In Which I Reject Perfection, or S’More Pie

Grad school starts tomorrow! Well, I technically don’t have classes until Wednesday, but given that I am starting my NYU job tomorrow and this Labor Day weekend has been filled to the brim with reading for my upcoming classes, I think it is fair to say that my grad school ship is sailing.

Unsuspecting Marshmallows

After realizing that just one of the readings for one of my classes comes in at over 600 pages, I am remembering the principle of diminishing returns. (Can you tell I had to take a microeconomics exam last week?) To put it another way, in Voltaire’s words, the perfect is the enemy of the good (and done). Was it likely that my assignment actually entailed reading 600 pages and taking careful notes just to be prepared for one class session? Probably not. Was I still tempted to do just that? Of course! Did I? No…at least not after about 10 pages or so.

It seems that grad school will have to be when I finally accept that I cannot do everything; that sometimes there are shortcuts and it is okay (and expected) to take them. One day I will realize that skimming a reading instead of critically analyzing its entirety is not the end of the world. Until then I’ll be having a panic attack in the corner every time I try to digest hundreds of pages of reading in a matter of minutes, and remembering the one time I tried to take a drastic shortcut in the kitchen and miserably failed.

Ah The Burnt Marshmallow Horror

It was Thanksgiving 2013. I had little time and a whole s’more pie to make. I was not about to make marshmallows from scratch, and so I thought, why not just dump a package of marshmallows on top of my chocolate pie, brown them in the oven, and call it a day? Because marshmallows expand when they are heated, and if you are not careful they will touch the broiler and set themselves on fire, and before you know it the kitchen will be filled with smoke, and your oven will look like the gates of hell, and you will have to flee the home on Thanksgiving. That is why not.

But with some careful planning, this could have been avoided. The shortcut would have worked if I had been mindful enough to put the pie on a low rack far from the broiler, and had kept an eye on things. And that is what I well have to tell myself now. Breathe. It will all get done. Just keep it in perspective.

Burnt Smores Pie

S’more Pie

Adapted from Gourmet

Makes 8 servings

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

6 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the chocolate filling:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup heavy cream

1 large egg, at room temperature

salt

For the marshmallow topping:

1 bag of regular sized marshmallows

ButterFor the crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Use your hands to press the mixture into a pie plate. Bakes for 15 minutes, or until the crust looks crisp. Set aside to cool completely while you make the filling.

Graham Cracker Crust

For the chocolate filling, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring the cream to a boil. Put the chocolate in a large bowl and pour the cream over it. Let stand for one minute, and then whisk the chocolate and heavy cream so they are well combined. Whisk in the egg and salt gently. Pour the chocolate mixture into the graham cracker crust. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the filling looks set and the center just slightly trembles.

Chocolate Filling

To brown the marshmallow topping, position an oven rack in the lowest possible rack (this is important!!!) and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour marshmallows over the chocolate filling, and place in the oven. Bake for about 3 minutes, checking on the pie every minute to make sure it is not burning and about to set your home aflame. The pie is ready when the marshmallow topping is as brown as you would like it to be or your smoke detector goes off.

Lemony Leek Meatballs

In the past four and a half years, I have moved six times. That’s six kitchens I have had to learn the ins and outs of, and while my moving rate has slowed down somewhat (the latest was my first move in two years), it’s still always a daunting process to get familiar with the new space. But after traversing half-unpacked boxes, completing odd errands like installing double curtains, and plastering up holes at my old apartment, the prospect of having to fix myself up enough to venture into the outdoors for a meal is not one I can fathom. So, to the kitchen I go!  

Lemon Leek Meatball

After my latest move earlier this month, I have been exploring a whole new kitchen world, the world of kitchen shared with significant other. So far, this seems to mostly mean that all of my stuff fits in the kitchen since Harry comes with little kitchen equipment (yay, no more pots and pans under my bed!), and that I get to cook for two instead of one–a dream come true, since it essentially means I can cook twice as much! We’ve enjoyed many great meals together in our new apartment, but this was our first and one of my favorite. I hope you can find a special occasion to make it for as well.

Browned

Lemony Leek Meatballs

Adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Makes about 9 large meatballs

6 large leeks, trimmed, chopped into 3/4 inch slices 

9 ounces lean ground beef

1 cup bread crumbs

2 eggs

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons oil (preferably sunflower or safflower)

1 cup chicken stock

juice of 2 lemons

Greek yogurt, for serving

parley, for garnish   

Leeks Galore

Steam the leeks for 20 minutes, until they are soft. Squeeze all the moisture out of the leek and then chop them in a food processor until they are chopped but not a pasty mess. In a large bowl, combine the leeks, beef, bread crumbs, eggs, salt, and pepper. Use your hands to combine the ingredients well, and shape the mix into about 9 meatballs. Flatten the meatballs slightly so they look like patties, put them on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

The Leek and Meat Mix

Heat the oil on medium-high heat in a large and heavy frying pan. Put the patties on the pan and brown them well on each side.

Basted Balls

Wipe the oil out of the bottom of the pan, and then put the meatballs back in the pan. Pour the chicken stock and lemon juice into the pan, and some more salt (about 1/2 teaspoon). Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, but a lid on the pan, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid, and, if necessary, increase the heat to help the meatballs absorb some more of the liquid.

Basting Balls

Let the meatballs cool for awhile, and then serve with Greek yogurt and parsley. These meatballs pair great with pita and a salad!

Lemony Leek Meal

Baked Tilapia with Lemon and Dill

Amongst the things Harry and I did not quite expect when we embarked on our journey to Belgium, Poland, and Sweden was the amount of seafood we would eat. From mussels in Brussels (who knew?), to river trout in Zakopane, to herring in Stockholm, we ate like sea-faring kings. 

Mussels in Brussels

Trout in Zakopane

Fried Fish in GdanskHerring Burger in Stockholm

While I haven’t tried to recreate any of the dishes we had on our trip at home (yet), a few were reminiscent of a tilapia dish that I grew up with. This tilapia recipe is something my mother has been making for ages, and pairs best with fresh sauerkraut and mashed potatoes made with sour cream and a pinch of dill. The cooking method means there is pretty much no way you can overcook the fish, and the recipe is so versatile you can apply it to most any fish (it’s great with salmon or red snapper). Go forth and apply it to your favorite vacation fish!

Tilapia and a Salad

Baked Tilapia with Lemon and Dill

From Mama’s Kitchen

Makes 4 Servings

4 tilapia fillets

salt and pepper

4 tablespoons butter

2 lemons

several sprigs of dill     

Tilapia Adorned Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare 4 large pieces of tin foil. Each piece should be big enough to wrap around a fillet of tilapia. Season each fillet of tilapia with salt and pepper and place in the center of a piece of tin foil.

A Tilapia Adorned

Cut the butter into squares and place a few squares on each fillet. Slice the lemon and put a few slices on each fillet. Finally, put several sprigs of dill on each fillet. 

Wrap the tin foil around each fillet and seal tightly. Place in the oven and bake for 15-25 minutes. The beauty of the pouches is that they keep steam in so you are unlikely to overcook your tilapia, but you should still check it periodically so you don’t dry it out.

Baked Tilapia

Once the tilapia is cooked, remove the lemon and dill, and serve in the tin foil to retain the melted butter and juices. 

Eggplant with Thyme and Buttermilk Sauce

In the midst of all that’s been happening this summer, my birthday (for the first time in my life) seemed like a bit of an afterthought. No big party, no Carvel cake. I even realized that for about four months before my 26th birthday this summer, I was going around telling people that I was already 26 and soon-to-be 27…because I really thought that was my age.  Is this what getting old is? 

Baked Eggplant with Sauce and Pomegranate

Which is not to say the lack of birthday celebration was a bad thing. With all the other great experiences I had this summer, I honestly barely noticed that July 23rd passed without an excess of fanfare. But if there was one element of if that I did miss, it was the family barbecue that usually marks the event. And so, in the spirit of making up for lost thyme (get it?!), here it is, one of the dishes that I made for my family birthday barbecue last year, and that I will definitely make for any future ones! The instructions call for baking in the oven, but if you are comfortable with grilling eggplant, this is a great recipe to add to your barbecue for the upcoming Labor Day weekend. 

Unadorned Eggplant

Eggplant with Thyme and Buttermilk Sauce

Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Makes 4 servings      

For the eggplant:

2 large eggplants

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

7-10 sprigs fresh thyme, optional, to decorate

Maldon sea salt

black pepper

seeds of 1 pomegranate

1 teaspoon zatar

For the sauce:

9 tablespoons buttermilk

1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

salt

A Bite of Baked Eggplant

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise (don’t remove the stalk). Use a small knife to cut a diamond pattern into the eggplant without cutting through the skin.

To Be BAked Eggplant

Prepare a large baking sheet by covering it with parchment paper. Place the eggplant halves, skin-side down, on the baking sheet. Brush the olive oil on the eggplants, and then sprinkle with the thyme leaves, salt, and pepper.

Bake the eggplant for 40 to 50 minutes. It is done baking when it is soft and browned. Remove it from the oven and set it aside while you prepare the sauce.

So Baked

To make the sauce, whisk all of the sauce ingredients together, and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Saucy

When ready to serve, spoon the sauce over the eggplant halves, and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and zatar. If using, garnish with the thyme sprigs. Finally, drizzle with some olive oil. 

Baked Eggplants Galore

Blueberry Lemon Syrup

Hello, blogiverse! I have returned after the hiatus to end all hiatuses. While I won’t make excuses, I will say that since my last post I have travelled to Belgium, Poland, and Sweden, left my job of two years, moved, and started grad school. It has been a fun and wild ride (that is really just beginning), but, I assure you, not a leisurely one. That is to say: if I could have posted, I would have. But as I am sure grad school will remind me, sometimes one must prioritize rather than strive for perfection.

Blueberry

And with that, I will share with you my mission: five posts in five days! And while you shouldn’t expect the best composition or any lengthy exposition, you can expect five fine new recipes to try this Labor Day weekend. To start: blueberry lemon syrup. This is a delicious and refreshing syrup that I made for my former co-workers as a goodbye gift. A little goes a long way (especially on white fabrics–be careful!) and its uses are versatile. Pour it in cocktails, seltzer, or yogurt, or add a little cornstarch and use it as a syrup on scones or other baked goods.

Blueberry and Lemon

Blueberry Lemon Syrup

From Food in Jars

Makes 4 half-pint jars

3 pints of blueberries

zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1 lemon

1 3/4 cup sugar

3 cups water

Lemon

Mash the blueberries with a potato masher or meat tenderizer and place them in a medium pot. Add the water and lemon zest and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is very purple and the blueberries seem soft. This should take about 20-25 minutes.

Strain the liquid from the blueberry parts by putting a large sieve over a large bowl and letting the mixture pass through it–undisturbed! Do not press down on the blueberries or otherwise try to extract additional liquid, because this will cause a cloudy syrup. Once you are done straining, discard the solids.

Straining Blueberries

Put the liquid back in the pot, and add the lemon juice and sugar. Bring this to a boil and make sure to skim any foam.

Once the mixture is brought to a boil, you can pour it into jars. If you are canning the syrup, process it for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath using jars you have sterilized and prepared.

Boiling Blueberries