Summer Wrap Up

So here we are, summer is fading slowly and autumn is on our doorstep.  I want to take a pause before the warm afternoons slip away and share a few pictures and recipes that remind me of the summer that passed by so quickly (don’t they all do that?).  Please excuse my laziness at not writing out recipes, most are posted here as links and if not, I will post in the future!


I had a lot of great adventures this summer.  There was all that much needed time at my family’s place in Maine.


There were several visits with Madeline Rose, my favorite new niece.

There was a celebration to honor the 2nd anniversary of our book club, The Fabulous Ladies.  We also marked members’ birthdays and tearfully say goodbye to some members leaving NYC.

There was my five year college reunion, where I enjoyed the company of great friends.


There was a second round of goodbyes to Heather, leaving this time for Uganda and the Peace Corps.

There were goodbyes to our dear Rochambeau community in order to say hello to our new place in BK.


And along the way, there was good food (of course).

I made chocolate chip zucchini cookies for a coworker and his wife who have a new baby.


I made a beautiful, refreshing bulgar wheat lentil salad with feta and delicious zucchini pancakes I made last summer, mmmm.


I made a really yummy zucchini dish I’ve made before, courtesy of 101cookbooks (zucchini, feta, onions, dill, nuts–so easy and good!).

I made this roasted heirloom tomato sauce.

How beautiful are these tomatoes?

I’ve said it before, but there is nothing that says summer to me like a gorgeous tomato, thick and full from the summer sun.  Make this recipe while you can still find local heirlooms, it is so so very much worth the time and effort.  Your kitchen will smell amazing and I guarantee you have never tasted anything quite like it.  Satisfaction guaranteed.


I also made iced tea with fresh mint and candied ginger.  You should try that–just stick whole stalks of mint right in there and you can find candied ginger with dried fruit.  It’s really tasty.


And finally, there was the galette I made for my mom’s birthday.  According to wikipedia, the term “galette” is used in French to refer to any kind of free flaky cake.   I’d made it last summer, but I was still nervous about the undertaking.  It’s not the most intricate dessert I’ve ever made, but it does involve a homemade crust.  I also wanted my mom to love it since it was one of her birthday gifts.  Luckily, it turned out wonderfully (and tasted quite good too).

It’s raspberries and peaches and nectarines.  It’s heavenly, I promise to post the recipe soon in case you want to experience it for yourself.


Well isn’t it fun to take a little trip back to the summer gone by?  Wrapping up here, I feel a twinge of sadness at the thought of the summer produce, the vacations, the hot sun on my face, the lightness of my being, of all of that slipping by.  But a something else that is just as lovely is here to fill summer’s void–autumn’s colors and crisp air and happy traditions.  I hope your summer was relaxing and filled you up with enough memories to keep you warm through the winter.


Fiery colors begin their yearly conquest of the hills, propelled by the autumn winds. 

Fall is the artist.

~Takayuki Ikkaku

Here we are in the dog days of summer.  Luckily I escaped the sweltering city just in the nick of time—right before the most recent heat wave, I was off to Maine for a week with my Dad.  It had been in the works for a while and we couldn’t have been happier that the trip coincided with such disgusting weather in the Northeast.  Instead of the stifling subway and oven-hot asphalt, I got to enjoy this:

I couldn’t fill my lungs with enough sea breeze.  From our sailboat, from the shore, from the dock, I repeatedly breathed deeply and mindfully, longing to save the clean, cool air for when I would need it most, perhaps while waiting underground  for a train during my morning commute where the air is stagnant and thick.  My Dad and I relaxed on the deck situated right over the water and enjoyed simple home cooked meals—penne with summer squash and tomatoes, veggie burgers with caramelized onions and peppers, western omelettes with fresh fruit, and fluffy pancakes (my Dad’s specialty).

Now before I boast too much about the pleasures of a coastal Maine summer vacation, I ought to let you in on the pains of moving that I’ve recently gone through–during July 4th weekend, my roommate and our families spent humid, sweaty days packing and unpacking an enormous moving truck and lugging things up and down stairs.  Preceding that whole experience, she and I had spent some stressful evenings apartment hunting after work, agonizing over all the variables involved–rent, commute, size, broker’s fee, closet space, etc.  I truly needed my vacation as well as a vacation from writing my posts here.  I needed not only to relax my body but also to relax my mind, to allow it to rest from it’s constant planning and plotting and problem-solving.  I needed to pour out my brain and unclench my mind—I’d been so tightly wound the past few months, it felt so incredibly lovely to let everything go.

So Danielle and I said goodbye to Rochambeau Ave, where we had lived and laughed and grown during the past three years, and said hello to Myrtle Ave and a whole new borough.  Brooklyn.  It’s quite strange to say that I live in Brooklyn after living for so long in a borough that raises eyebrows and many believe to be the ugly stepchild of New York.  But it is done and we are happy and have no regrets.  And of course a new apartment means a new kitchen.  Danielle and I were both concerned about finding a nice kitchen in our new place.  Something with counter and cabinet space—both are a rare commodity in apartments on the cheaper end of the spectrum in this city.  But we managed to do it and are both enjoying cooking there.
So far, I’ve made quite a few recipes.  Of course my favorite whole grain pancakes (this time I had beautifully fresh raspberries to use)

and veggie stuffed summer squash

and arugula pesto with penne.

The arugula pesto is quite delicious and is the second pesto I’ve made this summer that is not a pesto in which basil plays the starring role.  Isn’t it interesting when we Americans hear the word pesto, we automatically think of basil?  But it comes the Italian word for to crush, to pound, so essentially pesto is more about the technique to make it and less about the ingredients.  I made pea pesto about a month ago—it was for the last community dinner we hosted at Rochambeau—and it was just gorgeous.

So now the arugula pesto.  It would really be lovely if you used some straight from your garden, but, finding myself without one this summer, I’ve had to settle with some from the farmers market or the store in a pinch.  Really now all it takes is a few simple ingredients—and isn’t that what you want on a day when your walk from the subway to your apartment leaves you a dripping mess?!  Ok, can you remember this—arugula, olive oil, chopped garlic, toasted nuts (pine nuts or walnuts or almonds or experiment more), parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, basil, oregano.  Essentially, you put the arugula and a bit of the olive oil in a food processor or blender, process until it starts to get chopped up, add the garlic, blend some more, add the nuts a bit at a time as you are blending (make sure they are already toasted!), add the rest of the oil, add some of the cheese, be sure to scrape down the sides of the processor or blender with a rubber spatula as you go to keep it all combined, then you want to add some salt and pepper and the spices to taste and the rest of the cheese.

For people who need exact measurements, here you go:

  • 2 cups of packed arugula leaves, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup of shelled walnuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/2 garlic clove peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

If you are going to be adding this to pasta, prepare the pasta but make sure to reserve at least 2 cups of pasta water before you drain the pasta.  When you add the pesto it will be thick and difficult to combine completely with the pasta so add a little of the reserved water as you go and heat the pasta over low.  Stir it on up and it all should combine.  Top with some extra toasted nuts, cheese, spices, and fresh tomatoes or other vegetables.

Now this doesn’t have to just go with penne or another kind of pasta.  Serve it with crusty bread and cheese, or instead of sauce on a pizza, or just eat it fresh out of the bowl, I won’t tell anyone (I do it myself when no one is looking)–after all it isn’t summer without pesto!

What are you waiting for?  Sometimes I feel as though I’m constantly waiting for something.  I think as humans we are programmed to be forward thinking, always concerned with the future.  Maybe it’s what keeps us going, keeps us excited about life, all the good things to come.

Recently, I have been waiting for spring, and Mother Nature has kept all of us New Yorkers in suspense.  Hot then cold, sunny then rainy, but now it seems like it (might be) here!  In fact, I spent a good portion of my day out in a neighborhood park, attempting to read but mostly just sunbathing.

And now I am waiting impatiently, along with my entire family, for my sister’s baby to come along.  No one is more anxious for this event than my sister, as she has been on bed rest for a few weeks now.  The waiting is so difficult but as my sister has reported to me, an excellent exercise in patience.

How can we make peace with waiting, with the fact that we simply cannot control everything and often must wait for life to unfold as it should?  Maybe the key is to enjoy the waiting itself.  After all it is part of living, and if we never had to wait or work for the beautiful things in life, I doubt they be as sweet upon arrival.  Enjoying the waiting, certainly easier said than done!  But perhaps somewhat less painful when we are surrounded by good company and good food.  And that has been the case with my sister as she has luckily had many visitors, often bringing food and treats, by her side during this time.

When I was last visiting, I made one of my favorite springtime soups for my sister and her husband.  I love making soups and stews and have discovered that they are not just for winter.  In the spring, I switch to lighter soups, clear broths, and enjoy incorporating springtime vegetables.  Now is the time for truly fresh, local asparagus, peas, and broccolini (a cross between the broccoli we all grew up with and a type of Chinese broccoli, it is sweet and tender and delicious).

This recipe is honestly one of the top 5 most delicious (and easiest!) soups I have ever made.  Seriously.  That is a pretty big deal considering how many soups I’ve made!  Here you go:

-8-10 spears of fresh asparagus sliced on the diagonal OR the same amount of broccolini
-1 cup snow peas
-1/2 cup frozen or fresh green peas
-3 medium carrots sliced thinly
-3/4 c. uncooked brown rice (Heidi called for brown basmati, but all I had was regular so you can go with either)
-6 cups of vegetable broth
-2 shallots chopped (or 1 medium-sized yellow onion)
-3 cloves of garlic
-ground black pepper
-dash of red pepper
-parmesan cheese to taste (if you like)

Chop up the onions or shallots.  In a soup pot, heat olive oil or clarified butter over medium heat.  Toss in the onions and garlic and once it is soft and smelling beautifully, toss in the rice and stir for a minute.  Add in the broth and bring to a boil then turn the burner low and cover.  Cook rice as you normally would–depending on which kind you use it will take about 35-40 minutes.  You want the rice to be tender but not too tender since you will cook it a bit longer once you add the vegetables.

Meanwhile, wash and chop the other veggies….the asparagus or broccolini should be cut on a diagonal into about 1 inch pieces.  Cut the the snow peas in half.  Carrots should be sliced in half or thirds and then sliced very thinly.

Once the rice is tender (but not too soft!)  add in the asparagus (or broccolini) and the carrots, 2 minutes later add in the frozen peas and snow peas.  Stay by the stove and let it simmer for about 3-4 more minutes.  The important trick here is that you do NOT want the vegetables to get too soft.  They are yummiest and have the most nutrients in them when they are still somewhat crunchy.  The asparagus or broccolini will turn bright green and you’ll know you can turn the burner off.  I enjoy this soup with some parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, but you can dress it up as you like.

A great dish for any springtime table and an especially lovely dish to enjoy while wasting the waiting time away. Enjoy!

(Also, I must wish a big Happy Mother’s day to everyone who is a Mom, or a mother to be, or plays a loving, maternal role in someone’s life.  I am at once all of my Mother’s experiences and my own, my Mother helped me grow my wings and let me fly and I thank her for that.)

Hi there.  Deep breath.  Life moves quickly, sometimes too quickly to even think about sneaking away and sitting down to write.  But here I am, and boy do I have beautiful things to report.

The three things from the title of this post all happened and I want to tell you about them all, though not in that exact order.

The second big thing that happened as of late was that I had a birthday.  April 5. Sometimes it occurs to me that every single day is the birthday of some person, somewhere on this big old earth of ours.  How lovely is that?!  Think of how special and wonderful you feel on your big day–that is how someone is feeling right now.  Maybe I’m an eternal optimist, but if that thought doesn’t make the world seem a bit friendlier, then I don’t know what would.

It’s easy to bemoan the prospects of getting older, but as my mother always says, it sure beats the alternative.  After all, on the cusp of another birthday, we stand to be the recipients of the vastly simple joys of being in our bodies–the sight of springtime flowers, the pleasure of laughing deeply and loudly, the ability to fill our lungs with air and bellies with good food.  All of this if only we can bear the facts that the next year will undoubtedly bring us weeds in our gardens, some type of small or large heart break, a cold snow, a bad sun burn, and yes, the small pains of growing older.  It seems like a great deal to me, especially when it means another year to enjoy treats like these profiteroles.

So now the third thing that happened was that our family had a baby shower for my sister.  Take everything I said about the loveliness of a birthday and multiply it by one thousand.  That is the joy we already feel for this little one we have yet to meet.  My contribution to the party was facilitating a onesie decorating table.  This way my sister and her husband will see sweet messages when they are changing the baby.  Check ’em out, we have some talented loved ones!

And now the first thing that happened.  I made banana oatmeal chocolate chip muffins.  Boom!  Just like that, I was sitting at work and I started thinking about them.  Sometimes, I read a recipe and it stays with me in the back of my brain, slowly nudging at me trying to get my attention, like a hungry kitten paws at your leg.  But other times, it hits me like a ton of bricks, a food that I’m not sure how to make yet, a recipe I’ve never read but am sure exists somewhere out there, in the great expanse of cookbook land.

And so it was with these muffins.  I knew I had bananas at home–if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I’ve been loving baking with bananas lately–and I was in serious need of a muffin.  But I wanted one that was more wholesome than sickly sweet dessert.  I combined a few recipes I had, tweaking and tasting until, I got this….

dry ingredients:

2 c flour- 1 ¼  cup whole wheat pastry flour ¾ white flour
½ c oats  (old fashioned)
½ c sugar
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
½ c dark choc chips
wet ingredients:

6 tbsp butter, melted
3 mashed bananas
1 whole egg, 1 egg white
½ cup yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Note:  I think that 1/2 cup sugar was actually too much for my taste buds (although this amount is considerably less than your typical muffin) so if you want to reduce it, please do!  I think the chocolate chips add a lot of sweetness anyhow.  Also, by all means play around with the flour, I am trying to do less and less white but everyone’s taste buds are different.

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter muffin cups or use papers.  This yields about 18 muffins of a good size.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients and add to dry, stir until incorporated but don’t overmix.

Once everything is mixed up, fill muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake about 25 minutes or until they are firm in the middle.  Cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

Simple Dinners

Well folks, it’s over!!  Last Sunday I completed the New York City Half Marathon.  I was happy before (here with my friend Laura):

And still smiling after the finish (here with my friends Jeanne, Andy, Danielle, and Katie and with my parents):

My training paid off and my run was really enjoyable and energizing thanks to the support of my family and friends.  But boy have I been feeling the need to relax and catch up on the bits and pieces of life that slipped through the cracks during the weeks leading up to the race.  In short, I’ve been a busy bee these days!  I haven’t much felt like cooking elaborate meals and doing the tremendous dish washing that entails.  Simple dinners and soups (I made weeks ago and put in the freezer) have lately been playing a starring role in my kitchen.

Although I love making things from scratch and using fresh, local, healthy ingredients it’s always more of an ideal, an event that occurs a few times a week, than a daily reality.  I rarely cook every single night of the week and I probably wouldn’t want to!  I don’t really know anyone who does–unless they are a chef or they don’t work full time.

My mom is a wonderful cook who somehow managed to work and cook several times a week for her family of four.  We ate dinner together every single night and now that I’m on my own and trying to work and cook for myself, I can scarcely imagine how she juggled everything!  I’ve taken on several of her recipes and tips over time but I recently asked her to refresh my memory of our “daily dinners”, the simple things we ate that tasted special just because we were together.  Here is what she said:

When you were little, usually one night a week we had spaghetti, sometimes meatballs, and we’d get 2 nights out of that, with a big loaf of Italian bread.  We also had French toast often, kind of a ‘breakfast for dinner’ theme, or pancakes and a side of applesauce.  I know we had the oven cheese fondue at least once every 2 weeks, cause you loved it.  If I had left over baked potatoes, we’d have omelettes and I’d dice the potatoes and make homefries.  Tacos were very popular with you guys, although if you remember you did not eat veggies back in the day, so you mostly had meat and lots of shredded cheese!  On Friday nights, we often had scrambled eggs and toast, or grilled cheese sandwiches – I always tried to work in a fruit or veggie side but there was a picky eater who shall go unnamed (look in the mirror) who made nutritionally balanced meals somewhat challenging!

I couldn’t help but laugh very loudly, remembering what an incredibly picky eater I was!!  I’m sure my eating habits didn’t make it any easier for her to make healthy meals for the family.  I’m glad I turned out alright despite the fact that I refused to eat anything green up through my teens!

So here are some tips, passed from my mom and from me, to ease that ever-present question, “what am I going to eat for dinner?”:

-In my kitchen, as in my mom’s, cooking soups and stews are a weekly winter ritual.  They are perfect because unlike other dishes, they reheat beautifully.  Right after eating my dinner helping, I put some into containers for my week’s lunches and save some for the freezer.  Then when I don’t feel like cooking, I always have a delicious soup ready to be defrosted!

-Don’t underestimate the power of the carb+veggie+protein formula.  If you don’t feel like leaving the house for special ingredients or you don’t want to scour a cookbook for the perfect recipe, just use what you have. For example: if you have leftover rice (carb), a can of chickpeas (protein), a can of stewed tomatoes (veg), and pine or walnuts (protein), you can make an easy rice pilaf.  Mix it all up and throw in some spices to taste (cumin, tumeric, red pepper), some raisins or currants, and add any extra veggies you have such as cooked carrots or greens on top.  Heat it all up in a pan.  I did this the other night, and it turned out deliciously:

-Fall in love with your freezer!  Say you decide to make some pizza dough, why not double or triple it?  If you make pancakes, double that batter as well and then you can have breakfast for dinner any night of the week! The possibilities are endless…

-Eggs are highly underrated for dinner by Americans.  In France it is very common to eat omelettes for dinner–actually they are not breakfast food at all!  And think about it–you’ve got your protein right there, with fresh veggies folded in and topped with a little cheese.  A fruit salad on the side makes it a delightful meal.  All of that can be made in a snap.

-And of course, I always fall back on old reliable, the tortilla/wrap.  I try to always have some whole wheat or multi-grain tortillas in my fridge.  Often, I’ll have sauteed some veggies before just to have on hand (such as red peppers, onions, and spinach).  On half the tortialla, I spread refried beans, sauteed veggies, and shredded cheese.  I fold it in half, stick it in a warm oven and in about 10 minutes, I’m ready to go with (healthier than takeout) quesadillas.  It helps to always have salsa on hand too.

So what’s your go-to simple dinner?  I hope these tips inspire you to build up your stress-free dinner repertoire!  Enjoy!!

Life is sort of weird right now.  I’ve been serving on a jury since last week.  My new routine is wake up, take the D train to the Yankee Stadium stop and report to the Bronx Supreme Court.  On Sunday, I’m running a half marathon.  My dreams have been filled with the worst case senarios.  I show up without my bib or without running shoes or worst of all with no idea why I am there.  My life could use a little normalcy right now, before I start thinking of “juror” as my new job title.  It’s times like these that baking therapy helps.

Recently, I stumbled across A Homemade Life, Molly Wizenberg’s memoir-cookbook that is just incredibly lovely.  Remember when I made some pancakes from it?  Mmmm I have to make those again soon.  Anyhow, the banana bread recipe in that book had been in my recipe queue for ages and was beginning to sulk and fret and beg that I make it.  This is the post on Molly’s Orangette blog that the recipe originally appears in.  I love Molly’s description of the bread, it is probably close to the description in her book but the recipe in the book is slightly different.

Well I am here to tell you, if you ever happen to find yourself let out of jury duty early on a rainy March day during which you were vexed by race anxiety daydreams, this bread will do the trick.  This bread was a miracle worker for my mood.  Ok, so it’s not bread.  It’s cake.  Let’s just lay that out there right now.  If you eat it for breakfast, as I definitely did, don’t try to kid yourself–you are eating cake for breakfast.  But I’ve made my peace with that, and so should you.

Here is Molly’s recipe, my substitutions are noted:

6 tbs unsalted butter, melted

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour ( I used 1 cup whole wheat plus 1 cup white flour)

3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar)

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips)

1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 large bananas)

1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt (all I had in the house was raspberry yogurt from my CSA, it worked great!)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray, and set aside.  Make sure to melt butter first (in the microwave) and then set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Add chocolate chips and crystallized ginger, mix to combine.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly then add the banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir.  Molly stresses not to overmix….although the batter will be lumpy, you don’t want chunks of flour.  Pour batter into the pan you prepared and pop it in the oven.

Bake until the bread is golden and firm in the center.  This takes about 1 hour.  Cool the bread in the pan 5 minutes and on a wire rack until completely cooled off.  I ate it all before I had any to freeze, but Molly says it freezes very nicely as long as you cool it completely first.


Oh, and a little jury duty humor to brighten your day, you’re welcome!

Hi folks!  Here in New York spring is starting to make an appearance.  On Saturday, I was with my running group in Central Park and everywhere there were signs of her–little hints and glimpses that were just enough to make my whole being feel lighter.  The sun seemed warmer, people and dogs were out in full force, and the snow had given way to green grass.  I even seen the tops of spring flowers poking their heads through the soil.  All this is to say, it looks like the season of hearty soups is winding down to a close.  It seems like just the other day, a chill in the autumn air had me all excited to dust off the big soup pot in preparation for a lovely lentil and veggie stew.  I think the following recipe might actually be the last lentil soup I make of the season!

Although I am such a soup fan that a piece of me is sad to see soup weather go, I am definitely welcoming the spring with arms open wide.  Also, I am starting to drool over the thought of a FRESH tomato!  Ok, ok, I might be getting a little ahead of myself here, given that in the Northeast we won’t be getting our hands on any locally grown tomatoes for quite a few weeks.  But fresh spring veggies are lovely too–I’m really looking forward to mixed salad greens, garlic scapes, and oooooh fresh asparagus!  Come on, you know that asparagus grown overseas during winter just doesn’t taste right!  I’m already planning two spring time soups–garlic scape and potato soup and springtime minestrone (in which lovely in-season asparagus plays a starring role).

But let’s jump back to the present.  Every time I make a new lentil soup, I feel as though I’ve broken the mold, hit the jackpot.  I’m so certain that I’ve found my favorite recipe that I pretty much never want to try a new one.  And then, I do…..and I realize that each is more spectacular than the rest!  That’s because the lentil is delicious, filling, versatile, and (luckily) very nutritious.  This recipe is based off of one my mother gave me.  She found it in a low glycemic index cookbook.  It is a good platform for you to express yourself since it is somewhat bare bones.  I took the outline and ran with it.  It’s yummy, spicy, and best of all, super easy.  Here goes:

olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3-4 medium carrots, chopped

3 medium potatoes, whatever kind you have laying around

lots of garlic minced (say about 4-6 cloves)

1/2 tsp tumeric

2 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp cumin

cayenne pepper to taste

6 cups water

1 1/2 cups veggie stock

1 cup red lentils

1/2 cup pearl barley

1 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes, undrained

salt and pepper to taste

Chop all the veggies, warm the oil in your soup pan.  Add onion and cook for about 10 min, until they brown slightly.  Add the garlic, carrots, potatoes, and spices.  Stir up and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the water, stock, lentils, barley, tomatoes and salt and pepper.  Simmer for about 45 minutes until everything is tender and looks good enough to eat.

Note:  red lentils are different from their other lentil cousins–they break down a lot.  Don’t be worried if they look mushy or even disappear.  That’s what happens but the texture ends up being a lovely partner to the denseness of the barley.

I hope you can make this warming, fragrant soup on a damp winter-spring-in-between day.