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Friday Five: Links to Love, It’s Getting Hot in Here Edition

Homemade Sweet Tomato Jam by The Domestic Front

Around these parts, it feels like the glory days of summer.  The tomatoes are (finally) ripening!  The Nuni has finished summer school and is now living out my nostalgic old-fashioned childhood summer dreams at day camp where she gets to swim and ride horses and do archery and build forts and generally have a grand old time.  We have been working diligently at our summer bucket list (last weekend:  farmer’s market and train ride.  Next up:  s’mores, and the obligatory weekend hammock time).  Hard to believe we are back to school in a month!

1. From the archives:

Tomatoes are finally peaking at the farmer’s markets (and if you planted yours earlier than I did mine, in your garden), and now is the perfect time to capture that ripe goodness in a jar.  Sweet tomato jam might sound weird, but the flavor is just wonderful – familiar and exotic all at once.  This one tastes exactly like the one my great-grandma used to make.

Tomato Jam

2.  Local Attractions:

Get a look at this amazing house (just purchased by Andy Samberg) in LA’s Beechwood Canyon featured on Curbed LA.  Mary Astor and Charlie Chaplin once lived there, and it’s a Moorish fantasy, with ornate ceilings, Moroccan tile designs, stained glass, a door with carved camels on it(!) and a cave(!!) near the swimming pool.   There also appear to be white subway tiles in the kitchen, if you’re worried about the hipster cred.   I’ve been totally obsessed with Moroccan tile designs lately, so this is right up my alley and some serious eye candy.

Moorcrest via Curbed LA

3.  On a serious/not serious note:

If you haven’t read Bossypants by Tina Fey, you have to.  Rebecca Traister (whom I have long  loved) wrote a great piece on being a woman in a man’s world that’s worth a read, and makes excellent use of one of my favorite anecdotes from Bossypants.

I Don’t Care if you Like It on the New Republic

4. Fashion Find

I wear glasses almost every day (my job involves a lot of computer time, and if I wear my contacts, I’m crying uncle by 4 pm), and have to recommend these frames.  First of all, Zenni is generally awesome -I buy prescription glasses from them all the time, but these, which I totally bought on a whim, get complimented EVERY SINGLE TIME I WEAR THEM.  Seriously, I have gotten compliments on them from the other moms at daycare, my daughter’s teachers, my boss, the checkout guy at Trader Joe’s, my dental hygienist.  And they only cost me $50, WITH LENSES.

Faux Wood glasses from Zenni Optical

5.  Friday Funny

I know the World Cup is over and nobody in the US cares about soccer anymore, but I, for one, have a newfound love of the sport.   It’s so dramatic!  Every time a player gets a scratch it’s a federal offense!  It’s a lot like living with a seven year old, frankly.  Anyway, NPR covered this phenomenon beautifully, and asked the question: What if we lived life as if we were in the World Cup?

Everyday Football Fouls

Summer Recipe Roundup

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It’s the summer solstice! The longest day of the year! The official first day of summer, which, by some magic, is also Midsummer. No matter how you slice it, today is the day when even your most pedantic friends can’t deny that summertime is here, and with it, summer cooking. We’ve already been going crazy with the stone fruit in our house (my children are fruit bats, and I keep finding half-gnawed nectarines in the oddest places) and last week I broke out the first official BLT.

Here’s a list of great The Domestic Front recipes to get you in the mood for cooking this summer!

 

Soups, Salads, Starters and Sides

Gazpacho

 

Main Courses

Maine Crab Roll

Sweets

Blueberry Corn Pie

Drinks and Sundries

Homemade Sweet Tomato Jam by The Domestic Front

 

 

Trader Joe’s Cheap Wine Pick: Espiral Vinho Verde

 

 

Summertime!  And the living is easy!  And the drinking should be, too.    This Trader Joe’s Cheap Wine Pick is one of my favorites, and has been a staple of my summertime tippling for several years.
Espiral Vino Verde

 

Wine: Espiral Vinho Verde
Region: Portugal
Style: Crisp, refreshing white with effervescence
Price:  $4.49 a bottle

 I first discovered Vinho Verde when I lived in New York, and it was one of my favorite wines for a New York summer.  Nothing cut through those muggy days like a nice cold glass of vinho verde – super crisp and refreshing, with d just a few bubbles.  When I moved back to LA,  I was thrilled to find this great (cheap!) Trader Joe’s version for only $3.99! (Though I think the price has gone up this year to $4.49).   Vinho verde originates in Portugal, and refers to a region and a style rather than a specific grape.   Vinho verde wines are made with very young grapes (hence the nice acidity you will find in most vinho verdes) and have a slight sparkle to them (that wikipedia tells me originally came from malolactic fermentation, but is now usually a result of artificial carbonation.)    It’s low in alcohol – the Espiral Vinho Verde is only 9% ABV – so it’s great to drink in hot weather without getting that sticky feeling you can get from too much of the hard stuff, and  it’s a nice mixer for some of the lighter summer wine-based aperitifs, like a kir.    It’s nice citrusy flavors pair well with a lot of summer food – fish, grilled chicken, tomatoes, pesto, pasta.    Eminently quaffable!

Friday Five: Links to Love, Summer Vacation Edition

Zucchini Blossoms
It’s after Memorial day, the Nuni has finished first grade (!) and summer vacation is in full swing around these parts.  I am kicking off the summer by breaking my pinky toe and going slowly insane because my children are whining.  You?

 

1. From the archives:  

I don’t know about you, but our zucchini plant is growing like crazy.  Instead of drowning under a bushel of zucchini come July, pick them while they’re tiny and make these fried zucchini blossoms.

2.  Fashion Find:

I bought two pairs of these shoes and they are super cute and super comfortable.  Yes, they are made of pleather, and yes, they will probably fall to pieces after about 3 months but for $23, what do you expect?  Red shoes!

3.  Let’s Get Serious for a Minute

I don’t know if you’ve been following the #YesAllWomen movement, but in the wake of the Isla Vista shooting and the misogynistic hate screed that accompanied it, women are stepping forward to tell their stories.  It’s both depressing (so much to be done!) and inspiring (women having a voice!)  It’s worth checking out the feed, and if you have something to add, posting.

4.  Best of the Blogs:

My friend Rachel Cedar runs a very successful parenting consulting business in New York. In February, she ran a great series with a bunch of talented writers on playing with your kids, called 28 Days of Play.  With the long days of summer vacation looming, the series is worth revisiting.  (Rachel is also a go-to for very sage parenting advice, so check out the rest of her blog, too).

5.  Funny of the day:

Mindy Kaling gave a commencement address at Harvard Law School and knocked it out of the park.   This pushes so many of my buttons:  Mindy Kaling (love her), lawyer jokes (funny because they’re true!, but I’m only allowed to say that because I’m a lawyer) and just a touch of anti-Harvard bias (go Bulldogs!).  So many good quotes, but I particularly love this one:
You wrote the Terms and Conditions that I scroll through quickly while I download the update for Candy Crush. Terms and Conditions are the only things keeping us from the purge, everybody. I don’t read them—I just hit Accept. iTunes may own my ovaries for all I know.”    (OK, this might only be funny to corporate lawyers)

 

Bonus #1:  Literary Endeavor

I have been enjoying the heck out of the Toast, and this made me chuckle.  How to Tell if You’re in a Jane Austen Novel

Have a great weekend!

XOXO, Kate

A Seat at the Table

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The light filled the room.

The speaker, a slight woman with dark hair and the faintest trace of an accent, was talking about beauty.    I gazed behind her through wide glass doors at a stunning vista of hilltops and trees, clouds chasing the sunlight through the sky.  There was the faintest scent of lavender in the air, and vases full of perfect roses, alliums and hydrangeas dotted the room and the picturesque patio beyond the windows.  It was the most beautiful of settings, and beauty seemed a fitting topic.
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This weekend, I attended the second Big Traveling Potluck, in Murrieta, California.  The word “Conference” seems too sterile to describe this event – I see mental images of gray business suits and fluorescent lights.  “Workshop” is better, but is too taxing.  There were workshops – writing and photography and packaging darling gifts of food and love – but the weekend as a whole didn’t feel like work.  “Retreat” implies withdrawal and quiet.  We were not quiet.  

 

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Perhaps I’ll just return to “Potluck”, which is, after all, the name given to this weekend by its creators.  At a Potluck, you bring something to share, and you partake of others’ offerings.  It can create great anxiety  –  Will my dish be enough?  Will it be popular?  Will it pale in comparison to the dishes of others?  But in the end the act of sitting down and sharing tends to eclipse any fears.  After all, what is more communal than sharing a table?

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I dislike those recaps of blogging conferences that show fabulous pictures of fabulous things and fabulous people that leave you wildly envious that you weren’t there yourself.  There were lovely people and lovely things and lovely food, but I can’t share that with you directly.  I can’t bring you to the Potluck with me, but I can share some of what I brought away with me.  I can give you a seat at the table.

Beauty needs ugliness to make itself known.  The real beauty of blogging isn’t in perfection – in the light and the shoulds and the immaculate food and the gorgeous writing, and the SEO and the sponsorships – the real beauty of blogging is sharing the reality.  You may wake up one day and realize that your blog (or your life) don’t really reflect the whole you, but you can change course.  Success is defined however you want, and you should celebrate your successes.  Give yourself.  Share yourself.  Be yourself.  

I attended the Big Traveling Potluck last year, and I found inspiration and motivation.  But this year I feel like I found bits of myself that I didn’t know I had lost.  I try, here at The Domestic Front, to reflect the reality.  I know you know my life isn’t perfect, my food isn’t perfect (and we ALL know my photography isn’t perfect.  But I don’t always share.  In that light-filled room, in that most beautiful of beautiful locations, I realized anew that the beauty is most apparent in the imperfections, and the flaws. That this place should be a window into my life, my whole life, with its messiness and its grace.  This is my place, my space, my story to tell.

I’d like to tell it to you.

Won’t you sit at my table?

imageNote:  my potluck contribution was these bourbon balls, only I gave them a little extra kick by adding 1 tsp each of ground Saigon cinnamon and ginger, and 1/2 tsp. of ground chipotle.  Keeping it real?  They were awesome.

 

Pi Day Pie Round Up

Pi Day Collage

It’s Pi Day!  That happy day when bakers and nerds collide!  Fun facts about Pi:

1) Pi is a number with an infinite, nonrepeating number of decimal places.  The first few are 3.1415926535 (which is why, incidentally, March 14, or 3.14 is known as “Pi Day” amongst a small, geeky subset of the population.  And food bloggers.)

2)  The circumference of a circle is calculated by multiplying the radius (halfway across the circle) by 2 and pi (2*pi*r).  Coincidentally, pies are circles, and 2 pie are better than one!

3) The area of a circle is calculated by multiplying the radius by itself and pie, (pi*r squared).  However, we know that in reality, pie are round.  (Except for slab pies).

OK, enough with the corny pie pi jokes.  Pi is cool, and Pie is cool.  Below are a roundup of pies we’ve made at The Domestic Front.  Go bake a pie! It’s Pi Day!

 Fresh Fruit Pies

Plum Pie

Blueberry Corn Pie

Fresh Cranberry Marzipan Pie

Fresh Grape Pie

Peach Almond Slab Pie

Dried and Canned Fruit or Vegetable and Nut Pies

Maple Walnut Pie

Mince Pies

Perfect Pumpkin Pie

 Fried Dried-Apple Hand Pies

Cream Pies

Nesselrode Pie

Mini Key Lime Yogurt Pies

Spiced Cocoa Buttermilk Pie

Rice Pudding Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

Savory Pies

Chicken Cobbler Pot Pie

Chicken Kale Pizza Pie

Corn and Tomato Pie

Supper Onion Pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Quick Chicken Tortilla Soup and How to Add Flavor to Quick Soups

Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup txt

When it comes to dinner, I’m an obsessive planner.  With a full time job and an hour commute and two kids, my dinnertime meals are regimented.  But lunch is more spur of the moment.  Not exactly an afterthought, but definitely more of a “What do I feel like eating today?” meal.  And sometimes what I feel like eating is soup.

And when I feel like eating soup, I don’t mean soup-three-hours-from-now-after-simmering-0n-the-stovetop, but soup within the next thirty minutes or so, like this Chicken Tortilla Soup.   It comes together quickly without sacrificing flavor. Without the long simmering, I’m looking for ways to add flavor fast.  Some of my favorite ways to add quick flavor to soups are:

  1. Use good broth.  You CAN make soup from water, but if you’re looking for a fast soup, a good broth is essential.  Making your own is great, but I also like the flavors of Trader Joe’s Organic Free-Range Chicken Broth (Not reduced sodium), and Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock (Reduced Sodium OK in this case).
  2. Use add-ins that add a lot of up front flavor.  A carrot will yield its secret over time, but if you’re looking for fast, you want to add ingredients that carry a lot of flavor from the start.  This Mexican-inspired soup uses salsa and chilies to add a big punch of flavor.
  3. Toppings!  Plain soup is just that – plain.  Toppings take the soup to a whole new level, like in this cauliflower soup recipe.   This Chicken Tortilla Soup gets tortillas, cheese, avocados, cilantro – the possibilities are endless.

Continue reading Easy Quick Chicken Tortilla Soup and How to Add Flavor to Quick Soups

175* Recipes to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

Romanesco
It’s three weeks into January.  How are your new year’s resolutions going?

I’m making a concerted effort to cut down on sweet and starchy things in my diet.  I know I have a crazy sweet tooth, and I’d love to get the best of that, so there have been lots of protein and vegetables in my life.  The good news is that, after a week or so, the sweet stuff seems a little less tempting. There are some days when I think I might kill someone for a brownie, though.

Chances are, you are reaching that point where everything doesn’t seem new and fresh any more, and you’re looking for some inspiration.  Well, you’ve come to the right place! Below is a list of The Domestic Front recipes that should provide some new resources and inspiration, whatever your resolution!
Continue reading 175* Recipes to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

Fresh Cranberry Pie with Marzipan and How to Make Pie Crust

Cranberry Pie Whole
You guys!  I made this pie because I was looking for a double crust pie so I could revisit my pie crust tutorial (a few things have changed in my go-to technique since the last one I posted), and most of my fruit pie fruits are not in season, but now I’m kind of obsessed.  Fresh cranberries!  In pie!  Why is this not a thing?  Cranberries might be the perfect pie fruit — they’re tart and juicy, but have a pretty high pectin content, so your pie filling doesn’t run all over the place.   The flavor is a lot like fresh sour cherry pie, but fresh sour cherries are only available one week of the year, in very small parts of the US, and cranberries can be gotten EVERYWHERE for at least two months when most pie fruits are out of commission.    And just LOOK at the color:

Cranberry Pie Slice

It’s great, is all I’m saying.

Now on to pie crust. I like to walk my readers through making pie crust, because I feel like so many people are like “Pie crust?  Who has the time for that!  It’s too hard!” and I want to pat your head and say, “No, it’s OK – you can do it.”  You don’t have to own a walk in freezer or live in the arctic to make your pie dough (though it is a bit tougher on a warm day.)  You don’t have to source special kinds of lard or NOT TOUCH IT OR IT WILL BE OVERWORKED.  Pie crust is pretty forgiving.  If it cracks? Patch it.  If you can’t roll it out in a perfect circle?  Nobody cares.  At the end of the day you will have pie, and people will love you.  This is the way I’ve been making my pie crusts, and it works pretty darn well.

Continue reading Fresh Cranberry Pie with Marzipan and How to Make Pie Crust

Fried Dried-Apple Hand Pies

Apple Pies

When I talk family traditions and family recipes on The Domestic Front, I’m usually talking about my family – the family I was  born into, or the family I’ve made with Ken and Nuni and Boo.   My family is close (now that my cousin has moved back to LA from NYC, the farthest away anyone lives is about 2 hours), and we are all food people, so it’s natural to write about our places and recipes and stories.  Ken’s family is harder — for one thing, they’re geographically scattered all over the midwest, the east and west coasts, and for another, most of their traditions center around things other than food (like golf.  They play a lot of golf.)   My mother-in-law is a born and bred southerner, from the hotbed of American regional cuisine, but she’s also a wanderer, and would be perfectly happy to live on seaweed and lentils.

There has only been one major food figure in Ken’s family since I’ve known him (which is why he eats what I cook so happily), and that is Quincey.  Quincey was a substitute grandfather to Ken, whose own grandfathers both died rather young.   He was a true Southerner, who lived his whole life along the Virginia North Carolina border – he was also a musician, and a storyteller, a former tobacco farmer, a general handyman, and a damn good cook.  He taught Ken to play the mandolin, spent hours fixing up my mother-in-law’s house, and, the few times I met him, taught me a thing or two about cooking.  Collards with fatback, corn pudding, sweet potato pie, and the best fried apple pies I’ve ever tasted.  Quincey’s recipes were inexact — he measured with his fingers, adding a pinch of salt, a joint of butter.   I always meant to get them down on paper, in a form that could be reproduced, but Quincey died last year, and I never did.

Continue reading Fried Dried-Apple Hand Pies