Wednesday, July 11, 2007


And so, finally, begins my new experiment of trying to add illustrations to my recipe postings. I think it’s clear from these pictures that (a) I have no future as a food stylist, and (b) the lighting in my kitchen is weird. Over time, you will also notice that (c) I do not own chic dishes. But (d), you’ll be treated to many a view of my adored retro-green tile countertops (sure, cleaning the grout is a pain, but I love being able to set hot pans directly on the counter) and old reliable silver Thermador stovetop.

Last night I tried making Flatbread With Asparagus and Spring Onions using Trader Joe’s premade pizza dough instead of the pain-in-the-neck from-scratch flatbread from Cooking Light. It worked like a charm, and it tasted even better than it looks:

I served the flatbread with Grilled Chicken Breasts With Basil and Tomato. I’d always found that recipe just a wee bit boring, but it complemented the flatbread perfectly. With a bowl of peaches and nectarines on the side, it made a very pretty (and tasty, and healthy) meal:

In other news, go and see Ratatouille immediately. I loved it (as did everyone else I know who’s seen it), and it’s a shame it’s not doing as well at the box office as other Pixar movies have. It’s well written, beautifully animated, has cute furry animals, and is a must-see for anyone who loves food. From the scars on the chefs’ hands to the Microplanes to the triumphant moment when (spoiler alert!) the evil critic’s heart melts as he takes a bite of a dish that transports him right back to his childhood, this is a celebration of cooking and eating. And afterward, check out The Smitten Kitchen’s gorgeous re-creation of the movie’s pivotal dish!


I don’t particularly like shrimp. I used to refuse it completely, abhorring the seafood flavor and chewy texture, though now I’ve evolved to a more enlightened I-can-take-it-or-leave-it mentality. But last August I discovered I really like a good shrimp boil. I was staying in a cabin in southern Minnesota with my extended family, and my aunt cooked up a whole mess of corn on the cob, potatoes, sausage, and shrimp in a spicy, beer-laced broth. Washed down with a cold bottle of beer, it was the perfect summer meal, and the most memorable of our vacation (although my happy memory is tempered by the fact that later that evening my mother had to be rushed to the emergency room for a mysterious [but probably non-shrimp-related] malady).

A few months ago, Cooking Light magazine conveniently printed a recipe for Frogmore Stew that almost exactly matched the ingredients I remembered from that happy summer shrimp boil. When my friend P recently decided to host a shrimp boil party at her house (and show Southern-themed movies like King Creole and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), I passed on the recipe to her and assisted her in cooking it for the guests. As we appreciatively devoured our steaming plates of food, I was happy to note that the flavors matched my nostalgic memory nearly exactly. Better still, I’d seen how ridiculously easy it was to make. When A, who’d been out of town, expressed regret about missing the shrimp boil, it occurred to me that this was not some fussy special-occasion recipe, but a simple cooking method that (with the quantities reduced) would make a perfect summer dinner at home.

So on Sunday, I welcomed A back from Indiana with our very own personal shrimp boil. I split the recipe in half, which technically should have made 4 servings, but since I didn’t serve anything else for the meal except watermelon, we managed to eat a bit more than half of it during the first sitting. There was just enough left over for A’s lunch the next day. I accidentally ended up buying my Trader Joe’s frozen shrimp peeled, which probably made it turn out a little tougher than it should have, but it was still tasty. I used three ears of corn instead of two, because I love corn. I was worried the food was going to turn out horribly spicy, because while the crushed red pepper flakes were boiling, they emitted a peppery steam so powerful it made my eyes water and my throat burn, setting me coughing each time I leaned over the pot to add another ingredient. Don’t fret if this happens to you, though—the final product was only mildly spiced, and jn fact, I found myself thinking as I ate that it maybe could have been a little spicier. We used chili powder at P’s because she didn’t have any red pepper flakes (how does one live without red pepper flakes?), so maybe I’ll try adding a little of that next time. Overall, though, this is a trouble-free, casual, decadent-feeling but light meal that I plan on making often throughout the summer. Give it a try, y’all!

3 quarts water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
8 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
4 bay leaves
2 (12-ounce) bottles beer
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered (if they’re really tiny, you can leave them whole)
1 pound smoked sausage (I use chicken andouille), cut into ½-inch-thick slices
4 ears shucked corn, halved crosswise
2 pounds large shrimp, unpeeled (thawed under cold running water if frozen)

1. Bring the first 10 ingredients to a boil in an 8-quart stockpot.

2. Add potatoes and sausage and cook for 12 minutes.

3. Add corn and cook for 4 minutes.

4. Add shrimp and cook for 2 minutes or until shrimp are done.

5. Drain, and discard bay leaves.

Serves: 8
Time: 30 minutes


Pasta with potatoes always sounds like starchy overload, but it sure can be delicious. In this dish, the raw tomatoes and parsley do a great job of brightening the flavor and keeping the food from feeling heavy. The browned potato chunks provide a unique savory, salty, crispy contrast. Although it takes a little time to boil the potatoes, cool them, cube them, and get them suitably oven-fried (especially if, like me, you have a non-functioning broiler—cooking them on the bottom rack at 500 degrees took a little longer, but still did the trick), this is still a really easy recipe to put together, since nothing else (except the pasta) needs to be cooked. The result is a surprisingly summery meal.

2 medium baking potatoes (about 1¼ pounds)
salt to taste
5 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup tightly packed minced fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 medium ripe tomatoes (about 1¼ pounds)
1 pound linguine

1. Bring several quarts of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Scrub potatoes under cold, running water but do not peel them. Add the potatoes and salt to the boiling water. Cook until a metal skewer slides easily into the center of the potatoes, 15–20 minutes. The potatoes should be soft but not mushy. Drain the potatoes and let cool.

2. While potatoes are boiling, combine the parsley, garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Core and cut tomatoes in half; working over the sink, squeeze out as many seeds as possible. Cut the tomatoes into ½-inch cubes, toss with the parsley mixture, and set aside.

3. While potatoes are cooling, preheat the broiler and bring 4 quarts salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta.

4. Cut the potatoes into ¼-inch cubes and toss in a medium bowl with 2 tablespoons oil, plus salt and pepper to taste. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil and spread the potatoes on it in a single layer. Broil, turning several times, until potatoes are golden brown and crisp, 5–7 minutes.

5. While potatoes are broiling, cook the pasta. Reserve ¼ cup of the starchy pasta water, then drain the rest. Toss linguine with the tomato and parsley mixture and most of the potato croutons, adding reserved pasta water as needed to keep things moist. Serve garnished with the remaining croutons.

Serves: 6
Time: 1 hour

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


I haven’t been doing much cooking lately, because A’s out of town for the Fourth of July. I’d envisioned spending my free time during this solitary week in the kitchen, whipping up elaborate delicacies too ambitious or impractical or non-A-friendly to make on an ordinary day. But then temperatures soared into the 90s, and our kitchen faucet clogged again (postscript: it’s fixed now, maybe for good—KNOCK ON WOOD), and suddenly the last thing I wanted to do was spend time in the kitchen. Last night I sweated through the making of a batch of Pasta Ascuitta that I figure will pretty much last me all week, supplemented with some easy sandwiches, salads, and snacks. And pizza, of course. ’Tis the glory of the bachelor life.

Lucky for you, I still have a backlog of recipes to post, so here’s a risotto recipe I’ve had for ages. I think it might be from, of all places, the pedestrian red-and-white-checkered Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. Whatevs, it’s full of cheese and vegetables and totally tasty. Even A, the purported risotto-hater, agrees.

2 cups sliced mushrooms
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup Arborio rice
3–4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
¾ cup bite-sized asparagus or broccoli pieces
¾ cup seeded and diced tomato
¼ cup shredded carrot
1 cup shredded Fontina or Muenster cheese (4 ounces)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil or parsley

1. In a saucepan, bring broth to boiling; reduce heat and simmer.

2. While broth is heating, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms, onion, and garlic until onion is tender. Add uncooked rice and cook, stirring, over medium heat about 5 minutes or until rice is golden.

3. Slowly add 1 cup of broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat until liquid is absorbed. Add another ½ cup broth and the asparagus or broccoli, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add another 1 cup broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed. (This should take about 15 minutes.)

4. Stir in the remaining ½ cup broth, the tomato, and the carrot. Cook and stir until rice is slightly creamy and just tender (add more broth or water and let it be absorbed, if necessary). Stir in cheese and basil or parsley.

Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes