Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant and Za'atar Flatbreads

Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant

On the day that I set out to make this recipe I checked my favorite food blog (Smitten Kitchen, as if I haven't said it enough), and guess what new recipe Deb had posted?  That's right, these Lebanese stuffed eggplants.  Well, you know what they say about great minds: they love eggplant.  At least I think that's what they say, I'm not quite sure.  Since Deb has a natural talent for food photography and I, well, sometimes I can get a picture that is not completely blurry, I was a little hesitant about posting this recipe.  But how could I resist telling you how I once again chose to cook something from Andrew's least favorite foods list?  But don't feel too bad for Andrew; eggplant is on the low end of his food-hate spectrum (he loved the eggplant parm subs), and this dish was so good, I'm pretty sure it would have been a hit even if eggplant topped the list.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Scallop and Corn Chowder

Scallop and Corn Chowder

I love fall.  How many times do you hear people say that?  Cliched or not, it is my favorite season.  I love turning off the air-conditioner and opening the windows to let the cooler air in, putting on cozy sweaters to walk outside and see the riot of colors in the changing leaves, and I love making soups and stews and other hearty dishes that make me feel all warm and toasty.  But here in Maryland, fall seems to have a personality disorder.  When we had our first chilly days I immediately planned and shopped for a variety of warm and comforting meals.  We had a delicious chili that I threw together, but the next day, when i had planned a big pot of tomato and sausage risotto, the temperature was already shooting back up.  To 80 degrees.  In October.  I am from Buffalo; I am not made for such tropical temps.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Provencal Style Baby Artichokes

Provencal Style Baby Artichokes

I have a confession: I am a shopaholic.  My shopping issues do not manifest themselves in the form of designer handbags or shoes.  Oh no, when I come home from a shopping spree I have bags stuffed with all manner of comestibles, only the bare minimum of which actually appeared on my rambling shopping lists (I always have more than one).  You see, aside from actual cooking, I can think of nothing that is more therapeutic than wandering the aisles of a grocery store.  I get so excited by new things, especially produce and cheese that I have never tried before, that somehow they end up in my cart, even though I don't have any recipes in mind, and I have a fridge and cabinets full of food at home.  And there's the rub; when it comes time to put my new groceries away, I inevitably find some sad, forgotten produce in the bottom of my crisper and I am overcome with guilt when I have to throw it away.  This is the point where my grocery shopping-addicted self promises to stop the insanity; only essentials until the fridge is no longer overflowing!

Of course, it never lasts.  I was at the supermarket for a gallon of milk and some bananas when I spotted the baby artichokes.  They were just so cute (there is something irresistible about mini-vegetables, stayed tuned for my baby eggplant adventure), I had to have them.  So I came home with baby artichokes and no idea what to do with them.  I had prepared a fresh artichoke once, years ago.  I cooked it in the microwave and I made some terrible aioli that immediately went in the trash.  Certainly not the best way to be introduced to fresh artichokes, and from that point on my artichokes came from a can; fresh artichokes were too daunting.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Zucchini and Bell Pepper Enchiladas with Two Salsas

Zucchini and red pepper enchiladas

In the "Letters" section of the October issue of Gourmet, a Joe Christofaro wrote:
If I live to be 101 years old, I would be perfectly happy if I could only eat meals from the wealth of terrific recipes in the August 2009 issue.
While I don't completely agree (throw in the September issue and you've got a deal), I did find the August issue to be particularly rife with appealing recipes.  I have already made a few dishes (the Tomato and Corn Pie was especially good), but it is only a dent in my list of bookmarked recipes.

The recipe for these zucchini and pepper enchiladas was part of that August issue, and it is a very good, though slightly flawed recipe.  I immediately wanted to make these because they looked so bright and fresh, and they were not drowning in cheese or completely enrobed in a sauce.  I would be lying if I said I did not love those cheese-covered enchiladas, but I imagined that this recipe would be a nice, light take on the original.  Maybe I was being willfully blind when I scanned this recipe and jotted down a shopping list, because I somehow managed to miss the CUP of oil called for in this recipe.  Half of it went into a pepita salsa, but the other half cup was used to pan-fry the enchiladas.  So while they certainly could be worse, nutrition-wise, these enchiladas were not exactly the light dish that I had been imagining.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Caramelized Onion and Kielbasa Pizza

Caramelized Onion and Kielbasa Pizza

I love cooking for my boyfriend Andrew.  Not only is he always appreciative and free with his praise, but he is also incredibly open-minded about trying new things.  The other day I was reading a blog post about soup, and one of the commenters had written that she couldn't make the dish because her boyfriend "doesn't like soup." There are approximately one billion types of soup, how could one just write them all off?  I could understand it if a person said that she didn't like a certain type of soup (such as cream of mushroom, which happens to be the worst thing ever), but making a unilateral decision about all soup- I just don't get it.  This reminded me once again how thankful I am to have a life partner that shares my sense of adventure when it comes to food (and I guess he is alright in other ways, too).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Goodbye Gourmet

"Please tell me that you are joking."

That is what I said to Andrew yesterday when he asked me, while perusing the New York Times online, if I knew that Gourmet was closing.  Unfortunately he was not joking, and my heart broke just a bit.  Even though Gourmet has been around for close to 70 years, our love affair was brief and intense.  It has been my muse for the past few months, and I was looking forward to building my library of food-spattered, bent-paged back issues.  This closing has also put an end to my secret goal of one day working at Gourmet. What does make me feel better, even though there will be no new issues, is that there is still a huge catalog of past Gourmet recipes that I am looking forward to exploring.

Thank you, Gourmet, for being such an inspiration to me.  You will be missed.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Barley Risotto with Eggplant and Tomatoes

Barley Risotto with Eggplant and Tomatoes

My boyfriend Andrew and I love leftovers.  We will happily eat the same dish for dinner two nights in a row, and leftovers don't tend to last more than a day or two in our house.  The fact that the remains of this meal have been sitting untouched in our fridge for a week says a lot about how we felt about it.  It's not that this barley risotto was bad, we both liked it, it just left me a bit cold (which is actually rather ironic, because I see risotto as something warm and comforting).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Linguine with Herb Butter, Goat Cheese, and Heirloom Tomatoes

Linguine with Herb Butter, Goat Cheese, and Heirloom Tomatoes

I adore Rachael Ray, and not even in the guilty pleasure way that I love "Party in the USA." Yes, she is completely overexposed (Rachael Ray bedding, anyone?), but "30 Minute Meals" is still one of my favorite cooking shows. Many of the quirks that put people off; her use of nicknames, her over the top facial expressions, the somewhat maniacal giggle are, to me, quite endearing. Plus, more importantly, I have tried many of her recipes and I have yet to find a dud (I can't say the same thing to you, Tyler Florence!).

While I am certainly not alone in my Rachael Ray appreciation (there is a reason that the woman is practically an empire), in much of the food blogosphere she is treated as an object of scorn. The amount of hatred that is aimed at her is absolutely staggering. To be honest with you, I can understand some of the criticisms. There is the aforementioned overexposure, and the fact that most of her "30 Minute Meals" are more like 45 or 60 minute meals, but people act like she is the culinary antichrist (I think that that title has been taken), and I just don't get it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pear Butterscotch Pie

Pear Butterscotch Pie

Though I just recently began posting, I actually decided to start this blog in April. Since then I have been incredibly inspired in the kitchen. My interest in cooking had been growing steadily over the last few years, but there were still some dishes that I had trepidations about tackling. Since I made up my mind to start writing about my kitchen exploits, however, I have been imbued with a new culinary confidence, ready to take on my kitchen phobias.

My most consistent cooking fear revolved around dough (I mentioned this in my opening post). I was comfortable when it came to most cakes and quick breads, but any recipe that included yeast or required kneading or rolling-out (shudder) filled me with anxiety. Since I have had this blog related burst of inspiration, though, I have made croissants, multiple pizzas, fresh pasta, and enough bread to raise our air conditioning bill because of the constant heat from the oven. Still, there is one dough-based dish that still strikes fear into my heart: pie. Oh yes, the thought of making pie dough fills me with dread.

You see, pie dough has been my nemesis. In a previous post I briefly touched on these issues, but I didn't expound on the problems that I have had. I have made quite a few pies in the past, and while my crusts were, for the most part, passable, they were far from perfect. My crusts were sometimes soggy, always tough, either pasty white or overly brown. And flaky, that adjective which is bestowed upon the very best of pie crusts, would never, ever be used to describe one of my "masterpieces." As an admitted perfectionist, this absolutely rankled.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Grilled Eggplant Parmigiana Heros

Grilled Eggplant Parmigiana Heros

One of my favorite guilty pleasure foods is the eggplant Parmesan sub at my local pizzeria.  It is made up of a crusty sub roll bursting with thin slices of deep fried eggplant, marinara sauce, and enough mozzarella cheese to cover a small pizza.  It is absolutely delicious, in the way that anything deep fried and cheese-covered is delicious.  Unfortunately (or maybe not), the guilt tends to outweigh the pleasure.  For this reason, I am constantly on the lookout for eggplant parm sandwiches that are more kind to the conscience (and waistline).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Penne with Beet Greens and Roasted Potatoes

Penne with Beet Greens and Roasted Potatoes

When I first started cooking, I would follow a recipe exactly.  If I couldn't find an ingredient, then I wouldn't make the dish.  I was too new, too uncertain to heed my as yet unidentified cooking instincts, and I was too inexperienced to know that trial and error is one of the best ways to become a better cook.  My strict adherence to recipes led to some disasters, such as the enchiladas that turned into soup (thanks a lot Tyler Florence).  I had the suspicion that the filling didn't need all of that chicken stock, but the recipe told me to do it.  I ended up in tears on more than one occasion.

Now that I have a few years of experience under my, uh, apron, more often than not I don't follow recipes to the letter. I am cooking for myself and my family, and I know what we like, so I taste as I go and adjust accordingly.  It seems obvious to me now, but a few years ago I was so caught up in following directions that I forgot to actually check and see if I liked the way the dishes tasted.  Of course I still make plenty of culinary mistakes, but now I am much more relaxed about them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Beet and Goat Cheese Tart

Beet and Goat Cheese Tart

I adore cookbooks.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I do not have the space or the expendable income to feed my incessant cookbook hunger.  To tide me over, every so often I head to the library and take out a big stack of cookbooks - usually renewing them until the library forces me to give them back (at which point I might break down and order one from Amazon, cough cough).  On one of these escapades I picked up The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: the New Classics, a book that hooked me with a single picture.  It was of a gorgeous tart, covered with multicolored discs of roasted beets and scattered with fresh thyme.  And the recipe title: Beet and Goat Cheese Tart.  Goat cheese, I love you.  Beets, I love you more.  I knew that it had to be in my life.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Stuffed Scallop Squash

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I made my first adult trip to a farmer's market this summer.  The fact that I hadn't been to one since I was a small child led to some pretty unrealistic expectations.  In my imagination there were stalls as far as the eye could see, filled with a dizzying array of fresh fruits and vegetables.  I was obviously living in denial, since I knew that the farmer's market was in a Best Buy parking lot.  As you can probably guess, I was a little disappointed when I saw four small stalls, all of which were missing the purple carrots and fresh cranberry beans of my fantasies.

After the initial disappointment wore off and I came back to reality, I appreciated the fact that there actually was a rather sizable selection of fresh, local produce that I wouldn't be able to pick up at the supermarket.  There weren't any purple carrots, but I did find some purple bell peppers, cute green heirloom tomatoes, a basket of zucchini, fresh beets, and some blackberries that made their way into a delicious crumb cake. Also, at one of the stalls, next to the zucchini and yellow squash, I saw some squash that were a bit of a mystery to me.  I had eaten tiny yellow and green pattypan squash once before, but these were bigger and a very pale green.  Since I am a big fan of summer squash I bought a small basket and headed home to start googling.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Last month I made my first homemade pizza dough, and it changed my life. Well, perhaps I am exaggerating, but the truth is that since then I have been obsessed with making pizza.  The pizza stone that was still in its box a year after I bought it has taken up permanent residence in my oven, my list of bookmarked pizza recipes is growing at an alarming rate, and sometimes I find myself daydreaming about what I can put on a round of dough (roasted beets and goat cheese, yes please!).

This fascination with homemade pizza started with a recipe on my very favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen (if you have not yet perused this site, well, what are you waiting for?).  Deb had posted a recipe for a zucchini and goat cheese pizza that rocketed to the top of my "Make Now!!" list.  I was a little intimidated by making my own crust, but Deb made it seem so easy that I decided to give it a whirl.  As it turns out, making pizza dough is ridiculously easy; you stir together some ingredients, knead them on the counter for a couple of minutes, then let the dough rise for a while.  The zucchini pizza was fantastic (goat cheese makes my heart sing!), and I have used the same crust recipe for a few different pizzas, including a traditional tomato and mozzarella, a garlicky white pizza (recipe coming), and this, a Buffalo chicken pizza.

Monday, August 31, 2009



There are many reasons why I might decide to make a particular dish: a drool-inducing photo, a particularly tantalizing recipe title, a glowing review, or the mere presence of cilantro and lime. Sometimes, though, I want to try my hand at a recipe simply because it strikes me as a challenge. These challenge recipes tend to fall into two distinct categories: extremely labor intensive, or mildly stomach-turning (I've got my eye on a mussel custard). When I saw the long, intricately detailed recipe for croissants in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, I knew I had to try them. I've never been a huge croissant fan (when it comes to breakfast breads, I am all about the bagels), but how could I pass up three days of rolling, folding, and baking?

Well, I wish I could say that it was a complete success. The final product was tasty, but I made a couple of mistakes along the way. First, I let my dough rise too long in the fridge. When I took it out to begin day two, it had begun to escape its plastic wrappings. On the positive side, I knew my yeast was fresh. My second mistake resulted from some miscommunication between me and Martha (ok, I misunderstood the directions). After completing all of the folding and rolling, the recipe told me to cut my rectangle in half and stack the two pieces, then cut out the triangles. I missed the part about separating the triangles into two layers, so I ended up with croissants that were twice as thick as they should have been. This, combined with my over-risen dough, left me with somewhat tough croissants. They had that signature croissant flavor (some may call it butter), but there were not as airy as I would have liked.

Being the perfectionist that I am (those rookie mistakes haunt me), I will try making croissants again. If you would like to try your hand at making croissants, Martha has a different recipe on her website. The directions look even more in depth than those in the cookbook, so I may try that one next time. I am also eyeing the recipe in my giant (and awesome) Gourmet Cookbook. If you have a croissant recipe that you adore or any tips that you would like to share, I would love to read about them in the comments.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Welcome to Crumbs!

I am going to start this blog with a confession: My name is Kelly, and I am addicted to cooking blogs. I mean, up until four in the morning, listening to the birds chirp, shuffling through the archives of my favorites. There is just something about appetite-whetting photos coupled with a witty narrative that I find absolutely irresistible. I'm sure it's not a surprise that my blog addiction was spawned by my deep adoration of cookbooks, cooking magazines, and television shows about cooking.

At this point I am probably stating the obvious when I say that I love food, and I love to cook. I am not a foodie (I am far too dedicated to Rachael Ray and the occasional Taco Bell run for that), but I am very open minded about trying new things, and I love to cook with fresh ingredients. Lately I have been inspired to really branch out and change the way that I cook, and to challenge myself by making more food from scratch. Starting my own blog to document these culinary exploits seemed like a natural next step.

I plan on updating this blog every few days with new tales of my kitchen adventures. I will follow and review recipes from a wide variety of cookbooks, magazines, and blogs. Right now I am focused on using more whole foods and increasing the number of meatless dishes in my repertoire, so you can expect to see a lot of those recipes. Also, I have been bitten by the baking bug (alliterative, much?), so you will find out what happens to a dough-phobic gal that decides she wants to be a bread maker. This blog will also feature pictures of my cooking projects. I am not much of a photographer, and my apartment kitchen is far (oh so very far) from photogenic, but I am going to give it my best shot.

So welcome to Crumbs! I hope that you enjoy my blog, and that I can inspire some people to get in the kitchen and get creative. If you have any cooking questions or if there are any recipes that you would like to see featured here, send me an e-mail or leave a message in the comments. I would like to use this blog to learn more, so I also encourage you to leave any feedback, tips, or advice in the comments.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a cutting board and some mixing bowls.