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. 

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. 

hello again

So yeah it’s been a long time. Sorry about that. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking—quite the contrary. I have just been cooking (and running around) too much to sit down and write down.

Last week we were in Williamsburg for 4 days where I did zero cooking. Why would I when I can get Korean fried chicken and homemade kimchi delivered in 45 minutes; hot pepperoni pizza only three blocks away at Artichoke Pizza; juicy burgers from the Italian place downstairs and really good (if not authentic) Mexican food that even the kids will eat (with portions big enough for lunch the next day.) Ah Brooklyn.

When we got back, I declared a vacation-inspired no cooking zone and then quickly reneged on that when all four of us were home for three meals and innumerable snacks a day. Every night we said: Let’s go out. But where….? Then I wound up cooking.

So here’s a little synopsis of my recent kitchen outputs. I’ve actually taught myself a few new techniques and found or invented a couple keepers. (If anyone is reading this and wants recipes or more info, please ask.)

Wednesday (dinner party)
Wedge salad—I just quartered an iceberg head and made a dressing of blue cheese, buttermilk and sour cream then threw in a few croutons from our giant Costco bag which never seems to go stale...hmmm. 

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Sous vide steaks I’m obsessed with my sous vide machine! It's as easy as sticking the machine in a container of water to create a steady low temp cooking environment and then slipping in vacuum sealed meats. After an hour, you remove the steaks from the plastic and sear or grill them for 2 minutes. (See below.) There’s no better way to make tender meat and Serious Eats is the best source of recipes.

 Sous Vide Steak

Sous Vide Steak

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Spanish salted potatoes - these were from Milk Street magazine, created by the former editor of Cooks Illustrated, which is my new favorite cooking magazine. After being boiled in way salty water, the potatoes became encrusted with salt but they were creamy and not salty inside. Served them with a fancy take on Russian dressing.


Friday
Sugar-free ribs: We were headed to Long Island where my father in law is struggling with diabetes so I made up a ribs recipe without sugar:

I rubbed pork spare ribs with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder. Then baked at 325 on a rack/baking sheet for 2 hours; brushed with sauce (salsa, chicory root sugar substitute, the spice rub mix and butter—all boiled down together) and cooked for another 1-1.5 hours.

Served with this homemade sriracha made by Asian Farmer Dumplings that we picked up at Irvington’s fabulous farmers market.

Saturday

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Oven-steamed salmon: This is a great way to get soft decadent salmon with no effort: put a pan of water in the oven as you cook the fish. Served with plain yogurt mixed with lemon juice and pepper.

Sous-vide salmon: Brine for 30 minutes, add salt, pepper and herbs and a little oil then seal in a bag. Cook at 125.5 for 40 minutes and then sear skin in hot pan.

 

Steamed broccoli topped with parm cheese, lemon and olive oil
Toast spread with the excellent salmon cream cheese from the Bagel Emporium in Tarrytown.

Sunday (dinner party)

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Reverse seared pork loin with couscous greens and roasted spring onion. Served with tomato and mozzarella crostini. The reverse-sear method also belongs to Serious Eats and is similar to sous vide: cook low and slow then sear or broil (in this case) for a crust. It's stupid easy—season meat and cook. Then increase heat and cook more.

 

Of course the kids didn't eat any of this so there was plenty of takeout pizza this week too (but none as good as Brooklyn's.)

it's better in the burbs?

Well, I don't know about that yet but I'm trying to be optimistic and focus on the positives of our new life. Like, for example, more counter space! On which I can safely perch my instant pot and plug it in without moving ten other things. As a result, I’m using it more. For example, I figured out how to make ricotta cheese after many failed tries.

It's super easy— just pour a half gallon of milk (at Costco they comes in threes) and 1.5 teaspoons of salt in the IP and choose the "yogurt" function. When the IP beeps, add 1/3 cup lemon juice, stir and let it sit for 10 minutes. Finally, strain with cheesecloth for anywhere from 10-30 minutes until it's to your liking. It makes a nice gift if you put it in a jar with a ribbon.

I’ve also used the IP to steam veggies and it made the best chili we’ve ever had.

Another positive happening: I met a friend —one of my few neighbors who have not already covered their houses in inflatable spiders and faux tombstones. She told me about a peaceful shady pond within walking distance, which I found to be desolate and beautiful. As I looped around it, I even started to appreciate this quieter life. (I apparently got so dreamy though that I took the wrong path and had to use Google Maps to get home.) Still, I was pretty proud of my nature walk, and shared it with the kids when they got home from school, along with my pictures of floating geese. Or were they ducks? Wait, what’s the difference? 

magic mac

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For anyone who has followed my multi-year search for the perfect mac and cheese recipe, I'm sorry. It's not exactly the cause I thought I'd champion when I finished grad school. The good news is that I finally found it: an easy, no-powder mac and cheese (slightly tweaked from Dad Cooks Dinner) that both boys loved on two separate occasions. I can make in the Instantpot—it's even easier than a stovetop version, And I can pack it in thermoses for their lunch boxes. And here it is:

MAGIC MAC

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt 
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 16 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

    Directions
  1. Stir the macaroni, butter, mustard, hot pepper sauce, salt, and 4 cups water in the pressure cooker pot. Lock the lid and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Quick release the pressure and remove the lid.
  2. Stir in the evaporated milk and the cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly.

    ***This makes a ton so feel free to half it or store it in the fridge for a week or two and scoop out as needed. Heat up with a splash of milk or water.

 

 

action in the burbs

I didn’t really miss Brooklyn until I went back to Brooklyn. Driving into our old hood felt surreal, as if we had been staying at an airbnb all summer. Like now we were home.

The kids and I went to our regular movie theater and ate chips from the bodega as we walked down the sidewalk, talking to each other, holding hands at the corner. I miss that. Also: friends, bars without televisions and non-white people. (My kids apparently miss trash because they begged to bring home their playground collection for the playroom:

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I also miss driving over 25 miles an hour. The slogan of this town is: Slow Down. At stop signs, people stop, wait, make sure it is their turn and that everyone else is okay with that. The town mascot is Rip Van Winkle—the guy who slept too long.

Last week however was action packed. First, on Friday, we woke to a recorded phone call that school was canceled because of “police activity.” Rumors started flying: a robbery. A gunman. A hunter shooting at squirrels. Something about Ardsley country club? On the Facebook discussion, several locals asked if it was safe to walk the dog. Finally, the real news came in. A man, with a paintball gun, was spotted. Thankfully he was successfully captured and the locals could take to the streets again. Do I sound jaded? Maybe. I’m just pissed the kids were home all day.

Anyway, just three days later I woke to a loud sound. The kids were sleeping and Michael was out. I immediately thought someone was in the house (actually, I think this all the time.) But then I saw a car parked outside with its headlights on and a man got out carrying a flashlight. The police?! I crept around to the front of the house. Across the street our neighbor was frantically pacing with his cellphone, while Mr. Flashlight waited.

I felt I had a right to know if my children were in danger so I marched outside, still half asleep, in my black nightgown and white socks (the floors are really cold in this house.)

Our neighbor, Larry, came rushing over. "I’m so sorry," he said still on the phone. "My brother in law backed up onto your lawn.” I looked and it was true. A non-police car was halfway up our front lawn. “And then he got stuck. I’m calling the towing company right now." 

Then he looked at me and said very gently, “So how are you doing?” I thought about my outfit. "Fine," I said. "Well thanks for taking care of this. I’m going back inside. Michael will be home soon.” And then I said, because it was true, “Michael is bowling. In Yonkers.” Larry nodded as if he already knew that and I went back inside and locked all the doors and thought, wait did that just happen?

Despite all this excitement I did manage to make a few good meals this week, including this easy new salad dressing I invented while trying to use up a few things in the fridge, like this giant jar of pesto (which is excellent by the way) that I bought at Costco on the advice of a chef friend.

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So I mixed a big spoonful of this pesto with a cup of buttermilk, a little white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and 1 tsp of sugar. It was like instant (healthier) ranch dressing that Mack asked if he could drink from the bottle. It was good. You could also add fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil to give it more zing.

I hate the word “zing.” I never used the word “zing” in Brooklyn.

Save me.

waking up in the 'burbs

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Another sign that you’re an urban girl in a suburban world? When the timer for the muffins goes off and you think it's a car alarm and let it go on for 10 minutes before realizing it's coming from the kitchen.

That happened. But the great thing about these muffins is that, apparently, you can’t really cook them too long or mess them up too badly. Believe me, I’m not a baker. The reason I made these is because of yet another Suburban Catch 22: The bus takes the kids to school (whoopee) but it picks them up at 7:15am (whatttt?)

So our leisurely two-pan breakfasts are about to end and I am trying to think of ways to get food in their bodies before they leap into this new world. We're not a cereal family and Mack turns into Darth Vader without some protein. So I found a recipe from Tory Avey and made it simpler and more kid friendly.

These are light and airy but definitely sweet and they have a little protein from Greek yogurt and a little fruit from applesauce. The best part is they only take about 10 minutes to make and only one bowl. And like I mentioned earlier, you can cook the hell out of them when you mistake the timer for a car alarm.  

Feel free to freeze them too and then you can defrost them in the microwave while yelling "STOP FIGHTING, GET DRESSED, YOU'RE LATE!"

Banana Muffins

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1/4 cup applesauce
3 ripe bananas mashed
1 cup Greek yogurt (whole, 2% or nonfat)
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Cut the butter into small chunks and place in a large mixing bowl along with the sugar and brown sugar. Use an electric mixer (or standing mixer) to beat together the butter and sugar for a few minutes. 

Add the eggs and applesauce and mix till smooth. Add the mashed bananas, Greek yogurt, and vanilla. Stir, then slowly add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves and nutmeg while mixing. Scoop into greased muffin tins and place a chocolate chip on top because kids fall for that sort of thing.

Bake the muffins for 25 minutes. Makes about 24 muffins.

 

instant pot

 

 

 

 

 

I don't usually follow the gadget of the month trends but the Instant Pot? It's f-ing amazing. Here's why you might want one: perfect easy hard boiled eggs; dried to soft beans in 30 minutes; seriously melt in your mouth beef stew:

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There are other functions--you can even make yogurt in it but I'm probably never going to do that. The point is, for me at least, it practically ensures a soft tender quality that might take hours of hard work otherwise. Last night-I bought a small piece of pork butt and chopped it in large pieces. Then I tossed it with some olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika and chile powder and threw it in the instant pot, along with a chopped onion, a garlic clove and a 1/2 cup of Tropicana orange juice. After 50 minutes the meat was falling apart--I needed a spoon to take it out of the pot. It was the easiest "slow roasted" meat I've ever made. The tender shreds were perfect for tacos—or alone on a plate, maybe with some soft polenta or slaw. 

oh joy a holiday potluck

I am usually the mom making the "healthy" snack that walks the fine line between nutritious and yummy and is always the one left over at the end. So this year for the school potlucks, I asked the kids what we should make. Nate, as always, said "pancakes." But it got us thinking along the lines of chocolate chips and breakfast foods. Nothing flax-seedy here but nothing too artificial either. These easy muffins were so good that few were left over which to the kids felt like an accomplishment and maybe, maybe made them want to cook with me again. 

CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS
 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 & ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk (whole or buttermilk is preferred)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 & ½ cups chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a 12 cup muffin tray with non-stick cooking spray or line with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Slowly add to the dry ingredients. Gently fold together until JUST combined.
  4. Divide the batter into the 12 muffin cups (or 24 mini cups) and bake at 425°F for 5 minutes, then turn the oven heat down to 375°F and bake for another 13-15 minutes. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes and enjoy warm. (Muffins taste best the day of, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.)

adapted from Lily Ernst of Little Sweet Baker



 

pre-turkey lineup

 Rosemary roasted nuts

Rosemary roasted nuts

For the last few years I have been making this dry brined turkey which always turns out perfect. And this year I added a vegetarian stuffing from Food52 which is a keeper. But since those standards were in place, I spent a little more time on these pre-gamers, aka special hors d'ouerves which I have to say probably got the most respect: rosemary roasted nuts, shots of butternut squash bisque, a NYT recipes for broiled feta with honey, and (below) olive rosemary crackers from Purplefoodie.com, which are incredibly easy to make and look super impressive.

OLIVE ROSEMARY CRACKERS

1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp parmigiano reggiano cheese, finely grated
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tbsp black olives, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup cream or half-and-half, more as needed
1 Tablespoon milk, if required
Pink Himalayan salt or your favorite topping – coarsely ground pepper, sesame seeds or poppy seeds.

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Put flour, salt, cheese, rosemary, olives, garlic and olive oil in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and olive oil create little crumbs. In case you don’t have a food processor, simply whisk all the dry ingredients together first. Then add the oil and using a fork or a pastry blender mix till they look like coarse crumbs.
  3. Add about 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half and let machine run for a bit. If the dough is still a little dry after pouring in the cream, add a little milk. Alternatively (without the food processor), pour the cream into the dough mixture and combine it into the dough with your hands..
  4. Roll out dough until 1/4-inch thick or even thinner, adding flour as needed. Lay on pan and score lightly with a sharp knife or pizza cutter to break crackers into squares or rectangles later on. Sprinkle with the salt or topping of your choice.
  5. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack; serve warm or at room temperature.
 Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

adobo

This is one of those recipes that I've tried before and failed before but for some reason, this time it clicked. And it's super easy, that's the weird part. Why I couldn't make it happen before is a mystery. 

The basis of the Filipino dish is a mixture of coconut milk and soy sauce that cooks down (along with some chicken thighs) to become a salty/sweet/sticky coating for the chicken. Really good. I didn't even have coconut milk so used some evaporated milk instead. You can use bone-in or boneless chicken (or even pork) but stick with dark meat only. 


Easy Chicken Adobo

2-3 pounds chicken thighs
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup coconut milk
2 bay leaves
Steamed rice, for serving

Directions
Combine the chicken thighs, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and bay leaves in a large pot. Cover and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours.
Bring the chicken to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened and the chicken is tender, about 20 more minutes. Serve with steamed rice.

o'banana bread

“What’s Oh Henry, “Nate asked from the couch.

“O’Henry? The book awards?” I asked without looking up but silently congratulating myself on my literary 7 year old and giddily imagining long afternoons reading together.

What?

What?

The candy! He yelled over to me. He was holding one of the mini candy bars from his giant bucket of Halloween candy that suddenly appeared in our lives on October 31. Not only is the giant bucket full of yumminess, it’s also a collection of shapes, colors, words, flavors, sizes that seemed to intrigue both kids almost as much as the sugary goodness.

Last night Nate made me rank my top 6 candy bare (Milky Way, KitKat, Three Musketeers, Reese's, Hershey bar). He laid the mini bars in the order I chose and came back to the lineup from time to time throughout the evening.“ Are you sure that Milky Way should win?” It took considerable time and consideration on both our parts. 

Mack is a little more reckless with it all. (This is the boy who ran in from trick or treating, took off his costume and all his clothes and announced in backwards-facing briefs “Let’s start this party!”) He fumbles through various lollipops and chewies, pausing sporadically to ask “is this one the poison?” (Yes I did tell them about that because I can’t help it.)

Michael and I have become the house experts on all things candy. We know which ones have nuts, which are too sweet, too sticky. Tootsie Rolls for example are a waste of tooth-time. Nerds are intriguing—so tiny and brightly colored — but without substance. Michael likes anything gummy and I prefer anything not gummy (aka chocolate.) But we are the ones who can show these naïve boys the way through their candy bucket.

And suddenly candy is forefront and center of almost all of our interactions. It’s the first thing they ask about when they get home from school. In the morning it’s a grueling decision making process to determine which piece goes in the lunchbox and then the runner-up, the one for after school. We seemed to have moved on at least temporarily from the car races and fantasy baseball games of yore to the inevitable candy wars.

So in order to add some conflict, I thought I'd bring something else sweet into the daily mix. (Also because no one is going to eat those withering bananas lying hopeful near the candy center.) But I needed a kick-ass Banana Bread, one of that could stand up to a Hershey's.

Who better to ask than the grumpy queen of making it right whatever it takes (here mainly a lot of butter)—Gabrielle Hamilton whose book "Prune" is genius. And whose banana bread recipe is so thoroughly realized and explained, down to how long to cream the butter and sugar and what shade the combination should achieve by the end of mixing. It would be impossible to let her down. The cake is rich and dense but not too sweet—moistened by buttermilk and pierced by soft walnuts. It's really delicious and gave the candy a good run. 

 

Prune's Banana Bread

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cups (2 sticks) butter softened
  • 1.5 cups bananas, mashed (from about 5 bananas)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of two 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a stand mixer, cream eggs and butter until light yellow. Alternate adding 1/2 banana mush and 1/2 buttermilk. Then slowly add flour mixture.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans. Bake until loaves are golden brown, about 55-65 minutes. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes and then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Recipe adapted from Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton

 

Tucci Love

We met a lovely woman named Janelle in Fire Island this summer who invited us to lunch at her house. As we sat on the deck eating grilled chicken and drinking wine, she told me about her favorite whole fish recipe. "You'll remember this," she said. "It's from Stanley Tucci." Last week I ordered two whole branzinos from Fresh Direct (they were on sale and seemed summery) and then remembered the recipe. I googled Stanley Tucci Fish and sure enough found it. I've grilled a whole fish before but never tried the roasting thing. It's super easy and yummy, and if you're okay with occasional bones, a beautiful presentation and meal. 

Stanley Tucci's Whole Roasted Branzino

1 (1 ½ pound) whole branzino, cleaned, gutted, and scales removed
Fine sea salt
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 lemons, thinly sliced, plus additional for serving
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for serving
20 cherry tomatoes
¾ cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 500˚F. Season both sides and the cavity of fish with salt. Arrange the 3 cloves garlic, lemon slices, rosemary, thyme, and parsley inside cavity.

In a large roasting pan, add olive oil. Transfer fish to pan. Toss in cherry tomatoes and remaining garlic in pan. Add ½ cup wine. Place pan in oven and cook, turning once and adding remaining wine, until skin becomes crispy, about 10 minutes. (To test for doneness, insert a metal skewer into the middle of fish for 5 seconds. Remove the skewer and if warm, then fish is cooked).

Transfer fish to serving plate. Arrange roasted tomatoes and lemon slices alongside fish, and drizzle with pan juices. Serve immediately.

the everyday and the dutch baby

Most weekends we make pancakes which are our everyday pancakes. I use a healthy-ish dry mix and we add eggs, milk and oil. The kids know the "recipe" by heart and love to help and the pancakes, which I make on our griddle, are pretty good. 

But this was a different kind of weekend. We had three birthday parties lined up, plus dinner with friends and a date night. And of course at birthday party number 1 on Saturday morning, a lovely pool party on a rooftop in Brooklyn, Mack slammed his face into a wooden planter while running from a water gun fight. 

We spent the next few hours in Urgent Care waiting for a doctor to look at his swollen bleeding eye. It turns out he is fine, just beat up, but anyone who knows Mack will probably feel more compassion for the doctor in this scenario. The very nice doctor in training who had never met Mack and didn't realize what he was in for or that the last time this boy had a medical procedure, the hospital security guards were called in to help hold him down. Not kidding.

After the crying, screaming, thrashing, begging and whirling insults, we finally got a drop into his eye. Six lollypops later, we were on our way home with a prescription for more drops (god help us) when Mack realized he wasn't returning to the lovely rooftop birthday party (since it was long over) and that he would not in fact be eating cake. You can imagine the rest. 

Anyway, this was no weekend for everyday healthy pancakes so we made this recipe from 1966 that blew us all away: creamy and buttery, custard-like with crispy edges. All it needs is a little powdered sugar on top. 

DUTCH BABY

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of nutmeg
4 tablespoons (one half stick) of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine the flour, milk, eggs, and nutmeg in a bowl. Beat lightly. 
Melt the butter on the stove in a cast iron skillet with a heatproof handle. When it is very hot, (be careful not to burn!) pour in the batter. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pancake is golden brown.
Sprinkle with the sugar.

a cheesy meatless monday

The kids were fools and declined to even try this creamy deliciousness which I made last night. It's pretty close to Alfredo and fun that you can keep scraping strands out of the "bowl" after it's all over.

Also this coincided with the kids eating scrambled eggs so we had a Yellow Dinner party and invited the following guests:

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon cream cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 Tablespoons extra for topping
salt/pepper

DIRECTIONS:

There are several ways to get the spaghetti out of the squash but the easiest is the microwave. You can put the whole squash in for 5-10 minutes until soft and then cut, or cut first then microwave for 5-10 minutes until soft. Either way let it cool a bit before you use a fork to shred out the strands and put them in a bowl. Keep the empty shells.

The sauce: melt butter and flour in a small pot over medium-low heat while whisking until you have a pasty brown mess, then add the milk and keep whisking. You’ll feel it get thicker. Once hot, add cream cheese. Take off the heat, add parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.

Mix sauce into spaghetti squash then scoop back into the empty shells. Add more cheese on top and broil for 3-5 minutes until warm and slightly brown on top. 

the spiralizer

Okay I know this is has been trending for some time and I've nobly resisted the marketing and culinary media pressures but I finally gave in and just bought the damn thing: The Spiralizer Tri-Blade Vegetable Spiral Slicer. The one everyone says is the best including Cooks Illustrated so if you're gonna do it, this is the one. Not terribly expensive ($30) and actually super easy to use and clean (I wish someone were sponsoring this but they're not.)

I watched a short video of how to use it (you can make curly fries!) then experimented on three zucchinis. It looks really cool but how does it taste? If you cook it properly, it's actually really tasty and not so far from the real thing. I think it's best not to think you are replacing spaghetti but inventing a new dish altogether. And with that in mind, I have to say I kind of loved this one way more than I thought I would. The "noodles" held up to the sauce and it was creamy but not mushy--really satisfying for a healthy dish. I didn't force it on the children yet but I"m already thinking about ways to trick Nate into eating it. (Green spaghetti for St Patrick's Day?) I think I could also peel the veggies and the result would look more like pasta. Hmmm....

Zucchini "Alfredo"

3 zucchinis
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp sour cream
1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated

Spiralize the zucchinis. Sprinkle with salt and sautee in hot oiled pan for 5 minutes. In the meantime, microwave other ingredients in medium bowl for 30 seconds. Add "noodles" to bowl and stir. Add extra cheese. 

egg+bacon+toast=muffin

File this under mommy was really impressed with herself, and as usual when mommy is impressed with herself, kids give the following review: “Um, kinda good but I don’t really want to eat it.” Same thing happened when I made these DIY Muffins.

Which is outrageous because there is nothing bad about eggs, bacon and toast in a muffin tin. Seriously, these “muffins” are delicious and if you don’t let on how excited you are there’s a good chance your kids will be into them. Right? isn’t that how it works?

Anyway, without further ado here is a very easy and impressive breakfast treat:

  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. With biscuit cutters or a glass, have the kids cut circles out of soft bread. (I kept the holed out sliced for egg in a hole – another fun egg dish which the kids actually like.)
  3. Butter a muffin tin and kids smush bread circles into the bottoms.
  4. Microwave 4 slices of bacon on a plate for 1 minute then shape the slimy bacon slice (meaty part on top) around the edges of the muffin. (Kids were grossed out by this part so I did it.)
  5. Then crack an egg into each tin. (Or into a bowl first so you can remove any shell. You could also beat the eggs with a little milk and cheese and pour that in.)
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes (Start checking at 15 minutes. Whites will be a little jiggly but bacon should be firm.)
  7. Cool and eat or slice in half and share. Or eat them all yourself and tell everyone how talented and creative you are.

meatless mondays

One of my first cookbooks was the Moosewood Cookbook. I was in high school and a sudden vegetarian and someone, maybe my mom, bought me Mollie Katzen's book. It was a revelation at the time--one of the first collections of only meatless meals. 

I have since lost that book and I am no longer a vegetarian but lately we have been trying to abstain from meat one day a week. Meatless Mondays is part of our attempt to structure weekday dinners (ie Taco Tuesday). At first Nate protested this rule. Then he found out that pasta is not a meat. Now he's cool with it. But it does remain a challenge to come up with new and filling veggie dinners. I think Michael is secretly hoping I get stumped and he can just eat cheese.

While googling what to make with the bag of green lentils that I bought on a whim at a health food store, I came across one of Katzen's humble recipes from the Moosewood Cookbook. It seemed odd that such a relic was even online. But the simple lentil chili was a perfect starting point, and with a few flavor additions, turned out a hearty, meat-like chili that satisfied us omnivores and even became lunch for the next few days. The trick is lots of creative seasoning and a heavy dose of toppings. Mack even turned the toppings into a meal in itself and Nate, of course, had pasta. 

Moosewood Lentil Chili (modified)

2 cups dried lentils–any kind
3 to 4 cups water
One 8 oz can tomatoes
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cups chopped onion
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 can kidney beans
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp Yeast flakes
Fresh black pepper and crushed red pepper

Optional Toppings:
yogurt or sour cream
feta
grated cheddar
minced fresh parsley and/or cilantro

1.   Soak lentils in water to cover by an inch for 2-3 hours. Drain. (optional)

2. Place lentils and water in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, partially cover, and lower the heat to a simmer for about 30 minutes.

2.   Add tomatoes, cumin, paprika, thyme, garlic, and onions. Stir, mostly cover again, and let it cook for another 30 minutes or so. Check the water level as it cooks, and add water as needed, to prevent dryness. Stir from the bottom every several minutes during the cooking.

3.   Add salt and tomato paste. Stir and continue to simmer about 10 minutes.

4.   Stir in the vinegar, beans, hot sauce, yeast, black pepper, and crushed red pepper, adjusting the seasonings to taste. Serve hot, with some or all of the optional toppings.