August 31, 2011

Ultimate Banana Bread


There's a lot to say about bananas. They're a funny shape, and I'm pretty sure there are more songs about bananas than any other fruit. They're frequently involved in cartoon gags. The word bananas is a synonym for crazy. But you know what's really strange about them? They are ubiquitous in the U.S.. You will see them at any supermarket, year round; if you stop at a convenience store that makes an effort to sell something healthy by having a couple of pieces of fruit by the counter, it's a pretty safe bet that a banana will be there (right next to a red apple). You'll find them at your continental breakfast at any roadside motel. But bananas are tropical fruits, native to the tropics of south and southeast Asia. The bananas we get from our supermarkets, convenience stores, and breakfast buffets are grown mostly in Central America and the Caribbean - some bananas are grown in Florida and Hawaii, but not nearly enough to satisfy our enormous appetite for bananas. When you take this into consideration, it's also strange that bananas are so cheap. Also, while we expect to see at least Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Fuji apples in any old supermarket, bananas are always just "bananas." 

August 27, 2011

Honey Almond Granola


So it's late August, and I started getting emails from a school about meetings and classes and schedules and things like that. I was confused. I had to put down my knitting and take a closer look. It turns out that those paychecks I've been getting all summer? They're not actually paying me to sit at home in my pajamas and knit and go on bike rides and have elaborate lunches and go cheese tasting or sake tasting with my teacher friends. In fact they are expecting me to come and teach some children. Sigh. Well, it was probably time I stopped eating ice cream every day anyway.

The return to school seems an appropriate time for me to share with you my granola recipe. I love, love, love my granola. It might sound like hyperbole but I am not exaggerating when I say that making a batch of it on Sunday makes me feel ready for the week, and a bowl of granola with yogurt and fruit actually makes me kind of excited to get up in the morning.

August 22, 2011

Pasta With Cranberry Bean, Sage, and Rosemary Sauce


When we cook from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking, we feel like we know Marcella. We feel like we have an Italian grandmother, and that she is standing there in our kitchen, looking over our shoulders as we chop herbs, making sure that our gnocchi have the right texture, and peering into our pots of pasta sauce. We refer to recipes as though she has spoken directly to us: "Marcella says that this sauce would be best with rigatoni," or "Marcella thinks that it's best not to use eggs in the gnocchi dough." 

In short, this is an excellent book, and this is one of our favorite recipes (granted, it's a large book and there are many recipes we haven't tried yet). Marcella says that the dish comes from a particular restaurant, a trattoria owned by the Dalla Rosa in San Giorgio, and that the name of the dish is embogoné, which probably comes from a local word for snails (bogoni). The idea is that the beans cooking in the skillet look a little bit like snails. In fact, it's definitely true that this dish is neither beautiful nor photogenic, but it really doesn't matter because it is delicious.

August 8, 2011

Crispy Roast Duck Breast


Well, we have been busy lately, as evidenced by the lack of activity on our blog. Michael started a new job not long ago, and I started my summer teaching, and my dad came to visit, and our friends had a baby, and my brother came to visit, and we did fun things like going strawberry picking at Swanton Berry Farm. We have certainly been doing plenty of cooking and eating, just not as much writing. And we have made an exciting culinary discovery - we can cook duck! In fact, it's pretty easy! It's one of those things that we love to order in restaurants but for some reason had never tried ourselves. The key to getting a nicely cooked duck with crispy flavorful skin is to sear it in a pan first, then finish it off in the oven. And a big plus, if you're into that sort of thing, is that you render out the fat in the pan so you're left with some duck fat for future cooking - we've now made duck three times so we're accumulating a good amount and not sure yet what to make with it. Ideas?