Friday, April 29, 2011

simple cream sauce

This was Boston today.

It took a long time to wake up from winter's sleep, but Boston awakened with a jarring suddenness, like she slept through her alarm and now she's racing to make up for lost time.  She'll gulp down her coffee, race to catch the bus, and suddenly we're glorying in sunshine, and these, too:

These fierce blooms, which sprang out nearly overnight.  When the Boston winds blow, the petals swirl down like fragrant snow, laying in thick drifts on the grass underneath the trees, and when your foot meets them it slips as if on ice.  Another sort of blizzard.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cupboard Cleanout: Cuban-style black beans and rice

This is one of a series of Cupboard Cleanout posts dedicated to using up those odds and ends we all have laying about the pantry. It's a pantry liquidation sale— everything must go!

Boy, what a week.  I feel like I'm living in one of those underdog movies where everything has to go wrong before it starts going right.  Except this plot isn't remotely interesting enough for a movie.  Girl works office job that becomes insanely busy; girl suddenly needs to spend eight hours every day doing data entry due to an antiquated system; girl gets berated by an important colleague in a one-sided conversation that finishes with, "Listen, I know this wasn't your fault, but I wish your office had done this differently."

But every underdog movie has a turning point, right?  Where things start looking up?

I think I've reached it.  The weekend, some time with family, some homemade pastries, and possibly some exciting news coming down the pipeline.  (I know how you think and I will tell you this now: it is not a baby.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Zenna Noodle Bar: French-Vietnamese Fusion with a Thai Twist

This review originally published on April 14 in the Brookline Patch

Mango Chicken Curry

Zenna Noodle Bar is one of those easy places that feel chic and comfortable at the same time—where a dish can surprise you with its innovation, or just feed you a good, solid meal. Early 20th century French colonialism in Southeast Asia makes French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine an easy find these days, but Tien Truong, chef and owner of Zenna Noodle Bar, throws an extra element into the mix: Thai flavor profiles, which strive for the perfect balance of hot and sour, of salty and sweet.

The decor within this small Beacon Street restaurant is half minimalist (no artwork on the long, mustard-colored wall that dominates the space) and half lush flower garden (glorious bouquets at the front, arranged every week by the owner herself, and a fresh rose in a bud vase at every table). Helpful servers hurtle across the hardwood floors at the slightest raise of your hand, jostling each other for the privilege of serving you.

Avocado Fresh Rolls

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cantina Italiana and Tatte Bakery

There is nothing lovelier than spending the entire day with someone you love.

Even more so if you spend your time pleasantly, like walking through the public gardens and the farmer's market by the courthouse.  Or geekily, like arguing over the meanings of "caustic" compared to "accosted" when of course it doesn't really matter.  Or sweetly, like lunching at the restaurant where you had your wedding rehearsal dinner, drawn to it from halfway across Boston like moths to a flame.

This dinner at the Cantina Italiana was nearly two years ago, but I can still remember it vividly.  Arugula salad with pine nuts and curls of aged Parmesan, the bitterness of the arugula cut by a piquant, sweet balsamic vinaigrette.  Bombolotti, their specialty pasta, with disks of Italian sausage and melty masses of goat cheese peeking out from the tomato-basil sauce.  Chicken Piccata in a white wine and butter sauce with capers, of which nobody could eat much because we'd stuffed ourselves on pasta.  Tiramisu and tiny cannolis.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

leek, fennel, and swiss chard tart with goat cheese

I get this feeling sometimes, like when I've been at summer camp for a few weeks already and it's time to go home soon, or during a really nice week where the weather is warm, and friends are here, and I'm whisked away from work for an evening drink and then dinner and then dancing, every day. A consciousness of breathing life into each moment. A little whisper: stop cleaning your room. Your suitcase doesn't have to be packed so perfectly. Don't bother washing the dishes right now. Stop it and just live.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

homemade butter with herbs

It's lucky that I took a library-worn copy of Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires (can't put it down!) with me onto the porch yesterday. Because without a reason to stay on the porch, I might not have noticed little green flagpoles poking up from the black soil of the clay herb garden. Little baby chives!

My mind started scheming immediately, and I settled on homemade butter, which is infinitely creamier and more flavorful than regular store-bought butter. A friend of mine told me that she once made butter by pouring cream into a jar and shaking for what seemed like eternity; one by one, little nuggets of golden butter formed and sloshed about in the churned buttermilk.

I haven't gone to the gym in months, so my triceps, which are not unlike butter themselves, are most decidedly not up to that challenge. I used my stand mixer.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lineage: Deeply Connected in Coolidge Corner

This review originally published at the Brookline Patch on March 31, 2011

Grilled Scottish Salmon
There are deep-seated connections surrounding the little restaurant Lineage—connections to the land, to the water, and to Brookline. Chef Jeremy Sewall’s family roots grow deep in this town; his ancestor Samuel helped found Brookline; his family has fished these waters for generations. And based on the memorable dishes coming out of Lineage’s kitchen, he and his wife Chef Lisa Sewall have made it their mission to create a lineage of their own.

Oak Roasted artichokes, tasso ham,
Great Hill blue cheese, cara cara orange

After relishing the house rolls, an almost brioche-type affair with a few fat flecks of salt on top, we started with the Duck Confit Rillette ($11). Akin to a charcuterie platter, the main attraction on this plate is an excellent pate of shredded duck confit; lightly dressed watercress, pickled red onions, grainy sharp mustard, and a few slices of lightly grilled sourdough round out the plate.

Cousin Mark’s Crisp Maine Sweet Shrimp ($11) are as fresh as you might expect, if you knew that there actually is a Cousin Mark, and he actually does catch and deliver much of the shrimp and lobster that Lineage serves on a daily basis. Small, breaded and fried to crispy perfection, and served with a flavorful lemon aioli, these shrimp are only in season for a short time, so catch them while you can—the menu changes daily, and these are disappearing soon.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cupboard Cleanout: coconut red lentil soup

This is one of a series of Cupboard Cleanout posts dedicated to using up those odds and ends we all have laying about the pantry. It's a pantry liquidation sale— everything must go!

No, this is not an April Fool's Day prank. I am fully aware that this is a lentil soup. And I know that it is thick, and comforting, and reminiscent of winter. But I hope that those of you in warmer corners of the world will indulge me, because Mother Nature is playing a cruel joke on us Nor'easterners today, and the day just calls for something like this. And I hope you won't immediately dismiss this soup based on my poor seasonal timing, because it is, to sum up, satisfaction in a bowl.