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Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage and Escarole

May 31, 2011

Gotta love Berkeley weather: the last week, heck, even the last 24 hours, have been all over the place: rain, tantalizing glimpses of sun, and more rain. With the end of the school year, the town is over-run with damp undergrads loading up damp U-Hauls.

Luckily, I have a cozy apartment (we moved in during March’s rain-showers) and the rain provides an excuse to put on a sweater, shut the windows and make soup. This lentil soup doesn’t take long to make, but it really hits the “comfort food” spot: a savory broth brimming with veggies, sausage and escarole.

Escarole is one of those under-appreciated greens. The texture is not unlike bok-choy, and its crunchiness holds up really well in soup. I also love it wilted and tossed with some pasta and parmesan.

And the garlic – did I mention the garlic? The recipe called for 4 cloves, I used 6. It’s good for your immune system, and testing how much your family really loves you, or how much they really love garlic.

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Cucumber-Mango Salad

May 24, 2011

Last Sunday, I went on an honest-to-goodness picnic. So what if the wind still has a chilly bite and the grass is on the moist side: I was ready for summer, dammit, and summer means refreshing fruit salads and sitting on the ground.

Looking ahead, I’m also trying to cram in some summer-fun in the next few weeks, before summer actually begins. Working in theatre, summer is probably my busiest time of year. When “normal people” take it easy and go on vacation, we’re there to entertain them, or at least keep their kids out of trouble from 9-3. I never went to theatre camp as a kid, but it’s looking like an annual occurrence from now on.

Luckily, this year I’m doing a show in the park, so I’ll get plenty of picnics; they’ll just be “working picnics.” This Sunday, on the other hand, was all about being barefoot on the grass, watching the dogs and couples and little-leaguers, and not having anywhere to be. We loaded up the backpacks with bread and cheese and strawberries, and I made a refreshing salad to go alongside.

I intended this to be a savory salad with sweet mango in it, but it was completely the other way around. The mango really brought out the sweetness in the cucumber and red onion, making it more of a fruit salad with savory notes from the onion and ginger. Either way, it was the perfect thing on a nearly-warm afternoon,  and it would be even better on a hot one.

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Chocolate Chip Citrus Cake

May 17, 2011

As a rule, I’m pretty intimidated by cakes. I think it’s the precision – weighing and sifting flour, timing it perfectly, the batter reacting to moisture in the air – cakes really set off my kitchen insecurities.

This time, however, I was tempted by a favorite flavor combination: orange and chocolate. (Chocolate-covered orange peels are an annual Passover treat for me.) When I stumbled on this Norwegian Easter tradition, I figured it was worth attempting to overcome my cake-neuroses, if only for a couple of hours. To my surprise, it was actually quite easy, and I got to use my lonely, under-utilized bundt pan.

In a happy accident, I didn’t have enough orange juice, so I supplemented it with tangerine juice in both the cake and the icing. The tangerine really made this cake sing, adding a freshness that complimented the delicate crumb and contrasted with the chunks of dark chocolate. Read more…

Candied Citrus Peels

May 10, 2011

I’m in tech this week. For those not in the business we call show, tech week means a severe lack of free time. Luckily, I made a treat to get myself through the week, candied orange and tangerine peels, but I don’t have any more time to gab about it. To the pictures!

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Tortilla Soup with Green Chickpeas

May 3, 2011

Last week I got all meated out. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating animals, but I usually only do it once or twice a week. It’s partially a health choice, partially an expense choice, and partially a comfort-zone choice. Once you get used to eating a lot less meat than the average American, it just seems more normal to make rice and beans for dinner than to make a steak.

After Passover, Easter and all of the leftovers that followed (brisket sandwiches… brisket tacos… brisket sloppy joes…), I didn’t want to look at any more meat for a while. Instead I made a veggie tortilla soup, omitting the usual chicken in favor of some fresh chickpeas.

If you happen to stumble on green chickpeas at a farmer’s market or good produce supplier, they are definitely worth a taste. My favorite way to eat them is sauteed with olive oil, salt and a squirt of lime juice. They taste a little like the dried and canned chickpeas, but also a little more like regular green peas.

They come in green pods and are a total pain to shell; I’ll just put that out there.

This recipe is one of those that can be as canned (literally) or homemade as you’d like it to be. I opted to roast my own chiles and had home-cooked beans, but I also used a can of roasted tomatoes. Whatever works. Read more…

Herb Garden Potatoes

April 28, 2011

It takes a while to get settled in to a new place. Even though we unpacked really quickly, have had friends and family over, and have established a laundry routine, there was one big thing I was waiting on to really feel at home.

After some schlepping and playing with dirt last weekend, I finally set up an herb-garden. It’s nothing too crazy – a few big containers with the essentials and smaller pots lining my porch railing – but having some herbs really makes the house feel like it’s working for me. Call it neurotic or selfish, but I prefer to have a reciprocal relationship with my plants: if I’m going to water them, I expect them to at least provide a service, like flavoring my food.

The herbs need time to settle and grow before I start harvesting with abandon, but I couldn’t resist making something with my new household additions. My choice of herbs was in part determined by which plants looked the strongest, which ended up being the classic combination of oregano, marjoram and parsley. Read more…

Matzah Brittle

April 26, 2011

This passover delight needs little introduction, because chances are that you’ve had it already. It’s been all over the internet for years, sometimes going under aliases like “matzo bark” “matzoh buttercrunch” or “matzah candy. ” Regardless of how one spells “matzah” or how one characterizes its topping, this is a delicious (and simple) treat.

That said, the main reason I am posting is that, on the off-chance you’ve never heard of this recipe, you needed to be informed.

I’m a total candy-phobe in the kitchen. Don’t ask me what “soft ball stage” looks like or how to make string sugar syrup, but coating matzah in caramel and chocolate, that I can handle.

If it’s the wrong season or you don’t have easy access to matzah, you can do this just as easily with saltines or any other plain cracker.

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