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.

Month: July, 2012

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.