Sunday, March 30, 2008


The avocado from the co-op, sliced and atop toasted whole wheat bread spread with soft goat cheese. Salt and paprika.

Dinner party

A bunch of us gathered at Allan's house last night to make a festive dinner in celebration of our first weekend back on campus together (and, come to think of it, one of our last, as our graduation date looms ever closer...eek!). On the menu: cornbread with whole corn kernels and scallions, black bean cakes with pineapple salsa, roasted asparagus, an outrageous chocolate trifle, and a gorgeous pear-ginger upside-down cake.

Cornbread muffins. This was just a basic cornbread recipe to which we added thawed frozen corn kernels and chopped scallions:

The asparagus from the co-op, roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper (6-8 minutes in a 425° oven):

Black bean cakes. To serve 4 people, drain and rinse 2 cans of black beans. Transfer them to a large mixing bowl and mash them, leaving some whole beans. In a small skillet, briefly saute 1/2 a chopped red bell pepper in olive oil. Add it to the beans, along with 3 tbsp. mayonnaise, a handful of finely chopped scallions, a handful of chopped cilantro, a handful of breadcrumbs, and salt, pepper and cumin to taste. Mix well, and shape into 8 cakes. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes to allow them to set, then pan-fry them in a shallow layer of vegetable oil until browned, about 4 minutes per side:

Fresh salsa, utilizing the fantastically sweet and juicy pineapple from the co-op, along with red bell pepper, scallions, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes:

My plate:

And as if that weren't enough delicious food, two lovely desserts, courtesy of Allan and Malcolm and Zander and Andrea, respectively.

Trifle, featuring layers of coffee-soaked chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, whipped cream and crumbled Heath bars (use real whipped cream, not the frozen stuff the recipe calls for):

Moist, buttery and rich pear-ginger upside-down cake, still warm from the oven:

You know you wish you had been there.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's Purim

...or at least it was recently. I'm not too clear on the details. But because it had been a while since I'd done anything Jewish, I happily accepted my friend Sarah's recent invitation to bake hamantaschen. Sarah lives in the Jewish house on campus, although she is not Jewish. Actually, I have two close friends who fit that description (non-Jewish Sarah who lives in the Bayit).

You probably already know the story behind hamantaschen. They're supposed to represent the tri-cornered hat that the villain of Purim, Haman, wore. I guess that by eating these tasty little hats we Jews are continually exacting our revenge on the guy. That's fine by me, because hamantaschen are really delicious, and, as I rediscovered, so much fun to make.

The cookies start with a rich dough that traditionally includes some orange juice or zest. After letting the dough rest in the fridge for a bit, you roll it out to about 1/4" thickness (please note the appropriately Jewish "rolling pin" we used):

Then cut out small circles of dough. I've always used a glass to do this:

Now get out all the jams and jellies you have lying around. Apricot has always been my filling of choice, but most any flavor will be pretty tasty:

Assemble your circles of dough on a baking sheet, and place about a teaspoon of jam in the center of each. You want to be careful not to add too much filling, or it will run over in the oven and make a sticky mess:

Then pinch the circles into triangles which encase the filling:

Bake in a 350° oven for about 24 minutes until the cookies are golden brown:

And fix yourself a plate:

Have a happy Purim! Just be sure to watch out for that Haman.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Fruit and veggie pickup

Every Thursday, I receive a share of organic fruits and vegetables from Wesleyan's student-run co-op. Not only does everything have more flavor, but I'm also inspired to cook more often (so that nothing goes bad before I use it) and to cook more exciting things (since I'm sometimes unfamiliar with an ingredient I receive). It's a pretty sweet deal all around.

When conceiving of this blog, I envisioned that I would use my weekly co-op haul as inspiration, posting, every week, what I received and then documenting how I used each ingredient in my cooking. I later decided to be slightly more ambitious, instead trying to post every single time I cook. But I am still going to post my weekly pickup and how I use it. Here's this week's:

Asparagus, pineapple, strawberries, broccoli, and avocado (not pictured: the honey tangerine I consumed immediately upon receipt). Stay tuned for all the exciting ways in which they get used...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spain in a jar

So I know that Spanish food is the big thing right now, what with Ferran Adrià's molecular gastronomy making all the culinary headlines, his protégé José Andrés's cooking show on PBS pulling in the ratings, and the tapas and "small plates" craze sweeping through restaurants nationwide--even restaurants that aren't Spanish. Other than making me feel annoyed when I have to shell out $12 for a little dish of fried potatoes with mayonnaise at any number of the aforementioned spots, this trend hasn't really affected me: I've loved Spanish food for many years now.

Long before chorizo started showing up on brunch menus everywhere, I was contentedly chowing down on the Spanish-inflected foods that my babysitter Nico prepared for my brother and me when we were little. Nico's from Madrid, and she lived with my family for a year beginning when I was five. Although she could really, really screw up some pretty simple American dishes like hamburgers and pancakes (she used to use a spatula to mercilessly press down on both, squeezing all the tasty juices out of the former and rendering the latter flat and leaden), Nico was an accomplished Spanish cook. It was she that first served me revueltos, creamy, soft-cooked scrambled eggs mixed with bits of ham, cheese, vegetables, and basically anything that was left over in the fridge. I used to eat fish only if it was cooked by Nico: the crispy, golden, pan-fried fillets she served made my mother's poached salmon seem like a bad dream.

My family and I have remained very close with Nico and her family, and during my childhood we made several trips to Spain to visit them. It was during these trips that I fell completely in love with the country. I was lucky enough to be able to return recently, spending the spring semester of my junior year in Barcelona. It was there that I first made the dish I had for dinner earlier tonight: minestra.

Minestra is basically just a mix of vegetables that comes preserved in a jar. This version, which I bought at a Spanish specialty-foods store, contained peas, artichokes, mushrooms, white asparagus (mmm), carrots, and green beans. Minestra's simplicity belies its utter deliciousness. I've noticed that European jarred and canned foods are actually really tasty, unlike their American counterparts (Chef Boyardee, anyone?) I visited Paris during my freshman year, and before I left I picked up a couple of cans of cheap pâté at the supermarket, not having any idea what it would taste like, and it was fabulous.

Minestra is very easy to prepare. You just drain the veggies well and add them to a pan in which you've cooked a ton of minced garlic in some good olive oil, heat them through, then add a bit of flour, which thickens the mixture nicely. Here it is in the pan:

And here it is on the plate:


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Welcome home dinner

I'm at home on spring break right now, and for the past few days my parents have been out of town, vacationing in Puerto Rico. They got back late last night, and I decided that I would cook them a fancy dinner to welcome them home. Cooking your parents a meal is a great way to distract them from the scratches your friends left on their nice glass coffee table on Saturday night, or to get them in a good mood before handing them the $300 bill you received at the dentist the other day. Or, you know, something you do because you're a generous, giving person. Yeah, that's it!

I must admit that I really enjoy being in a big, empty house all alone. My family has a country home in Pennsylvania (ooh la la), and all throughout my high school and college years my parents would go almost every weekend. I opted to stay in the city, reveling in my total freedom. I have many fond memories of lazy summer afternoons spent with friends on my deck, grilling the choicest bits from the fridge on our little gas grill and afterwards sitting around bloated with a communal carton of ice cream, and many spoons, in the middle of the table. So the past few days have been a nice mini-vacation for me. But all good things must come to an end, as the saying goes.

So let's get to the food. As a rule, I almost never cook from recipes. I usually just grab a bunch of ingredients that I think will complement each other and go to town. I love cooking because it's so forgiving: you can taste your food as you go along, and if your instincts prove to be totally misguided, you can almost always correct the dish. But when cooking for others, I often will turn to recipes, especially when trying out something I've never made before. Such was the case earlier this evening, when I prepared a particularly succulent-sounding lamb dish for my parents.

The ingredients:

The finished product:

The aftermath:

The recipes:
Martha Stewart's Parmesan Herb Crusted Lamb Chops
(I mixed the parmesan, herbs and breadcrumbs together before coating the chops)
Jonathan Waxman's Roasted Cauliflower with Bread Crumbs
(I added anchovy paste to the olive oil and substituted capers for olives)
Giada DeLaurentis's Spring Vegetables
(I didn't use morels because I'm cheap)

Monday, March 17, 2008

My very own foodblog...I have truly arrived.

Welcome to my brand-new foodblog! As anyone reading this will know, I've talked about starting a blog for some time, and was continually impeded in my mission by homework/life/laziness/etc. But what better time to start a long pushed-aside project than spring break? So here it is in its nascent glory, my blog, which (for now) is entitled For the Love of Food.

A little bit about me: my name is Lauren, and I'm a proud resident of Brooklyn, New York. I go to school in Middletown, Connecticut, but I'm graduating in May, with no foreseeable plans for the great beyond which exists after college. I hope to attend culinary school and begin a career as a food writer, but I don't really know how I'm going to make either of those things happen. So, for now, I'll cook, and I'll take pictures of what I cook and I'll write about it, too, and we'll see where that takes me.

One small caveat: I am not tech-savvy. In fact, I have no idea what I'm doing right now. I futzed around with the banner at the top of the blog for like an hour, and I still don't like how it looks. So bear with me in the coming weeks and months as I figure out how, exactly, to maintain an attractive, informative and engaging blog.