Entries from February 2011

And This Year’s MVDG Is…

February 28th, 2011 · 9 Comments · Posts by Andy, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

One of the perks of writing a food blog — besides the not-getting-paid part – is that, when friends visit us now, they tend to really bring it, and I mean that literally. In the past month, we’ve had guests show up with: brownies baked in a crazy-ass, s-shaped, all-edges pan; a bottle of dark, rich homemade red wine vinegar; extra virgin olive oil carted all the way back from Buenos Aires; purple basil-infused simple syrup (forreal!); and a still-warm batch of gluten-free, dairy-free, lemon-iced blueberry scones. All were amazing, and all were totally appreciated, but if I’m being honest here, I’m not sure any can compete with what my friend and work bro, Kendra H., brought a couple of weeks ago. Kendra, you should know: you have firmly established yourself as the early front-runner for this year’s Most Valuable Dinner Guest award. Two weeks ago — on a frigid weeknight, no less — Kendra came over for dinner, and she brought goodies. Specifically, she brought a nice bottle of red for the grown-ups, a couple dozen beautifully wrapped and presented (she’s crafty like that) cookies for the family, and, for the kids… a recipe for making garlic and dill pickles, along with a pair of jar tongs. She set up shop in our kitchen, with Abby and Phoebe, and spent an hour (more…)

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Finger Food Family Dinner

February 25th, 2011 · 8 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner

About fifteen years ago, Aunt Patty scribbled her recipe for chicken wings on an index card and clutched it into my hands with the urgent instruction Don’t Lose This. The way she said it and the way those wings tasted, I figured it was some secret family recipe that went back generations. I didn’t lose the recipe, but I never made the wings either. Somehow I had a sense that this was one of those things that wouldn’t have tasted the same had anyone else attempted to cook them for me. The title of the recipe was “La Brea Tar Pit Chicken Wings” so named because they were dark, sticky, and gooey and I had pretty much forgotten about them until a few weeks ago when I was flipping through my Gourmet Cookbook in search of a dinner we could eat with our fingers in front of the Super Bowl. Turns out Patty’s wings hadn’t quite earned the secret family recipe status I had conferred upon them all these years, because they were! Right there on page 55! (And submitted by some imposter in Boston named Metta Miller! What??) I felt a little better when I finally read the recipe and saw how easy it was, how perfect it was for the kind of meal I craved that night: minimal hands-on time, and something that worked equally well with chocolate milk and Guinness. (more…)

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Not Just a Sandwich

February 23rd, 2011 · 13 Comments · Dinner, Posts by Andy, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

Have you seen Black Swan? I haven’t. True Grit? Nope. And, god, wasn’t Colin Firth mind-blowingly good in The King’s Speech? Actually, I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t seen a second of it. Not even a preview. The sad truth is, we haven’t seen a single one of the movies nominated for an Oscar this year. It pains me to admit this, but in the nine years that have hurtled by since Phoebe was born, Jenny and I have been inside of a movie theater fewer than five times — once, in our first month of parenthood, when I went to Jackass and Jenny went to Sweet Home Alabama, and once when we both went to Avatar, which I’m not really counting, since it felt more like an endless video game than a movie to me, and Jenny slept through half of it, and we both came away wondering why we’d wasted a rare and beautiful movie date watching stuff blow up. We never thought we’d be these people, the kind with passports that hadn’t been stamped in a decade and who puttered around in bathrobes and still quoted George Costanza. (Seinfeld! Such a great show!) I remember back in the days before we had kids, when Jenny was pregnant with Phoebe, and other parents would tell us, knowingly — almost gleefully — to enjoy our remaining days of childless independence, since having kids meant The End of Restaurants, Movies, Grooming, Sleep, Privacy, Exercise, Vacations to Anywhere Other Than Orlando, and Sunday Mornings Spent Drinking Coffee and Reading the New York Times. (Hell, even reading Bob Herbert!) They’d tell us to enjoy that 9:45 showing of Gosford Park, because once kids arrived, we’d never ever find a babysitter willing to stay after midnight. They’d tell us to savor every last bite of that pistachio semi-freddo at Gramercy Tavern, because man, they really hated to break it to us, but once we had kids and discovered how brutal it was paying for a fancy restaurant meal and a babysitter, we’d never go out again. (Going rate for babysitting, in 2002: ten bucks an hour!) (more…)

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Cook Once, Eat Twice

February 18th, 2011 · 21 Comments · Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Pork and Beef, Rituals

Oh man, Pete Wells! I was so sad to read that this week’s “Cooking with Dexter” column (“Busy Signal”) is going to be his last for the New York Times Magazine. I’ve always appreciated how honestly he writes about the way food and family intersect — as you’ll read in his swan song, he never pretended cooking dinner for his kids with a full-time demanding job (in addition to writing this column, he’s the editor of the Times Dining Section) was easy or in any way regular. His wife has the more flexible work schedule so she’s the one who keeps the weeknight dinner train running. And most of the time, Wells concedes, he isn’t there for it. Or, when he is, he sometimes finds himself spending a harried half hour dredging fish fillets in homemade breadcrumbs instead of doing what he should be doing: heating up something from the freezer and chilling out with his kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself in this position. It happens less now — now that I’m the wife with the flexible work situation, and now that the kids are older and not as whiny about wanting to eat right this second — but when it does, I think the same thing: Who am I supposed to be connecting with here? The kids or the chicken thighs? Which inevitably leads to Tomorrow night is Trader Joe’s Pizza Night. (more…)

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DALS Housekeeping

February 18th, 2011 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

Hi there. Just wanted to let you know we are working on a DALS recipe index so you will soon be able to search by ingredient, by season, by dish type and by mood (“I’m walking in the door at 6:00 and must eat at 6:30?” or “It’s Sunday and I have a whole glorious afternoon to cook!”) without having to slog through my sometimes un-searchable post titles to get there. In the meantime, please remember that there is a search field over on the right, above the “Categories” section. So if for some crazy reason you forgot that my all-purpose vinaigrette recipe was written up in a post titled “Happiness Is…” you will be able to locate the recipe if you just type in “vinaigrette.” Also, for those of you racking your brains at night trying to figure out how on earth you can hear from me as often as possible, please like DALS on facebook or sign up for my newsletter, which has been known to provide Sunday shopping lists for easy weeknight meals. Speaking of easy weeknight meals — check out the growing list of ace-in-the-hole dinners from readers and add your own. I’ll be starting to cook through them next week to see which one wins the $75 gift certificate to AllModern.com.

Happy weekend,
Jenny

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Whose Party is it Anyway?

February 17th, 2011 · 19 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations

I didn’t make this cake for my nine-year-old’s Secret Agent Party. I had the local bakery write the birthday message in “code” (see if you can crack it!) but that’s where my confectionary contribution ended. I opted to buy the cake instead of bake one from scratch because by the time I was thinking about this last piece of the party puzzle, Reasonable Mom (Secret Code Name: Make-it-Easy-on-Yourself Mom) was losing to Unreasonable Mom (Secret Code Name: Who-Exactly-Are-You-Trying-To-Impress Mom). In fact, for this particular party  – with its three-floor, ten-clue scavenger hunt, hand-stenciled tablecloth, and late-night phone consultations with my friend Marcie, who threw her own spy party a few years ago — Unreasonable Mom was crushing Reasonable Mom. For this party, Unreasonable Mom was leaving it all on the field.

It was Unreasonable Mom who, two weeks earlier, forced me spend an hour designing the invitation for the party on my computer, even though the 9-year-old honoree herself was downstairs playing Angry Birds on the iPad. (A major violation in our house! Reasonable Mom always makes sure the birthday girls are as involved in the process whenever possible. Reasonable Mom does everything in her power to protect me from being on the other end of the silent accusation: Who’s this party for anyway? The mom or the kid? ) (more…)

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Special Today: Coconut Shrimp

February 15th, 2011 · 10 Comments · Dinner, Seafood

When I was little, shrimp did not qualify as seafood. Seafood was the stuff my mom picked up at the dreaded fish market (my twin brother and I used to hold our noses in protest whenever she made us go in with her) and was what she might have made for people coming over for dinner once her bratty brood was safely out of the way, upstairs watching The Love Boat. But SHRIMP! Oh man, shrimp was something else entirely. We liked it one way: On ice with cocktail sauce, and whenever possible hooked around the rim of a wide champagne glass. Because if we were eating it that way, it meant we were out to dinner somewhere special — I can’t remember a single time I ate shrimp at my own dinner table growing up. (Or at my friends’ dinner tables either come to think of it.) This is amazing to me, considering today shrimp is perhaps as popular in our house as pizza is. Which is great, except for the fact that it is perhaps as popular in our house as pizza is. In other words, how to keep things interesting and not fall back on tacos and Phoebe’s favorite 5-minute spicy shrimp again and again? The answer — at least for this week — seems to be adding coconut to the dredge. This gave the shrimp a sweet crunch (I can’t remember seeing a new meal disappear so fast from Abby’s plate) and added just enough of an excitement factor to an otherwise kinda boring salad for the grown-ups.

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I Love You, ___________.

February 14th, 2011 · 41 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Domestic Affairs, Drinks, Posts by Andy

Mad Lib Valentines from Jenny and Andy.

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For You

February 11th, 2011 · 81 Comments · Rituals

Don’t you think that if you presented this heart toast to your kids on Monday morning then you could check off the how-to-make-this-day-special box on your Good Parent List and be done with it? Anyway, I think we have the girls covered, but what about you guys? I’m loving the comment boards these days (thank you to anyone and everyone who has weighed in) and decided that it may be time for another giveaway. Perhaps you are in the market for some modern furniture? Some table linens for the dinner table? Some sleek Alessi glassware from which you may sip your Manhattans a la Andy? Allmodern.com has graciously offered DALS readers the chance to win a $75 gift certificate to their site. All you have to do is send me one of your tried-and-true go-to weeknight family dinner recipes — the dinner that is so easy you can tell me how to make it in just about the same amount of words as a tweet. The reader who turns in a recipe that passes the litmus test (i.e. one my daughters select and — here’s the hard part — enjoy the most) wins. As always, you can send me the recipe in the comment fields below, post on the DALS facebook page (please start your post there with “CONTEST ENTRY”) or email me directly (jenny AT dinneralovestory DOT com.). Winner and recipe to be announced on March 2. Thanks all and Happy Valentine’s Day! (more…)

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Chocolate Moose

February 10th, 2011 · 23 Comments · Baking and Sweets

I never go to Paris — haven’t been there since way back in the 20th century, when Andy and I stayed in a friend’s 300-year-old apartment in the Sixth. (Even just writing that sentence I worry about how unsophisticated I sound: Did I phrase it wrong? Is that how people say it? “The Sixth?” Am I going to lose whatever credibility I have left in the food world — or at least with Orangette – by admitting this?) But the good news is that somehow I always know someone who is going to Paris. Just in the last year: my friend Yolanda, who maintains it’s the world’s best city for kids; my friend Juli, who took her daughter there to celebrate her 12th birthday; and my friend Laurie who let Phoebe and Abby babysit her chihuahua-terrier mix Violet, while she spent the week eating saucisson in the Third. Why is this good news for me? Because all of them were nice enough to honor my request and make a pitstop at le supermarche to pick up a bar of this unassuming looking bar of Nestle chocolate. It’s 52% cacao, un-Google-able Stateside, and has a recipe for the world’s best chocolate mousse — or “moose” as Phoebe spells it — right on the wrapper. My friend Simone (another lucky duck!) was the one to turn me on to it. And so, as much as I’d like to be strolling through Luxembourg Gardens this Valentine’s Day, hand-in-hand with mon amour, this dessert will just have to do. (more…)

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Little Help, Please?

February 8th, 2011 · 11 Comments · Cameos, Dinner, Domestic Affairs, Kitchenlightenment, Quick, Vegetarian

I get the feeling, judging by the comments section on certain posts, that family dinner is not always a family affair. That, you know, some of us aren’t so good at pulling our weight. Luckily, there’s a new book — full disclosure: I edited it — that just might help take a little of the resentment out of the equation. Here, to give us a whole new way of thinking about the division of labor around the house (i.e. stop focusing so much on 50/50!) is DALS guest-poster Paula Szuchman, Wall Street Journal editor and co-author, with Jenny Anderson, of Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage & Dirty Dishes. You can also read their excellent and funny blog here. — Andy

My husband and I both cook, and we both loved being cooked for. There are few things more luxurious than lying on the couch after a long day, the smell of sautéed onions wafting through the living room, secure in the knowledge that at any minute, your favorite person is going to walk over and put a plate of food in front of you—and if you’re really lucky, also a glass of wine, a remote control, and license to watch reruns of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills until you pass out.

Others aren’t so lucky. From what I hear, there are plenty of readers of this blog whose spouses don’t cook, can’t cook or never come home on time to cook. You guys are wondering if there’s a secret to reprogramming such spouses. I have two suggestions.

First, accept and overcome. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but let me explain. Each person in a relationship has things he or she does better, relative to other things. So sure, your spouse could fry an egg if someone had a gun to his head, but in terms of skill and efficiency, he’s way better at changing light bulbs. He has what an economist might call the comparative advantage in light-bulb changing. You have the comparative advantage in cooking. (more…)

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School’s Closed? Pass the Butter.

February 7th, 2011 · 18 Comments · Dinner, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup

Tomato and White Bean Soup

There are some nice things about waking up to the automated phone message: Schools Closed Due to Inclement Weather. Sleeping in, for starters. (Though the novelty of this wears off at 8:01, which is usually about the time I first hear “Mom, I’m borrrrrred.”) Another nice thing: The realization that I was fired last year, so I am no longer required to report to an office, i.e. we are no longer gripped by panic about who is able to stay home with the kids and who absolutely cannot miss the status meeting at 10:00. (The novelty of this has yet to wear off.) And then, of course, there’s the warm-your-bones cooking. When I am snowed in my house with the kids, some primal instinct kicks in and demands that I make buttery cakes, cheesy pastas and fatty braised meats. Which, I think you’ll agree is pretty great, until the sixth time in fourteen days that you wake up to the automated message that School is Closed Due to Inclement Weather (not exaggerating) and realize you have gone through eight sticks of butter and feel like you can live off your fat until spring break. I think that’s why on Snow Day Six — which came exactly one day after Snow Day Five — I woke up determined to fight through my Land o’ Lakes hangover and replicate the tomato white bean soup my dad and I used to order at the Oyster Bar (minus the rock shrimp). The soup seemed to have all the hallmarks of a great snow day dinner (long cooking time, an ingredient list that is easy on the pantry, an aromatic oniony smell that could properly permeate an icicle-rimmed house) and none of the butter. Just a little tiny eensy-weensy piece of bacon. (more…)

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The Other Ketchup

February 4th, 2011 · 8 Comments · Rituals

I could start an entirely new website based only on My Pre-Parenting Claims. As in: I will never organize my whole day around my baby’s naptime. As in: I will continue to travel to Europe even when the kids are babies. Or: I will only let my children watch TV on special occasions. Perhaps my favorite: I will dedicate an entire corner (maybe even an entire room) in the house to art supplies so my miniscule Monets would always be able to paint a portrait of their loveys with acrylics on canvas, or craft a terrarium out of a discarded shoebox, or build a caterpillar out of an old egg carton. Needless to say, none of these things ever happened. (To readers out there who are not yet parents or who hope to be parents someday, I think my biggest piece of advice is this: Do Not Make Any Claims. At least, do not make them out loud with parents in the room.) The only thing that came close to actually happening was the art studio. Except the studio ended up being more like a small shelf in the TV room. And the stash of acrylics and canvases is more like a huge ream of plain old 8 1/2 x 11 paper and a 36-pack of Pentels, which cost more than Crayolas but last about 30 times as long (and which are the main point of this post in case it’s getting lost in my usual longwinded set-up). It turns out that this is really all we need to inspire a regular roll-out of homemade comic books starring Robot Man, or maps of “Abby-Land” and “Phoebe-Land” (“It’s all vegetarian, Mom, except you’re allowed to eat steak!”) or your garden-variety bathroom-themed masterpieces. To the point where when we run out of paper, like we did last week just in time for two snow days, it was like running out of ketchup or maple syrup — I’m not sure how we made it through the day without it.

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Game Day Dip

February 3rd, 2011 · 20 Comments · Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup

I played tennis in college which, for obvious reasons, was a lot of fun: being part of a team, traveling all over New England to see beautiful schools, getting to leave my afternoon classes early for this travel, thereby avoiding the 117th straight discussion of Beloved or that pre-law professor who’s maniacal obsession with humiliating me in class somehow fell under the acceptable penumbra of “The Socratic Method.” But there were not-so-obvious reasons, too. Like this ridiculously disgusting — and I mean that in the nicest possible way — hot cheesy artichoke dip that somehow made an appearance at our coach’s house every time she’d have us over to get us pumped up for a match or celebrate a victory or watch a big game like the Super Bowl. I have no idea who made it — it wasn’t my coach, maybe it was my doubles partner Jennie or our captain Jane. (Can either of you out there confirm or deny?) But I do know that my team’s most competitive side came out when that hot baking dish was placed before us, and we all fought to stuff as much as possible into our Feminist Theory spewing-mouths. Over the years — er, decades — I’ve tried to upgrade the dip by including herbs or spinach or, you know, experimenting with the acidity. But in the end, I always go back to the original recipe, which was so easy anyone could make the thing — even a college sophomore who couldn’t understand Beloved no matter how many times she read it. (more…)

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Salmon if You’re Sick of Salmon

February 1st, 2011 · 16 Comments · Dinner, Seafood

If you’ve been following this blog for a little while, you know by now that salmon was the first fish our kids ate. Which was fine by us — it was healthy, flavorful, and one of the few foods (in general) that we could all eat the exact same way at the dinner table. So we ate a lot of it. A lot of it. With yogurt-mustard-dill sauce, with hoisin glaze, mixed into salmon salads and salmon-rice bowls. At Japanese restaurants, I’d watch with both pride and horror as Phoebe would peel off the salmon from my sushi with her fingers then dangle piece after piece into her mouth. We have eaten so much of the omega-3 powerhouse in fact, that on Sunday Andy found his heart sinking a little at the fish counter when Phoebe pointed definitively at the wild salmon filets. Her choice for dinner.

What was he going to do, say no? No, he wasn’t. So he also picked up some coconut milk and lemongrass — ingredients that are not regularly in our pantry — and got motivated to make something that was different than any other salmon we’ve eaten. And he did. Browning the salmon in a skillet then letting it finish cooking in a pool of aromatic coconut milk gave the fish the most delicate texture — almost like it was poached.  Goes without saying that we will be eating it again soon. (more…)

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