Monday, September 19, 2011

More Anthropologie love

I don't do ornamental kitchen accessories.

My kitchen is naked of bits of wrought iron. There are no ceramic roosters or pigs or cows roaming my counters. (And why is it always farm animals? Not just farm animals. Farm animals on the people food chain. A ceramic kitchen donkey, for example, is pretty rare. A kitchen rooster...not so much. Is it easier to eat bacon if a cute, winking pig sits by your sink?)

Sorry. I'm digressing. And this isn't a sermon on becoming vegetarian. That would be hypocritical. And it isn't a rant about farm animals used as decor. (One of my favorite decorative pieces...a remnant from a French Country obsession I had years an iron rooster that sits in my music room.)

Don't get me wrong. My countertops are cluttered. Always. (Which may be why I don't want to add to the chaos with copper this or china that.) I do love useful kitchen items though. The graceful curves of utensil canisters or mixing bowls or pitchers make me swoon. So I'm always keeping an eye out for something utilitarian and colorful and lovely to add to my kitchen.

So of course I fell in love with these.

These little spice jars from Anthropologie are perfection. They come in four soft, beautifully retro  colors, perfect for a vintage kitchen. Each lid has a rubber ring to make the container airtight. Their size is perfect for spices (or sugar cubes or paper clips or tiny dog treats). I keep salt and pepper and a combination of sugar/cinnamon in mine. I think I'll put sugar cubes in the fourth. Each is numbered and says, "Plein de Bonnes Choses" along the bottom (which frankly veers a bit Martha Stewart for me...although cutely Francophone. Still that doesn't detract too much from this jar's overall adorableness).

Best of all, each spice jar is only $4. Four dollars! Come on. What can you buy for $4? Another dish towel? This is like the perfect little treat for your house.

Just picture these in your Cooking Apple White (or white or cream or yellow) kitchen.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Picnic potato salad

Summer is officially gone and past, but that doesn't mean that picnicking season is over. I love fall picnics. The crisp air. The turning leaves. And for you football fans out there, it's tailgating season. What's a better accompaniment to hot dogs and hamburgers than a good potato salad?

This recipe was inspired by Will's grandmother, Viola, who always included mustard and pickles in her potato salad. That's part of the beauty of food, isn't it? Food is love and memory, and a way we share ourselves with others. Grandma Viola is no longer with us, but we remember her every time we prepare this.

So here it is, from Grandma Viola's kitchen to yours.

Picnic potato salad
inspired by Grandma Viola

1 lb new potatoes
3 eggs, boiled
1/4 onion, chopped fine
1/2 celery stick, chopped fine
1/4 cup pickle slices, diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Scrub the new potatoes, and add them to the pot. Boil potatoes until they start to become tender. Drain and cool in ice water or in the refrigerator.

Dice potatoes, leaving their skins on. Peel and dice the boiled eggs. Add both to a large bowl. Add onion, pickles, celery, mayo, mustard, salt and pepper, and mix well. Chill for an hour before serving.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A day trip as summer draws to a close

Where did August go? Where did summer go?

Here, it disappeared in a haze of sunscreen and chlorine and a flurry of IKEA bits. Every few days or so, I'd think, "I must remember to share this!" But each time, I'd go to bed without having committed that thought to screen. we are. The lazy days of summer are winding down, and the start of school is just around the corner (if it hasn't already started for you). I'm not looking forward to the hectic schedule of early mornings and homework and extracurricular activities, but I think we need it. The children have grown restless, clawing at the walls and each other.

If your children are restless too, I prescribe a trip to Georges Island, one of the Boston Harbor Islands. It's a short ferry jaunt from Boston or nearby ports. Take a Boston's Best ferry (available from multiple ports). On weekends, the MBTA runs a commuter ferry from Quincy that may be a more affordable option, especially if you have children.

Georges Island houses an amazing Civil War-era fort, Fort Warren. Even if you aren't a history buff, Fort Warren draws you in with its beautiful labyrinths of stone and picture-perfect panoramas up top on its ramparts. Definitely bring flashlights and comfortable walking shoes. We explored for hours and and found so many mysterious nooks and secret stairwells.

The flashlights we had brought that day were small, and their light feeble. As we wandered through the echoing rooms, we entered an interior stone hallway. The pale light from far-off windows barely gleamed on the shallow puddles at our feet. I turned the corner and entered a large room. It was pitch black. The faint beam from my flashlight barely cut through the darkness. Things at the edges of the light merged into shadow. Suddenly, scenes from every scary movie I'd ever seen flashed into my mind. A white mist began to rise from the floor. I heard one of my children say, "I'm not going in there." And we all walked veryveryveryfast out into the shockingly normal sunlight. Later, we heard that the fort was reputedly haunted by a ghost, The Lady in Black. Perhaps we met her.

Georges Island also houses a visitors center, a snack shop that offers hot meals, and picnic tables if you want to bring in your own food. No alcohol is allowed. There isn't much of a beach (it's very gravelly and is right by where the ferries come in), but the children spent many happy minutes combing for treasures and came home with pockets bulging with gorgeous seaglass. It's easily the best place for seaglass that I've ever seen.

A wonderful day trip as summer draws to a close. Happy Labor Day weekend. I hope you're enjoying the last of the lazy days. I'm looking forward to getting back to blogging and the crisp days ahead.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Brown butter and vanilla rice crispy treats

Another no-oven recipe for the summer, this grown-up version of the classic rice crispy treat is absolutely delicious. Perfect for bringing to picnics and other outdoor events. I brought it to a Friday evening outdoor concert, and the adults were chowing down faster than the kids. (The kids loved it too.)

If you're looking for a good and reasonably priced source for vanilla beans, I recommend Penzeys Spices. They're currently selling three vanilla beans (Madagascan or Mexican, your choice) for $7.65. Nope. This is not a paid advertisement or lured by freebies. I just love having this huge variety of reasonably priced spices as close as my laptop.

Brown butter and vanilla rice crispy treats
From Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang

2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Two 10-ounce bags marshmallows
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
9 cups crispy rice cereal

Butter a 9-by-13 baking pan.

In a large saucepot, melt the butter over low heat. As the butter melts, use the tip of a knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean directly into the butter. (Reserve the pod for another use. I suggest throwing it into a container of sugar to make vanilla sugar; see page 29 of the book.)

Once the butter has melted, it will start to bubble and crackle. If you lean in and listen, it will sound like an audience of people politely clapping their hands. Watch the butter carefully, and you will see it slowly browning. As soon as the bubbling subsides, after about 5 minutes, the butter will be fully browned, and you will need to add the marshmallows. (Note: This really does happen. It's amazing. It feels a bit nerve-wracking at first. Like waiting for the right moment to stop the microwave from popping popcorn. But it works. The butter won't be crayola brown, but you will see the color difference.) Add the marshmallows and salt and stir constantly over low heat until the marshmallows are completely melted, and the vanilla seeds are evenly distributed.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the cereal, and mix well with a wooden spoon to coat evenly. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and pat into an even layer. (Note: I used a piece of parchment paper to help me do this.) Let cool for about 1 hour, or to room temperature, then cut into pieces.

These treats can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Korean-style hobakjeon (or zucchini pancakes)

We've been literally snowed under (zucchinied under?) by summer squash and zucchini from our CSA and farmers market. What to do with it all? There's savory tacos de calabacitas or the standard sweet zucchini bread. But really, there are only so many tacos and so many loaves of bread one can eat.

So I found this, Korean hobakjeon or zucchini pancakes. Think of them as the Korean potato latke. They're so simple...only five ingredients, all of which you'll have in your kitchen. The hobakjeon is delicious with some dipping sauce (I love it with the Trader Joe's soyaki sauce) or on their own sprinkled with salt.

Korean-style hobakjeon (or zucchini pancakes)
Adapted from

1 and 1/2 cups julienned zucchini
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup water
vegetable oil

In a bowl, add julienned zucchini, flour, water and salt. Add ground pepper to taste. Mix well.

In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium high heat. Using a spoon, spread zucchini mixture evenly and thinly onto the pan to form a large circular(ish) pancake.

Cook for a few minutes, pressing down gently with the spatula, until the bottom turns light brown and crispy. Using a spatula, flip the pancake to cook the other side. Add a bit more oil if necessary.

When both sides are browned and crispy, transfer pancake onto a dish. Serve on its own, lightly sprinkled with salt, or with soy sauce or dipping sauce.