Roasted Corn and Tomato Lasagna

Summer Lasagna - Mostly Balanced

A few weeks ago, my friends and I met for dinner at one of Cambridge’s great new restaurants, Alden & Harlow. Their menu is based on small plates shared among the table. It was fabulous: we ordered corn fritters, chicken-fried rabbit, sweet corn gnocchi, and a kind of corn flapjack topped with fresh popcorn and sweet syrup. Given that we’re smack in the middle of August, it’s no surprise that the menu is full of fresh corn.

Tomatoes are the other late-summer signature ingredient, and this lasagna combines the best of quintessential summer flavors. It’s actually been rather chilly in Boston lately (barely above 70 degrees for a few days’ stretch), so I’ve been firing up my oven without needing to crank the air conditioning. … 

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Marinated Steak Tips

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This is my go-to steak marinade. I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to put this up on the blog; I’ve been using this recipe for a quick and easy base for steak tips for at least five years, and it’s totally worth sharing.

Maybe the final push to post is the fact that David and I are now able to grill our steak tips outside (!) over a flame. For the past few years, I’ve been using a grill pan or even pan searing my steak tips, but it’s so exciting to be able to head outside on a warm summer night and fire up the grill. The good news is that the marinade works well with whichever cooking method you use.

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Quick-Pickled Onions

DSC_1093-1smI’ve been making these quick-pickled onions all summer to top off a variety of grilled meats. We’re trying rotating a variety of burgers, and I’ve found these pair best with salmon burgers (and a bit of tartar sauce instead of ketchup) and buffalo burgers.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Breakfast Loaves (or Muffins)

DSC_1039-1smWe’re beginning to enjoy our first spring in Cambridgeport. The day David and I moved in, it was snowing. Now, we’re starting to see flowers come up and trees in bloom. It’s such a change from the North End, which, while charming, had a lot of brick and cement without a lot of green space. Now we have trees growing right outside our window!

DSC_1025-1smAlong with the early flowers of spring come stalks of rhubarb. I’ve been making these strawberry-rhubarb loaves for years. Rhubarb doesn’t have a long season, so it’s fun to make these when you can. They transition well, too, to a strawberry-only version later in the summer. This year, I decided to make them with cornmeal flour, but you can take this recipe any number of ways: as muffins or loaves, with whole wheat flour instead of cornmeal, with more or less rhubarb (depending on how tangy you like things).

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Pear and Walnut Coffee Cake

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My sister joined us for the weekend as our first house guest in the new apartment, and I made this coffee cake to celebrate. Things aren’t quite put together just yet in the kitchen, which this time meant we didn’t have any cinnamon on hand, so I substituted Chinese five spice instead. I’ve done that before with success, so no biggie, right? Except not so much. We’re sitting at the breakfast table over cake and coffee, and she says something tastes just a bit off with the flavor of the cinnamon. I say it’s not cinnamon at all, and she says “oh, that’s probably it then.” So for round two, I went out and bought ground cinnamon, and the coffee cake really is better for it.

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Pan-seared Kumquat Chicken

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For my birthday, David took me to one of the best restaurants in our new neighborhood: Craigie on Main. It’s a French restaurant that’s known for it’s consistent high-quality, creative cooking. It’s been on my list of places I’d love to visit for as long as I’ve been in Boston, and now that we live just down the road, we finally made reservations. For my birthday dinner, I had pork prepared four (!) different ways: terrine, sausages, one I can’t remember (whoops), and a pan-seared pork loin in a just-sweet-enough kumquat glaze. It was fabulous, and this chicken dish is a riff on some of the flavors I so enjoyed that night.

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Kumquats are new to me. They’re a citrus fruit that’s usually available in the late winter months, so they’re perfect this time of year. They look like tiny little oval oranges, and they’re meant to be eaten whole, skins and all. One of my colleagues at the hospital introduced me to them. She brought a little baggie of them to work one day and gave me a few to snack on, just popping them in to my mouth. When you chew them, there’s a bit of a tart zing, but soon a bright sweetness comes through. It’s kind of like a layered flavor.

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Pear and Blueberry Crisp

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We moved!

Although I’ve loved spending the past few years in my kitchen in Boston’s North End, it’s time for a change. David and I are lucky enough to have found a great place on the other side of the river that we both love.

We’re much closer to nature, with a little back yard and the Charles River just a few blocks away. We’ve been watching the trees bud and the flowers spring up over the past couple of weeks as we settle in. Lounging on the stairs to our back deck outside in the (still very chilly) night air, we talk about all we’ve left behind and everything we’re looking forward to in our new neighborhood.

To celebrate our first Saturday in our new space, I made this pear crisp. I wanted my first dish to be celebratory: something we don’t eat every day. Because we had loads of unpacking to do, it also needed to be on the low-maintenance end of the spectrum.

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Beet + Pomegranate Winter Salad

DSC_0961smI brought this salad to a brunch where my friends and their brand-new babies were gathering on a recent chilly Sunday morning. With donuts, cheesy egg bakes, and mimosas on the menu, it helped to make a small contribution of vegetables. It can be tough for a salad to compete with all that, but people seemed to enjoy it. As one of my friend’s husbands remarked, “it’s saying something that this is on my plate right now.” After brunch, the babies got bundled up in winter gear and went for a sleigh ride around the yard. By now, the snow is all melted, but the spring produce hasn’t quite yet sprung. So I’ll share this winter salad to tide me over.

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Quick-pickled Red Pepper Wraps

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Pickling vegetables can be an ambitious endeavor, and it’s a science trying to develop delicious flavors while avoiding incubating dangerous bacteria. This technique of a quick pickle, however, produces the best of flavor in just a short time (and without having to sterilize the jars). These wraps have great flavor and enough bite to lift them out of the mundane.

First, roasting the bell peppers gives them depth and complexity. Then a 24-hour bath in a salty vinegar mixture gives the peppers a bright acidity; this makes the peppers really pop, rather than the savory-subtle brine of the full-blown pickling process. Adding spinach gives the wraps crunch factor.

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Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

DSC_0629smGiven that it’s been absolutely frigid for weeks on end, most of my cooking has been one of two things: long-simmering stove-top dishes or supplementing the heating in my apartment by turning on the oven, chopping some vegetables, and allowing them to roast all afternoon. With all the snow, and cold, and damp, cooking in a warm kitchen has been a source of comfort. And while I’ve made a good number of stews, soups, and starches, I was particularly pleased with this recent production.  A little bit of salty and a little bit of sweet all comes together in this beautiful winter salad.

DSC_0632smTo make the salad I start by roasting the Brussels sprouts in the oven for a good chunk of an hour before assembling the rest of the ingredients. For this version, I used the teeny tiny Brussels sprouts at Whole Foods, so I simply sliced them the halves. If you use bigger sprouts, consider quartering them. They’re roasted with a hefty dose of olive oil and seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper before going in the oven. After roasting, a toss them with a bit of balsamic vinegar, which, paired with the remaining olive oil on the vegetables, turns into the dressing for the salad. This isn’t a heavily dressed salad, but feel free to add a bit more oil or vinegar if you need it. The light dressing works in part because the Brussels sprouts, apples, and raisins are so moist, and their warmth just ever so slightly wilts the arugula. So rather than tough, dry fronds, the separate ingredients of the salad come together to serve as dressing.

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