explore: a weekend in Philadelphia

Inspired (as so often) by Sam, who recently took a why-not? trip there, and spurred by the news that a WWI-themed opera would be playing for two weeks only, I decided to look into the feasibility of a mid-February weekend in Philly. For its balmy climate. The stars aligned: we could catch a Sunday matinee at the opera, go out for dinner at a BYOB–giving us an excuse to drink the *outstanding* wine we were given for Christmas–and since it was President’s Day weekend, catch the “American Spirits” Prohibition exhibition at the Constitution Center for free. I found a $99 deal at the city center Sheraton, roundtrip Bolt Bus tickets for about $30 each, and managed to book us into the incredible Matyson for a late-ish Saturday night dinner (not an easy feat, as I’d forgotten that this was the closest Saturday to Valentine’s Day, and shit was BOOKED UP. Urgh.)

Pictures! (and highlights, after the jump.)

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read & taste: ripe

ripeNigel Slater‘s Ripe is a gorgeous object: a heavyweight, clothbound, coffee-table tome that isn’t so much food porn as gastronomic erotica. There are gorgeous photographs throughout, of apricots poaching in fragrant tea and berries swooning on pillows of cream, of lacy stalks of blossom and rough hunks of pie. Ripe makes a pair with Slater’s previous book, Tender, both focused on the garden and the plate. Tender takes you through the cook’s vegetable patch and here, we’re guided through his orchard – a term he admits is generous for his tiny London backyard.

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taste: adam gopnik’s scrambled eggs

Food for a day like this

I know that sounds like a bit of a joke. I am halfway through Gopnik’s lovely meandering cultural history of cooking and eating, The Table Comes First, and in the soft quiet of the first snow of the year, I made his scrambled eggs. It’s not a recipe, exactly, but it’s perfect, and reminds me of the way I was taught to make scrambled eggs, on a stool by the stove with my mother hovering, patiently stirring until the first scrapings emerged from the liquid. I don’t know how this gets so bright yellow and creamy when hurried, lazy scrambled eggs in a frying pan end up pallid and dry. Too good to wait to photograph, Gopnik’s description will have to do. Continue reading

taste: fennel, quinoa and pomegranate salad

The finished dish. Bright wintry goodness

I was extremely happy to see a spread of Yotam Ottolenghi‘s recipes in the January 2012 issue of Bon Appétit – I’ve been coveting his book Plenty for ages, and this recipe gives a pretty good sense of his cooking – mostly vegetarian, fresh & unexpected combinations of flavors, and totally indulgent without involving bacon fat. As often with BA, though, I found the order of instructions illogical, so here’s how I *actually* did it, with my modifications. The original recipe is here. Continue reading

love: happy new year!

Fullest of moons

Happy new year, loyal blog readers, if you’re out there?! We’re currently having the most beautiful, unseasonally sunny and warm weather in New York; after a cold snap on Tuesday that made me run home and buy a bright red down-filled coat from Brooklyn Industries (on sale, everyone, and highly regarded by People Who Know), it is balmy April weather all around. So for once we took advantage, and went for a walk in Central Park to reacquaint ourselves with New York after what seems like a really long time away in England. Some pictures…

Welcome back.
Skaters, of course.
Did I mention it was a beautiful day?
No, seriously. It's January.
A handsome, literary gentleman. The park's full of 'em.
Starlings in flight
No idea *what* these knobbly little fruits (?) are...
Time Warner Center at dusk

grow: hey pesto!

Herewith, the first attempt of the year to make anything grow in the apartment – a summery fantasy of cherry tomatoes and basil, both bought from Seeds of Change. I also have a mesclun mix to try out, when I get a more appropriate and permanent (and pretty) container. So, Peacevine Cherry Tomatoes and Genovese Sweet Basil, let’s see what you’ve got.

classy eggbox gardening

Incidentally (I promise), I have been reading and teaching Boccaccio’s Decameron this week, and also watching Pasolini’s somewhat hilarious 70s film version, and thus the story of Lisabetta and the pot of basil has loomed rather large – in short, lady falls in love with a servant, her brothers disapprove and kill him, then he reappears to her in a dream and tells her where they’ve buried him. She takes her maid, goes to dig him up, cuts off his head as it’s all she can carry, buries it in a pot and plants basil to cover him up. The combination of her abundant tears and his decomposing head (B. is quite scientific about the whole thing) make the basil grow ‘exceedingly thick and fragrant.’ The brothers are concerned about their sister wasting away, and before you can say Death Pesto, dig up the basil and find the head of her lover, identifiable only by his lovely curls. Too late – Lisabetta dies, but the basil lives on. I had forgotten, until reminded by Rebecca Mead’s lovely piece on George Eliot in the New Yorker last week, that poor failed idealist Lydgate in Middlemarch calls his wife Rosamund his ‘basil plant’ – after ‘a plant that had flourished wonderfully on a murdered man’s brains.’

Happy germinating!

taste: spiced muffins


warm muffins for a rainy day

That grey wall outside? Pretty much the colour of the sky yesterday. So, muffins! We had nothing much in the house, so I hunted around for some dead simple recipes, and found cinnamon-sugar muffins on Epicurious. My tweaks were small – agave nectar for the sugar in the muffins themselves, and therefore less milk, that was about it. These were best eaten hot from the oven. They made the kitchen smell amazing, and were a sweet and soothing antidote to the hammering rain outside. Continue reading

taste: roasted cauliflower dahl with coconut and ginger

cauliflower, dahling.

I believe this is my first vegan recipe. You’re welcome, America.

This was an easy and delicious recipe that exemplified what is becoming my general cooking approach. I knew, for instance, that there was a cauliflower in the fridge, and like aubergine, squash and other such large and assertive vegetables, it demands to be taken seriously. Although I’ve been using cauliflower more as a side lately (see here) I can’t shake that sense that if I am going cauliflower, I am making A Cauliflower Dish. But what? I have a cupboard full of optimism in the shape of packets of lentils and split peas, and found myself thinking: cauliflower dahl. That’s a thing, isn’t it?

Some Epicurious and internet hunting yielded a few recipes but I was after a method, being a bit skittish about legumes and their cooking times. I found ‘Year-round Cauliflower Dahl’ at a site called  Green Appetite, and used it as inspiration for this – roasted cauliflower dahl with coconut and ginger. Continue reading