All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. ~John Gunther

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

fresh berry granita

you will need:
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (interpret "fresh" as you will)
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar or honey (I used agave nectar because I hate honey)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 generous teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 16-oz package of fresh strawberries, quartered and green bits removed
  • 2 8-oz packages of fresh raspberries

I have a lot of pictures for a very simple recipe. this is because strawberries are gorgeous things, particularly in late spring light. in a bowl, combine the orange juice, water, agave nectar, orange zest, half the strawberries and half the raspberries. blend these with your trusty hand mixer until almost smooth. (if you're using a blender, you can just put the ingredients directly in it.) add the rest of the fruit and continue to blend until the mixture is completely smooth. taste for sweetness. I found that it was plenty sweet and didn't need anything else, but you probably have a higher sweetness threshold than I do. you should add some more agave nectar.

pour the mix into a 9 x 13 METAL baking dish. (we'll return to the caps in a minute.) place the pan in the freezer so that it sits level. after an hour, the edges of the mix should be icy. use a fork and stir the icy edges towards the center of the dish, redistributing the mix. repeat every 30 minutes until the whole thing is solid.

now. in this picture, you're looking at a silicone dish. this sucker was great when I poured the mix into it, but when I tried to carry it across the kitchen to the freezer, the bottom gave way and granita liquid poured all over the white floor. and the fridge. that's not part of the recipe. learn from my mistakes!

once solid, take a fork and scrape the granita into icy flakes. pull the fork down the length of the pan until you have a dish of crystallized granita flakes. transfer the mix into a dish, cover tightly, and put it back into the freezer. once it's frozen in flake form, you have granita! you can scrape off portions into bowls and serve to impress your friends and family.

I must repeat: they will not be impressed if you spill the whole thing all over the floor. they will probably laugh at you and maybe help clean up but also probably smear some of your mess on you. and you'll deserve it for not listening to me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

global dining experiences

we recently opted to add our blog to VerveEarth, a sort of geographic blog project with a librarian's good instincts. this has got me thinking about what out blog has to say about living in cambridge, massachusetts - affectionately known as the people's republic of cambridge. probably not a lot. but it's interesting to think about the conclusions that one could draw about cantabridgians from our blog. which is why I posted this picture of gina marie kissing a fish sculpture. because that's what all of us do in cambridge: worship at the altar of seafood.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

when life gives you lemons, use a can opener

my roommate is moving out right now. she is taking everything. I don't think I realized how shoddy my kitchen collection was until she boxed her stuff up. I'm choosing to see this more as an opportunity to get the things I want rather than a problem. but this positive attitude can sometimes be challenging.

for instance, tonight I set about making dinner. the first thing I did was pull out a pot for the rice and check the refrigerator for vegetables. the second thing I did was get a cutting board for the red pepper and onion I had found. the third thing I did was realize that I don't own any cutting knives, so back into the fridge went the red pepper and onion. rice was still okay. I checked my cabinets. I had a can of beans, a can of coconut milk, and - perhaps most importantly - a can opener.

put the coconut milk (first pressing) into a large sauce pan. add 1.5 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of red curry paste. stir the mixture over medium heat until the paste and brown sugar have dissolved and the coconut milk has become more liquid. this is a surefire sauce that is so quick, so easy, and so yummy that you won't really mind that you're just eating beans and rice for dinner.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Gina Marie, take note

this morning, I decided to partake of someone's homemade chocolate chip cookies that they so generously brought into work to share with the office. I do not know who made these cookies. what I do know, though, is that they committed what I consider a major sin of chocolate chip cookie baking:

they used cinnamon. a lot of cinnamon.

this is far more common than it should be. it gives the cookies a strange aftertaste that always makes me think of chain supermarket bakery cookies - not really the effect most are shooting for with home baked goodies.

in other news, I highly recommend that everyone do a Google image search for the terms, "unhappy cookie." as you can see, the results are well worth your valuable procrastination time.

Monday, May 12, 2008

lilac sunday

one of boston's not-so-hidden treasures is the arnold arboretum. it is 265 acres of botanica located right in the city. I would like to someday visit the arboretum every day for a single year, because I am pretty certain that I would still not see everything that there is to be seen at the end of those 365 visits. if you find yourself in boston with nothing to do - or wish to blow off your already scheduled plans - I highly recommend that you trot over to jamaica plain and go exploring.

each year, the arboretum hosts Lilac Sunday. there are several types of lilacs in the arboretum (see for yourself here) and you can go on a tour of the flowers or you can buy treats from the vendors and enjoy morris dancers, musicians, and the weather. sarah elisabeth and I chose to have a picnic.

now, those of you who read the answers to our leisurely quiz know that sarah elisabeth and I would pack pretty much the exact same thing on a picnic/road trip. lilac sunday was an opportunity to indulge. we packed pesto, a fresh baguette, fruit (pears), lemonade, tomato, cucumber, swiss cheese, salami, and cookies. it was amazing.

just to be clear, the pesto should be enjoyed liberally. here's a photo taken later in the picnic process. you can see a) sarah elisabeth's tasty treat, and b) we go through a lot of pesto. you should too:

amazing! pesto makes everything better! also, we sat next to mormons! lilac sunday was delicious and educational.

blogging blogs. omg. black metal baking.

When sarah emily and I (sarah elisabeth) went to Norway once, we met a blackmetal fanatic, who was very nice and spoke a lot of English. He was disturbed that sarah emily didn't know who motorhead was, and he also was a computer programmer and at the very end of our visit to this particular bar, sarah emily and I were leaving to go to the awesome lesbo-bar in Oslo that is now sadly closed. I think it was called sin pecado. Anyways, we were leaving and his friend suddenly pulled down his pants and we were made to bear witness to his rather small penis. The not-at-all chagrined black metal fan said: "It's not magic." And we left, but we loved it. It was amazing.

Black metal is a peculiarly Norwegian/Scandinavian genre of metal related to satanism and the occult and sometimes to ancient nordic religions. (wikipedia it if you want to know all the sordid details... they are actually awesome.) There is a certain awesome stupid nihilism to black metal.

In other news, stephen (of just alerted me to the most amazing site ever. it is blackmetal inspired baking. I can't wait to try everything. check out: The Black Oven.

This is the latest post...
The Black Oven: Where the Chocolate Beats Incessant

Friday, May 9, 2008

slightly spicy asparagus risotto and tomato salad

Apparently gina marie and sarah emily are more fun than I am when I'm cooking ... this is them having fun in the kitchen :)

When I was making the penne last week, I was seduced by asparagus at the store, and also bought fresh tomatoes - forgetting that I needed canned ones! In order to deal with this problem, I decided to retry my chard risotto recipe but this time with asparagus - and spiced up a little because i had a cold and needed to clear my sinuses. The tomatoes had to go too, and I didn't want them to muddy up the risotto, so I raided the fridge for random things with which to make a salad. Sarah emily took the pictures, and wanted to make the point that gina marie was stirring and sarah emily was helping by drinking beer.

First, the risotto:

I chopped a white onion and the rest of the garlic in the house (equivalent of 3-4 cloves - they were little baby garlic pieces! I popped them in my soup pot with the bottom coated in olive oil with 4 shakes of my new favorite spice (from the pea soup recipe!) smoked paprika, and 4 shakes of cayenne. I stirred and put it on low heat.

Then I got started with the asparagus. I had almost a whole bunch of it. I cut off the the woody stems (more cut off on the thick ones, the thin ones you can just trim), and then cut what was left of the asparagus into about 6 pieces (each about a half an inch? I'm bad with measuring.)

I popped them into a saute pan covered with some olive oil and put it on low heat, stirring occasionally until the asparagus was a very bright green. Then I shut off the heat and let them sit in the pan.

When the onion-garlic-spices mixture had cooked for about 5 minutes and seemed soft, I added half a cup of risotto rice and stirred. Then I added 4 cups of vegetable stock (apparently the boxes come in 4 cup portions, so I used an unnecessary measuring cup - but how was I to know!) and turned the heat on medium high.

As the risotto cooked down, gina marie did a good job of stirring constantly, which meant we could keep the heat pretty high and the risotto wouldn't burn. when I tasted the rice and it was soft and done, I stirred in all the asparagus, just long enough to get it hot - less than a minute - and then turned off the heat on the risotto. The risotto was served with lots of parmesan cheese and with...

tomato salad:

gina marie chopped about 3 not-so-awesome supermarket vine ripened tomatoes. I stripped a small handful of cilantro and about 6 leaves of basil and chopped them up.

Then I peeled and chopped a carrot I found in the fridge, and combined the chopped herbs, carrots, and tomatoes. Finally, I made some dressing by whisking about 2 parts olive oil to one part balsamic vinegar with a generous pinch of salt and about a half a teaspoon of cracked pepper. I dressed the salad just before serving.

We seem to have forgotten to take any pictures of the tomato salad. we ate it too fast.

Here's the risotto.

Sometimes sarah emily pretends to pour honey on it:

Sometimes it is in its bowl:

penne with sweet pepper sauce and sweet italian sausages

This is another of my dad's old standbys. He actually used to make this at his restaurant. I made it more than a week ago, but I will try to remember the details.

To start off, bought some *sweet* italian sausages at the whole foods. Usually I get little ones - but these were twice the size! I put them in a frying pan with the heat on low. I turn them every 5 minutes or so. I later learned from Kristen that slicing them into quarters lengthwise cooks 'em faster and more evenly. gonna try that next time.

gina marie sliced a whole yellow onion and we also sliced (into long medium strips, not chopped) 2 red, 1 yellow, and 1 orange bell peppers. We added this along with a lot of chopped garlic into a big saute pan with some olive oils and put the heat on low.

once the peppers had softened I seasoned with some thyme and a little pepper. then I added half a can of low-sodium chicken broth and brought it just to a simmer and then turned the heat back to medium. I let that simmer until the broth had reduced a bit and added 1 can of diced tomatoes.

continued to let this all cook on medium low. towards the end I added half a stick of butter to the sauce. just let it melt and stir.

when my sauce was the consistency I wanted, I added some chopped fresh basil at the very end. The following pictures were to document my basil chopping method Stack up some leaves, roll them, then slice the roll-up:

Then I served it over whole wheat penne. (I made too much penne - one box would have cut it - also, generally I wouldn't use whole wheat for this -but it's better for you!) Also, served with parmesan.

Kristen made it awesome by bringing us her favorite bottle of french red. Excellent!

Vegan options: use vegetable broth, veggie sausages, no butter at the end

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

a great gift idea. plus asparagus!

I'm currently looking for a new roommate and this is causing me to meditate a lot on what makes a home. for me, one of the important things, is a place where I can cook delicious food for myself and for my friends - and a place where we can enjoy the meal together comfortably. this was reinforced the other night when I made a recipe from a cookbook that my old roommate gave me as an end-of-lease present. each time I cook from it and use its recipes to make people feel welcome in my current home, I think about how wonderful it was to come home to her and how lucky I am to have her as a friend.

I'll be posting a recipe for israeli couscous stew soon. it came from the wonderful book, Entertaining for a Veggie Planet, which came from my wonderful friend, Jamie. until then, check out this New York Times recipe for asparagus and oyster mushrooms. I can't wait to try it out.

...perhaps for a new roommate?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

very important questions about food, with sarah morton:

1. if you were a type of food, what food would you be?

hmmm... a vegetable I think. Probably a spring one, because I was/am precocious ... peas.... no. asparagus? garlic? garlic-y asparagus!

Or maybe butter.

2. if you could marry a food, which food would you commit yourself to for the rest of your life?

Tacos - one commitment, lots of options!

3. if you and that food procreated, what would your 1/2 food babies look like?

ew. that's gross, gina! (papas flautas).

4. what was your favorite food when you were five?

Mashed potatoes. With gravy. I have proof of this somewhere, I think. I wrote it down. When I was five.

5. describe your perfect food day.

Brunch. Including french toast *and* eggs benedict *and* homefries. (unless I was in England... then I would want baked beans, fried egg, toast and fried tomatoes. Thanks) Tea. Lunch... papas flautas with gaucamole and limeade. and a beer. Dinner. now it's getting hard. Fish from my lake in Norway, poached, drowning in parsley-butter sauce with lots of (preferably creamy) potatoes, cucumber salad. and for dessert... creme caramel. It is my favorite. I bet this would be different if you asked me again tomorrow.

6. if you could take three things on a picnic, what would they be?

I want to copy gina marie's answer, but that would be no fun for anyone.
Fresh warm french bread with pesto, curly fries from the Old Home Day celebration in Warren, NH, lots of berries.

thanks sarah morton! now, let's go picnic!

food thoughts with sarah emily

At Betsy's suggestion, we will be doing some more q&a (see - if you comment, we will pay attention!) Below are some questions of sarah emily regarding food.

1: What is your favorite meal from when you were a kid?

my dad made killer nachos. the kind of nachos that were entree quality, not something that you eat up quickly to prevent passing out before the "real" meal arrived. the secret was his guacamole. to this day, I have never had guacamole as good as what my father can make.

2: Is there anything that you will order in restaurants but not make at home, or the other way around?

I will not make myself a sandwich. ever. in fact, it's one of the deciding factors in whether or not I go out to eat: if I'm in the mood for a sandwich, I'll be ordering it.* on the other side of the question, I cannot order spaghetti from restaurants - or other kinds of long, thin, white pastas. it goes back to seeing big trays of plain pasta in college dining halls. there was something about that sight that scarred me.

*I include "waking gina marie up and asking her to make breakfast sandwiches" in my definition of ordering a sandwich.

3: Are there foods (other than garlic, that's too easy for you) to which you attribute magical powers? If not, what food do you wish had magical powers, and what would those powers be?

garlic is totes magical. a veritable super food. I hate that I can't pick that. but moving on: I would like someone to discover a food that has the ability to increase concentration. I could really use that. especially after lunch. I would love to lunch on some amazing food - like pickles! - and then go back to work with intensified focus rather than intensified spring fever.

4: Is there any food that you eat that you are ashamed of?

no, but I definitely am one of those people that can eat the same food for several days in a row with no complaint. I'm a bit ashamed of that. the fact that I can happily live off of granola or yogurt or literally only eat nuts and berries for every meal is a bit embarrassing. apple sauce. there was a period that I only wanted to eat apple sauce and I was really disappointed at all of these perfectly good foods because they weren't apple sauce. that's kind of awkward.

5: What three food items do you need for a good summer road trip (this can include a picnic)?

hm. now I'm just thinking about granola. look what you've done to me. I'll take my inspiration from an actual summer road trip that sarah elisabeth and I took last year. we packed a freshly baked baguette, a tub of Bear Pond Farm pesto, and I'd like to toss in fresh blueberries. add some sun, an unexpected trip to a yard sale, and skinny dipping and you've got yourself a perfect day.


I have talked a lot about seafood with people recently. Mostly about who likes shellfish and fish and who's allergic to what and what that might mean. So I had it on the brain. Also, I miss Norway and fishing there.

As I was reading through one of our new blog links (see the lefthand panel here at leisurely breakfast for that) I noticed something interesting. The blog is Locavore Nation from the public radio show, The Splendid Table. A whole bunch of people in different places in the U.S. are blogging about their attempts to eat primarily locally. It's pretty good! How can you not love things from NPR/PRI/American Public Media?

As I was reading through the most recent posts, I noticed that two different bloggers referred to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program. It seems to be a way to pick what seafood you are going to eat based on its sustainability, toxicity, and locality. Seems neat to me. So if you eat seafood and live on the east coast, check it out! There are also options for people who live other places there... but why would you live anywhere but here? (just kidding!)