Thursday, August 09, 2007


No recipes for you! Oh, the shame. Here I’ve been merrily cooking up a storm and utterly failing to document it. If it’s any consolation, I’ve barely even tried anything new over the last month. When hot weather strikes, all my culinary adventurousness goes right out the window and all I want is easy, familiar, reliable fare. Nothing that requires me to use the oven for longer than 20 minutes or stand over a glowing stove, or break into a hot sweat of panic about whether the recipe will lead me astray. If I could make pizza and BLTs and corn on the cob and hummus every week, I would—oh wait, I practically do.

I have been craving vegetables like you wouldn’t believe, and every week when I go to the farmers’ market I come back loaded down with more and more produce. I’ve had to start bringing a second canvas bag to tote all my purchases, and last week I even had to make an extra emergency stop at my car so I could drop off the heavy corn, potatoes, onions, zucchini, and peppers I was carrying and then go back to the market and get all the other things I needed. I just can’t help myself; it’s that magical time of the summer when everything seems to be in season at once—the summery things like strawberries and watermelon and tomatoes and peaches, but also the fallish things like bell peppers and squash. In particular, I’m utterly addicted to heirloom tomatoes. They come in such an array of pretty colors and charmingly deformed shapes, and with their meatiness and flavor they put all the “normal” tomatoes to shame. For some reason, our farmers’ market is deficient what I think of as good regular tomatoes, those big meaty red beefsteaks I grew up on in Minnesota; even during the height of tomato season, the non-heirloom tomatoes persist in resembling grocery-store tomatoes: suspiciously small and round and regular, hard, practically hollow once seeded, and anemically average in flavor. Is this a California thing? Like the fact that everyone sells the bland white corn on the cob instead of the candy-sweet yellow (there’s only one stand in the entire farmers’ market that has the tasty yellow-and-white “peaches and cream” corn that’s everywhere in Minnesota)?. I don’t get it.

It’s not really a recipe, but I did invent a delicious new creation inspired by the divine heirlooms and Trader Joe’s endlessly useful premade pizza dough. I whipped up some pesto in the blender, spread it over the rolled-out dough, covered it in sliced yellow and red tomatoes, baked it until the crust was browned and crisp and the tomatoes were roasty, and then topped it with slices of fresh mozzarella and baked it until the cheese melted. Heaven! But did I remember to photograph it? No, I did not. I’m still struggling to get pictures of my food before it’s scarfed up or turned into unphotogenic leftovers. I have, however, at least managed to add photos to two of my archived recipes:

Potato Casserole With Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Baked Penne and Tomatoes (which is even awesomer with mixed heirloom tomatoes, I’m happy to report)

The other thing I’m obsessed with is, inexplicably, baking cookies. It may be 95 degrees in Pasadena, yet I’m craving sweet melty baked goods fresh from the oven, fiendishly plotting which recipe to try next. In the past few months since acquiring my KitchenAid mixer (and better baking sheets and now silicon baking mats), I’ve baked a whopping 7 kinds of cookies. I’m too lazy to post all the recipes, but here are some capsule reviews.

From Carole Walter’s Great Cookies:
Chock Full o’ Crispies (coconut, oatmeal, nuts, Rice Krispies, all of which I love; I’d definitely make them again, especially when I need a break from chocolate)
Chocolate Coconut Devils (my current gold standard for best cookie ever)
Chocolate Sugar Snaps (bakery-quality great, not something I’ll need to make again and again, but perfect when you want straight-up chocolate)

From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours:
Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops (unique, and certainly tasty, but too sweet for everyday eating and not as malty as I’d hoped)
Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters (a good taste combo, but not a recipe I’ll repeat when there are so many others to try)

From Abigail Johnson Dodge’s The Weekend Baker:
Soft Chocolate-Almond Oatmeal Cookies (unique, soft and almost cake-like, with a gentler chocolate presence and nice almond flavor; they were certainly worth trying, but I quickly tired of eating them and still have a dozen or so sitting abandoned in my freezer)

From Nestle Toll House:
Chocolate-Chip Cookies (by request, for Carpool J’s birthday; they didn’t turn out exactly the way I like them, but they did remind me that plain old chocolate-chip may still be one of the best cookies ever)

Luckily, I’ve found that I like giving cookies away to friends nearly as much as I like baking them and eating them myself, so A and I haven’t been consuming all of this output singlehandedly. In fact, I think I’ve been downright restrained. I won’t lie—I love having a supply of cookies around the house (I’ll either eat them straight out of the freezer after dinner or slip one in my lunchbag to gradually defrost as a workday pick-me-up). But my appetite is more for the experimentation than for the sheer quantity of cookies. I want to try making as many different recipes as possible, just for the fun of making them and tasting the various combinations of flavors. (You may have noticed there are a few keywords that will lure me in to a cookies recipe every time, including almond, coconut, and oatmeal. Maybe I’m searching for that perfect recipe that will combine all my favorite flavors into one perfect whole.) Anyway, I’ve got a big stack of delicious-sounding cookie recipes still to try, so stay tuned….

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