Last week I whipped up banana oat muffins from scratch and steamed organic broccoli to go along with a veggie lasagna I made before Project Runway. Sometimes I feel like superwoman with all of my kitchen efficiency. But I had chips and salsa for dinner last night. I also have not baked a single cookie from a tray of pre-made Pillsbury Sugar Cookie dough I bought and yet half of them have mysteriously disappeared. When my Tivo or Blockbuster queue beckons, I can barely muster up the energy to place a call for takeout, let alone can and store fresh produce for the winter's sad squash-filled blues. But this project is simple, requires no cooking at all, and will guarantee you antioxidant filled months without paying to have blueberries shipped to your grocer from the Southern Hemisphere.

Saving Blueberries for Winter

1. Buy a bunch of blueberries.
2. Sort* and gently wash the blueberries (or just sort).
3. Dry blueberries and spread in a single layer on a sheet pan.
4. Put sheet pan in freezer for an hour or two.
5. Transfer blueberries to freezer bags, label, and freeze.
6. Eat blueberries (if you skipped #2, wash before eating):

-Drop a handful in your morning oatmeal to cool it down quickly and make it taste like something other than cardboard.

-Stir into a bowl of applesauce for a snack.

-Throw into the blender with yogurt and OJ for a smoothie.

-Mix into your favorite muffin recipe.

Blueberry Mix

Blue Eyed Soul - Wilco
Reno Dakota - The Magnetic Fields
Bottle of Blues - Beck
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain - Willie Nelson
Hanging Blue Side - Son Volt
Blue Clouds - Daniel Johnston
Carey - Joni Mitchell
Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again - Bob Dylan
Blue Arrangements - Silver Jews

*sort = pick out the stems, leaves, and smashed/weird berries.


market surprise

The sweet corn supplies are dwindling and apples are taking over. I used Saturday as an opportunity to stock up on blueberries for freezing and cooked the rest of the goods for some parties over the weekend. Arriving at 7 AM by car, I had my pick of produce and even angered some shopping chefs when I got dibs on the beautiful purple cauliflower. I got plenty of exercise carrying all of the veg back to the car three blocks away.

Total $52
16 ears sweet corn
27 corn ear worms
5 lbs. broccoli
3 heads purple cauliflower
4 boxes blueberries
5 boxes heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 bunch garlic chives
2 bunches basil
1 bunch spearmint

The corn would have been used for some lovely corn pudding, but while shucking it at 5:45 AM Sunday morning, I found it infested by corn ear worms. Not just one or two worms - which is a given when buying organic, but multiple worms on each ear with little corn left to eat. I left the worms outside in the courtyard, where a family of birds made a quick breakfast of them. An early morning trip to the frozen section saved the day and I didn't mind grocery shopping at all when the only aisle obstruction was a crew doing inventory.


the quiet american

Andrew Knowlton has dubbed it "the next great sandwich," so when I read The Quiet American for a newly minted book club, I had to make bánh mì for our discussion. Set in Vietnam during the French War, the book lent itself beautifully to mingling European and Asian flavors on the plate.

Endless permutations exist with a myriad of toppings, but the basic bánh mì starts with a baguette and is topped with pate, mayo, pork (meatballs, tenderloin…), pickled vegetables, hot peppers, and fish sauce. Our Quiet American menu consisted of edamame with kosher salt, spicy noodle salad, bánh mì, and dark chocolate éclairs (though we were too stuffed to attempt dessert).

Our Bánh Mì Toppings

pork liver and mushroom pate
ginger pork
spicy pickled mushrooms
mild pickled banana peppers
dijon mustard
shredded carrots
red cabbage
mini-cucumber slices
fish sauce

Ginger Pork

1 ½ lbs. pork shoulder (cut into 1-2 inch pieces - or ask your butcher!)
Ginger root
4 cinnamon sticks
4 kaffir lime leaves
24 oz. vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Peel ginger and chop 2 or 3 inches off the root – and cut into 4 or 5 pieces. Generously season all sides of pork with salt and pepper and sear in pan careful not to overcrowd pan (I did two batches). If pork sticks to the bottom of the pan, leave it for 30 more seconds and try to turn it again. Once all of the pork is browned, put back into pan and add ginger, cinnamon sticks, lime leaves, and stock. If needed, add water to just cover pork. Bring liquid to a boil, cover, and bake in oven for at least 2 hours, but up to 4 hours, adding water or stock to keep pork covered. Shred or slice pork and serve.

Some of the Quiet American mix

Good Morning Heartache - Billie Holiday
Let's Fall in Love - Diana Krall
Colours - Donovan
Sea of Love - Cat Power
Between the Bars - Madeleine Peyroux
Au Fond Du Temple Saint - David Byrne & Rufus Wainwright
Reversing - Ryuichi Sakamoto
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - Nina Simone
Summertime - Angelique Kidjo
Love Will Tear Us Apart - Nouvelle Vague
Look at What the Light Did Now - Little Wings
Change Parnters - Harry Connick, Jr.
Help the Aged - Pulp


leek confit from BA

I'm a Molly Wizenberg devotee. I obsessively check for updates on her blog (an rss feeder rescued me from stalking) and look forward to Cooking Life, her column in Bon Appetit. I happened to jealously read about her trip to Belgium and discovery of the fine European approach to leeks on the same day that I bought a bunch of leeks having no idea what to do with them.

It was an easy enough recipe and I had plenty of butter on hand(surprise!), so I tried my hand at the leek confit. It became more of a spread atop some garlic sesame flatbread cracker things we had. Pretty darn good, but not quite complete, it needed some parmesan and romano cheese. Kris thinks it needs something saltier so next time I'm going to top a baguette with the confit, goat cheese - which Molly (yep: inappropriate first name basis) recommends, and some crisped pancetta.


kitchen essentials

Moving into my latest apartment prompted me take stock of all of the crap I own. Well, all the friends I talked into helping me move (again!) forced me take stock. The groaning about carrying all of my books and weird furniture started weeks before the actual move date. The boxes marked "kitchen" and "books" far outnumbered the others so I paired down a bit. I ditched three full boxes of books, a bunch of old ugly pyrex and a few stock pots. Some take it really far, but I just wanted to unclutter. The trusty kitchen items I won't live without:

-5 1/2 quart Cobalt Le Creuset round dutch oven. I even take it with me when I cook at my friends' houses. My friend Andrea at Forkable has quite eloquently summed up the love affair cooks have with Le Creuset.

-My great great grandmother's colander. I clean veggies, drain pasta, and store fruit in it on the counter. Not simultaneously.

-My Mom's Mom's Settlement Cookbook: The Way to a Man's Heart. It is my culinary connection to a fiery petite woman I never got a chance to meet. Special thanks to my GM Adele for stowing it safely in her attic all those years.

-The teapot from my mom and dad's (early 70's) wedding. I still have the creamer and sugar bowl too. OK - I have most of the set and have been eating off of these blue and white flower dishes my whole life.

-Global 8" Chef's Knife. Kris signed us up for the Chopping Block's knife skills class last year. It was really helpful to try out a lot of high end knives in a kitchen setting before investing in one. Global knives are light (but not flimsy) and the handle fits well in my tiny hands.

-A super heavy cast iron grill pan/griddle. It is so heavy that it has taken up permanent residence on two of my burners. I can grill (well, create grill marks) year round.

-A tea kettle on the back burner. I drink way too much tea, effectively rendering a single burner available. It works only occasionally.

-Ikea stainless steel workstation. My last apartment had no counter space, so this filled in. It is especially nice for rolling out dough (notice all the flour?). I keep it in my dining room and use it as a bar when I'm not cooking.

-Salt Cellar, olive oil drizzler, cutting boards. The things I use most often are right on the counter. I picked up this glass dish in a Crate & Barrel clearance bin - saving myself $6 off the price of their real salt cellar. I've had this stupid pepper machine thing since my first apartment. At 18, I apparently decided that a hand exercise squeeze motion was a fun way to grind pepper. Someday I'll upgrade to the real thing.


last minute market

I accidentally tried a new trick this week at the market. I arrived within an hour of closing time and haggled for deals. The farmers don't want to drag anything back with them and are also easily swayed by produce flattery. This saved me close to $10 and allowed me to treat myself to a house full of fresh flowers. I didn't have my pick of the most beautiful veggies, but what I found was still high quality and delicious.

Total damage $35

1 bunch leeks
2 rutabagas
6.5 lbs green beans
1 jar spicy pickled mushrooms
20 stems various flowers
3 sweet green peppers
2 bunches watermelon radishes
2 lbs long Tropea Onions

I plan on...

pickling the radishes for Vietnamese sandwiches
blanching and freezing most of the green beans for winter (if they last that long)
researching what the hell to do with rutabagas
blogging about the leek confit I made last night



I was convinced to buy these berries last week because they looked so intimidating. This little son of a bitch does not want to be eaten. The really sharp spines are quite effective deterrents for anyone who might want a taste of this "sweet tomato-like berry" (according to the guy at the farmers market). In actuality, these berries have the acidic, tart flavor of a kiwifruit and only look like a tomato inside. The small seeds are really hard to chew and eat. It was a pain in the ass to remove the stems and small leaves from these berries without stabbing myself repeatedly with the tiny spines or wasting half of the fruit to avoid injury. It wasn't worth it (the $4 or the time). But maybe my sad story will prevent others from falling prey to the evil lynchberry. Google doesn't have any helpful information about the existence of this fruit. I'm betting the farmers:

1. found some wild bushes by the side of the road
2. forced their kids to pick the berries as punishment
3. named them for their bloodletting tendencies
4. sold them to shoppers like me as punishment for naivete


labor of love



We joined the masses and cooked outside on Labor Day. Kris bought a grill at a nice end of season price and we did the standard hot dog and hamburger feast right. I grilled up most of the veg from the farmers market and what didn't fall through the grate tasted pretty awesome. Frankie and Kris took care of the meat since my tongs skills were obviously lacking. In addition to watermelon, we stuffed ourselves with grilled peaches. I am addicted to that balsamic glaze, so I drizzled it over the peaches and ice cream.

Grilled Sweet Corn with Chili Butter

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened at room temperature
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon chili powder or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon cumin
cayenne pepper for heat
1 or 2 garlic cloves minced
generous pinch of kosher salt

Mix butter and other ingredients in a bowl until combined and uniform. Can be made ahead and kept refrigerated. There are two basic methods for grilling corn:

1. Shuck the corn, wrap it in foil, throw it on the grill or underneath with the coals to save space. Turn often. Slather with chili butter and eat.

2. Remove the outer husks and silks, replace the inner husks around the corn. Soak for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Throw the corn on the grill and turn often. Slather with chili butter and eat.