Thursday, September 1, 2011

The last few weeks haven't been the best in my kitchen; a week of vacation was followed by a week of post-vacation stress and a giant hurricane. Of course, in preparation for said hurricane, I cranked up the temperature in my fridge and freezer in the hopes that if we lost power, things would stay cool for longer. I didn't anticipate the fact that this would freeze everything in my refrigerator, turning a pound of crisp, gorgeous green beans and juicy red peppers into limp, icy garbage. Sad trombone!

I do have some odds and ends to show you, though.

First up... the inaugural edition of Kathryn Brings Lunch to Work!

This is an heirloom tomato salad with mozzarella, a few slices of salami and some quick pickled onions, which are so great on salad. (Or hot dogs. Or anything, really.) To quick pickle onions, I use David Lebovitz's recipe as a guide and whatever seasonings I have on hand. This time I added bay leaf, peppercorns and some red pepper flakes. Yum!

Next up on the decks we have a carrot soup with greek yogurt and bacon-sea salt croutons from Bien Cuit.

I didn't really follow a recipe for this, which ultimately was a mistake. The soup came out thin and not very flavorful. I'd boiled a bunch of carrots in what was probably too much chicken broth with half an onion and a few cloves of garlic, then pureed it and swirled in greek yogurt. Not such a success. Next time, I'll follow an actual recipe, and I'll probably add a stronger flavor like ginger to give the soup some punch. The carrot-crouton combination, though, is a keeper. (And man, are those croutons good!)

Hurricane preparation kit, Cooking Inside the Box style. Netflix, bottled water... and a delicious swiss chard and wheatberry salad. I've been obsessed with wheatberries lately - they're one of the tastiest whole grains out there, chewy and nutty and great warm or cold - and I thought this salad would be hearty enough to stand up to a few hours sans refrigeration. Even though our power never went out, it was still a good hearty dinner for a rainy evening.

For this particular salad, I cooked down a bunch of swiss chard with a bit of onion and some olive oil, then added in two cups of cooked wheatberries, a handful of toasted pine nuts, nearly a cup of golden raisins, more olive oil, balsamic and salt and pepper. I also made another wheatberry salad last week with sauteed baby zucchini, walnuts, mint and goat cheese. Both salads were definitely keepers!

For dinner tonight, I made this corn spoonbread with my four (!!!) ears of CSA corn. I followed this recipe from Real Simple, which turned out good, but not exactly what I'd expected. I think I was looking for something a little bit sweeter - I might add a little bit of sugar next time, and leave out the thyme. It was pretty good anyway, especially alongside roasted chicken with homemade gravy and an easy salad of grape tomatoes and balsamic vinegar.

Finally, my most successful chocolate cake to date:

Two of my closest friends, B. of Sparrows & Spatulas and her husband Matt, are moving across the country, so a few of our friends decided to throw them a going away party. We did it potluck-style, all the better to show off the culinary stylings of some of our very, very talented friends. (Homemade spanakopita? Corn and basil salad? The best jerk chicken I've ever had outside of Peppa's? Yes please!) My contribution was this cake - devil's food cake soaked with salted caramel, layered with whipped chocolate ganache and frosted with a classic French buttercream.

Baking doesn't come naturally to me, but I really love my sweets, and I'd like to get to a point in my life where I make most of my own sugary treats. (Face it, as much as I love to cook, I'm less inclined to whip up a batch of cupcakes on a Wednesday night than I am to just run to the bodega for some Hostess ones.) The dangerous part of learning how to make, of course, is having the delicious results of one's lessons sitting around in one's refrigerator, tempting one out of bed in the middle of the night for just-one-more-sliver. So a party was a perfect excuse to drag out the massive Baking by James Peterson and make something rich, chocolatey and lovely. (NB to anyone using this cookbook: the professional buttercream recipe calls for 1 1/4 lbs. of butter, then tells you that this amounts to 1 1/2 cups of butter. That is not true. The recipe requires 1 1/4 pounds of butter, though if you - like me - err on the side of less butter and only add 1 1/2 cups, your frosting will be runny but fine.)

So we all gathered on our colleague's beautiful penthouse terrace, and we ate each other's food and we had a little wine, and we watched the children play and we watched the setting sun, and we said goodbye to our amazing, wonderful friends. Of course, it isn't really goodbye - it's really more like, in the immortal words of Nelson Muntz, "smell ya later." We know they'll be back to visit! How do I know?

Because, come on. No one can resist another slice of this cake!


  1. holy mother of all things good (and evil), that chocolate cake looks so good! here's where i admit i normally don't go for the chocolate dessert (on a menu or a potluck spread). but that kind of mix of textures, with salted caramel? WINNER.

  2. Emily, it was SO good. I ran into quite a few troubles while I was baking it - I accidentally bought unsweetened chocolate when I really needed bittersweet, the ganache got way too firm and probably didn't whip quite enough, and then obviously the buttercream measurement mistake in the book, which lead to very, very soft frosting until it had chilled overnight... but mistakes be damned, this thing was delicious beyond my expectations.

  3. Great pictures... when are you going to come down to NC so we can collaborate on a meal??

  4. ...and for the record, the artist is always the most critical of his/her work.

  5. Just saw this...whaaaa... miss you. that devils cake was second to NONE! xoxo