Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Birthday Pasta

So, Allison, I just turned 23 last Thursday, and to celebrate I fixed myself and some family members a lavish birthday dinner! There was peach pie, of course (you know I'm not much of a cake person).

But the thing that really took the cake (haha) was this awesome roasted tomato pasta. I love olives and briny flavors, and this mixture of savory tomatoes, kalamata olives, and capers was absolutely delicious. I used this recipe, from a long-ago issue of Bon Appetit, and it was just really, really good.

I can't wait to hear about your birthday celebrations, fellow Virgo! Do you have major and elaborate cake plans--I hope so! I can't wait to see.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Good food in Arkansas

This weekend I explored north-west Arkansas with my friend Jessa, and discovered a surprising amount of good food. First up was a trip to War Eagle Mill, a water-powered grist mill that grinds and sells organic grains. We got to see the mill in action:

Of course, I couldn't resist making a few purchases. I picked up some whole wheat flour, some spelt flour, some cornbread mix, some apple butter and apricot butter, and a copy of the Mill's cookbook. Okay, okay, but I'm helpless when surrounded by grain, especially grain packaged in vintage-y looking cloth bags! It made me feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder!

We ate lunch at the perplexingly named Bean Palace Restaurant, where I had a just-okay taco salad and some pretty darn good blackberry cobbler.

On our way back to Oklahoma we stopped in Fayetteville and had lunch at the Greenhouse Grill. Or, more accurately, we had brunch. Who knew Arkansas would have organic blue-corn pancakes with raspberries and walnuts in the batter, topped with a yogurt-honey swirl and fruit chutney? Arkansas, you are too good to me.

Friday, August 7, 2009

If you give a mouse a cookie...

I'm not sure who the mouse is in this scenario--probably me. I don't usually bake that much because I know if I have cookies, or cake, or pie at my disposal, I'm more likely to eat it all at once than savor it slowly like a logical person.

But anyway, I made some ginger cookies anyway! They came from the Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook, and the recipe is available online here.

The "secret ingredient" was chopped crystallized ginger. If you like ginger (a lot) like I do, you will love these cookies. If you don't, well, they might be a little overwhelming. Also, they're kind of tricky (Beat ingredients for exactly five minutes! Bake for exactly thirteen minutes!), but if you have faith and follow the recipe, they will come out all right in the end, I promise!

They're crisp on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside! Much bigger and more luscious than the lowly ginger snap.

Is it gross to take close-up photos of food you've just bitten out of? Oh well! Anyway, these cookies were awesome and I suggest you make some forthwith.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Hey, I ate some cupcakes! With my friend Ruth! They came from Kupcakz which, wacky spelling aside, really does make insanely good cupcakes. Ruth hand a mint-chocolate one which, as you can see, she was pretty excited about. I had a dark chocolate with peanut butter buttercream and man oh man it was good. They kind of hollow out the cupcakes so extra frosting goes down into the middle. Mmmmmmm. I wish I had more cupcakes RIGHT NOW.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Summer Chopped Salad

So far this summer, I've had enough trouble just getting off the couch, let alone summoning the energy to cook a real meal. This chopped salad is a great solution--all you have to do is cut everything up and throw it together! Plus it's got a little bit of everything in it, so you don't need any side dishes.
I topped everything with the simple vinaigrette I've been making to go on everything. We don't even have any bottled salad dressing in our fridge any more, because this is so quick to whip up. There's no recipe per se, but the basic procedure is simple:

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

1 shallot, chopped (or garlic if you prefer)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (or whatever you have on hand)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

In a small bow, mix together shallot, mustard, honey, vinegar, and salt & pepper. With a fork or a whisk, gradually mix in olive oil. That's it!

The chopped salad itself is also difficult to write a recipe for. Basically, just cut everything into similar-sized pieces and layer in a salad bowl. Then toss with dressing and serve! If you want to keep leftovers in the fridge, I suggest adding croutons and cheese to individual plates, since the salad will keep better separate from those ingredients.

Summer Chopped Salad

Romaine lettuce
Red cabbage
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Toasted almond slivers
Dried cranberries
Homemade Croutons (or store-bought, if you prefer)
Cubed gouda
Crumbled Feta

Start with the lettuce, cabbage, and spinach--cut each into bite-sized slivers and layer into serving bowl. Next chop cucumber, carrots, celery and cherry tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and add to serving bowl. Finally, top with remaining ingredients, drizzle dressing over, and toss!

This salad is addictive, probably because of all the cheese! I'm not sure how good for you it actually is, given all the toppings, but I do know that it's fresh and tasty. And if you make a ton you can eat it for like a week without having to cook again.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nectarines in Cedar Falls

Well, Allison, while you've been off cooking for teenagers this summer at your camp job I've been... pretty much doing nothing. So much nothing, in fact, that I felt the need to get out of town and do nothing somewhere else. So I visited our friend Amanda in Cedar Falls! I won't get all mushy and say that visiting Iowa was like coming home again, but I will say that the cool temperatures and actual clouds were a welcome respite from what has so far been a searingly hot summer in Oklahoma.

While I was in Cedar Falls, Amanda's family was way too generous in treating me to a ton of delicious food. There was Chinese, burritos, waffles, and more. The morning of the day I left, though, Amanda and I got a chance to do a cooking project of our own... well, as long as you use the term "cooking" loosely.

It all started when we were leafing through the Williams-Sonoma Kid's Cookbook, which was laying on Amanda's kitchen table. The peril of this book is that the recipes are all super-easy, and the photography is gorgeous, so it's easy to get drawn in. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though! Anyway, we saw a recipe for Apricot-Ginger parfaits which looked too good not to make. Plus, we were lucky enough to have a bona fide kid (Amanda's little brother) there to help us by licking the bowl that the cream was whipped in.

In the end, these are a little different than the recipe. We used nectarines instead of apricots, because that was what we could find, and we didn't garnish the parfaits with fresh mint, much to Amanda's dismay. We did, though, eat them on the front porch on a vintage table runner. And after breakfast we hiked into the nature reserve behind Amanda's house and went swinging in a playground and relaxed on quilts and read books until the heat of the sun became overwhelming. So I'd say they were basically a success.

Nectarine-Ginger Parfaits

A bag of store-bought gingersnaps
4 or 5 nectarines
heavy cream

This is basically self-explanatory. Slice the nectarines, and put the gingersnaps in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush them. Sweeten and whip the cream (or if, like us, you forget to sweeten the cream, whip it and then add some powdered sugar). Layer everything in parfait glasses and enjoy! You're supposed to let them sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours so the cookie crumbles become moist, but we were too impatient, and, after all, I think the crunch added a certain something to our gustatory experience.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Holy Grail

Dear Allison,

Well, my dear, it's finally happened: we've graduated and parted ways, supposedly to forge our separate paths in life. To find fame and fortune and fulfillment. Well, I've got the "fulfillment" part covered, anyway--as part of our Epic Trek Through the American South, my family had lunch in Savannah at none other than The Lady and Sons, Paula Deen's restaurant! Now, you know how I love all things southern, but southern food can sometimes be problematic from a vegetarianism standpoint. I was impressed to see that at The Lady and Sons, there were three whole vegetarian entrees on the lunch menu! That may not sound like much, but when you're used to making do with a salad and sides, it's exciting.

First things first: The Lady and Sons is in downtown Savannah, which is a quirky and awesome city full of antebellum architecture, indie boutiques, and hipsters who attend SCAD.

Now, in true Paula Deen fashion, our meal didn't begin with plain old bread. Rather, it started with a fried corn cake (there was maple syrup at the table to go with it), and a cheddar-garlic biscuit, both oozing with butter. Um, delicious is putting it lightly.

Here's what the interior or the restaurant looks like: there are three stories of dining rooms, and we were seated on the top story.
We started off with fried green tomatoes, which were garnished with a roasted red pepper sauce and a vidalia onion relish. These were so. good. Crispy and surprisingly delicate, and I loved the onion relish. I really want to try and re-create them when I get home
For my main course, I went with the asparagus sandwich which, according to the menu, is "a favorite of the New York Times." The sandwich was filled with asparagus, red onion, jack cheese, and thousand island dressing, grilled between two slices of rye bread. It was served with cole slaw (which was garnished with green tomato pickles), and in the background is my lemonade with mint. This sandwich was homey and comforting and, most of all, different, which to me is the most important theme in a world of token portobello burgers. The cole slaw wasn't that special, although it was spicy and a step up from normal restaurant cole slaw.

And then there was the macaroni and cheese: since I promised you would try it, I forced my father to bring some back from the buffet (which, as you can see, was mostly populated by vegetables-cooked-with-bacon). This macaroni and cheese was pretty awesome, and I'm about 95% certain the secret ingredient was mayonnaise. Actually I'm about 95% certain that Paula Deen's secret ingredient is always mayonnaise.

Then there was dessert: a pecan pie so flaky, creamy and caramely that it was like looking into the face of god. Okay, maybe not quite, but it did come with a scoop of honest-to-god-not-from-a-can whipped cream on the top, which was pretty freakin' awesome.

So I hope your summer is going well so far, Allison! I can't wait to hear about your fancy cooking job and anything else that happens in your life. Keep me posted!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Secret Password into the Rosenthal House

Hey Kathryn,

So, it's been over a week since we graduated. Here's a portrait of my life, by the numbers, since we received our diplomas.

20 - times that I played "Don't Stop Believing."
17 - episodes of Jon and Kate Plus 8 that I have watched.
2 - Listen Hear episodes that I have listened to.
3 - cards that I found from you while cleaning my room.
16 - Bagels that I made.

That's right. I've followed through on the promise promise in my previous post, and I made some crusty, chewy bagels. Though I haven't had a New York bagel in awhile, I think these ones came pretty close to the real deal. They certainly beat out Panera's/St. Louis Bread Company's, which let's face the truth, are Parker House Rolls masquerading as bagels. I would bet my Great Aunt's collection of medical advertising cards from the 1800s that they do not even boil them before baking them, which is the way that all true bagels are made.

This a really great recipe for channeling stress/aggression/graduation angst. This is the toughest dough that I've ever had to knead. I blasted some Yeah Yeah Yeahs and started kneading, and suddenly, ten minutes had passed. I really love that feeling of complete absorption into the cooking process, and it reminded me of a conversation that I had with Amanda about why we love to cook. We discussed that we liked the immediacy of the process, and how you have to devote your full attention to the food at hand. I think that's how I want to live, one fold, one push, one breath, at a time.

Aren't they cute?

Adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking:

6 3/4 cup white bread flour, plus more as necessary for kneading
1 tbsp salt
1 package yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
2 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 tbsp sugar (or malt extract, if you happen to have it on hand)

To a large bowl, add the flour, salt and yeast together. Stir to combine and create a well in the center. To another bowl add the sugar, oil and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones all at once and forcibly mix. When the mixture starts to ball together into a dough, with your hands, start to knead it together to incorporate all of the flour into the dough. Turn out the dough onto a dry surface and knead the dough together, adding more flour if the dough seems too wet (don't worry - the dough should be drier than other bread doughs). Knead for at least ten minutes, or until the dough becomes smoother, suppler, and easier to work with. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and flip the dough around on both sides so that it has a thin coat of oil. Cover with a clean dish towel, and let it rise for an hour.

After it has risen, punch down the dough, and turn out onto your work surface. Cut the dough in thirds, and then again into fifths, so in the end, you have 15 portions. Roll each piece into a log, and then pinch the ends together to form a ring. Make sure you get a tight seal so that they don't fall apart when you boil them. Set aside on a baking sheet and cover with a clean dish towel. At this time, set a large pot of water on the stove on high heat. Add the sugar or malt extract and wait for it to come to a rapid boil. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees or its highest setting. Once the oven has come to temperature, and the water is boiling, and the bagels have rested for at least 15 minutes, oil two baking sheets and set them aside. Drop the bagels into the water four at a time using a slotted spoon. Once they have been in the water for 30 seconds, flip them, and wait another 30 seconds. Retrieve them from the water and set them on the baking sheet, making sure they are well spaced. When you have filled up a baking sheet, place it in the oven, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the bagels are golden brown.


Also, before you set off to make these, make sure that your oven is clean. Our oven had some burnt bits at the bottom, and so with oven temperature at 500 degrees, those scraps turned into smoke. The bagels ended up being fine, and some even had some slight hints of smoke flavor, but my sister was not so fine with being awoken from her nap because of the fire alarm going off. Just a normal day at the Rosenthal house, I guess.

I hope you are doing well at the beach - I miss you so much.

Take care,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My recipe box

Hey Guys,

This update comes to you from Burling Library, where I am working on my last ever college paper. Mama needs a break, so I wanted to show you guys some of the recipes that I am dying to make once I return to Iowa City.

It's a bird, It's a crab, No It's Tempeh Cakes!
Broccoli Slaw

And, maybe Nigella Lawson's Bagels.

Also, I came across a tin of sardines from Portugal this week (ah, the perks of the museum world...), and if anyone would have a use for it, I would be more than happy to give it away. Let me know, by commenting on this entry!

Good luck to everyone!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

BACON MANIA?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Hey Everyone,

I would like to channel all of my Hell Week (what we call the last week of classes at Grinnell)- Finals-graduation-frustration into one big rant about bacon.

I know I'm biased since I've never even tried bacon before, but, whatever, I can judge if I want to.


Y'all should eat salads. Not porcine carcass.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

You need a conversation piece on your bedside table

Hi Everyone,

It's been a long time since we wrote a fully collaborative post from Amanda's bed. We are enjoying our Valentine's Day with a relaxing tea!

And, here's a video: