Category Archives: Recipe

Baguette Guilt and Fried Bread Frittata

So the story goes: I had a half-baguette lingering on top of the microwave, sad and pitiful in a crinkly foil collar that was wrapped around it to help keep bread rigor mortis at bay. It stared me down whenever I checked the time or went to grab Nutella from the pantry (which happens all too often in my house). This weekend has been all about greedy excess: warm chocolate chip cookies on a gray afternoon, hot dogs and cheese fries, fresh-fried donuts, an easy dinner of good bread and triple creme cheese. Why not turn that leftover half-loaf into a frittata crowned with olive oil and butter-fried bread? Keep the good times going, yes, why stop the fry party just because it’s Sunday?

With some beautiful eggs from a local farm, I made a frittata. The eggs were fresh and perky (old eggs lose their tightness; the raw whites slouch like a teenager); I lightly beat them with some salt and cream. After frying the bread cubes in olive oil, butter and salt, I turned them onto a plate and used the hot pan to charm some garlic–egg mixture went back into the pan along with a cup of chopped roasted broccoli, a crumbled knob of goat cheese and a good handful of Parm. I sprinkled the olive oil and butter-fried bread cubes over the top and placed the skillet under the broiler. A few minutes later, there she was, a frittata suitable for breakfast or dinner, and crowned with butter and olive oil-toasted jewels. It was like eggs and toast yet so much more magnificent. Smiling, I brought the skillet to the table, happy with my discovery and knowing that a new era of frittatas for dinner had commenced.

Fried Bread Frittata

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream or crème frâiche (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Four 1/2-inch thick baguette slices (day-old or fresh), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped roasted, steamed or sautéed vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, onions, green beans. fennel, artichokes–the list is endless)
  • 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) cheese, crumbled (such as goat cheese, blue cheese, cheddar, fresh mozzarella)
  • 3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, or 3 tablespoons chopped chives

1. Whisk the eggs and heavy cream together with a good pinch of salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

2. Melt the butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 9- or 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the baguette cubes and a generous pinch of salt, toss, and cook, turning often, until golden-brown and crunchy, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

3. Add another tablespoon olive oil to the pan along with the garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring often, for about 30 seconds. Stir in the vegetable(s) and pour the egg mixture over the top. Sprinkle the cheese over the frittata followed by 2 tablespoons of Parm, then the croutons and lastly the final tablespoon of Parm. Cook until the edges of the frittata are set, 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and turn the broiler on to high.

4. Drizzle the last tablespoon of olive oil over the frittata and place it in the oven. Broil until the eggs are set, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with scallions, and serve.

Woah, It’s Roasted Broccoli

Serves 4

Works great with cauliflower too.

  • 1 head broccoli, ends trimmed, stalks peeled and thinly sliced on a bias, crowns divided into florets
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°. Place the broccoli stems and florets in a large baking dish. Toss with the oil and a good few pinches of salt and roast until the florets are browned and frizzled, about 1 hour and 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Serve sprinkled with Parm.

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Filed under Breakfast, Brunch, Dinner, eggs, Quick Food, Recipe, Vegetarian, Vegetarian Main

Julian’s Chocolate Chip-Ricotta Breakfast Bread (or, how my kid got me to cook with him)

The date: Last Sunday, April Fool’s Day.

The time: Too early.

The place: My Brooklyn kitchen.

It was a rare Sunday morning, meaning my two kids, my husband and I all slept past seven in the morning. I should say three of us, actually, as it was the sound of the fourth person in the house, my six year-old, that woke us all. We laid in bed, my husband and I listening for a minute, unable to understand what the noises were. Clang, twang, clang. “Julian, what are you doing down there?” My husband called out to my son, who was presumably three floors down from us in our Brooklyn brownstone.

“I’m making breakfast!” He yelled up.

We exchanged looks of pure panic and like man on fire, my husband catapulted himself from bed and raced downstairs. Just in time, too, as Julian had begun to saw through a mango with a bread knife.

We shared an uneasy laugh, scolding Julian for using a knife without a grown-up present, and also just relieved not to have to rush him to the ER on a Sunday morning for severing a digit.

“Do you want to make something together?” I asked Julian.

While this might sound ordinary, it was actually a big moment in our kitchen. Because Julian never, ever wants to help me cook. People always think that because I cook for a living, my children must love to help me out in the kitchen. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. They like the idea of helping in the kitchen, but when it comes to the actual measuring and mise-en-place, they loose interest faster than it takes for the oven to preheat.

So when, that April Fool’s morning, Julian said he actually wanted to cook with me, I jumped.

Before I had kids, I always envisioned this bucolic ideal of cooking with my children: a kid on a step stool, me in an apron, us whisking and sifting together, decorating holiday cookies and making morning pancakes. Laughter, joy, smiles, good times. But what do you do when reality and disinterest dash the dream? I’ve learned to accept that my kids just don’t like to help in the kitchen (and when I say kids, I actually mean just my older son, since the little guy is still a little too small to really help, though he is a master at stirring dry ingredients with a wooden spoon so slowly you wonder if it would be quicker to just stir them with chopsticks). It bothered me for a while, and when friends and others said to my son “Oh, you must love to cook with your mommy in the kitchen!” I learned to give a half smile and say sheepishly “we’re working on it” while ruffling Julian’s hair.

When it comes to kids and food, persistence is key: getting them to try new foods, new restaurants, new flavors. And as it turns out, persistence pays off with preening a kitchen helper, too. So when Julian said he wanted to cook together, I beamed with pride.

We decided on a breakfast loaf. Julian insisted on chocolate chips and to temper their sweetness, I decided on orange zest and ricotta. The resulting loaf was fantastic, with the crumb being moist and hearty, and the flavor not too sweet, making the bits of chocolate dotting a slice all the more rewarding.

Julian helped with the whisking, with the ingredient prep, and even with the cleaning up. Rhys, my two-year-old, was in charge of adding the chocolate chips (and we all know how that goes, one for me, one for the cake, three for me, one for the cake).

The loaf came out of the oven golden and perfect. And Julian refused to eat it. REFUSED!

I didn’t understand it, but I accepted it. And I ate the cake. And Rhys ate the cake. And Matt ate the cake. And Julian did not. And the next day, when there was a sad and lonely slice or two remaining, Julian tried the cake. And he loved it. He ate it with gusto and with the pleasure that comes from consuming something you created. It occurred to me that just as you can’t force someone to eat something they don’t want, you can’t force someone to cook. They have to want to cook, want to learn. And while the cooking bug might not bite Julian often, when it does, I’ll be ready and happy to lend a hand.

Julian’s Chocolate Chip-Ricotta Bread

Makes one 9-inch by 5-inch loaf

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature or nonstick pan spray
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup canola or grapeseed oil
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan with butter.
  2. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Use your fingers to rub the sugar with the orange zest  in a large bowl until fragrant. Add the eggs, ricotta, and almond extract. Whisk in the canola oil and lastly the yogurt. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture until nearly combined, then add the chocolate chips and stir until mostly mixed in. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  4. Bake until the center of the cake resists light pressure and a cake tester comes out with only a crumb or two attached, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before running a paring knife around the edges of the load and turning it out onto a plate. Slice and serve.

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Filed under Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert, Quick Bread, Recipe, Uncategorized

Changing Seasons Pasta: Hen of the Woods, Cauliflower, Black Forest Ham

Today, we sprang forward. So while the day was brighter for longer, and my mind was made up for light lanky asparagus stalks and creamy-sweet peas, my pantry (and the market) was still stocked for winter. It’s a tough time of year for anyone with a seasonally-triggered appetite. All signs lead to spring yet the grocery store and farmers’ markets are still brimming with hardy winter holdover (yeah, I’m talking to you turnip and rutabaga).

My solution was to let the market talk to me. Rather than walk in with a game plan, I let whatever was looking good plant the seed for dinner. Tonight it was some really beautiful hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, tawny brown and dark rimmed around the edges with curvaceous high-collared tops. Instantly my thoughts turned to cream. Parm. Pasta. Some leftover steamed cauliflower in the fridge. A mahogany-rimmed Black Forest ham in the deli case. A quick saute with garlic was all it necessitated. That and a simple sauce of butter, reduced cream, Parm, some pasta water, salt, pepper. A very un-seasonal hit of fresh basil. Some crumbled blue cheese over the top just because I had it around. A teeny squeeze of lemon gave it a slick of tang, waking it up from an otherwise wintry clutch.

The kids and I ate it with great gusto. My mother-in-law declared herself a hen-of-the-woods convert. It was quick in preparation, light in planning and forethought, and hit just the right balance of rich and bright, creamy and textural. It was like layering a winter sweater with a spring jacket–not a wardrobe pairing that lasts for long, but feels really nice for the time being.

Penne with Ham, Hen of the Woods, and Creamy Cauliflower-Parm Sauce

Serves 4

Black Forest ham adds a hint of smokiness that I really like, especially against the cheese in the sauce. You can totally leave it out for a vegetarian variation, or substitute it with bacon for a richer alternative.

  • 1/2 pound penne pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound hen-of-the woods mushrooms, broken into individual pieces
  • 1 cup steamed cauliflower (or any leftover wintry vegetable), roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3 slices Black Forest Ham, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • Blue cheese for crumbling (optional)

1. Boil the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente. Use a coffee cup to scoop out about 1/2 cup pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta.

2. Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) and cook, shaking the pan often, until the mushrooms are singed and brown around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower, ham, garlic, and pepper and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Pour the cream and reserved pasta water into the emptied pasta pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Season with black pepper and then add the Parm and remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir until mostly dissolved. Add the mushroom mixture to the pan followed by the pasta, basil, and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and serve with blue cheese sprinkled over the top.

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Filed under Dinner, Pasta, Quick Food, Recipe, Uncategorized

So Good It Got Eaten Before I Could Shoot It: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Ever since I started my job at Tasting Table four (!) weeks ago, my cooking life has changed dramatically. While I am cooking and testing and eating and trying and experimenting at work, I get home too late to make dinner. So like lots of working moms, I cook on the weekends (one week I roasted a few chickens and left instructions for Matt to use the leftovers to make enchiladas, chicken with pasta, etc; another week I did the same thing with a giant batch of chili but it got made into chipotle pie, chili-mac, and nachos) and this past weekend, man did I cook! I binge cooked actually. On Saturday morning, Matt left with the boys, I had the house to myself for the first time in weeks, and I tore. it. up. I threw open the fridge door and became maniacal in my single mindedness to put anything and everything in a pan and cook it. That we were having friends over for dinner was a happy coincidence. That I hadn’t planned a thing to make for dinner was totally out of form. One month ago I would have had every course planned, every herb plucked, every flavor profiled and balanced. But for this get together, I was uncharacteristically (and happily) haphazard.

I admit, the dinner may sound a bit odd if you only consider what I made. But once our friends arrived, everything strangely came together (well, except for one thing, but it has now become my new targeted recipe fixer-upper, so from here out I won’t stop until I get it nailed–more on that later).

The day began by me throwing two chicken carcasses leftover from a previous roast chicken dinner in my too-big All Clad stockpot (a Christmas gift that I was too lazy to exchange for a smaller size). I covered them with water and adding a couple of yellow onions, celery, and carrots. Black peppercorns, a fresh bay leaf, salt, and a few sprigs of thyme also went in. I brought it to a simmer, reduced the heat to a bare bubble, and let it go, covered, the rest of the day.

I moved on. To my lentil-walnut pâté. Then to tapenade made with some Picholines I had in the fridge along with fantastic seedy mustard, and rosemary-garlic infused olive oil (warm some olive oil and add rosemary and garlic and time does the rest). A half-handful of grated Parm mellowed out the twang. Then I made matzo balls (here’s where things start getting kooky). I envisioned them to be tiny flavor bombs innocuously bobbing in my four-hour chicken stock. A few years back, I made the best matzo balls EVER–I called them meatzaballs because I made them with some chicken (from the soup) pulsed in with the matzo, eggs, and duck fat. Just because I was in that deep-fridge-diving mode, I added cilantro and cumin. Not a good idea in the least, but lesson learned, and now I have a new project recipe to think about (and Passover really is just around the corner).

I’m happy you’re still reading because the best really happened next: sticky toffee pudding. I have been working on this recipe for about ten years, and just this past Christmas did I finally perfect it (at least for now, I’m sure I’ll find some way to better in the many decades to come). For all these years I had been using too much butter, too much brown sugar, and not enough leavener. Well, it has all been fixed and you can reap the rewards of many years of trial below.

Of course we all know that there is no “pudding” in sticky toffee pudding. It is actually a cake made of dates that gets soaked in a toffee-like caramel sauce. It’s rich and decadent and divine and ridiculously simple to make (I do mine in the food processor).

The other hit of the night were big fat gorgeous pork chops Matt got from our local happy animal butcher shop. I always joke that I never send Matt out to shop because he comes home with $80 pork chops, and this time was no exception. I made a quick spice rub pulling out whatever spices happened to be at the forefront of the cabinet: Piment d’esplette, dried rosemary, dried thyme, dried fennel, salt, pepper. Pulsed in the coffee mill-cum-spice grinder, it was a beautiful South of France nod to the thick chops which I pan seared in my gigantic 14-inch cast iron skillet and finished in a 375° oven.

My friends brought a stunning fennel, orange, and red onion salad and a pitch-perfect beluga lentil side dish (and several bottles of wine plus a stunning bottle of dessert wine from the Finger Lakes). The menu worked so nicely that it was like I had it all planned out: pâté, tapenade, cheese, bread, dates, fennel salad, Beluga lentils, pork chops, and sticky toffee pudding. Of course the wild card was the meatzaball soup. Well, at least I know what I’m working toward.

And true to form, the sticky toffee pudding was so good, that I got all caught up in the love and praise and sugar-coated warmth of friends around me and forgot to take a picture. And then it was gone.

How about sending me your pictures to show?

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Makes 9 servings (1 8-inch square pan of pudding; the recipes doubles nicely into a 9- by 13-inch pan)

For the pudding

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the sauce

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon, brandy, or whiskey (or no alcohol at all)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and grease an 8-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of softened butter.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. Process the dates and sugar together in a food processor until the dates and sugar are well combined (not smooth but like a coarse date sugar). Add the eggs, warm water, and vanilla and process until combined. With the food processor running, pour in the melted butter. Stop the motor, open the top, add the dry ingredients, and pulse until there aren’t any dry streaks.
  4. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until the center domes and resists light pressure, 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce: melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and whisk until dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Cook until it starts to bubble all across the surface and then pour in the heavy cream. Whisk to combine, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook gently for a few minutes to let the cream loose its raw taste. Pour in the bourbon, cook 30 seconds more, and turn off the heat.
  5. Remove the baking dish from the oven and pour about half of the sauce over the cake, using a rubber spatula or spoon to help push it around, spooning it from the edges (where it collects) to the dome. Place the cake back in the oven and bake 10 minute. Remove from the oven and cool completely before slicing and serving with the remaining sauce poured over the top.

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Filed under Baking, Dessert, Recipe, Uncategorized

Huge News…and Coconut Rice!

As of last Monday January 23rd, I took a full-time job! A legit gig, a straight 9-5 deal. I’ve been working freelance for nearly a decade, and it’s been an incredible ride. But I’ve always been one to look out for the next great thing, and believe me, I landed a great thing as the senior food editor at Tasting Table. There aren’t many jobs out there that suit me, my background, and my personality, but I can’t think of a better match. I get to create new recipes, test tons of recipes from the country’s best chefs, review cookbooks, and work alongside some super smart thinkers, writers, editors, and chefs. It’s a dynamic work environment where anything seems possible—so exciting for a food writer. For so long I’ve been scared of what’s happening with cookbooks, food television, magazines—so much upheaval, so many talented friends out of work, so much unfairness and irresponsibility (that’s life, right?). Well, now I get to bask in my good fortune. That’s how it feels on the other side of the fence, looking at nothing but possibility and great big open field of opportunity. It’s a great thing.

Getting dinner on the table though, well, that’s going to be a whole new challenge!! No longer do I have the luxury of skipping down the steps to the kitchen at 5:30 and whipping up something on a whim. No longer do I even have the luxury of sitting down to dinner with my kids (except for weekends, and what a beautiful food-filled weekend did I just have!). Now I have to really think about the week in advance. I’m planning and being strategic. We WILL still eat a homemade meal every night. It’s just going to take some creative hopscotching to do it.

So from here on forward, not only am I going to offer up recipes that inspire me and fuel me as a cook. I’m going to feature plans for getting through the week on a working moms schedule.

But you’ll hear more about that next week. Once I’ve gotten through this week and have the recipes and strategies to share (a few recipes will count on a gorgeous pork roast, so start looking for good deals now—I bought a stunning 4 1/2-pound shoulder for about $30 in Brooklyn meaning it’s probably far cheaper elsewhere!).

For now, I have a beautiful coconut rice side. Those of you who may be scared off by rice (it’s like coffee—either you’ve got the touch, or you don’t) need not worry: this dish gets baked in the oven for a nearly foolproof perfectly cooked outcome. I use coconut milk and a little water as the cooking medium, and finish it off with chopped peanuts, toasted coconut, and cilantro. Instead of white rice, I’m using long-grain brown jasmine rice that boosts up the fiber count and makes me feel okay about the sweet-rich boost from the coconut milk. It’s just the thing to make that ho-hum chicken breast seem a little more special.

Coconut Rice with Peanuts and Cilantro

Serves 4

I love this as a meat-free lunch doused with Sriracha sauce.

  • 3/4 cup long-grain brown rice (I like jasmine)
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped raw peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons shredded coconut (preferably unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the brown rice in a baking dish and pour in the coconut milk and water. Add the salt and give it a stir. Set the rice in the oven and bake until all the liquid is absorbed, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the baking dish from the oven, fluff, and set aside.
  2. Place the peanuts and coconut on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring every minute or so, until the coconut is golden and the peanuts take on an oily shine, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and use a spoon to scatter the peanut mixture over the rice. Finish with cilantro and serve.

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Filed under Dinner, Grains, Recipe, Side dish, Vegan, Vegetarian

Game Time Nosh (Vegan!): Lentil-Walnut Dip

Okay, big time confession: in high school, I was (gulp) a cheerleader. Yes. I was. I was one of those high pony-tailed stiff-arm clapping cheer girls that dreamed up cheers in her sleep and wore the cheerleading outfit to school on game days. So yeah, even though I dropped out my senior year (and traded my letter jacket for a black leather motorcycle one–a la Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2), I was that girl, the cheerleader.

I worked hard at cheering. I went to cheer camp (yes, seriously). I tried really hard not to drop girls when tossing them into the air for the all-important basket toss (we dropped a few every now and then–our football team was never very good, so we considered it extra bang for our fans’ viewing pleasure. I mean picture us, two girls, arms clamped together to form a square, tossing some blonde featherweight 15 feet in the air–never straight up, mind you–and then following her shadow so we wouldn’t miss her, at least not very often, on her decent.). What I never really paid attention to was the game going on behind me. First and ten? I knew the cheer, but what did it all really mean? To this day, I don’t have a clue. Though I cheered for three years, I couldn’t tell you a foul from a goal (wait, is that even football?).

But I was good at cheering (and now, all of you who have seen me scream and cheer and hoot and whistle for people I don’t know running the NYC Marathon, you know where it all comes from). I was also good at cooking. There was many a time when, post Friday night lights, we’d find some deserted fast food parking lot to convene at, do something(s) illegal, and then retire to a home with no parentals present. While others were making out in closets and sucking down Milwaukee’s Best from funnels and plastic tubing, I’d often be in the kitchen making cookies. How I never burnt down a kitchen I’ll never know. And don’t ask me what anything tasted like. Who knows (I never even used a recipe–just threw stuff together in a bowl). I think we enjoyed whatever it was at the time. I mean, it wasn’t exactly like anyone had the brain power to complain.

All this to say that whatever the game of the day is, be it baseball, football, or Harry Potter Hogwarts Legos, I really could care because my mind is where the most important plays are being hatched anyway: the kitchen. And whether you’re into ball games or board games (such as 221 Baker Street, a super fun detective game like Clue but better), food is always a focal point. Buffalo wings, chili, a devilishly runny Robiola. They enhance the game play and keep you sated for the long stretch.

My absolute favorite dip is onion dip with potato chips. Oh man, if you serve that to me you better establish a ten-foot boundary around that bowl because like white on rice, I am on it and will eat the whole bowl. But do you know what makes onion dip so slammin’ good? Lots. Of. Fat. Not that I mind, but paired with potato chips and beer, it makes for a not-so-great post-game feeling. So I got to thinking. What’s a dip that feels as great to eat as it tastes?

And I recalled lentil-walnut pâté. Now quit your eye rolling, okay? It is honestly and truly delicious. In fact, the day after Thanksgiving, we visited some friends in Philly and they had a deli container of lentil-walnut pâté from the local coop. No sooner had the top been peeled back than the dip had disappeared. Just like that, it vanished. It was creamy and earthy and sweet and hearty and  tasted right, especially after a ridiculously delicious yet insanely rich meal the day before.

Lentil-walnut dip is like hummus but softer, more mellow and earthy and honestly, more party-friendly since it doesn’t have the sharp garlicky-lemony hit that hummus can have. To keep the texture airy instead of heavy, I use very little oil and quite a bit of the lentil cooking liquid (note that it does solidify a bit in the fridge, so if you want to make it ahead of time and want it to retain its fluff, let it sit at room temp for a stretch before serving). I barely toast the walnuts, just letting them warm up in the oven to give them a surface gloss without heavy toasty notes that threaten the lentils’ softness. A little fresh garlic, some salt, and neutral oil (I use grapeseed), buzz away in the food processor and it’s done. As a dip or a sandwich spread it’s fantastically healthy, protein-packed, and nutritious.

If I only knew about lentil-walnut pâté when I was 17. But then again, with the blade of a food processor and boiling water to contend with, maybe it’s better that I didn’t.

Lentil-Walnut Dip

Serves 6

For a touch of spice, I sometimes sprinkle it with a little za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice made from sumac, marjoram, thyme,  toasted sesame seeds, and salt (see my version below). It gives it more of a hummus taste and looks pretty too. Double or triple the batch of dip and you won’t be sorry. Serve some at your game day event and save the rest for a wrap/sandwich or to snack on with pita chips or celery sticks.

  • 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed under cold water
  • 1 cup raw walnut halves
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Pita chips, seeded flatbread,  crackers, or veg sticks for serving
  1. Bring 3 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the lentils, return to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and gently simmer until the lentils are tender and creamy (scoop a few out with a fork to test them), 12 to 15 minutes.
  2. Place a sieve over a large bowl and drain the lentils through the sieve. Reserve 1/2 cup of the lentil water and set aside (freeze the remaining lentil liquid and use it like you would water or chicken broth for making rice, flavoring chili, or bean soup). Set the lentils aside to cool completely, about 1 hour (shake the sieve every so often to redistribute the lentils and let off some steam).
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet pan and toast just until they become glossy and slightly fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a large plate, and set aside to cool.
  4. Place the walnuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process for 30 seconds to combine. Add the cooled lentils, canola oil, salt, and reserved lentil cooking liquid. Process until the pâté lightens in color and becomes very airy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer the dip to a bowl and serve with pita chips.

Homemade Za’atar

Makes about 1/4 cup

This ancient herb blend is obviously excellent sprinkled over Lentil-Walnut Pâté, hummus, babaghanouj, and grilled meats. But it’s also tasty in untraditional ways too: like sprinkled over deviled eggs, added to ground meat before making burgers, combined with oil and lemon juice to use as a simple salad dressing, or patted on to a creamy log of chèvre and drizzled with fruity olive oil for a cheese course.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 3/4 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
  1. Mix the marjoram, sumac, and thyme together in a small bowl.
  2. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the sesame seeds. Toast, shaking the skillet often, until the seeds are golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the salt and the marjoram mixture and toss to combine.
  3. Transfer to a rimmed plate to cool. Store in a glass jar and use within 1 month.

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Filed under Appetizer, Holiday, Recipe, Vegan, Vegetarian

Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Night: Anytime Banana Bread with a Textural Twist (Granola!)

I don’t have a pithy story about banana bread. All I have are lots of frozen overripe bananas. When my bananas  turn spotty and black, I peel them straight into a resealable freezer bag. Two to a bag, slightly mushed after sealing by massage the outside of the bag. Date it with a Sharpie and into cold storage they go.

What I love about banana bread—and I’m talking good banana bread—is that it is moist enough to stay fresh and delicious for up to a week. That means I can break off a piece or a corner whenever a sweet craving strikes, perhaps while I’m waiting for my morning coffee to steep (I’m a French press fanatic), for a mid-morning pick-me-up, as a late afternoon snack, or after the kids have gone to bed with tea or hot cocoa (with mini marshmallows of course—why should kids have all the fun?).

For supreme moistness, I use light brown sugar, a hydroscopic sweetener that keeps moisture locked into the crumb. A generous heap of crème frâiche (or sour cream in a pinch) makes for a rich, thick batter. Oil also helps for a spongy-soft interior (butter tends to turn leaden after a day or two). For texture, a cup of granola adds a hint of multi-grain-like appeal. Any kind of granola will do, just be sure the flavors jive with banana bread (in my last batch I used Early Bird granola with pecans and coconut). If your granola comes in clumps, put it in a resealable plastic bag and smash it with the bottom of a soup pot to break them up quickly before adding to the dry mix.

Banana Bread with Granola

Makes 1 loaf

This cake stays incredibly moist and delicious up to a week after baking. It helps to slice just what you need rather than slicing the entire loaf at once. Frozen bananas can be stored for up to four months; to use defrost at room temperature or in the fridge, or microwave at 50% power until mostly thawed. When I don’t have time to make my own (see recipe below), I use Vermont Butter & Cheese crème frâiche. It’s lovely and super thick—if using homemade crème frâiche instead, your batter will be lighter and the loaf will have a more open crumb.

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature or nonstick pan spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup grapeseed or canola oil
  • 3/4 cup crème frâiche or sour cream
  • 2 bananas, lightly mashed
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with butter.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, granola, whole wheat flour, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until well combined (about 30 seconds of vigorous beating). Whisk in the oil and then and the crème frâiche and bananas, whisking to combine. Use a wooden spoon to stir the dry ingredients into the banana mixture and switch to a rubber spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  4. Bake the cake until the center resists light pressure and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Run a paring knife around the edges of the cake and invert onto a cake plate before slicing and serving.

Homemade Crème Frâiche

This is Suvir Saran’s recipe for crème frâiche. It’s tangy and gorgeous–don’t be surprised when you start topping anything and everything with it. It really is that good. Use the best quality heavy cream you can find (Suvir uses this kind made near his country home in upstate New York).

In a medium saucepan warm  3 cups of cream with 1 cup of buttermilk and the juice of 1 lemon over low heat until it has lost its chill and is just warm. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and set a plate (one larger than the bowl’s width) on top of the towel. Set aside at room temperature for 24 hours. Whisk the mixture and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

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Filed under Baking, Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert, Quick Bread, Recipe

Caramely Spiced Carrots for a Sweet New Year

New Years resolutions often revolve around self-improvement, such as: this year I’m going to stretch everyday (that was mine, it lasted until January 3rd) or I will stop eating sugar (not my resolution and never ever will be!). What I have found to be more effective, though, are resolutions that hone in on attitude adjustments. Such as: this year, I’m going to be more patient with my kids—when they annoy me, I will take a deep breath, smile while exhaling, and try to amend the situation from a positive place. That’s a resolution I can stick to because it acknowledges a fault while resolving to improve over time.

How does this relate to carrots?

Well, carrots and I have history, as in I really, really dislike them. As a kid, my mom would keep a bowl of baby-cut carrots (carrots trimmed to baby size via machine versus actual baby carrots pulled from the ground before they reach maturity) or carrot sticks in a bowl in the fridge. She’d cover them with water and there they’d linger for days on end.

Embracing the concept of a new year, trying new things, having new adventures, and turning over new leaves, I decided t was time I made peace with carrots. I saw a bunch at the market. I stared at them for a while. And then, like the sad last-of-the-litter puppy yelping for attention, I picked up the carrots by the scruff of their greens and dropped them into my basket.

I dressed the carrots with olive oil, honey, orange juice, lots of ground cumin, and a healthy dose of salt. Then I popped them into a cold oven. I figured that by the time the oven hit 425°F (ten to twenty minutes, depending on your oven), the carrots would be one-third to halfway done roasting—so why waste that preheating time?

The carrots were insanely good! They charred, they shriveled, they sweetened, they glistened in their honey-orange glaze. We devoured them (even me). There was a problem, though: the honey and orange juice turned to asphalt in my baking dish and it took four days, a dryer sheet (anyone else know this trick? Add a dryer sheet to an especially troublesome pan, fill with hot water, and soak over night—for most pans it works like a charm), a half bottle of Barkeeper’s Friend, and two scrubbies to get the darned thing clean.

So I tried a few more times, with the goal of the same deliciously caramelized carrots minus the mess in the pan. Roasting the carrots with olive oil and salt to start and then adding the honey-orange juice mixture at the midway point seemed to work well. There was a little deep brown stickiness in the pan at the finish, but nothing that a quick scrub couldn’t remedy.

Carrots and I are making progress. We’re taking small steps together. While I still harbor many carrot prejudices, I’m happy for this New Year’s triumph that wasn’t necessarily a resolution, but had a happy ending anyway.

Oven Caramelized Carrots with Honey and Cumin

Serves 4 to 6

The cumin gives the carrots a fabulously earthy flavor, a taste combo I first experienced at ABC Kitchen in Manhattan, one of my absolute favorite restaurants. If you’re not a cumin lover, take it down to 1/4 teaspoon but please don’t cut it out entirely.

  • 1 1/2 pounds medium carrots, scrubbed and unpeeled, halved lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Flaky salt, for serving (optional)
  1. Place the onions in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Arrange them lengthwise so they’re in a single layer—you may need to place shorter carrots crosswise at the short ends of the pan. Drizzle the carrots with the olive oil and add the salt, roll them to coat.
  2. Place the carrots in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 425°F.
  3. Roast the carrots for 25 minutes. While they roast, whisk together the orange juice, honey, cumin, and pepper. Pour the mixture over the carrots and use tongs or a wooden spoon to roll them in the honey mixture.
  4. Continue roasting until the carrots look glazed, the ends begin to darken, and the tip of a knife easily slides in and out of the biggest carrot, 15 to 25 minutes longer (I like my carrots extra dark and sticky, like the photo above, so I let them go until they reach that point).
  5. Remove from the oven and use tongs to transfer them to a serving dish. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky salt if you like, and serve warm or at room temp.

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Filed under Dinner, Recipe, Side dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian

Easiest Holiday Cookies EVER: Mandelbrot (Jewish Biscotti)

To commemorate the holidays, all of the families in Rhys’ nursery class were asked to bring in a dish that is meaningful to their holiday celebrations. My first thought went to lefse, a thin Norwegian flat bread made from potatoes. When I was growing up, the best part of the holiday buffet table was always Nana’s lefse. She spread them with a thin swipe of lingonberry jam, and rolled them into tight cylinders. Nana’s lefse were more tortilla looking than other lefse I have seen, which look almost like lavash in size and thinness.

When I was 16 my Nana passed away and over the course of a decade, my grandma passed down Nana’s recipes and cooking equipment. I put dibs on the recipes, her Jell-o molds and tins of various design (fish, tubes, Bundts, grape clusters), and Nana’s coffee pot. I also inherited her lefse pin (a large rolling pin with striations in it so the potato dough doesn’t stick) and like a total moron, gave it away. Ugh, that stupid decision still gnaws away at my soul and makes me want to cry. So when I spotted a lefse pin on sale at Sur la Table a few weeks back, I snagged it and thought myself the luckiest person alive.

Of course I’d make lefse for Rhys’s holiday party. Of course! I picked up lingonberry jam at a small Swedish sweet shop in the West Village. I had the potatoes ready to boil. I looked in the recipe box at Nana’s recipe at to my shock, it was a recipe FROM THE BACK OF A LEFSE MIX!!! No way Nana! Devastated (I mean, it’s like learning your mom’s mashed potatoes come from potato flakes!), I turned to the internet and discovered this lefse website and quickly became intimidated–would I need a lefse boogie board to roll out the dough? What about that lefse stick? A lefse grill? Did Nana have all those lefse toys (somehow, in her itty bitty Chicago kitchen without even a proper counter–she did all of her cooking prep work on a formica kitchen table)?

Okay, by now it’s nearly 10am and the party is at 2:30. In between which I have to drive and deliver my dad to Delta at the airport. Lefse was quickly escaping my grasp…should I try anyway? I quickly envisioned myself happily ricing potatoes, making the dough, rolling the super thin pancakes, the dough sticking, the frustration growing, the dough tearing, flour getting everywhere, nothing working, and me throwing dough across the kitchen, stomping my feet, and having a full-on potty-mouthed tantrum. Okay, skip that. I made mandelbrot instead.

Mandelbrot is known as Jewish biscotti. It is usually made with oil instead of butter and with almonds. Mandelbrot was probably the first baked good I ever made and the recipe has been the same since I was old enough to lick the dough from a spoon: butter, sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, salt. Done. no leavener, no nuts, no oil. My husband is not a huge fan. He thinks they’re boring and kind of plain. I think they’re quite simple, semi-sweet, tender, buttery, and lovely. “Can’t you dip them in chocolate,” he asked? I glared at him. “You dip them,” I threatened. That ended that conversation.

This is a simple cookie. You make the dough, shape it into two long flat rectangles on a baking sheet (like biscotti) then bake it off. When it’s blonde and just starting to brown around the edges, you slice the bricks into 3/4-inch wide pieces, and then turn each on its side. It bakes for another 20 minutes (flipping the cookies over midway through). These are delicious with coffee, tea, or just out of hand. It’s a straightforward cookie without sprinkles and frosting and chocolate drizzles or dragés. And this time of year, a little simplicity is kind of a nice thing.

Mandelbrot Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a stand mixer, a hand mixer, or a wooden spoon and elbow grease, beat the butter with the sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is airy and light, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time, increasing the mixer speed to medium-high between additions to ensure the batter comes together before adding the next egg, and scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.

2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour and salt. Mix on medium-low speed until just combined.

3. Set a parchment paper or silpat-lined half-sheet pan (18- by 13-inches) on your worksurface so the long sides are at the top and bottom and short sides are to the left and right. Place half of the cookie dough on the lower third of the baking sheet and place the remaining half on the upper third. Fill a bowl with cold water and set it next to the pan. Dip your hands in water and pat the dough out into two long rectangles. The rectangles should be about 1/2-inch thick and about 15 inches long. Re-wet your hands as needed so the dough doesn’t stick. Smooth out the top and square off the corners as best you can.

4. Bake the two long rectangles until they are golden and spring back to light pressure,  about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway through. Remove the pan from the oven and slice each rectangle into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Remove the rounded ends of each slab (these are a treat for all of us impatient bakers–they’re super yummy hot, yum!) and turn the sliced pieces on their sides.

5. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cookies are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes longer, turning the cookies midway through if you like. Remove from the oven and cool. They keep very well  in an airtight container for up to ten days.

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Filed under Baking, Cookie, Dessert, Holiday, Recipe, Uncategorized

Balance and Bite: Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Apples, Bacon, and Cumin-Popped Pepitas

What does it mean to develop a recipe? What does it mean to test one? What does it mean to adapt a recipe? What is a truly original recipe? These questions represent the fundamental core of what I do as a recipe developer and food writer.

To develop a recipe means that you start at square one, with an idea, and make some hits and misses along the way. You tweak, you taste, you tinker. Until the recipe is just right. Sometimes all it takes is one shot. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, and years (like my ongoing quest for perfect biscuits and cornbread). To test a recipe means you are cooking a recipe, top to tail, exactly as written. You’re noting problems, making observations on timing, and perhaps suggesting shortcuts. The main goal is for the recipe to remain true to the creator’s intent–my fingerprint shouldn’t be detected whatsoever. To adapt a recipe means you take a recipe and change an ingredient or two. Perhaps switch out honey for sugar or take a recipe for a whole chicken and “adapt” it to be suitable for chicken breasts. It’s when a new idea totally piggybacks on someone else’s method.

I’m at my happiest when I’m developing. When I’m truly creating, thinking and imaging the possibilities of what could happen if.

It often starts with a concept. It hits me, starting like a small itch, and develops into a full on compulsion until I get the idea just right. A few months ago it was deviled tea eggs stained and marbled by tea and spices, and then halved and stuffed with deviled duck rillette. Then it was little cookie-cup s’mores stuffed with chocolate truffles and topped by a tanned marshmallow (stay tuned for that recipe). This week it was this risotto.

This risotto all began with the most innocuous butternut squash. When I cut the seemingly perfect squash open, the entire bottom half was semi-rotten. Useless, trash. But the neck of the squash was fine. Not enough to roast solo for a side dish, I decided to turn it into my main dish–which would be risotto. Instead of cooking the squash in the same pot as the risotto, I decided to roast it so it would retain its independence. Rather than cooking down and melding with the rice, roasting concentrates its flavors, making it extra sweet, extra browned, and texturally divine. Bacon and butternut squash are great friends, and a little bacon added a fantastic smokiness to the squash as well as the overall dish. Roasting apple with the bacon and squash gave the dish a sweet-tart tang and the peels offer petals of color. Fresh rosemary with its piney woodsy-ness can never hurt.

I stirred this combo into a basic finished risotto. It needed something, though…something crunchy and something sharp. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, fried with some cumin ended up to be a stellar choice. As they toast in the skillet, they expand into crunchy little pumpkin flavored footballs. Scallions add a  pungent bite. Creamy/crunchy, earthy/buttery, roasted/fresh; smoky/sweet. The risotto is a great snapshot of balance and bite, and of what happens when you wonder.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Apples, Bacon, and Cumin-Popped Pepitas

Serves 4 or 6 as a side

To make this vegetarian, leave out the bacon and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the roasting pan when cooking the butternut squash. I like creamy, sturdy carnaroli rice for risotto.

For the squash

  • 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/4 to 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 apple, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 bacon strips, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the pepitas

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup pepitas (hulled green pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the risotto

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or Vermouth
  • 6 cups hot vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped

1. Roast the squash: Place the squash, apples, bacon, and rosemary on a rimmed baking sheet or in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast until the squash is tender and starting to brown and the bacon is crisp, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring once midway through.

2. Make the pepitas: Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Place the pepitas in the pan and cook, stirring often. Add the cumin after 6 minutes and then continue to cook until the seeds have popped and browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the seeds out onto a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle with salt, and set aside.

3. While the squash is roasting, make the risotto: Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown around the edges and soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in the rosemary and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to coat with the aromatics. Cook until the rice begins to smell toasty and turn opaque, about 2 minutes. Pour in the white wine and cook, stirring, until the wine is absorbed.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add about 1/2 cup of broth. Cook, stirring often (you don’t have to stir constantly, but you don’t want to leave the pot standing unstirred for longer than 1 minute), until the rice nearly absorbs the broth—the pot shouldn’t look dry at the bottom and there should be a slight amount of liquid remaining, enough to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom. Continue to add more broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring between each, until you have added about 5 1/2 cups of broth (this will take around 25 minutes). Taste the risotto. You want it to be every so slightly al dente in the center—like pasta with a semi-white core. Continue to add broth and stir if necessary. Remember that, like a steak, risotto continues to cook once the heat is turned off. So it’s better to err on the side of undercooking than overcooking.

5. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and the Parmesan cheese. Stir the squash mixture into the risotto and taste; add more salt if needed. Serve sprinkle with scallions and the pepitas.

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Filed under Dinner, Grains, Pork, Recipe, Side dish