Asparagus Parmesan Spears
After such a long and unpleasant winter, I’ve been really, really savoring the return of warm weather. The twiggy trees outside our apartment are now lush with foliage, the sun is up when we awake and its light lingers in the sky long after we’ve arrived home from work, and laundry goes so much faster since sweaters and jeans have been replaced by tank tops and light, swishy skirts. ‘Tis the season of sunglasses and short haircuts and flip flops and farmer tans (the only kind of tan I get, thank you).

But above all else, ’tis the season of local produce, each week appearing in more abundance and variety at farmers markets around the city. And though leafy greens tend to be the very first fresh items available, the truest harbinger of the coming summer bounty is the mighty asparagus spear.

Springtime spears
These tender shoots are the rock stars on the local produce stage, producing a short-lived but iconic album every year to their adoring fans. For a brief moment, there is a glut of asparagus, piled high on market tables for eager customers to sort through, seeking the perfect stems. And then, just as suddenly, the harvest is over. This year, during these short lovely weeks of asparagus, I stumbled across this simple recipe that has quickly become my favorite.

Read on »

Shrimp Scampi Linguine
This may not come as much of a surprise. But, when I go on vacation, one of my favorite activities is seeking out and buying whatever edible bounty hails from my destination. And I’m not just talking the best local restaurants: if I can swing it, I try to bring back enough to stock my pantry and freezer. From Phoenix, I toted back a bag of the most splendid grapefruits. From Maryland, a trunk full of apples, pumpkins, and cider. From Wisconsin, a backpack full of cheese, accompanied by an ice pack which thankfully was not confiscated at the airport.

And from our recent weekend getaway to the Grand Strand beaches of South Carolina, I brought back a few pounds of fresh-caught shrimp.

Fresh shrimp!
Having grown up in a rather land-locked state, I never had many opportunities to enjoy fresh seafood. Shrimp was always something I liked to eat, but I mostly knew it only in its breaded, popcorn form, or cold and pink around the shores of a cocktail sauce reservoir. With this rare opportunity to buy it right from the waters of the Atlantic, I wanted to try a dish I’ve been thinking about ever since I was served something similar at a friend’s after their own return from their beach house in the Outer Banks: a pasta dish studded with shrimp and lightly coated with a buttery, flavorful sauce.

Pretty pretty ingredients Read on »

Spaghetti with Caramelized Onions & Mushrooms

Have you noticed that onion and mushroom pizzas are all the rage these days? It seems that every pizza parlour around now features a caramelized onion pizza topped with mushrooms and pungent gorgonzola cheese. And who can blame them? The rich, sultry flavors of these three ingredients make for an surprising and exciting change from red- or white-sauced pizzas.

But we’re not here to talk about pizza. In fact, it was the glut of all these pizzas popping up on menus that made me wonder how the same flavors would work when painted on a different canvas… say, perhaps, a knot of whole wheat pasta?

The ingredients
Chopped ingredients

Caramelized onions are, in my book, one of life’s greatest pleasures. From topping crostinis to starring in homemade onion dip, they enrich almost everything they encounter. I’ve been known to eat them plain, with no cares about the odorific consequences that might ensue. As I expected, they make an excellent base for this pasta sauce.

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Simple Glazed Carrots

My grandmother, who I’ve talked about quite a lot on this site, passed away this week just a few days before her 97th birthday. She was an inspiration to me in almost every way that affects this blog: canning, gardening, cooking, and even just appreciating the delight of fresh, homegrown food. She always insisted that the best recipes were the simplest ones, and that “modern recipes” just had too many unnecessary ingredients. I frequently watched her shake her head and scoff at magazine recipes bedazzled with so many obscure herbs and spices that you’d hardly be able to taste the feature of the dish (let alone afford to make it). Since she was renowned for what she could do with food from seed to table, I usually find it’s best to heed the advice she seemed to live by: grow food, buy fresh, cook simply, and savor the resulting meal.

To honor my grandmother, I want to share with you some of the simple, basic recipes that I rely upon heavily in my daily cooking. I admit, I feel both ridiculous for sharing them and also ridiculous for keeping them from you for so long. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what to share here in this space, and I often think, “nah, they don’t wanna hear about this, it’s nothing fancy.”

But then I remember that many of these dishes have entered my kitchen in only the last few years: why should I assume that they are already in yours? It seems unfair to keep them to myself. Plus, while I’m sure we all love the idea of elaborate culinary projects resulting in surprising and impressive dishes, my guess is that most of you (like me) are ultimately just trying to put dinner on the table every night without relying on a microwave dinner or a frozen pizza. For me, having an repertoire composed of simple, savory dishes is the key to making this happen.

Thin and simple carrots
This is one of my favorite side dishes both in flavor and style, it goes well with just about anything, and it starts and ends with a bunch of carrots. Though many of us get our carrots mostly in the form of stripped-down nubbins that appear on veggie platters at office parties, this dish uses the whole thing. For this particular dish, I like to use the thinnest carrots I can find.

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Blogoversary Flowers
I have enormous respect for the power of marking a year, whether it’s a birthday, New Years, an anniversary, or a blogoversary. Anniversaries of any kind give us the chance to stop and think about how we’ve spent our time in the last revolution around the sun and what we plan to do in the next one. April 22 marked my three-year anniversary of this blog, and it sort of sneaked up on me. It turns out that I haven’t logged in to this site in over a month, due primarily to a significant case of writer’s block. And photographer’s block. And kitcheneer’s block.

The truth is I have struggled over the last few months. Despite the fact that I work fewer hours, have more days off, and enjoy a kitchen filled with natural light, I’ve found myself groaning over the notion of cooking even familiar meals and not in the least bit interested in climbing atop a step stool angling for a shot. The muse that once perched on my shoulder whispering words, recipes, and stories into my eager ears seems to have folded her arms and sealed her lips. I’ve become increasingly frustrated that I can’t seem to get back into the productive rhythm to which I had grown so accustomed in North Carolina and have spent a lot of time trying to figure out why. Did I really manage to pack up everything I owned but forget to bring with me my inspiration, my drive for sharing this locavore’s story? Is it still sitting on the counter in my dimly-lit kitchen, or perhaps hiding in the grass next to my ever-fertile community garden plot?

Or did it survive the move after all, frozen but intact despite this deeply unpleasant winter, but is simply too nervous to peek its head out for fear of another frost?

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Fluffy Frosted Sugar Cookies
As someone who bakes rather a lot of cake, it might surprise you to know that I actually don’t bake many cookies. If you invite me to a dinner party, you’re more likely to answer the door to find me carrying a teetering stack of tender cake layers, smeared with berries and whipped cream, than a plate of half a dozen cookies. Well, I should clarify: I make a LOT of chocolate chip cookies, as it is Brad’s favorite and one recipe that I could likely make in my sleep. No, I haven’t posted that recipe here yet, but I promise I’ll remedy that situation soon.

In the meantime, though, I desperately want to talk about this cookie.

Frosted Fluffy Sugar Cookies
If you’ve ever enjoyed one of those Lofthouse cookies, or the grocery-store knock-offs, this recipe is for you. Not only are these cookies SHOCKINGLY easy to make, but they are soft and fluffy and flavorful and cute and everything you want them to be without the weird sugar-y aftertaste of their inspiration.

Simple cookie ingredients
We start with a pretty basic array of ingredients. Flour, baking powder, and salt combine to form the dry set, butter and sugar cream together to form the base, and egg, vanilla, and just a bit of almond extract wrap it all up.

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Egg in a Hole for Breakfast

It’s entirely possible that I’m the last person to arrive at this party, but these days I find I really, really like soft-cooked eggs. Growing up I thought I only liked scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, and deviled eggs (who doesn’t?) but recently, I’ve discovered the pleasure of the slightly runny yolk.

And THIS, it turns out, is the best way I’ve found to enjoy it. I feel a little generous even calling this a recipe because it’s SO quick, SO easy, and amazingly, deliciously good.

Simple ingredients
I’ve seen this recipe with a number of different names. Egg in a Hole, Frog in a Hole, Egg in the Middle… but the principle remains the same. You take a piece of bread. And you punch a hole in it. And then you put an egg in the middle and cook. Simple!

Making the hole
I like using a round cookie cutter for this, but you could get cutesy and use a heart, a square, or whatever shape you want. The important thing is to not make it too small. Trust me, if there isn’t enough hole, the egg will just overflow and not cook and you won’t be able to flip it and all will be ugly for your breakfast.

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Charred Corn Salsa
It felt like spring the latter half of this week. The sun was shining, the last of the snow that has persisted in our street for weeks has melted, and it was nice enough to wander about without a jacket. The thrill of the weather finally breaking is one of my favorite moments each season!

Ingredients
Perhaps associated with the first burst of warm-ish weather, I tend to also get an itch to vacation at this time of year. It might also be years of Spring Break indoctrination, but I suddenly yearn to pack my bags for some tropical adventure! Not that I actually did a lot of that growing up, but the once or twice that we did vacation somewhere warm over Spring Break were enough to permanently spark anticipation every February. Unfortunately, we have no imminent vacation plans for this spring. So! To ease my wanderlust, I’ve settled by making some charred corn salsa.

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Valentines Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
Hello!

I’m so happy to say that. You may have thought that I had given up the goat, abandoned this little blog and buried it in the snow of this long, deep winter. But the truth is I just, quite simply, haven’t had the time or creative energy to handle it these last couple of months. Between the final events push of the fall semester at Duke, co-hosting a holiday party, moving out of my sublet, traveling for the holidays, camping on a friend’s couch for two weeks, saying goodbye to Durham, moving to Columbus, unpacking, organizing, starting a new job, visiting old friends, re-organizing, visiting more friends, and enjoying the company of Brad again, my camera has sat dormant for just over two months.

This move was a toughie. I started my new job almost immediately  upon my arrival in Columbus, and the cold weather provided me with little incentive to do much more than curl up in blankets when I got home each night. It’s taken several weeks to get used to my new kitchen. I’ve spent several evenings lamenting the fate of meals I nearly burned to death as I try to get used to cooking on a glass-top stove. I keep reaching for things where they used to be in my old kitchen. The pantry, still, is a total nightmare, as I have yet to find several hours to sit down and really consider where everything should go (doesn’t everyone do that?)

But finally, the time came this weekend for me to break out a recipe I’ve wanted to share with you since I started this blog. I must say, glass stove and messy pantry aside, I can’t deny that my current kitchen is far more equipped for blogging than my last, primarily due to one giant feature.

LIGHT!

Light, glorious light! Flooding in to every corner of our apartment, these gaping sunny windows line the southern and western walls of our new home. They overlook a park and a river and trees and some sort of weird oyster-and-pearl sculpture. Admittedly, also a freeway, but I confess it is somewhat fascinating to watch the sludge of evening traffic heading north after Brad and I have already arrived home.

The point, here, is that not only did I shoot one recipe this weekend, I shot three! Complete with the natural, angular light that I love to shoot in. No more toting cutting boards topped with carefully balanced ingredients to the office!

Let’s get started, shall we? Three years ago, about two weeks BEFORE I decided to start a food blog, I made these compact cheesecake bars to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Thinner than normal cheesecake, they can easily be eaten without a fork and can be made in any shape you so desire.

Graham crackers ready to crush Read on »

Row of peas
At the dawn of a new year, it seems that our natural tendency is to reflect. We think about what went wrong or right or good or bad over the last twelve months, sometimes celebrating a successful year, sometimes happy to close the book on a year we’d rather forget.

This year, I’ve spent my New Years Day considering not the past year, but the coming one, which starts off with a tremendous amount of change. I’ve spent the last three years in the same city, the same apartment, and the same job, but within the next two weeks, all three will be left behind and replaced with something new.

Since graduating college five years ago, this change marks my third city, my fourth move, and my fourth job hunt. Part of me finds this constant change exciting, and I wouldn’t trade it. I’ve gained a strange and wide variety of job experience, from door-to-door political canvassing, to opening a new performance venue at a major university. I’ve learned to eat locally in both the urban Mid-Atlantic and also in the prolific, fertile South. I’ve developed so many dear friends and met such interesting people, more than I ever could have hoped to meet had I stayed in one area.

Yet despite my drive for new experiences, new friends, and new places, I also ache for a sense of home and a connection to the community in which I live. I put down roots quickly and whole-heartedly as a desert ephemeral whose time to bloom is brief, immersing myself deeply in the experiences offered by each area in an effort to create home. The value I find in this is immeasurable, giving me a sense of stability despite my somewhat migrant behavior.

But it does make leaving harder. Just when I feel like I finally have close friends and enough knowledge to give someone directions by road number, it’s time to go. It’s hard to start a completely new job when you know your current one so well. It’s hard to make new friends, chatting over introductory small talk while your old friends start to move on. It’s hard to organize a new kitchen, damn it!

Read on »