Wednesday, August 27, 2008

i made butternut-sage dumplings

several months ago melissa and sarah and i made these, and they were delicious, and a lot easier to make than i expected. we tried them fried, steamed, and simmered in a light brothy soup. simmering turned out to be (in my opinion) the best way to cook the wrapper so that it didn't overpower the filling, which was both delicate and savory -- light and lemony and grassy and creamy.

then a couple weekends ago sarah brought home an early butternut squash, and although i love butternut squash i am not ready to cook like autumn is approaching. so we split it lengthwise and scooped out the seeds, gave it a brushing of olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt, and put it face-down on the grill. can't get more summery than the grill. we had a great summer dinner on our new patio in our new-old patio furniture -- skewered vegetables and grilled onions and spiced sausages and my favorite mustard -- and then we checked on the squash halves and they were beautiful, tender and caramelized and striped with grill marks.

we brought the squash inside and peeled off the skin, then mashed it and tasted it different ways. it was great plain with cayenne, great with butter and white pepper. then we moved on to bigger and better things: butternut dumplings.

we improvised -- chopped sage and thyme fresh from our garden, some ricotta but not too much, lemon zest and a bit of lemon juice, salt and a little minced shallot. it tasted really good -- delicate and savory, just like the pea filling -- but with that burnt-sugar warmth in there too, not too delicate to stand up to a good dumple-ing.

to make a long story short: they were really good. and the leftover filling was awesome for lunch the next day, stirred into some spaghetti with olive oil and black pepper. i love improvised successes, and i love multi-talented food. sorry we have no pictures of the dumplings -- but anyhow the best part was on the inside.

Friday, August 15, 2008

i made an apricot tart

prologue: spaz-proof tart crust

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
¾ tsp. salt
9 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 Tbsp. ice water mixed with ¾ tsp. apple-cider vinegar

whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. cut in butter and rub together until the mixture is a coarse meal -- very small lumps are ok. gradually add water/vinegar combo, mixing until moist clumps form and you are able to squash them together. don't overmix. if the dough is too dry, add more cold water bit by bit. (i live in dc, where the insane humidity meant my dough clumped up right away and ended up too wet and sticky after just the initial 4 Tbsp of water. but it still turned out fine. i mean it -- spaz-proof.)

shape dough into a disk about 1.5" thick. wrap in saran wrap and chill, at least 2 hours and up to a couple days. allow to return to room temperature before going at it with a rolling pin.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

dirty-sounding update

so my stupid sticky dough was chillin in its plastic wrap. in the meantime, sarah informed us that she had gotten published in a pretty major journal for her field, from the research she was doing in the lab at university last year, so we decided she should celebrate. rule one of sarah's night was that nobody could talk about paladins after 8pm. hellz yes. then her plan to make bananas foster fell through because, it turns out, dc prohibits the sale of hard liquor on sundays. wtf guys, we're not in the south ok. but she did find champagne, and jake made champagne mojitos with our mint, and jim made nachos with lots of beans and chipotle sauce, and then jake's friend mark came over and they made gazpacho which was also topped off with champagne (so tasty), and now jake is cooking up chorizo to make sausage tacos.

huhhuhuhuh. sausage. taco. sausage taco. huhuhuhhuh.

okay so i just ate one. fucking delicious.


(a day in (my life in)) food

(not my picture... sorry, i know i suck)

this morning we woke up late but still wanted to go to the dupont farmer's market. lately i have avoided buying much produce because our vegetable dropoffs can be overwhelming as it is. but i really wanted apricots and was worried that i was going to miss the season entirely. i also was worried that the metro would get us there at closing time, so we took the car, the boy and jake and i.

we had to stop for gas and picked up coffee and donuts while pumping; then i had a sugary stomach-ache. we ended up parking kind of far from the market, which meant we got to walk along the very southern tail of rock creek park -- it was bright and hot but there was a lively breeze -- and i saw the creek and some sunbathers and children. it was lovely but also made my heart ache for sun and water. summer is almost over, isn't it?

anyway, our take included:
.tomatoes -- three heirloom varieties, a red lumpy one and an orange kind with funny horns and some small green variegated ones. mostly because sarah asked me to get her some (the farm has been bringing one or two a week already). 2 pounds, $4 per pound.
.beets -- regular, purple, nothing fancy. the stall was having a close-of-market sale, two bunches for $5.
.apricots -- which turned out to probably be the last of the season, judging by how few i saw. damn. freaking $8 for a quart-sized carton.
.blackberries -- damn expensive but they reminded me why i ever thought blackberries were my favorite berry so long ago: huge globules of juice clinging to one another, threatening to burst open at a glance, tasting like they had been macerating in a bowl with sugar. $7 for two tiny half-pint cartons. but then, i guess that's not even as bad as those shitty $3.99 half-pints of sour gritty grocery store berries.

jake also got hot peppers; sweet peppers; cucumbers; more tomatoes; and a three-pound slab of pork belly that he intends to slow-cure, braise and sear. (i know: whoa.) and we tried for cheese but the fresh mozzarella guy had sold out much earlier, the goat cheeses were too expensive for my blood, and the camembert lady told us she'd had to throw out three weeks' worth of product lately because "the pH was all wrong". sad.

when i got home i went to water our garden. i trimmed dead leaves off our basil and tomato plants, checked for exciting growth on the squash and found none, overwatered our mint and sage and rosemary and thyme, and came back with welty mosquito bites and dirt up to my elbows and water all over my face and bunches of lettuce and a dozen hard-won carrots. those fucking carrots were so packed together that uprooting the larger ones required grunting and sweating and digging, digging not so much through dirt as through other carrots.

the lettuce was more bitter than it ever has been, because apparently hot weather makes lettuce bitter. oh. so i cooked it down like southern greens -- with vinegar and hot sauce and sugar and salt. still tasted funny, so i ate it over leftover rice and a can of red beans that i opened, rinsed and simmered briefly. amusingly, put together like that it was actually all pretty satisfying.

then i started a dough for an apricot tart. it is way too soft and sticky, i have no idea what is going to happen once the chilling stage is over.

my life is really amusing sometimes. so freaking precious. but i love it. hey, let's talk about riding our bikes to work! community supported agriculture, microbrews, stuff white people like! etc. fuck you, i still love it.