fish tacos

I finally tricked my kids into watching "Top Chef" with me and they were surprisingly engaged. The competition aspect and the fact that there is a clear winner and loser really appeals to them. The "Quickfire" that they watched was from season 13, where the chefs make fish tacos in San Diego. Every taco looked so delicious that I ran out and bought cod and tortillas. 

I wanted something between deep fried and grilled--with some crust but not heavy and not to light and flaky either so that the fish just falls apart immediately. I made up the following recipe and it was really good after a couple tweaks. I didn't force the tacos on the kids but at some point during dinner, Mack pushed his pasta away and decided he'd like to be the taco judge. I made him one without the hot sauce and he took thoughtful bites just like Padma does on "Top Chef" and declared it a winner. There was no competition but I'll take it. 

Crispy Cod Tacos

Cut 1 pound of cod into 2 inch pieces and soak in milk for 10-20 minutes. Drain and blot with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. In a plastic Ziploc, combine the 1 cup rice flour, cayenne, cumin, cilantro, salt and white pepper. Toss the fish.

In a large nonstick skillet over high, heat canola oil. Cook the fish in batches, turning heat down to medium high, until the bottom side is crispy and golden, 2 to 4 minutes. Turn and cook until crispy, another 2 to 4 minutes.

Serve immediately with warm tortillas, creamy slaw, limes and hot sauce. 

instant pot: breakfast

So far there has only been one Instant Pot failure—steel cut oatmeal, from a recipe I found on a random blog. That's one of the problems with the IP--there just aren't that many trustworthy recipes yet. With a lot of ad-libbing I finally got the oatmeal to be oatmeal and with a better recipe, it can be done.

Unfortunately just the idea of tasting the somewhat unusual looking oatmeal sent Nate running into the other room. "You win some you lose some" I said aloud which Mack and Michael turned into a song about tornados and dragons called "The worst hike ever." So at least the creative juices were flowing and eventually Nate came out and joined us. 

A better turnout (not that Nate ate it but the rest of us loved it) were these egg muffins which were softly steamed and juicy. 

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:


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. 

mac and cheese update!

Just when I thought I'd exhausted the subject, Epicurious comes in with this: powdered cheese. Apparently you can buy real cheese that's been made into a powder (more molecular gastronomy stuff) and then use it in an Annie's-like recipe (butter, milk, powder) for a yummy cheese sauce. An angle I never considered! Unfortunately the brand of cheese powder recommended is no longer available on Amazon. Hmm...but hold tight. I am on it. The investigation will continue....

annie's ruined us

After years of eating Annie's boxed Macaroni and Cheese, my kids won't touch the homemade stuff.

So last week I set out to find a mac and cheese recipe that would rival Annie's—that my kids would eat. My first attempt was a stovetop cheese sauce with this easy (no roux) method. The sauce was tasty but too clumpy, a dead giveaway. Let's face it, much of feeding kids is tricking their senses into familiarity. 

Next I reached out to an Alton Brown recipe which called for evaporated milk (that stuff in a can), egg yolks and cornstarch which I thought made an excellent cheese sauce that held up well to pasta but the boys found it "too cheesy." I know. And it's ok to wonder at times like these: why did I have children?

Finally I went all out. I ordered some sodium citrate from Amazon which according to the molecular gastronomy world can make cheese sauce out of water and it's true. It's magic! You take the tiniest bit of water and add a pinch of the powder, bring to a boil and then start adding shredded cheese and you get cheese sauce. We played it like a science experiment (again) which got Mack's attention just long enough to take this iphone shot.


The result was superb., A thick gooey cheese sauce that actually tastes like cheese. I was most proud of this one but before I got the chance to use it for mac and cheese, the Superbowl came along so I used it for some kick ass nachos. Check these out:

Unfortunately, the cheese ended up kind of hard, dry and almost invisible as it cooled. I'm going to try this magic sauce with the macaroni because it's just so cool and easy, why wouldn't I? But you can probably predict the dinner table results. 

Anyway, Annie's is now banned from my house. Too bad for my kids they will never enjoy mac and cheese for dinner again. 

slow cooker chicken breasts

This is one to add to the "it's actually worth it and not too much work" slow cooker recipe pile. Basically you brine the breasts (this is easy--add salt and sugar to water and stir.) Then you put oil, garlic, lemons and salt in the slow cooker and heat on low for an hour. The breasts come out of the brine and into the warm oil and cook for only 40 more minutes on low. And they are perfect-- soft, flavorful and tender, like sous vide or how I imagine sous vide should taste if I had a machine or still ate at fancy restaurants. 

homemade cheese?

Yesterday the boys and I did a science experiment: making cheese. We added white vinegar to hot milk and watched it curdle. Then strained it in cheesecloth. Although it was a recipe for ricotta, it turned into more of a farmer's cheese. Nate loved it and was very proud of his creation. He couldn't wait for Michael to get home and then ran toward him with a plastic bowl of hard curds. 

Today I tried a few different things like making the milk hotter, adding vinegar at the end and letting it sit before straining. The results were definitely improved but still not as creamy as I'd like so I cheated and mixed in a little sour cream, flavored it and topped with a drizzle of olive oil. It was pretty yummy and made the whole experimenting worth it, especially if you have kids who like cheese and magic potions.  


4 cups milk
1/4 c white vinegar
sour cream

  1. Pour 4 cups of milk into a 4-quart pot and set it over medium heat. Let it warm gradually to 200°F, stirring occasionally and monitoring the temperature with an instant read thermometer. Remove it from heat and slowly add 1/4 cup white vinegar. then let it sit for 10 minutes. You'll see curds start to form. 
  2. Set a strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with cheese cloth. Scoop the big curds out of the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the strainer. Pour the remaining curds and the whey through the strainer. Let the ricotta drain for 10 minutes. Combine drained curds with 1/4 cup sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon zest and olive oil. Serve with the following homemade crackers. 


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. 



  • 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


  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


kimchi chicken

A couple of months ago I published this story in Mosaic magazine called Hurry Up and Wait. It was about how millennials are bringing back the slow cooker because it fits their busier and more tech-savvy lifestyle. It was an idea I conjured in my head long ago but never really based it in anything real. When my editor greenlit the pitch I was kind of shocked. Now what? So I turned to my new friend, Reddit and found hundreds of millennials obsessed with their slow cookers who were happy to tell me why. Somehow it all came together

And what everyone wants--millennials, baby boomers, parents—is a slow cooker recipe that begins "Combine everything in the slow cooker...." They want to just throw it in, turn it on and not look back. This is the golden ticket to slow cooking and after much trial and error I have started to compile a list of super simple slow-cooker recipes. 

My all-time favorite of these type of recipes are these ribs but another one I also love is Kimchi Chicken. The bottled kimchi is added near the end of the cooking to prevent total mush while still imparting some complicated flavors--spicy, sweet, umami. Here's the recipe I use:


  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 4 scallions sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 2 tbsp Minute instant tapioca (optional)*
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce 
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp minced or grated fresh ginger or 1/4 tsp high-quality ground ginger
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 jar of cabbage kimchi

    * Instant tapioca found here or in stores like Walmart is a Cook's Illustrated favorite ingredient for the slow cooker but I'm not sure it's worth tracking down, unless you're kind of obsessive like me. 


  1. Combine all ingredients except for the scallion greens, chicken, and kimchi in the slow cooker.
  2. Nestle the chicken thighs in the sauce, spooning some over the top.
  3. Cover and cook for 4-5 hours on low 
  4. When ready to serve, turn heat to high, add the kimchi, and cook for about 20 more minutes. Serve sprinkled with the scallion greens.



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, which are incredibly easy to make and look super impressive.


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!


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

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.



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


group gumbo, and scary masks

What's funny is that the idea for gumbo started with a movie about a really poor family in New Orleans who, in one minor scene, gathered together at Grandma's for gumbo. Everyone grabbed a bowl and lined up at the stove for a big serving then found a seat to share the meal. 

Something about that big pot simmering on the stove and large casual serving style appealed to Michael's family fantasy (lots of kids and multiple generations under one roof, sharing, caring and talking very loudly.)

Anyway, last year the scene inspired us to make gumbo (recipe below) and we made it again this weekend. But it wasn't until after we made a giant batch and even froze half of it, that we realized it might be the perfect party food for our impromptu Halloween party. So when four families came by after a stressful trick or treating (blood, sweat, tears and two families almost lost their second born), we reheated the giant pot and filled up 13 bowls and sat around to eat gumbo together. It was by far the best part of Halloween. Well, that and these two:



Group Gumbo (adapted from Shrimp, Chicken and Andouille Gumbo)

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 large onions, chopped (about 12 cups)
3 red bell peppers, seeded, chopped (about 7 cups)
4 celery stalks, chopped (about 3 cups)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
2 8-ounce bottles clam juice
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 pounds andouille sausage, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 pounds peeled deveined medium shrimp

Heat oil in heavy pot over medium-high heat until very hot—about 5 minutes. Add flour and stir constantly until mixture is dark reddish brown, about 5 minutes.

(Note: For the veggie chopping, I used a food processor to pulse large chunks into small pieces—which I recommend if you have one. )

Add chopped onions, chopped bell peppers, and chopped celery and cook until onions are soft and brown, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and cayenne and stir 2 minutes. Add wine, thyme, and bay leaves; bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes with juice, clam juice, broth, sausage, and chicken; simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add shrimp to pot and cook stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

Serve with chopped scallions and steamed rice and hot sauce. Also freezes beautifully and keeps for days in the fridge.

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.

which came first?

Lately the kids have been interested in where their food comes from, but in the most basic sense, like: bacon is from an animal? How does that work?

They are fascinated by their friends and relatives who are vegetarians, and justifiably so. Why does Sadie not eat animals but we do? For awhile Nate was going around calling himself a “carnivore, like a lion.” Which isn’t so far from the truth since it’s not like he regularly eats vegetation or grains or fruit. But then the idea of why lions don’t eat pasta came up and we had to examine the tricky definition of carnivore: does it mean one ONLY eats meat or that one eats meat at all?

Lions and little boys are different, it seems. 

And then there are vegans (even 6 year old vegans, at least in Williamsburg). Vegetarian is one thing but no eggs? We literarily would not survive a week without eggs. We eat eggs for breakfast (fried, over easy, sunny side up); for lunch (scrambled) and dinner (cheesy squares). Usually not in the same day. And last night for Meatless Monday, I made the following super easy and yummy frittata that I will be forcing on the kids again in the near future.

Dinner Frittata

1 bag frozen broccoli
1 cup shredded cheese (or feta or goat cheese crumbled)
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tbsp olive oil

Defrost broccoli and drain.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Then place in an oiled or buttered baking dish. Cover with cheese
Whisk eggs and milk, salt/pepper and pour over the broccoli/cheese.
Bake 350 for 20 minutes or until firm.



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. 


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:


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


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. 

fancy pants

I cook almost every night. I cook so often that my husband and kids are beginning to resent it. Every night, mom? Every night we have to put our tushy fully on the chair and use a fork and wipe with a napkin and eat a vegetable? Really?!

But didn't we do this every night while we were growing up? Why does it seem like such a chore with these guys? 

Anyway, recently even I was bored with cooking the same sorta stuff every night. But restaurants and babysitters are expensive and often not even worth it so we decided to create a restaurant experience at home. Last year, my friend Beverly gave me Ottolenghi's NOPI cookbook, which is all recipes that are more complicated than his usual ones. As he says in the intro

"The recipes here were created from a different frame of mind; that is, in an environment where a team of professional cooks labors for a few hours in preparation for a short pinnacle. It is the complete opposite of the way we cook and eat at home."

It's not the cookbook you turn to on a Wednesday night at 6 but rather a project that consumes the whole weekend, in a good way. 

When Bev gave me the book she said that I had to cook at least one thing from the book in return. So we invited her, Adrian and Remi to our house and with two days advance notice I started planning, prepping and cooking a Nopi meal. 

After weeks of spaghetti with butter, this was a hell of a lot of work. I couldn't believe how much time and energy went into just prepping the watercress puree that was to be hidden in the risotto. But not having done this kind of cooking for some time, I also loved every minute of it. 20 hours of work later we had an exquisite meal, the kind of meal you can't easily forget all while our kids watched a movie on the laptop in another room and music was playing in our darkening apartment. Not only was it a fun and delicious night, it's a good way for me to broaden my repertoire. I am taking reservations for Chez Shana.

Now my bragging rights (which really I owe to Ottolenghi's genius):


I used a side dish as a starter: Whole roasted celery root- that ugly knobby brown sphere that you usually avoid at the farmer's market but tastes really good with lots of cream and butter. This time I roasted the whole thing-skin and all-with a little olive oil and salt for about 3 hours. Then I peeled some of the skin off and cut it up and served it with lemon and a yogurt dip. It's not for everyone and it's not attractive but this group ate it up. 


Then we had a pepper-crusted beef tenderloin (which marinated in hand crushed black pepper and fresh herbs for 24 hours) and was topped by a very thinly sliced (mandolin in use) fennel salad with pecorino and truffle. I served it alongside the pearl barley risotto (mixed with a smooth green watercress puree) and topped with a thinly shaved (again) asparagus and pecorino salad. 


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.