fruits & failures

I've never tried to recreate a food I've had in a restaurant before - something about it seemed out of reach, like that was something I could never even attempt. There is a little cafe at the entrance (such as it is) to Georgetown, called Cafe Tu-Oh-Tu. Mostly they do salads and sandwiches, and I have fallen pretty hard for their pasta salad. It's simple enough: penne pasta, baby spinach, dill, feta, and dressing. As I've eaten there more and more, and gotten more into cooking, I decided one day to work up the courage. "Excuse me," I asked the cashier (a little nervously), "what's in the dressing?"

The list - which I quickly jotted down in my planner outside while C.T. patiently waited - consisted of olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper. My Friday afternoon stretched in front of me and of course I thought to fill it with cooking. I got a little distracted with the need to clean my kitchen a little beforehand and then settled down into attempting this dressing. I glugged out the remainders of my olive oil into a mixing bowl, gathered spices, cut and juiced lemons. I only had ingredients, but I figured that was fine, the rest was probably to taste anyway. So I poured the lemon juice into the oil and poured spices in willy-nilly.

It sort of came together, but mostly it tasted lemon-y (which, sure, might be because I used two lemons). I thought, well, maybe I'll let it sit in the refrigerator and give the flavors a chance to mesh. And before I knew it, the weekend had come and gone and all of a sudden it was Sunday afternoon. I checked in on my little mixing bowl and found that it had separated. Fine, that seems normal - unfortunately it also tasted not-so-great.

Which is fine, actually - because what this means is that I'm getting more comfortable in the kitchen, more at ease with experimenting. I may need to use recipes for a while longer, but I'm fine with playing around until something clicks and I have something wonderful to eat. This is definitely something I'm excited about, but I had another goal in mind for today's post: Summer Fest 2009. I was already cheating a little, since lemons aren't stone fruits, but a dud recipe (or lack thereof) just won't do. So what I have to offer instead are links to old posts: using this recipe, I made scones with farmer's market blueberries (instead of cheese and chives, just add as many blueberries as you'd like) Sunday morning; and I've been making quesadillas with guacamole a lot lately. I just can't get enough avocado in my life. (Yes, I realize that neither of these are stone fruits, either, though I did learn that blueberries aren't true berries, while avocados are technically large berries. The things the internet can teach you, huh?)


  1. Oh dear, well that can't all be winners, we've all had our share of kitchen disasters!

  2. Thanks, Kelsey, for stopping by! It's true, we can't always reign victorious in the kitchen!

  3. If you can still get fiddlehead ferns (are those even available in DC?) you should try this recipe, procured through a similar hunting expedition at a Boston eatery. (via email clearly- my notetaking skills aren't that divine.) Even without fiddlehead ferns it would make a marvelous foreground for summer vegetables and herbs, going along with your theme. I exclude the cheese in my recreation and it's still fab. -Julia Hughes

    Summer Vegetables & Orzo
    Eastern Standard, Boston MA

    2 cups orzo
    1/4 cup lemon vinaigrette (as needed)
    seasonal vegetables ie. fava beans, peas, fiddel head ferns, wax beans, asparagus ect..

    Herb Puree
    Tomato Jam
    Parm Cheese.

    Steam vegetables with water and season with vinaigrette.
    Warm the orzo with vinaigrette, add herb puree, and add cheese.
    Plate together and top with tomato jam.

    Lemon Vinaigrette-
    2 cups extra virgin olive oil
    1 cup lemon juice (fresh)
    2 tablespoons Dijon mustard.
    -emulsify in a blender adding the oil slowly.

    Tomato jam.
    3 shallots minced-
    olive oil as needed
    bay leaf
    1 tablespoon sugar
    2 cups canned tomato
    salt as needed.
    -sweat shallots in oil until very tender. add sugar and bay. Add tomato and simmer for 25 minutes. Puree and hang in cheese cloth to expel excess moisture.

    Herb Puree-
    All and any fresh greens herbs.
    Hand full spinach
    Blanch both in salted boiling water.
    Chill - puree with olive oil just to cover and ice cubes (to emulsify).

  4. Hi, Julia! Thanks for stopping by! I'm not sure if there are any fiddlehead ferns lurking around, but the recipe looks pretty delicious regardless.