Last weekend there was a perfect storm in my kitchen. I needed to escape into the world of sugar, butter, and flour. I wanted to bake something pretty. I had seen this strawberry milk cake recipe from the Kitchn on Pinterest. And, my awesome sister-in-law just gave me a new cake decorating set from Wilton.
I went a little crazy and added vanilla pudding layers to my cake, but otherwise I hummed along and followed the recipe just as it is. The world felt right. The cake rose in the oven and cooled on the rack. The icing came out just the right shade of pink and I got to share it with good friends. It wasn’t my favorite cake or the best cake I’ve ever made, but it served it’s purpose.
Sometimes the only answer is to bake a cake.
Posted by Erin on August 31, 2012
With nineteen plants growing away in our backyard we have had an abundance of tomatoes lately. Not a bad problem to have! Can you believe that I didn’t even like tomatoes when I was a kid? What was wrong with me? I remember watching my dad sprinkle them with salt or slather them with mayonaise and eat them like apples standing over the kitchen sink. I was so grossed out. Now, I do the exact same thing. Is it even possible not the turn into our parents when we get older? Sheesh.
I’ve been similarly grossed out by the idea of cold soup. It does not sound appealing to me at all. Soup is great. Soup is meant to be hot. Or so I thought. My friend Jennifer just shared her recipe for gazpacho with us and since nearly all of the ingredients were growing less than 50 feet from my kitchen counter I figured I had run out of excuses to give it a try. Guess what? I was as wrong about gazpacho as I was about tomatoes. Below is my, slightly altered, version of Jennifer’s recipe. It would be perfect as an appetizer for a dinner party on the patio.
Lots o’ tomatoes (I filled my blender nearly all the way full with cherry and halved tomatoes)
1 green pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon wed wine vinegar
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1 1/2 cup french bread, in chunks and soaked in water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Load the tomatoes in the blender and mix well to make room for the rest of the ingredients. Add in the rest of the ingredients, squeeze water from the bread before adding it, and mix well. Chill well before serving.
You can serve gazpacho with a variety of toppings. I fried up some diced ham in for ours and it was great!
Posted by Erin on August 29, 2012
I’ve been thinking about the cheesy, saucy, crispy goodness of eggplant parmesan since last summer. I never even knew I liked eggplant until that beauty of a dish landed in my kitchen.
When the eggplant arrived with our weekly CSA I wasn’t sure what to do with it exactly. So, I did what any rational person would do. I fried it and covered it with sauce and cheese. Delicious! Since then, I’ve learned that I love eggplant roasted, grilled, and, of course, I remain loyal to the parmesan.
I’d nearly given up hope in our little seedlings. But, they’re growing! There are about 6 baby eggplant hanging out in our garden right now. I’m checking their progress closely and can’t wait to bring them into the kitchen.
Posted by Erin on August 23, 2012
Last week I celebrated my thirty first birthday. Thirty. One. Dang. My darling husband took me away for a two day stay-cation to celebrate. To step back from life and breathe.
We enjoyed some fine cocktails at the rooftop bar. We sat in the sunshine and read books for hours. We browsed the record shop until we found just enough Yacht Rock to go home with.
Then we went home and eased our way back into real life. A slow birthday breakfast at my favorite local diner. Snuggling with the boys. Flowers, presents, and a home-made dinner with the man I love.
Blessed be the LORD,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
I had said in my alarm,
“I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.
Love the LORD, all you his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD!
(Psalm 31:21-24 ESV)
Posted by Erin on August 15, 2012
Sometimes dinner just has to be made of random things found in the kitchen. This is normal. Most of the time for us that means bean burritos or velveeta shells and cheese. This week, though, we hit the jackpot. This dinner couldn’t have been better if I’d planned it a month in advance. And, even better, it fits right in with our From the Garden & Farm summer series!
We had just roasted cherry tomatoes from our garden and I wanted to use them somehow. I happened to have some rice, goat cheese, leftover chicken stock and an old bottle of dry white wine on hand. Enter the star of the show: risotto. We make risotto often. It’s pretty simple and always delicious. You should give it a try!
Creamy Risotto with Goat Cheese and Roasted Tomatoes
1 shallot, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice (We actually use a nice, high quality, short grain regular rice – works great and costs much less!)
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock (you could also use veggie stock if you want this to be vegetarian friendly)
4 tablespoons goat cheese
1 cup roasted cherry tomatoes (see yesterday’s post for a quick how-to)
In a large non-stick skillet (I use my braiser by Le Creuset), heat olive oil and sauté shallot and garlic. Add in rice and toast for about 2 minutes. Stir in white wine. Continue to stir until nearly all liquid has been absorbed. Repeat with chicken stock, one cup at a time, until rice is cooked through and creamy. Stir in goat cheese (reserving a few crumbled for garnish). Serve is bowls topped with roasted tomatoes.
Posted by Erin on August 10, 2012
Every time we harvest tomatoes from our garden we find that about half of them have already split on the vine. I blame the heat. Of course, it probably also has to do with my laziness of not going out and harvesting often enough (again…I blame the heat).
I hate the idea of throwing these beauties away, but I am also totally grossed out by the gooey mess they leave in the veggie bowl on my counter. These would be perfect for making tomato sauce or fresh salsa, but sometimes a girl just doesn’t have another hour in the day to tackle another recipe. Solution: roast those lovelies in the oven right away – use some for dinner and freeze the rest for later.
Fill a jelly roll pan with a single layer of cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. Roast in the oven for 25-35 minutes at 425 degrees. You’ll know they are ready when they have burst and and your house smells amazing. I used about 1/3 of these to top bowlfuls of goat cheese risotto (recipe coming soon!) for our dinner. The rest were sealed tight and frozen. We’ll pull these out sometime in the fall or winter when we need a taste of summer.
Posted by Erin on August 8, 2012
Summertime is birthday time in our house. Mr. Thirdrow seat and I celebrate our birthdays just two and a half weeks apart from each other. While we enjoy a night on the town and a restaurant meal (especially the part where someone else does that dishes), we often choose to celebrate around our own kitchen table. Since we both enjoy cooking so much it is a fabulous treat to throw the grocery budget by the wayside and tackle something extraordinary for one another.
My man loves lamb. He can’t get enough of it. If it’s on the menu he’s almost sure to order it. When Gordon Ramsey serves it up on The F Word or MasterChef he can’t stop talking about it. Clearly it was time for some lamb to find it’s way into our own kitchen.
First stop, you guessed it, Costco. Their meat selection is always surprisingly lovely – good for the belly and the wallet. Next, I had to find the perfect recipe and it was good old Gordon to the rescue. We watched Gordon make his Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb on The F Word earlier this summer and it seemed both fancy enough for a birthday and simple enough for a novice lamb chef like me.
The recipe was easy to follow, not overly complicated, and quite delicious. I followed the directions exactly, save one point – I ran out of fresh parsley. Our plant had burned to a crisp in the mid-summer heat wave and I hadn’t noticed until it was too late (as in, my lamb was on the stove). So, I used dried parsley in my breading. Although it was delicious, I’m certain it would have been better with fresh parsley (and prettier, too!).
Happy birthday to my favorite man on the planet. I’m delighted to be called your wife, thankful for who you are, and looking forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you! Next year… lobster?
Posted by Erin on August 7, 2012
Even though I’ve been behind in my posting on our garden, don’t be fooled. Our harvest has been abundant! Here’s a quick look at only part of what we brought inside only yesterday.
Posted by Erin on August 6, 2012
I have always found a bit of solace in baking. Cutting cold butter into sifted flour feels purposeful. When a pie comes together or a cake bakes just right and the icing is smooth, I feel like all is right in the world. This summer has been a roller coaster for me and I’ve found myself baking more than my normal share of pie – baking something that brings joy to the friends around our table and a few moments of peace to my own heart as I mix fruit and sugar and butter to make something beautiful.
Even though my mom’s peach pie recipe is the very best, my husband loves blueberries more than most other fruits. I have been long overdue to give a blueberry pie a go and since they were on sale this week it seemed like the perfect moment to try my hand at it. For his birthday last week, Mr. ThirdRow was gifted some artisan cherry flavored Moonshine from a dear friend. While it turned out to be a wee bit too strong to drink, it was just what I’d been looking for to take my pie crust to the next level! I still swear by Pam’s Pie Tutorial from The Pioneer Woman. I follow her directions to a tee, but this time I added ice cold Moonshine instead of water to my crust. I’d read about people using vodka in their crusts so that the alcohol bakes out leaving a delicate and flakey to-die-for crust. They were right! This was my best crust yet.
2 pie crusts (top and bottom layers)
2 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
milk for brushing
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line pie plate with single layer of pastry dough and set aside. In a large bowl, gently toss blueberries in lemon juice. Sprinkle the corn starch, salt, and sugar over the top. Gently fold together to coat the berries. Pour the berries into the pie and dot with butter. Roll out the top layer of pastry dough on the counter and, using a pizza cutter, cut it into 1/2 inch strips. Carefully weave the strips to create a lattice top. Brush the lattice crust with milk and place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until berries are bubbly and crust is golden brown.
My crust browned pretty quickly. So, after 25 minutes in the oven I covered it with aluminum foil and left it covered for the remainder of it’s baking.
Posted by Erin on August 4, 2012