Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer Girl's night

The menu:

Zucchini strand spaghetti (adapted from Deb, the wonderful blogger and mom behind Smitten Kitchen)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound whole-wheat dried spaghetti
1 1/2 pounds zucchini  (two rather large 12-14 inch zucchini)
1/4 cup olive oil  (I used hot pepper oil from the expensive but lovely O and Co on Newbury Street)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil in the largest stockpot you have and add salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.  While the water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, cut the zucchini with the fine French-fry cutter on a mandoline. If you do not have one, cut by hand into the longest, finest julienne you can manage. Season with salt and pepper. If your zucchini is very finely cut, it does not need to be cooked. Otherwise, place in a metal colander, suspend over the pasta pot, cover the pot, and steam the zucchini until still slightly crunchy, about 2 minutes.  Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic and saute briefly until light brown. Turn on the exhaust fan and add the red pepper flakes. Quickly mix in the basil and remove from the heat. When the pasta is al dente, drain through a colander, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.  Pour the pasta into a warm serving bowl; add the zucchini, oil, the garlic mixture, and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Toss well, adding cooking water as needed to make a smooth sauce. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as needed. Grate about 2 tablespoons Parmesan over the top and serve at once. 

Farmer's market plums and blueberries

Blue Fin Viognier ($3.99 at Trader Joe's, good with the spicy pasta)

Maple spice ice cream --turned root beer float!  (adapted from The New York Times)

1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cups heavy cream
6 cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk

In a small saucepan over medium heat, reduce maple syrup by half, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan over medium-low heat, simmer one cup cream with cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon and salt, stirring occasionally until cream begins to simmer, about 5 minutes. Allow to stand, off heat, for 20 minutes. Strain into a bowl, discarding spices. Stir in reduced maple syrup, remaining cup cream and the milk. Transfer bowl to refrigerator or set into an ice bath to chill. When cold, pour into bowl of an ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a container and freeze until solid, at least 2 hours. Let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving, or in refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes. Spoon into a glass, and top off with good root beer (Virgil's, A and W).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

heat wave!

 Weather, seriously?  I want to be outside all week!

Friday, July 15, 2011

now and then

Then: two about-to-be-graduates in biology at the girl's graduation brunch I hosted at 1305 Roosevelt during our last few days at IWU. 

Now: one girl finishing her third year at MIT in bioengineering, another doing an away rotation at a clinic in Maine for her third year of medical school.  And we're still all smiles. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer girl's night

The menu:

Rosemary citrus spritzers (adapted from here)

2 lemons
2 oranges
4 (4-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey

Peel off thick strips of zest from 1 lemon.  Juice the lemons and oranges into a liquid measuring cup – you should have about 1 cup of juice. Top off with water if necessary to make 1 cup.  Combine zest, juice, rosemary, sugar, and honey in a saucepan over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugars.  Remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes. Strain, discard solids, and let syrup cool completely.  To serve, fill an 8-ounce glass halfway with ice cubes, add syrup, alcohol to taste (I used gin), and fill glass to the top with soda water.

Mediterranean Nachos

Pile blue corn tortilla chips with kalamata olives, feta cheese and mozzarella cheese--broil or microwave until cheese is nice and melty.  Add scallions and enjoy!  (also good with tomatoes, ground lamb, lots of options)

Coffee Amaretto Ice Cream

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder
2 cups heavy cream (one pint)
Amaretto (Disaronno, while not required, is always better.  Always)

Whisk together sugar, milk, and coffee.  Add cream and continue to whisk.  Add between 1 tablespoon and 1/4 cup amaretto and chill.  Process in ice cream maker and freeze.

PS:  squash blossoms!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rick comes to visit!

Jet-lagged and exhausted from the 45 hour journey from the other side of the globe, Rick and I started his few days vacation here with a culture shock:  pasta without chopsticks!  ("where are they?  I can't eat pasta with a fork anymore!")

From there, we went all-American and made both chex mix and puppy chow for the next evening's festivities in the Penthouse.  Life?  Deliciously American.  

On Tuesday, we ended up walking across the bridge (hello, arms, you so white!  No worries, mom, the 15 minute walk gave me the only sun I'll be getting sans sunscreen this summer). 
Symphony Hall, decked out for the Pops

Boston Pops + 1812 Overture + howitzers = I love America.

The MFA entrance, highlighting the Chihuly exhibit.

So here's the thing.  Rick and I met long ago at band camp.  Ha.  This was also about two years after American Pie came out, much to the chagrin of flute players everywhere.  Anyways, we were up at the University of Minnesota, Duluth for a week, a time that felt Extremely Grown Up.  We shared dorm rooms, we made our own decisions about free time, we ate what we wanted to, ah, freedom.

And oh goodness--we also played unsanctioned ultimate frisbee at midnight, propping doors open to make sure we could.  There was also the fact that the boys playing were shouting random things for the charge after every point (kind of like the kick off in football) and this degraded into shouting about one of my friends  "---- is hot!" as well as applying this to other young ladies in the crowd, even yours truly.  I can't remember, though, exactly why.  My memory is obviously fading in my old age, for I can't remember if Gena told one of the guys to do it to make me feel better, or if I made some smart aleck comment, or if they just cycled through the names of the brave young lasses who decided to join them for the fun.  Ah well, that is one story lost to time.  (in trying my best to remember what actually happened that night, I did some checking into old emails and my word, what gossip I have forgotten.  Ha!)

Rick, in particular, was a character.  He walked around with a little black book, taking down funny stories, addresses, people, soaking it all in.  He and the other percussionists had a great time together, and in their exploring found the University of Minnesota at Duluth Art Museum, which just happened to be showing an extended documentary about Dale Chihuly.  And then they watched the entire thing, no joke.  They invited us all to watch with them, and we kind of looked at them like they were nuts.  (and they were).  Since then, Chihuly has been a great joke between Rick and I, hence the visit to the MFA's exhibit being of paramount importance. 

Shadow of a chandelier

The thing I love most about Chihuly is that he is completely without artistic pretensions; when asked to describe the boat piece he said, "Well, I was dropping my glass pieces in a stream just because, and I was paying some local boys to put it back in the boat for me.  I liked how they all looked in the boat." 

He also loved Pendleton blankets.

It's impossible to really show this room to scale.  It was incredible.

These are details from the Persian ceiling.  I want them in my bathroom.  (when I marry a zillionaire, obviously).

photo credit:  MFA, my camera batteries died.  The story behind this one?  "So I was in the glass factory in Amsterdam that had really high ceilings, and I just wanted to see how tall I could make them!"  Excellent.

The night ended with dinner at the Cambridge Brewing Company followed by a couple rounds at Drink, a local establishment with somewhat Prohibitionist decor (the guys wear suspenders, be still my heart!)   Drinks are expensive, especially for a grad student that doesn't go out much.  But, they are worth the money, and the bartenders are wonderful. Knowledgeable and friendly, I don't think they'd do this job unless they loved it.

All smiles in front of 77 Mass Ave before heading back to Minnesota.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Girl's night

The menu:

Prosecco and saft (fruit juice concentrate)

Add fruit syrup to ice, add Prosecco, and stir lightly.  Easy peasy.


Roll out your pizza crust of choice (I use frozen leftovers from the McCormick pizza nights). 

Toppings for this evening:
--fig preserves, goat cheese and caramelized onions
--pancetta, caramelized onions, and olive tampenade

Cherry mascarpone ice cream (adapted from Not So Humble Pie)

1 1/2 cups fresh cherries
1/4 cup golden brown sugar (or light brown)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (homemade!  see here)
1 large egg
splash of lemon juice
splash of cherry kirsch, if desired (um, yes)

Combine cherries and brown sugar and mix until well blended in a food processor.  Add the remaining ingredients and blend for roughly 15-20 seconds.  Chill the mixture for 30-60 minutes and then prepare in your ice cream maker according to the manufacture's instructions.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fourth of July

(photos courtesy of Nick, a mechanical engineering student at MIT and photographer---he took some great photos throughout the night, leaving me free to co-host and enjoy the evening)

This may be my favorite photo - for it shows just how crowded the Penthouse was!  We had about 60 friends there, all watching the fireworks.

The calm after the storm.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 2011

 (new graffiti on the Mass Ave bridge, it made me smile)


Elizabeth Shippen Green is one of my new favorite artists.  There's a biography written about her and two other female artists of the times that I've requested from the library - I can't wait to read it.

 Hipster Lord of the Rings

On the docket:

--Fourth of July party, tomorrow! 

--a friend coming to visit!  I haven't seen him in forever, so this will be fabulous.

--HOME.  Cabin, beer, hammock, family, brats, writing letters to friends (let me know if you want one!), ice cream, lake, swimming, toasted Peeps, Hillary, and starry nights. 

--girl's nights are fast becoming my favorite evenings of the week; good food, company, and a view.  What more could I ask for?

--more ice cream, fruit, summer, all good things.