Abigail Cahill O'Brien

Archive for 2010|Yearly archive page

CSA Week 4: Vegetarian Delight

In Food on July 12, 2010 at 8:08 am

So much for CSA week 3.  It was sweltering, I ate salads – even the squash made it into salads – and I won’t bore you with it.

As the heat lifted last week, the urge to cook returned, and I managed to serve almost all of Farmer Dave’s Week 4’s haul in one large vegetarian meal.

For apps, I whirred a bunch of basil into a quick pesto (using olive oil, Parmesan, pine nuts, honey, lemon juice and sat and pepper), topped it with more olive oil and served it with ciabatta and a bowl of  goat cheese.

Zucchini au gratin took center stage, accompanied by a citrus beet salad, minted peas, and wilted greens with caramelized Vidalia onions.

Dessert?  The first of the native peaches, peeled and sliced and tossed with a little brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, then topped with whipped cream.

I plain forgot to take a picture.

Zucchini Au Gratin Serves 4-6.  I doubled this for 12 adults and 4 kids.  We had leftovers for dinner the next day.

I used Manchego because that’s what I had on hand.  Parmesan alone would do the trick, and nothing baked ever suffered from the inclusion of Gruyère.  The basil is optional.  Fresh thyme baked in with the vegetables would work.

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 small yellow summer squash
  • 1 large pattypan squash (5-6 inches in diameter)
  • 2 small red potatoes
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 cup Manchego, grated
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Fresh basil, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the squash and potatoes into very thin slices, 1/8-inch or less. Toss the sliced vegetables with the olive oil in a large bowl.

Coat an 8 or 9 inch square casserole dish with a thin layer of olive oil (I used a brush).
Place 1/3 of the squash and potato slices in the bottom of the dish—no need to layer them squash-potato-squash.  Season with salt and pepper. Top with half of the goat cheese, scattered evenly in large chunks. Repeat with another 1/3 of the vegetables, seasoning again with salt and pepper and topping with the other 1/2 of the goat cheese. Finish by layering on the final 1/3 of the vegetables and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Pour the milk over the entire dish. Top with the Manchego and Parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 15-20 more minutes, until the top browns. Scatter on the fresh basil, if using.

Citrus Beet Salad

  • 6 medium beets
  • 4 oranges
  • 1/3 cup sliced red onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425.  Wrap washed, whole beets in tinfoil and roast 1 hour or until done.  Stick a fork in one to test; it should slide in easily.  Allow to cool before peeling.  The skin should slip off easily.  I peel by hand, wearing gloves to avoid staining.  Slice beets thinly into rounds.

Prepare oranges as follows. Cut the ends off.  Place one now-flattened end on your cutting board, and shave the peel and pith off with a sharp knife in vertical strips.  Cut into disks, reserving one half of an orange for juicing. Arrange orange slices on a platter, drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Top with a layer of beets and thinly sliced red onions.  Drizzle with more olive oil.  Squeeze the reserved half orange over the beets.  Season again with salt and pepper.

I know – the onions above aren’t yet caramelized.  I snuck a few out of the pan early to get this shot taken.  You really want a lovely light brown color, which can take quite a long time to develop.

Wilted Greens

  • 1 head Swiss chard
  • 1 head amaranth
  • 1 head arugula
  • 1 bunch beet greens
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Remove the stalks from the swiss chard; dice and set aside.  Wash the greens in a sink of water, inspecting each leaf.  Place the still-wet greens in a large stockpot over high heat.  When they let off a sizzle, begin to turn them.  When they are wilted remove them from the pot to a large bowl, leaving the liquid behind.

In a small sauce pan, heat a generous pour of olive oil.  Add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes (a small dash or more depending on the desired level of heat) and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until garlic begins to take on a golden color.  Add the diced chard stems; cook until softened.  Drizzle the olive oil and chard mixture over the greens.  Toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Caramelized Onions

  • 4-5 Vidalia onions, sliced into rounds
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • Paprika

In a large pan, melt the butter and vegetable oil over medium heat.  Add sliced onions and a dash of paprika.  Sauté the onions until translucent and cooked through.  Salt generously.  Turn heat to very low and cook, stirring often, until the onions take on a golden light brown color.  I cook them for at least 2 hours, and will leave them on the stove all day if I have the luxury.


Friday Flotsam

In Fashion, Flotsam, Food on July 9, 2010 at 5:30 am

1. Karen Walker Crazy Tortoise shades via Mrs. Lilien.

2. Paper Plane airmail coin purse, via The Fabric of My Life.

3. Vanessa Jackman’s photo of Carine Roitfeld’s killer combo: camp shirt and white flared jeans.  Try this, or this, and definitely these.

4. Cold drink Inspiration via The Kitchn.

5. Check out their salad dressing roundup while you’re at it.

Vive La Vivier, and Chic Utility

In Fashion on July 8, 2010 at 5:30 am

Clare Vivier’s La Tropizienne tote, $320

Remember that summer clothes spending freeze we talked about last month?  I’m still in it, the one exception being that $30 striped tote, which I’m wearing the daylights out of and love to pieces.

That said, it’s time to start thinking about Fall.  I just about swooned when I saw Clare Vivier’s bags over at Fashion Intel.

No logos, no gimmicks, no hardware rivaling that of a bank vault.  Just a boatload of timeless style. Just the way I like my everyday bags.  “Chic utility,” as their website describes it.  Indeed.

Here are some more beauties from her collection.

Le mini sac, $169

Nubuck messenger tote in navy, $345

iPad case, $99

Minted Limeade, Anyone?

In Food on July 7, 2010 at 11:25 am

Well hello there.  Heat getting to you yet?  The breeze blew again this morning, but we haven’t seen the last of the seat-melting warm weather.

I chased my ice coffee with a glass of minted limeade, drawing on the reserved mint simple syrup and a bag of limes left over from weekend entertaining.

Lula’s Pantry carries these barber stripe straws, and they’re also available online here.  Starting the day with a little solo garnishing gives new meaning to drinking alone.

I’m so inspired, I might just get dressed.

Minted Limeade

  • 3/4 cup mint simple syrup
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 limes, juiced
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced for garnish
  • Mint sprigs for garnish
  • Sparkling water (optional)
  • 1/4 cup super fine sugar (optional)

Combine lime juice, water and mint simple syrup in a pitcher.  Stir and add additional superfine sugar, if you like.  Pour over ice to halfway full.  Top with sparkling water, wafer thin lime slices and a sprig of mint.

Friday Flotsam

In Flotsam on July 2, 2010 at 10:47 am

1. This bar cart for my imaginary city apartment.  Via If The Lampshade Fits.

2. 15 fresh picnic salads from The Kitchn.

3. Zen lunch box via Apartment Therapy.

4. This pepper mill via quintessentially b.

5. Best outdoor light roundup at Apartment Therapy

6. This sea chest via Red Ticking.

7. Vegetable scrubbing gloves via The Kitchn.

8. Chef’s pencils via Shelterrific.

CSA Week 2 Recipes: Lentil-Radish Salad in Thyme Vinaigrette

In Food on July 1, 2010 at 10:06 am

Here we are at the end of Week 2.  For anyone interested in joining, Farmer Dave’s still has a few shares available for pick up throughout the Boston area (go here for pickup locations).

I wasted less food this week, which is always the goal.  A few leafs of green were lost to yellowing (which has me thinking I ought to replace my Debbie Meyer green bags – they’re well beyond the recommended 10 uses) but nothing as heartbreaking as last week’s sodden English peas.

Earlier in the week I shared my recipe for scallops, zucchini and peas in lemon-bacon broth. I also made the famous garlic scape and white bean dip, and yes, it’s as good (and simple) as everyone says. My Hurukei turnips went into a romaine and green apple salad, and I threw the cilantro into guacamole.   This steak marinade won high marks – though in the spirit of full disclosure i omitted the garlic salt and parsley flakes, and substituted Worcestershire for fish sauce.  There’s a big hole in my pantry where fish sauce ought to be.

My favorite, besides the scallops?  This lovely lentil salad.  Start with French lentils if you can find them; they hold their shape well and won’t turn o mush when cooked.   The cooking liquid looked so rich and green that I reserved it in a mug.  A little salt and pepper, et voilà! A thyme-lentil broth on which to sip while cooking.

Lentil & Radish Salad in Thyme Vinaigrette

Chop 3 shallots and cook in olive oil in a medium pot until soft. Mince 2 cloves of garlic and 2 tbsp fresh thyme; add to shallots and stir until garlic softens.  Add 6 cups water, 3 bay leaves and 2 1/4 cups French lentils.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a fast simmer for 20-25 minutes, until water is almost gone.  Drain lentils and remove bay leaves.  Let lentils cool.  Stir in one cup diced cucumbers and one bunch of radishes, also diced.  Dress with thyme vinaigrette:  1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, salt and pepper.  Top with goat cheese.  Lentils double in volume when cooked, so this will make about 6-8 cups depending on how many vegetables you add.

Poached Egg on Basil Pesto Greens: Just what it sounds like! Cook greens in a tsp of olive oil until they wilt. I had no idea what my greens were, until Food and Fiction identified them as Yukina Savoy (thanks, Jane).  Stir in 1-2 tbsp basil pesto.  Top with a poached egg and grated Parmesan.

There’s nothing quite like an arugula and steak salad.  I sliced in some radishes and cucumbers, and dressed it with a mustard-caper vinaigrette (olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard and capers).

Simple salads get me through the week’s lunches.  This chilled beauty, featuring grapefruit, celery and Parmesan, used fruit that might have otherwise languished on my counter.  Get the recipe here (I added wafer-thin red onion slices), and go here for useful pictorial directions on how to segment citrus fruit.

To finish it off, leftover steak topped an onion-celery-bok choy stirfry, flavored with fresh ginger, cilantro, soy sauce and lime juice.

Calling All Eccentric Wallpapers

In Feathering the Nest on June 30, 2010 at 5:30 am

Via Dust Jacket Attic

This post was a long time coming.  For months I’ve been tagging wallpaper images, trying to define what appeals to me.

Apparently it’s clouds, oversize florals, black and white graphics and winged creatures.  How’s that for an airtight point of view?

Ah, well.  It all depends on the room anyway, and I haven’t a particular spot in mind.


Amy Butler for Graham & Brown via Design*Sponge

Designers Guild via Red Ticking



Tracy Kendall via Daily Imprint

Nama Rococo Collection for Hermitage

Tracy Kendall

Fine Little Day via Poppytalk

Cole & Son via If The Lampshade Fits

Tres Tintas via Lushlee

Hygge & West Collection for Hermitage via Made By Girl




Jill Malek Collection for Hermitage

July Playlist

In Flotsam on June 29, 2010 at 3:32 pm

A bit of flotsam I may occasionally throw in the 5thjoy mix: playlists.  The focus will remain food, fashion, and home – but isn’t music almost always the backdrop?

Would you like to see this become an once-in-a-while feature?

I used to listen to music on my laptop in our little New York studio, ensconced in a private auditory bubble.  Now here we are in a rambling house, hosting generation-spanning dinners and a revolving cast of weekend guests, and the wordless music I write to won’t do.

The July list has to please a crowd:  it’s got to have a little folk, some really good 80s tunes, a mostly sunny disposition, and it can’t drive me bonkers.

Side note: we haven’t invested in a music system, mostly because we’re convinced whatever we choose will be obsolete in 3.2 seconds (although this looks promising), but also because we’re fond of this radio.

In no particular order:

  1. Sweet Disposition / The Temper Trap
  2. This Time Tomorrow / The Kinks
  3. Unthought Known / Pearl Jam
  4. Here Today / The Beach Boys
  5. I’m Amazed / My Morning Jacket
  6. Summertime / The Sundays
  7. Under African Skies / Paul Simon
  8. Elenore / The Turtles
  9. Touching the Ground / Brandi Carlile
  10. Never Going Back Again / Fleetwood Mac
  11. Head Full of Doubt Road Full of Promise / The Avett Brothers
  12. Six Different Ways / The Cure
  13. Amongst the Waves / Pearl Jam
  14. America / Simon & Garfunkel
  15. Two of Us / Aimee Mann and Michael Penn
  16. In Your Eyes / Peter Gabriel
  17. The End / Pearl Jam
  18. Home / Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
  19. Nick of Time / Bonnie Raitt
  20. No Reason to Cry / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  21. The Weight / The Band
  22. Cool, Clear Water / Bonnie Raitt
  23. Bright Side of the Road / Van Morrison
  24. Something Good Coming / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  25. Fugitive / David Gray
  26. Living for the City / Stevie Wonder
  27. Maybe I’m Amazed / Paul McCartney
  28. Heaven Can Wait / Charlotte Gainsbourg
  29. Far Away / Ingrid Michaelson
  30. Sound and Vision / David Bowie
  31. White Blank Page / Mumford & Sons
  32. Kathy’s Song (Live) / Simon & Garfunkel
  33. Wildflowers / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  34. The Way I Am / Ingrid Michaelson
  35. Maybe / Ingrid Michaelson
  36. Be OK / Ingrid Michaelson
  37. Chicago / Sufjan Stevens
  38. Plundered My Soul / The Rolling Stones
  39. Giving Up the Gun / Vampire Weekend
  40. Finer Feelings / Spoon
  41. The Mystery Zone / Spoon
  42. I Should Have Known It / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  43. Gloria / Van Morrison
  44. Tenderness / General Public
  45. Ten Thousand Words / The Avett Brothers
  46. Laundry Room / The Avett Brothers
  47. Loving Cup / The Rolling Stones
  48. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper / Blue Oyster Cult
  49. Well Respected Man / The Kinks
  50. You Still Believe In Me / The Beach Boys
  51. God Only Knows / The Beach Boys
  52. Cecilia / Simon & Garfunkel

Scallops, Zucchini and Peas in Lemon-Bacon Broth

In Food on June 28, 2010 at 10:06 am

When it comes to my tendency to eat large quantities of pasta, I have a couple tricks up my sleeve.

Sometimes I buy individual bird nest servings of fresh pasta at Duckworth Beach Gourmet, a double-whammy win that’s a huge treat by virtue of its quality, but also automatically controls serving size.

More often, though, I recreate pasta dishes with summer squash as a base.  This works well in CSA season, or for anyone with an overload of zucchini on their hands.

We made this dish on a whim over the weekend.  If you’d like to omit the broth, salt your julienned zucchini first and allow it to drain in a colander for 30-40 minutes.  The salt will draw out the water.  Be sure to rinse and pat dry after to avoid over-salting the whole dish.

Now, that’s much too complicated for my usual dinner mode – you won’t find me dunking blanched veggies in ice baths on a Friday night either – which is why we ended up with this bright-tasting broth.  By the time you serve it, the broth will be warm but not steaming, so it’s still suitable for all but the hottest summer nights.

A final note: don’t use a non-stick pan.  It’s hard to get a good sear on the scallops in one.

Scallops, Zucchini and Peas in Lemon-Bacon Broth Serves 4

  • 3 slices of bacon (or substitute pancetta)
  • 5-6 small summer squash or zucchini, julienned
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh English peas, shelled
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup Parmesan, grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Scallops, 12-16

Eyeball the zucchini and select a pan big enough to hold all of it.  Heat the pan and cook the bacon in it; set bacon aside.  Drain off all the bacon fat save 2 tbsp.  Add the diced onion to the pan and cook until softened and translucent; add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more, stirring often.  You may have lowered the heat to avoid burning the garlic;  if so, crank it back up before adding the zucchini.   Turn the zucchini in the bacon fat, onion and garlic until it begins to soften but isn’t limp.  Test a piece; it should have some give to it when you bite down, but not be noodle-y.   Add the peas and stir for one minute, or until the peas begin to deepen in color.  Crumble bacon into the pan.  Add the lemon zest and juice; stir.  Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Scrape the entire zucchini mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

Wipe out your pan and put it over fairly high heat.  Add even portions of vegetable oil and butter, enough to coat the pan and then some.  Add one scallop.  If it sizzles, the pan is hot enough.  Add the remaining scallops, making sure they don’t touch to prevent steaming, and don’t move them after they hit the pan.   Cook 3 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other.  They should develop a nicely caramelized sear on both sides.

Mound zucchini in a shallow soup bowl, spooning the accumulated broth over it.  Top with 4-5 scallop per person, and serve with a fork, spoon and crusty bread for dipping.

Friday Flotsam

In Feathering the Nest, Flotsam on June 25, 2010 at 5:30 am

1. Affordable, fun studs by Kendra Scott Jewelry.  Via The Neo-Traditionalist.

2. If you don’t fancy paying $40 for a rope knot here, try Design*Sponge’s DIY version.

3. Add Paperfinger’s stylish return address stamp to your registry.  Via The Neo-Traditionalist.

4. Love this DIY chessboard from Centsational Girl.  Oh, what a little stain and a steady hand can do.

5. Kahler Omaggio’s vase, via Bliss.

6. This blanket, via Seesaw.

7. A moleskin notebook jacket for your Kindle, via Unclutterer.