Category Archives: Food

Spring Brunching

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Spring brunching

Still have breakfast on the mind. With the warm weather creeping in, I’m ready to load up on spring produce and bright flavors, especially in the morning. I can’t wait for my farmer’s market to be bustling again or start getting a weekly CSA. I really want to celebrate with brunch parties on a patio I don’t have, but I think rooftops and park picnics will have to suffice. I’ll bring the food if you bring the iced coffee.

baked eggs with spinach and tomatoes | beet and turnip gratin | blueberry pull-apart bread | lemon, feta, asparagus pasta, cold-brewed iced coffee

Cooking With Friends: Fig Fest

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Fig Fest Figs

I’ve been delighted to get back in the kitchen recently. Cooking dinner for myself is one of my favorite ways to relax and be inspired. It’s been great to do more of that in the last few weeks. But another thing I’ve missed is cooking with friends. One of my very good friends is lucky enough to have a big fig tree in her backyard. (Yes, in the middle of the city!) Last year she and I started a little “Fig Fest” tradition where we spend the day cooking with this beautiful ripe fruit.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Fig Fest Cupcakes for Breakfast: Fig Fest Fig Bourbon Fizz

We invited a few other people to join us – someone who lived down the hall freshman year, a former co-worker, a fellow food-blogger turned friend, a bocce team member, a friend’s classmate from grad school. This is one of my favorite things about being 26 in DC. Our networks have grown and it’s no big deal to mesh them together for an afternoon. We end up making new friends over making cocktails, August playlists, and discovering mutual experiences (like mice in our apartments or great first dates).

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Fig Fest Fig Bourbon Fizz

Sarah and Jenn whipped up these Bourbon Fig Fizzes for everyone and after Mike climbed down from picking the fruit we couldn’t reach, we toasted under the fig tree. Sunday afternoon. No plans but eating. Mason jars and cute mugs. Between rain storms. Cheers to the figs.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Fig Fest Struan toasts with gorgonzola figs and honey

Sarah and Sabiha prepped the ingredients for a savory fig chutney. The smell of vinegar and onions filled the kitchen. It would be a while until the chutney was ready and we needed some food to fill out fig-hungry stomaches. While I kept an eye on the stove, I quickly whipped up some little bites for us to nibble on. Toasted struan bread from the farmer’s market with crumbled gorgonzola (we also made some with goat cheese), sliced figs, and a drizzle of honey. This was my favorite way to eat the figs. They were so fresh and the simple flavors went so well together. They looked and tasted fancy – but really, they were just fresh.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Fig Fest Struan toasts with gorgonzola figs and honey

So first of all, go eat some fresh figs. Better yet if you can pick them yourself. And second, collaborate a little in the kitchen. With good friends and new friends. Share the chopping, muddling, and recipe tweaking. And of course, the best part, share the food.

Tomato Stacks

tomato stacks

Avocado and Gouda BLT Corn Fritter Stacks with Chipotle Bourbon DressingGrilled Tomato “Lollipop” ToastsTomato-Beet SaladBurgers with Roasted Tomatoes, Pesto, and MozzarellaFried Mozzarella, Basil and Nectarine Stacks with Balsamic GlazeBlistered Tomato Grilled Toast Caprese Nachos with Balsamic Glaze

I’m writing this while I’m home in New Jersey. I’m only here for a couple of days, but one of the things I’m most excited about is the fresh summer produce. My town has a few farm stands where the peaches, corn, and tomatoes are so ripe this time of year. I’m planning a family dinner menu for tomorrow night and all I can think about are simple stacks and stacks of ripe tomatoes. I’m drooling over the ones above, but I’ll probably end up with something similar like to what I made below – heirlooms and creamy mozzarella drizzled with olive oil, balsamic crema, and herbed salt.

I think in the summer, this is all you need for a meal! (And look! None of these are pasta dishes!)

tomato mozzarella stack

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

Roasted Red Pepper Carbonara and cooking for boys

The title of this post comes from a great book I read several years ago that chronicles all the meals the author has made for the men in her life. When I read it at 21, I thought I could relate, but now at 26, I wish I had stolen and kept this title for myself.

The first boy I cooked for was my high school boyfriend Aaron. It’s funny thinking about the grown up things you want to do when you’re 14, but having no license or no money really prevents you from trying. I think it was Valentine’s Day. I followed a recipe from my mom’s Joy of Cooking for spaghetti bolognese, his favorite meal. I remember chopping the onions, carrot, and celery for the sauce and thinking it was so strange that these three things go in pasta. Now I understand the importance of mirepoix in cooking, the holy trinity, and I can recognize it in any dish I eat.

I spent a long time over the stove, stirring, smelling, following the recipe to a t, asking my mom if it looked right. Finally, it was the big moment and I was very nervous for my cooking debut. We ate in our library where I set up a card table and folding chairs. We shut the French doors and had the room to ourselves, although mom and dad definitely peeked their heads in a few times. I probably lit candles and played a Creed cd. He gave me a song he wrote about seasons changing and the color of my eyes. I think I thought this meal was the most romantic thing ever. Haha. I’m glad to be 12 years older and wiser now (if anything, at least in music taste!)

There have been more boys and many more pastas since that first bolognese. (And we get to drink wine with it now too!) Fresh corn and pesto cappellini on a rooftop, a super simple carbonara because I had nothing else in my fridge except two eggs and I really wanted to cook for him, rigatoni with sausage peppers and onions eaten on the couch wearing matching sweatpants, meatball lasagna for another Valentine’s Day, chicken and peppers penne with creamy goat cheese that we cooked together, adding pancetta to spaghetti because I want to win your heart over with bacon.

I love cooking for these guys and surely for the yet-to-be-determined next guy and guy after that. I love that I don’t have to follow recipes anymore. Garlic, olive oil, and butter is really all I need. Fresh veggies or heart-winning bacon? Throw it in. Got some heavy cream? Duh. And grated fresh parm on top of course. It’s so easy… (and now I guess I can leave my nerves for the part that matters). I love slyly waiting and watching them take their first bite, to see their reaction. (FYI dudes, this is a really important moment. Don’t f-it up. Tell me it’s good. Cause I know it is.) Oh and I love that these pastas are simple to make that I don’t have too many dishes to do after dinner. Extra props to the guys who offer to wash them, while I just sit there and do nothing.

Ok, here’s the cheesy part. There isn’t always a boy to cook for. But so what? I still make the same amount just for myself. And I still put in the same amount of love into it – honestly, probably even more. I still win over my own heart with pancetta. There’s still wine and memorable nights. I just have to do my own dishes.

Roasted Red Pepper Carbonara and cooking for boys.

I made this dish for dinner recently and it’s a perfect example of a no-fuss, delicious treat for myself. Here’s the Nikki no-recipe version:

Roasted Red Pepper Carbonara

In a big pan, sautée garlic, olive, oil and butter over medium heat. Chop roasted red peppers and add to pan. Meanwhile, boil water and cook pasta. Add al dente pasta to pan with peppers/sauce. In a small bowl, scramble a raw egg with salt and pepper. Swirl egg into pasta/peppers until creamy (but not too much that the egg cooks and forms white pieces). Add fresh parm and extra pepper. Serve with wine and side of cute boy (Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love will do just fine). Bon appétit!

Stacks on Stacks

stacks on stacks of breakfast

vanilla doughnuts | blueberry lemon waffles | bacon & egg sandwiches with caramelized onions & arugulalemon poppyseed pancakesbanana bread french toast | bagel breakfast sandwiches | chocolate frosted cake doughnuts

Not sure why this popped into my mind this morning. Maybe I’m just really hungry. Maybe I’m looking forward to brunch tomorrow with friends. Maybe I’m unsure how my weekends will look like with my new job and I’m mourning the loss of long weekend brunches. Either way, now I want stacks of everything. Stacks of pancakes and waffles and doughnuts and runny egg sandwiches and unlimited coffee refills. Ok, time to make breakfast.

What are you eating this weekend?