Friday, December 31, 2010

Time To Play

Guys, Christmas was a hit this year, and we all somehow ended up on Santa's nice list. When I first got home the weather was in the seventies...and yesterday it snowed (snowed!) in Phoenix. More like flurries, but potato-potato, its the same thing.

I've loved all this time off work. Which means, of course, time to play. Play with my friends, play with my parents and brother and sister, and play in the 70 degree sunshine in AZ by playing tag with my dog, Dolly.

From The Vagabond Table

I miss those days of elementary school where the biggest question you had to ask all day was, “Hey, do you wanna come over and play?”

We played in the kitchen a bit too. My Aunt Deb got me and my mom signed copies of Ina Garten’s newest cookbook, Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Was That? I also snagged Good to the Grain: Baking With Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce which I’ve been pining after for months now. 2011, you’re looking to be a very tasty year.

One slower eve of my 12 days of Arizona Christmas we made a Beef and Barley Stew, inspired by, but not totally followed, from Ina’s new book. And honestly, I “helped” by shopping for it, tasting it, and peeking at it while my mom and dad put it together. During this time I also took Dolly for a nice long walk,and returned to find the soup nearly done. So much for my helping in the kitchen, but what I can do rather well is appreciate a hearty, homemade stew.

From The Vagabond Table

And whether you're experiencing snow in DC, Wisconsin, Boston or AZ, this stew has a lovely broth that warms up your bones a bit. Good convo and multiple episodes of 30 Rock seem to cozy you up pretty well, too.

From The Vagabond Table

Tonight's the big welcome of 2011, kids! Be safe, be happy, or just be. Whatever you want since it's your year, and you should start it out how you want to live it.



Monday, December 20, 2010

The Family Jewels

So, I feel like December has wacked me over the head with its busy-ness and hasn’t stopped schooling me all month. Or maybe, November and December are in cahoots to distract me with things like road tripping to Cleveland for Thanksgiving and bussing to NYC to do some serious twinkle-lights appreciation. Seriously! I’ve barely been home, or if I do make it home, I’ve been in a collapsed heap on the couch catching up with United States of Tara and eating things like edamame beans and almonds for dinner.

It makes me feel unbalanced to not be constantly thinking of new blog posts, taking pictures, and squirreling away in my kitchen to concoct something new and fun.

But as my Christmas gift to you, I have a family recipe for one of my favorite holiday cookies that I whipped up for a really fun brunch we hosted recently: Rum Balls of Awesomeness!

From The Vagabond Table

Or, as I like to think: The Ferm Family Jewels. *snerk*.

I think any cookie that takes about ½ hour total to make deserves a prize. Any cookie that tastes this good and incorporates things like walnuts and chocolate and Nilla Wafers deserves First prize. And when they’re balanced with rum and a sprinkling of sugar, well…it’s a GRAND prize for everyone who gets one (or five).

These Rum Balls make an appearance every year in my mom’s epic cookie-baking-whirlwind. She usually bakes 12-14 different KINDS of cookies, of course having 2-3 batches per type, so really an entire part of our pantry is taken over by boxes and tins of the most delicious Christmas cookies you can think of. We laugh in the face of plain old sugar cookies…they are so 1980, I’m afraid. Instead, you should try her pecan tassies (mini pies…bite-sized!) or the ricotta cheese cookies that take the idea of sugar cookies, softens them up real nice, and puts them on steroids. Or the walnut crescents with their fine dusting of confectioner’s sugar, the coconut-chocolate cream cheese bars, the lemon bars, classic fudge, or the brand new chocolate truffle cookies, that, I’m sure, are worth flying across the country for. My mom, in truth, is the best durn Christmas cookie baker in Arizona, if not the country. And I’m one of the lucky few that get these cookies…for 12 days straight…at my fingertips. I promise you more cookies to come, but I think I'll start with Rum Balls.

From The Vagabond Table

This year’s Rum Balls are me attempting to make Mamasan proud by taking the torch and doing the Ferm Family some justice on the East Coast. And, based on their popularity this time around, I’m definitely on the right track.

As an aside, I’m back to AZ starting tomorrow, so there'll be plenty of time to post some goodies on here for the holidays. Much love and hugs to you all!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Givin' Thanks

You can ask Mom, Dad, or anyone in my family: Thanksgiving is my fave.

From The Vagabond Table

Not to bash on Christmas, but I dig the idea of a holiday whose sole purpose is to bring together a ragtag bunch of family and friends to gather round a table and share some damn good food. Share things they are thankful for. Share turkey and cranberries (has there ever been a better combination of foods?) and maybe not share the stuffing (because that usually gets stuck around me somewhere, and I do NOT share stuffing easily.)

From The Vagabond Table

This year I road-tripped it back to my other home, OH-IO, with my roomie to visit her family in Cleveland because, you see, Cleveland Rocks. And holy bajolies, I love me some Thanksgiving food, especially with my adoptive Albanian family (cheering the Buckeyes on to a victory over Michigan wasn't bad either.)

From The Vagabond Table

This year we made a combo of traditional favorites, new Thanksgiving recipes, and some Albanian dishes. Classic roast turkey with rosemary and sage, cinnamon-orange-cranberry sauce, a pimped out gravy, Pancetta and Chestnut Stuffing with Prunes, Rosemary crackers with white bean dip, Wild Rice and Mushroom dressing, an array of kalamata olives, Tave Tiranse, Moussaka, Spanikopita, salad, and roasted veggies…truly, it was divine.

From The Vagabond Table

From The Vagabond Table

And while everyone else in the Midwest was making pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies…I was bucking tradition and making Almond Cheesecake.

From The Vagabond Table

With a crunchy crust made of crushed almonds and Nilla wafers, a whisper of almond in the cheesecake and a sweetened layer of sour cream baked on top…served with a lovely strawberry compote, a slice of this is worthy of kings (or a ragtag group of family and friends).

Also as a side note, today is my two year Blog-iversary! Yay! Dear Vagabond Table Readers… thanks for sharing in these foodie adventures, for your support, and for always being curious about the world beyond your front door. Let’s all celebrate with a slice of Almond Cheesecake as you stick with me for additional recipes and stories. As the Albanians like to cheer: Gezuar!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Go Bananas

First you peel, banana, peel- peel banana

Then you eat banana, eat-eat banana

Then you GO Bananas! GO-GO Bananas!

I think I sang that song about a thousand times during my years in youth group growing up. In the vans traveling around for volleyball games or Sonora, Mexico to build houses or just to plain ole’ winter camp, that song ping-ponged around the van and made us laugh banana-inspired giggles.

Bananas, I know, are not for everyone. In fact, I know people who absolutely, positively hate bananas. Me? I personally like them, but I do not love them. I especially do not love them in fruit salads where they get brown and slimey. Bleh. But bananas, when combined with other powerful food forces, are pretty damn good. Like with homemade granola on some Greek yogurt, drizzled in honey. Or as Bananas Foster. Or, like in a tried-and-true favorite: Banana Bread.

From The Vagabond Table

Growing up my mom was a pro at things like Zucchini Bread and Banana Bread. The banana bread my mom baked had caramelized nuts and coconut on top, was ridiculously decadent, and after my college days in Ohio (where regular packages of these breads found their way into my little postbox), has seemingly disappeared from my regular staples of food munchies.

But no more.

Alas, while mourning the loss of mom’s coconut banana bread, I happened upon this recipe from Molly’s blog over at Orangette, which was perfect. I had exactly two bananas beyond the point of help in the fridge. I had no walnuts to throw in the batter. I had, in short, everything I needed to make this Cinnamon-Sugar Crusted Banana Bread. I like how when the stars align, I get Banana Bread. Thanks, Universe!

From The Vagabond Table

I substituted half the white sugar in the recipe for brown sugar, which made the loaf much darker than normal banana bread, but even tastier. And, with a nod to the fam back in AZ, I threw a couple of handfuls of grated, sweetened coconut along with the cinnamon-sugar mixture onto the top of the loaf. What I love is the crunch: slice into a piece of this and you are first met with a crispy crust of crackly deliciousness. What lies beneath is a dark and moist crumb, not too banana-y, and mostly just right. Slather some butter on and I might just be in heaven. Or, alternatively, I might be eating this exact breakfast (and post-dinner snack) for a week straight.

It could just be the perfect pre-Thanksgiving breakfast to tide you over until the real show begins.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Get Comfortable

I just might be in love with November.

I always think of October as Fall, but seeing as how the trees don't really start blushing until Halloween, which is practically the next month over, I'm just going to go out on a limb (preferably draped in yellowed Gingko leaves) and say: My. I DO love November.

From The Vagabond Table

I most especially love these clear, cold, brisk fall nights with a glass of wine, good friends, and a big plate of Zucchini and Mushroom Lasagna. Followed, of course, by multiple games of Up and Down the River, which could possibly be one of the best card games out there that almost no one has heard of. Trust. This game has quickly become a foundation of our little apartment these past few months.

The last time I made lasagna (3 years ago) it was somewhat of a "fail." I had even added bacon to entice my sister to it, but not even bacon could rally her. The layers kind of slid around, making quite a mess, and the bacon and zucchini just didn't mesh with the rest of the layers and overall it was just so-so, which, in my book, is a huge disappointment where pasta is concerned. Pasta is one of those balls-to-the-wall kind of dishes: either go strong, or go home.

From The Vagabond Table

But this time around, SANS RECIPE I might add (!) it worked. Like, really worked. Even my vegetarian-inclined friend (and her not-so-vegetarian-inclined husband) were fans. It was, quite simply, a solid lasagna recipe that I'm fully comfortable around and everyone liked. I think we all need one of those "I don't need to think twice about making this" kind of pasta dishes, especially a cozy, steamy, veggie-filled delicious lasagna one.

From The Vagabond Table

Extra bonus points: this fed three adults (and seconds!) for dinner and me for lunch and dinner several times later that week. Money saver! Belly saver! All around, a savior of sorts. For this lasagna restored unto me my comfort of making dinners without a recipe, which is quite the accomplishment.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thanks, Mom

In early October I went back home to AZ for a dear friend’s wedding and some much-needed family time. Each day was sunny, my hammock on the back porch was the perfect getaway, and the evenings were spent around one of two tables: the dining table with steaming plates of Mom’s Spaghetti, or the coffee table playing Apples to Apples.

Going home is just so good for the soul. And my tummy.

Saturday morning before the wedding, my Aunt Deb came over for breakfast. As I’ve mentioned before, Saturday Morning Breakfasts are not a small thing by any means at our house. They are, indeed, a Very Big Thing, and my Mom, God bless her, is the Queen of these breakfasts.

Since I was last home, she has discovered two new breakfasty staples that I’ll not soon forget. In fact, I’ll be pining for them till Christmas Morning Breakfast, since that’s all I’ll be asking Santa for this year. These two things are: a Sausage-Mushroom Breakfast Bake and Ina Garten’s Cheese Danishes.

From The Vagabond Table

Breakfast, my friends, has gone beyond pancakes and French toast.

I love egg-baked-things. How can you not love the versatility of something that’s ideal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Especially something made with sausage (yum!) and mushrooms (double-yum!) For the vegetarians out there, just take out the sausage and you’ll still have a hearty dish, worthwhile and filling. It is quite the breakfast casserole.

From The Vagabond Table

Also, Cheese Danishes. I never thought that these could be made at home, but Ina Garten has found a way, and just in time. Better than any cheese danish I’ve had at a bakery, they are warm, light, lemony, and ultra-addictive.

From The Vagabond Table

Breakfast turned out to be a lovely affair in the shade by the pool with everyone catching up over hot cups of my Dad's coffee and plates laden with deliciousness. I am a lucky daughter. Not only to have a mom that throws together such hearty breakfasts for a wayward, DC-based daughter such as myself, but to have a family that continues to gather together during the week to simply eat, talk, and laugh. It’s a ritual as old as time but somehow never seems to get old.

Christmas can’t come soon enough.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Chocolate Chip Cookie, Revisited

I have a confession. It’s been a while since I’ve branched into cookies.

The roomie and I make these cookies all the time. They’re easy and taste like pecan pie. They travel well, you see, which is good for all of our friends and families that live in other states, but not good for our palates which, once they find something they like, refuse to try anything else. Palates are a finicky bunch. I’ve found you have to trick them a bit with words like “dark chocolate” and “walnuts” and go from there.

From The Vagabond Table

It’s been a while since this disappointing chocolate chip/oatmeal cookie episode 2 springs ago, and I thought I’d try my hand at a new recipe. One tested by none other than Amanda Hesser herself, the gal behind Recipe Redux, the great New York Times Magazine food blog that takes old-timey recipes and makes them new. (I can’t wait to make my own Worcestershire sauce!) Also, I saw a picture of these cookies from The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century by the same Amanda Hesser in my latest Saveur magazine, and, well, sometimes the stars align and you find yourself just totally committed, whether you even realized it or not, to baking new cookies.

The thing is, I think we are sometimes a bit obsessed with BIG. 60 oz. Thirstbusters you can swim in from 7-11. Extra-large value meals. SUVs. All-You-Can-Eat buffets. Bigger, I’m afraid does not always make for better. And these cookies are a rarity to find in the ‘biggest, best’ world we live in.

From The Vagabond Table

For one thing, they’re flat.

Also, they’re small-ish with crispy edges and chewy in the middle. But, you see, they have shaved chocolate throughout the entire batter, in addition to chocolate chunks and some walnut pieces thrown in.

And, bonus points, you can stack them. So fun!

These are just good, solid chocolate chip cookies. They might not be the biggest. But they are a pretty fun take on an old classic, a throwback to some golden era of Grandma’s Cookiedom, one I’m welcoming with open arms and a bear hug because that is ONE thing we can all agree on. Hugs are best when they’re big enough to reach for the world and grab you instead.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Oktober Already

What is it about Fall that makes room for my (seemingly) infinite amounts of nostalgia?

From The Vagabond Table
Local pumpkin patch

It’s not like I grew up in a place that had a lot of FALL around. Somehow, I lucked out with one gigantor Mulberry tree amongst the saguaros and Palo Verdes in the backyard, that did, indeed, change with the seasons. Beyond that, and some pretty sweet pumpkin carving on newspapers in the carport, Mesa, AZ was a sunshiney place that would be like summer anywhere else. Leaves don’t turn. I guess the birds go away for a bit, but the oranges, lemons, and limes come out and it’s suddenly citrus season. The desert just gets a little browner, a little dryer, and a bit colder.

From The Vagabond Table
Sedona in October

But Fall in DC is something distinct. It is sudden and blusters in with playful winds and rainy days, enlightens you with clear and crisp weekend mornings, and moves you towards mugs of hot somethings, like cocoa or toddies or coffees or chai teas. It’s also the time when it is totally okay to sit and watch four episodes in a row of Mad Men, all curled up in the blanket your mother knit for you before your freshman year of College. And it is breathtakingly stunning, especially when the Gingko trees light up, bright yellow, like legendary warning lights before the dead stop of Winter and big orange pumpkins bring smiles to your face as you hug them close. Fall, it seems, is that strange dichotomy between the absolute best of things and the sad knowledge that all warm and sunny things must come to an end, at least for a while.

It is also the time, (albeit somewhat delayed by my American calendar as opposed to Das German Kalendar!) for Oktoberfest. I honestly can think of no better party than Oktoberfest to celebrate the coziness of Fall with the fun of Summer. To the bountiful Fall and beer and brats! To pretzels and mustard! To Oktoberfest!

From The Vagabond Table

Here are a few recipes for you, if you should so choose to have an Oktoberfest party this Fall. Heck, I’d throw this party any time of the year, because I love good beer, and, now that I know how to make homemade Bratwurst Bites with BEER MUSTARD, it’s totally worth it. You know what else is worth it? Serving this absolutely fantastic Braised Red Cabbage dish alongside a gigantic soft pretzel from Whole Foods.

From The Vagabond Table

Autumn is good, and, while it may make you a bit nostalgic and dreamy, it’s absolutely worth it, especially when you have Brews and Bratwurst Bites and a sweet-tangy Red Cabbage dish to accompany you and your friends. Because I don’t think you can quite enjoy an epic Spring without living through an epic Fall.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jumping Off the High Dive

Remember when you were a kid, and during miserably hot summers you went to your local junior high swimming pool and paddled amongst the mothers, their floating toddlers, screaming kids, and sometimes, you got up the gumption to climb up to the diving boards?


There was the “regular” diving board which was bouncy and intimidating enough for any normal person. And then, there was the high dive. It towered. It mocked from on high. It waited. It absolutely, positively, created huge pits of fear that were lodged somewhere between my throat and my intestines, and that fear pounded. In my ears, in my neck, in my heart. Regardless, I’d climb that high-dive every so often. Then I’d dawdle, toeing the edge. I’d look down at all the impatient kids waiting for me. Finally I’d jump off, cannon ball-propelled, and emerge from the diving pool dripping, smarting from the great slap of water on my butt, and bouncing around from the adrenaline rush.

There’s nothing like grabbing that high dive for all its menacing worth and emerge triumphant.

I think there are high-dives in everything. In your career. In your family. In your relationship to your body, your health, your mind, your emotions, your relationships. And, of course, in food. I’ve since overcome my first major high-dive fear of food (Yeast Beasties! Here and Here and Here.) But it was time to take on a new challenge. One I’d been gearing up for all summer. Of course, now that it’s not summer anymore, and I’d toed the edge long enough, I leapt. And, well, making ice cream just isn’t as hard as I thought. Go fig.

From The Vagabond Table

I was lucky enough to steal, er…gift myself…with my mom’s Cuisinart ice cream maker from the garage this past July. Let me tell you, carrying an ice cream maker through airport security in a banana-shaped bag raises a lot of eyebrows and questions, but mostly I got a lot of smiles when I told them what I was hauling around. I mean...everyone loves ice cream.

After searching the internet for the perfect ice cream recipe for some dear friends who came to visit, Annie and Liz (fellow volunteers when we were in Chile about 5 years ago), we found David Lebovitz’s recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream. Uh. You might have just zoned out for a hot second after I wrote that. Totally understandable. I did too. Salted? Butter? Caramel? Swoon.

From The Vagabond Table

This was definitely a task that required an extra hand or two to help scrape down bowls and whisk and the like, but it was a fun group project. Also, it turns out my ice cream maker isn’t hard to use at all, so Pumpkin Ice Cream…I’m lookin’ at you this Fall. Also, this caramel ice cream was a dream. That perfect balance of rich, caramel sweetness with the tang of some salt thrown in here and there. It doesn’t hurt that this recipe calls for milk, egg yolks AND heavy cream. Yeah. When I finally approach the high dive, I don’t half-ass anything. I cannonball it for full effect, and this ice cream was the mother of rich, velvety awesomeness.

If you have an ice cream maker gathering dust in your garage… make this ice cream. If you have a friend who has an ice cream maker…do a group thing and make this ice cream. Whatever you do, please: make this ice cream.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Say Hello To Your New Breakfast

Ya’ll. I hate to break it to you summer-lovers out there, but Fall, indeed, is nearly upon us.

There’s a chilly breeze (7 nights in a row!) and sunny-cloudy days. I dream about drinking coffee, wrapped in a scarf, sitting on a park bench somewhere reading Jane Eyre. Yep. Definitely Fall. Or, at least, the whispers of the beginning of it.

I’ve also discovered, with no small amount of surprise, that while I really really like cooking (and I do!) I looove baking. There’s just something so satisfying about putting some kind of concoction in the oven and having something entirely different come out. Usually something delicious and warm and toasty. It’s kind of like a chemistry experiment, except that you get to eat the results, usually with a coffee in hand, instead of wearing dorky plastic glasses and stupid rubber gloves. I like Baking Science...I just wish they offered that class in high school.

My friends, I have discovered possibly the best bread you could ever bake by yourself. Just to make sure my yeast-prowess wasn’t a fluke the first time around, this past week I baked it for a second time, but this go-round I threw in some wheat flour for good measure. And boy, was it a good measure.

From The Vagabond Table

Originally the recipe was called “Maple White Bread” but since I added wheat, I guess I’ll just be calling it Maple Bread from now on. But don’t be fooled. It isn’t sweet so much as a memory of sweet. It has the essence of maple, the warmth of maple, but not the nearly-over-sweetness of syrup. Does any of this even make sense? All I know, is that for two weeks in a row, I have baked my own loaf of bread. I might even have the recipe memorized at this point. I've shared this toasty goodness with the roomie and with colleagues, and, all around, it was a number one prize winner of a solid loaf of bread.

From The Vagabond Table

The thing is… it’s a GREAT slicing bread. Nice, thick, gorgeous slices of bread, toasted up for breakfast with a slather of butter is perfection. Jam is nice too, but I must say, even after trying this bread with homemade jam and apple butter, I'd take regular ole' butter with this bread any day. Ohhhh good heavens.

From The Vagabond Table

As I contemplate my baker-tendencies, I’ll comfort myself with awesome toasty breakfasts as I watch autumn start to creep in and surprise me with yellow leaves and chilly nights. I hope by now you've conquered your yeast-based fears (like I have!) and can do the same.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

For Your Birthday

I have a birthday cake for you.

From The Vagabond Table

Full warning: it is not a frosting cake (thank god!) It is not a cheesecake. It is not made of carrots or chocolate or strawberries or coconut. Instead, it is made of plums.

From The Vagabond Table

Simply dimpled, lovely, and jewel-toned, it is a cake for any-day or birth-days. It is, ideally, made with end-of-summer plums from the farmer’s market, and is made all the more interesting with a whisper of lemon zest and sour cream in the vanilla batter. It sounds strange, but is quite the find. It is, indeed, quite a cake. And, as my birthday gift to you, I present you the best cake I’ve had all summer, one I’ll probably make again before plum season ends, and one I promise you’ll thank me for, for being both simple and gorgeous at the same time.

From The Vagabond Table

I have some ruminations on my entrance into the grand year known as 28. So I’ll make this simple and sweet, (similar to this cake.)

From The Vagabond Table

We grow older, and, we hope, wiser. I don’t know if I’d ever consider myself wise, except that I have learned a few things during these past 28 years, most of which center around the themes of listening to myself, and being myself, no matter who thinks I’m crazy, or who thinks I’m a nerd and a half.

I’ve learned that risks are best taken with a family to hug you and send you bags of granola, and friends who cheer you along the way. And some killer mixed CD’s that become the soundtrack of it all.

I’ve learned that meals are best shared with a side of jokes and a dessert of thanks.

I’ve learned that a well-made bed is the best kind of bed to crawl into at night.

I’ve learned that there is absolutely nothing more important in this world than surrounding yourself with people you love and who cherish you right back. And that telling them so is a Very Important Thing.

I’ve learned that there is definitely something to the art of doing nothing. To napping beneath a tree. To dipping your fingers into a fountain and taking off your shoes in the park. To watching endless movie marathons and recording the lovely random thoughts that float through your head. To enjoying a perfect bite of cheese, the squeezing of a lemon and the sizzle of butter.

And I have learned that it’s okay to grow, and to change your mind, and to be wrong, and to be right, and to just be. And that the constant adventure and the thrill of what’s next is kind of what makes us tick, what makes us human, what makes us blessed.

So I cheers to you. To remaining true to yourself, but to the constant change. To the loved ones in your life. To another year to celebrate sunshine and clouds, raindrops and snowflakes, fall leaves and new flowers. To stretching yourself completely, and the loveliness of curling back up, newly changed, but always and essentially you. To your birthday, whenever it may be. To you.

From The Vagabond Table

As they say in Albania… Gezuar! Now go bake that cake and celebrate in style.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summer Break

To the beach we go.
To the waves and fresh air.
To Dogfish.
To dreaming and talking
To the beach we go.

Ah, to the beach we go!
To the wind in our hair and the sand in our toes
To sleeping deeply and laughing loudly
To salty fresh breezes
and singing out loud
Ah, to the beach we go!

From The Vagabond Table

I recently took a little jaunt down to Rehoboth Beach with my roomie. We stayed at a lovely B&B (1/2 block from the beach! Center of it all! On a magical lane named “Brooklyn!”) This house even had a screened in porch. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my obsession of porches, but I have a deep, revered love for them. For playing card games late at night. For rocking on chairs and swinging on hammocks and breakfasting and lunching and dining, I'm pretty sure porches are a favorite of mine from some prior life in the old south.

From The Vagabond Table

It was a grand ol’ time. We threw a mix called “I Heart the 90’s” into our rental car, belted out some Alanis and Pearl Jam and grooved to The Avett Brothers and Chatham County Line. We drove past lots of corn fields and farms and adorable fruit stands with names like “Ma and Pa’s Market.” We went there, and I must say Ma was rather nice, too.

From The Vagabond Table

This was my first trip to the Atlantic coast beaches, my first time dipping my toes into cold water and seeing early morning from the east coast. I’m used to southern California beaches, and while I can’t quite put my finger on it, it was different. And lovely.

From The Vagabond Table

We mulled our lives over some great brews at the Dogfish Head Brewpub and discovered the most amazing Italian Salumeria and Pasticceria at Touch of Italy where we bought dried Italian figs, fresh-made mozzarella, and grilled olives. I also tried a delicious cold Peach Soup (with champagne, nutmeg, and coconut milk, no less!) at a fantastic restaurant called Hobo’s.

It was a good time.

One of my favorite parts was coming back home Sunday evening and rehashing everything over a cherry-tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad with a great new recipe I found for Rosemary Focaccia bread.

From The Vagabond Table

From The Vagabond Table

Heaven in my bowl! Heaven in the oven! By heavens, I have been blessed with most-excellent Delaware farm-fresh produce and a wicked Rosemary Focaccia bread recipe to match. Have I suddenly become a baker? Have I lost all fear of yeast (and kneading) doughs? So many tough questions, but they are balanced by easy recipes and lovely summer suppers, and, I think, they are questions that can be left to ponder during colder winter months.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Perfection Weekend

Someone needs to give me French lessons, because I’m very iffy on how to pronounce this dish, but what I’m not iffy on is how much I love it.

Moules à la marinière (mussels with garlic and white wine) are awesome. They are more than easy to make. They make you feel refined and posh and edgy and talented in the kitchen. They make you want to share wine and stories and play Foodie Fight with friends over an hours-long Saturday evening meal.

From The Vagabond Table

Also, they’re gorgeous.

Courtesy of Lucy

From The Vagabond Table

Lucy was in town, and Roni and I went all-out on the relaxation factor. We had Ethiopian food and drinks at one of our fave bars, The Red Derby, Friday night. Saturday after a late breakfast we laid in a park for hours, sipping on wine while munching on peaches and napping in the shade of a big tree. We went shopping, came home, and Roni made her famous gazpacho with local heirloom tomatoes while I made moules à la marinière with crusty bread and brie and a lovely bottle of white wine. It was, I think, the most relaxed I’ve been in ages.

From The Vagabond Table
Lazing around in Meridian Hill park.

Gazpacho, courtesy of Lucy

Sunday morning we made fruit salad, asparagus-red pepper frittata, and blueberry whole-wheat scones while Stumptown coffee brewed as a big summer storm rolled in.

From The Vagabond Table
Stumptown coffee time

Courtesy of Lucy

This weekend has been more than lovely, with great food, good weather, and fun reunions with peeps I haven’t seen in a while. I’m also convinced I need to move to France for a year and apprentice to a baker and vintner. I see wineries, French wine, baguettes and more moules à la marinière in my future, mon amis!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cobbled Together

Traditionally, a cobbler is a shoemaker and sole-repairman, with, I like to imagine, a brown leather apron and a pair of glasses sitting just so on the edge of his nose.

My kind of cobbler, the fruit kind, fixes things too. It fixes the fact that you haven’t had much of a life for a few months straight. It fixes the fact you haven’t seen your family since Christmas. It fixes all the stress by relaxing you with the lovely job of pitting stone fruits, squeezing a lemon, and mixing together a crumbly topping. My kind of a cobbler is the soul-repairman, summer-fruit version.

From The Vagabond Table

For my mom’s birthday, I gave her David Lebovitz’s delicious book, Ready for Dessert, a book that offers everything from pies and cakes to tarts and ice creams. For the past month or so we’ve discussed baking one of his recipes together, and upon my return home, we decided on the Cherry-Almond Cobbler, a relatively simple and delicious-sounding dessert that we chose to serve at a brunch later in the weekend.

You pit a pound of cherries (luckily my mom had a cherry-pitter. Unluckily, I suck at using it and she had to go back through and remove all the seeds that I missed.) You mix sugar and lemon juice with the cherries (with your cherry-juice stained arms), then mix a simple topping of flour, marzipan, butter, milk, and sugar until fluffy and spoon over the cherries. The dish smells heavenly when baking, toasted and almond-y with a ripe layer of summer fruit at its peak.

From The Vagabond Table

This Cherry-Almond Cobbler is easy to assemble, and just as easy to disassemble, as noted by my lack of any photos of an actual serving of it. The whole dish was gone within twenty minutes, so I know I'm not the only one who loves summer-fruit cobblers! The almond topping complimented the cherries perfectly, and really, such a dessert is the only reason you should even turn your oven on in these swelteringly hot days of summer.

From The Vagabond Table

Guys, this cobbler was a hit. And, like I mentioned earlier, it tends to be a fixer-upper of things, and I’m a-hankerin' to keep it around for a while.