Blackberry-Ginger Fizz

There are times in every person’s life when you have to make the hard decisions. When you find yourself at a crossroad. Do you turn left or right? Recently I was faced with one of those decisions. My own personal King Solomon’s choice, except if the baby was a blackberry. A lovely little blackberry.

Here’s how it began. It was an ordinary Sunday morning, unseasonably a little chilly but nice enough for a stroll. Matt and I headed to the Beacon Farmer’s Market, where we often buy our produce supplies for the week.

We usually get there on the early side, a half an hour or so after they open, but this particular Sunday we dragged our feet a little. We were tired, you see. I won’t bore you with the details but we’re in the process of trying to buy our first house and the stress of it had begun to take its toll. For the last month or so, pretty much every night, one or the other of us (sometimes both) will leap out of bed at 3:30 in the morning, convinced beyond all reason that this whole thing is a HUGE mistake.

Or that house we love? A MONEY PIT!

Or there is NO WAY a bank will actually give us a loan. Do they KNOW how bad our jokes are? [Matt is on the phone with the bank right now - apparently, they do.]

So we were tired and slow and showed up at the market late, after the majority of the stalls had been picked clean. Corn? Sold out by noon. Eggplants?  All gone. Sungold tomatoes? Don’t make me laugh. Read More →

Easy Baked French Toast

Hello gang! Ready for some French toast?

I do like to think of us as a gang, by the way: we, the writers of this madcap screed, and you, our wonderful readers.

Not a particularly effectual gang, I have to admit, not a gang to strike fear in the hearts of our enemies, et cetera, I certainly wouldn’t rob a bank together, no offense, I’m sure many of you have excellent heist skills.

But just as in the best gangs, I have little nicknames for you all. There’s “Lefty”, the stalwart pastry expert we all called “Righty” before her tragic incident with the Microplane. There’s “Twitcher”, who we trust with our lives but who wouldn’t necessarily be the best pick for delicate knife work . There’s Freckles, Charlie Boy, Other Dave. Oh, and we can’t forget JoJo the Dog-Faced Girl. I think you all know who you are.

We may not ever rob a bank, or do a crime, or engage in hijinks, fol-de-rol or devilry – we may never be Ocean’s Eleven – but I do see us all, one of these days, perhaps in ten or twenty years, looking back fondly at these, the early, funny days of “Nerds with Knives”. A reunion meal, if you will, perhaps a celebratory brunch of some kind. I see us downing fine Bloody Marys, Mimosas, or French Blondes, and tucking into plates of thick, delicious french toast.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent several formative years during your childhood camping, tying knots, and fiddling with your woggle – no sniggering, now, Twitchy –  actually, you know, do check out that link, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “woggle” used IN CAPS to such an extent on one website. They have a woggle collection made up from woggles all over the world – right, Freckles, get out, you’re just disrupting the gang, there’s nothing remotely funny about the word “woggle”. Close the door behind you please. All the way. Thank you.

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The French Blonde

Back when Matt and I lived in Brooklyn (a.k.a. before we moved to Beacon, went insane and thought it would be wise for two freelancers to try and buy a house), we occasionally went to a lovely little restaurant called Buttermilk Channel. If the name sounds familiar, it might be because they inspired our Spiced Pickled Grapes recipe (and I talk about the place constantly to anyone who will listen). It’s not a “fancy” restaurant, but everything is prepared with care and with an eye towards seasonality, including their cocktails. It was through their inventive menu that I began to expand my cocktail palate beyond gin and tonics and margaritas (though I still love both, of course. I’m not a monster).

For me, cocktail perfection is all about balance. I like a little sweetness, but not so much that I feel like I’m sipping dessert. (Matt, an unapologetic prom-drinker, doesn’t always agree with me on that). [Camera swish pans around to reveal Matt drinking Baileys straight from the bottle, a milky dribble glistening on his chin. "You knew what I was when you married me", he says quietly.]

I want to taste a little kick of alcohol but I don’t want to shake my head a like a teenager chugging Southern Comfort out of a paper bag after every sip.

After extensive (ahem…) research, I have come to believe that fresh grapefruit juice is the best mixer of all time.

The French Blonde

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Summer Pasta With Burst Cherry Tomatoes

Is it just me or has this been a weird summer? It has, right? I feel like it took me until late June to even dig through my closet to find a pair of sandals. Then it got really hot for maybe twenty minutes, and now it’s chilly again.

Matt and I were sitting on the deck last night, the sun was setting through the trees, making the leaves shimmer and glow as though lit from inside. Soon the white wood boards on the side of the house turned a deep golden pink. It was incredibly lovely. I was tempted to grab my camera but I decided just to enjoy the moment. Just experience it, you know? So we sat there, drinking a glass of rosé, a sleepy pup* at our feet, just enjoying the quiet. Matt looked at me and I looked at him.

“I’m freezing”, I said.

“Bloody hell, me too. Let’s go inside”, he said.

So we made dinner and watched an episode of  “Utopia“, season 2 (highly recommended).

(*Here’s a picture of Arya looking longingly at a hot dog).

Summer Pasta With Burst Cherry Tomatoes

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Roasted Figs with Bleu Cheese and Serrano Ham

I know, I know, you’re thinking,”Emily, when did you become a member of the Royal Family cos, gurl, you fancy!” (I apologize for making you sound like a 1970′s sit-com character, but it was required for comedy purposes. You should see the wig I’m imagining on you).

Yes, it’s true that these beauties would be perfect alongside a glass of Champagne at an elegant cocktail party. But, truth be told, they’d be equally delightful with a (not terribly expensive) glass of rosé while sitting on the back deck. Guess which way we had them? (If you guessed “directly off the baking tray, standing in the kitchen with a dog and two cats staring at us”, you would be correct).

As fancy as they look, these are incredibly easy to make. On the preparing-for-a-party difficulty scale, they fall slightly above “pour potato chips into bowl” and well below “make homemade dip”. The hardest part is finding fresh figs, which isn’t very hard when they’re in season. If your figs are very ripe, you don’t even really need to roast them (but I find the combination of a warm, jammy fig, oozy sharp cheese, and salty ham to be irresistible).

If you’re making them for a party. you could prep them up to a day ahead and just roast them a few minutes before you want to serve them.

Roasted Figs with Bleu Cheese and Serrano Ham

Ripe figs are so lovely, aren’t they?

Roasted Figs with Bleu Cheese and Serrano Ham

Cheese, figs, ham. Easy peasy. CH-easy peasy. Figgy pig…I’d better stop now.

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Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies! Who DOESN’T love them? The churlish people, that’s who, you know the ones I mean. Those sour, pinch-lipped joykills with hearts of black, black stone. People who, for whatever reason, just don’t have a sweet tooth. People whose doctors have advised them to maintain a cookie-free lifestyle. People with gluten intolerance. Er. Look, I’ll come in again.

Cookies! Who DOES love them?

While you’re enjoying that, have a little bit of history. No extra charge.

It’s not always possible to identify the exact time and place a recipe was invented, or with whom it originated, but with the chocolate chip cookie, we can. Not only do we know exactly who invented it, when, and where, but we also know that, somewhat bizarrely, it was invented before the chocolate chip.

In 1938 Ruth Wakefield, proprietor of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, MA, made a small change in the recipe for her butterscotch cookies, substituting a chopped-up chocolate bar. It became so popular and renowned that Nestlé not only permanently added the name of her restaurant to their baking chocolate bars, but also began to sell packets of ready-made chips specifically to be added to this recipe.

Sadly, the inn burned down in 1985, and now the Toll House sign at the Inn’s original location only welcomes you to a Walgreen’s parking lot.

Where the Toll House was. Don't worry, it's a big lot. nobody will hear your sobs.

Where the Toll House was. Don’t worry, it’s a big lot, nobody will hear your sobs.

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Orzo Salad with Zucchini, Olives and Feta

Happy July 4th! Of course, this blog post is pre-recorded, so you’re probably reading this on July 6th, (or August 23rd if you’ve just got around to cleaning out your spam folder. Not judging!), but as we write this, it is a wonderfully sunny and warm July 4th, and we’re all sitting in the garden, grilling burgers and drinking beers – the sound of laughter and ball games percolates across the neighborhood, fireworks are starting down by the Hudson River and … Okay, I can’t keep this up, it’s pissing down, it’s been storming heavily for two days straight, the garden is basically flooded, and the only people enjoying a ball game are the German World Cup team. We’re sitting in our living room eating dry crackers and watching a Star Trek: Next Generation marathon (in between World Cup matches, of course). We downloaded a firework app on our iPad. Wheeeee. Look, that one’s in the shape of a hot dog. Happy now? Are you? Are you happy? *Sobs*

Tomorrow (yesterday for you) will be (was) sunny and warm, so fireworks, grilling, drinking and general merriment has been postponed a day. But here’s the thing. Some dishes are better prepared the day before, and left to marinade for a day. And, lucky us, this salad is one of them.
Orzo Salad with Zucchini, Olives and Feta

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Pickled RampsYeah, yeah. I know ramp season is over but I made these a while ago and they were so good I decided to blog them anyway. When it comes to ramps, it’s really the green leaves that are incredibly perishable so every once in a while, you can find just the bulbs for sale long after you stop finding the leaves. But what to do with them?

You may have guessed that I’m fond of making pickles. What’s that? Oh, that’s just Matt running in to the room holding a jar of brined pencils, screaming “Obsessed! You’re obsessed”.  Fine. Yes. I’ll admit it. I love pickled red onions, radishes, cucumbers, even grapes.

So it should come as no surprise that when I found the last batch of ramp bulbs hidden away in a overlooked corner of our local market, I immediately decided to preserve them in a delicious, sweet/tart brine.

You can use these beauties anywhere you would use pickled onions (on sandwiches, tacos, bean dishes, etc). I also really love them sliced up in this Orzo Salad with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Olives and Feta.

Pickled Ramps

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Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup

SCENE 1. INTERIOR. DAY. It’s brutally hot outside. Matt and Emily (plus a dog, two cats and five chickens) are sprawled all over the living room, fanning themselves.

MATT:

It’ll be July 4th soon! We should make something appropriately red, white, and blue, like you Americans (sniff)… enjoy.

EMILY:

First, (waving citizenship papers) that’s *we* Americans, buddy, and second, what do we have in the pantry that’s red and blue?

MATT:

I WILL FIND OUT. (Matt disappears into the pantry for several hours. Cue special effect of the hands of a wall clock spinning forward. Eventually he re-appears with a can of tomatoes and a ball of blue string.)

EMILY:

(Long, long pause). What other colors do we have?

MATT:

(Chews on the ball of blue string, thoughtfully, and looks out of window at the deck, where a Triffid-like mass of herbs threatens to destroy the house.) Green. Lots and lots of green.

EMILY:

THAT GIVES ME AN IDEA.(Grabs sunglasses and a large pair of scissors, heads outside.) Get ready to be…(lowers sunglasses enough to peer over them)…REFRESHED.

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup

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