go-to green sauce

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It’s summer which means the deer have arrived and they’re hungry. But this year for some reason our much-aligned deer are eating the Hostas that Michael so tenaciously planted in the giant planter he built from scratch (Suburban living has hit hard), and leaving my little herb box alone. So my herbs (parsley, basil, oregano , dill and chives) are growing like crazy.

I love seeing the flowing plants—so many herbs!—but I honestly don’t know if I can keep up. How much oregano can you use? Even when you cook as much as I do, there are only so many uses for fresh herbs. My new go-to use-it-up recipe is an oversimplified version of chimichurri/salsa verde which we can just call green sauce—recipe below. I keep it in the fridge and have used it to marinade a pork loin, on grilled fish, chicken and bread, and mixed in yogurt for a dip/sauce. It’s an easy way to add flavor and herbs to a dish without much effort.

go-to green sauce

Author:
prep time: 5 Mcook time: total time: 5 M
Use as a marinade, sauce or add to yogurt for a dip.

ingredients:

  • A handful of herbs
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2-1 cup olive oil
  • salt/pepper to taste

instructions:

How to cook go-to green sauce

  1. Put 2 garlic cloves, a handful of herbs, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and puree. Slowly add olive oil until it’s a paste. (You can add more oil as it ages.) Store in refrigerator.
Created using The Recipes Generator

it's a wrap

During Michael’s recent low-carb resolution, and while mourning the loss of his beloved sandwich, I saw a brief segment on some talk show about using collard greens as a sandwich wrap. It turns out it works really well! Take the stem mostly off then soak leaf in simmering hot water for about 3-5 minutes. Dry off on a paper towel and wrap your filling starting at the bottom, then sides, then roll up. You can soak a few leaves at a time and then store them in a paper towel in tupperware in the fridge until ready to use.

It’s a good, healthy, low carb container for leftovers or your regular sandwich filling—turkey, cheese, tuna, even a hot dog. Then again, if bread is your thing, please forget everything I’ve said.

Cauliflower Grits

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If I had to pick one outstanding detail about our recent New Orleans jag, it would be GRITS. Michael and I ate and drank our way through that town in three days (including a bloody mary tour; secluded backyard bars; amazing restaurants including Cochon and Commanders Palace) but the lasting taste of that trip is for grits. The question—how to make them a little healthier so I can eat them all the time. A little internet research turned up Cauliflower Grits which is a totally different thing but turned out pretty great—alongside some Cajun shrimp.

Cauliflower Grits

Makes: 2 Cups

Name of image (title of post is fine)

Ingredients:
  • 1 head of cauliflower broken into florets
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar

Instructions:
  1. Process florets in food processor until course, then steam in pot for 5 minutes to release moisture.
  2. Add butter, half of milk and cream. Stir until liquid gone.
  3. Add cheese and the rest of the milk and cream. Stir while cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper.

Valentine's Day Gift Bags!

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What says love better than beef jerky? Do everyone a favor and heat up this Hallmark holiday with a gift your lovers can really sink their teeth into. A large jar of savory and slightly spicy beef jerky (homemade so nothing like the bland plastic-like store-bought kind) plus a side of funky dark chocolate bark with spicy mango and pepitas—wrapped in roses and a cute tote. Make this V-day spicy—and a little sweet. Order now and I’ll deliver it to your honey in time for Valentine’s Day!

Happy 2019

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So while the rest of the world is observing a Dry/Vegan/Meatless/Paelo/Whole 360/Gluten-free January, I seem to be eating more sugar and drinking more alcohol. It could have something to do with the fact that our heat is broken – that means OFF—for a week now while they find a new part for the motor. Happy 2019!  

I now know how those southern people feel when they move to New York. I’m writing this in a winter coat and dreading taking a shower because the second floor feels like Canada. So I’m blaming the cold on my inability to give up the satisfying things in life. I need those things. I’m cold.

Michael and I did resolve to give up meat this week which was going well until I made a pork shoulder. This is the recipe for Momofuku’s Bo Ssam that I made for a dinner party of 6, and it’s amazing and surprisingly easy. We also ate it for three days after the dinner party because the leftovers were so good.

Picture (obviously) from the New York Times

Picture (obviously) from the New York Times

So aside from that….we’re practically vegan. It is a good challenge though and has inspired some new dinners: fish tacos, Instant Pot Shakshuka (from Melissa Clark’s book Instant Dinner), shrimp with cauliflower puree. In other words, we’re not just eating pasta with the kids.

I also made my chocolate peanut-butter balls which aren’t particularly healthy but aren’t particularly unhealthy either (and this version included hemp seeds which are nutty and camouflage nicely). It’s a good snack for the ravenous 6-year-old that gets off the bus every day. I suspect that instead of eating lunch, he just says “poopy” and “fart” until recess. When he gets home he needs a snack the size of a meal. These balls are a good filler-upper for him and unlike the store-bought stuff, they are from real ingredients.

 Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut flakes
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
1/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter (or other nut/non-nut butter)
1/3 cup honey or agave

DIRECTIONS
1. Grind oats, coconut, hemp seeds and chocolate chips in mini food processor.
2. Mix peanut butter and honey, then stir in oat mixture.
3. Roll into balls (add a few drops of water if too dry). Sprinkle with powdered sugar (for effect) and refrigerate.

 

theater party

Theatrical Bruschetta

Theatrical Bruschetta

I volunteered to make party food for the Irvington Theater’s season-kick-off benefit party this weekend. It’s a lovely organization that I’m excited to be a part of—and excited to be bringing some exciting stuff to this often-sleepy town.

I wanted to make a range of finger foods that had some theatrical color and variety and came up with a spread of different bruschetta. There’s an artichoke and parmesan; beet and goat cheese; red pepper and goat cheese and one with plum chutney and prosciutto.

The decision what to make was based, as usual, on what was on hand—and started with those weird green plums we got from the CSA. They were small and sour and no one was eating them so I boiled them with with some sugar, wine and water until they were pulpy and mushy. That’s basically what chutney is. I paired them with their opposite— salty crispy proscuitto fried in a pan and added a thin layer of the goat cheese mixture (goat cheese mixed with cream cheese for extra spreadability) below it all to soften the blow.

The beets were also CSA remnants, which I roasted in tin foil then peeled and mixed with some cider vinegar and salt. The red peppers were even easier—a bottle of roasted red pepper from Costco that I diced and mixed with red wine vinegar, garlic, sugar, pepper flakes, and teaspoon salt. Those also went over the goat cheese spread, although a whipped feta would work too.

Left: Costco bottle pureed vs. right: Cook’s Illustrated recipe

Left: Costco bottle pureed vs. right: Cook’s Illustrated recipe

Finally the artichokes—I used a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that pureed canned artichoke hearts with basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon and parmesan but after realizing that the artichokes I bought in bulk were already swimming in an olive-oil mixture—I tried just pureeing the chokes with a bit of the liquid from the bottle and that worked too (a little more acidic than the original but definitely delicious—and since this version was extra I combined it with some sour cream for a dip I was asked to bring to a Friday night dinner party.

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I rounded it out with rosemary roasted nuts that I always make for Thanksgiving, crudite with a green goddess dip (made with all the herbs that were beginning their goodbyes in our garden) and a puff pastry cracker. Plus a couple basic cheeses and olives, all of which cost me a total of less than $100 to make. If it weren’t such a lovely non-profit, I would have quoted a much higher price.

gift basket

Michael’s co-worker heard that I was making foodie gifts and requested a basket for her friend’s anniversary celebration. Here’s what I came up with…

Serrano Blanco (Fresh pepper infused tequila)

Pickled Watermelon Rinds

Beef Jerky

Boozy Cherry Chutney

Garlic-Herb Salt

Bacon Onion Jam

Mocha Cocoa (Add to hot milk for delicious hot chocolate)

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Raspberry-Basil Syrup

with gin, lemon and seltzer

It’s a great gift—email me to request one!


 

 

 

 

chicken leek

When the CAS gives you leeks....make this recipe from Epicurious. Actually, this was a dish that Michael and I made when we were first dating and when neither of us could cook. For some reason, I brought over this recipe to his little Havemeyer Street apartment and we made it together -- a major project. This time, I whipped it up pretty fast while the boys were on their way back from Boston. It's so simple, I thought it would be dull but it wasn't. I added my garlic herb salt and subbed sour cream for cream. It was rich and hearty and just right for a Sunday night dinner. 

pea shoots

pea shoots

Just back from this week’s CSA gathering. And: pea shoots! I’ve loved pea shoots ever since I had them sauteed at M Shanghai in Brooklyn—it’s their signature side and on the menu only when the shoots are in season. Which, apparently, is now. Since I sadly won’t make it into Brooklyn this weekend I thought I should try to recreate the M dish at home.

It turns out it's insanely simple. Heat 1 tablespoon of neutral oil in a hot wok and throw in the shoots and a pinch of salt. Cook while stirring until they start to wilt (2-3 minutes) then turn off heat and add a splash of soy sauce or lemon juice or both and (optional) some sesame seeds (or nori which was a spontaneous purchase at H Mart.) I also added a few drops of hot sauce. And then happily ate it all my myself since the boys are in Boston this weekend.

And despite the fact that today’s CSA allotment of cucumbers was…one (damn you rain!), I will still be pickling and making some other new items for my first customer—a friend who wants to give a wedding anniversary gift basket containing Monsters Vs. Dinner products. I’ve been cooking like a mad woman to get everything ready: beef jerky, onion jam, cherry chutney, garlic herb salt and of course pickles. I’ve been experimenting with salt levels and fermented vs. fridge. It’s a whole lotta science but pretty fascinating and once I get it down, I’ll be a pickling machine—making my MFA in fiction finally worthwhile.

my new favorite diy

garlic herb salt

One of the new items I've been experimenting with is homemade garlic and herb salt. You know that nasty chalky McCormick garlic salt that's been in your pantry for years? Throw it out. This one is easy and makes everything taste better. Seriously. I've tried it on eggs, humous, guacamole, sauteed veggies, salad dressing and roast chicken. I now sprinkle it on a bagel and cream cheese (instant everything bagel!) Try it on top of toast with mayo (or spinach humous pictured above) and fresh summer tomatoes. It elevates flavor and adds a richness without overpowering. Cardboard up next. 

It does however take some upper body strength, so feel free to cancel today's gym plans. Or just order one from me—below!

csa madness

CSA Strawberries

I signed up for The Rivertown CSA this year which means that on Saturdays, I go to town and pick up whatever the local farm has harvested that week. But every time I return home with our weekly allotment, I panic. HOW AM I GOING TO USE THIS PERFECT PRODUCE BEFORE IT ALL GOES BAD? I need to immediately start portioning, assigning, cooking and freezing.

For example, I knew we would never eat 3 baskets of blueberries because the boys would rather eat slime than try them (they said that.) I couldn't bear those beautifully tart firm berries turning to mush. So I froze one basket on a tray and then put them into a plastic bag for smoothies or just some late night snacking. I did the same with the sweet strawberries that actually tasted like strawberries (hulling them before I froze them.)

With the basil that I feared wilting into blackness, I quickly pureed with purple scallions (also from the CSA), pine nuts that have been in my freezer since I learned to cook, parmesan that the kids no longer like with pasta, lemon and olive oil. I froze this chunky pesto too. 

For the Swiss chard, I separated the leaves from the stems and chopped both. I heated olive oil in a pan then sauteed garlic for 1 minute, added stems and cooked for 5 minutes then added leaves, salt and dashes of both cider vinegar and fish sauce. When they were wilted, I stirred in a tablespoon of greek yogurt and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Throughout the week, I used it three times: I served it as a side dish, mixed it into cauliflower rice and added it to scrambled eggs. 

Finally the cucumbers--I turned to my mom's recipe. Cut into small pieces (you could also mandolin), place in large tupperware and add white wine vinegar and salt to taste. Let these mellow out in the fridge for a day or two and the simple pickle becomes a great snack and easy salad ingredient. 

So within an hour of picking up farm fresh vegetables, I had turned them into not-so fresh produce, which maybe is totally insane. It is, right?

 

jammin' now

making cherry chutney

I'm learning that mush is good. Fruits and veggies cooked down with lots of good flavor is a wonderful thing. For example, two of the latest creations (which both are amazing accompaniments to grilled meat, sandwiches or cheese)...

And an onion jam which starts with bacon fat...so nothing bad can happen. 

real food

It's officially summer vacation-- ever since 8:10am today when the camp bus picked up the kids for eight hours!!! We kicked off the season this weekend with our first ever family camping trip. Thankfully, we were also accompanied by our good friends who are pro campers and made the whole experience lots of fun. Minus the deafening nocturnal frogs, it was not nearly as traumatic as we predicted.

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Including the meals. A reheated frozen chili was easy (though the nachos with Rotel and Cheddar Cheese soup were soggy.) We loved steak tacos with all the fixings. They were a bit more work but there's not much else to do when you're sitting around a campsite. The kids ate hot dogs as if they were at home. And the egg hack--crack them into a jar before you leave--worked brilliantly. 

On the way home we tried to counteract all the chips we ate with food from a Catskills farmers market—just-caught whole trout and beautiful produce. Next to the market was the Livingston Manor Farm- part cafe with delicious gourmet sandwiches and part store selling small-batch local food. It's exactly what the Rivertowns need.

Out here, it's easy to rely on a lot of cheap and processed food. After years of city living, Costco and giant grocery stores with big parking lots have been kind of thrilling.

But since reading A Mind of Your Own in which Dr. Kelly Brogan argues that processed food affects not just our physical but also our mental health, I’ve tried to buy more real food. We joined Butcher Box that delivers grass-fed farm-fresh frozen meat to our house every other month, as well as the local CSA. And I have been making an effort to go to Irvington’s fabulous farmers market.  

On the other hand, I haven’t made it out of the kitchen yet today. Just now, as I was finishing the breakfast dishes, Mack ran in claiming he was “STARVING.” 

a year in the burbs

So we’ve been here a year! Can you believe it?

 (This is the conversation I’ve been having not only with our neighbors but also in my head.)

So, what do you think? Did you make the right choice?

 (Here I pause, not sure which answer is correct:

Yes; our kids are happy running around and I’m happy with them running around (without the need for my attention). Driveways! They rock. We’ve met some good people and a few promising friends. It's quiet.

No; I miss the city, the hustle, my arty-worldly friends, good food. I wish there was way more creativity in the schools which teach literally by the (Xeroxed for homework) book. Soccer jerseys. Also, I hate driving everywhere SLOWLY (25 mph town speed limit strictly enforced.)

Well, it takes time.
Yes that’s what everyone says.
It’s different here.
Indeed.
You can always go into the city.
True, but it’s a hassle with the kids.
You have to make the effort!
I’m trying.
Everyone is very nice here.
Everyone is very nice here.

What’s funny is that things start to seem better because they become more familiar. I swear your standards change without you realizing it. All of a sudden one day, you say: you know what? I like driving under 20 miles per hour. It gives me a chance to relax.

(Michael’s 78-year-old father, who drove two hours to work and back for 50 years, now drives 30 miles per hour on the LIE. “What’s the rush?” he says to all the drivers honking at him.)

Anyway, there are pros and cons, like anything else I guess. Same as in Brooklyn. For example, since there are so few good restaurants here (con), I’ve been cooking like a top chef (pro). Every night. I even grill now. So on a high note, here’s the latest successful "Meatless Monday" dish, which I’ve simplified from a NYT recipe.

the never ending winter

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Winter in the suburbs, just as everyone said, is intense. Wool hats have become sleepwear and slippers are no longer optional. Sometimes my fingers are so cold as I’m typing that I have to sit on them. And no I’m not writing outside. This house just only gets so warm. Then there are snow days—seven this year so far. The one thing home-bound cold weather is good for however is cooking. I’ve even roped the kids in to the kitchen a few times-- mostly with the help of this Hanukah-gift Cooking Class: 57 fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat).

**Quick story: The problem with Hanukah (okay, I know I said I was trying to be more positive but hear me out) is that small gifts like say, a mini lego set, the night after they got a large lego set, tend to be a disappointment—which makes us get angry at the kids’ spoiled brat-ness and Hanukah turns into a sulking fest. This year we did the dessert plan: Every night we lit the menorah but Instead of a gift, we ate a fabulous dessert. On two of the eight nights, we gave gifts (a worthy stash that made the Israelites journey worthwhile.)

The cookbook gift was a surprising success --  all the recipes are simple and yummy enough to hold their attention and make them want to do it again. Which at this point, is really the point.

We started with granola bars, crepes and pancakes. Then Mack and I made the popcorn chicken. I also got them this plastic knife set, which I highly recommend. The boys use them all the time to cut their own food without me needing sedatives. The book has some fun tips and labels in the back which we used to package the granola bars for their lunchboxes.

Last night we had a fabulous 7 course “Dinner with Dave” (see below) who admitted that most of his culinary prowess came from cooking with his mom, who wasn’t even a great cook. Maybe someday these boys will catch the bug.

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kids picks

Ever since their older cousin Mae showed them how to mix dirt, leaves, worms and orange juice in a bowl, the boys have been asking to do "science experiments." They've seen their uncle perform the black pepper in soapy water trick to show how molecules separate (or something like that). He blew their little minds. And their grandmother makes slime and other messy substances that take minutes to make and hours to clean up.

I"m always a little skeptical of the mess vs. value of the product. But then I remembered referring to my pickle-making attempts as science experiments. So I found a new recipe in the Jerusalem cookbook (no vinegar or sugar but lots of interesting spices, plus dill) and made it with the boys. They liked smelling cloves and learning about mustard seeds, and what happens when salt dissolves in water. Nate's persistent question throughout was "will they be sour?" To which I had to admit, I don't know. We'll see in 5 days. 

"Aw man," Mack said. "Can we play now?"

Update: They were not sour enough for Nate's taste but they were tasty. Next time I'll play around with the spice mix. A different kind of playing than Mack had in mind, I guess. Stay tuned.