I have no recipe for you today, nor do I have a quote. It’s just me (“my naked words”) and pictures of food. You see, I’ve long been thinking that, with the return of school, teaching yet another class (my sixth!), the study of Greek and my old friend, The Dissertation, my fall blog posting style would have to change. I’ve been thinking about ways to combine the blogosphere and my “real” life– and without neglecting any one thing. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either. I figure it’s best to learn this balancing act now because, should I become a professor in 2-3 (!) years, I’m going to have many, many bureaucratic obligations…and then some.

One positive to my current schedule–the early to rise on Tuesdays and Thursdays–is that the Greek has taken it upon himself to do the Monday and Wednesday night cooking. He does this while I prepare for class, or, even better, sit there reading my Greek dialogues (yes, we’re already onto dialogues!) aloud. Admittedly, this leads to a lot of interruptions since he will often go to the white board hanging in his kitchen to explain certain phonetic rules to me, but, ultimately, it’s fun. While he made the delicious stuffed peppers and tomatoes above (he and Martha Rose Shulman must have been on the same wavelength since she just featured Mediterranean-style stuffed vegetables in her column this week; what’s not to love about a flavorful dish that caramelizes in the oven and then basically melts in your mouth?), I learned an all-important Greek phrase, one that I’m sure will serve me well in the years to come: Είναι έτοιμος ο καφές; (semi-colons denote a question in Greek.) Is the coffee ready?

School is also the time when I make and eat a lot of salads. It’s easy, it’s healthy, it’s good. The one above was inspired by a recent trip to Pizzaiolo, when we were sent (on the house no less) a delicious prosciutto and melon salad. The Greek and I wanted to recreate the recipe at home, but couldn’t figure out (or remember) what the dressing had been like. So, we threw some honeydew on top of mixed greens, added prosciutto and went with a basic crowd pleaser: olive oil and basil flakes. Do you really need anything more when you’ve already got the juices of the melon to work with? This really satisfied my love of all things salty-sweet.

I also then stepped things up a notch
when I decided to make not just salad, but panzanella. This recipe was from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day, a book that has saved me many nights (and mornings) in the kitchen. While salad is supposed to be easy, this one was fairly involved: you had to grill both the bread and tofu with olive oil until crispy and golden; you had to roast cherry tomatoes until they, like the stuffed peppers and tomatoes above, had caramelized; finally, you had to whip up a scrumptious dressing of peanut butter, minced garlic, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes and hot water (for thinning the dressing out). I loved everything about this salad–the flavors may seem strange, but they really go quite well together–but the dressing was definitely my favorite thing.

Another thing I love about the beginning of the semester is that it means that there are lots of parties and gatherings where you get to see people you haven’t seen in ages. Essentially, it’s one big excuse to eat and, usually, ridiculously well. For example, the Greek and I were invited to a Puerto Rican dinner this past weekend. I can’t say I’m overly familiar with Puerto Rican cuisine (besides things like flan and plantains), but this experience has convinced me that there are lessons to learn. I should mention, however, that, despite the theme of the evening, our meal started with something not at all Puerto Rican–pureed strawberries mixed with a few teaspoons of brown sugar and stirred into a glass of Riesling. Fantastically simple and oh so good.

And then there was this gem: trifongo. If you (like me before this evening) have no idea what trifongo is, it’s sweet plantains and yucca that are mashed with garlic, olive oil, pork rinds and broth (mofongo is the same, but with fried green plantains instead). I can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed this; it was all-around remarkable. The chef, a dear friend in Engineering, made everything and, as you can see, he took pains to create something that was beautiful. The trifongo was accompanied by skirt steak in a guava sauce and by a not so Puerto Rican asparagus salad. As S’s lovely sous chef and hostess explained, Puerto Rico isn’t so big on vegetables, so she had to get creative to give us a well-balanced meal.

Even though work is upon me (my current task is to create a list of primary sources for my dissertation since my adviser is wondering if I have enough material!! I shall remain calm, compile the list and trust in my belief that this will turn out just fine) and things are rapidly becoming busy, busy and busier, there are things to look forward to. One of them is cooking from the gem below, sent to me from my friend and fellow blogger; first up, maybe delicious chocolate chip cookies? After all, my freezer cookie supply is running low and something tells me this might just be a long semester.

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