Rhubarb Grapefruit Scones.

I’ve got several stalks of rhubarb in my fridge, and I can’t seem to find a recipe for them that strikes my fancy. Of course it doesn’t help how fickle I can be; for example, do I want savory or sweet? Do I want to bake or cook? Then I realized that I’ve got so much rhubarb that I could satisfy both cravings. Here’s a scone recipe I adapted based on what I had in the fridge; I thought I had some oranges in the fruit drawer, which I think would be fantastic with the rhubarb. If you’ve got some and feel like trying this scone recipe with them, let me know how it turns out.

Rhubarb Grapefruit Scones
Makes eight

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, plus one tablespoon
½ cup heavy cream (though I used half-and-half, since that is what I had)
1 egg
1 cup finely chopped rhubarb
zest of one grapefruit
2 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease cookie sheet. Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Cut butter into dry ingredients, until butter is the size of small peas. Add remaining ingredients, mixing until dry ingredients are moist.
  2. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, gather it into a ball. Pat into a circle about ¾” thick, then cut into eight wedges. Transfer to a cookie sheet and sprinkle wedges with sugar. Bake about twenty minutes, rotating tray about halfway through, until bottoms turn golden brown and some color develops on the tops.

Have I Mentioned That I Love Croissants?

Truly, I do. I wish I could make them, but I’m scared the situation would be just terrible for two specific reasons:

  1. Best case scenario: Completely failing at the task and becoming utterly frustrated and depressed, and left with a mound of rock-like (or sponge-like, or strangely-liquidy) dough, which I’m certain would mock me, along with a filthy kitchen with nothing to show for my labors.
  2. Worst case scenario: Completely succeeding at the task and becoming utterly thrilled and elated, and left with empty, flake-encrusted trays because I will have eaten each and every croissant and would therefore feel exhaustively guilty, so I would then bake even more croissants, which I would then devour right out of the oven, which would lead me to then throw out all of the necessary ingredients in order to prevent me from ever making croissants again. Oh, and I will have added approximately twenty-five more pounds to my already overly zaftig silhouette… which would then cause me to become utterly frustrated and depressed, and force me to go shopping because I will no longer be able to fit into any of my clothes.

As you can see, my dreams of making croissants will have to remain exactly that. Luckily, I can attempt to satisfy myself with the croissant wallpaper created by Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini. The croissants with the mauve background are currently brightening my work desktop, and making me feel very hungry indeed.

Maybe this wasn’t the best idea.

Bulgur, Two Ways

There’s a good amount of bulgur in Armenian food; two of my favorite dishes would be reduced to practically nothing without cracked wheat. When I was growing up, one of my favorite meals to come home to was a very simple bulgur pilaf. Comprised exclusively of bulgur, chick peas and chicken, it’s the definition of comfort food. It’s also completely easy to make.

Bulgur Pilaf with Chicken and Chick Peas
Makes six portions

2 cups bulgur
1 can chick peas, liquid reserved
1 pound chicken (I prefer white meat, but I’ve had this with chicken thighs too)
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup olive oil

  1. Boil chicken in salted water, constantly skimming foam off of surface. When cooked, remove chicken from water with a slotted spoon; cool, and julienne. Reserve liquid.
  2. Sauté the bulgur in butter over medium heat; add olive oil and salt to taste, and continue sautéing. Add six cups of reserved chicken liquid; if necessary, use boiled water. Cook until the liquid is almost entirely absorbed, about fifteen minutes. If the bulgur is still crunchy, add some chick pea liquid or hot water and continue to cook until soft.
  3. Add the chickpeas and chicken; add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix well and serve.

This next recipe is one that I didn’t grow up with, but it’s still utterly enjoyable. The spices add just the right amount of bite to the bulgur. Just as easy as the chicken and chick pea recipe, this version is both sweet and savory.

Bulgur Pilaf with Dried Apricots
Makes six portions

1 finely chopped onion
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cup bulgur
½ cup chopped dried apricots

  1. Cook onion in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about five minutes.
  2. Add spices and cook, stirring, one minute. Stir in remaining ingredients with one teaspoon salt and five cups water; simmer covered, until liquid is absorbed, about fifteen minutes. If the bulgur is still crunchy, add some hot water and continue to cook until soft. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, five minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Dinner at Douzō.

In a way, I grew up eating sushi. It wasn’t as frequent a dinner at my parents’ house as, say, meatloaf would be in my classmates’, but I’ve been eating it as long as I can remember. When I was much younger though, I was irrationally scared of the sheets of dried seaweed and their strangely unsettling crinkly cellophane packaging; my mother used to make sure there were few pieces of salmon and tuna sashimi for me while she assembled her ingredients for rolling maki. I got over my unreasonable fear of seaweed eventually — now I actually kind of love it. These days, Japanese cuisine is high on the list as being one of my favorites, so when my friend Beth suggested Douzō for dinner, I didn’t have to think about it before excitedly clapping my hands.

We decided to start with a warm appetizer, since we knew we would be sharing a few different types of sushi. Because Duozō is known for putting an eclectic spin on traditional Japanese fare, the obvious choice were the gyoza — conventional pork-filled dumplings ($6.25). The gyoza, which are available pan-fried or steamed, are common throughout Asia; we chose to get ours fried, not even for a moment considering the vaguely healthier option. Though the dipping sauce gave the gyoza a nice gingery bite, ultimately there was nothing special about the dumplings. They were perfectly fine, but that was all.

The sushi, on the other hand…

Duozō offers a wide variety of choices in sushi, ranging from the ubiquitous (California rolls, avocado maki, spicy tuna) to the inventive (asparagus wrapped with tuna and salmon, crab-topped tempura, scallops layered with kiwi and caviar). Beth and I considered the menu before agreeing to share the rainbow roll (shrimp, crab stick, tobiko, and spicy mayonnaise wrapped with tuna, salmon, white fish and avocado, $12.95), the coconut eel roll (snow crab and cucumber wrapped with eel and sprinkled with coconut, $15.95) and the amaebi mango roll (grilled pineapple and cucumber wrapped with sweet shrimp and mango, $13.95).

After sampling each type, I was surprised to discover that I liked the coconut eel the most. It just so happens that I love eel (unagi, anago… it doesn’t matter) but it also happens that I hate coconut. That last part isn’t entirely true: I love coconut flavor, it’s the texture I could do without. This roll though, with its mix of two vastly different kinds of sweetness, fruity and rich, was astounding. I’m surprised Beth and I were able to so maturely split the portion in half.

My second favorite, also surprisingly, was the rainbow roll. Before trying it, I had been a bit apprehensive about it; the litany of components on the menu made it seem quite intimidating. After all, Duozō lists eight, and that’s before the rice. I shouldn’t have been so worried, as each ingredient complimented the next so nicely; we all but plowed through it.

I had been certain that the amaebi mango roll would blaze past the other two as the darling of the dinner, but it actually turned out to be my least preferred. That’s not to say that the roll wasn’t immensely flavorful and enjoyable, because it was very much so. It just paled in comparison to its platemates. The mango and amaebi, while altogether wonderful, simply couldn’t compare to the amazing shock of the coconut and eel or the rainbow roll’s harmoniousness.

Aesthetically, Duozō is a really cool space with lofty ceilings and low-slung banquettes. Even if the sushi wasn’t so interesting and tasty, I think it’s worth it just to stop by for a drink at the bar, which is something I plan to do again and again.

131 Dartmouth Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116

Duozo on Urbanspoon

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry.

A few weeks ago, while I waited on my coffee order at Porter Square Books, I did what I always do — wander around and pick up whatever seems interesting. In this instance, it was Lois Lowry‘s latest book, The Willoughbys. Even if I wasn’t such a Lowry fan, I know I would have been drawn to this cover; with its black-and-white swirls and flourishes and that single eye-catching red door, how could anyone resist? I really like this sort of aesthetic for books (it’s almost like a cheery Gorey, no?) and I love dust jackets with cut-outs, as the case is here. (The book itself is crimson. In the hardcover, anyway.)

As I was debating as to whether or not to buy the book right then (I didn’t; I bought it later.) I couldn’t help but overhear this conversation between two mothers:

Mom 1: Maybe I’ll get this for [insert child’s name here].
Mom 2: Oh, I love Lois Lowry. What’s this one about? [flips book over and reads excerpt from back cover] Oh, this is horrible!
Mom 1: What? What is it?
Mom 2: It’s a book about killing your parents!
Mom 1: What?! I don’t want [insert child’s name here] reading a book like that!

This went on for several more minutes.

The Willoughbys is indeed about children killing their parents (or children wishing they were orphans). To be fair, it’s also about parents killing their children (or parents wishing they were childless). However, it is, most importantly, a satire. Of course Lowry isn’t providing a manual on how to off parents, just like she isn’t condoning infanticide and euthanasia in The Giver. (Her Newbury Medal winning novel is ranked at number fourteen on the American Library Association‘s list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000.)

More than anything, The Willoughbys is a kind of love letter to the children’s books of yore, albeit one that cheekily and simultaneously pokes fun at the genre. Lowry’s characters allude to “old-fashioned people” and frequently site classic children’s novels like James and the Giant Peach and Anne of Green Gables. There’s a great deal of humor thrown in as well, like a character’s version of German (“Mein meusli ist dischgusting. It makesch me vant to womit.”) and the Lemony-Snicket-y glossary at the back of the book.

I thought The Willoughbys was a whole lot of fun, as well as refreshing. I am someone deeply in awe of those who take risks, and this book is certainly a departure from the rest of Lowry’s bibliography. That, I suppose, is something else to be in awe of, as Lowry’s written over thirty books spanning multiple genres — a feat I could only dream of accomplishing myself.

Last Night’s Dinner.

Keith and I went away this weekend to Maine, and spent the majority of our time there at Portland and Ogunquit’s restaurants. Eating seven rich and delicious meals in a row isn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds, so when we got back we decided to make a concerted effort to have lighter, healthier dinners at home. Last night I made a simple and tasty salad that I now regret not photographing. The recipe is from Bon Appétit, and is terrific. The shallots add a nice bite, the avocado a lovely decadence and the orange a burst of sweet brightness. I plan to make this again tonight to bring in for lunch tomorrow, that’s how much I liked it.

Spinach Salad with Orange and Avocado, from Bon Appétit
Makes four portions as a side, or two entrée-sized servings.

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced and peeled
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 navel orange
1 6-ounce bag baby spinach leaves
2 avocados, cut into ½-inch wedges

  1. Whisk first five ingredients in large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set dressing aside.
  2. Cut off peel and pith from orange. Cut orange into 1/3-inch rounds; cut rounds crosswise in half. Divide spinach amongst plates and add dressing; toss to coat. Add avocado and orange and toss gently.

A List of Food-Related Things That Make Me Happy.

I love lists and I can’t believe it has taken me this long to make one. Here we go.

  1. Tearing into a mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup to find it nestled in not one, but two brown paper wrappers.
  2. Ripping the pith off of a grapefruit.
  3. Hot fudge sundaes in parfait glasses.
  4. The absolutely intoxicating aroma of butter melting in a hot pan.
  5. The embarrassing sort of farting noise pudding makes when slurped.
  6. The coffee from the Restaurant Orphée in Regensburg, Germany.
  7. The smell of Regensburg, Germany — I swear to you, the entire city smells of sugar, I think from all of the cones being made in the gelaterias.
  8. The scattering of granular breadcrumbs left behind on a plate after eating pandesal.
  9. Anything and everything that has to do with boereg.
  10. The shiny, waxy, almost-black skin of a ripe eggplant.

Dinner at Gargoyles on the Square.

Keith, Melissa and I went to Gargoyles on the Square for dinner not too long ago. It’s funny — Keith and I lived within five minutes walking distance from the restaurant for six or seven years, and we had never made a reservation or even stopped by the bar for a drink. Now that we’ve moved five miles away, we’ve been twice in four months.

We arranged to meet Melissa at the restaurant at the exact time of our reservation, but Keith and I arrived a bit early. I can’t recall exactly how early we were, but it was nothing exorbitant; it was something like ten minutes. I thought perhaps Keith and I could sit down and have a drink while we waited for Melissa, so I gave my name to the maître d’ and told him that we had an eight o’clock reservation. After consulting with his books, he said that he would seat us when our entire party arrived. I have to say, this really rankled me. We had a reservation and were barely early, so shouldn’t our table have been ready and waiting? It isn’t as if Gargoyles is akin to someplace like California Pizza Kitchen, where I think it’s perfectly acceptable to be seated only when the entire group is present.

Happily, Melissa walked in soon after that, so we were able to sit down together. Unhappily, it didn’t change the fact that I was already peeved. When we walked into the dining room, I was surprised to see a handful of empty tables which made me further wonder why the maître d’ hadn’t wanted to seat us.

The appetizer options brightened my mood though; I was really curious about the ceviche, but ended up choosing the Wild Burgundy Escargots ($9.00). Served with a duck egg, chive butter and a slice of toast, it sounded really appealing — not to mention I happen to enjoy escargots very much. Ultimately, though, I was disappointed. The sauce so thoroughly overwhelmed the dish; even after I pierced my yolk, I could barely discern the flavors of any of the other components.

I had higher hopes for my entrée, described on the menu as “Whole-Wheat Gnudies.” ($18.00) Our server clarified for us, explaining that Chef Jason Santos used the dish as a play on gnocchi, but with whole wheat, pink peppercorns, honeyed butter and Mimolette. Now, I love Mimolette, so choosing the “Gnudies” was pretty much a no-brainer. I was a little concerned about the accompanying grilled asparagus salad, but only because I am one of the few people who dislikes asparagus. (I want to like it and often make myself eat it, but I rarely enjoy it.) I shouldn’t have had any worries, as this was fantastic. Obviously the honey lent a sweetness, but the Mimolette and tomatoes tempered it so that it wasn’t overpowered by a cloying essence. Overall, the dish was light and springy, and very flavorful.

For my dessert, I decided to give the Blackberry-Blood Orange Float ($8.00) a try. As was the case with the asparagus, I was a bit hesitant; I had tried an ice cream float exactly once before and had been utterly disgusted by the mix of Coke and vanilla ice cream. I went with the float because I love blood orange, and its complement of white chocolate and marscapone ice cream seemed too good to pass up. I’m thrilled to report that not only did the fruit, chocolate and cheese go beautifully together, but I also was the exact opposite of disgusted. About halfway through, I wanted to ask for more ice cream; after its gone, this dessert loses exactly what makes it so special: the combination of flavors. My biggest complaint about this, however, were the blackberries. I don’t have confirmation on this, but I could swear that they had were frozen and not fresh. The reason I say that is because they tasted only vaguely of blackberry, and oh — because when I bit into one, it was frozen. Since they added nothing to the dish, I didn’t miss the berries at all when I scooped them out with my spoon.

In the end, this meal at Gargoyles was an uneven one, something that made me so sad. I had truly loved my first visit to the dining room, and still I think about the amazing appetizer I had — the punningly-named “Ménage à Foie,” with three vastly different preparations of foie. I know I can’t say the same of any of the dishes I ate this night. Does this mean I won’t be back? Of course not. It does mean, however, that I won’t be in a rush. Its luster has since faded.

Gargoyles on the Square
219 Elm Street
Somerville, Massachusetts 02144

Gargoyles on the Square on Urbanspoon

Hey, I’m on Skull-A-Day!

Skull-A-Day is a ridiculously addictive site that posts a new image of a (you guessed it!) skull each day. Noah Scalin photographs skulls that he’s either created or found, and has been doing so for almost a year now. He encourages readers to send in images of the skulls they’ve made or encountered; this is the second time I’ve gotten a skull posted. Scroll down to see the most recent skull I found, a skull-in-an-apple spotted while I was en route to the dentist a month or so ago.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

I had read excerpts of Michael Pollan’s book before, but only now had gotten around to sitting down with the complete work. I feel a little behind the times for taking so long to get to it, considering that it was published in 2006, but the small amount of time that has elapsed since then doesn’t make The Omnivore’s Dilemma any less relevant. As a society we still rely heavily on corn and corn-based products, we still have a dependency on processed foods, we still do not maintain sustainable eating habits, we still have not fixed any of the problems with the agriculture industry.

Not much — if anything — has changed since in the past two years, least of all the sheer readability of Pollan’s writing. Could anyone else describe corn farming in as mesmerizing a manner? Is there a writer out there capable of putting into words the numbing effect experienced after killing so many chickens? What about the excitement of foraging for mushrooms with an expat Italian? Pollan writes with confidence about these topics and more.

My favorite parts of The Omnivore’s Dilemma are those which cover Polyface Farm and the entirety of section four, about gathering entirely from the natural world outside of the Bay Area the foodstuffs required to make a meal. (This may or may not have to do with my absolute love of Steve Rinella’s 2007 book The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, in which Rinella spends a year hunting across America for the ingredients he needs to prepare not just a Thanksgiving Day meal, but a highly ornate multi-course spread taken directly from Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire.)

These portions of Pollan’s food tour are similar in the sense that they are about people as much as they are about what people eat. Granted, humanity is present in the corn industry and in farming; in his writing about Polyface’s Joel Salatin and in his depiction of his own experiences in the wilds of San Francisco, The Omnivore’s Dilemma becomes something beyond simply a book following our food. It becomes a book about the lengths we will go to follow the course that we have set out, whether it is to create an entirely sustainable farm with healthy and happy animals or to assemble the components of a meal from boar to berry without once stepping into a supermarket. And it is those lengths exactly which fascinate me the most.