pie beta kappa

this blog is for the servantless but professional overachiever who is concerned with assignments, deadlines, and changing the world, and still wants to find the time to enjoy producing something wonderful to eat.

roast pumpkin with cheese fondue

OCTOBER IS FOR PUMPKINS. The beautiful, symmetrical, bright orange squash evokes images of red orange brown maple leaves swirling along dirt paths, big puffed-up tom turkeys strutting outside a fenced-in garden, and kitchen tables spread with newspaper for pumpkin-carving.

Would we enjoy our pumpkins so much if we had them for more than a month or two? Or does their scarcity a luxury make?

The longer you think about the question, the less time you have to make delicious recipes with pumpkins while they are here.

Roast Pumpkin with Cheese Fondue, from Gourmet

Because I follow the simple, delicious recipe to the letter without adapting it, I am linking to its original online iteration. The basic premise of the “fondue” is that you hollow out a pumpkin which acts both as baking container and vegetable concoction. Once the pumpkin is emptied of its stringy contents and the seeds cleaned, seasoned, and popped into the oven to bake for their own fun snack, you layer toasted baguette slices, shredded Gruyere and Emmental cheese, and a cream/nutmeg/salt/pepper/broth concoction inside of the pumpkin until it is full.

Then, you place the top of the pumpkin back on, brush the outside of the pumpkin with oil, and bake it until the pumpkin flesh is soft and the bread and cheese inside is puffy and delightfully gooey.

Go sit upon the lofty hill,
and turn your eyes around,
where waving woods and waters wild
do hymn an autumn sound…
“The Autumn,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning

simple stir fry

IN EVERY JOB, in every world, “busy weeks” mean different things.  Sometimes there is one project keeping you up all hours of the day and night, sometimes there are fifty things you are juggling.  The most high-stress and time-consuming event for me, as any trial lawyer* will agree, is trial.  Recently, the American Bar Association brought up the topic of what lawyers eat to prepare (or how they otherwise physically prepare) for trial, prompted by a Houston defense attorney’s post titled “Eggs Win Trials.”

For me, it’s less the type of food and more of the preparation.  When that busy week strikes, if I know it’s coming, one of the best things I can do for myself is to make large quantities of long-lasting, easily-prepared, inexpensive-to-make food on Sunday night.  Why is this so helpful?  Three reasons: time, health, and guilt.

1.  Time.  If I fix enough so that I have a good amount of leftovers, I am taking back the time every day that fixing dinner or that going out of my way to a restaurant to pick up food takes away.  The latter is a bigger time sink than you think, when you add up the extra driving and the preparation time.  What happens to that golden extra time?  Maybe I spend it doing more work, maybe I spend it taking a deep breath or reading something by Michael Chabon or watching something light on TV to unwind, it all depends.  It doesn’t matter: I’m giving myself the gift of more time in a week where you can use it most.

2.  Health.  The siren song of quick-and-easy-takeout is strongest in the busiest of weeks.  Maybe it’s to save time, maybe it’s because you have no extra effort to spend on cooking, maybe because you think of it as a reward to keep yourself going; in any event, many if not most takeout options are not the best for you.  Sure, once in a while is fine, but your body will feel better if you’re treating it well.  Having guaranteed healthy food sitting in your refrigerator at home is the best excuse you can give yourself to resist.

3.  Guilt.  I feel guilty when I go a week without cooking or when I find myself eating a lot of fast-and-easy takeout.  In weeks when I need one hundred percent of my attention on the work at hand, I certainly don’t need any mental space taken up by an undercurrent of guilt for the food I’m eating.  Not to mention the fact that feeling guilty, in general, just doesn’t feel good.

One of my favorites, for its ease in cooking and storage, its combination of meat, vegetables, and rice, and of course its taste, is a simple stir fry I found in my very first cookbook by Better Homes & Gardens.  It’s easy, it’s quick, its vegetables maintain their crispness over several days, and if you double the recipe it can last a good 2-4 meals depending on how many mouths you’re feeding.  One of my secret weapons (and by secret weapons I mean “ingredients I love and seek out recipes that use them”) is corn, and–while I change the form of it (the original recipe had whole baby corn)–I think it adds more pop to the recipe.  Pun unintended but embraced.

*One Major Caveat: High stress does not mean miserable.  I refer to the profession as a “trial lawyer” and not just a “lawyer” because not all attorneys are trial lawyers; many have jobs that seldom see the inside of a courtroom.  One or the other is not inferior, they are both under the giant umbrella of People Who Practice Law.  Given those parameters, anyone who willingly chooses to become a trial lawyer is someone who enjoys the rush, who can survive the stress, and who has a lot of fun speaking with a captive audience.

Szechuan Beef Stir Fry, adapted slightly from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

12 oz. boneless beef top round steak
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 cup carrots, sliced on the bias
14 oz. kernels of fresh corn
1 red sweet pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups hot cooked rice
1/2 bunch thinly sliced green onions

Place meat in freezer for several minutes before removing and slicing into bite-sized pieces.

In a small bowl, mix the orange juice, soy sauce, water, hoisin sauce, ginger, cornstarch, sugar, garlic, and crushed red pepper.

Heat cooking oil in a wok over medium-high heat.  Add carrot and cook for 2 minutes.  Add red pepper and cook for 1 minute.  Add corn and cook for 1 minute.  Remove vegetables from wok and set aside in a heat-proof covered container.

Pat meat dry if needed and add to wok and cook until slightly pink in center, approximately 2-4 minutes depending on stovetop and wok.  This may require cooking the meat in several batches.  Push the meat up on the sides of the wok.

Stir sauce and pour into center of wok.  Heat until thick and bubbly (this is definitely a “you’ll know it when you see it” thing).  Add vegetables to wok and stir all ingredients until coated in sauce.

Serve warm over rice and top with sliced green onions.

Some people blanch their corn before using it.  I don’t.

life as we know it

SO… sometimes life gets in the way of cooking and writing.  And that’s okay.  One of the realizations that took me far too long to reach was that sometimes, being an adult is defined by acknowledging that you cannot do everything and it is best for everyone if you just pick up dinners on the way home from work for a week or two.

Back to regular posts next week, but in the meantime… sometimes a long week needs a happy place midway through it.

See you next week!


croque madame

DURING THE YEAR of my life that I spent in DC, I didn’t splurge much. I tried to keep meals at five dollars or less, without resorting to the peanut butter and jelly solution. I did a lot of the classic cooking-one-pasta-dish-to-be-dinner-for-the-week technique, I balanced a lot of home-brewed cups of coffee on very crowded metros, and I knew everything that was on sale at Safeway every day.  That said, there were a few occasions for loosening the purse strings: the Super Bowl and the world’s greatest seven-layer dip, my roommate’s birthday, and the weekends when M. would visit.  Those were the luxurious weekends when I got my fundamentals from Safeway but wandered the wonderland of Whole Foods for everything else.  On those weekends, I felt rich.

The very first time M. visited after I moved to DC is the one I remember most, gastronomically speaking. I puttered around the kitchen (as much as one can putter in a tiny apartment kitchen) while M. slept off his red eye flight and created a daunting Saturday brunch with cinnamon blueberry muffins, hash browns, and asparagus and leek frittata, all homemade, with mango blueberry fool for dessert. I couldn’t afford a test run, so I was as careful as I could be and prayed it would all work out. And it did, for the most part.  As much effort as I put  into it, though, my brain remembers the recipes but my senses don’t remember  the taste.

No, it was the one-dish Sunday morning breakfast that my taste buds remember from that weekend.  There are some cooks who find a very difficult meal with lots of preparation to taste better than if the same meal was made by another.  There are others for whom all that work somehow psychologically detracts from the meal, as though the labor has tired their taste buds.  I am neither here nor there. Good food is good food.  I live to eat.

And so, when I tell you that the croque madame that I made (and made, and made, and made) was just perfect, I am not telling you this from behind butter-tinted glasses.  Yes, I made it, but the making does not enhance the taste.  And yes, butter is a key ingredient.  You might not want to eat this every day, three times a day, for the rest of your life.  (Well, you might want to, but you shouldn’t.)  But taking a classic French grilled cheese (croque monsieur) and adding a roux-based cheese sauce and fried egg on top is absolutely brilliant for an occasional and delightful breakfast/brunch/lunch/dinner.

A few words of advice.  As the cook, you have the singular benefit of having all the ingredients at your disposal while you create.  If you have a recipe whose sauce recipe makes more than you will use, and a crusty loaf whose ends are not sandwich material, seize the day and do what any self-respecting cook would do.  Dip crusty bread in wonderful roux-based cheese sauce and nibble while you cook.  Consider it the home field advantage.

CROQUE MADAME, adapted from Gourmet

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
small loaf freshly-baked artisan bread (recommended: sour batard)
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
8 slices black forest ham
4 large eggs

Preheat broiler, and lightly oil a shallow baking pan large enough to hold four sandwiches. (This will depend on the size of your loaf.)

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over moderately low heat. Add flour and whisk constantly for no more than three minutes. Add milk, bring to a boil, still whisking constantly.

Reduce heat, simmer for five minutes while whisking on occasion. Whisk in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere. Stir until cheese is entirely melted. Remove from heat and cover.

Cut eight slices from the loaf approximately 1/2″ thick each. Spread mustard on four of the slices and top mustard-covered slice with two slices of black forest ham.

Spoon roux-based sauce on the remaining four slices of bread. Sprinkle approximately 1/4 cup cheese on top of each sauce-laden piece of bread. Invert mustard-and-ham slices onto sauce-and-cheese slices to form sandwiches.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet on moderately-low heat. Cook sandwiches in skillet, approximately three to four minutes per side, until cheese is melted and bread is golden-brown. Transfer sandwiches to baking pan.

Remove skillet from heat.

Spoon sauce on top of each sandwich. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of sauce and place in oven inches from broiler for several minutes until sauce is bubbly and top cheese is melted.

Heat remaining tablespoon of butter in skillet over moderate heat and crack eggs into skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Fry until whites are set and yolks are still runny.

Place an egg on each sandwich and serve immediately.

happy birthday julia

JULIA CHILD would be 100 today. I know, this isn’t the only food blog pointing out this out. But come on, people. Just because something is this celebrated doesn’t mean that it’s not cool to cover it. It would be like a law blog failing to cover Sandra Day O’Connor’s 100th birthday. How could you?

My generation wasn’t revolutionized by Julia Child’s work. By the time we came of cooking age, the (first) world believed that gourmet cooking was accessible to everyone. Cookbooks abound, food has multiple channels devoted to its craft full-time, and food blogs are popping up everywhere. Cooking is a friendly, social, approachable activity. And so, before Julie Powell and Hollywood and the media reminded us of her importance and her impact, we didn’t fully know what we owed her.  But, perhaps, the best legacy a person can leave is to so transform a field that those who come after don’t realize how far it has come, because the changes you make become normal and the revolution becomes invisible.

Confession time. I grew up watching a lot of cooking shows with my mother. Julia Child’s “The French Chef” was one of them; however, my single-digit self favored “The Frugal Gourmet.” (Why? I have no idea. The six-year-old heart wants what the six-year-old heart wants.) She was so far off my radar that, while I like everyone else picked up a copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” when “Julie & Julia” came out, I didn’t actually cook anything from it. Until this week, I had never cooked a single Julia Child recipe.

Not only that, but I had never baked a cake.

So yes, this post is a doozie.  First Julia Child recipe, first cake.  I chose the butter spongecake (biscuit au berre) complete with buttercream frosting (creme au berre).  And, while I didn’t drop the cake on the floor or make some other drastic yet comical mistake a la the great Julia Child, I learned a very important lesson.

You may be thinking, wow that frosting looks easy.  Its recipe involves only four ingredients and one short paragraph of description: what could go wrong? Soft creamy buttercream frosting, my friend, becomes a solid very, very easily. And then you are left with creamy-looking buttercream frosting that is frozen in place: beautiful and untouchable until it warms back up.  A word of warning: when cooling buttercream frosting, keep a very close eye on it.

Beyond that, the butter spongecake and the buttercream frosting was delicious.  Very simple tasting in a good way, replete with lots of butter (as all good desserts should be).  M. isn’t big on desserts, but he ate this right up.  The cake can also be served with just a dusting of sifted powdered sugar, but I recommend the buttercream frosting.  Unfrozen, that is.

Happy birthday, Julia, and bon appetit.

cantaloupe margaritas

FRUIT IS ART.  I don’t mean an oil canvas of a bowl of oranges, or a black and white photograph of grapes in a vineyard.  I mean, fruit.  A simple bowl of fresh green limes and bright yellow lemons, clusters of deep red cherries punctuated by light green stems, and shiny piles of apples.  My personal favorite is a pineapple.  There are days when I am not in the mood to eat pineapple — perhaps, as is all too often the case, I’ve recently eaten too much of it and my mouth still aches with the tart memory — but I still end up buying one just to place the beautiful, tropical piece of art on the counter above my sink until I give in and slice it up and eat too much of it once more.

Vegetables have featured prominently here at PBK to date (they are oh-so-photogenic, after all), but both vetegables and fruit had (and still have) a strong place in my mother’s kitchen.  The crisper was always filled with fresh produce from the garden or store or farmer’s market, and a beautiful tiered basket displays to this day apples, bananas and peaches.  It was always there, right in front of us, always accessible.  Growing up, the fruit was like the proverbial girl or boy next door: you never want the good-for-you, heart-healthy option.  Instead, you dream of breaded potato wedges dipped in thick ranch dressing at the nearby market where you got a 32 ounce soda for fifty cents if you said hello to the owner, Rob.  (He was always there, always at the register, and always said hello first.)

Despite our childish tendencies, my brother and I grew up eating a lot of fruit.  Cantaloupe was always one of my favorites, and remains at or near the top of my all-time fruit list.  When I discovered amazing cantaloupe-based melon agua frescas sold at a hole-in-the-wall taqueria near M.’s old apartment, I knew it would be a project.

First I tried Bon Appetit’s cantaloupe basil agua fresca, but the basil added too much of a different flavor.  I wanted that fresh cantaloupe taste, not an herb that detracted from it.  So I began experimenting with basic agua fresca components: cantaloupe, lime, water, sugar, ice.  And somewhere along the way, trying to emulate the taqueria’s aqua fresca turned into “ooh, let’s make it a margarita!”

If I had to choose a single word to describe the first batch, it wouldn’t be a word at all.  It would be the face I made when I tasted it and all my tongue registered was the bite of liquor.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped thinking about the subtleties of cantaloupe flavoring and I forgot the true value of a shot of tequila.  And yet, mistakes beget invention.  It was in attempting to remedy the “I only taste tequila” problem that the two-step combination was born: first, the liquor is mixed with more concentrated cantaloupe juice and put on ice.  Then, a more diluted cantaloupe mixture with sugar and lime and ice water is mixed into the I’m-gonna-need-to-see-some-ID batch to produce a lovely summer drink. 

A word of warning: this isn’t a college margarita.  It doesn’t put on strappy sandals and a low-cut top and stay out until four AM.  It’s a low-key, fresh mix that sits on the porch on a warm afternoon and watches the shadows stretch across the land.


2 ripe cantaloupes, cored and chopped sans rind, divided
3 ounces tequila (2 shots)
1.5 ounces triple sec (1 shot)
2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons lime juice, divided
3 cups cold water
1 1/2 cups ice

Place one cantaloupe’s worth of chopped cantaloupe in a blender.  Liquefy (or blend a lot if you don’t have a snazzy liquefy setting).  Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl.  Discard remaining solids (there shouldn’t be many if you blended enough).

Add tequila, triple sec, and 2 teaspoons lime juice; mix.  Add 1 1/2 cups of ice.

Clean strainer of all solids.

Place remaining chopped cantaloupe in blender.  Add 1 1/2 cups cold water, remaining 1 teaspoon lime juice, and sugar.  Blend/liquefy.  Pour through strainer into a bowl, discard solids.

Combine iced tequila mixture and diluted cantaloupe sugar mixture.  Rim glasses with a small amount of salt (any more overpowers the cantaloupe).  Ladle mixture into glasses, add extra ice if needed, and enjoy.

maple banana pecan bread

TO CALL IT BREAD feels like cheating, somehow.  Sure, it has that quintessential loaf “shape.”  They contain those essential building blocks of baking: flour, sugar, salt, eggs, butter.  But banana bread is so thick, so moist, so sweet.  So fundamentally different from crusty baguettes and rounded sourdough and whorled rye.

And yet.  When I tried some standard banana bread recipes, it just didn’t quite hit the spot.  First I made a loaf of the Cook’s Illustrated The Best Banana Bread.  Then I took the recipe for Ina Garten’s Banana Crunch Muffins and poured two thirds of the recipe into a loaf pan and baked it for a lot longer than the muffins would have required.  And then I decided that, while the former may be the best banana bread I’ve ever eaten, I wanted something more.

My inspiration was butter pecan ice cream.  And the thing is, I didn’t even eat the ice cream recently for it to inspire me.  Its siren song was that strong.  And so I substituted toasted pecans for the walnuts, topped it with whole pecans, and coated the whole thing with a layer of maple syrup for added sweetness.  And it was better than the best banana bread.  It was maple banana pecan bread.

And then it was gone.

MAPLE BANANA PECAN BREAD, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Best Banana Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups toasted pecans, all but 8-10 coarsely chopped
3 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten slightly
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees after adjusting rack to middle of oven.

Butter bottom and sides of 9″x5″ loaf pan and set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and chopped pecans in large bowl, mix until combined and pecans are coated.

Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon.  Lightly fold banana mixture into dry mixture until just combined.  Batter will look thick and chunky.

Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan.  Place remaining whole pecans on top of batter.  Drizzle maple syrup across top of batter until thinly coated.

Bake until loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, approximately 55 minutes depending on the temperament of your oven.  Cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove and cool on cooling rack.

Serve warm if possible.

all bananas must grow up

LAST WEEK I set out to try two different banana bread recipes and concoct my own. This was going to be a big step, with the whole trying-to-prove-you-know-the-rules-by-breaking-them bit, and it promised to be a fun project in the kitchen. Alas, the week dragged on, and on, and rolled into a whole new week, with one tiny insignificant problem.

You know how, no matter how unripe bananas may be when you buy them, they still brown faster than you seem to be able to eat them? Well, my problem to date with my banana bread project is the inverse. Last week, I bought the ripest, yellowest bananas I could find because good super-ripe bananas are essential to a good banana bread. And let me tell you, in their high school yearbook, these bananas were voted Most Likely To Brown Quickly. And yet, like the proverbial watched pot that cannot boil, these bananas cannot ripen fast enough.

Stay tuned…

the slump

IT’S BEEN ONE OF THOSE WEEKS.  The ones where nothing goes right in the kitchen.  The pan was too hot for the eggs I scrambled on Saturday (my simple-weekend-staple with goat cheese that never, never fails), my well-honed melon-divining skills failed me on Sunday, and I even messed up the rice in Monday’s dinner.  Rice!  As Jo March would say, I couldn’t boil water without burning it.  (Very close to it, actually — the water and jasmine rice boiled, then burned.)

I like to think that Ina Garten and Bobby Flay have those days, too.  The ones where the vegetables burn while the chicken remains undercooked, where the jam won’t set to save its life, where the butter that you’re trying to help soften just a little bit suddenly becomes very yellow, very melted butter.  I would like to think that Julia Child had a cooking slump once in her life.

I suppose this is a roundabout apology for no real new post this week.  I finally gave up, and as the temperatures rose and my cooking slump worsened, I finally succumbed and went off the grid.  I put away the camera, took out a spoon and  four ingredients and the ice cream maker M. and I got as a wedding gift and made undocumented, no pressure peach ice cream.  The recipe was in the Food Network Magazine’s editor’s note, and combines 14 oz. condensed milk, 8-9 peeled, pitted and sliced peaches, 1 cup of sugar, and 36 ounces of peach soda to create a an almost-sorbet-like, almost-fizzy, very peachy ice cream.  (In case you’re wondering, puree the first three ingredients until the peaches are in very small pieces, mix in the soda, and let the ice cream maker do the rest.)  It was quick and simple and delicious, the perfect thing for a warm July evening and, hopefully, the perfect solution to a cooking slump.

But even if it didn’t solve my slump… I have ice cream.

farmer’s market pasta

JULY IS HERE, and all I want are delicious foods made from fresh fruits and vegetables.  And maybe a few grilled things smelling of smoky goodness.  And ice cream.  Homemade ice cream.  But, I digress.

I spent a year in Washington, DC, not so very long ago.  While I was there, I created some very strong food memories.  It was in DC that I had my first (amazing) Ethiopian food.  It was where I learned how to make a good red wine reduction.  It was where I ate chili cheese fries at Ben’s Chili Bowl while listening to “Man in the Mirror” right after Michael Jackson died.  And yet, the strongest food memory I took away from me in DC was its produce.

As a California girl, I expect supermarkets to be brimming with beautiful, firm, fresh fruits and vegetables.  In DC, particularly in the summertime, I would enter a Safeway to find limp green onions and sad-looking lettuce.  The one refuge from the effects of a humid city far from places that grow tropical things was Whole Foods.  I was the ghost that wandered the aisles, a girl on a budget who just wanted to be in the shiny, well-lit place with piles of perfect red, yellow, orange and green peppers that could have been a Crayola advertisement.  On a very rare day I would let myself shop for ingredients for one dish, a rare splurge.

So what does that have to do with anything?  It has to do with farmer’s market pasta.  It’s a dish that really blooms with fresh ingredients (hence, the title).  But, at the same time, the combinations of flavors (including the pesto and the bacon) means that it can rejuvenate some vegetables that might not have made it past the Whole Foods audition.  And so I exhort: if you can, get the freshest vegetables for this dish.  But if you can’t, it will still be pretty darn good.

FARMER’S MARKET PASTA, adapted from Zucchini, Corn, and Basil Fusilli in Gourmet, July 2008

1 pound fusilli
8 slices bacon
4 ears corn, kernels cut from the cob
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, coarsely chopped
10 ounces (1 package) grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
5-7 ounces pesto
freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
freshly-grated black pepper

Cook bacon until crispy.  When cooled, chop into small pieces and set aside.

Cook fusilli in a  pot of boiling salted water until al dente.  Reserve enough water to cover the bottom of your pot with 1/2″ of hot water.  Drain and rinse pasta with cold water to stop cooking.

Add zucchini and corn to pot and pour reserved hot water on top.  Cook on medium-high heat, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Drain.

Combine zucchini, corn, and pasta in large bowl.  Add pesto and mix until combined.  Add grape tomatoes and mix.

Dish up pasta, garnish with bacon, fresh pepper, and fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.


Use a very sharp knife when slicing the grape tomatoes, and halve or quarter depending on size.  The grape tomatoes add a nice zing that cherry tomatoes, in my opinion, do not.  Though, in full disclosure, I must admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of cherry tomatoes.  When my brother and I were young, we were given the chore of harvesting from our mother’s horrifyingly-plentiful cherry tomato plants.  We picked the tomatoes, and promptly had a cherry tomato war whose memory has outlived our mother’s wrath.

A thought on pesto: the easy thing to do is buy a container of pesto to mix into the pasta.  It’s a perfect easy-fix on a weekday night, and this dish is bound to create leftovers (though not for lack of trying).  Because it seemed like an adventure, and because Things Created For A Food Blog Should Be Homemade, I made my own with this recipe.  It wasn’t particularly flavorful, and seemed like it needed a lot more garlic.  Maybe next time I’ll try Ina’s buy-all-the-garlic-in-Gilroy pesto.

Health-conscious?  Use bacon anyway.  (Just a little!  It’s not like you’re using the drippings, too.)  Okay, okay.  If you’re set on not incorporating bacon, you can substitute prosciutto, or probably a number of meat alternatives, or forego the meat altogether.  That’s the beauty of this recipe.  It likes a lot of different ingredients.  But it loves bacon most.

And finally… I never knew that zucchini has an ugly side, but it does: zucchini come from the  Cucurbitacea family (say that three times fast), along with cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, melons, and gourds.  While this sounds like a downright pleasant (and delicious) family reunion, all of these family members produce chemicals known as cucurbitacins that can cause bitterness.  Most of the time, they exist in such low levels that we don’t taste them at all; however, on a rare occasion, they can ruin your dinner.  So how do you protect your favorite pasta dish?  Well, there’s an old wives’ way and the PBK way.  An old wives’ tale (or an old internet tale, though the two seem to be becoming awfully similar as time goes on) is that the smaller, not as deeply green zucchinis are less likely to be the rare bitter old codgers, but I have yet to find a scientific reason backing this up.  So I suggest the PBK method: for every zucchini you chop up, eat one piece of it just to be sure it’s a good one.  Maybe two pieces, if the chopping is slow.