I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to come back to A Slab of Brie. I started a fantastic new job in late October and haven’t given myself a single minute to think of anything else. I’ve missed all the cooking and writing and sharing all of this wonderful foodie wisdom with whoever you lovely readers are. With the return of spring, good weather, and gorgeous sunshine, I vow to make a solid return to this wonderful blog and bring myself inner joy. I’ve given the blog a slight redesign – with the help of WordPress’s pre-existing formats – and I think it has a nice touch. Something new, something fresh. Besides, one can’t subsist on cereal dinners and frozen vegetables for long…
In the past several months, I’ve greatly expanded my edible curiosities. Maintaining a dairy-free lifestyle can be tough, but I’ve found I love making some gorgeous nearly soups and meals. I’ve embraced the food processor – and I’ve learned it’s just so much more efficient than my imulsion blender, which often leaves chunks when I don’t want them. Some ingredients I’ve become a huge fan of include pancetta (which I found out BKLYN Larder cures in house!) and chipotle powder. Which brings me to this wonderful recipe, adapted slightly from the Edible Brooklyn cookbook. Which is just to say that I vegan-ized it a bit. I’m looking forward to testing out cooking more with meat – I’ve become a huge fan of roasting chickens lately – and finding all sorts of ways to avoid milk, even in desserts. I vow also to take more and more and more photos!
I try hard to keep seasonal. What’s great about right now is we’re on the tail-end of winter produce. Parsnips are still in abundance, you can always get sweet potatoes, and for whatever reason, there are still a ton of apples around. I also live for roasting and bringing the tastes out of veggies that way. There is nothing like a roasted squash or potato. Nothing tastes better.
I hope you’ll all stay with me as I continue to explore all that’s good in the kitchen. I’ve missed this.
I love squash. I live for the days when it’s cold enough to roast a squash in my kitchen. It’s beautiful beige skin and orange flesh. I could write a love sonnet for butternut squash. Instead of writing a sonnet, though, I made a soup. I even included pictures in this one!
You know those nights where you just want to cook and you’ve already spent the day falling in love with all of the winter squash and fall produce at the market? All you can think about is doing something incredible and making it special. So you go home after you purchase an enormous bunch of kale and a sizable acorn squash. You think you might just stuff the squash with sauteed kale, but then you think you can do it better. You scrounge the internet and egads — she’s got it!
Acorn squash can be used as a replacement for pumpkin and other squashes, in everything from soups to purées, to mashed potatoes. The flavor is delicate and needs a bit of help from olive oil, salt, and pepper, but can be turned completely magical when served with a simple stuffing or a light sauce. I’d even recommend a balsamic reduction, if you just want to get the hang of cooking with it.
Making tomato sauce is not nearly as difficult as most people make it out to be. Though, admittedly, I don’t use fresh tomatoes and nearly everything including my spices are pre-ground and pre-packaged. I try to use freshly minced garlic over the jarred stuff, letting it simmer a bit and bringing out its flavor, or sometimes finely dicing an onion to do the same. Adding fresh basil brings the sauce to a different level. Truthfully, I don’t know how many people today actually make sauce from complete scratch; you have to boil the tomatoes and peel them after, and that sounds downright impossible.
I’ve started making my own sauce as I’ve had more time, since it removes the chemical aftertaste from most jarred sauces (though for a good jarred sauce, I highly recommend Trader Joe’s tomato basil). Though we’re not Italians, my mother’s secret to sauce has always been to add just a little sugar to knock out any acidic tastes and to let the sauce cook for at least an hour, on low heat. I think this could also, in theory, be accomplished by adding a few baby carrots to the pot and removing at the end.
The sauce serves as a great base for everything from meat sauce, chicken parmesan, or eggs in purgatory.
So, I had a bunch of plums. You know those baskets at Trader Joe’s that have like 15 plums and you buy them because you think that one person could eat 15 plums? Ended up I couldn’t eat that many plums, so I made a cake.
I love sweet potatoes. I love them roasted, I love them baked, I love them as fries, I love them in every way. In my mission to figure out what I can cook without an oven, I decided to try a sweet potato soup, made solely with the use of my stove top. Having had it a few times elsewhere, this is what I came up with when I looked around the farmer’s market this morning and when I took a good look in my fridge and saw just what I needed to get rid of. I had two sweet potatoes, a few apples, shallots, and an awkward amount of mascarpone cheese left. I needed to put them to use and clean out the fridge.
In lieu of heavy cream or crème fraiche, in this soup I opt for mascarpone, an Italian sweet cream cheese because of it’s sweet yet delicate flavor. This cheese is easy on my stomach and it’s natural sweetness pairs nicely with the potatoes. To balance it, I use cardamom and cinnamon, shallots and apples, and some serious salt and black pepper. It sounds strange, but I personally love eating sweet potato (and butternut squash!) soup for breakfast. To make it heartier, add another potato, use 1/2 an apple, or add garlic and yellow onion in lieu of the shallot.
When we think about summer, which flavors come to mind first? For me, pesto is always a sure sign of summer and the end of warm months. Pesto pastas, plates of sweet tomatoes from a friend’s garden, succulent peaches from the farmer’s market, and light citrusy drinks make my summer eating complete. But, some of us like pesto year round and when fresh basil is hard to come by (or limited to grocery stores) where do we turn? Well, as Bon Appetit suggests, we use Kale instead.
Kale is one of those foods du jour that make me wonder just when people will realize it’s not as good as they say it is. Then, I politely smack myself and just pray that no one ever comes out and announces it actually causes cancer instead of preventing it, or whatever the hell it is kale does that makes it so special. This leafy green superfood is packed with flavor, especially when used correctly. Though I’m not a fan of eating it raw, as the taste can be bitter, once blanched and doused in a hearty dose of garlic, pepper, and pecorino romano, the taste is subtle, clean, and hearty (if you can imagine it).