Friday, December 30, 2011

Double chocolate pistachio biscotti: a recipe

Double chocolate pistachio biscotti
A little late for a christmas cookie recipe, right?

It's OK because you can make these bad boys anytime you want. Anytime.

Why not now, in fact?

One of the things I like about these biscotti -- besides the supreme yumminess -- is the beautiful contrast of the chartreuse of the pistachios against the deep brown of the chocolate cookie.

It must be the designer in me, as the patisserie chef who create these, Michelle Myers of Sona in Los Angeles, is a former graphic designer who likes her creations to be pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Boozy Zenith" Bourbon Pecan Cake: a recipe

bourbon pecan cake

This post has been a long time coming. Three weeks, in fact. Three weeks of marinating in boozy Jack Daniels goodness.

The cake, that is, has been marinating. Not this post. Or me.

I'll start out this saga by noting that this is a recipe I got from my mother and, short of "I think I cut it out of a magazine a long time ago", she has no idea where it came from, only that it was my dad's favorite. So if you think your Great Aunt Tilly invented it or something, I don't want to hear it.

In my childhood home, this was "fruitcake."

Which should have been explained to me better as a child, as I used to tell people that I loved fruitcake. And they all looked at me as if I were bat-shit crazy. I could not understand why so many people hated fruitcake, when it was so amazingly yummy.

Then at some point I tasted a real fruitcake: how amazingly revolting!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Onion and bacon tart: a recipe

Onion and bacon tart
You know it's getting to be holiday time when I allow myself to cook with bacon fat. A lot of bacon fat.

Regular readers will know that we start out the year with a little something we call Detox January, to get off on the right foot. So healthy! But somehow a downward spiral begins after that, gaining a little more momentum each month without my realizing it, until December rolls around and I have no qualms making a dish that swims in bacon fat.

But it's a lovely bacony dish, fat and all.

You wouldn't think that a dish with so few ingredients (besides bacon fat) could be so amazing. Really, it's just bacon, onions and a flour-egg-milk batter.

But it is.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stracciatella (Italian chicken soup): a recipe

Don't worry, I had never heard of it either -- and I'm wicked Italian, on both sides.

I ran across this recipe in the December issue of Food and Wine, which refers to it as a "classic Italian chicken soup." OK, sounds good. More importantly, it looked like you could whip it up quickly and easily -- a perfect weeknight, last-minute meal.

It was almost too easy!

Honestly, I kept checking the recipe to make sure I didn't miss anything because the prep time is about 5 minutes and so is the cooking time. Literally less than 15 minutes until dinner.

It reminded me a little bit of egg drop soup, but with spinach and a little lighter. It's so easy to prepare, I don't think you can go wrong by giving it a try.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gingerbread cake: a recipe

gingerbread cake

It's December again and we finally got some fluffy snow here in Vermont, so I guess it's ninjabread time.

Last year,  I made ninjabread men because of the ass-kicking cookie cutters that I got.

This year, it's a cake because who doesn't love cake? Pie, meh. But cake? Come on.

Not really much to say about gingerbread without just diving into the recipe. I don't have any waxing-nostalgic stories about holiday gingerbread growing up or anything like that. If you do, that's great. Please share them in the comments section.

I just like gingerbread. And I like cake. So there you go.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: Holiday 2011

I love visiting with my vintage ornament collection every year. Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Peanut soup: a recipe

Peanut soup
This recipe was a challenge.

Not challenging, just a literal challenge.

I generally try to leave one night each week off the menu plan and then I challenge myself to make something for dinner based only on ingredients I already have: no grocery store trips allowed.

Since I had just made a bunch of turkey stock with the Thanksgiving bird, I knew I'd be able to whip up a soup this week. But other than the stock, the pickings were looking kind of slim.

I turned to the always-reliable The Joy of Cooking and combed through the soup section. Three recipes not only looked good to me but also could be made with my in-house ingredients:
  1. Greek Lemon Soup
  2. Georgia Peanut Soup
  3. Chicken Noodle with Veg
Since I was truly torn as to which to choose, I posted the three choices to my Facebook page and asked my followers decide.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey and bean gratin: a recipe and a revelation

Turkey, bean and potato gratin with kale, un-Photoshopped
Maybe it was the flurry of Thanksgiving food creation -- planning, shopping, prepping, cooking and eating -- last week, but this week I've been feeling menu- and motivation-challenged.

Honestly, I sat with all the December foodie mags for hours and couldn't come up with a single thing I wanted to make this week.

It nearly gave me a panic attack.

Once I calmed down, I decided to wing it with some leftovers and wound up creating this hearty and yummy turkey, bean and potato gratin with kale. Quick, easy and very satisfying, and I even managed to get a couple of photos of it before we ate it.

But my near-panic attack made me stop and take a breath. Am I wound that tightly, I thought? Crap, I hope not. I mean, this isn't even a paying gig!

In fact, I've recently been feeling a bit depressed by the whole blogging adventure, which you may know I took on not only to give myself a creative outlet but also to get back to my writing roots with a goal of taking on some freelance projects. (As I said to someone recently, it's only "freelance" if someone pays you, otherwise, it's just free.) And it has been fun, no doubt. But the more I get involved in the food blogging community, the more inadequate it can sometimes make me feel.

Let me explain.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving menu

Beauty shot from our recent trip to the Mount Washington Resort
It has been a little too crazy-busy this week to do a lot of food photography and, I'll admit, I'm not one of those bloggers that keeps posts in reserve for busy times. I write about what I'm cooking in the moment, if there's time.

And this week, there's not a lot of time.

But, since I'm excited about how our Thanksgiving meal is shaping up, I thought I'd just share the whole thing with you directly, in case you're still looking for ideas.

And you still might see some of these dishes show up in more detail next week.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Thanksgiving Day Menu

Appetizers / Antipasto
I like to do charcuterie or antipasto in the early afternoon, when everyone starts getting peckish

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blueberry oatmeal muffins: a recipe

Blueberry oatmeal muffins
After focusing my time on making lots of soups and desserts lately, I  realized that I need to think a bit about breakfast again.

I'm back in a breakfast rut.

There are only so many ham-and-cheese mini paninis* that a person can eat in one week without crying uncle.


I found this recipe via Cooking Light (yes, I know, what a shock). I like it because it has quite a bit of oatmeal in it so I don't even have to use the cake-masquerading-as-breakfast ruse: this is actually designed for breakfast.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Scourtins: a recipe

I've gotten hooked on the savory cocktail cookie this year. It's my hors d'oeuver of choice because, frankly, who doesn't like cookies?

And apparently I'm not only not alone in my new love but also late in coming to this particular party. Of course the French have been loving the savory-sweet combination for years. No where is this more evident than in scourtins, the traditional olive shortbread cookies from Northern France.

Yes, olives. In cookies. You have to trust me here.

I was first introduced to scourtins by my friend Cynthia, who thought that my wildly insane love of the salty-sweet flavor of salted oatmeal cookies (Best. Cookies. Ever.) might make me more than a little predisposed to enjoying the olivey-sugary scourtin goodness.

By golly, that Cynthia is a genius.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Creamy turnip soup: a recipe

Creamy turnip soup
Regular readers here will know this is the time of year that I get a little soup crazy, given the onset of cool weather.

Although yesterday's 70 degrees was a bit confusing. Don't get me wrong, I'll take it, but it made it feel less like a soup day.

While menu-planning this week, I decided I want to add a new soup to the rotation, so I got my copy of The New York Times Cookbook (TNYTC) -- the old, Craig Claiborne one, not the new, Amanda Hesser one.

Funny story behind this one -- I bought the TNYTC in my early twenties as part of one of those 12-books-for-a-penny clubs. You remember those, like Columbia House was for music. Do those even exist anymore? Regardless, it seemed like a good value. But this is when I had no idea how to cook. Therefore, I was actually disappointed when I got the book because the recipes seemed way too complicated for someone who was just learning to master pan-frying a chicken breast.

So it sat on my bookshelf for years before I opened it again.

I'm starting to rediscover it and have already flagged a whole bunch of recipes that I'd like to try. I'm glad I held on to .

But now back to the soup.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Making hard cider: part 2

Racking the cider from bucket to carboy
After about ten days, our airlocks stopped bubbling, which means only one thing: time to rack!

"Um, WHAT?" you may be asking. Let me explain.

The lack of bubbling indicates that the fermentation process -- which we helped along in Step 1 by adding yeast and sugar -- has stopped. The cider has stopped being a "soft" sweet cider and is on its way to becoming hard cider. If you were to taste it at this point (I usually do), it's incredibly tart but also a bit boozy. Success!
Now the cider is ready to sit and clarify, so it will end up looking more like a clear hard cider than a cloudy soft apple cider. To start this process, the cider should be siphoned (racked) out of the existing bucket into a new, sanitized container, where it will sit for the next several weeks.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Apple Biscoff cookie bars: a recipe

Apple Biscoff cookie bars
Why have I not made more cookie bars? WHY?

It's the perfect marriage of cake and cookie: it's like getting two treats in one.

Where has the cookie bar been all my life? WHERE?

I went trolling for an apple cake-ish kind of recipe the other day because I had a few Honeycrisp apples left. I didn't want them to go to waste, but they were a day or two past their crispiest point -- you know, the crispy point that makes you just want to eat it plain and not waste it by baking it.

And what goes better with apples, we all now know, than Biscoff spread? NOTHING.

Thank goodness the Internet Fates chose to throw an adaptable cookie bar recipe my way.

I doctored up a recipe that featured peanut butter and apples because I knew the Biscoff spread would just make it that much better (peanut butter is beginning to take a back seat in our house to Biscoff spread and Nutella -- how about yours?).

And I was right.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ginger dressing: a recipe

Ginger dressing
I love sushi.

One of the best things about living in Southern California (when we did) was that there were at least eight bajillion good sushi restaurants within a two-block radius of wherever you were standing.

I'm nearly not kidding.

I miss sushi.

Up here in Vermont, it's a bit different, as you can well imagine. We've discovered one passable sushi place in downtown Burlington, but that's it. (If you can recommend another, please leave a comment below!)

Again, I miss sushi.

This also means that I don't get my fix of that ubiquitous yummy ginger salad dressing that every sushi restaurant serves on its side salad of iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Drying herbs: two techniques

Sage, rosemary and thyme, dried in a food dehydrator
It's comin' for us.

Winter, that is. In fact, parts of our lovely state of Vermont already have some snow.

This means that it's time to call the garden done and get it prepped for a long winter's nap.

I don't have much left in garden, veg-wise, but I do have a crapload of herbs, so this week I harvested what was left and set about drying them for use over the cold winter months.

I have dried herbs using two different techniques, one fast and one slow, so I'm going to share both of them with you. Both are simple and will leave you with dried herbs that are much more flavorful than any you can buy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Apricot-tarragon cocktail cookies: a recipe

Apricot-tarragon cocktail cookies
I love a nice cocktail, don't you?

We are famous (notorious?) for our evening cocktail hour, a la 1954, here at Chez Ninj. Corny, but it's a very relaxing way to end the day, like setting an appointment to sit down together and talk. But with cocktails, so it's extra festive and not at all therapy-ish.

I'm currently a ridiculously huge fan of the simple, perfect vodka gimlet, probably as much for it's beautiful celery color as anything. (I swear, one of these days I'm going to carry one, in a martini glass, into the Benjamin Moore paint store and see if they can color match it.)

So, given Cocktail Hour, I'm always looking for good recipes for accompanying nibbles. Nothing sweet, just a little salty-cheesy somethin'-somethin' -- you know what I mean.

Therefore, you probably heard me screaming in delight recently when I opened the November issue of Food and Wine and saw that the incomparable Dorie Greenspan (insert reverential bow) had seemingly answered my prayers.

Move over, crackers and cheese ...

Get out of town, spicy nut mix ....

Cocktail cookies have arrived. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Making hard cider: part 1

The result of last year's hard cider-making adventure
One of the things I really wanted to try my hand at as soon as I returned to New England last year was hard cider.

I love cider: the drier, the better (if you ever see a bottle of Farnham Hill Extra Dry, buy it immediately!). If it's on the menu in a pub or restaurant, it's my drink of choice.

I've been happy to observe that I'm not alone. Artisanal cider-making is growing in popularity, at least as evidenced by the number of articles about it that keeping popping up in the foodie publications.

So, armed with a love of cider but almost no knowledge, Mr. Ninj and I made cider last year.

And you know what? It was awesome. Wicked awesome, in fact.

I relied almost exclusively on a how-to article from the Mother Earth News and the advice of Vermont Homebrew Supply, the owners of which very patiently answered all my newbie questions as I took copious notes.

Given how successful and delicious our experiment was last year with five gallons of cider, we decided to double it this year, and I'm going to chronicle our efforts here so you might try to make some, too.

Welcome to Ninja Cider-Making, part 1.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Beer-and-cheddar soup: a recipe

Beer-and-cheddar soup
One of the things I love about fall and the weather turning cooler is that soup is back in the recipe rotation.

Not that I don't enjoy summer soups, such as gazapacho or fresh tomato bisque, but the hot-and-hearty soups of fall and winter are pure comfort food.

And speaking of pure comfort, howzabout a beer-and-cheddar soup?

Beer-and-cheese soup recipes probably fall into the same category as homemade pasta sauce: every family has one and each thinks its is the best. So I'm not claiming this is the best-ever, ultimate, cheesiest or what have you: it's just the one that came across my path via the November issue of Food and Wine magazine.

But I had to modify it a bit, just to be able to live with myself.

I admit, I love cheese. And bacon. And cream. And beer. But when a recipe calls for all of those, in large quantities, together in one dish, I get a little scared. It's the Cooking Light devotee in me, I guess; I'd rather not be responsible for serving a stroke-on-a-plate (or in this case, in a bowl) to my family.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: chard and a recipe

Rainbow chard
This was what my happy chard looked like just before the deer attack.

If you're looking for a fantastic recipe for chard, which is also an easy and elegant one-pot dish, I'd urge you to try Melissa Perello's Chicken Baked on a Bed of Bread and Swiss Chard from Food and Wine magazine.

Tip: Use only about 1/2 to 3/4 of the chard called for and four or five drumstick-and-thigh chicken legs.

What's your favorite way to cook chard?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chicken jerky: a recipe

Easy DIY homemade chicken jerky, made in a dehydrator -- loved by people and dogs alike.

easy recipe for homemade chicken jerky -- for people and dogs
I already know that this won't be one of my more popular posts, but hey, I'm in charge here and I love jerky.

At least, I love homemade jerky. Do not call Slim Jims or that other crap that they sell at gas stations or the packy "jerky" -- bleeeeccckkk.

Jerky is nothing more than dried meat and spices, so if you like meat and have never tried it because you thought jerky = Slim Jim, I urge you to reconsider.

Jerky is a great snack to have on hand when you want something a little salty, and the portability makes it ideal for hikes, lunch boxes, road trips, etc.

Not to mention that jerky is an incredibly high-value dog treat -- the Ninjette will pretty much do any kind of trick you ask and never take her eyes from mine when I'm holding even the tiniest bit of this jerky.

I make my jerky in a dehydrator, but you could make this by drying the meat on cookie sheets in a low (200 degree) oven as well. The beauty of the dehydrator is that it uses very little electricity, so it's a more efficient way of making jerky than leaving your oven on all day.

Additionally, you can make a lot more than jerky with your dehydrator: veggie chips, dried fruit, sundried tomatoes and fruit roll-ups/leathers, just to name a few.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Biscoff cake: a recipe

Biscoff cake
In case you haven't been able to hear me screaming with joy about it here in Vermont, Biscoff cookies are now available in a spread.

Nutella, you may have just met your match.

I love these cookies. Seriously love. Before they were readily available in grocery stores in the United States, I used to try purposely to book my flights on Delta Airlines because it meant I could get two little Biscoffs with my cup of water.

And I'm not alone in my obsession. I have a friend and former co-worker who, on a flight we shared from Seattle back to North Carolina, went out of her way to befriend the flight attendant solely for the purpose of scoring extra Biscoff.

I think she may have broken some kind of world record for Biscoff Snarfed in One Sitting.

If you've never tasted them before (and my heart breaks for you, really, it does), they have a unique vanilla cinnamon sugar kind of thing going on, with just a hint of spice to keep it interesting. So now imagine that in a spread that is the consistency of peanut butter.

Those Belgians, they are freakin' geniuses.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baked apple, smoked turkey and cheddar strata: a recipe

Foliage, not strata
We've been through this before, but some dishes simply don't photograph well.

Just in case you were wondering why there's a picture of some lovely fall foliage rather than some strata.

I tried, really I did. I even bought a cool new blue plate to add a pop of color. But three shades of beige are just three shades of beige -- albeit on a cool blue plate.

So you get foliage instead: colorful rather than colorless.

However, don't discount the strata itself. I decided to make it last Monday, as a tip o' the hat to Canadian Thanksgiving, and it didn't disappoint. Fall flavors wrapped up in baked custardy goodness: perfect for either dinner or brunch.

I'm happy to report also that it comes from Melissa Pasanen's and Rick Gencarelli's Cooking with Shelburne Farms, so it's a recipe right from my neck of the woods. As regular readers know, I'm lucky enough to have recently moved to Vermont, which is handily helping me fulfill my goals of eating locally daily.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Salted lemon muffins: a recipe

Salted lemon muffin
I blame the salted oatmeal cookies.

Ever since they came into my life, I've been obsessed with finding other mouth-watering salty-sweet combinations.

This time, I forced it.

When I saw "lemon salt lemon cupcakes" as a link in my RSS feed, I jumped on it. It was a post from Helene at her lovely lovely lovely blog, Tartelette (I aspire to taking such amazing yet simple photographs -- someday, when I've graduated from point-and-shoot, I think).

Helene's cupcakes look delightful, with a beautifully light buttercream frosting and just a hint of salt. But, you know me, if there's frosting on it, I can't call it "breakfast" without guilt, so I decided to morph the cupcakes into muffins.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Slow-cooker leek, potato and spinach soup: a recipe

Enjoy this easy recipe riff on the classic vichyssoise: potato leek soup with spinach made in a slow cooker. 

slow cooker potato leek soup with spinach
We had our first major frost the other night: it went down to about 23 degrees.

Dag. That's cold.

I dressed the remains of my garden in some little blankies and they did just fine. I'd like to be able to harvest at least a few of the radishes and turnips that I planted last month before I have to say good-bye for the winter.

But the turn in the weather means that I have stopped thinking about tomatoes in favor of butternut squash. Fall things. Warm things. Casseroles and soups, for instance.

In other words: it's slow cooker season.

I love the set-it-and-forget-it nature of the slow cooker. This past weekend, we had houseguests and wanted to spend Sunday touring the area and visiting a local museum. So I put all the fixings of a chicken pot pie (of a sort) into the crockpot before we left and when we got home later, dinner was waiting.

Not to mention that the house smelled awesome.

And if slow cooker meals are easy, slow cooker soup is nearly effortless. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Pumpkin soup with Gruyere: a recipe

Pumpkin soup with Gruyere
I love cooking from magazines but sometimes their ingredient lists send me on a bit of a wild goose chase.

Enter this pumpkin soup recipe from the October issue of Bon Appetit.

The soup is cooked in the pumpkin itself so the authors advise choosing a variety of pumpkin that will hold up well in the oven. Think about what a colossal mess you'd have if the pumpkin caved in on itself with all that liquid inside it. Yipes. So yes, great advice.

However, their recommendations for sturdy varieties include "Cheese" or "Jarrahdale."

Um ... say WHAT?

Now, granted, I live in the sticks so you'd expect I personally might not be as familiar with these varieties as our cosmopolitan recipe authors, but I do live in one of the locavore capitals of the United States and a place where heirloom varieties of anything can be pretty easily found at farmers markets, farm stands and even grocery stores.

So, undaunted, I headed off to a very large local farm stand, knowing that they supply not only local home cooks but also a lot of the high-end area restaurants and natural markets. Surely they'd have every kind of hip pumpkin that exists, right?

The owner had never even heard of these varieties. Great.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: pear chutney recipe

The original recipe uses this as a base for a bruschetta with blue cheese, pecans and herbs (which was awesome!) but it was so good solo that I'd recommend using as an accompaniment to roast pork or chicken, too.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Apple-pear crumble: a recipe

Apple-pear crumble
So I know I promised to have a bit more of a savory focus this week: apparently I lied.

But, come on, can you blame me? It's apple season and somehow I think you'd rather hear about a crumble than a pork loin.

At least, you only seem to comment on dessert posts.

I like this recipe (from The Joy of Baking) because it uses both pears and apples because I'd be hard-pressed to choose between the two if it was a one-fruit-only crumble. In fact, the original recipe calls for cranberries as well, making it a three-fruit crumble, but that just seemed like one fruit too many to me.

I have made this crumble several times now -- the second time necessitated by the fact that I forgot to take a photo of it the first time around and I really wanted to share it with you on this blog.

(Really, who could possibly object to a eating a yummy crumble twice? Not Mr. Ninj, I can assure you.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bittersweet chocolate cookies: a recipe

Bittersweet chocolate cookies: leaves, not trees
Another dessert recipe.

Is it too much for you?

I swear, I have made a whole bunch of other things to eat this week. We do not subsist solely on brownies and cookies.

I asked my Facebook followers to help me decide if I should make the Nutella cheesecake brownies or these chocolate cookies. They overwhelmingly voted for the brownies, but I felt I had to be fair to the cookies.

Especially since I just got these cute harvest-themed cookie cutters: pumpkins, turkeys and leaves.

The shapes seemed pretty obvious to me. However, we had a couple of plumbers in our house the day I made these and they thought they were balloons, chickens and christmas trees, respectively.

Right. Because nothing says "Happy Fall!" quite like chickens and balloons.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Nutella cheesecake brownies: a recipe

Nutella cheesecake brownies
As is evident just by the name, these brownies were wicked awesome.

But this is less a post about the recipe itself than it is about how I found it. Behold, the power of the internet.

I know, I know, this is not news.

I'm fully aware that my food blog is one of about 8 gazillion others out there, with all of us hoping that something may come from it but odds being that nothing ever will, other than our having a good time cooking, writing about it and meeting other folks who like to do the same.

The twist here is that I did not find this recipe via the usual round of link-to's from other food blogs. I found it on a relatively new site called Pinterest (thanks to Kim Chang for introducing me).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Blueberry oatmeal cookies: a recipe

Blueberry oatmeal cookies
Blueberry oatmeal cookies were not what I had planned.

Earlier in the week, I made a really yummy and easy apple and pear crumble -- so perfect for a Friday fall blog post. I even remembered to take some good prep shots, which I often forget to do.

I made it just after dinner, so there was insufficient natural light in my kitchen to photograph the final product. If I try to photograph food after sundown, it turns out looking like something you wouldn't want to see in the garbage, let alone eat, so I usually shoot post-sundown creations the next morning.

So we enjoyed half of it for dessert.

And then the other half for breakfast.

And only then did I realize I forgot the photo. Crap.

Very helpfully (and hungrily), Mr. Ninj suggested I simply make more, but by then the deer had finished off all the pears in the wee orchard (damned vermin -- be warned, hunting season begins in a mere two weeks and I've got big plans for venison jerky).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: Put 'Em Up

I received this Major Award in the mail yesterday; I can't wait to start making some of the great recipes.

I think I'll start with Cucumber Aqua Fresca...

Monday, September 12, 2011

What we ate last week: some recipes and some community love

To be honest, I sometimes post these "retrospective" entries either when I've dropped the ball and not posted in a while, due to general busy-ness, or (more often) when all my recipe photos turn out like crap.

Not this time. Well, sort of, since most of my photos did turn out like crap this week.

But I thought it was a great reflection of the power of the blog community I'm working on being a larger part of that my creations last week all seemed to be linked to someone else in the community.

1. Ajvar
I harvested a bunch of red peppers from my fading garden (why do the peppers take so damned LONG?) and asked my Facebook followers for suggestions on what to do with them. Val suggested ajvar, a spicy roasted pepper and eggplant spread from Serbia, and pointed me to a great recipe featured on NPR.

Now this one is a keeper. We ate it both as an appetizer on french bread and then again alongside a lovely broiled halibut for dinner. Very versatile, very delish!

Recipe link: Ajvar

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lobstah mac and cheese: a recipe

Lobstah mac and cheese
Labor Day: summer is officially over.

When I lived in the South, this thought seemed completely absurd. I mean, when it was still a gallion degrees outside and flip flops were perfectly comfortable and acceptable all the way through October, Labor Day seemed practically like a summer midpoint -- or maybe a two-thirds point.

But this is Vermont. And northern Vermont at that.

So, despite the unusually hot and humid weather we had over the long weekend and my sporting a snazzy white skort, it really does feel like it's over. There are already some leaves starting to turn on the trees in our yard, apples are beginning to show up at the farmers markets and everything except the collards looks pathetic in what's left of my garden.  


Therefore, what better way to give summer a final huzzah! than a decadent, big bang meal -- a big FAT meal that, based solely on the volume of cheese and butter, needs to be reserved for special huzzah-inducing occasions -- celebrating one of the best foods of a New England summer.

Enter lobstah mac and cheese.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pickles: three recipes

UPDATE: I'm thrilled to announce that my recipe for zucchini chips co-won the Can You Can It? preserving contest hosted by Eve at The Garden of Eating. Thanks to all the Ninj's followers who voted! I'm looking forward to tackling some new preserving projects from my prize, Put 'em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling

Three kinds of pickles
Three for the price of one today.

Let's get busy before the cucumbers and zucchini are gone for another year:

1. Best-Ever Dill Pickles
The first one, I will admit, is really just a repeat of last year's pickles.

However, they were my first foray into pickling and were billed by BHG as "Best-Ever Dill Pickles", so the recipe bears repeating. They were truly some of the best dill pickles I've tasted, so I'd encourage you to give them a try.

Recipe: Best-Ever Dill Pickles

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gazpacho: a recipe

I'm a huge fan of soups, mainly because of how quick and easy they usually are. Even better? Cold soups -- perfect for summer, as no cooking is required.

Even better than better? Gazpacho.

There are very few other dishes so chock-full of all the freshest veg from the garden. Gazpacho lets you feel slightly smug that you are nourishing your body with a bajillion servings of vegetables with every spoonful.

The gazpacho recipe I use comes from my chef friend Liz Tarpy, who first crafted it in 2009 for the Maine Cottage newsletter.

(Sidebar: If you like this blog, you pretty much have Liz to thank for it. Not only did she give me my first-ever set of recipes, written out creatively on the waitress order pads that we used during our high school summer job, she also encouraged me to find my creative voice in the food world. Thanks, Liz!)

I like Liz's recipe because there all sorts of ways that you can vary it, based on what fresh ingredients you have on hand (or what you received in your CSA share).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: goats

The goat equivalent of licking the bowl. Some meals are just that good.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blueberry crostata: a recipe

Blueberry crostata
I almost feel like a cheater, posting this recipe.

Why? Because it's so close to my tried-and-true short-cut fruit galette recipe.

But I just had to post because not only was it a crowd-pleasing dessert, it also facilitated some cool moments / realizations.

First: I made them with my brother.

I can say with certainty that I have never before in my life made anything in the kitchen with my brother. Yes, we deep-fried a turkey in the driveway together last year but that's not really quite the same, is it? So this was a cool first-time experience, made even more hilarious when he said he felt "ninja-like" during the process.

Second: My 12-year-old nephew is interested in cooking so he joined in the action. I barely knew how to boil water when I left college, for cripes's sake, let alone make a snazzy dessert as a pre-teen, so I'm jazzed by his interest.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Zucchini chips: a recipe

Zucchini chips
If you follow the Ninj on Facebook, you already know that my zucchini fell victim to the dreaded and disgusting squash vine borer this year, so I may be the only gardener in Vermont that actually has to buy zucchini right now. But I love the stuff, so I'm faking having an overabundance of it that I need to use up (shhh ... don't tell).

I made some zucchini refrigerator pickles yesterday that won't be ready for a day or two, so I'll give you an update on those next week.

I also made zucchini chips in my dehydrator.

If you don't own a dehydrator, go buy one. Seriously. It doesn't even matter if it's the lame-ass Ronco kind, it will still work. And it's amazing the stuff you can make with meat, veggies, fruit and more (the Ninjette is a big fan of chicken jerky and banana roll-ups).

Word on the street is that you can also achieve a similar effect by drying stuff in your oven at a very, very low temperature, but I can't vouch for that, as I've never tried it. Moreover, I doubt you'd want to keep your oven occupied for 14 hours in some cases.

Back to the chips.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Banana cake for the Ninj's first birthday: a recipe

Banana cake ... er ... bread?
Well, happy birthday -- the Ninj is one year old!

Yep, one year and 110 posts later, here we are. And of course we have to celebrate a milestone birthday with cake.

Yay ... CAKE!

Until it turns out to be bread in cake's clothing.

I got this recipe from sasasunakku (love her site and her understanding of hangrrr!) and was really excited: banana CAKE! Apparently an old-school New Zealand favorite! How international the Ninj's first birthday would be!

So I made said cake. And it looked beautiful, thanks to the flowery kugelhupf pan (look at it up there -- wicked!). I even broke out my rarely-if-ever-used snazzy cake stand for the photo shoot. Nice.

Monday, August 8, 2011

CSA Share Ninja Rescue: corn

Cornbread muffins
Ah, sweet corn! Thank goodness you are back in season.

I don't even bother with plain corn-on-the-cob much anymore, since I discovered how amazingly sweet and awesome fresh corn kernels are when zipped right off the cob and used in salads, soups and sides.

(This OXO Good Grips corn zipper is the easiest, least messy way to strip the kernels from the cob, because it holds the kernels right in the built-in cup -- I love mine and can't recommend it highly enough!)

I would love to hear what your favorite corn recipes are. But for those of you who received corn in your CSA share or for whom the 8-gallion-ears-for-$2 roadside stands are popping up all over, here are some of the Ninj's current faves:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cold cucumber and avocado chowder with shrimp: a recipe

Now, all of you regular readers know that I love Mark Bittman. And this is another one of his great recipes from The Food Matters Cookbook.

But he refers to this as not only a chowder but also a cold soup. Really, Mark? It is neither.

What it is is a delicious, healthy cold salad, perfect for hot summer days.

So why no picture of said salad, you may ask? Because this is another one of those dishes that tastes better than it looks.

(But hey now, just take a look at my awesome little Kirby cukes there on the vine! I sense pickles in our future...)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

(Not Even Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: kitchen refresh

We moved into a new house this spring, and the kitchen needed a bit of an update.

There was nothing wrong with the layout and the cabinets and appliances were in fine condition. So why the update?

First, because it was very, very blue: countertops, sink, walls.

And it was also a little dated. And lastly, it had an electric range.

The Ninj doesn't do electric.

So we decided on a kitchen refresh, as opposed to a full-blown kitchen remodel: no ripping up floors or tearing out cabinets, just a little updating.

Monday, August 1, 2011

CSA Share Ninja Rescue: zucchini

Zucchini cornbread
Yes, it's that time, when the zucchini really starts to come in and most gardeners are up to their eyeballs in the stuff.

Most gardeners, that is, except the Ninj, whose crop -- for the third year in a row in three different locations and two different states 800 miles apart, mind you -- was attacked by the extremely disgusting squash vine borer.

Nasty. I wouldn't wish this bug on my worst enemy. Well, maybe my worst.

So while you are drowning in zucchini and perhaps even leaving large bags of it on your neighbor's porch just to be rid of it, I may just be the only gardener in Vermont actually paying for the stuff. Sniff.

Regardless of how you come by it, here are some excellent ways to use all that zucchini from this week's CSA share:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Panzanella: a recipe

One of the best things about cooking in the summer is that it often involves not cooking.

Sometimes it's just too damned hot out to think about turning on the stove or the oven.

Hot weather, coupled with the first harvest of sun-ripened, don't-taste-like-cardboard tomatoes, means one dish to me: panzanella, which is an Italian bread salad.

Now, to be honest, there are as many recipes out there for panzanella as there are for my-Italian-grandmother's-world's-greatest tomato sauce. But I am hooked on this one, which I have adapted a bit over the years from one that I received via the Splendid Table newsletter.

Can a person truly be in love with a salad? I say yes, because I am.