Batter Licker

November 10, 2011

savory pear soup with crispy pancetta and blue cheese

There are few things I find less appetizing than an overripe pear (except, perhaps, brown bananas, but even those are salvageable). From the cloying sweetness to a texture that manages to be mushy, mealy and gritty all at the same time, pears are one of few barely-past-its-prime pieces of produce that I’d prefer to just toss into the compost bin rather than find a creative way to save.

And yet, almost every time I purchase pears, I go overboard and, despite my best intentions, am unable to get through all of them in time. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I buy eight or three; the Law of Pears Ripening Faster than Kristen Can Eat Them inevitably kicks in.

Apparently the same law applies to free pears. Thanks to my friend and fellow food-lover Elaine‘s recommendation, Frog Hollow Farm sent me a six pack of Warren pears to sample. I frequent their urban farm stand at the Ferry Building, and I love pears, so I was excited to dig in.

I promptly devoured three of them, raw and unadorned.

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I might have been generous enough to share the fourth pear with Jay. Or maybe I demolished that one too. I really can’t recall. My memory is as foggy on that matter as Bill Clinton’s was regarding extramarital affairs. But what I do remember is the pears’ sweet flavor and creamy texture – none of that graininess I usually try to ignore or mask in Bartlett pears.

Then I got married, ran away to Sonoma for half a week, and took couple days to come down from my newlywed love cloud and readjust to real life. Finally, I remembered the two remaining pears. (more…)

March 10, 2011

celery root and cabbage in drunken mustard sauce

Growing up, my mother always made corned beef, cabbage and potatoes for St. Patrick’s Day. I can’t recall eating cabbage any other day in the entire year, but I really looked forward to it each March. This year, I couldn’t quite wait for the holiday to arrive (and I didn’t have any corned beef left over quite yet to make corned beef hash and cheese bread), so I got my cabbage fix in a little early, swapping out traditional potatoes for the lighter, foodier celery root in the process.

If you have not tried celery root (also called celeriac) before, it’s a really strange-looking type of celery that’s grown as a root vegetable. Don’t be intimidated by its furrowed surface, as it actually has a very mild flavor that seems to be a cross between a potato and celery. But unlike its root vegetable brethren, celery root is very light in starch. Give it a try; you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised that this ugly root can taste so light and fresh!

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As for cabbage, I know it’s not the most popular leafy green vegetable in the produce section. And if you’ve ever had it cooked to death in a soup or stew, or boiled to death for St. Patrick’s Day, I don’t blame you for hating it. But if you give cabbage another chance, you might find that it can taste positively delightful when cooked properly to an “al dente” texture that retains the slightest bit of crunch. And it’s usually dirt cheap.


The combination of al dente strips of cabbage and tender cubes of celery root creates a surprisingly light and fresh-tasting dish, as contrasted with the heavier boiled cabbage and potato combination. (more…)

January 27, 2011

roasted cauliflower and sunchoke soup

You wouldn’t know it when tasting it – or when looking at it, for that matter – but there’s no cream in this soup … and no cheese. Give your accolades to roasted, pureed cauliflower for the creamily rich texture and to sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes) for the wonderfully nutty flavor they contribute to this soup. And to Chef Frank McClelland.


And by way of thanking Chef McClelland for inspiring me to recreate his gastronomic invention at home, stop into L’Espalier next time you’re in Boston for a culinarily magical meal. In my three visits, I have never left his restaurant feeling any less than entirely exhilarated about his creations – and entirely full.

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During my second visit to that lovely restaurant, I ordered the cauliflower and sunchoke soup as an appetizer. There is nothing I love more than ordering soup at a fancy restaurant. On this occasion, the bowl came with two (or three?) large scallops sitting center stage, decorated with a sprinkling of crispy pancetta and some watercress. Moments after the bowl’s appearance, I watched as the waiter ladled spoonful after spoonful of thick, creamy soup into the bowl and consciously refrained from drooling as the milky substance slowly shifted to encircle the plump seared scallops. (more…)

April 11, 2010

sun-dried tomato-spinach sauce and pasta on broiled portobello plate and poached egg on capellini carbonara

The first time I had a giant portobello mushroom was back when I thought vegetarians were weird and the only mushrooms I had ever known were of the button variety, came presliced and packaged in plastic wrap, and didn’t really do anything for me. But then my aunt served me a grilled burger whose patty was – gasp! – a giant mushroom. The surprisingly meatiness of the mushroom, in combination with its smokey flavor, was so satisfying that I barely missed the meat.

This time around, I got a little too excited at the prospect of using a portobello mushroom as the hearty plate for a smaller pasta dish, and went a bit overboard. Essentially, I made one initially confused dish, but was able to modify it into two separate, fantastic recipes that ended up working wonderfully. Part of the initial problem was that I really wanted to pair the mushroom with a more robust and fresh sun-dried tomato and spinach sauce, while Jay was in the mood for a cabonara sauce (egg, Parmesan, and bacon – or, in our case, pancetta). But, in trying to please both of us, I just did too much.

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So please do as I say, not as I did. The sun-dried tomato and spinach sauce, unlike the carbonara, did a wonderful job of standing up to and enhancing the smokey, meaty portobello. I also liked that the sauce tasted delicious and fresh, and that the whole sauce-pasta-mushroom combination was healthy yet seemed very hearty (despite a smaller pasta serving) thanks to the mushroom.

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While I wasn’t the biggest fan of my initial carbonara-on-portobello combo because the mushroom completely overpowered the simplicity of the carbonara, I really loved how much more fun – and tasty – the carbonara became with a poached egg on top. (more…)

February 28, 2010

brunch: poached egg with truffle salt, scrambled eggs with pancetta, sweet potato hash with caramelized onions, toast with homemade jam, and citrus slices

Filed under: breakfast, brunch,eggs,potatoes — Tags: , , , , , — Kristen @ 3:19 am

Brunch is without a doubt my favorite meal, not just because it offers an array of delicious food but also because it has a certain ad hoc quality that most meals lack. While I love a complicated recipe that requires exact measurements, there’s something almost magical about a meal that comes together without any real need for measuring spoons and cups and without a specific list of ingredients in mind.

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Growing up, I remember my dad opening the refrigerator door on weekend mornings and peering in with him to see what seemingly random assortment of leftovers could be turned into a magnificent spread for brunch. Frequently, this resulted in some sort of scrambled egg surprise, with scrambled eggs being dressed up with staple items that we always had on hand (e.g., onions and potatoes), random leftover veggies (e.g., broccoli, mushrooms, who knows) and meats (e.g., grilled steak or chicken, maybe even deli ham from the week’s sandwiches), and always loads of salsa. These were my first moments in creative culinary thinking.

All awww’s aside, I’ve never really gotten over a good scramble. But poached eggs? Now, those fluffy little pillows are purely ethereal. (more…)

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