When the temperature hit 90 degrees here in DC last week, it was clear that time for spring planting was upon us. Mercifully, this week has brought some slightly cooler weather, but it seems that the time of hard frost has passed, and I am itching for some home-grown arugula. With lots of “help” from my two-year-old, I began pulling up the weeds from our two raised-bed gardens and in addition to foot-deep dandelion roots, we unearthed-surprise!-some carrots. Ah yes, I do seem to remember planting those at some point last year.
Some of the carrots were clearly past their prime, but a handful were still surprisingly orange and crunchy. I knew that these semi-miraculous winter survivors deserved some special treatment, so I decided to make a carrot-cashew salad that I had enjoyed at book club a few weeks before. I even went so far as to (gasp) purchase some ingredients specifically for the recipe. Served over curried chickpeas and rice, this little salad was the perfect inauguration to a summer of homegrown produce.
Shredded Carrot and Cashew Nut Salad
The Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans serves post-diner drinkers Café Brulot, a flaming cup of coffee made in a siphon that is infused with brandy, Cointreau, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom and orange peels. The technique became popular in the late 1800s, when the pre-prohibition movement had already taken off in Louisiana. It’s still used today because, as every teenager can tell you, drinking is always more fun when you have to hide it.
The Windsor Court was kind enough to pass on the original 1890s recipe they use, although I’m not sure how many of you have beakers and siphons at home to make this happen. Thoughts on how to rig this up using a coffee pot?
When I’m having people over, I often like to serve a bunch of fancy-ish snacks (or as we would call it in the events world, “heavy apps,” but I’ve always thought that sounded gross) rather than a full meal. It’s less intimidating for you as a host and your guests as… well, guests. Unless you’re specifically throwing a full-on dinner party, a big plated meal can be kind of hard to stomach—no pun intended—compared to grazing on some indulgent snacks and sipping wine while watching a movie or whatever.
It is in this mindset that I present my 100% easiest bruschetta recipe ever. Have a loaf of nice bread and want to put more than butter on top of it? Done and done. This one almost isn’t a full-blown recipe… it’s that simple. But don’t tell your friends that, and they’ll never be the wiser.
Sweet Onion & Fresh Tomato Bruschetta
There’s something about a good, fresh ricotta that compels me to eat a pound of it by the spoonful. One of my local delis sells an amazingly creamy ricotta, which I buy in two-pound increments: one for cooking/baking, one for eating on a spoon.
This extraordinary ricotta made me remember a cake I made a few years ago. It had a cocoa shortdough crust, a custardy ricotta filling, and was topped with a buttery cocoa crumble. I baked it, and against explicit instructions to not unmold the cake before it was completely cool, I unmolded it still warm and the ricotta flowed from the center like molten lava. It was a delicious disaster.
I dug through my old recipe folder, found the recipe scribbled on coffee-stained paper, and attempted it again. This time I practiced patience, and it sure paid off. This has a lovely, creamy, cocoa-y, and not-too-sweet flavor that is perfect with a cup of dark coffee. Make this cake well in advance, at least 8 hours before you plan on eating it. It really is disastrous to cut into this cake before it has set. You can store the cake in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer (well wrapped) for 2 weeks.
Cocoa Crumble Ricotta Cake
This is not your high school’s prom fundraiser bake sale…
This is Austin hotpost Foreign & Domestic‘s Saturday morning bake sale, boasting humungous, house-made pastries from chef Jodi Elliot, who just won Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Pastry Chef. You might not be able to tell from the photo, but those buttery caramel apple croissants are about the size of my head. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but they’re definitely bigger than my hand. Oh… and it should go without saying that any baked good you pick up here is absolutely heavenly.
Vanilla lovers, rejoice. Vanilla ice cream with two vanilla beans AND vanilla extract. A spiced vanilla porter ripple simmered with another vanilla bean. This combo is creamy, sweet, complex, and did I mention there’s a shitload of vanilla in it?
Double Vanilla Porter Ripple Ice Cream
Okay… as a society, we should be past this faux pas by now. (Note: this is a sign in one of the best seafood restaurants/markets in central Texas.)
There’s a national chain called Chipotle.
Chipotle flavored and infused condiments and sauces can be found on all sorts of menus.
For the love of all things delicious, Jack in the Box even made a commercial focused on this very topic years ago!
It’s not some exotic, indecipherable foreign word at this point.
And yet… and YET…
CHIPOLTE! It’s everywhere! Why can’t people spell or say the name of this smoky, sweet pepper? It’s borderline insulting at this point. If I want to get really depressed, I just check out the hashtag #chipolte on Twitter because there’s always tons of results. What gives? How can we educate everyone without sounding snobby? Is there even such a thing as a chipotle snob? Should I just give up on life and stop caring about things like this? So many questions, yet no answers.