CSA 2009, Week Nine.

This may come as a surprise to you, but sometimes I hate my CSA box.  Each week, Keith brings it home and  I scamper over to see the contents within, and while I am mostly excited, sometimes me heart sinks at the sight of such things as the overwhelmingly intimidating kohlrabi and yet another bundle of irritatingly cheerful carrots.  I lean towards the gloom and doom, friends, and there are moments when a bright orange carrot can be downright scowl-worthy, what with its incessant merry disposition and sweet sweet sunny crunch.

Bah to you, Carrot.  BAH!

CSA basilWhen I’m in a mood like this, basil is more to my liking; I need its zesty and licorice-y bite, and I positively relish the fact that such an ordinary-looking bouquet of green leaves can posses such a knockout punch of spice.

So when Keith hefted our pounds of produce on the counter this week, I was zanily* happy to see a sneaky bunch of basil sitting atop a cluster of carrots, very much looking like a conquering hero in my crazy little mind.

The rest of the box overflowed with the following:

  • Garlic
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi (grr)
  • Lettuce
  • Scallions
  • Summer squash
  • Tomato (a single, happy tomato, which did not turn me into more of a grouch, since we all know I love them)
  • Wax beans

'Thai Style' BeefTomatoes-and-basil are one of those holy pairings like milk-and-cookies, mac-and-cheese, fries-and-mayo… and I knew my grumpiness would be assuaged by the familiarity of the two, but not if I threw them together into something boringly predictable like a bruschetta or a Caprese salad.  That would only sour me further, like milk left out in the sun.  So instead I turned to the below recipe, which added asparagus, beef and lime to the mix.

A quick word on asparagus: I may get some grief for this, but I’ll freely admit I’m not its biggest fan.  I mostly eat it exclusively in soup form, with tons of cream, though I always am tempted to try it again.  Maybe this will be when I like it, I say to myself.  Maybe I’ve only had bad asparagus, I reason.  Each time though, I’m disappointed.  What is it about this stalky plant that causes people — most notably the French — to go mad with desire?  What am I not getting?

This, it turns out, is what I’m not getting.  This, all of you out there, is this dish for asparaphobes.

The tomato and basil aren’t that bad either.

Thai Basil Beef with Rice Noodles, from Cooking Light
Makes four  portions

8 cups water
1 pound flank steak, trimmed of fat
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
4 ounces wide bánh pho rice stick noodles
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon Thai red curry paste
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or a good-sized seeded tomato or two)
½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil

  1. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat.  While pan heats, bring water to a boil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add steak to grill pan; grill 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Sprinkle steak with salt. Cut steak across grain into thin slices.
  3. While steak cooks, add asparagus to boiling water; cook 2 minutes. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon. Add noodles to boiling water; cook 3 minutes or until done. Drain; rinse well. Cut noodles into smaller pieces; place in a medium bowl.
  4. While noodles cook, combine sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, and curry paste in a large bowl. Add one-half of lime mixture to medium bowl with noodles; toss to coat. Add steak, asparagus, tomatoes, and basil to remaining lime mixture in large bowl; toss to combine. Serve steak mixture over noodles.
* Is this is a word?  No?  It should be.

Book Club Goes to Tanglewood.

TanglewoodMy book group likes connecting previous books and themes to our current reading.  Even more than that, we love a good field trip… which is how we ended up at Tanglewood for its annual celebration, Tanglewood on Parade.

Our being there wasn’t as arbitrary as it seems; last year we read three books that somehow revolved around Abraham Lincoln — The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall, Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, and Henry and Clara by Thomas Mallon* — and the concert featured Lincoln Portrait, Aaron Copland‘s composition commemorating the sixteenth President.  Interspersed in the music are some quotations from Lincoln, which were read that night by Deval Patrick, while the Boston Pops played.

Fireworks, 1The evening’s finale was Tchaikovsky‘s 1812 Overture, replete with canons, and followed by a spectacular fireworks display.  It was my first time seeing non-televised fireworks — which was quite exciting, particularly since we happened to be sitting very close to where both they and the canons had been set off.  I don’t think any of us in my book club were expecting either canons or fireworks; indeed, when the first shot banged out during the overture, more than one of us screamed in fright and surprise.

In spite of the amazing fireworks and canons, my personal favorite piece of the night was Tributes: For Seiji, which was written as a gift for Seiji Ozawa by John Williams to honor Ozawa’s twenty-fifth years as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Ozawa held this position for four more years after that).  I thought it was brilliantly moving.**

Picnic, Thigh + WineAnother thing about the night that I found brilliant were other people’s ability to glamorize something as prosaic as a picnic.  Apparently it’s something of an established practice to pack a picnic to Tanglewood, especially if you’ve lawn tickets to a concert.  Our book club decided to follow tradition, toting in a mushroom tortellini salad with marscapone, corn on the cob with feta-mint butter, black bean and corn salad, mixed berries with brandy syrup, a berry buckle and several bottles of wine.  We blindly set up our spread by the pale light of the distant stage, observing as we did several of our neighbors’ citronella-scented candelabras, cut-crystal wineglasses and tables adorned with flower arrangements.  Honestly, such accoutrements were the norm.  We stood out (sat out?) by having mismatched blankets and no chairs — though our hurried discussion of this past month’s book might have also had something to do with it.

Lost City RadioWe had read Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcón; it’s the story of insurrection in an unidentified South American country, and how lives are changed as a result.  The main character hosts the nation’s most popular radio show; each week, Norma reads an ever-expanding list of missing people.  As a result, listeners are reunited with their loved ones, though, ironically, Norma still searches desperately for her own missing person: her husband.

The aspect of the novel that I thought the most interesting was something quite small — the fascistic government that emerges after the war renames all populated areas with numbers.  The larger the city, the smaller the number.  To speak a city’s name rather than its number is highly punishable.  I found this tiny little detail fascinating.

In general, it seemed we had mixed feelings on Lost City Radio, but I can’t say for certain, as we were more focused on the evening’s music than on the book.  Please don’t blame either the novel or book club for that.  Not much could compete with canons, fireworks and the symphony — not even our appetites.  Which is really saying something.

* This is a little geeky of me to admit, but I kinda love how these three authors all have double Ls in their surnames.
** I should mention, I think, that I was raised almost entirely on classical music, and my love of it might also be interpreted as a little geeky.

Another More-Travely Mix CD.

Okay, here’s part two of Darlington‘s two-disc mix CD.

Places, Specific

  1. Roma” by Pizzicato Five
  2. Piazza, New York Catcher” by Belle + Sebastian
  3. Surf Wax America” by Weezer
  4. Holland, 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel
  5. Young Americans” by David Bowie *
  6. “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks
  7. London Calling” by The Clash
  8. The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side” by The Magnetic Fields
  9. Mass Pike” by The Get Up Kids
  10. Look Inside America” by Blur
  11. Alabama” by Neil Young
  12. Haiti” by Arcade Fire
  13. California (All the Way)” by Luna
  14. Amazon” by M.I.A.
  15. “Theme from Tokyo” by Bis
  16. Downey, CA” by Saint Etienne
  17. Blame it on the Tetons” by Modest Mouse
  18. Colorado” by Grizzly Bear
  19. Columbia” by Oasis
* Technically not a place, I know, as opposed to people from a place, but I like this song a lot.

CSA 2009, Week Eight.

When I was younger, I had subscriptions to the sorts of magazines that had personality tests for everything — “What Kind of Girlfriend Are You?”, “Are You a Pushover?”, etc. — but my favorites by far were the ones whose purpose was to determine the best perfume for me.  I never ended up with the right scents (I loathe patchouli) but the results never bothered me because I’ve always known what my favorite fragrance is: tomatoes on the vine.

TomatoesThey smell so amazing, don’t they, tomatoes and their plants?  Spicy and peppery, they just typify summer to me, and their presence in my kitchen is something I look forward to all year.  Of course, the summer of 2009 is going to be one of fresh, local tomato shortages, a direct result of the late blight.

Completely aggressive and destructive, the blight has almost totally annihilated The Food Project‘s potato and tomato crop — though, apparently, the Colorado Potato Beetle had already taken out a lot of the plants out in Lincoln.  We’ve been promised green tomatoes in the near future, and while I am excited to receive some sort of tomato, and even though I keep on thinking about gift horses and mouths, I kind of just want a proper red tomato.  I don’t think stamping my foot is going to get me far, so I’ll just settle for what was in our box this week:

  • Asian eggplant
  • Collard greens
  • Dill
  • Green beans
  • Green garlic
  • New potatoes
  • Salad mix
  • Spicy salad mix with arugula and mizuna
  • Tomatoes

These three tomatoes, dewy with condensation from the humidity in the air, were like treasure to me — which is why I ate them over the sink, raw, their juices running down my chin and wrists.  If I could have, I would’ve figured out a way to savor them more, especially considering these will most likely be the final burst of tomato-y-ness I’ll experience for a while…  which is why I took a snapshot.  You know what they say: pictures last longer.

A Sort Of Travely Mix CD.

Another thematic mix CD…

I mailed this one to Darlington, who moved to London this past February.  I thought my choices seemed fitting — the songs’ connecting thread was commonplace locations like a car or a certain room in an undisclosed house, and my friend was in the middle of new places that would soon become familiar and everyday.  I also sent along a mix relating to specific places; I’ll write about that one in a little bit.

As always, let me know if you want a copy.

Places, General

  1. “The Village Green Preservation Society” by The Kinks
  2. Eau d’ Bedroom Dancing” by Le Tigre
  3. Monkey Gone to Heaven” by The Pixies
  4. East of the Sun (West of the Moon)” by Billie Holiday
  5. Top of the World” by The Carpenters
  6. Car” by Built to Spill
  7. Sukie in the Graveyard” by Belle + Sebastian
  8. Strolling Down the Highway” by Nick Drake
  9. “Black Mountain” by Isobel Campbell + Mark Lanegan
  10. Get Out of the City” by Ivy
  11. Island in the Sun” by Weezer
  12. My Side of the City” by Beulah
  13. Neighborhood #2 (Laika)” by Arcade Fire
  14. Heaven” by Bettie Serveert
  15. Brick House” by The Commodores
  16. “Daddy’s Car” by The Cardigans
  17. Once Around the Block” by Badly Drawn Boy
  18. Lost in the Supermarket” by The Clash
  19. This House is Not For Sale” by Ryan Adams
  20. In the Garage” by Weezer
  21. 3rd Planet” by Modest Mouse
  22. Rock the House” by Gorillaz
  23. The Village” by New Order

CSA 2009, Week Seven.

I’ve always had incredibly vivid dreams, so much so that when I wake up, it takes me a second to figure out what exactly is going on and where I am.  Sometimes I dream about the places I’ve been, sometimes I dream about things I’ve made up, and sometimes I dream about things that are just flat-out strange.*

Still, imagine my surprise when last night I dreamed about loading the dishwasher.  It was very Rachel Getting Married, minus the competition.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my dishwasher and I actually do enjoy loading it in the most efficient way possible — a little obsessive quirk of mine, I guess — but it literally made me sit up in bed and wonder just why I was dreaming about something so ridiculous, especially when I could be dreaming about something so luscious… like my CSA box.

This week, Keith brought home the following:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Tomatoes

Parsley PestoReally, shouldn’t I have had visions of carrots dancing through my head, rather than dirty dishes and soap foam?  If not my carrot bunch, then perhaps my bundle of parsley, that often overlooked but lovely herb.

Parsley is most commonly used as a garnish, or as something to chop and sprinkle over a dish at the last minute, but that wasn’t enough for me.  I really wanted to showcase these little green leaves and their crisp, fresh flavor, so I thought a pesto would be the way to go.

Traditionally pesto is made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan, but I didn’t want to merely substitute parsley for basil.  Basil is so strong an herb that it can easily run alongside all those additional flavors, but parsley is much milder.  I knew I wanted to keep the garlic in there (unfortunately negating parsley’s ability to give a diner nice breath), and clearly the olive oil needed to stay in the mix, but didn’t think cheese was necessary — something I never thought I’d say.  I decided to toss in a handful of slivered almonds for a little heft, as well as a squirt of lemon juice for additional brightness.  Because I knew I wasn’t going to eat my pesto straightaway, I spooned it all into a labeled freezer bag; later in the year, on a particularly gloomy day, I’ll mix it into a potato salad or spoon it over some tortellini to remind me of summer.

Parsley Pesto
Makes a bit less than one cup, which is plenty for a pound of pasta or potatoes

2 packed cups parsley leaves
1 small clove of garlic
¼ to ½ cup of olive oil, depending on the texture you desire
¼ cup slivered almonds
juice of half a lemon
salt

Blitz the parsley, garlic, almonds and pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender, dribbling the olive oil slowly through the feed tube.  You will need to stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula or spoon, but continue processing until you’ve used up all the oil.  Gradually add in the lemon juice and mix until completely combined.

* I can’t even get into it.  Trust me.

CSA 2009, Weeks Five + Six.

If this past month was any indication of what the summer has in store for me, I’m doomed.  No, I don’t mean Boston’s wonky June weather; I mean my inability to get around to using my CSA vegetables as soon as possible because I’ve been too damn busy. First a chunk of my family arrives in town, insisting on taking us out for multiple meals and monopolizing my time; then Marcella comes to visit for a week of shopping, rainstorms and restaurant explorations.  When’s a girl supposed to find time to put her produce to use during all of that?

CSA 5So, as with weeks two and three of my CSA, I’m combining weeks five and six into one post.  I did manage to take a photograph of week five’s haul, as I normally do, but I’ve decided the time has come yet again for me to instead snap shots of items on their own.  The boxes’ contents haven’t yet gotten so huge that they can’t all squish together into the frame, but I’ve gotten so eager to get everything out and washed and sorted that I honestly forget most of the time, and then have to toss the vegetables back together at the last minute for their line-up, which leaves me feeling stressed for neglecting to remember in the first place.

Here’s the list of five and six’s harvest:

  • Baby beets
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots (both weeks)
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Garlic scapes
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Napa cabbage
  • New potatoes
  • Red giant mustard greens
  • Salad mix with arugula
  • Scallions
  • Summer squash

CSA 6These lovely little potatoes were part of week six’s booty; it’s never a challenge to figure out what to do with a potato, isn’t it?  You can jazz up a mash by turning it into colcannon, bake thin slices of potato onto a cheesy pizza, comfort yourself with a bowl of soup.  Then, of course, here’s countless frittatas to make and frites to fry, and there’s nothing easier than sticking a foil-wrapped one into the oven to bake. The potato is really an incredibly versatile ingredient.

Warm Potato Salad with(out) Crème FraîcheLast night, I decided to boil the potatoes and make a warm salad to go alongside the lamb chops I was planning to broil for our dinner.  These little guys were so tender and delicate that some of their skins had rubbed off when I washed them clean of dirt and grit, so I knew that I could just toss them as is into a pot of water to boil.

Like I said, the potato — charming and lovable as it is — is easy.  Almost no thought at all is required when it comes to preparing a few.  The rest of my vegetables were another story.

Frozen vegetable stockI found myself wondering, Would it be chickening out a bit to turn most of what I received into stock, rather than figuring out what to do with my highly-intimidating kohlrabi? After debating with my self for a good while, I convinced myself that there was nothing wrong with throwing some of my more complicated produce into my stockpot with several cups of water, some seasoning and some herbs.  (For a more detailed and specific recipe, look at this.)  You always need vegetable stock, I reasoned, not to mention store-bought is basically salted vegetable-esque water…  which is why I now have something like eighteen cups of stock in Ziploc bags stacked in my fridge.

Maybe it was cheating, making stock.  Then again, it’ll be a while before my flavorful frozen supply runs out, so I’m happy.

Warm Potato Salad with(out) Crème Fraîche, from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice  Waters
Makes six portions

1 ½ pounds new potatoes (Alice says to use Bintje)
2 shallots
¾ cup cream (I used milk; it was what I had on hand)
salt and pepper
½ cup crème fraîche (which I omitted, since I didn’t have any on hand, and replaced with Greek yogurt, which is far healthier anyway)
sherry vinegar

  1. Boil the potatoes in their skins until tender; drain.  When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into ¼-inch slices.
  2. Peel and dice the shallots fine, and put them in a small pan with the cream.  Season with salt and pepper and warm gently; the trick here is to slowly soften the shallots without reducing the cream.  When the shallots have softened, then take them off the heat and stir in the crème fraîche.
  3. When you are ready to serve the salad, put the potatoes in the cream mixture, add a splash or two of sherry vinegar to taste, and warm again gently.  Correct the seasoning and serve garnished with freshly ground black pepper.

On a Bit of a YA Kick.

When it comes down to it, I think I’m a cross between a thirteen-year-old boy and a sixty-something woman.  Here’s why:

  • I read comics;
  • I quilt;
  • I like zombies;
  • I own tons of moisturizers and creams;
  • I watch action movies;
  • I love BBC America and costume dramas.

I could go on and on, but regardless of my proclivities, my point is that in between reading “grown-up books,” I’ve been binging on adolescent fiction.  I can’t think of a better word than binging, because I do crave reading young adult books; once I read one, I hungrily reach for more.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret My most recent YA spree started with The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.  It’s the story of twelve-year-old orphan Hugo, who lives in 1930s Paris.  Actually, to be more specific, Hugo lives in Gare Montparnasse, one of the city’s busiest train stations.  There Hugo secretly works as the keeper of the clocks, a position that technically belongs to his uncle and guardian, who has gone missing.  Hugo has no other relatives with whom he can live — his father died in a fire — and because he is scared of being sent away, he continues his uncle’s work within the station walls.  After he’s caught stealing from the cart of a toy vendor, Hugo finds himself in the middle of a mystery that will change his life.

I can’t say much more without giving everything within the book away, but I will say these two things: The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a must-read for lovers of film history, as well as anyone who appreciates detailed pencil drawings.  See, Selznick tells his tale in a somewhat unconventional manner, alternating between illustrations, text and photographs; by doing so, he facilitates a reader-friendly introduction to one of film’s most influential innovators.

The Hunger GamesAfter The Invention of Hugo Cabret, my picks in adolescent fiction definitely veered towards the dark and depressing, particularly with Suzanne Collins‘s novel The Hunger Games — which I immediately re-read upon completion, so engrossed by it was I.  It’s impossible not to get hooked by Collins’s absorbing writing style and likable protagonist, not to mention the story’s incredibly captivating plot.

The Hunger Games takes place in the future, one in which North America no longer exists.  The remaining pockets of civilization has been divided into districts serving a wealthier, more powerful capitol who each year reminds and punishes its chattel of their lower standing and previous rebellion by coercing one boy and one girl from each district to participate in a televised survival game.  The novel’s main character Katniss is from District 12, the poorest of the bunch; when her twelve-year-old sister is selected to take part in the Hunger Games, Katniss quickly takes her place as the district’s tribute.  Soon Katniss and Peeta, the male tribute from District 12, on are their way to the Capitol for makeovers, interviews and training before literately fighting for their lives in the bloody, gruesome games.

A few final notes:  The Hunger Games is book one of a trilogy; part two, Catching Fire, is set for a September first release.  While the plot is indeed fascinating, as is its social commentary, it is also very graphic.  Children, after all, are not only being killed, but they are also killing each other in extremely explicit ways.  I’m interested to see how the novel’s brutality will translate to the screen; Collins is adapting her book to film .

Thirteen Reasons WhyEven after The Hunger Games, I was still in the mood for something on the bleak side — who wants to read only happy stories?  I want the characters I’m investing in to work for their happiness, as opposed to having it just handed it to them.

I thought Jay Asher‘s Thirteen Reasons Why would fit my sad little bill perfectly; after all, it’s about a girl who, before committing suicide, records her reasons why on a series of cassette tapes, which she organizes to have sent around to her classmates after her death.  One of the recipients of the box of tapes also happens to have harbored a secret, not-acted-upon love for the girl.  Doesn’t this all sound riveting?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t.  Our suicidal narrator Hannah has a strong voice, and yet she is utterly unbelievable as a character.  What she relates via cassette tape is tragic… but ultimately so very contrived.  The boys in her school rank her ass on a widely-circulated list, for example, a scene taken right out of an episode of My So-Called Life*.  Lamentably, Asher tackles way too much, and the end result is confusing, frustrating and all over the place.

If I StaySince Thirteen Reasons Why didn’t satisfy my craving for sad story, I turned to If I Stay by Gayle Forman to push me over the edge.  It definitely did the trick — I kept on pushing the book off my lap distressfully, only to pull it back on again.  You try reading about Mia’s close-knit family without getting torn up.  It won’t happen.

Raised in Oregon by punky, unconventional parents, Mia rebels in her own way by choosing to play classical cello.  Her skill is so great, she’s had a successful Julliard audition and is awaiting to hear if she’ll be New York bound in the fall when she goes for a ride with her parents and young brother.  Their car is hit by another vehicle; Mia’s parents are killed upon impact, her brother is gravely injured and Mia, surprisingly, finds herself outside her own critically wounded body.  As she follows herself through surgeries and intensive care, Mia looks back on her life and must decide what she wants to do, live or die.

It sounds so terribly hokey, doesn’t it?  Trust me when I say If I Stay is not.  Forman could so easily succumb to schmaltz and sentimentality, but she doesn’t.  Instead, she allows Mia to grieve first her parents’ deaths, then her younger brother Teddy’s, without any sense of melodrama.  Forman essentially trusts the reader with a heartbreaking story — something, unfortunately, that not all writers are able to do.

So is this the end of my adolescent fiction fever?  That’s highly doubtful.  Even though I’m currently reading  an “adult” book, I’ve got a list of my next-reads at the ready.  Some of them might even be somewhat cheerful.

Then again, they might not.

* Episode 5, “The Zit.”

Monday, In Seven Words.

Keith gets a new TV, I bake.

Banana Muffins, Chocolate Chip Brownie Bars + Blueberry Nectarine Buckle

Clockwise, from muffins:

Banana Muffins, from Catherine Robertson at Cat Can Cook
Makes twelve muffins

3 or 4 large bananas, mashed (I had three; I used three.)
½ cup white sugar
1 slightly beaten egg
1/3 cup melted margarine or butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups flour

Mix the mashed banana, sugar, egg and margarine together. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Mix wet and dry ingredients all together, being careful not to over-stir! Pour into greased muffin tins, and bake in 350° oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Note: I added something like ¾ cup flour-dusted chopped walnuts, mainly because I had them.

Chocolate-Chip Brownie Double-Deckers, from The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge
Makes two dozen two-inch double-deckers

for the chocolate chip layer:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

for the brownie layer:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into equal pieces
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose flour

  1. Position oven rack on the middle rung.  Heat oven to 325°.  Lightly grease a 9-by-13 inch baking pan.
  2. Begin making the chocolate chip layer by melting 12 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until butter is melted.  Remove from heat and add brown sugar; whisk until no lumps remain.  Set aside to cool.
  3. While chocolate chip layer is cooling, make brownie layer by melting remaining 12 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Remove from heat and add cocoa powder; whisk until smooth.  Add sugar and salt; whisk until blended.  Add eggs one at a time, whisking in between eggs until just blended.  Whisk in vanilla with the second egg.  Sprinkle flour over chocolate mixture; stir with a spatula until just blended.  Scrape batter into prepared baking dish and spread evenly.  Set aside to finish chocolate chip layer.
  4. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; whisk until well-blended.  Once butter mixture has cooled, add to it the egg and vanilla; whisk until combined.  Pour in flour mixture and stir with a spatula until blended.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop cookie dough over brownie batter in large clumps; spread evenly and carefully with a spatula.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with small, gooey clumps of brownie sticking to it, about 40 minutes.  Do not overbake, or brownies will not be fudgy.  Transfer baking pan to a rack to cool completely.
  6. Once cooled, cut into small squares measuring about 2 inches each.  The cooler the double-deckers are, the cleaner the cutting will be.  Regardless, the cutting knife will get covered with sticky crumbs.

Note: Even though I spent a good portion of the day baking, I’m still a little lazy — which is why I poured the melted butter combo from step 2 into a separate heat-proof bowl before whisking in the brown sugar and reused the saucepan without washing for step 3.

Blueberry and Nectarine Buckle, from Gourmet’s Sweets: Desserts for Every Occasion
Makes eight portions

for the topping:
½ stick cold unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar, plus one tablespoon (the original recipe calls for ½ cup, but I find that amount a bit too sweet)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon fleshly grated nutmeg

for the batter:
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 cups picked-over blueberries
2 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1-inch wedges

for an accompaniment:
2 scoops vanilla ice cream

  1. Make topping.  Cut butter into bits.  In a small bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender blend together butter, sugar, flour and spices until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Chill topping while making batter.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°.  Butter a ten-inch round cake pan or a two-quart baking pan.
  3. Make batter.  Pit nectarines and cut into one-inch wedges.  In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugar, then beat in vanilla.  In a second bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking powder.  Beat flour mixture into butter mixture alternately with eggs, one at a time.  Beat well after each addition, and then fold in blueberries and nectarines.
  4. Spread batter in the pan and distribute topping evenly over the top.  Bake buckle in the middle of the oven for forty-five to fifty minutes, or until a tester comes out clean and topping is crisp and golden.  Serve with ice cream.

NoteOf course, you can eat this without ice cream.  But why would you want to?