On Living Alone With Strawberries

I live by myself. I don't think we've talked about this yet, but it's a fact that makes itself apparent all the time these days. For example, I am reminded that I live alone when I find myself singing country music at unreasonable volumes, watching Sense and Sensibility two times in a row, flinging my clothes off in the middle of the room before a shower, and eating ice cream straight from the carton (ahem. Not that I do that.) I daresay most of these activities are unsuitable when there are roommates to consider (though, I confess, I often ate ice cream straight from the carton while living with Kath in Boston. She was the best kind of roommate, in that the violation of ice cream cartons didn't seem to bother her. Thanks, Kath.) At any rate, these days I find myself in the position of being able to engage in all of these anti-roommate activities, and I must say that I quite enjoy it. I mean, who wouldn't want to watch back-to-back showings of Sense and Sensibility?

There is one problem, though. Though I can take my clothes off without abandon and listen to whatever music I want at whatever volume I prefer, I cannot by myself eat two full cartons of fresh strawberries from the Union Square Green Market before they go bad. I have tried, and it just can't be done.

Enter: Emily and Casey. And JBursk. Em and Case are my two younger sisters, and they were here visiting over the weekend. JBursk, as you may remember from my faux-halibut post, is my favorite neighbor. She's also the person with whom I spent roughly 7 hours on Thursday, watching good (read: bad) television and eating a tub of strawberries. Now, before you yell at me for spending 7 hours on a weekday watching television and eating berries, I'd just like to remind you that I am a student, and thus do not have to go to an office and "work" during the week. Which I think is pretty great, for now. (Actually, I'm not technically a student yet, but will officially take on student status this afternoon. More on that later.)

At any rate, many strawberries were consumed on Thursday, and that was only the beginning. After JBursk and I spent Thursday popping strawberries straight from the carton, there was still a sizeable mound of the red berries left on my counter. Emily, Casey and I decided to take care of that problem with something called strawberry rhubarb crumble. Thank goodness. I mean, I was thisclose to having to throw out a carton of moldy strawberries! ...Whew. Living alone is nice, but that was a close call. Thank goodness for weekend sister visits, and thank goodness for strawberry rhubarb crumble.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Crumble. The name alone is rustic and sweet. It says "I'm unfussy yet delicious. I'm sweet from my strawberries and tangy from my rhubarb. I'm warm and comforting yet light enough for summer nights, and I'm phenominally easy to make." Speaking of, this weekend is apparently the last weekend for strawberries and rhubarb at the Union Square Green Market, so you only have a few days left to solve your own excess strawberry crisis with a delicious crumble. Godspeed.

  • 1.5 cups fresh strawberries, washed and halved (or quartered, if they're big guys)
  • 1.5 cups fresh rhubarb, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Sugar, to taste (the amount of sugar depends on the sweetness of the strawberries. If they're super sweet, use less sugar. If they're a bit tart, use more. I used 2 tablespoons for fairly sweet strawberries)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter, separated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the strawberries, rhubarb and sugar in a medium baking dish (roughly 8 x 12). Squeeze lemon juice over fruit, and mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Use two forks or a pastry cutter to mix in 6 tablespoons of butter, until the clumps of butter are as small as peas in the batter. Pour the crumble mixture over the fruit in the baking dish, and use your fingers to crumble the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over the entire dish. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the fruit is warm and bubbly and the crumble is golden brown.

Serve immediately, preferably with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6-8.

A Salad of Pita Chips and Chic Peas

As most of you know, this past weekend was Memorial Day Weekend. You probably know this because, instead of going to work on Monday, you spent the day paying homage to our American heroes and celebrating the beginning of summer by eating juicy burgers, drinking cold beer, and slurping ice cream at various picnics and backyard barbecues. A pretty wonderful holiday, in my opinion. This year, my family decided to take a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, for the long weekend, where we skipped the traditional Memorial Day fare of burgers and dogs and focused mainly on pulled pork. And coleslaw. And lemon icebox pie.

We ate all this at Jim and Nick's, and if you're ever in Charleston, I highly recommend a trip. You could also take tours of the old Plantations and the famous Fort Sumter (the site of the start of the Civil War), if you're so inclined. We did most of that, but when push comes to shove, my family is less historically inclined and more gastronomically inclined (really, can you blame us? Just look at that pie, for goodness sake). Basically, our trip to Charleston consisted of a few horse-drawn carriage tours and way too much food.

As it happens, we were sampling some (more) local cuisine one day at lunch, and I noticed that one of the salads on the menu boasted "chic peas" as an ingredient. This intrigued me greatly. I have never heard of chic peas, but they certainly sound like a very elegant and stylish pea, don't you think? Anyway, I was pleased to hear my mother order the salad featuring chic peas, and was itching with anticipation to learn the identity of such a fashionably named legume. Lo and behold, my mother's salad was brought to the table, and I finally learned that a chic pea is... actually just a misspelling of the word "chick pea." Garbanzo bean. What a letdown.

At any rate, my sister and I shared a good laugh over the orthographical error of the chic pea, and when I got back to New York yesterday and found scant little in my pantry, I decided to open a can of my very own chic peas as inspiration for a quick, thrown-together-from-the-pantry dinner. Not quite as good as Charleston barbecue, but chic enough for me.

Mediterranean Bread Salad with Chick Peas

This is a take on traditional bread salad, or panzanella, which usually incorporates day-old bread scraps, tomatoes and olive oil. I use crumbled pita chips instead of stale bread, and I pair it with a mix of bright Mediterranean flavors, including tomatoes, olives, chick (chic) peas, cucumbers, and lemon juice. For a thrown-together, no-cooking involved dinner, it's pretty darn satisfying. I ate the salad as a stand-alone meal, but it would be delicious served alongside some grilled chicken or fish for a more robust lunch or dinner. Keep in mind, this is more recipe guide than actual recipe - I guessed on most of the measurements, and the ingredients themselves are merely suggestions. Feel free to add or subtract certain veggies, or, for extra chic-ness, throw in a handful of feta cheese... you little salad stylista, you.

  • 1 cup canned chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 large cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mixed olives, chopped (I used a Greek mix)
  • 1/2 cup pita chips, lightly crumbled into bite-size pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste


Mix together the chick peas, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and pita chips in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, and balsamic. Mix until incorporated, and serve immediately if you want the pita to stay crunchy.

Serves 1 for lunch or dinner, 2 if eaten as a side dish.


I'd Seriously Consider Bathing In It

Ina Garten's peanut sauce, I mean. Ina actually calls it satay dip, but it's so stunningly delicious I wouldn't care if she told me its name was Dick Cheney. Not that she would tell me that. She's famous, so we don't get the opportunity to chat much. Or ever. But she's kind of my hero. I kind of think she can do no wrong. She lives in the Hamptons, for gosh sake. Year round! With her adorable husband and her all-white china and her sprawling herb garden.

Ina's recipes are flawless - simple, elegant, consistently delicious. Her chicken piccata is light and fresh and makes you think that all chickens should be piccata'ed. Her lemon yogurt cake, her chicken with goat cheese and basil, her beef bourguignon, her coconut cupcakes, her kitchen clambake... they're just all perfect. And her peanut sauce. For the love of god, the peanut sauce. ...Satay dip. Whatever.

Former buxom blonde bombshell, Brigitte Bardot (how's that for alliteration?) once said that "peanut butter is paté for children." I think that's sort of perfect. And, if true, it stands to reason that Ina Garten's peanut sauce is paté for Mollys, and maybe even for you, too. I'm not saying you should attempt to bathe in it, but I think you should at least try it. Smeared on a chicken sandwich, saucing up shrimp or steak for lunch or dinner, or maybe served as a dipping sauce for chicken and shrimp skewers at your next party. And if you do want to bathe in it?  This is me not judging you.

Roast Shrimp and Veggies with Ina Garten's Satay Dip

I originally made this peanut sauce/satay dip for a girls night in featuring appetizers and a showing of the latest episode of Gossip Girl. I won't go into the details of the lame, flashback-y show, but the peanut sauce is worth discussing. At length. It was meant to be served as a twist on the traditional cocktail sauce for shrimp cocktail, but we ended up dipping everything we could find in it - shrimp, raw veggies, pita chips, fingers.  In short, the peanut sauce was a major hit (albeit a slightly obscene one).

I'm not sure how, but I ended up with some leftover, which I immediately turned into one of the best dinners I've had in awhile: roast shrimp and veggies with peanut sauce.  Roasting gives shrimp such wonderful, juicy flavor, and it really couldn't be easier.  And with the leftover peanut sauce?  Perfection.  Don't be alarmed by the long list of ingredients in the satay dip - after a bit of chopping and measuring, the stuff comes together before you can say "thank you, Ina Garten."


For shrimp:

  • 1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • handful or two of snowpeas
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste

For Satay Dip:

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 2/3 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or dry sherry
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Arrange shrimp, veggies and chickpeas on a large sheetpan. Drizzle olive oil over shrimp and veggies, turning to coat, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place sheetpan in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and juicy. Meanwhile, make the satay dip.

Cook the olive oil, sesame oil, red onion, garlic, ginger root, and red pepper flakes in a small, heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat until the onion is transparent, 10 to 15 minutes. Whisk in the vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, peanut butter, ketchup, sherry or wine, and lime juice; cook for 1 more minute. Spoon over the shrimp and veggies and mix to coat. If desired, cool and use as a dip for shrimp cocktail, grilled chicken or steak.

Makes 1 1/2 cups peanut sauce and enough roast shrimp and veggies for 2 people.


Cookie For Your Thoughts

I think about cookies often. Mostly crisp-edged, buttery, chocolate-chippy cookies, but sometimes I think about soft, chewy, sugary cookies, too. Not much beats a warm cookie (or two) washed down with a glass of cold milk. Or even a room-temperature cookie eaten slowly over the kitchen sink while you think about what to make for dinner. (Ahem. Who made the rule that says that dessert goes after dinner, anyway?) I guess you could say I think cookies, chocolate-chipped and otherwise, are the bees knees. That's why when my sister, Emily, told me she wanted to bake something involving peanut butter and white chocolate, I thought it best to try making peanut butter and white chocolate chip cookies. So, we gathered the ingredients and made peanut butter and white chocolate chip cookies, and it was definitively best.

I've been on a cookie bender ever since I heard about Drop In & Decorate, a cookie donation program in which I recently became involved. It's simple, really - get some friends together, decorate cookies, and then donate them to a local shelter, soup kitchen, or other community agency serving people in need. I did some decorating with my new friend and fellow food blogger, Maris, who introduced me to Drop In & Decorate. Here are a few of our creations (note: what we lacked in artistic ability, we made up for in enthusiasm):

Not bad, huh? I mean, they're probably not the prettiest cookies you've ever seen, but they taste delicious. (I know because I had to try one to make sure they were safe to bring to the Ronald McDonald house. They are.) Hopefully these cookies will brighten someone's day.

Cookies for charity are wonderful, but so are cookies for me, so I'll get back to the peanut butter white chocolate chips. I'll just get straight to the recipe, because I know you have cookies on the brain. At least, I do.

PS: the nails in the pictures below belong to Emily. I'm not sure I could pull off blue nail polish, but, like everything else, it works on her. N'est pas?

Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

To make these little pretties, Emily and I experimented with a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe, adding white chocolate and peanut butter chips instead of the regular chocolate. We thought about adding peanut butter swirls or a dash of cinnamon, but in the end decided that, when it comes to chippy cookies, simple is best. Just butter, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder, eggs and vanilla. And chips, of course. In this case, peanut butter and white chocolate. These come out slightly crunchy, with a deep, buttery sweet, almost caramel-like flavor that makes you want to take a full stack of these guys and act slightly indecently. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup vanilla sugar*
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter chips
  • 2/3 cup white chocolate chips
* We only used vanilla sugar because my mother got it as a gift and it was sitting in the pantry, waiting to be turned into a cookie. Feel free to use regular granulated sugar instead.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

Put the butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream the ingredients on high speed. Don't forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to fully incorporate. Add the vanilla and egg and mix on medium speed. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until batter is stiff and dough-like. Turn off the mixer and, using a large spoon or plastic spatula, fold in the chocolate and peanut butter chips.

Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop heaping spoonfuls of the dough onto the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, keeping about 2 inches between scoops. (You should get about 9 cookies on each sheet.) Bake until fragrant and golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Let the cookies cool before devouring them indecently.

Makes about 30 cookies.


The Big Apple

Well, it’s official. I live in New York City. I live in New York City! Gah. After a week of all that comes with moving – battling with bubble wrap, struggling to carry boxes down the stairs and load them into a moving truck, gripping the wheel of said moving truck as it clumsily hums down I-95, bruising body parts while unloading piles of junk from the truck and, finally, unpacking piles of junk into some semblance of a place where someone might live – I'm not sure I can still write in cohesive sentences. I guess we'll find out.

So, New York. New York City. The Big Apple. The Center of the Universe. The City That Never Sleeps. And all that jazz. Actually, the New York City I've come to know these past few days involves a six block radius from Whole Foods to Bed, Bath & Beyond (or Bed and Bath, as my mother likes to call it. It doesn't matter, because at this point, I've been there so many times that I could navigate the place blind. Need a curtain rod? Downstairs by the throw pillows. Bounce sheets? Don't bother, they don't sell them. Is my life in the big city thrilling you yet? I haven't even gotten to the part where my dad and I put together an entire floor-to-ceiling shelving unit. ...For the record, it was awesome.)

I know you probably want to hear more about the shelving, but I'd like to jump straight to the halibut. You know... just for the halibut. (Heyoo! ...Sorry.) I had a wonderful group of girls over on Sunday night to help break in my new kitchen, and I'm happy to say that Jane Bursky's halibut with tomatoes and spinach was my very first home-cooked meal in The Big Apple. At least, it would have been if the supermarket wasn't out of halibut. We used Chilean sea bass instead, and we ate it while drinking wine from water glasses (apparently wine glasses were the one thing I forgot to buy at "Bed and Bath"), sitting in mismatched chairs around the tiny table in my brand new studio apartment, and I must say it was the best first New York meal I could hope for.

JBursk, master of spinach arts.

Chilean Sea Bass with Tomatoes and Spinach
Slightly adapted from the lovely Jane Bursky's Halibut recipe

Though Chilean sea bass isn't as conducive to clever puns as halibut (just for the... chilean sea bass?), it works beautifully in this dish, surrounded by a thick broth of onions, tomatoes, spinach and white wine. And friends like KGB, KGro, JBursk and Coface. If my first homemade meal is any indication, I think I'm going to like New York.

  • 4 Chilean sea bass fillets
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
    5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 15 plum tomatoes (or tomatoes on the vine, whichever look best in the market), chopped*
    5 tablespoons capers
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
*I know this sounds like a lot of tomatoes. It is. But trust me, in this dish, when it comes to tomatoes, the more the merrier.


Heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until lightly browned, then add the minced garlic and cook about 30 seconds more until garlic begins to turn golden.
Add all but a cup of the tomatoes, capers and white wine, simmering until the liquid is reduced almost in half. Add the rest of the tomatoes and the spinach in bunches, turning with tongs to incorporate into the sauce. If the sauce seems dry, add a bit more olive oil. Reduce heat (almost until the burner is off - you just want to keep the sauce hot).

Next, brush the fish on both sides with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
In another pan (I used a grill pan), saute the sea bass for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until the fish turns opaque.

Spoon sauce into the bottom of a bowl or deep plate, and top with the fish. Serve immediately, letting guests sprinkle parmesan on top to taste.

Serves 4, with extra sauce (which would also be fabulous on pasta or chicken).