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Having Our Cake


I realized the other day that “celebration” always equals “food” in my mind. When someone’s general awesomeness or recent accomplishments need acknowledging, I make reservations.

What I don’t usually do is bake for them, and in a culture where sugar is shorthand for love, that can be problematic. Cakes and cookies step beyond my skill set and outside of my palette preferences, so when the Three Points cooks decided that there would be cake(!) in honor of our 1st anniversary (that’s right, ladies and gents, we are cruising past 365 days and 152 posts), I was thoroughly stumped. Luckily, the dessert cart rolled to me. Celebrating her own six-years-and-counting blog anniversary, the Wednesday Chef featured a banana cake recipe from LA’s Clementine Bakery that sounded like it would suit both the happy occasion and my level of expertise especially well: a single layer situation topped with a simple cream cheese icing. And come on, fruit was even involved! This was no triple-decker, double chocolate fudge bomb with sprinkles on top. This would be wholesome joy.

I actually believed all that “good for me” posturing right up to the part where I was measuring out equal portions of pastry flour and white sugar into my mixing bowl. With a tropical storm on the way, however, it seemed a poor time to count calories. I had thought about throwing in some walnuts or other “banana bread” kinds of additives, but this is really not that. This is 100% decadence, not breakfast. And it’s delicious. So to all those visitors out there, share in this bit of sweetness sent with love, with friendship, with thanks.

Totally Impractical


Yesterday, I bought a whole watermelon at the market.

This would not have been such an issue if I had not already purchased two full bags of produce. Or if I wasn’t counting on the bus to get me home. But these things happen. Dear Mr. Bus Driver who waited for me to sprint-waddle over to the stop before taking off, even though you were already pulling back out into traffic when you noticed me: I hope a cool breeze follows you all summer long for your kindness.

So, as I said, I made some purchases, got myself home, then broke training and cranked my air conditioner while I contemplated what to make. In the end, most of my construction work ended up in jars. More ginger beer, more yogurt, more watermelon juice (mixing this with seltzer is my new favorite drink, and I’m fully stocked up now). The piles and piles of baby cucumbers at the market demanded a batch of sweet pickles and the tomatillos, a cubanelle, and some of the super-hot garden peppers still hanging out in the freezer from last season went into a simple and lovely roasted tomatillo salsa verde. Wanting to put that condiment to use immediately, I stuffed the remaining cubanelles with rice, a couple of the tomatoes, and (avert your eyes) a meat substitution product (for the health and happiness of the husband).

Once the oven was on to bake the stuffed peppers, I decided I might as well make use of the already-steamy kitchen to do up the fairytale eggplants as well. Those were all sliced in half, dropped into a hot chef pan with a bit of water, and then finished with this awesome sauce of rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, sake, ginger, garlic, and a pinch of sugar and cornstarch. Six minutes from raw to such a tasty side dish: in this kitchen, you could even call that practical.

Scrabble Cooking


My weekly excursion to the Waverly Farmers Market came around a little fast on me this Saturday. Work had worn me down and I hadn’t cooked through nearly as much of last week’s haul as I had planned. Still, the grocery store this non-driver counts on because it’s within easy walking distance is closing down this week while it changes ownership, so I couldn’t afford to let anything go to waste.

For this reason, I motivated myself out of bed early on this first morning of the holiday weekend and went to collect my CSA share and a box of potatoes. When I got back home, I piled every veggie in the place on the counter to take stock and then went to work prepping food for the week, puzzle-piecing ingredients together until I was sure nothing had been left to spoil. Now, there is certainly no danger I will starve.

Broccoli soup with a kick
(adapted from this Broccoli-Mascarpone Soup recipe from Bon Appetit)
Without the mascarpone on hand, I’m sure this is not the same soup, but I simmered my broccoli with the shallots I found rolling around in the drawer, some veggie broth, and a couple of bay leaves, then pureed and added the cayenne and 14 oz. of homemade yogurt to whisk in some creaminess and balance the spice. I’m not a fan of cheesy broccoli soups but the simpler purees often leave me uninspired. The kick on the back end of this one is just what is needed to keep things interesting

Purslane Potato Salad
Is it the Fourth of July without a potato salad? I still had a lonely looking cucumber plus more that enough purslane left over from last week’s purchase to experiment with this version of the picnic classic, so this was an easy pick. Plus, it let me practice my mayo manufacturing skills!

Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Scape Pesto
I still hadn’t made this pesto with my garden garlic scapes (all 1/4 cup of them) nor had I roasted the eggplant from last week. With both these tasks now done, I suspect a pizza is in my future later in the week.

Kale, Black Bean, and Corn Salad
To wrap things up, I ended up just tossing what was left of the massaged kale I had prepped the other day with some corn and beans I had on hand. This isn’t really a dish, but rolled up in a flour tortilla (my weekday lunch delivery method of choice) I’m sure it will be quite tasty.

What are you eating this Independence Day weekend?

Rooted (Summer Cocktail Edition)


Over lunch a few days ago, a friend suggested I take a stab at making ginger beer. Not quite a Three Cubed project, perhaps, but not something I’d ever even thought about making in my home kitchen before. She sent me a recipe, and I filed it away for future crafting.

As these things tend to unfold, a few nights later I was at my favorite dining establishment and the summer cocktail list included a tempting item called a Root Cup. This drink involved said gingery beverage plus lemon, cucumber, and (bonus points) a new-to-me liquor called Root, produced by our friends to the north, Art in the Age. The friendly Woodberry Kitchen bartender showed me the lovely watercolor reproductions of herbs on the bottle and explained the contents, but the producer has actually made a short movie about it (it’s that kind of operation) which you can watch for a much more illuminating explanation than I could type here.

Based on my internet research, I wasn’t sure Root could be sourced locally for common purchase, but of course it was available at the Wine Source. In fact, a few people before me had clearly also been bitten by the bug and there was only a single bottle left on the shelf.

If you can juice (thank you, $5 yard sale juicer) and measure, you can make ginger beer. The ingredients in the recipe I followed are lemon juice, ginger juice, and simple syrup, plus water and a pinch (and I do mean a pinch–more on that below) of champagne yeast. Pour it into flip-top bottles, shake well, and leave it to brew in a dark, warm place for 48 hours. Then refrigerate and get ready to get your cocktail on.

By 6 p.m. this evening, we were ready to experiment. Drink production started explosively enough, since I apparently had not taken the “25 grains of yeast” proviso literally enough. Fair warning all: This recipe tastes great but the dude is serious about the teeny tiny itsy bitsy amount of yeast needed to make the bubbles. I lost a good portion of the brew when I popped the swingtop and the carbonated beverage spewed forth, over the top of the bottle and across the counter with frightening speed (not pictured due to frantic mopping). If you want to work this into a volcano demonstration for your kids, by all means. Otherwise, be stingy with the yeast, keep cameras and pets clear, and maybe open the bottle over the sink just to be safe.

Once that little bit of drama was cleaned up, the drink itself was a welcome reward. To my taste, it’s a perfect match to a setting sun and a summer swing. A little sweet, a little bubbly, the alcohol not offering too harsh a bite. This is going to become a habit, I can tell already.

Mercury Rising


Aside from opening the fridge to pour iced coffees and fruit juice spritzers, the only thing the Baltimore kitchen is making is ice until this streak of crippling temps passes us by.

Meanwhile, the garden seems to be holding up remarkably well with just a nightly watering. This morning, in that magical hour before the sun starts baking the earth to a pastry crisp again, I took a little stroll around the yard to check on what was still managing to grow in spite of the weather.

Ickle Me, Pickle Me


Ever since I first spotted spicy pickled green beans at the grocery store, I wanted them.

Once I saw the price tag of $8.99 a jar, I decided I’d wait and make them myself.

Until I found out this morning that pickled vegetables might kill me, I was really enjoying my results!

I did a simple quick pickle (what my favorite restaurant calls Kitchen Pickles) by slipping my young/fresh/slender green beans into the jars upright, tucking in a garlic clove and some of last year’s dried red peppers, plus some peppercorns, celery seeds, and dill springs for good measure. Then I brought my 2 cups water/2 cups vinegar/scant 1/4 kosher salt mixture to a boil and poured it over. Once the jars were cool to the touch, I popped them in the fridge. They are not preserved in the way proper canning would allow, but just a couple of days later, they were plenty good enough to eat.  I don’t think there is any danger they will spoil before we finish the jars.