Tiny Potatoes with Mint and Pea Pesto

When I’m away for an extended period of time, I start bookmarking recipes like a crazy person. At home, I cook through the recipes I’m interested in and bookmark others at a reasonable pace. Stuck in a hotel for two weeks, the bookmarking reaches a frenzied pace. I start to keep a running list of all the things I’m going to makewhen I have my own oven. No matter how well I’m eating, I miss my kitchen.

I just got back from two wonderful weeks in Madison, Wisconsin where I was very well fed on cheese and ice cream but kept dreaming of coming home and cooking vegetables. Now that I’m back I’ve been in full nesting mode on and offline. As you can see, I’ve redesigned this website a bit. Offline, I’ve searched for a tablecloth; stocked our fridge (ok we’ve visited no less than three grocery stores and a farmers market in the last 48 hours); and made salad, bread, coffee cake, and this.

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This dish of tiny potatoes tossed in mint and pea pesto was inspired by this recipe from Dinner: A Love Story, which I bookmarked in the midst of the frenzy last week. Since I’m not cooking for kids, I spiced the pesto up with Cayenne pepper, garlic, and extra lemon juice. Since I went gluten-free, I have loved pesto on potatoes instead of pasta. I found these tiny potatoes at Trader Joe’s and they seemed like the perfect vehicle for getting a good pesto to potato ratio, but you could use any fingerling potato roughly chopped.

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Lemony Italian Chickpea Soup

Guys, it’s been four whole months since I posted a chickpea soup recipe. I don’t know how you’ve survived this long.

In all seriousness, I recognize that posting two chickpea soup recipes in a year (and really three recipes for pureed chickpeas) might be a sign that I am not thinking enough about what other people want to eat in selecting these posts. I can’t help it.

To me chickpeas are one of the most primal foods. A good bowl of chickpeas feels timeless and connective the way a good loaf of bread does. And, while it is probably true that I only feel that way because I’m crazy, or because I was fed a lot of chickpeas at an important, but repressed moment in my childhood, it is also true that people have been eating chickpeas basically forever. (At least according to Wikipedia, which, obviously, is our most reliable historical source and certainly the only source that I am trained to use.) 

In any case, I like to to think that as long as people have been eating chickpeas, they have been eating chickpeas prepared this way. Tragically, my historical training kicked in long enough for me to check Wikipedia to see when lemons showed up in our diets, and it seems like they may be a significantly more recent addition than chickpeas so there goes that fantasy.

Ok. Enough bad history. My very simple chickpea soup: This recipe was given to me the way all simple recipes should be, orally, over dinner, while we ate it. My parents had a friend visiting from Italy and she made it for us one night when I was visiting too. The soup consists of whole chickpeas in a thick chickpea broth scented with lemon, leeks, and nothing else.

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(Other) Noah’s Deep Dish Strawberry Crisp

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Getting back to my back-log of recipes from friends who have housed me in the last few months, I introduce you to Noah and his strawberry crisp. This is not boyfriend Noah, but, as he is sometimes known around here, “other Noah.” In fairness to him though, he would be more accurately known as “first Noah.” He certainly should not be known as “second Noah, third wheel,” as he once dubbed himself.

Other Noah, or first Noah, was a mainstay of my final years of college. We wrote together, protested together, and laughed a lot together. We made pie, and empanadas, and stir fries, and noodles. I was curled up in Noah’s double-bowl chair with a 100 degree fever when I read the book that ultimately sent me to graduate school. Noah was the person who put raspberries in banana bread. When I moved to New Hampshire, he painted my bedroom walls. He found what is to this day my favorite lunch place in New Haven. The day after graduation, at the end of a long day of moving, he showed up unasked at my door with my favorite sushi and mango ice tea and we sat in the back of my parents’ truck and ate it. I still get sad when I think about the fact that we no longer live in the same city.

By rights, Noah should have shown up here long ago and this should not be my first Noah-inspired recipe on the site. He wrote a cookbook after all. It’s full of wonderful (but definitely not gluten-free) recipes from a cooperative bakery in Argentina, where Noah moved after college.

But, he did move. Noah moved to Argentina and then Chicago, and now I only get to see him a few times a year, if I’m lucky. I’m still not sure I’ve forgiven him for this.

I did visit him last month, on his birthday no less. True to form, while I was there, we cooked and ate a lot. There were passion fruit curd stuffed cupcakes, pierogies, and delicious Mexican chicken soup. But, the thing I came home determined to make was this strawberry crisp.

When I make crisp usually there are almost equal layers of crisp and fruit. The crisp is weighty with almond meal, brown sugar, and butter. There is nothing wrong with those crisps, but Noah’s was the exact opposite. His crisp was a deep layer of strawberries, only lightly sweetened, and topped with a thin crackly layer of oatmeal. Since this was Chicago, I immediately started thinking of it as deep-dish strawberry crisp, even though it is as light as deep-dish pizza is heavy.

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New York

A few weeks ago–at the end of my last day of commuting in to New York City for the year–I dashed to Grand Central eager to get home, finish packing, and fly to Austin for yet another research trip. In the station, I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a drink of water so I missed the first train I was aiming for and got on one that left ten minutes later.

An hour later the train stopped. Yep, I was behind (thankfully) the train that crashed. I have never felt so lucky to have insisted on a drink of water. Grateful though I was to not be in the crash itself, the saga of actually getting home seemed a fitting end to a hectic year.

Once Noah picked me up, we paused to get dinner at what turned out to be an excellent Mexican restaurant in East Norwalk. My strongest memory of the meal is the debate we had about who deserved a drink more. The true highlight for me, however, was the Mexican bakery next door where we bought a pastry stuffed with rice pudding. Who knew such a thing was possible?

Here I am, discombobulatedly eating said pastry.

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Anyway, I tell you all of this not just because I like to whine, and not just because I think we all should know that you can stuff pastries with rice pudding (!), but by way of another public service announcement: I’m done with commuting for the year. We have relocated/returned to New York (albeit 120 blocks or so South) for the summer. I could not be happier to be back.

This is probably a good time to admit that I utterly failed at learning to cook anything from the list of things I pledged to learn to cook after leaving New York. This is not for lack of a lot of experimentation on a lot of artichokes.

Anyway, our new kitchen could fit into one corner of our New Haven kitchen. We lack a dishwasher, but that’s ok because we left the vast majority of our dishes and cooking supplies at home. (I even got shamed out of bringing the ice cream maker…I’m looking at you Robin.) We have been reveling in living within walking distance of so many favorite restaurants this week, so I don’t have a recipe today. Not to worry though, I have, as Noah pointed out last night, filled the tupperware we brought faster than our delivery orders have supplemented our food storage capacity. Despite it’s size, our kitchen will see a lot of cooking this summer.

In the meantime, if you are looking for a recipe, here’s some of what’s filling our tupperware at the moment:

– These roast apricots. (Great on yogurt and oatmeal even if you aren’t a baby.)

– This slaw with broccoli instead of brussels.

Lacy Spelt-Oat Bran Pancakes

P1050894Just as I strongly believe that every dinner by the beach should taste, at least in part, like fish, one of my cardinal rules of vacation is that mornings should start with a special breakfast. Like so many things, this is a direct result of growing up with my mother. When I was young, all visits from vacationing guests in the summer, and many weekend mornings in the winter, began with some sort of sweet morning baked good–pancakes, waffles, muffins, popovers, or scones were all in rotation. (I also think vacation is a great time to carbo-load.)

So, I promised Noah pancakes while we were in Rhode Island. My mother’s pancake recipe produces such good pancakes that I generally refuse to eat any others. I know they will just disappoint. Her pancakes are fluffed by buttermilk, baking soda, baking powder, and beaten egg whites. The cloudy pancakes that result are my back pocket recipe for making friends. When I was 15, lonely, and struggling to communicate in France, I made these to convince my French family I was worth knowing. It worked. I also made them for Noah early in our relationship to, you know, seal the deal.

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When I make them these days, I split the recipe in half and make one batch for Noah and other people who eat gluten with regular flour and one batch for me with a flour substitute. Until this weekend though, I had never found a flour substitute or gluten free pancake mix I really liked. Saturday, I made them with a mix of spelt flour and oat bran. They were so good that I think I might make a whole batch this way next time and not even mention that they are wheat-free. The spelt and oat bran pancakes are less fluffy than the originals. As far as pancakes go, in fact, they are pretty thin. I would go so far as to describe them as lacy. Their delicacy doesn’t prevent them from doing an excellent job soaking up maple syrup or, later in the day, from making an excellent cold snack with a slice of sharp, hard cheese.

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Spicy Vacation Spaghetti with Anchovies and Arugula

First things first, I think we should note that yesterday was this blog’s birthday. A year ago, I wrote that I wasn’t very good at consistent blogging and that writing for an audience intimidated me. I think over the year I’ve gotten a little, tiny bit better about both. I know blogging at least monthly is not something successful bloggers celebrate, but they also take pictures of dinner in the daylight instead of when they eat it. Since that so is not happening anytime soon in my kitchen, I think we’ll have to look for different measures of success (and we’ll all have to continue to look at poorly lit photographs). Anyway, for those of you reading, thank you. Maybe this year I’ll work on writing for a slightly larger audience.

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Meanwhile, Noah and I are on a brief vacation in Rhode Island before getting back to work for the summer. It’s been lovely, sandy, windy, and salty. Everything you could want in a vacation right down to a tremendous lightning storm our first night here. Welcome, summer.

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We made this last night and it was the perfect vacation dish. It’s super easy, but has just enough special touches–garlic chips, anyone?–to make it feel special. It’s spicy, which always feels more festive to me. Most importantly, it tastes like fish, which I think every dinner by the beach should, but is also cheap. We’re splurging on fresh fish tonight, but if you’re also on a grad student budget, this is a good summer vacation meal to balance out those splurges.

Spicy Spaghetti with Anchovies and Arugula

– One 2 ounce tin flat-filet anchovies

– 3 heaping cups chopped arugula

– 6 cloves of garlic

– 2 handfuls pasta

– 1 tsp red pepper flakes or more to taste

–  Juice of 1/2 a lemon

– Parmesan to taste

* Slice 3 of the garlic cloves width-wise into thin “chips.” Finely chop other three garlic cloves.

* Roughly chop anchovies.

* Bring pot of water to boil, salt, and add pasta.

* Heat glug of olive oil over high heat. Set up a stack of 2-3 paper towels  to the side of your pan. Add garlic chips to oil and turn heat down. Keep a close eye on the chips and remove to paper towels just as they start to brown.

* Return pan to high heat and add anchovies and garlic to oil left over from frying garlic chips. When anchovies start to melt add red pepper flakes and arugula. Saute until arugula is just wilted and then turn off heat.

* Drain pasta and mix with arugula-anchovy sauce and juice of half a lemon.

* Serve with garlic chips and grated parmesan.