Monday, February 28, 2011

slow baked beans with kale

There's a big wide world of greens out there. Kale, swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens, chicory, collards, and on and on ad infinitum. I lived in blissful ignorance about this world until last summer. Last summer was, for us, the summer of greens.

It began when our first CSA box arrived chock full of kale. Waste not, want not, right? I had to get creative. Kale chips, kale in curries, kale in soups, et cetera.

You know that saying about how if you eat something seven times you can learn to like it? Well, it worked after three or so times for me. Merrick needed a bit more convincing, but it worked on him (!) too. And now, I'm looking for winter recipes for greens, which during these February days are just about the only thing growing. Around these parts, anyway.

Monday, February 21, 2011

lentil soup with ham

Last week we had a heat wave— and with temperatures in the balmy 40s, I wasn't prepared to post about this warming winter soup. But it's snowing again today, so I'm ready.

I'd been thinking about making this Ham Bone Soup from the New York Times, which sounded nice and filling. So to that end, I went out and bought myself a ham bone, which I'd never cooked with before, and which I was strangely nervous about buying— what if the butcher asked me what kind of ham or how big of a bone I wanted? What if there was some technical term (hammus corpeus) that I needed to use or risk looking stupid?

The purchase was a total nonevent. It was the bone itself that changed everything: a nice big bone, with a lot of meat on it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Budda C: Little Lost in Mishmash of Asian Cuisines

This review originally published at the Brookline Patch on February 17th

The pan-Asian gastronomic mishmash that is Budda C Asian Bistro sits behind a rather unremarkable sign on lower Beacon Street, in the former Jae’s CafĂ© spot. The menu lists everything from Japanese sushi and Korean barbeque to Chinese stir fry and Thai noodles, leaving me to wonder what I’m sure some of you are questioning: given the number of the restaurant’s varied cuisines, could the dishes be authentic, or would the restaurant render anonymous the subtleties of the different Asian food cultures?

Martini at Budda C

With food this good, does it really matter? Indeed, as one of my dining companions astutely remarked: "This place is a culture unto itself."
The place is irresistibly Asian kitschy-chic, and a great place to bring a date. A giant stone Buddha dominates the dining room; sleek white leather seats line the walls in dim lighting; red Chinese latticework covers the windows; a jazzy playlist croons in the background.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

whole lemon tart

It's about this time of year that I get a craving for citrus. 

After a few months of hibernation, and warm but oh-so-heavy comfort foods, the bright, tart taste of spring begins to call to me. And it tastes like citrus. We shared a grapefruit the other day. The first oranges our fruit basket has seen in months just appeared, like little blazing orbs just waiting to be eaten.

And then there are the lemons.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Abbey: Contemporary Cuisine in a Cozy Pub Setting

This review originally posted at the Brookline Patch on February 3, 2011

It sounds like the makings of a goofy joke: what do you get when you cross a classy restaurant with an Irish pub?

You get The Abbey: half pub straight out of Dublin and half restaurant straight out of Manhattan, transported to Beacon Street. The place is basically the size of a shoebox, with nondescript picture windows facing out onto Beacon Street, and you might miss it if you weren't looking for it. But do look for it, or you'll miss one of the coziest spaces combined with one of the most imaginative menus in Brookline.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Welcome to The Four Seasonings!

There has never been a time— and perhaps some of you can identify with me here— when I haven't loved food with a fervor both unrestrained and unapologetic. The golden, yeasty smell of baking bread; the soft baby's fuzz on a rosy summer peach; the bubbling of a rich, red tomato sauce as it sits percolating on the back burner: these all bring me a joy so unabashed that it surprises even me.

Even as a gangly highschooler, I loved food. For a few glorious semesters, I took cooking classes— Italian, Spanish, Seafood, Soups— at a community college. I sat, doing my geometry homework, watching the middle-aged moms file timidly into the room and perch on the edge of a stainless steel sink or faux-marble countertop. All of us felt very out of place, for there is a vulnerability in walking into unfamiliar territory; especially so if that territory is crucial to our own survival, as is the cooking and sharing of a meal. We are perpetual students, all of us, and I hope to share my observations with you as I charge, banner held high, into the world of food.

The food that we eat, and prepare, and select, says a lot about our person. We each season our food differently— with spices from our pantry, natch, but also intellectually and emotionally, based on our gastronomical thoughts and viewpoints. Not thinking about your food? That's a seasoning, too.

So, what are my four seasonings?

Invention. Recipes are incredibly useful and can produce amazing results. But most of the dishes I cook have no recipe— like a curry that I've thrown together, approximating the spices, or a soup that uses up all my fresh vegetables on the verge of wilting in the crisper drawer. Recipes are road maps, not treasure maps. Take some detours and see where they lead.

Nutrition. Plenty of vegetables, and an eye towards a balanced diet. I don't shy away from ingredients like butter or heavy cream— I just make sure I balance those choices with lighter choices during the day.

Information. Knowing where my food comes from is important to me. I put an effort into eating as locally as I can, and I try to make informed choices about my dishes.

Taste. Like I said, I don't shy away from ingredients like butter or heavy cream. My food's gotta taste good, or else I'm not interested in eating it. Enough said.
What are your seasonings?