What is so genius about this humous recipe is the use of baking soda. After soaking the dried chickpeas overnight (dump in bowl, cover with water, go to sleep) you drain them and add them to a saucepan with a teaspoon of baking soda and cook for a while until the chickpeas start bubbling white. This is the baking soda working). Then just add water and simmer. The bubbles will get bigger and more like blobs of foam, which you can scoop off. After about 30 minutes, the chickpeas go in a food processor with the regulars--lemon, tahini and garlic and whirl. The final step is kind of joyous: add ice water. For some reason, this makes it into that creamy texture you want your humous to be.
I realized today that we are making progress. Only one year ago, this is how our family dinner went down:
Family Dinner, 2014
5:45 pm: Nate is in his room-he was punished for calling me a poopy-head and hitting Mack in the bath. Mack is crying because he’s hungry.
6 pm: Michael gets home.
6:15 pm: we sit down for dinner but the chicken isn’t ready yet and Nate refuses to even try the cauliflower with cheese sauce or humous and carrots. He asks for ketchup. Mack eats everything but wants what everybody else is eating, even though it’s the same thing that’s on his plate. He cries and begs with no words throughout dinner making conversation very difficult.
6:18 pm: Nate eats four strands of pasta and asks to be excused. We say no and he slides off his chair onto the floor, then tries to stick forks in water bottles. We tell Nate to join us; he cries. Mack cries and begs to be let down from his chair even though he’s still eating. Nate goes to his room while Mack cries. We let Mack down and quickly finish the boys’ dinner.
6:25pm : I clean up a million dishes.
When I talk to the many amazing, smart, accomplished women I know who lament the fact that they have to make dinner for their family, I get it, and for the first time in a long time, I think I can be useful. Since leaving the professional world six years ago, I've had a hard time feeling adequate but the one area I've mastered is cooking for my family. So until I return to the office or publish a bestseller, I'd like to offer some tips, strategies and recipes—along with humor and empathy— for my mom friends who are out doing the hard stuff of working, parenting, being a woman in this world. Dads, of course, welcome too.
6:00 pm sucks. It is the most stressful part of the day--parents are exhausted from work (or taking care of kids); kids are tired and hungry and whining or fighting. It's hard to come up with creative meals that will feed everyone and not repeat the same thing every night. It's hard to know what to do in advance or what should be saved for later. It's hard to make something healthy and simple with minimal cleanup.
Let's start from the beginning: Kids are hungry. Dinner is not ready. What to do? Put some cut up veggies in a bowl. Next open a single serving bowl of plain greek yogurt and mix in some seasoned salt (or onion salt). Add a tablespoon of milk and stir. Announce your creation and set it out on the table. Pour the wine.
Sandwich dinner is many family's cop-out meal. Not ours. For us, sandwiches for dinner turned out to be an emotional journey and a major turning point on our road to better times. Some people don't know this but my husband, Michael, is actually the self proclaimed king of sandwiches. See this post. Our kids however shun sandwiches. Last week Mack ate a few bites of salami and cheese sandwich and Michael was glowing for days.
The idea arose this morning. Me: Nate you've eaten 85 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches this summer. Can we try another kind? Nate: no. Michael "Nate I'm going to make some sandwiches for you to try tonight at dinner," translation: mommy is going to make sandwiches for us.
I bought some new breads and salami, then made egg salad. (It occurred to me that Nate likes hard boiled eggs so what if they were just mashed up?) I'll admit, I was somewhat hopeful that this dinner would change the rest of our lives,
An hour before dinner Nate fell into a funk. I don't want sandwiches for dinner, Don't worry, I said. There are lots of options...." he looked intrigued. "Like hot dogs," I lied. Nate made his way to his room saying he wanted to be alone. I gave him some cool down time then entered to find him crying. I held him, then threw a couple hot dogs in the microwave.
When we sat down to dinner, I was nervous, standing up a lot, making announcements and stopping Michael from saying anything that might ruin my master plan which was anything at all. I quickly spread some egg salad (but refrained from calling it "salad") on a lenders bagel and gave it to Nate, then proceeded to pretend to not care what happened next. Michael made Mack a salami sandwich and I started to make myself a sandwich when a crazy thing happened. Nate ate the open-faced egg salad bagel and liked it. Next we tried a closed egg salad bagel with toothpicks and he ate that too. I was so excited that I rewarded him with no carrots required AND candy. Michael was pleased. Well done he said.
My theory is that seeing foods that Nate could reject (salami, ham, etc) gave him the leeway to choose something that looked familiar even if in a different form.
Unfortunately neither of us noticed that Mack didn't eat anything and he was up all night, hungry. It was a big cleanup and Michael had to leave early to play tennis in Queens. Looking back I will probably realize what a ridiculous person I have become, with fucked up values and an unhealthy need for my kids to eat well. But for the night, I called it a triumph.
We went to the Fagen/Rose East Hampton estate this weekend (omfg) and they still employ that lovely chef Glenn who made the shakshuka. He is incredibly talented and inspiring, and he cooked five healthy gourmet meals for 20 people in 2 days alone without blinking. Meals that you wouldn't believe and I wish I could produce a picture of the luxurious beautiful spreads but I was too busy oohing and eating and trying to suck up to Glenn so he would tell me secrets. I did get a photo of the table though...I know, I know.
A few culinary highlights from the weekend before I forget: Fresh fava beans (Glenn removed beans from pods then boiled to remove skin from beans) and feta salad. Deconstructed Nicoise and paella with cauliflower rice...I've heard of cauliflower rice before. I know it's the next new best thing. Watching Glenn hand grate 15 cauliflowers however made me think it was not for me. However, after a little research I found a recipe from thekitchn.com for using a food processor to pulse the florets into a couscous. And it really is like a couscous in taste and appearance. I sauteed some onion and then added the cauli-couscous and a little butter and spices. Then I got fancy and added some cooked broccoli, raw yellow peppers finely diced, diced and sauteed turkey deli meat seasoned with smoky paprika (optional) and some herbs. I put a fried egg and some avocado on top and was pretty proud if it. Glenn would do it better but I'll keep this cauliflower couscous/fried rice recipe in my repertoire.
I finally tried it at home and it worked! I followed the recipe I learned at Dickinson's market with a one-pound top round roast that I bought at Fairway for about $8. I used soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic power, cayenne, soy and maybe a couple other spices but next time I would add more flavors and less water. Also, I need to find a better system of drying in the oven since it requires too much cleanup this way. A work in process that I will continue to share...don't you worry.
Last night I made Sam Sifton's Adobo Chicken. I was looking for a recipe for chicken thighs and this one has hundreds of four-star ratings on the New York Times site. Pros: super easy and the reduced sauce is rich despite having only a few ingredients. (Michael thought it was peanut sauce-that's how nutty and creamy it becomes.) Cons: I burned the chicken so would advise a shorter broiling time. I did not take a picture of the chicken because I was so upset that I burned it (and also that I wasn't watching it because I was wiping a tushie...) Takeaway: make the sauce. It's three ingredients that you probably already have, mixed together. Then serve it with some easy broiled chicken.
When I was a kid, my parents told me the story of our friend's daughter who set out to make herself a hard-boiled egg for dinner by putting the egg in the freezer. "Boiled, duh," my dad said. I would never have made that mistake, even at age 10, but hard boiled eggs have remained somewhat of a mystery to me. Sometimes the shell slips off, sometimes it doesn't. Everyone has tricks: put eggs in water before it boils. Turn heat off and let sit for 20 minutes. Old eggs won't work. The water to egg ratio is critical.
Everyone has been lying to me and I finally figured it out. Making hard boiled eggs in which the shell easily slides off is actually not that hard. I've done it three times with this method that I found in The Silver Spoon (love this book) and it's worked every time.
Fill pot with salted water (it helps soften the shells) and when it boils, slip in your eggs. Boil for 10 minutes then remove eggs and cool in cold water/ice bath. Peel under running water.
I took Mack to camp today, all psyched up with a giant backpack of towel, bathing suit, water bottle, extra clothes, lunch box and shoes but when we rolled in, the receptionist informed us that camp starts tomorrow. Fuuuuuck.
A whole day with no plans, I considered taking Mack on some great big adventure but just didn't have it in me (wasn't that what the last 2 weeks were for??). Mack was complaining that he was tired and wanted to watch a movie so I tried to energize him with a muffin but that turned into a crying fit ("I don't want that one!") so we left the cute organic cafe, balling. On the way out, a guy eating a yogurt parfait at a little table gave Mack the thumbs up. "I know how you feel my man," he said.
So we went home. And here we have stayed. We've both had naps, we've seen a movie, we did art projects with popsicle sticks and glue. We are both sporting numerous Star Wars tattoos and we made these very healthy whole-food pumpkin muffins (my constant dilemma for baked goods - make it healthy... or not). They come from a blogger in Australia on Southerninlaw.com and they are super simple. I made a few changes and I think they are really moist and yummy but as today would have it, Mack decided he didn't like them before they even came out of the oven.
Pumpkin Applesauce Muffins
- 3/4 c flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/4C-1/2C honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- In a bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices and a pinch of salt.
- Combine your eggs with the pumpkin puree, applesauce, honey and vanilla.
- Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on size, until a skewer removes clean.
I don't know why I haven't discussed my love for beef jerky on this blog. It's a long-lasting romance that Michael even mentioned in his vows to me on October 21 2006. I love beef jerky. I love the saltiness, the spiciness, the texture, the fact that it takes a while to chew, that I can carry it around, that it's mostly protein. It's the perfect snack and I'm rarely without it. That said, I've given considerable time and thought to what is the best beef jerky. The best, as reported by Gourmet Magazine way back when, is Stripling's. I think it was my brother in law Avi who first bought it for me as a gift (you have to mail order it.) It's now a special purchase I treat myself to every few months.
In terms of store-bought, I like a lot of the newer more organic, locally made, grass fed varieties like Field Trip, even though they are more expensive and slightly harder to find. In a pinch I will always go for a drugstore brand--usually Jack Link's pepper flavor. If something is on sale, I'll often cheap out too. Over the years I've spent a lot of money on this snack which is why when I saw a "how to make your own jerky" class being offered by Dickinsons' Meat Shop in Chelsea Market for $85, it seemed like a solid investment. And it was, I think. The class was casual but informative and I definitely learned the major how-tos. Yesterday Michael picked up my bag o jerky (it needed a few days to marinate and dry) and I have to say it's really amazing. It's almost as good as Stripling's.
Here's how it works:
Use lean cut like bottom round (not ribeye!) which is on the thigh near the butt. The strategy is to eliminate fat and moisture and it helps to freeze meat a bit before slicing. Clean all the fat and bristle off with a sharp chef's knife or Cenataur. Remove silver skin and use for stock. Square off the end so it's all the same thickness. Cut even slices about 1/4 to 1/8 inches thick, using your hand to push the meat against itself. The slices should be flat, uniform and a little translucent. (Flatten on table with hand or knife if necessary.) If the meat turns a little brown, it's just oxidizing but if it smells bad don't use it.
For the marinade, you need 3 tablespoons of salt or soy sauce per 1-2 lbs, Also use a combination to taste of lime zest, fish sauce, ABC's medium sweet soy sauce, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, Worcestershire, soy sauce, smoked paprika, black pepper, honey. Add water so you have 8 oz of marinade per 1-2 lbs meat. Mix beef in plastic bag with marinate separating each piece and coating it. They should all be color of the marinade. Marinate 3-6 hours in fridge.
Lay pieces on a wire rack without touching and dry in low temp oven. 150-175 degrees or "warm"--rotate if its a higher temperature. Crack oven door 1/2 inch. Can also hang over racks in oven or get a mesh mat online. Dry for 4-5 hours.
In slow cooker news, I finally steamed/poached salmon according to Grant Achatz's general philosophy of cooking fish in the crockpot. First, I lay lemon slices and a few chives on the floor of the slow cooker. Then I poured in about 1/4 cup vermouth and 1/4 cup water. I seasoned the salmon fillets with salt and pepper and lay them on the bed. Cooked on low for about 1-1.5 hours. It was delicious but may have worked even better with less time and less liquid. I served on a cauliflower puree which I intended to be more of a mash—I saw a good recipe from Art Smith but didn't remember it exactly and added too much liquid. On top is a caper/red onion/olive relish.
Update-I finally did the Art Smith cauliflower recipe after actually reading the recipe and it's amazing and made it into my Paprika collection.
Last night was my first attempt to use the slow cooker as a steamer. Huffington Post wrote about this technique and Grant Achatz opened up about his love for the crockpot in Food & Wine Magazine. (Achatz even uses one in a prix-fixe as a departure from all the fancy and precise dishes -- the actual container is served at the table for a family style dish). Even The New York Times is in the conversation. It's happening: The Slow Cooker Revolution phase 2.
The most creative and sophisticated way to steam via crockpot is to create a flavorful bed for the food. Lemongrass or herbs can work for fish or vegetables and will impart added nuance to the dish. I didn't have either and after trying to rig up something with bamboo sticks, I decided to just use my steamer—that flimsy red thing below—that fit perfectly in the cooker. I went super simple-an inch of water and raw asparagus lying on the red steamer. (There is a "steamer" button on the slow cooker but I don't know what it does exactly...must look that up!) So I just set it to high for 30 minutes: 15 to heat up and 15 to steam. It worked pretty perfectly. Asparagus was cooked but still firm. I transferred it to a plate and topped with some diluted cheese sauce I had made for the kids Mac and Cheese and parmesan cheese. Huge hit with Michael and, of course, Mack!
One more thought: could the slow cooker also sous vide? Does it hold the liquid at a reliably steady and low enough temperature...The Huffington Post explored that too (why is the HP so schooled in the slow cooker??!) and suggested that it CAN be done if you are a supersonic engineer that could rig a DIY temperature controlled device to the slow cooker wires. Um, no.
I first had Shakshuka at the Fagen estate in East Hampton. Their chef who used to work at Mimi's Hummus, prepared the Middle Eastern dish for 10 people and we ate it at a long table by the pool. I've been wanting to make it since and when I found out Aimee and Marc were coming to brunch (she's allergic to seafood so no lox) it was the perfect time. I made Melissa Clark's shakshuka — delicious, cheap and easy. You don't need a private chef for this. In fact you can make it mostly ahead of time (add eggs after guests arrive) and serve family-style in middle of table with warm pita.
I love my slow cooker these days. I like being able to throw it all in, turn it on and not worry about dinner. Plus we've had some good meals-shredded Mexican chicken, pulled pork. Once you get the hang of it, it is worthwhile. The problem is that I'm not so practiced in it that I can just improvise. I've been using Cook's Illustrated Slow Cooker Revolution book but found it was too complicated for a slow cooker meal so then I bought their second volume: Fast Prep. Much better. This Jerk Chicken recipe came from that volume. Basically you blend the ingredients (scallions, ginger, molasses, etc.) into a paste to cover chicken. Then you slow cook and at the very end, put under the broiler for a crisp skin.
I made these for the "healthy eating bake sale" at school after Spencer's mom Cynthia revealed that she often makes date cookies for her kids and calls them chocolate. #stealingyouridea But I also added molasses and some actual mini chocolate chips to further fool the innocents. Oh and I used the Bob's Red Mill Date and Bran mix which I highly recommend if you don't bake.
- 2 cups Bob's Red Mill Date and Bran Muffin mix (see right)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup applesauce
- 1/2 soft mashed banana
- 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup dried coconut.
Mix it all in a big bowl and bake in muffin tins for 20 min on 350 degrees.
I made Smitten Kitchen's grape and olive crostini as one of the eight courses of New Year's Eve dinner and am obsessed with this recipe for easy roasting of olives and grapes. It's amazingly simple but tastes complex because the grapes break down and crystalize around the salty warm olives. I will definitely make again—maybe next time as a side or platform for meat instead of on crostini.
This recipe is from Avi's great great grandmother Sheindel who probably got it from her great grandmother. It's been passed down orally for generations so I'm now writing it down. The Gessers make this often as gifts for people or just to snack on because they are delicious and addictive. They are also quite labor intensive but easy enough-and actually fun-- for the kids. It's a whole family affair.
The name is Mun cookies but since they are more crackers than cookies and Mun is hard to say we're calling them monkey biscuits. Here is the recipe:
- 32 oz flour
- 1 cup oil
- 1 cup water
- 1 egg
- 1 brandyshot (glass size) poppyseeds
- 1 minced large onion
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 heaping tsp salt
- Dash of pepper
- Divide wet and dry ingredients into two large bowls.
- Combine wet and dry and mix well.
- Continue adding flour until dough is not longer sticky. you should be able to make a handprint and pull our hand away without dough sticking to it.
- Spread out very thin on greased baking sheet.
- Bake at 300 about 10-15 minutes (switching half way through) until they are crisp and light brown.
My favorite new recipe this year, and the favorite of many New York Times readers apparently, is Velvet Chicken Breasts with mustard sauce It's very easy to make and can be prepped ahead of time. The actual cooking only take a few minutes on the stove. The chicken is incredibly dense and moist almost like you'd find from a sous vide machine.
The Velveting technique--used in a lot of Chinese cooking to marinade meat pre-wok-- involves soaking the chicken breasts in a mixture of egg whites and cornstarch. (You whip the whites then blend in the starch to create a foam.) Breasts can sit here for a few hours.
Next you make a simple sauce of mustards and creme fraiche which can also hang out in the fridge until dinnertime. When it's time to cook, saute the chicken very briefly in vegetable oil or melted butter. It's not long enough for them to even brown but when the egg white marinade touches the hot oil, it turns into a thick skin-like coating around the still raw breast. Remove the breasts and heat the sauce mixture in the pan. Then finish the chicken in the pan by gently heating through.
It was my second year on Turkey duty for the annual Moshan Thanksgiving. For the 20+ guests, I decided to dry brine (something I'd been reading about.) The Judy bird is a very simple recipe adapted from San Fransisco chef Judy Roger's French take on roasted chicken. It's almost too simple: cover with salt and let sit for four days in fridge. Then uncover the bird and let it dry out for a day. Then rub with butter and pepper and cook for four hours.
Deliciously moist and beautifully brown! In fact it only took about three hours in a fairly hot oven. With the turkey, I made this stuffing which I thought was the best part of the whole dinner. I made it a few days ahead and froze it in a foil tray. And finally, also a few days in advance, I made Mark Bittman's Make-Ahead-Gravy base and added drippings from the turkey after it was cooked. By the way, for all of these dishes I used my Crock a Stock.
I highly recommend this recipe for grilled chicken breasts from Once Upon a Chef
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1¾ pounds total)
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1-1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, from one lemon
Place chicken breasts between 2 pieces of wax paper and, using a meat mallet, pound to an even ½-inch thickness.
Mix all ingredients except chicken together in a 1 gallon zip-lock bag. Add chicken breasts and massage marinade into meat until evenly coated. Seal the bag and place in a bowl in the refrigerator (the bowl protects against leakage); let the chicken marinate at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours.
Clean grill and preheat to high. Lightly dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and, using tongs, carefully rub over grates several times until glossy and coated. Place chicken breasts on the grill (make sure they are well-coated with the marinade; the more garlic, lemon zest and herbs on the chicken, the better!). Grill, covered, for 2-3 minutes per side.