Vegetables with Caper Vinaigrette

roastedvegetables3I’m still working my way through a bag of lemons in the fridge. Lemon curd seemed like an obvious way to use all of them at once, but I’m trying to keep sweets out of the house. A cup of lemon curd would be gone in about 48 hours, spread on scones and spoons for breakfast and afternoon snacks. Using just one lemon for a pan of roasted vegetables was a better option, especially when it was for a recipe adapted (slightly) from Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbook, Plenty.

roastedvegetablesThe recipe roasts root vegetables and tomatoes in stages and then tops them all with a lemon caper vinaigrette.  Continue Reading →

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Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan

arugulasaladSimplify. That’s my mantra right now. After a busy weekend and big projects looming, I’m trying to maintain my calm with quiet nights at home filled with novels and Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports on repeat. The album was designed to bring calm to the chaos of an airport terminal, so imagine the wonders it does for my one-bedroom apartment.

I’m also trying to simplify meals. I want them fast, healthy, and full of bright flavors, so an arugula salad with Parmesan cheese and a lemon vinaigrette was a perfect dinner last night.

lemondressingIt takes about ten minutes to throw all of the ingredients together, giving you the rest of the evening to focus on more pressing things. Like ambient music. Or listening to spider plant leaves rustle by a drafty window. Continue Reading →

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Chewy Granola Bars

granola1Did you know that a box of thirteen custom granola bars costs $38? $38! That’s enough for a reasonably fancy dinner with a cocktail. Or two paperback books. Or a cute blouse on ModCloth. Or anything on BuzzFeed’s list of “27 Way More Awesome Things To Buy With $38 Than Facebook Stock.” In short, too much money for granola bars when making them from scratch takes ten minutes, not counting baking time. You can pick the dried fruit, nuts, and other ingredients you like in the amounts that you like without dropping a lot of money and sacrificing your tastes to a store-bought bar in a box.

But are they healthy? Well, not “healthy” per se, but they taste damn good. My recipe calls for brown sugar, honey, and even the dreaded corn syrup, but you can experiment with other sweeteners and food glues. For example, Mark Bittman uses nut butter and honey to sweeten his bars and hold them together.

granola4My bars do have plenty of dried fruit, oats, and nuts, so at least they have some fiber…right? Have my breakfasts all this week been at least somewhat healthy? Please say yes so that I can continue to eat them at my desk with a smug grin on my face that says, “Yes. I made this myself.” A grin that hides the amount of sugar and corn syrup I used and the fact that I packed the bar in a non-compostable piece of plastic wrap.

I don’t think I’m just talking about granola guilt anymore. Continue Reading →

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Lemon and Blood Orange Bars

citrusbars12I couldn’t eat citrus for most of last winter (ugh, health), but this year, I’m going all out. Cases of clementines last less than four days in my kitchen and grapefruit are my regular evening snack. Hell, I’m even drinking chamomile tea spiked with orange zest.

I’m also back to baking with citrus, and last weekend, I tried something different with standard lemon bars by adding a few tablespoons of blood orange juice. The blood orange toned down the lemon’s tart flavor and gave the custard a pink hue. I think these bars are a great gateway lemon dessert for young or sensitive palates.

citrusbars6Blood oranges are also gorgeous, so any excuse to bring these dark red jewels into your kitchen is a good one, even if they leave it looking like a crime scene. Continue Reading →