pear & pecorino pasta

so it’s been awhile.

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how’ve you been?

when i wrote my last post, i truly had no idea that it would be almost six months before i posted another one. and wouldn’t you know it – my last recipe was for veggie pasta, and this one is for fresh pasta with fruit.

a lot has happened in the last six months. i took a trip to wine country with my husband, and had more wine and cheese in a week than ever before – and that’s really saying something.

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ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

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i photographed some really beautiful restaurants for eater

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central wharf company

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row 34

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steel & rye

ward 8

ward 8

…and also got the chance to take some chef portraits.

steve peljovich

steve peljovich

garrett harker, skip bennett, & jeremy sewall

garrett harker, skip bennett, & jeremy sewall

steve "nookie" postal

steve “nookie” postal

i spent thanksgiving up in maine, and enjoyed a leisurely christmas at home for the first time.

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the cookbook that i styled is finally getting shipped.

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lobster mac & cheese bites from “stuffed” by dan whalen

and i landed a very exciting new position with oyster.com, taking photographs and writing reviews of hotels all around new england. i should start traveling for them in a few weeks.

and in the in-betweens, i really have been cooking. and taking photographs. and writing. i participated in national novel writing month for the first time in ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pastanovember,and successfully wrote 50,000 words of a new, original novel in 30 days. and maybe eventually, i’ll even finish it and try to get the thing published.

but i’ve also been a bit low. trying to find paid, full-time work in a creative field is exhausting, and discouraging, and draining. you put so much into your work, and it’s so easy to get taken advantage of. people want you to work for free, to give your photographs or writing or editing away like it’s not worth anything. they can’t do it themselves, but they don’t think it’s valuable enough to pay you to do it.

i’m not crazy. i know that most people aren’t 100% happy with their jobs, that most aren’t following their dreams or doing something they love every day. but i’ve worked the random jobs, the unappreciated jobs, the minimum wage jobs. i’ve bussed tables and made coffee and worked at malls on black friday and christmas eve. i’ve been an intern. i’ve worked for nothing – sometimes i’ve even ended up losing money after my jobs. i went to college and when that didn’t get me what i wanted, i went to graduate school. and when that didn’t get me what i wanted, i started taking photography classes. and it was tough. and it seemed like the job i wanted might not really exist. but somehow i have continued to dream that i could do something wonderful, something that sparked my passion, something that let me express myself and make beautiful things and inspire people.

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i don’t know if i’m ever truly going to do that. i’m not even sure that i know what that looks like, for me. but in a few weeks i’ll be getting paid to not only take photographs of beautiful restaurants and talented chefs, but also photograph new hotels and landscapes. and for the first time, i’ll get paid to write. and i think that that’s pretty wonderful.

but food is also wonderful. and this blog has always reminded me, even when i don’t write as regularly as i’d like, that a well-crafted, addictive, can’t-wait-to-cook-that recipe can soothe and calm and lift spirits. and while the posts might not go up every day (or even every month), i don’t want to stop blogging. i don’t want to stop cooking. i don’t want to stop loving food for the delicious pleasure that it can bring.

and in my opinion, this recipe does that.

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i received a pasta machine for my birthday, and after i swallowed my pride and gave it a shot, i realized that it really isn’t at all hard to make homemade, hand-crafted pasta. i haven’t made it into the big leagues and tried making tortellini or anything too fancy yet, but there’s something about making fresh pasta at home that’s really inspiring. ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pastathere’s so much you can do with it, and it gives you such a sense of pride, of accomplishment. it’s pretty cool to serve handmade pasta, with handmade sauce, and know that your effort went into everything on the plate.

if you want to take the plunge, you don’t need a machine to do it – but it definitely makes the process less intimidating (especially if, like me, you don’t have an experienced italian grandmother to teach you how to do it). i love the book making artisan pasta for recipes and techniques, and this recipe for basic egg pasta is a no-brainer.

but if you don’t feel like making fresh pasta (it does make a bit of a mess, and don’t wear black like i did or you will walk around with flour on your tummy until someone points it out to you), just use whatever you like. i won’t tell.

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this recipe was inspired by the pears that kept showing up in my winter fruit share, week after week, from the fantastic crew at SomethingGud. i like the flavor of pears but rarely enjoy eating them raw, and i wanted a savory dish that would bring out their sweety, spicy flavor.

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

pear & pecorino pasta

2 ripe pears ( i used bosc, use what you love)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
a pinch each of salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ounce pecorino romano cheese, in a single piece, plus shavings for garnish
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 cup arugula, roughly chopped
enough pasta for two people (i refuse to tell you how much pasta to eat. that’s your journey and i won’t interfere…but i made about two cups of fresh pasta for two people.)

preheat your oven to 425 degrees. quarter and core your pears, and place on a baking ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pastasheet or ovensafe dish. in an small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and rosemary. brush over the pears, and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until soft and golden brown. allow to cool.

in a saucepan, combine wine, butter, salt and pepper. bring to a simmer and allow to reduce, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. add cheese, rosemary, and red pepper flakes, continuing to stir until cheese is melting and sauce is beginning to thicken. if the cheese has melted completely you can leave it in – otherwise, remove it and discard.

once the pears are cool enough to touch, carefully remove the peels. dice the pears and add them to your sauce. (if you’d prefer a smooth sauce, you can puree the pears before adding them.) turn heat to low, cooking for five more minutes. at this point, taste and adjust accordingly with salt and pepper. you can add more wine (or your favorite stock) if you find the sauce too thick, or more butter if you’d like it to be thicker.

cook your pasta according to recipe or package instructions. fresh pasta only takes a few minutes to cook – i cook mine for about 2 minutes – so don’t start the pasta until you’re ready to eat. strain the pasta and toss with the sauce, adding the arugula. separate into serving dishes or individual bowls and garnish with shaved pecorino.

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a french onion soup day.

some days are soup days. no explanations necessary.

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and soup is a delightful thing. on a soup day, there are no possible substitutions. nothing else can warm a soul that is chilled to the bone, a body that is weary, or a heart that needs comforting. and many soups can do this job quite well. some days require simple, beautiful tomato soup (grilled cheese optional but encouraged). other days i want to feel like a real boston girl and enjoy some fresh new england clam chowder. and my vegetable minestrone is a favorite in our house for a hearty meal that still fills the soup criteria.

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but yesterday was a french onion soup kind of day. the dogs were cranky, my husband has been traveling far too much, and spring keeps teasing us by poking its head out, looking around, and then ducking when boston gets nailed with another half a foot of snow.
ginger-snapped - french onion soupi’m craving greenery. i’m so tired of white and gray, of big, ugly snow boots and too many layers. i can’t
wait to see buds on the trees
, to spot flowers slowly unfurling from the earth, and to savor that delicious, indescribably gorgeous scent that always lingers when spring is approaching. you know what i’m talking about. winter smells pretty too, but i’m ready for a new fragrance.

but until spring actually arrives, we must content ourselves with the comforting flavors of almost-spring… i.e. warm, boozy, sweet, salty and fragrant french onion soup. with bread and cheese on top. and a glass of wine on the side.

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i’m a simple girl. bread, cheese, onions, and wine – that’s pretty much all that i need to keep me happy.

this recipe is essentially julia’s, with a few modifications. i used homemade turkey stock, but you’re free to substitute chicken stock or more beef stock (or use a hearty vegetable or mushroom stock if you don’t eat meat). also, this soup is so good on its own that you don’t technically need to top it with the crouton and cheese…but i’m never one to turn down bread and cheese.

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(let’s not pretend this is a healthy meal. soup days are not days that we count calories.)

classic french onion soup

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oilginger-snapped - french onion soup
6 tbsp butter
5 cups sliced onions
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp flour
1 cup white wine (i like to use chardonnay but do what you want)
2 cups beef stock
4 cups turkey or chicken stock 
1 clove minced garlic
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp brandy or cognac
salt and pepper, to taste (if necessary)

a few thick slices of crusty bread
2 tbsp butter
8 oz gruyère cheese, grated

in a large saucepan or stockpot, heat oil and butter until melted. add the onions and cook covered, on low heat, for 10-15 minutes. uncover and add sugar and salt. turn heat up to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until caramelized a deep, even brown, about 40 minutes. (this is a good time to put on fun music or reruns of your favorite television show, because while your house is going to smell amazing, it’s a little boring stirring onions and waiting for them to brown*.)

ginger-snapped - french onion souponce onions are browned, add flour and stir, allowing to cook for another 3 minutes. add minced garlic and worcestershire sauce, and cook for another minute before adding wine, beef stock, and turkey stock. cover partially and simmer for another 30-40 minutes. add brandy, salt and pepper to taste if needed, and you’re done.

at this point, if you’re making the soup ahead (which i highly recommend but rarely have the strength to accomplish), let it cool and put it away. the flavor will just continue to deepen and develop until you’re ready to eat. if you’re like me and can’t resist the fragrance that will be filling your home, move on to the next step.

spread thick slices of crusty bread with butter and toast until crunchy. spoon soup into oven-safe bowls and top with bread and a generous amount of gruyère. place on a baking sheet and pop these under the broiler until cheese is bubbling and golden brown. eat immediately.

*cook’s illustrated has developed a method of caramelizing onions in the oven, which appears to work very well. my dutch oven isn’t large enough, but if you try it, please report back!

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the last week

our european adventure is almost over.

i have a lot of mixed feelings about leaving. on the one hand, this was the experience of a lifetime. what american-born foodie doesn’t dream of living in europe and traveling as much as (financially) possible? i’ve had so many incredible opportunities, made some awesome new friends, seen beautiful cities, and eaten delicious new cuisines. my world has expanded.

but it’s not an easy thing to leave all your friends and family behind for a few months. i’m not very good at keeping in touch with people, and i miss my friendships. i miss my dog like crazy. i miss being able to ask for things in english and not struggling to understand simple words and phrases. i miss my big, beautiful kitchen. i miss knowing where to shop when i need a new pair of flats or fresh herbs. and i miss having a purpose. being unemployed is fun for a little bit, since i’m here for my husband and there’s no guilt associated with it (yet!) – but things are coming to an end, and job searching is stressful and disheartening. i want to find something that sparks my creativity, that lets me feel useful and appreciated, and that involves food, travel, photography, and writing. surely my dream job is out there, waiting for me.

but until i return to america and pick up a six-pack of guinness (which i can’t find in budapest) and whip up some fish tacos (i miss mexican food like crazy), i’m determined to enjoy my last two weeks in europe. week one is in budapest, and week two will be spent road tripping to france with my husband. unless we get hopelessly lost, expect to see photos (and perhaps some video) from prague, paris, lyon, nice, and venice.

i can’t think of a better send-off…except perhaps for this yummy hungarian
potato stew called paprikás krumpli. i wanted to feature a vegetarian version of one of the most famous and ubiquitous hungarian dishes, goulash, but this dish features meat so prominently in both texture and flavor that replacing it seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. perhaps when i’m back in the states and can more easily read labels for things like spices, i’ll attempt to make my own version, but until then – enjoy this hearty, filling, and inexpensive dish, filled with classic hungarian flavors.

hungarian paprika potato stew (paprikás krumpli)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, diced

5 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 paprikas or bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
4 cups stock, vegetable or chicken
2 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cream 

in a large stockpot, heat olive oil and saute onion for about 5 minutes. add diced potatoes, pepper, tomatoes, stock, paprikas, celery seed, and parsley. add salt and pepper to taste. cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring as little as possible so that potatoes don’t break up. stir in cream and allow to simmer for another 10-15 minutes. serve with warm bread.

luck o’ the irish

while my family isn’t actually irish, my super pale skin, auburn hair, and green eyes mean that everyone assumes that i have a coat of arms* and a castle somewhere. but since my favorite beer is guinness and my preferred drinking experience is sitting in a pub with friends, going to ireland has always been a dream for me. i have always dreamed that i would fit right in.

i don’t think i was wrong.

having lived in boston for almost ten years, i can say with confidence that i know my way around an irish pub. spending saint patrick’s day running around in dublin truly felt like being at home, and made my husband incredibly homesick. i admit to having a few pangs myself. (hello, family and friends! we’ll be back soon!)

but a fair warning for my fellow travelers: while i was thrilled to be in dublin, and it was a blast to see the gorgeous, colorful streets and sights like saint patrick’s cathedral and trinity college and (naturally) the guinness factory, spending st patrick’s day in dublin isn’t exactly the ideal setting to enjoy ireland. for one thing, pretty much all the irish people leave.

can’t say i blame them. the streets were absolutely overrun with drunk tourists, wearing all manner of red beards, leprechaun hats, and shamrock paraphernalia, shouting at their friends and shoving their way through the crowd to get a better view of the parade. the best times for sight-seeing were in the morning, while everyone was still sleeping off their hangovers and we were free to wander the quiet streets without interruption.

one thing we didn’t get to do nearly enough of is eat irish food. traveling to a foreign country and back is a lot to do in a weekend, and this was our shortest trip yet – we only had one full day in ireland, which really limits the number of meals (especially when lunch is basically just a lot of guinness). it seemed appropriate, upon arriving back in budapest, to put together a simple irish dish to enjoy with our evening meal: irish potato torte. this (non-photogenic, but delicious) dish is like a cross between a lasagna and a gratin – layers and layers of potatoes, cabbage, cheddar cheese, bacon, and onions, baked to bubbly perfection.

need i say more? the only adaption i made to this recipe was adding a diced white onion and sauteing it in butter, then adding it to the bacon and cabbage mixture. feel free to omit this if you’d rather follow the original, but the onions give it a touch of sweetness that i really enjoyed with the bacon.

enjoy with corned beef and a perfectly-poured glass of guinness – and i hope you had a wonderful (and safe) saint patrick’s day.

*jones does have a coat of arms – because it’s welsh. but that sort of ruins my point.

stuffed paprikas

hungarian cuisine is starting to take over our lives.

we’ve now visited several different old-style hungarian restaurants, as well as some more modern ones. i’ve had chicken paprikas (naturally, i had to try one that wasn’t my own!), goulash (recipe coming soon), venison, veal, and a lot of duck. i just love eating duck. plus, i even made my chicken paprikas for some of my husband’s coworkers, and they seemed to enjoy it along with the fresh spaetzle, in spite of the fact that i trashed a friend’s kitchen in the process. spaetzle is delicious, but not the neatest, most elegant thing to make when you have people watching you.

but one of my favorite recipes to date, the one my husband can’t ever stop talking about, is a delicious, not-too-complicated, soul-soothing dish: stuffed paprikas.

in case you’re not aware – i’m not afraid to admit that i wasn’t until i got here – the word paprika is used in english to refer to the bright red spice, created by grinding dried peppers. but in many european languages, including hungarian, paprika refers to a fresh pepper. muddling the waters further, the dish called stuffed paprikas refers to a stuffed bell pepper (or paprikas pepper, as they’re labeled in the markets) that contains paprika (the spice) in the stuffing mixture. confusing, if you’re an ignorant american like myself, but you figure it out pretty quickly when a native hungarian tells you that you absolutely must make stuffed paprikas and you try to figure out how you could possibly stuff something into a ground spice.

insomnia is rough. it makes me easily confused.

anyway, the following recipe is from a native hungarian, who kindly emailed me instructions after taking me to the biggest market in the city to help me shop for ingredients. köszönöm, jutka!

hungarian stuffed paprikas

1 lb ground pork
1/2 cup rice, partially cooked
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp hungarian paprika, either sweet or hot
4-6 bell peppers, with tops and cores removed
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
15 ounces tomato sauce or puree
1 cup boiling water (optional)
2 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste 

in a large mixing bowl, combine ground pork, rice, egg, and paprika, adding a bit of salt and pepper. using your fingers, gently stuff the cored peppers with the meat mixture. if you have any remaining, add a bit of flour and create meatballs. place peppers and meatballs side by side in a large saucepan or stock pot.

in a saucepan, saute chopped onion in olive oil until lightly browned. add tomato sauce and, if it’s very thick, boiling water, and allow to come to a simmer. carefully pour tomato mixture over peppers and meatballs, then put over medium heat. top with chopped parsley, salt, and pepper, and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until peppers are just soft.

this dish is traditionally served over potatoes, either roasted with oil and seasonings or mashed. for a healthier alternative, try with sauteed winter greens or brown rice. for a hungarian touch, top the whole thing with (you guessed it!) sour cream.

and for all of you who keep complaining about the lack of dorky vacation-type photos, here’s a quick shot of us on our way out the door for our valentine’s day dinner:

i promise to put some shots of us up in my next post, once we get back from our next weekend trip – to rome!

minestrone & the alps

even on a cloudy day, there’s nothing quite like the alps.

i spent this past weekend following my husband and his coworkers around for a corporate training in a little village in germany, and then we all headed to another little village in austria to do some skiing. while waiting for the consultants to finish their training wasn’t particularly exciting, the little ski lodge nestled in the beautiful mountains more than made up for it.

i don’t ski. however, it’s impossible to resist riding up the lifts, simply to see the views that many of these people seem to take for granted – and, of course, to join the freezing skiers for the après-ski on the mountain after they finished the day. especially after being in new england for so many years, i wanted to spend as much time as possible near the mountains, in spite of how cold it was.

it got pretty cloudy by the time my fingers thawed enough to get my camera out, but i’m grateful that i got at least a few photos to remember the alps by.

also? four days eating nothing but deep fried meat, french fries, chicken cordon bleu, and beer really makes you grateful for winter vegetables. i plan on eating nothing but soup for the next week, and this is a delicious place to start.

my minestrone is thick and hearty, rich, and very filling. topping it with crunchy croutons and serving with crusty bread only makes it better. as always, feel free to play around with ingredients and amounts to get the proportions and flavors you like (for example, this really should have celery, but i’m at the mercy of the little market near our flat). and you may have noticed that basically every soup recipe i post contains bacon – i shouldn’t need to justify this, but i feel that any soup or stew benefits from this salty, fatty, delicious treat. don’t pretend you don’t agree.

winter minestrone

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3-4 slices bacon, chopped, or 100g unsmoked lardons
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large potato, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 5 oz can tomato paste
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup red wine
1 cup water
1 cup chopped kale, spinach, or your favorite winter green
1 15 oz can cannelloni or kidney beans, drained
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 cup shell or pipe rigate pasta, cooked
salt and pepper to taste 

in a large, heavy stockpot, warm olive oil over medium heat and add onions and bacon, cooking for about 5 minutes until onions are starting to brown. add carrots, potato, zucchini, and garlic, and allow to cook for 2-3 more minutes.

add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock, and wine. if vegetables are not covered, add water. allow to come to a boil, increasing heat if necessary. reduce heat, partly cover with a lid, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. add kale, drained beans, oregano, basil, salt and pepper, and allow to simmer for another 15 minutes.

when ready to serve, spoon several tablespoons of pasta into bowls and add soup. top with grated cheese and, if you like, crusty croutons – rip or cut several slices of bread into small chunks, and place in a bowl with salt, pepper, and several tablespoons of olive oil. use your hands to coat bread, then spread onto a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

for best results, make this a day or two in advance. if you don’t have enough time to do this (or are like me and don’t plan meals out very far ahead), at least try to make this in the morning so that it can hang out all day. the longer it sits, the better it will taste – trust me.


paprikas & spaetzle

we’ve been living in budapest for a month (!!!), and while i’ve eaten out quite a bit, i haven’t had the opportunity to eat nearly enough hungarian food. this cuisine is delicious and flavorful, but has a tendency to be a bit heavy. in winter this is great, since this food is warm and incredibly comforting, but there’s only so much sour cream i can consume in a day before i feel a bit sick.

however.

chicken paprikas, served with fresh homemade spaetzle, is something i could probably eat daily and not get tired of. if you’ve never had this dish, stop what you’re doing, go to the store for the ingredients, and start cooking the recipe below. i can wait. go ahead.

see what i mean?

spicy, crunchy, creamy, soothing, addictive, delicious. this is what hungarian cuisine is all about. i’m not going to lie, it’s not the most attractive dish i’ve ever made, and i kept remaking it and postponing publishing in the hopes that it would look prettier for these photos – but don’t worry about it. just grab a beer and a fork and dig in.

there are a number of recipes out there for chicken paprikas, and i’ve already made at least 3 of them. for the money, i like sheryl julian’s recipe from several years ago the best – while some complain about the use of tomatoes, i find it gives the sauce more depth and a better consistency. play around with ingredients and let me know what you like – i love adding a finely chopped paprikas pepper to this, since they’re so easy to find here.

you don’t have to serve the chicken with spaetzle…but it’s so easy and absolutely delicious that you’re really missing out. it can be a bit messy to make, which is why i love smitten kitchen’s recipe (and photos!) – she also explores the many ways to create these twisty noodle-shaped dumplings, meaning that even if you haven’t tried it before, you’ll get a delicious end product.

i may be training for a marathon in barcelona in march, but if i keep eating this daily like i threaten to, i may come back roughly the size of a house.

daily adventures

besides the fact that i’m in this incredible city, the best part about my time in budapest is that i have nothing to do but wander around with my camera, watch people, and cook.

the city is so alive, and has such a different feeling than boston, new york, los angeles, san diego. these people fascinate me – they’re kind but not friendly, which means i can walk the city for hours and not make eye contact with a single person, but can get help as soon as i need it from a warm cafe server. this delights me for reasons i can’t explain. i love the feeling of strength and independence these people exude, but i’m relieved to know that if i ask, i can always get helpful directions or advice from a native. i’m not sure i’ve felt this way anywhere else before.

i’m fascinated by the blending of old and new, both in architecture and in business. brand new, modernly designed hotels sit amongst old, broken down buildings, and brightly colored american fast food chains compete with local restaurants.

steve and i have been trying to explore local restaurants, both hungarian and otherwise, which meant that we went out all weekend, and that yesterday i met him for lunch at his office and we tried out this absolutely delicious burger bar. my bleu-cheese filled, pepper crusted burger on ciabatta bread was delightful, but after we were finished eating and i asked steve what he might like for dinner, he simply said “vegetables.”

i can work with that.

the following recipe is so loose, it hardly counts as a recipe. use whatever vegetables you like and can find – this soup should be rich, flavorful, and full of comfort. i wanted to use celery and turnips but the lady at the market wouldn’t sell them to me for reasons she thoroughly explained…in hungarian. i imagine most of my readers won’t have this problem.

warming winter soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
4 scallions, finely sliced
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
1 medium can cannelloni beans
1-2 cups water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock
2 strips bacon, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

in a large stock pot over medium heat, warm the oil and saute the onions for several minutes. when they start to develop color, add the garlic and cook for another minute. add butter and flour and mix well until mixture thickens, then add white wine, tomatoes, carrots, parsnip, and scallions. allow to come to a simmer.

in a separate pot, boil potatoes in water for several minutes until tender, then add potatoes to stock pot with cannelloni beans. add enough water or stock to completely cover vegetables, then add bacon, oregano, basil, bay leaf, and a bit of salt and pepper. allow mixture to come to a boil, stirring regularly, than turn heat down to low and cover, cooking for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. you’ll probably need to add more seasonings but i like to start low and add as i go, so taste regularly to adjust. serve with crusty bread, a glass of wine, and (ideally) a crackling fire.

next up: chicken paprikas.

spicy pumpkin stew

boston has been teasing us with 75-degree weather, which in october is just cruel. autumn is so beautiful and delicious, and the warm weather is confusing both the trees and the locals. the warm air is crying out for lemonade and fresh fruit, but i know better – pumpkin, apples, spices and warm drinks are just around the corner. they really should be here already, but since i have tickets to this weekend’s patriots/cowboys game, i’ll tolerate the indian summer a bit longer.

but i just can’t help cooking warm, spicy, creamy dishes. the stores and markets are full of fall produce, and i want it all. unless it’s 100 degrees and disgustingly humid, i love cream sauces, slow-cooked soups and comforting pastas. don’t get me wrong, light and fresh dishes have their place, but sometimes you just crave something rich and soothing.

i was going to share a pumpkin risotto recipe, but i went ahead and made a full-fledged spicy pumpkin stew instead, with chunks of chicken over fluffy rice. the perfect cure for the why-isn’t-it-fall-yet blues. i promised my mother i would post my risotto recipe, so i’ll save that for next week.

spicy pumpkin and chicken stew

2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, cored and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 chicken breasts, with bones and skin removed, cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp dried oregano
15 ounces canned pumpkin*
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup spinach, roughly chopped
1/3 cup plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste 

*don’t hate. you’re free to use fresh pumpkin if you choose, and it’s definitely worth trying. i had canned pumpkin on hand because i use it to make dog treats, and i didn’t want to leave the house. sometimes, i get lazy.

heat canola oil on medium-low heat in a medium saucepan. add onion, sauteing past translucence and until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. add jalapeno pepper and saute for a minute, then add garlic and vinegar saute for another minute. add the strips of chicken, cinnamon, nutmeg, curry, salt, paprika, red pepper flakes, allspice, and oregano, and allow to saute until the chicken is cooked through. add a pinch each of salt and pepper for taste.

while the chicken is cooking, pull out your trusty crockpot and combine chicken stock and pumpkin. turn to high. when the chicken is fully cooked, dump the chicken and onion mixture into the crockpot. add a bit more salt and pepper, spinach and yogurt, put the lid on and allow to come to a simmer. once your mixture is bubbling, turn down to low and and let cook for 1-2 hours.

here’s the key – taste this throughout. it will almost certainly need more salt and pepper, and add more seasonings to taste if you want more smoky flavor, more creaminess, or more heat. i’m giving you the low-spice version to please most palates, but feel free to crank it up with more paprika, crushed red peppers, or curry powder. or throw in some chipotles for even more dimension. serve over rice – how much is up to you.

end of summer sadness

 

 

i really love summer. i love the sunshine, the long days, the breezy nights, the clear blue skies, the singing birds, the endless barbecues, the crowded farmer’s markets. i know, you’re gagging a bit, but summer really agrees with me. you can just smell it – clean air, green grass, warm rain, people just loving life. even in boston, where folks are about as rude as they come and it’s hard to drive anywhere without wanting to take a baseball bat to some hipster’s bicycle (yeah yeah, i have road rage, what do you want), you can still manage to enjoy the season.

summer’s got all the best foods, for real – berries, tomatoes, cherries, figs, corn, watermelon, fresh herbs. i really need to move back to california soon so i can grow my own citrus, avocados, artichokes…i can still buy them here, but it’s not the same. i live for the day that i can have my very own lemon tree.

the thing is, autumn is actually my favorite season. and this time of year, right now – the end of august, the beginning of school, just when the nights are thinking about getting cooler and you can see the trees wondering when their leaves will start to turn – i think it’s the most beautiful time of the year. the days are still long and lazy, but things are getting just a bit cooler, the humidity starts to fade and you can smell autumn just around the corner.

but. with the approach of autumn, i can’t ever separate my glory in the season from the coming dread of winter. i just hate the cold, the snow, the dreary grey skies, the layer and layers of sweaters, the dry skin, the cabin fever. i do not belong here in boston, where everybody manages to get even crankier and my latent anger issues and general bitchiness come out in full force. i don’t want to shovel snow, or fall down the icy stairs, or constantly be sick. i don’t want to buy mealy grocery store tomatoes from chile or make soup over and over. i see the leaves begin to change and i can’t help but get a little depressed, knowing that even the smell of autumn (the best smell ever, forever) won’t cheer me up.

but you know what does cheer me up? super buttery, flaky, cheesy buttermilk biscuits. and you know what makes them even better? rolling them out into a pie crust, then topping them with fresh tomatoes, basil, and tons of cheese. and baking it. and eating it with a fork out of the pan because it’s too delicious to plate.

i made these biscuits for my final project for my baking class, and i don’t want to brag, but people could not stop eating them. they’re super tender, flaky, and have millions and millions of calories – but don’t let that stop you. just don’t eat for a few days afterwards and you’ll be fine. few things will really make these biscuits better – except, of course, making them into an end-of-summer cure-for-the-blues tomato, cheddar and basil pie. enjoy with an ice cold beer, plenty of friends, and a healthy dose of summer sunshine.

tomato, cheddar and basil summer pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 lbs assorted tomatoes, cored and sliced
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 scallion, trimmed and diced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh basil, cut into chiffonade

begin by making the crust: in the bowl of a mixer, combine flour, baking powder and salt. keeping the mixer on low, gradually add chopped butter until butter is the size of peas. whisk the buttermilk and egg together, then dump in quickly to flour and butter mixture, stirring on low until just combined. add grated cheese until combined, then remove onto a floured surface. knead several times until smooth, then roll out with floured rolling pin to an 11-12 inch round. fold into quarters and transfer into 9 inch glass pie pan, then gently unfold crust, press into bottom of dish and cover with a dry cloth until ready to fill.

for the filling, lay tomato slices out onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels. lay additional paper towels over the top, allowing the tomatoes to drain for about 30 minutes. preheat oven to 425 degrees. combine cheeses into small bowl, then remove 1/4 cup and reserve for topping. in another small bowl, combine scallion, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

sprinkle a small handful of cheese onto the bottom of the crust, then top with a layer of tomatoes. add about half of the oil mixture, then top with half of the cheese. add another layer of tomatoes and the rest of the oil. sprinkle a bit of the basil on top. add any remaining tomatoes (i still had a few leftover after the pan was filled, so save your prettiest slices for this last layer), then top with the reserved 1/4 cup of cheese and the remainder of the basil. fold overhanging crust onto the top layer of filling – i created a rustic hexagon shape, but you can do whatever you like the look of best.

bake until crust is golden and cheese is a light golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. check halfway through baking to make sure the crust isn’t getting too dark – top with loose foil if necessary to keep crust a lighter color. allow the pie to rest for at least an hour before serving, up to 3 hours if needed.