This past Saturday I was reminded of how effortlessly perfect an everything bagel is for breakfast.  Freshly toasted, slathered in cream cheese- oh is that heaven.  Everyone seems to be a on a best burger or best cupcake hunt these days. I am on a perpetual best everything bagel hunt.  Luckily we live just blocks away from Brooklyn Bagel (oddly named since we don’t live in Brooklyn), that makes some of the best everything bagels I’ve ever had.  Another favorite is none other than Murray’s Bagels, thankfully located in my dad’s neighborhood in NY.  In my mind, the key to a good everything bagel is first and foremost a high quality bagel- crispy on the outside, soft and spongy on the inside, as well as the dispersement of seasonings.  The seasonings must go all around the bagel, not just on the top.  Otherwise the bottom is just like eating a plane bagel- I did not sign up for that.

Do you have a favorite bagel shop, or even better, a favorite everything bagel?

I absolutely cannot stomach bananas. I hate the way they smell, the way the feel, even the way they sound when chewed. I’m fully aware that my aversion to this fruit  is likely my most childish quality.

I happen to live with a person who really likes bananas.  He eats them everyday.  They are always in our apartment. Despite my hatred for bananas on their own, I don’t mind and sometimes actually enjoy, banana bread.  Of course that’s the case.  Just add butter and sugar and I’ll like it.

For the past few weeks I’ve been meaning to make banana bread.  Come Sunday there are usually a few sitting in a bowl on our counter, on their last leg.  Usually I’m too slow.  By the time I get around to pulling out the flour and eggs they’ve been devoured by my banana loving roommate.  But yesterday, I managed to reserve two from the bowl, and throw together a small loaf.  An intentionally small loaf, as this bread will mostly be consumed by one person.  I found though, by halving the recipe, the bread created these adorale biscotti shaped pieces of cake, perfect for enjoying with coffee or smearing with peanut butter.  If you’d like a bigger loaf, simply double the recipe.

Banana Bread Stackers adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

2 ripe bananas, smashed

3 T melted salted butter

1/3 c light brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2  tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt

1/2  teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 T ground flax seeds

1/2 c all purpose flour

1/4 c whole wheat flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 30-35  minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

The last two weekends we’ve been kind of lame, and we sort of love it.  We go to bed earlier than we do on the weeknights and find ourselves out of bed by 8:30/9 am. Did you know that when you do this, it gives you so much more time to do things on the weekend? This is BIG news. With this new schedule, I’ve made it the farmer’s market early enough on the last two Saturdays to guarantee access to all the produce before it sells out.  As a result, our meals have been chock full of fresh ingredients. I couldn’t be happier.  Having spent the last three days indulging in everything but vegetables in Las Vegas, I’m looking forward to another trip to the market this weekend, and welcoming an onslaught of salads and fresh vegetables into my meals again.

The summer before my senior year of college, I waitressed in a Mediterranean restaurant in my hometown.  While most people seem to have horrific memories of working in restaurants, I’m the exact opposite.  I’ve loved every single restaurant I’ve worked in-especially this one. During the summer, the Hudson Valley fills with swarms of tourists, all looking for an escape to the country.  Subsequently, the restaurants are packed, with diners staying well beyond normal service hours.  Most of my shifts were a 6 hour whirlwind of activity, with not a minute off my feet.  I’ll take that kind of work any day in comparison to folding clothes at Banana Republic (which I also did one summer).

Often times after dinner shifts, the  wait staff would gather around the bar and enjoy a variety of dishes (usually the leftovers of whatever special was featured that night).  One night we were served a panzanella salad.  A panzanella salad traditionally consists of a variety of diced vegetables and cubed bread, tossed in a vinaigrette.  In theory it sounded good, but I was disappointed to find that the restaurant’s version was rather bland, with the bread being very dry.  Ever since then I pushed the dish out of my mind, never thinking to make it.  Then last weekend, when thumbing through my cookbooks, I came across a panzanella recipe that sounded really good. Instead of just using cubed bread, it involved transforming the bread into croutons.  I adore homemade croutons- I was intrigued.

I made the salad for a dinner party, preparing it ahead, and tossing with the vinaigrette just before we left the apartment.  This allowed the flavors to meld but kept the bread from getting too soggy.  By the time we sat down to eat, everything had come together. It was delicious.  This salad will definitely be a summer staple in our kitchen.  Next time I want to try grilling the bread, then cutting it into pieces and tossing with the salad.  How good does that sound?

Roasted Tomato Panzanella adapted from the Barefoot Contessa’s Greek Panzanella

Serves 6

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 english cucumber (or three small ones), diced

1/2 c chopped basil

1/2 medium size white onion, thinly sliced

1/2 a baguette, cut in 1 inch cubes

3 T olive olive oil


For the Dressing:

1/2 c olive oil

1/4 c red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

several grinds fresh black pepper

1 tsp mustard

1 large clove garlic, minced

pinch of sugar

1/2 tsp dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small roasting pan, toss cherry tomatoes with  1 T olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Roast for 10-12 minutes until tomatoes are slightly tender (not falling apart).  Set aside to cool. (Roasting tomatoes really brings out the flavor, making un-ripe tomatoes flavorful and sweet.  This is an excellent technique for using tomatoes in salads during their off season).

Set a large sauce pan with 2 T olive to medium heat.  Allow oil to heat for 5 minutes.  Throw in cubed bread, top with s+p to taste, and toss well to coat with oil.  Lower heat to medium low, and cook for 10-15 minutes (tossing frequently) until bread is nicely browned.  Set aside to cool.

Place the cucumber, onion, and basil in a large bowl. Add in the tomatoes and bread.  Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the salad.  Toss well, but gently, so as not to break up the tomatoes.  Place in fridge for at least 30 minutes before, so flavors can develop.  Taste for seasoning just prior to serving.

While the majority of the world was celebrating Mother’s Day yesterday, I got to celebrate the engagement of one of my dearest friends, Liz.  I’ve known about the proposal for a while now, and it was quite hard to contain my excitement in the weeks leading up to the surprise day.

I must admit, I’m not a huge wedding person.  The more I hear about them, the more I fear they’re just filled with drama and poorly coordinated dresses.  My attitude about them did a complete 180 after yesterday’s festive brunch celebration, held just minutes after her now fiance proposed.   It was so wonderful to be a part of the memorable day, it even managed to bring me to tears at one point.

In honor of the happy couple I transformed these cupcakes into a cake. I had traveled to Buenos Aires with Liz a few years back and we consumed more dulce de leche sauce than I’d like to admit.  And beyond that, her fiance is from Argentina. Thus, this feature ingredient only felt appropriate.  For the cake I followed this recipe, and it truly delivered the most moist cake I’ve ever made (I can’t recommend it enough).  Though I was thoroughly stuffed from my two trips to the brunch buffet, I managed to scarf down a piece (and perhaps the rest of Brandon’s too).  While I’m glad Liz and Ivan with get to enjoy the leftovers this week, I totally wish that to-go box was sitting in my fridge.

Congrats you two!