This August marks the 15th anniversary of the year that I moved to New York and started college. That may seem like a semi random milestone, but working at my alma mater and getting to speak to the new first students during their orientation every year keeps me close to that eager / nervous / hopeful / standing at the start of something huge feeling. So yesterday I looked out across an auditorium of 600+ bright young things and really felt all 15 of those years. I thought about what a different world these students live in compared to the one I inhabited at 18. I thought about how far I’ve come since then, all of the complicated ways I felt about starting school, and what that first year was like (impossible, joyful, transformative). And, because I of course always come back to food, I thought about how many kidney beans I ate that year.
There are times when one has to throw things like kale and quinoa and caution to the wind, and just have a serious indulgence. These little treats are for exactly those times. A mix of chocolate, nuts, candy bars, salt, sugar, and butter (so much butter) baked until everything melts together on a graham cracker base, these salted toffee chocolate squares are a dessert that doesn’t look like much, but will knock your socks off. I remember bringing some in for my students once and watching one gal surreptitiously open the tupperware they were hiding in before our meeting started. She took a big whiff, her eyes got wide, and she turned to me and said, “Jessica! WHAT ARE THESE?” and then made the next couple of folks who came into the office smell them, too.
Greetings from my empty living room in Springfield, Illinois. I’m typing this from our card table/desk/dining table/only piece of furniture in the upper level of the house. We’ve been here since Sunday and we’re settling in, inch by inch. The past few days have felt exciting [new chapter!], sad [leaving home, friends, family], messy [dust-mud-chaos], happy [first wedding anniversary], stressful [furniture delayed for a week], and fun [life with Ed is always fun]. I can barely process all of the feelings I’m feeling. Every time I start to put my thoughts into words, our dog starts whining or the contractors shoot nails into concrete or the house makes a sound I have to investigate. In other words, I’m distracted. So instead of words, I’m sharing pictures. Below are a few shots from the past couple of days and a recipe for granola that’s been a frequent breakfast and a constant snack during this period of transition.
Stunning. Delicious. Easy. This ice cream cake has it all. Layers of blood orange sorbet and vanilla ice cream add up to a rare treat: a refreshing, yet satisfying dessert. Ordinarily, I am no fan of sorbet. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way—a lot of us need at least a little fat in our sweets. Tracy from Shutterbean had us in mind when she created the original version of this recipe, which included raspberry sorbet, mango sorbet, and vanilla ice cream. As she said on her blog, “that little bit of vanilla ice cream in there makes it feel super decadent.” I made the raspberry-mango-vanilla cake to end a summerific meal of ribs, corn, bourbon, and tomatoes. We left the table neither groaning from fullness nor scrounging for a piece of chocolate—the sorbet-ice cream combo was the perfect finale.
Back in March, Laura organized and threw the most perfect for me bridal shower imaginable. It was a brunch with my seven dearest friends at the sweetest possible Brooklyn restaurant, and she planned the whole thing all the way from Boston. It was truly one of the most special days of my life so far. I felt spoiled, grateful, treasured, full of love, and just plain full: we ate SO well. Pastries and biscuits, three different kinds of scrambled eggs, granola and yogurt, crispy bacon, gorgeous fruit salad, french toast, and the most delicious ricotta to spread on thick pieces of toast or to mix with fruit compote. That ricotta made an impact. Three of the girls and I have been back to have it again (some of us twice), and it was such a hit that it inspired me to try making my own.
Friday nights in my house are rarely about cooking, but I’m starting to think that should change. We typically save painting the town for Saturday, and on Fridays collapse on the couch with delivery food. This should feel like a treat, the way my family’s Friday pizza nights–a break for my awesome mom after a week of making breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a family of four–did growing up, but on weeks when we’re already leaning pretty heavily on the delivery option, doing it again on Friday can feel less like a celebratory start to the weekend than like more of the same. For nights like that, when I want to step it up and feel like I’m kicking the weekend off right, I need recipes like this. Super quick and easy, full of summer flavors, and only four ingredients to grab at the grocery store on the way home. Fewer, if you’re lucky enough to be growing basil or cherry tomatoes this summer. Bump the list up to five if you want to make a stop at the wine store (you do, of course).
I love it when I leave a bookstore feeling ravenous and inspired. It means I’ve found a cache of great cookbooks—a place I can get lost dreaming about my culinary potential, admiring the creativity of the world’s best chefs, and planning my next ten meals. Cookbook junkies like me are especially at home in Boston. The combination of a lively dining scene and a brainy community has resulted in a handful of stores tailor-made for us bookish food lovers. I made it my duty to find the best of the best—the shops with the most unique, vast, or thoughtful collections. I explored 17 stores in the city and surrounding towns, hitting up bookstores, kitchen shops, and boutiques. Below are the five destinations I believe will delight even the most casual cookbook admirer.