Thursday, August 20, 2009


Food blogging has received a lot of attention lately thanks to the movie Julie & Julia.

While I liked the film and even read some of the book (honestly, I couldn't get through it), there is another food blogger who has had me continually checking back for updates. 

I started reading Orangette a few months ago, although she is a longtime blogger who has won awards and accolades.  She recently published a memoir called The Homemade Life, which includes meaningful recipes that help tell her personal story of family, love, and food. 

Maybe a little over a week ago, she opened a pizza restaurant in Seattle with her husband. It happened to be right around the time that the fennel in my refrigerator was starting to develop brown spots on the outer layers of the bulb.

Fennel was a mystery to me. I don't remember getting any last summer in my CSA and if I did, it probably went bad because I had no idea what to do with it. My limited experience with fennel had come in the form of seeds in a little spice jar in the pantry.

In honor of Orangette's big night, I made her recipe for fennel salad with Asian pear and parmesan. In the book, she prefaces the recipe by stating how much she and her husband love to eat salad and describes how the idea for a fennel salad came from one of his ex-girlfriends but originated with Julia Child. 

It always seems to go back to Julia Child.

But what I loved about the recipe was its simplicity. That's part of what draws me back to Orangette's blog. Simple recipes paired with revealing updates about her life. 

Because let's be honest, and I think Julie Powell would agree. The secret ingredient to a good food blog is not always in good writing and photography or in featuring delicious recipes, but in how much of a peek the writer offers into her life. 

Fennel Salad with Asian Pear and Parmesan (adapted from Molly Wizenberg's book The Homemade Life)

1 medium fennel bulb
1 Asian pear
olive oil
lemon (I used a lime since that's what I had)
wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I used grated parmesan from the fridge)
black pepper

Cut off the stalk and trim the fennel bulb; slice thinly (1/8 to 1/4 inch thick). Slice the pear in thin slices similar to the fennel. Spread the fennel slices on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil. Place slices of pear on top of the fennel. Drizzle with lemon juice (in my case, lime) and salt. Shave ribbons of cheese on top (I sprinkled grated parm). Then repeat all of the layers. 

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Cool Breeze

Usually by this point in the summer, I ache for the cool days of fall. I've had enough heat and stickiness to last me through another Chicago winter.

Not this summer. In July we had an average of 69.7 degrees here in Chicago, and I can't say that I have minded not having to haul out the air conditioner.

But earlier this week temps crept up past normal, and my kitchen felt thick with humidity. I had cucumbers and onions to use and decided that this was the perfect time to make gazpacho, especially since I had gotten a recipe from a wonderful home cook who, fortunately for me, doesn't believe in keeping her recipes a secret.

With her blessing I am posting this recipe. It's so simple to make and includes watermelon, an unexpected ingredient that adds a hint of sweetness and feels like a cool breeze sliding down my throat.

Gazpacho (by Amy Currie, author of Memoirs of a Home Cook)
2 cups tomato juice
2 tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, cored and chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 cup seedless watermelon, cubed
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Pulse tomato juice, tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, and watermelon in a food processor. Add vinegar and oil. Season to taste w/salt and pepper. Serves 6-8.


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