• Apron Optional: Tied up with a bow

    Apron Optional cooks up Simply Scratch's Creamy Lemon and Chive Farfalle. This version adds a bit more color and richness with some extra cheese and a sprinkling of peas.
    Apron Optional cooks up Simply Scratch's Creamy Lemon and Chive Farfalle. This version adds a bit more color and richness with some extra cheese and a sprinkling of peas.

    Hey everyone! I’m back in America and still a little jetlagged.

    If you plan accordingly with your grocery shopping, as my family always does, then your post-vacation fridge is usually pretty bare. While this is good in theory, it means very few food options upon arrival back home.

    Not really wanting to go out to the store (I’m still in a bit of a late summer lull) I scrounged for a filling recipe I could make sans groceries. Then, as if it had descended from heaven: a recipe for creamy lemon and chive farfalle (bowtie pasta).

    This pasta dish is great because (for the most part) it contains ingredients I usually keep in my kitchen anyway. The slight tanginess of the lemon juice and zest cuts the heaviness of the dish, making it a very satisfying meal.

    It’s also great because you can substitute the ingredients to fit your current fridge stock. In the past, I’ve used white onion and garlic instead of chives and shallots. Not quite the same flavor, I’ll admit, but just as delicious.

    In the past, I have added shrimp to the pasta to make it more of a meal but pieces of chicken or chicken sausage work fine as well. This time, I added about half a cup of frozen peas for some color and well, for the sake of peas.

    One of the joys of being home at my parents is that there is always white wine in the house — perfect for cooking and keeping your company occupied. However, if you find yourself short a bottle (or like me, simply don’t want to make the trip to get it), low sodium chicken or vegetable broth is a fine substitute.

    The original recipe comes from the food blog Simply Scratch, a gold mine of easy dishes from scratch. This was one of the first places I started looking for recipes when I got into cooking because the author makes everything seem so achievable — a good quality for beginners with shaky confidence.

    Now, if you will excuse me, I have some carbo-loading to do. No, I’m not a runner — I just eat like a pro.

  • Apron Optional: Sandwiches in Paris

    Hey everyone! Still in Paris!

    Though I have been out on the streets all day frequenting museums and eating everything in sight, I have been very fortunate to be staying in an apartment with a working kitchen. Since my family is up and running pretty early, it’s great to be able to make something to pack up and take on the go.

    For a while now, I’ve wanted to talk about the importance of ingredients. Sometimes, the simplest foods can be the most delicious and presentable. The difference between just another lunch and something memorable can be as simple as the quality of what you put into it.

    Before getting to France, my family had anticipated cooking a few meals while we were here. The kitchen works, but it is definitely lacking in a lot of areas: there are only two dull cooking knives and the electric stove is temperamental to say the least.

    Because of this, we have had to alter our plans a bit to compensate for the lack of baking capabilities. Honestly, I’ve never been a huge sandwich person (pizza, either — I know, I’m a freak). There is just something so mundane about the sandwich — it’s more of a means to an end than an experience.

    However, of all the sandwiches I’ve had, the handful that stick out are all high quality but incredibly simple. For the past few days, we’ve gotten a morning baguette at the bakery down the street and I have made sandwiches to go with some pancetta from a local charcuterie (the fancy word for a meat shop) and some obscure soft cheese (the name peeled off, but it is very similar to a rich brie) from a fromagerie (cheese shop) in the neighborhood. I can’t stop eating currants (and making puns about them), so I usually have some on the side.

    The great thing about Austin is that there are so many local shops that sell fresh and superior food products. The bevy of farmers markets, specialty shops and bakeries makes shopping for food fun and accessible.

    In simpler foods, the quality of your ingredients makes all the difference — you know, like the difference between eating a ham and cheese and enjoying a pancetta and brie.

    Next week, I will be back to my usual apron-enhanced cooking adventures, probably still reeling from French food withdrawals.