On Links.

I’ve just re-organized my column of links and wanted to take you on a quick tour of my most-visited food-, book- and travel-focused sites.

A note: Coincidentally, alphabetically, the one Armenian-ish blog I read follows the one Filipino-ish blog I read.  Fate?  Or my genetics translated into the Internet?

30 Bucks a Week
Two Brooklynites spend $15 each on their week’s worth of groceries.  Then they write about it.

101 Cookbooks
Heidi Swanson collects cookbooks and recipes.  She also takes great photographs.

Alinea at Home
Carol Blymire is cooking every recipe in the Alinea Cookbook.

Burnt Lumpia
Marvin cooks Filipino food.

Cave Cibum
Fellow Armenian Pam eats out and cooks a lot.

Chocolate + Zucchini
Parisian Clotilde Dusoulier writes in French and English about recipes, cookbooks, idioms and kitchen tools.

Cooked Books
Rebecca Federman has what just might be one of the coolest-sounding jobs ever: culinary librarian at the New York Public Library.

CoverSpy
What New Yorkers are really reading.

David Lebovitz
The observant and funny cookbook author writes about life in Paris and what he eats there.

Diner’s Journal
New York Times
‘s one-stop combination of its three dining blogs.

Formaggio Kitchen’s Cheese Blog
This is pretty self-explanatory.

Frommer’s
Arthur Frommer talks (writes?) travel.

Fucshia Dunlop
The memoirist/cookbook author’s blog.

Grub Street Boston
New York Magazine ‘s up-to-date info on the Boston dining scene.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
A great source for recipes + cooking techniques.

In the Kitchen + on the Road with Dorie
The often-adorable and always informative Dorie Greenspan splits her time between Paris and the East Coast. Oh, she also bakes. A lot.

In Transit
Another New York Times blog. This one’s about travel.

the kitchn
Apartment Therapy‘s site for people who love cooking and don’t mind making a mess whilst making dinner.

Lois Lowry
I want to be just like her when I grow up. In the meantime, I’ll just read her books and blog.

Lottie + Doof
A pretty food blog with a funny name.

Michael Ruhlman
The author of The Making of a Chef + Ratio cooks too.

The Millions
One of the best book-centric sites out there.

The New Vegetarian
Yotam Ottolenghi ‘s weekly column for the Guardian.

Nigel Slater
Recipes and writing from one of my favorite authors of food-related books.

One Minute Book Reviews
Also pretty self-explanatory.

Orangette
Molly Wizenberg lives and writes in Seattle.

Paper Cuts
The editors of The New York Times Book Review blog too.

The Prognosticators
My friends Beth + Bob moved to Prague; these are pictures of their travels.

Reading is My Superpower
Annie Frisbie reads faster than I do. She blogs more often too.

Scanwiches
Sandwiches might be my favorite.

Smitten Kitchen
Good things come from small kitchens.

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A Pesto Summer.

ScapesIf this year marked the Spring of Risotto, then this is surely the Summer of Pesto.  I can’t stop making the stuff.  It all started a few weeks ago when I threw together some parsley pesto; since then, pretty much anything that I can fit in my Cuisinart is getting blitzed.

A particular favorite of mine is garlic scape pesto — doesn’t this look like I’m about to take my knife to a pile of bright green elvers? — but I’ve had great success with mint and even a sun-dried tomato and basil combo.

If you’re not going to use pesto immediately, no matter what type it is, after you transfer it to a storage container or bowl pour a thin layer of olive oil over its entire surface to keep it from turning an unappetizing shade of brown. Though pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days, I’ll pretty much immediately spoon my results into a dated and labeled bags, then freeze them.  Days, weeks or even a few months later, you can defrost a bag to mix into a bowl of boiled potatoes, spread onto chicken breast, dollop into omelets and, of course, toss with pasta.

Basil Pesto, from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Makes about 1 cup

2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, big stems discarded, rinsed and dried
Salt to taste
½ to 2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, or more
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese (optional)

Combine the basil, salt, garlic, nuts and about half the oil in a food processor or blender.  Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container occasionally, and adding the rest of the oil gradually. Add additional oil if you prefer a thinner mixture.   Stir in the Parmesan by hand just before serving.

Garlic Scape + Almond Pesto, from Dorie Greenspan
Makes about 1 cup

10 garlic scapes, finely chopped
1/3 to ½ cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)
1/3 cup slivered almonds (you could toast them lightly, if you’d like)
About ½ cup olive oil
Sea salt

Put the scapes, 1/3 cup of the cheese, almonds and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor (or use a blender or a mortar and pestle).  Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if you want, more cheese.  If you like the texture, stop; if you’d like it a little thinner, add some more oil.  Season with salt.

Mint Pesto
Makes about 1 cup

2 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or toasted slivered almonds
2 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of your knife
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt + Pepper to taste

Place the mint leaves, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse until chopped. With the machine on, add the lemon juice and olive oil in a thin stream and process until smooth.  Season the pesto with salt and pepper.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Makes a bit less than a cup

¾ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained (I prefer to use the halves, though have used the julienned if that is what I had on hand)
¼ cup loosely packed basil leaves
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of your knife
Salt + pepper to taste

Combine  ingredients in blender. Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil.  Blitz until smooth, adding oil slowly to achieve desired texture.

Book Club Oscar Party.

emily-post Once my book club decided that Laura Claridge‘s biography of Emily Post was our next read, the emails between us started flying with almost more speed than usual.  We had already decided to meet on the twenty-second, not realizing that evening was the Academy Awards.

“We could do an Emily Post/Oscars hybrid theme for food,” Sarah wrote. “I’m not really sure what that means. Perhaps finger foods and a fancy drink or tea, and everyone should wear pearls.”

“I love cocktails and pearls,” Stephanie responded, adding, “and that’s kind of like a bachelorette party*, minus the cheesy condom shirts and the stop at Dick’s Last Resort, so yes!  This sounds perfect!”

We quickly started suggesting possible bite-sized snacks for the evening; I had been looking for an excuse to try out a recipe for gougères, so I used the get-together as the reason to give Dorie Greenspan‘s version a try — but if I had really been on top of things I would have dug out Ruth Reichl‘s recipe from Garlic and Sapphires, since book club had previously read her other memoir, Tender at the Bone.  Oh well.  I mean, I need little justification to make something warm with cheese, and Ms. Greenspan’s puffs came out wonderfully.  Next time, it’s Reichl all the way.

When we gathered at Sarah’s some of us were toting copies of Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners, ready to discuss etiquette, Oscar ensembles and Emily — though I feel like I have to tell you we spent more the time commenting on Kunio Kato.  Melissa valiantly tried to keep us on track during the commercial breaks, hurriedly addressing Ms. Post’s life and legacy, but really we were all too busy eating to contribute much to the conversation.

I am, of course, talking about myself when I say this.  In my defense: how eager would you be to review the contents of a book — no matter how much you enjoyed it — if there was Champagne, spanikopita, chocolate-dipped strawberries and a twirling Hugh Jackman to distract you?

That’s what I thought.

Gougères, from Dorie Greenspan
Makes about thirty-six puffs

½ cup whole milk
½ cup water
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyère or Cheddar (or a mixture of smoked and regular cheese)

  1. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375°.  Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  2. Bring the milk, water, butter, and salt to a rapid boil over high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan.  Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low and quickly start stirring energetically with a wooden spoon.  The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan.  Keep stirring — with vigor — another 2 to 3 minutes to dry the dough.  The dough should now be very smooth.
  3. Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or you can continue by hand).  Add the eggs one by one and beat, beat, beat until the dough is thick and shiny.  Don’t be concerned if the dough falls apart — by the time the third egg goes in, the dough will come together again.  Beat in the grated cheese.  Once the dough is completed, it should be used immediately.
  4. Using about 1 tablespoon of dough for each gougère, drop the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between each mound of dough.
  5. Slide the baking sheets into the oven, bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back.  Continue baking until the puffs are golden and firm, another 10 to 15 minutes.  Serve the gougères piping hot as soon as they come from the oven.

Note:  You can shape the gougères and freeze them for up to 2 months before you bake them.  There’s no need to defrost the frozen puffs, just bake them a couple of minutes more.

* We’re planning a book club bachelorette party.  No one’s getting married — we just think it’ll be fun.  And funny.

Musing and Rambling.

Last night after dinner, Keith and I hung out in the living room, trying to plan the details of our upcoming trip to Portland, Oregon, where my friend Lydia will be marrying her wonderful boyfriend Andy. Somehow, our conversation slipped from “The menu at Le Pigeon looks really interesting” to “What do you think about living in Sofia?” …which then got me thinking about Dorie Greenspan’s blog, where she is currently comparing Paris and New York.

As a New Yorker madly in love with Paris, I don’t know if I could ever decide between the two; there are days when they seem so equally romantic, and then there are the days when I want so desperately to be in one more than the other. (Then there are the days, of course, where I dream of Singapore, Shanghai and Seoul, but that’s a different conversation altogether.)

I feel like this so often, and it makes me wonder if I’m the only one always thinking about Someplace Else. Clearly I’m not, because I know the topic is on Keith’s mind, and on my friends’ too: Beth is moving to Prague this summer, Darlington’s got her sights set on London, and Alyssa and I talk constantly about moving to France (and what we would wear there). Sometimes, though, I just get so itchy about Someplace Else that everything around me loses its color and seems so dull. Is there a cure other than a plane ticket and a passport?

If I come up with one, I’ll let you know.