Garlicky Mussels and Clams

I hated fish so much as a kid that I would fake allergies, stomach aches, symptoms of the plague to keep from having to eat anything from the sea (except seaweed which I loved, oddly enough). Every so often, my parents would take my brother, Nick, and I fishing off of Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. We would have to wake up at 4:30am to get to the charter boat on time, which (in my memory) was always filled with cranky old Brooklyn mobsters.

Being on the water was exhilarating though, and I loved the excited chatter that went around the boat when anyone felt a nibble on the line.  At least once, I was the only person who caught anything which would fill me with dread because that meant, at some point, we would be expected to eat it.

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Tomato, Red Onion and Basil Sandwich

This is how I like my tomato sandwich. Fresh and tasty.
This is how I like my tomato sandwich. Fresh and tasty.

I think I might be a tomato snob. I mean, I’m not one of those people who goes to a farmers market and knows the name of every heirloom variety in existence (overheard at the Cold Spring market “They only have Brandywine and Green Zebras left, God I hate this place“).

During most of the year, I’ll pick them out of sandwiches and salads and usually try to sneak them onto Matt’s plate even though he doesn’t love them either (I feel better knowing they’ve gone to a good home). I just really don’t like the taste and texture of out of season tomatoes and would rather wait until the good ones come out. Well, they’re out, and I can finally have the tomato sandwich I’ve been dreaming of all year.

Quick aside; in my real job as a film editor, I recently worked on a movie about farm labor and learned that all commercial tomatoes (the grocery store kind) are picked green because they need to be rock hard to survive the long trip to the store. When they get near the store, they gas them (!) which turns the skins red, but the insides stay un-ripe. That’s why even pretty looking supermarket tomatoes usually taste like wet sneaker. Yum!

Anyway, I dedicate this recipe to my old roommate Paola who introduced me to the glory of the perfect tomato sandwich. When in season, we ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hers was simply good bread, ripe tomato and sliced onion but I’m a bougie bastard and can’t resist gilding the lily with mayo, basil, maldon salt and occasionally avocado. Your tomato sandwich may well be different, but wouldn’t life be boring if everyone was the same?

Zucchini Cake with Lemon Curd Filling

Zucchini Cake with Lemon Curd Filling

Ok, one more zucchini recipe. I’m not obsessed, I swear, we just have a lot of zucchini growing in the garden. Matt’s sister Hayli made this zucchini cake (AKA courgette cake) for us when we visited her in France (I know you’re feeling SO sorry for us right now) and it was fantastic. Very summery from the lemon curd and the zucchini keeps the cake extremely moist. I adapted it from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. We usually make it with green zucchini which gives the cake delightful green flecks throughout, but we’re growing yellow zucchini so that’s what I’ve used.

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Zucchini blossoms with frizzled capers and green garlic

Fresh zucchini blossoms, about to become fried zucchini blossoms
Fresh zucchini blossoms, about to become fried zucchini blossoms

A not-so-fringe benefit to growing squash is having access to the loveliest edible of the summer. Squash blossoms! So dang perty. They are usually stuffed with ricotta cheese and fried in batter which is (of course) delicious but we didn’t have a lot of them and didn’t want to do a whole fried bonanza so we just sautéed them in a bit of olive oil until they were wilty and brown and then frizzled some capers and garlic to go over them. It took about 5 minutes and ended up being really tasty. The fried zucchini blossoms become silky and translucent, almost like stained glass. Of course, they wilt down to nothing so don’t plan on this being dinner but if you grow squash, fried zucchini blossoms is a pretty good way to use the flowers without a lot of fuss.

We used the last of our green garlic (young, hard neck garlic from the farmers market) which is milder than regular grocery-store garlic. Either would work though so don’t sweat it.

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The Reluctant Gardener

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I have a confession to make. I’m actually a little freaked out by “nature”. I mean, it’s beautiful and keeps us alive and I hate that we do terrible things to the Earth. And of course I love farmers markets and fresh, organic produce. That being said, I’m the person that steps off the pavement and immediately gets stung by a bee. Or trips on a tree stump. Or gets stuck in a bramble.

I’ve lived my whole life (until recently) in New York City and haven’t had a lot of experience with non-urban life but Matt really loves the country and I really love Matt so now we live in Beacon, NY. It’s not exactly the wilderness but it’s a pretty small town in the Hudson Valley, about an hour and 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan. We’ve been here almost a year now and I’m liking it much more than I anticipated but adjustments had to be made. There is almost NO restaurant delivery around here (which means we end up cooking a lot more which is good). Going out for dinner often means a 20 minute (or so) drive unless we just go into town. That also means I had to learn how to drive which is no small accomplishment for a city girl who’s never had a license. Now that I finally learned, I love driving everywhere. Even to the mall (I’m still tickled that we have to go to a mall sometimes).

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Ramp and Fontina Biscuits

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I know ramps are a little out of season by now (their season is crazy short) but these biscuits were really good so I wanted to post the recipe. Ramps are also irritatingly trendy right now but even though it’s such a jerk move to say so, I’m going to declare it anyway: I’ve been obsessed with ramps for years. Starting around 1995, I used to go to the Union Square Green Market when it was pretty much the only one in town and I would try to get whatever was just in season, whether I was familiar with it or not. In very early Spring, that meant asparagus, fiddlehead ferns (which I just never got a taste for), and ramps.

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