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Archive for May, 2010

Well, here I go again, promising to update this site more regularly and then waiting more than a week to add a new post.  Sigh.  Baby steps, right?

But you should be excited about today’s recipe because it’s easy, healthy and so, so good.  It’s become my favorite granola recipe, and I try to bake a batch every few weeks.  The recipe began as the “Quick Omega-3 Granola” I ripped from a Bon Appetit magazine a year or two ago, but over the years I’ve tweaked it here and there, and now I think it’s even better than the original.

I love granola sprinkled on yogurt or eaten right out of my hand, but my #1 favorite way to eat this granola is sprinkled on vanilla ice cream.  I know, I know — that sort of defeats the purpose, right?  Well, the way I see it, I’m just making dessert a little healthier.  Because I’m eating dessert, healthy or not, so it might as well have a little fiber, right?  Right.

I like to make a big batch and keep a small tin in the cupboard and the rest in a large Ziploc bag in the freezer, which prevents the nuts from going rancid and — horror of horrors — the granola from getting soggy.  Every time I reach the bottom of the tin, I refill it with a little more from the freezer.  Works like a charm.

Homemade granola also makes a great host/hostess gift when you’re tired of bringing wine or feel like bringing something a little different.  It’s the kind of thing your hosts will tuck away for later, only to email you as soon as you get home to say they’ve already eaten half the bag.  With granola this delicious, who could blame them?

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There’s no easy way to put this, so I’m just going to come out and say it: I have a massive crush on Lidia Bastianich.

Yes, she is 63 years old. Yes, her show on PBS lacks the glossy finesse of shows on the Food Network. And no, she isn’t afraid of cheese or butter. But I love her approach to cooking, and her latest cookbook is full of so many easy, approachable recipes that I’ve barely touched another cookbook since I bought it.

The opening to each chapter of the book reads like a memoir with a dash of cultural history.  This pasta recipe, for example, comes from the Abruzzo region of Italy, and we learn at the beginning of the chapter that it was here that Lidia met the so-called “madman of cheese,” who makes the best pecorino and ricotta she’s ever eaten.  Her voice is so conversational and passionate that I eat up her narrative just as fast as I eat up her food.

Not all of the recipes are simple.  There’s the Ligurian “Cima” (veal breast stuffed with eggs and vegetables) and all sorts of homemade pastas.  But then there are recipes like this one — Farro Pasta with Arugula and Ricotta — that take minimal effort and yield delicious results.

The key to this dish — and many of the recipes in her book — is using top-notch ingredients: fresh ricotta, good olive oil and tender arugula, the latter of which seems to be all over the farmers’ market these days.  Another important ingredient is the farro pasta, a favorite in the Abruzzo region, which you can find at some Whole Foods markets and online (I used whole-grain VitaSpelt spaghetti, which is similar to farro pasta).

The dish is so simple — it requires almost no cooking — and yet the results are wonderful.  The nutty farro, creamy ricotta, peppery arugula, and salty pecorino come together in what ends up being a filling and nutritious country-style meal.  I bet if you make this, you’ll end up having a crush on Lidia too.

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Yeah, yeah, I know: another rhubarb recipe.  Yawn.

No!  Wrong attitude!  Rhubarb’s season is brief, and we’re running out of time.  We only have a few more weeks to find new and interesting ways to put this stuff to use.

And, as part of this blog’s resurrection from the grave, I’m trying to feature more local, seasonal ingredients wherever possible, which I hope will give all of you ideas on how to use your farmers’ market spoils.  (And, happily, chocolate and vanilla are always in season, so fear not: there will be plenty of non-fruit-and-veggie recipes on offer too.)

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this strawberry rhubarb tart without some reservations.  Wait, you say, a strawberry rhubarb tart with a crisp topping? That sounds awesome. Well, it was…almost.

Everyone who tried the tart loved it (and, admittedly, it tastes delicious — sweet and tart and…well…like spring), but in my mind, the recipe wasn’t perfect.  Here’s the problem: Rhubarb and strawberries give off a lot of juice when cooked, and if your tart crust shrinks even a teensy bit, the juices bubble up over the sides and leave you with a soggy, flabby crust.  Bleh.

In my case, only one side of the crust shrank, so one side ended up soggy while the other was flaky and tender.  So it wasn’t a total disaster, but it wasn’t perfect.

My recommendation?  Try it with this crust, which never shrinks on me.  It’s sweeter than the one called for in the original recipe, but I think it will yield a better tart.

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Uh…so if any of you are still following me in your Google readers, I reformatted a few things in my blog, and for some reason, old (bad) posts are showing up as “new.”  And I don’t know how to make it stop.  Sorry about that.  Just mark them as read without reading and move on…  As you can see, technology isn’t my strong suit.

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Well, well, well.  Look what the RSS dragged in.  I’m sure the one person who still follows this blog is thrilled.  (Hi, Mom.)

Alas.  It’s been, what, 18 months?  As in, I could have possibly birthed two children over the course of this interlude.  Don’t worry; I haven’t.

I have, however, quit my job, moved to London, moved back to DC, and started and finished the first draft of a novel.  So…yeah.  I’ve been busy.

But I’m back!  And I’m going to get better about this blogging thing.  At least I’ll try.  Hard.  Even if some of my blogs don’t provide recipes and are more discussions of food-related issues.  Would you mind?  Because, frankly, at this point there are so many recipe blogs out there that I hardly stand out from the crowd.  And when I go back and read some of my earlier entries on my blog, I blush.  Some of the writing is so…I don’t know…nerdy and stiff.  Also, bad.  And the photos?  Let’s be honest.  I’m no Smitten Kitchen.

So, Mom (and whoever randomly forgot to delete me from their Google Reader), let me know what you think.

In the meantime, here’s a recipe to make up for my prolonged absence.  Consider it a peace offering.  It’s a rhubarb crisp that Roger — the crisp/crumble aficionado — deemed “perfect.”  Perfect?  Wow.

But I might have to agree with him.  It’s pretty awesome.  You can barely taste the rose flower water, but combined with the vanilla bean, it adds a floral note to the tangy rhubarb.  And I’ve already told you how much I love crisps, crumbles and the like.  So just add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you have a perfect springtime dessert.  It may not make up for an 18-month hiatus…but hey, I’m trying.

Sorry. Crisps are hard to photograph. Alas.

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