Entries from December 2010
I’m not sure how often I’ll be chiming in between now and 2011, so I wanted to be sure to point you in the direction of anything you might need in the next 12 days. (What did Dorothy say: “If you’re looking for your own heart’s desire, don’t go further than your own backyard?”) So here it goes. If you are looking for ideas for…
Afternoon Baking with the Kids: Classic Christmas Cookies, Gingerbread Cookies (courtesy of Caroline at Devil & Egg; while you are there, please check out her website’s awesome makeover)
Afternoon Cooking with the Kids: Pork Dumplings
Bake-a-Gifts: Zucchini Bread, Olive Oil Granola
Last-minute Gifts for Kids: Our Favorite Books from Newborn to 10 Years Old.
Apres-Ski Menu: Belgian Beef Stew, Monogrammed (!) Chicken Pot Pies, Easy Pork Tacos, Turkey Chili
A Birthday Ritual that Happens to Fall Near or On Christmas: Birthday Pancakes
Visiting New York City with Kids: A Rockefeller Center Strategy (Scroll down to “Christmas Cheer”)
Self-Serve Soups and Dinners: Minestrone, Grandma Turano’s Meatballs, Butternut Squash Soup
How to Get Lost For a While if Your Kids Will Let You: Freedom, Just Kids, Open, The Wife, The Post-Birthday World
A New Year’s Eve Dinner Party: Braised Short Ribs, Cranberry-Port Marinated Beef Tenderloin, Pomegranate-Braised Pork Loin, Marcella’s Milk-Braised Pork Loin
A New Year’s Day Detox Soup: Avocado & Cucumber Soup
I also wanted to take a second to express gratitude to my loyal readers. Every time I read your comments (I read every one — even if I don’t respond to them) I kinda can’t believe how heartfelt and thoughtful they are, and subsequently, what a devoted bunch of readers and family cooks you are. So thank you. My sincerest wish in 2011 is that you will continue to find ways to turn the dinner slog into your own family love story.
Happy Holidays from the DALS team,
Jenny, Andy, Phoebe & Abby!
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My mom has been making this on Christmas Day for as long as I can remember. This is one of the ten or so recipes she gave us, handwritten on index cards, when we got married — our own family dinner starter kit — many of which are still in rotation today. You’ll have to check out DALS: The Book to get the rest of them. – Andy
1 beef tenderloin (approximately 3 pounds for 6 people)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
1 cup port
3 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
6 fresh thyme springs
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon flour
1. In a large zip-top bag, combine tenderloin, cranberries, cranberry juice, port, sugar, thyme, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Seal and marinate for 24 hours, turning occasionally. Remove and reserve marinade.
2. Preheat oven to 500°F
3. Place tenderloin on a broiler pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Place in oven and immediately lower temperature to 350°F. Bake approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 145°F (medium-rare) to 160°F (medium). Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes.
4. In a large skillet, combine flour with two tablespoons of reserved marinade and whisk until combined. Add remaining marinade. Whisk until blended. Bring to a boil; cook 8 minutes until thick, stirring constantly. Serve warm with tenderloin.
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…and neither you nor your spouse…can even think about getting dinner on the table. Especially if you are the one cooking the Big Dinner in a few short days for a few dozen guests. This easy pasta dish is a good fall-back plan for these kinds of nights, when all you want to do is pour a glass of milk over some Fruit Loops and call it a meal. It’s healthy, makes good use of last-legs grape tomatoes, and requires minimum hands-on time so you can go ahead and get something done — like wrap the karaoke machine or the Sambas or the new Amelia Rules book. Shhhhh!
Whole Wheat Pasta with Roast Tomatoes and Mascarpone
Toss two small containers grape tomatoes and 1/2 red onion (roughly chopped) in olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Spread on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake at 300°F for an hour or until tomatoes look shriveled and a little golden brown on top. (Watch them to make sure they don’t blacken.) During last 15 minutes of roasting, cook whole wheat penne according to package directions. After you drain penne, add olive oil and 1 clove garlic (minced) to the same pot and cook over low heat about a minute. Add pasta back to pot, then toss with tomatoes and onions. Serve with a dollop of mascarpone or ricotta and freshly grated Parmesan.
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Tags:easy pasta recipes·whole wheat pasta recipes
Santa: Hello? [To elf] I don’t think this thing is working. There’s no one… [Into phone] Hello? Hello?
DALS: Hi, Santa. Santa? I’m here.
Santa: Oh, okay. [To elf] It’s working now, Shorty. Go wrap. [Into phone] So, what can I do for you?
DALS: First, I just wanted to say it’s an honor talking to you and thanks so much for taking a few minutes of your time today. [All chipper-like] How’s everything going up there?!
Santa: I’m buried, man. It’s busy. You know.
DALS: I can’t even imagine.
Santa: No, you can’t. It’s a ton of ground to cover, let’s put it that way. I don’t want to complain, but yeah: it’s a lot. My back is killing me, bro. Bag’s heavy. Lotta Franzen requests this year.
DALS: Like I said, I can’t even –
Santa: Eh, you know what? Who cares. I don’t wanna complain. That’s the deal, right? I mean, this is what I signed up for.
DALS: Right. Well, thanks again for taking the time. It’s a real honor.
Santa: What’s this interview about, anyway? My publicist tells me nothing.
DALS: Okay, real quick: this is for a family dinner website and –
Santa: Family dinner? Wait, let me guess: You went to Brown.
DALS: [Confused] Brown? No, actually. I, uh, I was hoping to talk to you for a few minutes about food, and, you know, the sense of community we kind of create around it.
Santa: Yeah, I’m here. I really don’t have a lot of time.
DALS: I know, I know. I’m sorry. I was just wondering if maybe you could share a holiday food tradition with our readers. Is there one thing that sticks out in your mind?
Santa: Hoo boy. This is serious? Okay, here’s my tradition: I come down the chimney and eat whatever is there, and then I move on. Hold on a sec. [Covers phone with (more…)
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Tags:christmas cookie recipe·christmas traditions
I did everything in my power to screw up this braised pork loin. Not on purpose, of course. But seriously, what was I thinking taking a work call during homework hour, a time when Abby absolutely must know immediately if 348 + 218 is indeed 9,843? And then, since it was approaching 5:00 and I wanted this pork to simmer down for at least 2 hours, I went ahead and started audibly sizzling the 2-pound slab of meat without telling the nice young man on the other end of the line, who was pre-interviewing me for this CBC report, that maybe I should call him back in 5 minutes? When Phoebe started asking me if she could fry a pineapple in cinnamon (???) as though the telephone on my ear was merely a decoration and not something that I was talking into, I headed upstairs and locked myself in my bedroom to continue the conversation in peace. Only to come down 15 minutes later to a piece of meat that was blackened on one side and completely raw on the other. And though I didn’t even remember adding onions, there they were, burnt beyond recognition. I browned the other side briefly, then reached for some wine for my braising liquid. Only a few drops were left, so instead I reached for the jar of pomegranate juice that just so happened to be sitting on the counter alongside an angry Abby, who was still seeking math approval. I poured in the juice, shut the lid, then hoped for the best.
It was the best!!!! Including Phoebe’s fried pineapple, a classic accompaniment to any pork, but particularly so when that pork is as tender and flavorful as this one turned out. Even the burntness of the skin and those black onions somehow gave the dish a little extra dimension. (She says convincingly.) The lesson? Besides the fact that the sitcom-y harried mom cliche is a cliche for a reason? You cannot screw up when you are braising. In fact, when a dish so disastrous in the making turns out this delicious, it actively encourages negligence. Please, go screw this one up tonight.
Pomegranate Pork Loin with Cabbage (The Proper Way)
In a large Dutch Oven set over medium-high heat, add a few glugs of olive oil. Brown a 2-3 pound pork loin on all sides so you get a nice golden crust — about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate. Add one large onion (chopped), one clove garlic (minced), salt, pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add pork back to pot, then add a dash or two of soy sauce, and any combination of red wine, pomegranate juice, and water (I did about a third/third/third) to allow liquid to come a third of the way up the loin. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, flipping once half way through and adding a little more liquid as you go if the level has reduced too much. The longer it simmers the better. About 10-12 minutes before you serve, add a handful or two of shredded cabbage to the pot. Remove pork and slice. Bring the braising liquid to a boil, until it is slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Serve pork with braising liquid and cabbage spooned on top, and also with roast potatoes and Phoebe’s cinnamon pineapple spears.
Note: Andy would like to add that if he were to braise a pork loin, he’d do the simmering down in a 350°F oven for up to 3 hours instead of on the stovetop. (With the pot still covered.)
Phoebe’s Cinnamon Pineapple Spears
Melt a pat of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add pineapple spears (or just pineapple chunks), sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon, and fry until slightly brown and golden.
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Tags:braised pork loin·braised pork loin recipe·pomegranate pork loin
Ever since my friend Liz told me about that documentary Race to Nowhere, I have been panting like a dog at a dinner table waiting for news of a screening in my community. For those of you not familiar with the movie, it was made by a first-time filmmaker, Vicki Abeles, who takes a look at what kind of toll all this overscheduling — i.e. relentless academic and athletic pressure - is taking on our kids. She decided to make the film after her own daughter, then 12 years old, was diagnosed with a stress-induced stomach illness.“I was determined to find out how we had gotten to a place where our family had so little time together,” Abeles told the New York Times last week. “Where our kids were physically sick because of the pressures they were under.” I think I literally licked my lips when I read that quote. This was going to offer some prime family dinner fodder.
Until Sunday, that is. Which was the day we took the girls and a few cousins and friends to the New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker and where we somehow managed to know someone (Thanks Nick!) who knew someone who knew someone who gave us a backstage tour before the show. The show that is basically synonymous with Holidays in New York. The show that Phoebe has now seen the NYCB perform five times and Abby four. (That includes the time she was asleep before Drosselmeyer even showed up.) The show that is the subject of one of my most formative books from childhood: Jill Krementz’s A Very Young Dancer. And now: I’m thinking of shutting down this site and devoting every shred of my being to making sure my daughters become professional ballerinas like Stephanie in AVYD. I will sacrifice dinner. I will sacrifice my career. I will sacrifice my children’s childhoods and their stressed-out stomachs. Just let me somehow live out my own fantasy of being Stephanie and I won’t ask for anything ever again. Ever.
We didn’t even meet any of the dancers on the tour, but just being able to stand on the storied (surprisingly spongy) stage and look out at the grand jewel box that is Lincoln Center’s David Koch Theater was enough to make me both giddy…and despondent over the realization that neither I, nor my children, will ever be on that stage dancing with a Cavalier. Is it weird that I’m almost 40 yet still felt like I somehow had a shot at this?
I’m going to assume that you guys grew up obsessing over A Very Young Dancer just like me. When I gave it to Phoebe for Christmas in 2004, I remembered every photograph, every facial expression (Stephanie didn’t even look nervous when the stage manager called from a backstage phone to tell her it was showtime!), the way all the young ballerinas stood so beautifully on their toes even when they were doing something as quotidian as fixing their hair. I read the other books in the series (A Very Young Skater…Rider…Gymnast) but none resonated quite like this one.
Who’s so lucky? My daughters with their friends and cousins on stage at Lincoln Center about 45 minutes before the curtain rose. (more…)
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Tags:a very young dancer·backstage at the nutcracker·jill krementz·race to nowhere
In spite of this Greek chicken soup (aka avgolemono) being the single most popular dinner we ran in Cookie* and in spite of it being the first on the list of Victoria Granof-written recipes that we knew must be included in the cookbook, and in spite of the fact that it takes 15 minutes to whip up from start to finish, I had never actually tried it until last Thursday. At which point Phoebe picked up her bowl and drank every last drop, and at which point my husband nearly wept with joy, and at which point I began almost immediately emailing everyone I knew demanding they try it asap. (Abby will weigh in later, after her “15-20 exposures.”)
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup uncooked orzo
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice
handful fresh dill (chopped)
shredded rotisserie chicken (optional)
In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil.
Add the orzo and cook until tender but still al dente, about 7 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper and reduce heat to low; let simmer.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth. Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture, whisking to combine.
Add the mixture back to the simmering saucepan. Stir just until the soup becomes opaque and thickens as the eggs cook, 1 to 2 minutes. Add dill, salt and pepper (to taste) and chicken if you have it, and serve.
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Tags:avgolemeno·family dinner soup·greek chicken soup
With all the rather large variables conspiring against family dinner (long hours, long commutes, overscheduled kids) sometimes the best thing you can do to feel in control of the situation is eliminate a bunch of the smaller variables. You know how I feel about getting the milk poured before you start to cook, and about dreaming up strategies to distract the kids while you go about your mincing. But, in my humble opinion, the biggest of the little variables is choosing meals that you are comfortable making, meals that don’t require a recipe or so much focus that you can’t simultaneously chop the tomatoes and carry on a conversation about the cafeteria seating politics of third grade. Not only is it more likely you will cook a fresh, homemade meal, but — if you are working outside the home — you won’t feel like you’re spending yet another half hour apart from the kids after being away from them all day. Only you know the recipes that are filed in the chop-and-chat category in your house, but in mine, it’s this shrimp taco recipe. You should of course feel free to steal it, practice it, and make it your own.
Could anything make me less angry than my little companion stealing cabbage while I prep the fixins?
Easy Shrimp Tacos
Commit this to memory and then throw away the recipe!
Squeeze some fresh lime juice over 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds of shelled raw shrimp. In a large skillet, heat a few glugs of olive or vegetable oil over medium heat and add 1 halved garlic clove. Cook until garlic is golden but not burned, then remove from oil. Add a handful of chopped onion (red, yellow, whatever), a dash of red pepper flakes to taste, salt, and pepper. Add shrimp then cook about 2 minutes a side until the shrimp has been cooked through. Remove to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warn. Wipe down skillet with a paper towel and heat as many whole wheat tortillas (over high heat, about 30 seconds a side) as you need to feed the family. (Six works for our family of four.)
Serve with small bowls of chopped avocado, sliced red cabbage, sliced cherry tomatoes that have been tossed with a spoonful of salsa, and sour cream that has been mixed with a squeeze of lime, a pinch of sugar, and cilantro.
Have the kids assemble their own tacos at the table.
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Tags:shrimp dinner for kids·shrimp tacos·taco recipes for kids
It’s hard to wait for Christmas. Why? Because it might just be the only thing in the world kids are forced to wait for. Herewith, a timeline chronicling the demise of excitement, suspense and the simple pleasure of looking forward to something. (First published in Cookie; Text by me; illustrations by Brian Rea.)
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Tags:anna maria tremonti·brian rea·cbc the current·the current
In the mid-90s, my father and I worked two blocks away from each other — he was on 47th and Third, and I was on 45th and Third, toiling away at my first Big City job while simultaneously trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. We’d regularly meet for lunch — at sushi bars, bagel shops or whichever cafe had a good Prix Fixe that day. But the most memorable lunches were three blocks south of us in Grand Central Terminal, which, to me is not only one of the most architecturally stunning buildings in New York, and not only synonymous with the warm, happy feeling of Going Home (I grew up taking Metro North in and out of the city), but the place where I learned my father’s Randy Pausch-esque philosophy on Absolute Value.
When I say we’d have lunch in Grand Central, I mean, of course, we’d have lunch at the Oyster Bar. It served my father’s favorite soup, Manhattan Clam Chowder, and the waitresses, who recognized us after a while, would always give us extra (free!) biscuits for the sopping. We never ate in the main dining room — it was way too expensive compared with the menu at the snakey counter that was always packed and had no discernible system or line for seating. (We came up with our own system: Hone in on empty soup bowls, hover, descend. Did I mention my dad is a born and bred New Yorker?) Occasionally we’d splurge on their too-delicious-to-ask-questions French fries or an overpriced green salad which somehow always had bright red tomatoes even in the dead of winter, or the special white bean soup with rock shrimp (a few dollars more than the chowders), but for the most part, the lunch was the same: biscuits, chowder, career counsel, check. Then, of course, dessert. But not at the Oyster Bar. We would walk right by the pastry and cake display up front — a veritable carnival of fruit fillings and meringue — and head to the Grand Central Market, to the newly opened branch of the famous Li-Lac Chocolates.
“We’ll take two dahk chocolate mah-zipan bahs,” my Dad would ask the aproned woman manning the register. (You can take the man out of the Bronx…)
The dark chocolate marzipan bars (pictured above) were about the size of a small person’s index finger. They cost $3.25 EACH! To someone who had just skipped making the zucchini bread because she refused to shell out the cash for the jar of ground cloves ($5.99!), this was an astonishing price to pay for such a miniscule dessert. And especially after we were so careful about not spending too much on lunch! (more…)
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Tags:li-lac·lilac chocolates·marzipan·money and food
We’re not a winter family. Certain families, when the temperature drops below zero and the sky goes gray, just know how to get it done. They bundle properly. They have gear. They layer well, and have Thules on their cars and, in general, seem to be impervious to the elements. But us? We don’t do well in the cold. We’ve only gone skiing once, our ice-skating skills fall short of limited, and we’ve yet to find the magical combination of coat, gloves, and hats that will keep our less-than-hardy kids from whining about, as they like to say between (what I suspect are hammy) shivers, “turning into ice cubes.” Jenny wears my ratty old fleece and wool scarf inside the house pretty much from November through April, and not a day goes by when she doesn’t come down in the morning and announce — as though our house, on that particular morning, is any colder than any other winter morning in the last seven years – that, “Oh my god, it’s FREEZING IN HERE. Is the heat on?” So we tend to be inside a lot during the winter – loooooong days reading or puttering around, making fires, playing Monopoly, drinking hot chocolate, making strange things from clay, writing blog posts, and cooking. I love the summer, and I love the grill, but winter cooking has its own rewards, too – namely, lots of braising meats, one-pot meals, slow-cooking ragus, and, my personal favorite, Belgian beef stew. We adapted this one from a Mark Bittman recipe about ten years ago, and we’ve been wearing it out ever since. Phoebe enjoys the whole package, Abby just the meat and potatoes. The best part, for the grown-ups, is the Dijon mustard you drizzle on at the end, and the tangy, beery broth you can drink with your spoon. It’s very basic, very tasty, and it’s warm. Until we learn to ski, it will have to do. –Andy (more…)
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Tags:beef stew recipe·belgian beef stew·winter stew
A few notes on Time for Dinner — besides the fact that it was selected as a favorite cookbook of the year by Bon Appetit, and besides the fact that you are all scooping up multiple copies to give as gifts for all your parent friends. I want to talk about the New York Times including TFD in their special Holiday Books Round-up yesterday, specifically this part of the review (by Christine Muhlke) that, I think, totally nailed it. (more…)
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Tags:alanna stang·cookie magazine cookbook·Time for Dinner cookbook·time for dinner jenny rosenstrach·time for dinner pilar guzman
Let me just start by saying this recipe is not a 30-Minute Meal. Nor is it a One Pot Wonder, a Five Ingredient Dinner, a Fix-it-and-Forget-it Dish or any of the other cute little titles dished up daily in magazines, cookbooks, and, um, blogs exactly like this one. This minestrone, which Pilar first introduced me to in 2004, is not cute. It is messy and demanding and complicated. It involves forethought — you must soak the beans overnight. It involves rinsing and draining and mincing and chopping. It involves immersion blenders and strainers and Dutch Ovens and saucepans. And it involves time. A lot of time. The kind of time you once had on a Sunday afternoon before you had kids to shuttle to birthday parties or basketball games or before you started getting roped into marathon sessions of Monopoly. Which, if you are a certain kind of cook, is what makes the resulting freaking crazy delicious soup all the more special. Because yes, you must spend your entire afternoon in the kitchen making it, but…you get to spend your entire afternoon in the kitchen making it.
Adapted from The Fine Art of Italian Cooking, Giuliano Bugialli
8 ounces dried cannellini beans
1 slice prosciutto or pancetta (vegetarians & vegans: this can be omitted)
1 large red onion, minced
1 celery rib, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 cup Italian parsley
½ cup olive oil
½ small head Savoy cabbage, chopped
1 ½ bunches kale, cleaned and chopped into small pieces
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into small squares
1 cup canned tomatoes, drained and seeded
1 small bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Soak the dried beans overnight in a bowl of cold water. The next day, drain the beans and cook them in a large pot with 2 quarts of salted water and the prosciutto or pancetta. As the beans absorb water, keep adding enough hot water to maintain about 2 quarts of liquid at the end of the cooking time. Cook for one hour, then let sit on stovetop in pot.
Saute onion, celery, garlic, carrot, parsley, salt and pepper in the olive oil in a Dutch Oven or large stockpot for about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the cabbage, kale, and potato to the stockpot. Then add tomatoes, smushing them with your hands as you drop them in the pot. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, adding a little bean liquid every now and then if it’s looking dry. Then add Swiss chard.
Remove the prosciutto from the beans. Scoop out about 1 cup of beans with a strainer or slotted spoon and set aside. With a handheld mixer, blend the remaining beans in their pot, then pour bean puree into the stockpot with vegetables, stirring to combine. Simmer together for about 15 minutes more until heated through. When you are ready to serve, add the reserved whole beans. Add salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls and serve with crusty bread, freshly grated Parmesan and a healthy drizzle of good quality olive oil.
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Tags:family dinner·giuliano bugialli·gluten free·gluten free dairy free dinner·minestrone·minestrone recipe·sunday dinner
I know — such a buzzkill that mom has to go ahead and add shredded vegetables to the latkes. But how else am I supposed to justify potato pancakes being the only thing on the dinner plate?
Simple Potato Latkes
Adapted from Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook
Grate 3 large russet potatoes and 1 small onion in a food processer using the shredding disk. Drain in a colander and add to a large mixing bowl with 1 egg, 2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, a handful of shredded carrots and zucchini if your kids will stand for it (recipe still works if you omit), salt and pepper to taste. (I go heavy on salt.) Fry large dollops of the mix in vegetable oil (flattening with a spoon) for about 4 minutes a side and serve warm with sour cream and apple sauce.
PS: Lemony Snicket’s The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A read-aloud hit in Phoebe’s third-grade classroom yesterday.
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Tags:holiday rituals·potato latke recipe·potato latkes·potato pancake recipe