Cleaning off the Dust

The not-so-new job has pretty effectively shut down my food blogging time these past several months. Still, I renewed the domain for another year tonight. Maybe this blog is more aspirational than actual right now but I’d still like to try to keep it going.

Saturday Night Solo Dinner

I started a new job in early May, and I have not had much time for blogging since. This weekend, though, Scott is out of town and I’m on my own. I decided to cook myself something nice.

We had some frozen salmon in the freezer, so I decided to try something I haven’t done before — cooking it on a cedar plank. A 400 degree oven, a little garlic and honey for a glaze, and 15 minutes later, the salmon was tasty and cooked just how I like it: still slightly raw in the middle.

I picked up a few mushrooms as well, and did them very simply. A hot pan with a dash of olive oil,cook until they’re almost done, then deglaze with white wine, and finish with a pat of butter.


Sign Me Up!

I love my job, but I gotta say, getting paid to roadtrip and eat your way through Spain with Mario Batali would give anyone’s gig a run for the money.

Looking forward to this hitting my TV this fall!

Sweet Meat at Maker Faire

thsirt photo

Maker Faire is an annual event focused on people who, well, make stuff. Robots, electric cars, knitted elephants, and even a little food. This t-shirt caught my eye in one of the craft halls.

I was also very amused to notice that a booth of folks promoting going vegan was located directly opposite a food stand selling grilled kebabs – made of meat. Couldn’t get a good photo of it though, the crowds at Maker Faire were intense.

Simple Pear Cake

Say that a kind friend has sent you 2 pounds of Fruit-of-the-Month Club pears as a thank-you gift. Say that your harried building manager forgets to tell you that these pears are sitting in the office waiting for you to pick them up for 2 weeks, so that when you do finally get your hands on the pears, they are THISCLOSE to being overripe.

What do you do? You make a quick and easy pear cake.


2 pounds pears
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 tablespoons of butter, chopped into small pieces

Extra butter and flour for the pan

1 Springform pan


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter the inside of the pan thoroughly, then sprinkle flour to cover the bottom of the pan. Shake the pan until you’ve lightly coated the entire bottom. Turn over and tap to remove excess flour.

Peel the pears and cut them in half (top to bottom, not side to side). Use a spoon to remove the seeds and the stringy bits of core. Slice the pears into thin slices. Set aside for a moment.

Beat milk and eggs together in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and salt, continue beating. Slowly add the flour, and continue beating until everything is mixed thoroughly and there are no lumps. Add the sliced pears, vanilla, lemon juice, and cinnamon to the mixing bowl, and stir gently until they are well integrated into the batter.

Pour the batter into the pan, making sure it’s evenly distributed. Sprinkle the top with the bits of chopped butter. Place the pan into the oven and bake for 50 minutes.

When the time is up, remove from the oven and cool until it’s warm but not hot to the touch. Open the springform and transfer the cake to a serving plate.


  • Taste your pears when slicing them. You may want to adjust the amount of cinnamon and lemon juice depending on the sweetness and flavor of the pears.

Lovely Lentils

Once upon a time, I spent my senior year in college living in a townhouse with four other classmates. We shared the cooking chores, and mostly relied on easy foods like chicken and pasta. One night, though, I decided to be a little different. We had some lentils, and some hot dogs, and I decided to follow a recipe we had — maybe it was on the back of the lentil bag, I’m not sure — to make them into a casserole.

No surprise, it was an inedible disaster. I steered clear of trying to cook lentils for a long time afterwards. I’ve always liked eating them, but that early bad experience left me nervous about hands-on lentil preparation.

Recently, on the heels of some of my experiments with heirloom beans, I’ve been given lentils a try again. I can do a decent batch of basic lentils now, but that’s nothing to brag about. I want to do something more adventurous with lentils.

So, I’m on the lookout for some good ideas. Not really interested in lentil soups, more in lentils as a side dish or even a main course. If you have suggestions, let me know!

Amazing Apple Pie

This is Scott’s amazing apple pie recipe, presented without much comment. It’s not hard to make and tastes fantastic. If you absolutely must, you can buy the crust pre-made, but it really does taste better when homemade.



1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 lb butter
2 tablespoons ice water


6 Granny Smith apples
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 lb butter
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour


First, make the crust. Mix all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse the mixer until the ingredients are just starting to form a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before using. On a floured surface, split the dough in half and roll each sheet to 1/8 inch thickness. Place one sheet in a 9” pie tin and cut the excess from the edge of the tin. Reserve the second sheet for the top.

Next, the filling. Peel, core and dice the apples. Place them in a large saucepan. Cut up the butter and add all ingredients except flour to the pot. Bring it to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover and cook for one hour. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Pour off excess liquid and save for the glaze.

Finally, assembly & baking. Preheat oven to 425F. Toss the apple filling with the flour and put it all in the pie tin, cover with the second sheet of dough, seal with a fork, and cut vent holes. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and glaze the crust with the reserved filling liquid 3 times.

How To Boil Water


2 cups tap water
1 teaspoon salt (optional)


Pour the water into a medium-sized saucepan. Add the salt. Place the pan onto the stove and turn the burner to “high”.

Wait approximately 10 minutes. When lots of bubbles are coming up from the bottom of the pot, it is boiling.

Yield: approximately 2 cups boiling water.


  • Unsalted boiling water is preferable for tea, coffee, and hot chocolate.
  • Salted boiling water is best if you plan to cook pasta, rice, vegetables, or potatoes.
  • In areas where tap water quality is dubious, using bottled water may be safer.
  • Boiling water is very hot. Do not pour it on yourself or you will get burned.
  • Do not stand next to the stove waiting for the water to boil; this will only increase cooking time. After all, a watched pot never boils.
  • Happy April Fool’s Day!

Eating Healthy Is Not Brain Surgery

I was pleased to see a longtime friend, Jason Perlow, featured in a NY Times article today on food bloggers and their struggles with weight (Jason chronicles his ongoing quest for healthy dining that still tastes great over at Off The Broiler).

I wasn’t so pleased to see a related piece over at MSNBC about the many ways “junk food dieters” attempt to lose weight and still eat what they want. In this form of dieting,

low-calorie is good; no-calorie is better — even if the food contains more chemicals than a can of hair spray. … Many believe ingesting a few artificial ingredients is a small price to pay for being able to eat the things they love while staying as thin as a Pringle.

What a crock.

It’s not brain surgery, folks. Diets do not work. Eating chemical-filled crap doesn’t make you healthy. And despite what people like Steven Shaw think, if you’re obese, you’re going to suffer the effects sooner or later.

What does work is very simple: Everything in moderation. Eat real food and balance the fatty stuff with healthy stuff.

Why is that so hard to do?

Penne alla Vodka

As promised, here’s the penne alla vodka recipe Scott made for my birthday dinner.

Vodka is not native to Italy, and Wikipedia has three different versions of the dish’s origin. The one with the most detail says that the dish was invented in New York. I don’t know if that’s correct but it sounds plausible. At any rate, it doesn’t really matter – authentic Italian or not, penne alla vodka is really good when made well.

Here’s our version:


2 cups roasted tomato sauce
1/4 pound pancetta, sliced thin
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup vodka
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley

1 pound dry penne pasta


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then cook the penne until it is al dente. If you time it right, you should be able to start the water, then the sauce, and the pasta will be ready for the sauce at just the right time. If you’re not that confident about the timing, it’s better to have the sauce waiting for the pasta than vice versa. Overcooked pasta = epic fail (and not very tasty either).

Put the olive oil into a large skillet over medium flame. Dice the pancetta and add it to the skillet. Cook until dark and crispy (but not burned). Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and place the pancetta on paper towels to drain. Add the garlic slices to the pan and sauté until they turn light golden brown.

Add the tomato sauce to the pan, stir to deglaze, and turn the heat to medium-high. Bring the tomato sauce to a low boil, then add the salt and red pepper flakes. Keep the low boil going for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and add the vodka. Stir in the cream, pouring slowly, then keep on stirring as you slowly add the cheese. Tip: don’t add the cheese until the pasta is ready to go.

When the pasta is ready, drain it and put it into a large bowl. Pour the sauce over the pasta, sprinkle the parsley and the pancetta on top, and toss to mix it all together. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6, depending on whether you’re doing it as a main dish or an appetizer.


  • This is one of those recipes where the quality of the ingredients you put into it is absolutely critical. We tried this one night with some pre-cut shrink-wrapped pancetta and it was nowhere near as good as when we make it using freshly-sliced pancetta from a good deli counter. Get the good stuff. It matters.
  • The same goes for the Parmigian cheese. Don’t even think of using that stuff in the green can. Get the real thing.
  • If it’s winter or you don’t have roasted tomato sauce on hand, a 28 ounce can of tomatoes will do fine. Use whole tomatoes and quickly puree them in the blender, don’t buy the pureed ones. Again, quality is key. Use San Marzanos if you can get them. If not, Progresso is a good fallback.