Flavors of Fall: Apple Muffins

Apple Muffins
Fall is the season of baking in my house, starting with the sugar-studded apple pies of September and October, moving to the spiced pumpkin bread of November, and stretching to the frantically decorated sugar cookies of mid-December. In my perfect world, I’d spend eternity dancing around in the invisible swirls of cinnamon-tinged air. Really, I’d never leave.

Seeing as time won’t be stopping anytime soon, and I can’t always wile away a day eating gingerbread dough by the spoonful (however much I’d like to), my solution is to bring the flavors of fall with me. Muffins, in their serving-size compactness, lend themselves beautifully to this purpose. They do double duty as a quick breakfast and an on-the-go snack. Continue reading

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Clinging to the Last of Summer and its Zucchini

Zucchini Bread
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite season. Fall, in my part of the world, manifests itself in fiery leaves, crisp air, and a lingering aroma of cinnamon. Winter brings the promise of swirling snowfall and hot cocoa by the stovetop. Spring signals new beginnings, boosted by sun-warmed grass to bury my toes in.

Summer, though, just might win out: it is certainly the hardest of all seasons for me to let go. Nothing quite compares to the sun-soaked days of early June; the nighttime dips in a friend’s swimming pool; the rivers of heirloom tomatoes and peaches at the farmers’ market. I’ve spent the first half of September resolutely avoiding any talk of cool air and changing leaves (much as I love them), but in a few days comes the inevitable goodbye to warm, carefree summer. Zucchini cake helps me cope. Continue reading

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Food Photography: Images to Drool Over and Think About

Espresso & Dark Chocolate Dessert

An example of my food photography: Espresso & Dark Chocolate Dessert from the Apple Pie Bakery Café at the Culinary Institute of America

Much as I love drooling over photos of food, I’ve often been reluctant to get behind the camera myself, preferring instead to create my images through writing (or, on a less ambitious day, dream up a more appetizing way to describe things like scrapple). But with the purchase of a new camera and a foray into the blogging world, this is happily changing; nowadays I find myself snapping photos of fruits and vegetables for the fun of it. I’m drawing the line there, though. I’m not so sure I have the chops (or patience to deal with bulky equipment) to become a bona fide “Foodspotter.”

Some of the best food photography I’ve seen appears in the New York Times Dining & Wine section. What’s inspiring to me about these photos is not just that the food looks great or that the composition is perfectly balanced (which it often is), but that the photographers seem to inject their own sensibilities of food into each image. This suggests that, at its best, food photography can be as much a blank canvas game as any style of photography or art.

If you have a little time on your hands and want to see what I’m talking about, check out the links below. They’ll take you to the online portfolios to some of the Times‘s best food photographers/stylists (and to those of other freelancers). Continue reading


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Simple Spinach Soup

Spinach Soup
I’ve yet to meet a problem that can’t be cured with soup. Fevers, lousy colds, even just the sniffles? There’s a bowl of briny, chunky chicken soup for that. Bad breakup? Skip the raw cookie dough and go for a thick tomato, with some generously buttered wedges of grilled cheese on the side. Continue reading

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Gnocchi Rolling Tips

Gnocchi can be daunting to make—something I recently learned  when whipping up a batch of the pillowy dumplings for the first time. Less daunting is the prospect of creating little grooves in each individual piece of gnocchi so that it better holds the sauce. Compared to the process of making the dough, rolling it out into a rope of even thickness, and trying to keep the gnocchi intact after cutting them (all while handling the dough as little as possible), the final step of rolling the gnocchi off of the back of a fork seems no problem at all.

Funny enough (and unsurprisingly for those who know me), I had more trouble with this last, easy step than with the rest combined. The smooth, ricotta-based dough came together almost effortlessly; and rolling it out afforded the innocent pleasure of play-doh. I attribute the ease of this gnocchi preparation to the near foolproof recipe I used (related post to come!). The one thing the recipe didn’t seem to cover was the proper method for carving in those characteristic indentations. Continue reading

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Straight-from-the-Garden Pasta

Summer Tomato Pasta
The ideal friend, I’ve come to conclude, is one who gardens. Anyone whose backyard consists of a few feet of weedy grass will agree. And even the most avid home gardeners, unless they’re handling an operation of farm-like proportions, can’t grow everything they’d like to.

In my case, I’m not really growing anything I want. My mother, the chief gardener at our house, prefers to fill what outdoor space we have with flowers: marigolds, petunias, daffodils, and other delicate little specimens. They’re pretty and make springtime positively sing with sprays of white, pink, purple—but I can’t eat them. If I had my way, we’d head more in the produce direction.

Seeing as this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, befriending gardeners seems a logical second option. Continue reading


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Cornbread, Made With Corn

It doesn’t get much closer to instant gratification than cornbread. Pile together some combination of flour, cornmeal, and dairy, let it bake for half an hour, and you’re on your way to a golden loaf of down-home comfort.  It’s the epitome of quick bread.

With such a tried and true (and practically foolproof) recipe for success, it seems foolish to tinker with the classic cornbread. But I went ahead and did it anyway. Continue reading

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