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I love to bake in general, but my favorite recipes to bake are quick breads. Endless variety and so easy. Plus, since many of them contain either fruit or vegetables, I can fool myself into thinking they’re healthy! Aah, the power of denial. This recipe is more cake-like than bread-like, but since it’s made in a loaf pan, it’s pretty much a quick bread in my mind, and thus totally acceptable to eat as breakfast.

Since most fruits (or vegetables, for that matter) are not exactly in season right now, you should make this grapefruit cake — citrus is one of the things that gets me out of bed on these miserable, gray winter days, when the thought of fresh corn on the cob and giant bunches of basil at the farmer’s market will just about send me over the ledge. Soon enough I’ll be bitching about how I can’t walk anywhere without sweating profusely, and longing for the days of jeans and boots and turtlenecks. But such is life in New York, where we get about 10 days of absolutely transcendent weather during the year, and that measly quantity somehow fools us into tolerating months on end of misery. Today was more miserable than most, what with the torrential rain, but when you have a tangy, sunny piece of cake waiting for you, it’s not so bad. You can almost pretend spring is on the way.

I found this recipe, like many others I have so enjoyed, on Smitten Kitchen. I’ll just link to the recipe since I didn’t make any modifications. Enjoy!

The toughest part of competitive cooking is editing. Prepping for a cook-off is mostly a question of picking something strong conceptually and then making it taste really good, which would be easy (OK, not easy, but easier) if the task weren’t so open-ended. Tacos?? That could be almost anything on earth, and when you consider all the amazing things that are normally put in tacos, then combine that with the possibility of anything tasty at all that could be put in a taco…well, you get my drift. That’s a lot of editing.

I had a little taco tasting get-together on Saturday and I think I have a solid concept. However, I will not be divulging that here! No siree bob, because we taco cook-off contestants were just informed that the top prize for the audience vote is two tickets to Mexico. No, I am not making that up. So things just got a little high stakes around here! Although, I could probably buy a round-trip ticket to Mexico for what I’ll have paid in ingredients when you count the tests and the final recipe, so really, it’s about the experience not the prizes. As long as I win. Just kidding!

Here is a little photo of a quesadilla I made for dinner last night with some of the leftover taco ingredients, but of course I will not reveal what they are or whether I’m actually using them. You’ll have to buy a ticket for Sunday for that! I also made a simple salad, which I will tell you about, with baby spinach and blood orange segments. Just a simple red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing and some salt and pepper made it just the right tangy balance for the cheesy quesadilla.

I rarely have the initiative to make risotto, but really, it’s not much harder or more time consuming than pasta or most other dishes I’d make on a week night. It just requires that you don’t wander too far from the stove. I am a sucker for kitchenware so I bought a big paella pan awhile ago, which is ideal for risotto, but any large pot or deep sauce pan will do. You just want as much surface area as possible.

I started from a recipe for lemon risotto on Epicurious and adapted it a bit, then decided to accompany it with chicken — it would be equally delicious with seafood. You can easily sub in different cheese as well. I happened to have an odd-sized chunk of gruyere on hand so I used this recipe to whittle it down. It would be really easy to double this and serve it at a dinner party. The lemon makes it so nice and fresh in the dead of winter! When does that damn groundhog tell us when winter will be over again??

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It’s another cook-off, y’all! Nick and Theo are back with the Brooklyn Taco Experiment at the Bell House in Brooklyn. Since pretty much anything worthy of going into a taco is delicious in my book, this one should be pretty fun. I’ll be there competing (taco recipe as yet undetermined), so get your tickets now!

Last Friday, my friend Melissa came over for a mellow ladies’ night in. It was a definite change of pace after our first week back at work after the holidays. We made some delicious fennel, tomato and white bean soup with gremolata and crusty bread with fontina melted on top. And for desert, an apple galette! ‘Twas delicious. We had a bottle of wine (though we could have easily drank two) and just listened to music and geeked out.

Recipe for the soup was improvised, and the galette recipe is courtesy of Alice Waters. The dough isn’t sweetened, the apples have no spices on them, and yet, it is so delicious. Something to be said for her simple approach. Recipes after the jump.

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See, I had this clever idea to make my 2010 return post something special, since I’ve been MIA for so long, with a pair of savory and sweet galettes. I thought, being a nerd, that the title “two galettes” was amusing, which is probably mostly the reason I decided to go with this plan. But New York conspired against me, in that we didn’t even eat dinner until 9 pm. I realized that two different from-scratch doughs combined with cooking times just didn’t leave enough time or room in my belly before bedtime to justify the sweet galette (apple, courtesy of Alice Waters / Jacques Pepin).

So, enjoy instead this savory butternut squash and caramelized onion galette courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. I made a couple of small modifications, indicated in the recipe below. This is, in the parlance of early 90’s California, hella good. It pretty much contains everything I love in life (except garlic) in one buttery rustic tart. Can you tell I am prone to exaggeration?

In any case, if you want to impress some guests (and convince some people that vegetarian can be just as delicious as omnivorous), make this galette. But I’m warning you — although technically it should serve 6, I wouldn’t count on it serving more than 4. You might just need to make two! And although the dough seems fussy, do not skip the freezing step! The colder the butter, the smaller the pieces you can cut it into without just mushing it around. It’s the tiny bits of unincorporated butter that make it all flaky and delicious. You’ll thank me in the end.

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