A million years ago when I lived in Williamsburg (an industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn that has since become incredibly trendy) with my roommate, Paola, we set up a massive garden on the roof of our loft. Being poor artists, we couldn’t afford planters so we used … brace yourselves … caskets. Yes, there was a casket factory across the street and every couple of months, they would throw out dozens of full-size aluminum caskets (for some reason that we never bothered to question). We dragged these crazy things to our roof, filled them with soil, and grew the most amazing herbs and vegetables that ever came out of something meant for a dead person. Of course it must have looked unsettling, all these caskets lined up in rows with plants growing out of them, but we didn’t care. In fact, we had enough sweet Roma tomatoes to make “casket sauce” as we called it (mostly to horrify our dinner guests).
Now I’m a big shot and have a deck and a yard and no longer have to resort to funeral paraphernalia to satisfy my green thumb. This year we’re growing more herbs than ever and for the first time, our sage plant bloomed with the most beautiful purple flowers. Nature, man.
Fresh tomatoes, fried capers and butter-lemon flavors combine with chicken cutlets to create this perfect zingy summery piccata recipe. We served it over linguine, but grilled bread would also be a good option.
Very early summer can be frustrating for a cook. The garden beds are filled with all our favorite vegetables. We planted six different kinds of tomatoes, chard and kale, loads of garlic, eggplants, tomatillos, jalapeños, broccoli rabe.But nothing is even close to ready yet. They’re all just beginning to sprout and bloom, so it will be at least a month before anything can be harvested, except for the herbs which are happily taking over the back deck. So while our bounty is bounty-ing, it’s back to the grocery store to see what looks good.
We found pretty, if not very sweet, tomatoes, still on the vine and perfect for a quick roasting. Just 15 minutes in a hot oven concentrated the flavor and turns them jammy and soft. A perfect accompaniment to bright, zingy Chicken Piccata.
Vanilla custard tart made from homemade pastry cream and an easy graham cracker crust, topped with fresh summer berries. Perfect for summer parties!
If there’s one challenge to keeping chickens – there aren’t, of course, there are dozens: keeping the dog out of the chicken pellets and poop, keeping the chickens out of the vegetable patch and flower border; keeping Bernie Sanders, our runty salmon favarolle, from being bullied by the other, bigger, chickens – but if there were only one challenge, it would be: what the hell do we do with all these eggs?
With seven hens, even giving them away to our friends and neighbors, we’re never shy of around six dozen eggs on the counter at any one moment, with five or six being added to the stock every day. Yes, there are worse problems to have, and most of the solutions are pretty delicious.
A versatile pasta dish that combines spring vegetables (in this case, ramps and peas) with crisp pancetta in a light, creamy sauce.
Every spring I’m reminded of how happy I am that we bought a house in the Hudson Valley. The sun is out and I’m sitting on our deck, watching the chickens romp around the ‘garden’. Yes, ‘garden’ is in quotes because it’s mostly weeds, rocks and buried concrete (why, previous owners? Why?). And yes, those pesky chickens are obsessed with destroying the few plants we’re actually trying to grow. But none of that matters! Gardens can be planted. Chickens can be
strangled penned. The important thing is that it’s ours and we love it (sometimes).
Another fantastic thing about spring is all the wonderful fresh green things that are just beginning to show up at the farmers’ market (or your own garden, if you’re lucky and/or talented). A simple pasta dish like this takes full advantage of these fresh flavors, pairing the tender vegetables with crispy pancetta* and a light, creamy sauce.
*You could absolutely leave the pancetta out for a vegetarian dish. You’ll probably want to add a bit more salt since the pancetta is salty.
Spicy and smoky flavors combine to create a delightful bourbon ginger beer variation on a Moscow Mule that we’re calling, simply, the Beacon Mule.
It’s nice to know that, even though this world can feel like a dark and frightening place sometimes, good things still happen. Yes, an infected toenail that fell off and became sentient (kind of) is the GOP nominee for President of the United States, but on the flip side, a package arrived at Nerds with Knives headquarters and there was bourbon inside it!
See, it all evens out in the end (sob).
Okay, okay. I know a cooking blog is not an appropriate place for politics but I’ll say this: I’m going to need a lot of cocktails to make it through this election cycle. Let’s see what a bourbon ginger beer combination can do to warm our cockles.
Luckily, the nice folks at Heritage Distilling sent us two bottles of delicious whiskey which we’ve been drinking on ice as well as making tasty cocktails with. The Brown Sugar Bourbon is a little sweet, with notes of cinnamon and clove. It would be fantastic in a Fall or Winter cocktail with apple cider. With the barrel aged bourbon, we made a whisky version of a Moscow Mule (vodka, lime, ginger beer) and it was so good, we knew we had to share it with you.