Under the Influence of Books: Radishes, Bread, and Castello Cheese

I recently finished reading Molly Wizenberg’s (of Orangette fame) A Homemade Life.  Truly a wonderful book that incorporates Molly’s life stories with some of her favorite recipes.  I’ve scoured the pages several times over, dog-earring most every recipe and plugging it full of post-it notes with dinner ideas.  However, while I have yet to try her Apricot Pound Cake or Butternut Squash and Vanilla Bean Soup, there is one meal she mentions consistently throughout the book that I just simply can’t stop eating:

Crusty French bread with butter, slices of radishes and salt, served with a hunk of blue Castello cheese.

My mouth waters just looking at this.

Anywhosit, there is something so satisfying in crunch of radishes when combined with the slick softness of the butter and the flavor of salt.  Such a simple snack, yet entirely filling.  I prefer double-cream Castello cheese, which I picked up at my local Trader Joe’s.  It’s a Danish blue cheese with a wonderfully tangy taste– strong and pungent, yet deliciously creamy and decadent.  Is wonderful when paired with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

Only problem is, now I have far too many radishes for my own good.  This recipe for Cucumber and Radish Salad with Lime Yogurt looks promising, will update if I do decide to try it.  Until then, I’m content just slicing away.

Cookies Are What Bring Us Together

I don’t really know what came over me.  But there I was, sitting at work on Friday, suddenly overcome with the urge to bake.  I don’t consider myself a baker: I’m a cook.  I excel at the savory, my sweet usually comes pre-mixed in a box.  I can grill, sear, plank, and roast.  Setting, rising, and souffle-ing are not my strong suits.  However, there was this incredible urge to bake cookies, and bake a lot of them.  Inspired,  I promptly “pinged” any of my friends I saw on-line, and asked the obviously rhetorical question: “Would you like a plate of cookies?”

At home that night, I plunked down and whipped up some Oatmeal-Raisin-Chocolate-Coconut and Molasses-Spice cookies.  Then, the next morning, I schlepped my goods around Brookline, Allston, and Natick, surprising my friends with a tray of (hopefully) yummy cookies.

The thing about living in a city is that sometimes you are overwhelmed by just how big it is.  Your neighbors no longer feel like your neighbors, but rather the incidental occupants of surrounding pieces of real estate.  Rarely do we say hi to one another, or pause to inquire how they are.  It’s an unfortunate by-product of the modern city.  I want to know my neighbors.  I want to greet them cheerily on my way out in the morning, and wave to them on the way home in the evening.  I miss the small-town hominess of my upbringing.  And while I don’t believe I can single-handedly reinstate neighborliness back into Boston, New England’s most notoriously aloof city, I’m hoping a simple plate of cookies will at least provide an adequate start.

 

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with Chocolate Chunks and Coconut

(adapted from Mom’s Big Book of Cookies by Lauren Chattman)

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt Continue reading

It’s a Soup-Off!: The Recipes

 

Think Outside the Pot: Two Lids Are Better Than One

Think Outside the Pot: Two Lids Are Better Than One

I haven’t forgotten about you, my foodie friends!  The Famous Souping Throwdown that occurred a few weeks back has finally ridden out its glory.  The competitors have returned from their world-souping-tour (which basically consisted of a victory lap around Allston, MA) and are back behind the buzzing screens of their office computers, slugging back coffee and schilling products for The Man.  However, those memories of a great souping battle are all but gone, with the scars to prove it.  

So apologies for the delay, it just took us some time to get our act together and actually write down our recipes.  It’s hard to quantify and qualify a recipe that, when cooking, is really entirely in your head.  I noticed at the time of the Soup-Off, both of us were relying predominantly on taste and sensation when we were cooking our soups.  For me, a smell or a feel of the soup would prompt an immediate reaction: I’d add something more or decide to put a little less in.  I was so constantly altering and changing my course, that measurements became obsolete.  The Soup-Off confirmed, for me, that soup-cooking is based largely on improvisation.  So, while I will supply our recipes below, you really need to approach cooking them as you would a ball of clay.  Mold away, readers!  Mold away!

I must say, though, I do still feel the warm glow of victory radiating through me.  Hopefully this will help propel me into my next challenge (details to come!).

THE SOUPS:

Alex’s Admirable Submission:  Hot and Sour Soup with Cloudear Mushrooms and Tiger Lily Buds

Becca’s Soup-o’-Victory!:  Southwestern Corn and Crab Chowder

Great Gadgets!: Coming Soon to a Blog Near You, in Technicolor

The bain of my blogging existence, lately, has been the fact that I (a reputable member of the 21st century) do not own a functioning digital camera.  It appears that one too many spills at local watering holes has rendered my generally crummy Samsung snap-and-shoot completely inoperable.

However, I am sick and tired of scouring Flickr (and having nightmares about copyright disasters) for adequate shots of what I talk about in my posts.  Well, folks, that’s all about to change.

Meet my new sidekick:

I’m psyched!

Great Gadgets!: Becca’s New Favorite Pan

Behold:

Today I bought this beautiful pan from my new favorite store in the Boston area: Las Ventas.  Run by the charismatic Luis de Haro, Las Ventas is a Spanish market and deli located in Boston’s South End.  It’s truly a neighborhood treasure, less than a year old, with the most amazing selection of rare Spanish meats and cheeses.  Definitely worth the visit– if you’re in the area, stop by for a drool-inducing Las Ventas sandwich or a strong espresso.  Also of note, next door is Estragon, the tapas bar run by Luis and his brother, Julio.  If I could force myself into this family, I would.

Having not yet given up on my perfect paella dream, I purchased the El Cid Paella Pan, a sack of Bomba Rice, and 4 vials of pure, ground saffron.  I have spent the better part of the past half hour staring at my wares.  I cannot WAIT to try this out.

Luis also gave me his own recipe for paella and his number, as my own personal paella helpline.  It’s moments like this that restore my faith in community; food truly does bring the neighborhood together.

Winter Warmers: Inspirations for the Winter Homestretch

 

photo by lepiaf.geo via flickr.com

photo by lepiaf.geo via flickr.com

 

 

Hello readers!

Boston is still packed under a foot of snow, and as each day passes I gaze longingly at my flip flops still tucked in the recesses of my closet.  I would give anything for a burst of sun right now– for a reason to spring from my desk chair and frolick around the streets of this great city.   And, yes, I do mean frolick.  Because life in springtime is just that joyous.  Also, I am prone to bouts of public dancing.   Hey, I didn’t ask for moves like these.  It was a gift.

Anywho, I know I’ve been promising the Soup-Off recipes– and those will be posted by the week’s end!  You can hold me to that!  However, in the meantime, I wanted to share this post from TheKitchn.com.

I’ve said it before, but I find TheKitchn’s site to be a constant source of inspiration (foodspiration, even, to take a Recipe Key term!), both blog-wise and otherwise.  The vibrant photographs and fresh feel of the site bring a bit of added warmth to my generally sub-20 degree days.  They make me long for late-night evenings spent in my kitchen (because all my evenings seem to be late-night nowadays), plugging away at the stove and teasing a new meal forth from the contents of my cabinet.  And the next time I get to enjoy a meal at home, you can bet I’ll be making this: Velvety Broccoli and Feta Pasta.

Mmmm.  Pasta.

Remember to stay warm and snuggle close!