a good run of bad luck in the kitchen

Have you made anything absolutely delicious lately? Can you please tell me about it? I’d like to live vicariously through your successes because I’m stuck in a vortex of mediocrity. Like, really stuck.

It started a couple of weeks ago when I set out to tinker with a blackberry cornbread. I’d been inspired by a dish at DC’s Iron Gate—a simple salad of corn, basil, and blackberries. I thought cornbread made with fresh corn would be an even better vehicle for the summer-y combination.

a defiantly uncoupled blackberry cornbread

a defiantly uncoupled blackberry cornbread

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simple is best banana bread

I am lucky in my friends for countless reasons, but high up on the list is how much they have taught me about delicious food. Laura and I almost never have a conversation that doesn’t at least touch on a new recipe or restaurant (do we ever, La?). Molly’s family gave me one of my all time most loved recipes, and she’s single handedly responsible for getting me to eat more sauteed Swiss chard. Katie makes the best homemade hummus in the world and handles her grill like a pro. Laureen introduced me to the wonders of halloumi cheese (best on Katie’s grill) and once made a chicken and waffles dinner that I still dream about. Ellen taught me how to make vodka infused gummy bears. And Sarah, among many other fantastic food things, introduced me to what quickly became my favorite banana bread.

banana bread-j6

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where we eat when we’re in loudoun

We thought it would be fun to do a round-up of the places we frequent when we’re back home in Loudoun County, Virginia. These are the spots we start craving as we pack a bag to visit our parents and the places we’re eager to bring out-of-town guests. Our hometown favorites are a mix of genuinely good food, kitsch, and comfort. Thankfully, we’ve both already had two trips to Virginia this summer, or else writing this post would’ve had us dropping everything and making a beeline for California burritos and blueberry pancakes.

our old stomping grounds has recently been rebranded as dc's wine country (it does have a ton of vineyards). our hangout, magnolia's at the mill, is in the background.

western loudoun county has an ever-expanding roster of vineyards and was recently branded as dc’s wine country. our most frequent hangout spot, magnolia’s at the mill, is in the background.

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quick corn chowder, with shrimp

In my line of work, there are endless getting to know you games. We cover all manner of things: nicknames, pets, siblings, hometowns, family traditions, and any number of favorites. Favorite movie, class, spot in NYC, childhood tv show, book, food. I love learning all of these things about my students, but I especially love hearing them talk about food (no big surprise there). This semester, a student had one of the best answers I’ve heard in a while to the favorite food question: soup. When pressed for specifics the student stuck to their guns. Just soup. All kinds. I thought this was such a great work-around for what has often struck me as an impossible question. With just one word room was made for savory and sweet, hot and cold, and all sorts of tastes and textures. We paused our go round to talk about favorite soups for a while, and I offered up corn cowder as one of the best.

chowder6

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hip to be square blondies

A few years ago, right around the time that cupcake shops were popping up everywhere in DC, I daydreamed about opening a different kind of bakery. It would feature exclusively bar-shaped treats, offering a rotating selection of brownies, blondies, lemon bars, Rice Krispie treats, pecan pie bars, Nanaimo bars, 7-layer bars, etc. The name would be Square Treats and the slogan would be “Raising the Bar.” My mission was to remind the world that there were many more interesting treats out there than cupcakes. I thought that dessert bars had so much potential for flavor and textural variety, but because they’re so humble, they’d never made it out of the home cook’s kitchen and into the spotlight. My bars would be no ordinary from-a-mix bars, nor would they be, as my notebook scribblings described, “the soggy too sweet afterthought found on a corporate dessert tray.” The bakery would elevate the picnic square to a treat worth waiting in line for.

plate-of-blondies

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comfort cooking: tomato and sausage risotto

Laura and I have joked a lot about the abundance of sausage recipes on this site–we have at least ten, and agree that the number seems small, given our strong feelings for one of our shared favorite ingredients. After all, it’s delicious, so dang versatile, one of the easier meats to cook, and always a crowd pleaser. So I could almost hear La laughing all the way from Boston one recent morning when I told Hal I wasn’t sure what to make for dinner, but that I was considering oven baked fajitas, and he responded, “that sounds good…or maybe something with sausage?” You can’t fight destiny. Feeling like I had over-played our usual sausage faves, I hopped onto smitten kitchen and did a quick search. I turned up a recipe from all the way back in 2006, for a risotto with sausage, tomato, and spinach. And oh my word was it good.

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not exactly pretty, definitely delicious.

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leaving new england: strawberry-basil shortcakes

I’m quitting my job, retiring from urban life, and setting my watch to Central Standard Time. In just a few weeks, my husband and I are leaving Boston for Springfield, Illinois. Most people are temporarily dumbfounded when I tell them about the move. I don’t blame them. It’s a radical change and my head has been whirling with random thoughts about the transition. In between choosing movers and memorizing a new zip code, I wonder how it will feel to see for miles across the open plains. I worry about living even farther from my East Coast relatives and friends. I dream of front-row spaces in sprawling grocery store parking lots. I contemplate what New England sights we’ll see in our remaining weeks.

strawberry basil shortcakes / butterpoached.wordpress.com

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