Thursday, August 26, 2010

corn with feta, cilantro, and lime

corn with feta, cilantro, and lime

Quick, quick, make haste! Rush to the market this weekend and grab some corn – there’s still some left! We’ve a few precious summer weekends left and then, it’s autumn. Sundresses will be replaced by sweaters; sandals – by boots. I’ve been eying some corduroy pants and scarves. I’m going to learn how to wear scarves in that carefree, insouciant manner that suggests that I have style. My iced tea will yield to hot cider and piping hot coffee. There will be lots of soup coming out of the Sassy Radish kitchen, so get ready. I’ve got plans, people, and I mean to see them through.

At the market, things will change as well. Berries will make way for apples, pumpkin and squash. There will be some late harvest tomatoes and, eventually, root vegetables. And I’m excited for it all, but I know, for a fact, that there are a few summer dishes I am going to miss. But this corn – this corn I could eat every day.

husking

The best thing about eating around the seasons is that you learn how to properly miss a specific food. You savor it better, celebrate each time you spy it at the farmer’s market, run back home with your loot and lay it out on your kitchen counter. I make an exception for tomatoes. If they were in season year round, I would be in heaven. Part of the reason you don’t see many tomato recipes around here, is because they almost never make it into a cooked dish. I devour them whole, sprinkled with a little bit of salt, eaten with a rustic piece of bread.

But today is not about tomatoes – it’s about corn. Sweet, warm corn sauteed in a bit of cream, and tossed with some feta, cilantro, and mint, and then brightened with lime juice. It’s really, unbelievably good, and is delightfully unfussy. Which is sort of the best thing about produce at the peak of season. You need to do so little to make it shine.

12 ears of corn

When I served this at one of the suppers on Sunday, we had a few visitors over: Andrew’s younger brother and friend from Chicago. Andrew’s friend, after chewing a few forkfuls, proudly declared that this was the best corn he ever had, and then reached for a second helping! And he’s from the midwest – where people know their corn. Frankly, I also thought it was pretty good. So good in fact, that it might be my favorite summer way to eat corn, outside the traditional on-the-cob method.

feta, cilantro

I’m hoping to make it again this weekend as a sort of a last hurrah to summer and to corn. Were I not completely and hopelessly in love with fall and its bounty, I would be sad, but I am excited in anticipation of what the next season will bring. I’ve made a list of things I want to make – a list that far exceeds the number of days in the season itself, but that’s a rather high quality problem to have. I’ve a few more summer meals coming my way, and I will savor each and every bite.

sauteeing the corn

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Monday, August 23, 2010

peach shortcake

peach shortcake

And the kitchen counter was covered in flour. As was the kitchen floor. And my face. And my hair. And shhhhhh, parts of my camera! Oh recipe development, you are a mess-maker! Not that I didn’t know that. But I think the chaos created in my kitchen was of an unprecedented level. And I can’t wait for more.

fragrant summer peaches

That’s a peach shortcake above that you see. I figured that because I like shortcake (and I’m not alone in this, am I) I shouldn’t be limited to just strawberry shortcake. We’ve got but a short window when strawberries are in season and after that, it’s just not the same, though with a little sugar and balsamic, there are miracles to be had. But, still, the season is woefully short, especially if you love strawberries as much as I do. Or shortcake for that matter. And last time I checked, there wasn’t a soul in the world who was going to (willingly) refuse shortcake: all that butter and whipped cream? Yes, please. Thus, I decided to extend the shortcake idea well into the summer months, when stone fruit, such as peaches, comes in full swing at my local farmer’s market.

shortcake mise

By now you probably know that I have this unabashed love of rustic dessert. If you ask me to choose between a chocolate tart and a chocolate bread pudding, inevitably, the bread pudding will win almost every time. Crumbles, buckles, brown bettys, slumps, spoon cake, pudding cake, buttermilk everyday cake – hold my attention more than their fancier cousins. The dessert, I’d want to eat in my pajamas, on my couch on a quiet evening; kind that looks better messy than perfectly composed.

Shortcake biscuits benefit from fruit that has been allowed to steep in its juices, usually facilitated by the addition of sugar. On its own, the biscuit is dry and crumbly, but ladle some fruit with some sugary juices in the middle of a halved biscuit, and a few minutes later, the fruit begins to penetrate the crumbly surface. Peaches, especially right now, tend to run on the sweet side, so I add a tiny bit of lemon juice to up the tartness just a bit. Mixed with a few spoons of sugar and left alone, the peaches transform into a lovely uncooked compote of sorts.

crumbly and mixed circles

I originally wrote up this recipe, upon Jennie’s invitation, for the Cuisinart blog as a guest post. I’m not sure when the post is going up, but I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you. I tested the biscuit recipe and came up with something that can either yield a more rustic and chewy biscuit, or a more traditional crumbly one, depending on what you want to do. So I’m offering you a whole wheat and an all purpose versions here. With this exercise alone, I have found new respect for coming up with new baking recipes – testing batches, adjusting your ingredients, is nothing to scoff at. Not that I ever did. But the process can be laborious, intense, at times frustrating – but in the end, if you are patient and persistent, immensely rewarding.

shortcake
blanched! nekkid peach

This upcoming Sunday, I’m embarking on testing chocolate cake recipe for cupcakes I’m making for a friend’s wedding in October. I’m going to enlist Andrew and a part-time photographer to capture the messes and the hands-on details. Operation “Wedding Cupcakes” is about to commence. I see flour everywhere. Brace yourselves.

chillin'

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

tomato and onion salad

tomato & onion salad

I’m gonna make this one brief; there’s little time. Work has been busy, but I want to post more and give you guys more recipes. And yet I’ve barely any time to type up the recipe, never mind edit the photos and write a few words outside of the cooking instructions. It’s strange to be so busy in August, because August, by my calculation, shouldn’t be busy at all. It should be slow and languid and hot. Well, it got one out of three down, but yowza, August, wanna slow down for me a bit? Just enough for me to catch my breath?

tomato & onion salad

Though to be fair, we did finally get a few cooler days in New York and the weather has grown, as I like to call it, more civilized, at least for the time being. I no longer arrive to work covered in sweat, which is a bonus, not only because it’s sort of gross, but more importantly because the minute I get in to work, I’m hit with such cold temperatures, I should have furry boots under my desk. You get that much colder when you’re sweaty. Thank goodness for that oversized fleece I keep nearby. Still, cooler temperatures and all, it’s still plenty hot out there.

tomato & onion salad

This is a recipe I did for the Real Simple’s blog, Simply Stated, a few weeks ago when they asked me to put together a three ingredient recipe that was perfect for summer months. Barring your usual caprese and prosciutto e melone ideas, I wanted to give you something that was actually a bit revelatory. I know three ingredients sound a bit like cheating, and to be honest with you, I was a little afraid putting this in front of you, except, you see, this recipe here, that’s one of those things I ate as a child by huge bowlfuls. Were you to give me a small shovel in place of a spoon, I would have been even more pleased. Every time I make this, I am, at once, at my grandmother’s for the summer, two hours away from Moscow, surrounded by lush farmland and dense Russian forests.

tomato & onion salad

I know this salad looks so simple, that it’s almost a non-recipe, but I’m okay with that. I’m not trying to pull a fast one on you. This is seriously amazing, delicious, and sings a glorious ode to summer and to tomatoes, which are everywhere right now. These particular tomatoes here come from one of my favorite local farms, but good tomatoes can be found anywhere this time of year. I like make this salad for dinner and eat it with thick slices or rustic sourdough bread. It takes minutes to make, it’s beyond addictive, and it allows tomatoes to really shine. I particularly love the bite of the onion here as it accents the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes. Plus, when was I able resist anything with sour cream in it? Exactly – never.

tomato & onion salad

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

gazpacho

gazpacho

Goodness, folks, where did you come from? You are just about the most amazing bunch of people, you know that? I give you boyfriend news, and you send me the internet equivalent of a hug and a squeal; I send an online video your way – and you’re all support and glee! How did I luck out with you as an audience? I must’ve done something right!

I want to take a minute and just say something here (all the while you look at these amazing tomatoes) about the internets, and friendship, and taking chances, and following your gut. I want to take you through a little exercise, on a journey of linking events. Last summer, I had just moved to Brooklyn and as I was settling into my apartment, I was also ordering kitchen goodies to fill out my new, shiny, spacious kitchen (I am still pinching myself that I have a kitchen like this, in a rental, in NY, but I digress). I had accidentally ordered two cherry pitters and was “complaining” on Twitter about my lack of attention to detail and whatever would I do with two pitters? Enter Jennie, who is one of my dearest friends now, who half-jokingly responded, I’d be happy to take one off your hands and refund you the cost. And I wrote to her, look since we’re in the same neighborhood let’s meet up and I’ll give you the pitter. Free of charge. Because, they are, like, $12 and charging you for that would just be silly. Right? Right.

scooping out the tomatoes

So Jennie and I, two perfect strangers, outside of being Twitter buddies, met up at One Girl Cookies for a coffee and a pitter drop-off. Jennie, and this tells you about the kind of person that she is (and that kind is amAzing!), brought me some tomato jam she had made earlier (which I promptly ate in one sitting with one of those gigantic spoons you see in pictures here) because she liked sharing as much as I did and because Jennie, at heart, is a mom. But mostly because Jennie looks to seeks out individuals such as herself that she can build communities with. Jennie, at her core, is a builder and a nurturer.

o hai, am a little piece of crustless baguette!

Something about that meeting, maybe it was our candor, maybe it was our similar sense of humor (dry, sarcastic) that sort of sealed the bond between us almost instantly. I call her my neighbor-sister-in-crime. I’m not sure what she calls me, but I’m sure it’s something nice. But we’ve become fast friends because we took a chance and we had a good gut feeling. Now, fast forward a few months to late fall and the Bon Appetit bake-off. Jennie had mentioned that her friend Alice, of Savory Sweet Life was coming to town. Jennie had roomed with Alice at another conference, and Jennie, who’s a keen judge of character, thought Alice was kind, sweet, and joyous. After Alice and I exchanged a few emails about hotels in New York and their respective costs, I quickly realized how quickly everything in New York can add up. I knew Alice had three kids, and that money could and should be spent on them, and I offered Alice and her husband my place to stay. I didn’t think much on it, nor did I contemplate the matter that long.

scooping out the tomatoes

I suppose it’s a little odd to invite people you’ve never met to stay in your home. I suppose it’s also a little odd when someone you’ve never met before offers you their place to stay. You might start doubting that person’s sanity. Home is a very personal thing. It’s your haven, your cocoon, your place of rest and protection. After a bad day, home envelops you, holds you close. Home offers things like soup and stews and blankets and warm cups of tea. And if you’re anything like me, then you’re a bit of a homebody, and like to spend your evenings curled up with a book on the couch, the television softly on in the background. But even though I treasure my home, I also understand that for a lot of people, coming to New York is a huge financial burden. Especially if you have children.

scooped!

I’ve grown up in a very “open” house so to speak – people came and went, and we always had someone over. By nature, Russian culture is very communal: people’s accomplishments and contributions are measured through their involvement with families and communities. Little premium is placed on being an individual, whereas in the American tradition we are reminded of the “rugged individualism”. In America you are encouraged that you must push your limits, that ceilings exist only to be broken, that your inner voice should be the strongest one.

mashing the garlic into a paste

Growing up with these two cultures, I am an amalgamation of both views, depending on the situation. I am very “Russian”, I suppose when it comes to sharing my space, as I love to have people over, love to host them and don’t feel annoyed when hungry friends show up unannounced. So sharing my home with Alice seemed natural. Something in my gut told me I should take a chance and had I not listened, I wouldn’t have met Alice and become friends with her the way that I have. Had I not arranged to meet Jennie for coffee, who knows if she and I would have grown to be so close? I am grateful for these opportunities, grateful that I have people at my table eating, and grateful for all of you. It’s nice to have you here, at my virtual table, even though I can’t feed you directly, I can pass these recipes on to you.

food processor, i love you

So how does this sop tie into all this? Well, I made it a few weeks back for a Sunday supper for some folks we had over for dinner: Andrew’s younger brother and an out-of-town friend. There we were, gathered around a table on a Sunday evening, ushering in a new week. And also eating this soup, among other things. And that’s what I love the most, a house full of people, eating and laughing together. I think this is the single reason I cook – to me it’s an expression of love, of family, of community. I started cooking in earnest when I felt uprooted and disconnected from home, and didn’t know where I belonged. A kitchen gave me a home.

what summer means to me

Now, about this soup, I can say nothing less than the following: Universe, this is my favorite summer soup hands down! It is summer in bowl in all its tomatoeness. It’s fresh, it’s cold, it has a bite of garlic and a brightness of vinegar. It is the also one of the easiest things to make and somehow manages to look really sophisticated and impressive. It got me thinking that these would be perfect served at party in tiny shot glasses. Easy to consume, delicious, and leave you wanting more. Everyone at the table wanted seconds, which made my heart sing. Needless to say, there was nothing left for the following day.

hang on, little tomatoes!

So this soup, and this is my long-winded way of telling you this, is for all of you. You who come to read for the stories. You who come just to look at the pictures. You who cook from this site and send me feedback. You who’ve stumbled here by accident and decided to stay. My favorite soup of the season – is for you. I hope you like it, and thank you for being here.

mile end delicatessen mile end delicatessen

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Friday, August 13, 2010

couscous, corn, and mushroom salad

couscous salad with corn and mushrooms

Last week was a bit of a whirlwind, and I’m still recovering. Darting between work and blog events and friends’ birthdays can sure be exhausting. I’m dreaming of a beach chair with an umbrella drink and hours upon hours of reading. Alas, a vacation is but a few months away, so I must comfort myself with periodic lazy weekends in Brooklyn! Brooklyn, you complete me!

salad mise

Well, dear readers, last week I got to check out the BlogHer conference in New York, and it was mere minutes away from my office – bonus! The impetus was seeing good friends in town, particularly the lovely Alice Currah, of Savory Sweet Life, who crashed at my place for the weekend and ate some of my homemade mango sorbet! I finally met Kamran, an old twitter friend (amazing what the interwebs has done for us, isn’t it?), in person. And I also got to met Ree, of the incredible Pioneer Woman, and Elise of the encyclopedic Simple Recipes, at the amazing party that Ree, Elise, and Jaden (of the spicy Steamy Kitchen) threw on the roof of the Peninsula Hotel. It was good to see some old friends there: Lisa, Deb, Marc, and Jennie. And meet some new ones whose blogs I’ve been reading for so long. Sadly, I missed saying hi to a few folks as well. Sometimes, it seems, we forget about face time, given how much time we spend online: working, playing, maintaining our lives. In person, face-to-face is so much nicer, I think. While Twitter and Facebook and blogs have been instrumental in building beautiful communities and bringing people together, there’s nothing like saying hello to them and shaking their hand, or hugging them because you feel like you’ve been reading them for so long, you’ve known them forever.

israeli whole wheat couscous button mushrooms!

Martha's Circle Blogger Soiree

On the heels of the conference, the lovely folks at Martha Stewart Circle (see the turquoise circle on the side of this site? That’s them!) threw the most beautiful party for bloggers, with a private tour of the building for their charter members. I was elated to finally meet Mark Ganem, who looks after MC members, after we exchanged a flurry of emails, as well as other folks who work for MSLO (thanks, Amie, for sheparding me through). I finally got to meet Aran, the voice behind one of my favorite blogs, http://cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com/, and Matt Armendariz and Adam Pearson of Matt Bites.

sauteeing mushrooms & onions

We were sent home with a gift bag full of Martha’s publications: Living, Everyday Food, Bride, and Whole Living, and I spent a good portion of the past Sunday curled up in a chair leafing through the complete stack. I remember getting a subscription to Martha Stewart Living at fourteen (along with Gourmet (sob!) and Bon Appetit! I devoured each new issue immediately upon its arrival. I think my parents were relieved I wasn’t reading magazines like YM or Seventeen, but by and large they were puzzled by my addiction. I clipped a whole bunch of recipes, but this one here – really caught my eye. I was contemplating cooking a Sunday supper, when I saw: Israeli couscous, fresh corn, sauteed mushrooms – sold! It sounded simple and fresh – summer embodied.

avocado

I loved the recipe, but made a few tweaks: upping the corn to three ears from two (because there’s no such thing as too much corn, don’t you agree?); and sauteing the mushrooms with the onions (because caramelized onions make everything, and I mean, everything better!); and throwing in some cilantro (because when you ask me to complete a sentence: “Corn, black beans, lime, jalapeno, and…”, I want to shout out “Cilantro!”) I realize all too well that to many folks cilantro tastes like soap, so if you’re one of those people, by all means do leave it out, but I think it works rather nicely here. Also, the recipe didn’t call for whole wheat couscous, but I wanted to try it and loved its hearty bite.

cooking the corn and the scallion whites

Perhaps the weekend following this one, I will whisk Andrew (my plus one has a name!) and myself to Prospect Park, armed with some Arnold Palmers, ripe tomatoes, olives and this salad. We might sit under a tree and read, and snack, and read some more. We might even nap. Summer is passing us by, and I don’t want to waste single moment soaking it in. It’s not quite a beach vacation, but I think it’ll do just fine.

mixing with the corn

couscous salad with corn and mushrooms

Oh Wait, there’s more!! Bonus! Lookie here, I made a wee bit video with the folks at Yahoo! Shine while at the BlogHer conference. I was egged on by Alice – she thinks I do well on camera, but I can’t quite bring myself to watch it. You be the judge!

Continue reading couscous, corn, and mushroom salad.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

hungarian sour cherry cake

hungarian sour cherry cake

Well, thank you, dear friends, for such an lovely outpouring of support and enthusiasm! The comments, the emails, the tweets! You are too good to me! I remember the amazing support almost two years ago when I took a little time off and even though it was a tough time for me, your comments and emails made feel really loved and connected to this lovely web of people somewhere out there, reading, and actually caring. Thank you for coming here, and thank you for staying here. I can’t wait to share more of my “hunk” with you!

hungarian sour cherry cake

Considering how lovely you have all been, it seems terribly unfair of me to tell you about sour cherries when they’re done for the season, and all you can really do is just stare at these pictures and bookmark the recipe in hopes of remembering next summer (don’t worry I’ll remind you!). Except, this cake was so good, I just couldn’t let it languish in the depths of my computer for a whole year – it was going to get lonely and would need some company. Besides, I know some of you are quite the industrious types, and probably froze your sour cherries like I did. I do this with cranberries every November. I buy a half a dozen bags and stuff them in the freezer and then make boozy banana bread studded with those gems. Next year, you should do the same with sour cherries. This cake could come in handy on a cold, rainy day when you want to hang out in your house and bake.

hungarian sour cherry cake

Whether or not you froze them this year, I wanted to tell you about this cake so much, I simply couldn’t wait a year. All that excitement of the moment just might fizzle, and excitement is a terrible thing to waste. I bought these cherries in the eleventh hour of the sour cherry season, at a stand at the Union Square Market. The stand appeared to be the only one selling sour cherries, and upon spotting it, I let out a little squeal. I had plans, friends, for these babies. These cherries were going to be baked into a pie that inspired me not just by its lovely top crust design (aren’t circles pretty?), but also by the pre-baked bottom crust (genius!). I had the recipe printed and stuck to my door. I even had a pie crust skulking about the freezer. But then I spied this little winner of a recipe at Saveur and could think of nothing better for these sour cherries than finding themselves surrounded by a whole wheat thin layer of cake. They would look so pretty scattered around.

hungarian sour cherry cake

Some of you might still be wondering what is the big deal about sour cherries. Most of you wondering that have probably never tried them. It’s difficult to put into words what sour cherries are like. My best description of them goes a little something like this: a sour cherry is what a sweet cherry aspires to be. Don’t for a second think that I’m downplaying the glory that a sweet cherry is. But that tart zing, the opalescence, that gentle yield to the touch, the ephemeral, fleeting season – a sour cherry is something of a treasure. Blink – and you’ll miss it.

egg shells hungarian sour cherry cake

We had them abundantly in the summer in Russia, upon our arrival to the US, they were nowhere to be found. Of course, I was too busy lamenting my introduction to Nutella (while we were in Italy) and its absence from the American supermarket shelves to really notice or care about sour cherries’ absence from the produce landscape. It wasn’t until a few years later, when my family and I went to visit their friends in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and took a road trip through the Michigan countryside, that I rediscovered sour cherries again. There were numerous stands by the side of the road offering travelers pints of sour cherries and freshly hot-smoked trout. To this day, one of my favorite meals remains this trout, mixed with cold, boiled potatoes we brought with us on the road, and sour cherries for dessert. I had forgotten how tart and delicious they were.

hungarian sour cherry cake hungarian sour cherry cake

When I finally got around to my batch of frozen and pitted cherries, I was feeling rather bold, and decided to give the recipe a major overhaul, swapping out enough ingredients to create a recipe distinctively different from its original creation. I still credit Saveur with the inspiration, which goes a long long way. I decided to stick with wheat flour and only wheat flower; I scaled back the sugar, because I always prefer my everyday cakes to err on the less-sweet side. Out went the kirsch, and in went creme de cassis – I’ve got nothing against kirsch, but I wanted something with a more berry-like zing, and creme de cassis sings so beautifully in desserts. Have you ever had creme de cassis? Smelled it? It’s intoxicating – I am always tempted to pour a bit over a “boule” of vanilla ice cream, because it’s really one of the best things ever. And also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I realized I was flat out of kirsch, and felt a bit lazy having to walk over two whole blocks while all my ingredients sat neatly in a mise en place. In my last throes of creativity I decided to use buttermilk instead of regular milk the original recipe called for. I find that buttermilk yields a more tender crumb in a cake, and who doesn’t like a tender crumb?

hungarian sour cherry cake

This is a hearty cake – the whole wheat gives it heft and body, and the berries make the batter shine. But here’s the rub – this cake would be a perfect breakfast cake over coffee on a crisp, rainy fall day. So, don’t despair if sour cherries are out of season, throw some blueberries in it. Or, I wonder, how will this cake taste with some thinly sliced apples, sprinkled with cinnamon? I bet you it’ll be perfect. You really can’t go wrong!

hungarian sour cherry cake

I made this a week ago and a bunch of us, my plus one included (should I tell you his name?) ate it for dessert and there was still lots of the cake left over, (this makes a lot of cake, so be sure to invite friends over!) and then (and this part here is tragic and my lower lip quivers as I type this), then we forgot about the cake and it sat in the fridge for over a week until I discovered it again, but by then it had gone bad and needed to be tossed. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Sour cherries! I worked so hard for them! All the pitting and freezing and unfreezing! Sigh. I’ll have to dispose of the cake tonight. Most likely with a proper burial, followed by moment of silence. And perhaps a somber song or a poem.

hungarian sour cherry cake

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