(Sparkling) Tarragon-Gin Lemonade

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The June issue of Bon Appetit is filled with all kinds of recipes I want to try. So many pages are dog-eared. From a feature on Cali-Persian cooking, we made the beet yogurt and the jeweled rice is still on my list. The shirazi salad looks spectacular, like summer exploded onto a platter. There’s a spread on cold noodle salads with crispy shallots on one page and translucent noodles tangled with carrots and cilantro on the next. It’s the kick in the butt I need to use up my ginger and sesame oil, especially when the results look like this.

And then, herbs! Parsley pesto spaghetti leads the herb feature into tips on growing your herbs, infusing oil with them, and using everything of the herb, from the flower down to the root. Lately, I’m a fan of herbs in my cocktails. Continue reading  continue reading

Spaghetti with Sardines, Lemon, and Anchovy Breadcrumbs

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Lila, my youngest sister, loves burgers, chocolate, and ice cream. She’s turning 9 this August.

But most of all, that girl loves cheese. One night, when she was younger, I walked into the kitchen at my parents’ house to find her seated at the counter. In front of her, a plate piled high with parmesan cheese. She’d cleaned us out.

Dinner, she called it.

That’s what kids must picture dinner being like when you’re older and in your own place. Ice cream for breakfast. Chips for dinner. Sprinkles all around. And sometimes it is, and it is great to sit in your pajamas and have a little bit of ice cream around 10 a.m. But of course, this can’t and won’t go on forever.

Your belly grumbles for real food. A real dinner.

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Some nights Danny works late to cover meetings for the paper, and I find myself making dinner for one. I sit on the couch browsing this and catching up on that, and before I know it I only had avocado toast or a big bowl of kale for dinner. Suddenly it’s 9 p.m. and all I’ve had is a skimpy dinner.

It had to change. I came across this recipe for spaghetti with sardines, lemon, and anchovy breadcrumbs. Turns out I had everything I needed, which is part of this dinner’s appeal. I’ve been stashing these cute tins of sardines in the cupboards ever since we picked up fresh Portuguese sardines on a whim and liked them very much. It’s also great knowing they’re sustainable and healthy.

Anyway. The pasta doesn’t take very long. The sweet smell of lemon and garlic as you chop and prep is enough to convince you this was a waaaay better move than heating up soup. I tend to cop out on dinner when it’s just for me, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Let’s try and quit that, okay? Treat yourself. Continue reading  continue reading

We Bought a Pasta Maker

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On his dad’s side, Danny’s ancestors are from Italy. Sicily, I’m told, and I believe his father still has relatives living there. That’s where the name Valentine comes from of course. Maybe this is where his sudden obsession with getting a pasta maker came from.

The night the Oscars were playing, he decided to make spinach ravioli stuffed with ricotta. Rolled by hand, what were supposed to be little pillows were tough and disappointing for the amount of work required.

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A proper pasta machine was needed. That very week he sought one out. First he struck out driving to a Williams-Sonoma store that no longer existed or just couldn’t be found. A couple nights later he found one and came home with a red Imperia pasta maker, a ravioli attachment, and a few beautiful pasta tools. One, a stamp to cut out large medallions of pasta; another to cut clean lines into long sheets of pasta.

Soon the little machine was dusted in flour and so were we. Continue reading  continue reading

Simple Roasted Apricots

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I came home the other day with a bounty of fruit. Rhubarb, local blueberries, cactus pear, peaches that ended up topping a cake, and fresh apricots. The lovely orange apricots I’m more familiar with and a variety called red velvet; those are a little sweeter.

They were found at an open market on the way home. I’ve passed it every day for a while and finally decided to pull over and see what I could find. There was plenty. Things I didn’t think I could find anymore and others I was surprised to see or didn’t know existed. Immature green plums, 99-cent herbs, and cheese curds. It was a worthy detour. Continue reading  continue reading

Peach and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

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I made a cake for you and for summer. There were peaches sitting out on the counter that would not be ignored. You could smell them before seeing them.

I’ve wanted to make a cornmeal skillet cake for a while, and this summery number hit the spot. Hello June! It’s a low-maintenance cake that turns out beautifully. It only bakes for about 20 minutes. The crumb is tender, and yet it’s heavy with the perfume of early-summer peaches, herbs, and brown butter.

This is also an upside-down cake. In the moment before the flip, you hold your breath. Peaches could stick and cake could split. I’d never done this with a skillet cake, and though cast iron is heavy and I thought we might break a plate, the cake fell right out of the skillet and plopped perfectly onto a plate. Not that I was too worried for it. At the bottom of the skillet, the peach slices floated in browned butter, almost syrupy and swirled around the cast iron sides.

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IMG_2378 Continue reading  continue reading