Entries from August 2012

Away We Go

August 19th, 2012 · 18 Comments · Domestic Affairs, Kitchenlightenment, Travel

This picture was taken in Shek O, off the southeastern coast of Hong Kong Island where we’ve been visiting Andy’s brother and family for the past seven days. That’s Phoebe, jumping — after much prodding and negotiation — off the roof of a junk, and plunging into the South China Sea. A good reminder of how big and beautiful this world is, and how full of things to see. We hope you’re doing some of that, too, this summer.

See you in a week or so.

Jenny & Andy

PPS: Ten Things to Hold You Over Until We’re Back

1. Chicken-Apricot Skewers This one for me is all about that drizzling sauce with coconut milk and peanut butter. (From Bon Appetit)

2. Steamed Clams with Shallots and Wine. Serve with crusty bread and a fresh green salad for a 15-minute dinner. And secure the freshest clams you can find.

3. Baby Back Ribs with Mustardy-Potato Salad and Fennel Slaw. A perfect summer menu, best enjoyed wearing flip-flops.

4. Grilled Shrimp Tacos With or without homemade tortillas.

 

5. Green Papaya Salad with Shrimp (above) which we ate for dinner beachside in Koh Samui, watching a sunset, Chang beer in hand, toes wiggling in the sand. I don’t hold out hope I’ll be replicating a night like this again any time soon, but I can at least try to replicate the dish. I think I’ll start here.

6. Grilled Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa (page 236, Dinner: A Love Story)

7. Lamb Sliders (p. 206, Dinner: A Love Story) with Chick Pea Fries (p. 210) Bon Appetit served the fries as hors d’oeuvres at the DALS book party and they rocked. I’m resolved to serve them in my house with marinara instead of ketchup this year.

8. Cold “Peanut Butter Noodles” (page 261, Dinner: A Love Story) This is such a good one for easy entertaining. Can be made a day in advance — then all you have to do is set out toppings.

9. Summer Ginger-Peach Galette If you’ve chosen Dinner: A Love Story for your next book club selection, or even if you haven’t actually, there’s a reading guide (plus a recipe for this beautiful galette to serve if you are hosting) right here.

10. Tomato Caprese Salad You shouldn’t go a day without this on your table in some form between now and Labor Day.

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A Make-Ahead, Room-Temp Menu for Entertaining

August 16th, 2012 · 9 Comments · Entertaining, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Uncategorized

I had such fantasies when we invited our friends Todd and Anne for dinner. It wasn’t a special occasion dinner — only a sort of a “last gasp of summer” kind of night since both our families are going our separate ways for the rest of the month and the next time we see them we’ll be all busy with things like teacher conferences and homework supervising. I thought the occasion offered the perfect excuse to experiment with all those recipes I had been dog-earring and bookmarking for the past few weeks. Plus, The Sprouted Kitchen had just landed on my doorstep and I loved what I saw — whole grains and the most inspiring vegetable-heavy dinners that take advantage of beautiful, gem-like, peak-season summer produce. (These three weeks are the ones I look forward to all year long and to waste a single August eating opportunity is a crime!) I drew up a menu for Tuesday night, the night they were coming over. There were beet slaws and buttermilk dressings. Exotic grains and chilled soups. Yes, this would be one to remember.

But there I was on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours from dinner with no time to shop, still looking at the line-up which was not so much inspiring as it was taunting. Various assignments and appointments had conspired against my Fantasy Summer Menu and so instead of sniffing melons at the market (as I had imagined I would be doing), I found myself in what is increasingly becoming my default position: Standing in front of refrigerator scratching my head. Luckily it was only Tuesday so we still had a lot of food from our weekend shop. And luckily I had my Big Feel-Good Batch of Barley that I could transform to something nice in minutes. The rest of the menu holes I filled in with dishes that were the opposite of brand new, i.e. dishes I had been making for the past fifteen summers. But as soon as Todd and Anne and their kids arrived and sat down to the meal,  I was reminded why the dishes have lasted fifteen summers — because they work! And they’re delicious! I totally forgot — when produce is this good, you don’t have to perform any culinary acrobatics to make a successful meal. You don’t have to outshine yourself just for the sake of it! You just keep it simple and let the food do the talking.

A Summer Menu
It worked out well because Grandma Jody’s Chicken is just as good at room temperature as it is hot from the skillet so I could make it an hour or so ahead of time and leave on the counter tented with foil. When the doorbell rang, everything on the menu was ready to go — except the gin and tonics.

Starters: Baguette slices, figs, parmesan, ricotta mixed with lemon zest, thyme, and honey. Gin and Tonics.

Dinner: Grandma Jody’s Chicken with Arugula and Heirloom Tomatoes (page 13, Dinner: A Love Story), Bacon-Corn Hash (page 29), Herbed Barley Salad (page 245)

Wine: A beautiful Italian Sauvignon Blanc, a gift from my babysitter Ali who had just spent the month in Florence.

Dessert: Emily’s Peach-Blueberry Cobbler and Cold Watermelon

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Mr. All-Around

August 15th, 2012 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

I’m going to keep this simple. Because I made it twenty minutes ago, and Jenny and I both said, “Why haven’t we written about this on DALS yet? It’s so easy.” So here it is, a good five-minute sauce that goes with just about anything. It’s awesome with grilled stuff, from fish (we had it last weekend with striped bass) to chicken to steak to lamb chops. It makes veggies better, from corn salads to fresh tomatoes to roasted potatoes. It’s good on toast, or grilled bread. You can even mix it into scrambled eggs. It’s a pretty simple formula and you can improvise within it, if you’d like — using, say, cilantro instead of the more traditional parsley or, even, if you’re feeling crazy and lamb is on the menu, mint. It’s basically a salsa verde, but what the version I make is a distant, less refined cousin. Our kids called it green sauce, and they don’t know it contains one anchovy. If that bothers you, too, you could leave it out, but I promise: even though you won’t taste it, you’ll miss it if it’s gone. – Andy

Poor Man’s Salsa Verde

1 scallion, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh parsley (or cilantro or mint)
10-12 large capers
1 anchovy
generous amount of salt and pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil

Process all ingredients except oil in a mini food processor or blender. Then, slowly add olive oil as you whirl and  the sauce emulsifies. Remove to a small dish and spoon over fish. Or chicken. Or meat. Or veggies.

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The Ultimate Kitchen Throwdown

August 14th, 2012 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

OK, you guys thought the DALS pasta sauce taste test was fun? Wait til you see what the BA team is up to. I’ve been working with their editors and test kitchen staff on the road test of all road tests. Bon Appetit is spending the next few months testing and tasting 50 of the pantry staples you use every day — like olive oil, salt, cocoa, canned tomatoes, yogurt, agave, mustard — to determine which ones meet the “BA Seal of Approval” criteria. (In other words, which ones will make your day-to-day cooking the best it can be.) You’ll be hearing more about this as the year goes on — winners will not be announced until the December 2012 issue — but I thought you’d like to get a sneak peak of the taste-testing action. That’s me on the left (feeling all legit in my official apron) with Alison Roman (aka “The Baking Assassin”) burning our taste buds on hot sauces. Woo boy. Note to self: Next time, try hot sauce last.

This was Round 1, where we tested savory staples like soy sauce, grapeseed oil, etc. Round 2 (chocolate baked into brownies, butter baked into shortbread) was sa-weet. Head over to BonApp for more photos, details, and info.  PS: For more on feeding a family, check out the complete archive of “The Providers,” the column Andy and I write for BA.

Photos by Matt Duckor.

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That Chicken You’re All Asking About

August 13th, 2012 · 11 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick

A lot of you have been asking about Mark Bittman’s cornmeal-crusted chicken with soy-lime sauce that I mentioned in the “You Make it, You Own it” section of my book. That chapter, as most of you know, was all about the practically signed-in-blood rule of law in our kitchen, wherein if one person in the couple cooks something new and it’s a keeper, then that person own’s it — i.e. it’s his or her job to prepare this recipe from then on out, ad infinitum. Well a funny thing happened. So many of you wrote to me requesting the page number for the recipe in How to Cook Everything that I was forced to look it up for the first time (remember: it’s an “Andy-owned” dish) and was subsequently reminded of how freaking good it was. Why did this recipe follow the similar trajectory of Alanis Morrisette and Snackwells, and fall out of favor in our house by the end of the 90s? Why had it been so long? It’s so easy and calls for soy sauce which is almost better than saying “it’s covered with a chocolate shell” in my house. Of course this meant I needed to breach our contract and make it immediately. So I guess this now means we share ownership? Uncharted territory here, so not sure how to proceed.

Chicken with Soy-Lime Sauce
For those of you who have How to Cook Everything, it’s on page 391 (I have the first edition, with the yellow cover; For those of you who have other editions it’s called “Sauteed Chicken Cutlets with Lime Sauce” and I’m sure you could look it up in the index.) For those of you who do not have HtCE, first why don’t you? And second, here is a slightly adapted version of Bittman’s so you can try it out for yourself.

oil (olive or vegetable)
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 pounds chicken (breasts or thighs) pounded thin, salted and peppered
1 garlic clove, minced
3 to 4 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
juice of one lime
cilantro, chopped for garnish

Add oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Pour cornmeal onto a dinner plate and dredge chicken pieces so they are completely covered, then drop into hot skillet. Try not to crowd the pan. (I always do, but this is because of a deep behavioral flaw. Please don’t follow suit.) Rotate and flip for a total of about 8 minutes until chicken is firm to the touch but not rock hard. As you cook your chicken, remove to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Add a little more oil with each new batch.

When all your pieces have been cooked, add a little more oil, then cook garlic and scallions, about one minute. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, and lime juice, turn heat up and cook until it reduces slightly, about 30 seconds. Drizzle pan sauce over platter of chicken. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

I served with snow peas that had been quickly sauteed in olive oil, then sprinkled with salt, pepper, lemon, and feta.

Note: How to Cook Everything is one of the dozen or so cookbooks I consistently rely on to get dinner on the table. Please see pages 45-59 of my book (the chapter called “Starter Cookbooks”) for the others.

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Bringing it All Back Home

August 9th, 2012 · 13 Comments · Children's Books, Gifts, Culture, Posts by Andy

Every time we visit my parents, my mom begs me to go through the boxes of my old junk that are cluttering up her (immaculate) basement. She’s entering that phase of life, I guess, when things are cast off and simplified, when you have to get a little brutal about all your stuff — what’s essential and what’s not. ”What am I going to do with this?” is the question she keeps asking and for which I have no good answer. Last time we visited, in July, I finally gave in. I took an hour and sifted through the old books, making piles of what could be tossed, what could be donated to the library, and what would come back home with me, to molder in my own (not immaculate) basement until the cycle repeated itself somewhere down the line. One thing, however, became clear as I went: my mom wasn’t quite as ready to let go as she’d led me to believe. Turns out, stuff is more than just stuff, and it’s not so easy to kiss it goodbye. A sample exchange:

Giants in the Earth?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

“You don’t want that one?”

“Nope.”

“Awwwww, really? You loved that book.”

“Yeah, but — ”

Actually removing the book from of the donate bag, and setting it aside: “Maybe I’ll keep it, just in case. You’ll want it one day.”

After the books, I moved on to the other pile she wanted me to deal with: records. At one point, my mulleted and guitar-playing older brother and I had a fairly massive amount of records but, gradually, as we purged over the years, that collection had been boiled down to the 100 or so albums that now sat on her plastic shelving unit, to the right of the sump pump and just behind the treadmill. I started digging through. Books are great and all, and they served me well, but this is the stuff that will kill you dead. Lot of memories come swirling up out of this mess, wow. Some Girls. Free to Be You and Me. Harvest. Live at Leeds. Greetings from Asbury Park. Loudon Wainwright III. The Smiths. The Muppet Movie. Songs in the Key of Life. Blonde on Blonde. The Police. Pleased to Meet Me. Briging it All Back Home. Simon and (Ugh) Garfunkel. The Cars. The Del Fuegos (?). Loverboy (!). The White Album. The Clash. Judas F’n Priest (who, by the way, I saw live at the Capital Center in 1985). And Elton John. God, so much Elton John. Yeah, yeah, go ahead and laugh: To this day, I will argue the greatness of early Elton John — Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Honkey Chateau, Captain Fantastic. It was all there, in extremely poor condition, scarred by the hasty needle drops of impatient eleven year old boys. I’m not the first one to say it, but these days — when music is a literal abstraction, hovering somewhere above our house within a cloud I can never figure out how to access without Jenny’s help – there’s something deeply pleasing about vinyl. Most of these albums, I hadn’t seen in twenty-five years. It’s enough to make a man nostalgic, and to make a nostalgic man even more nostalgic than his usual nostalgic self. I set aside a stack of about twenty I wanted for myself, and left the rest for my brother to grapple with later.

There was a problem: The last time I owned a turntable, I hadn’t shaved yet. In fact, my buddy Todd (he of the minty pea dip, a DALS classic) had been on me for months to man up and buy one already, as he’d bought one for himself and had been touting its restorative powers. And it was true, one had to admit: it did sound good. It took you back. When we got home from my parents’ — our trunk loaded with our new-old stuff – I went on amazon and bought a beautiful little portable turntable, which arrived three days later, and which has spent the last month perched on the edge of our kitchen counter, rocking us through our dinner preparations. The kids have picked up right where I left off — doing wince-inducing damage with their horrific needlework — and we’ve torn through all the old favorites. And, yes, Abby has fallen for “Crocodile Rock,” just like I did when I was her age. Not my favorite, but just for the sound of that crackle when the needle hits the vinyl, it’s worth it. That’s a pain I can endure. – Andy

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Note to Self

August 7th, 2012 · 16 Comments · Favorites, Vegetarian

Dear Jenny,

You know that feeling you carried around with you all day yesterday? As you shepherded one kid back and forth to the doctor, the other to camp, then back to the library to accomplish ten hours of work in a very crunched three, then back to camp? You know how all day long you felt like you had things together even though you were up the whole night before ruminating over the latest worries playing on your insomnia plex? It was like your brain had just done that 30-minute Metamorphasis workout from Tracy Anderson — its core strong and capable. And this was why? Because you finally did what you’ve been wanting to do for months now — you took a few minutes over the weekend to boil some whole grains so they’d be pret-a-manger for dinner all week long.  If I may be so bold, I think you might call the feeling…euphoria. (Or…psychosis? Two sides of the same coin?) Don’t you know yourself by now? Don’t you know how irrationally happy you feel when you are in control of some corner of your life? Even if it’s just one small corner of your plate? Because when you have a tupperware filled with wheat berries and barley (as you do right now, Praise Be!!) you can do anything! You can even somehow resist the decidedly not whole grain dinner rolls from Trader Joe’s that the kids pick out and that lately Andy has been baking on the grill so they are all smoky and irresistible, especially when smeared with a nice pat of creamy butter. With a stash of cooked whole grains in the fridge, you may not be able to cross off those tasks that always make their way back on the to-do list (just call your d@#% accountant) but you sure can check off tonight’s starch! Which might even look like this:

And true, the kids will probably just try a bite or two, but who cares — they have the simple tomato-corn-red onion salad you made before mixing in the wheat berries and the feta. All you have to do is grill a piece of fish or pan-fry some chicken and you have the makings of the perfect summer dinner: fast, easy, fresh, and enough left over for tomorrow. When you can feel good about yourself all over again.

Love,
Jenny

Big Feel-Good Batch of Barley

Rinse 1 cup of barley under cold water. Bring 3 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil and add barley. Bring to a low boil (not quite as roiling as you would for potatoes), then cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Check after about 40. The grains should be slightly al dente because they’ll cook a little more when they sit in a bowl. Yields about 4 cups cooked barley.

Big Feel-Good Batch of Wheat Berries

Combine 3 cups wheat berries, 4 1/2 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy about 45 minutes to an hour. The berries should be slightly firm. Drain and set aside. Yields about 4 cups cooked wheat berries.

Big Feel-Good Batch of Quinoa

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add 1 cup of quinoa and simmer, covered, until tender, fluffy, and water is absorbed — about 15 minutes. Let stand, covered, off the heat for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Yields about 4 cups cooked quinoa.

Suggested Mix-ins

-Chopped tomatoes, red onion, fresh corn, feta (or smoked mozzarella), vinaigrette
-Dried cherries, scallions, walnuts, mint, a little blue cheese, plus a mild vinaigrette.
-Chives, mint, parsley, cilantro, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper
-Arugula, pesto, a squeeze of lemon
-Charred kale and onions (for wheat berries)
-Black beans and cilantro (for quinoa)

Who needs yoga when I can just look at my cooked, tupperware’d, stored, refrigerated wheat berries and feel at peace?

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From the Mailbox

August 3rd, 2012 · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

 

 Page 118:

I think I’ll make page 220 next week, too. Thanks Kariane…and all Dinner: A Love Story readers and emailers. You guys make me laugh.

Have a great weekend,
Jenny

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San Francisco: My 10 Favorite Food Moments

August 2nd, 2012 · 14 Comments · Rituals, Travel

You know how everyone says San Francisco is so low-key and relaxed? How you people out there are all about the lifestyle? Well, I think I might have shown up in the wrong city when we headed there last week for a few work-related events — including that visit to Pixar and a Dinner: A Love Story reading at Omnivore. Because our four-and-a-half day trip seemed to be the opposite of laid-back. Do not take this to mean that I didn’t have the best time ever — all I’m saying is that in a town like SF, there is so much pressure to eat well, that every mediocre bite of food felt like some sort of colossal failure on my end. I had a long list of you-must-go-here directives in my inbox and on facebook, and, perhaps most exciting, a customized San Francisco itinerary for my family from Yolanda Edwards of Travels with Clara. (You know by now: When Yolanda talks, people listen.) So the long weekend was spent, doing what this neurotic New Yorker does every other day of her life: Crossing things off lists. And then, of course, making one of her own. Now that I think about it, maybe the problem is not with San Francisco? Anyway, here are my top 10 favorite food moments from the weekend.

(Picture Above: One of those quizzes turned keepsakes that I made with the girls on the plane home.)

#1. Smitten Ice Cream. There were warring emails about Bi-Rite vs. Smitten, but it just so happened we were in the neighborhood so stopped by Smitten. They use liquid nitrogen to custom-blend each bowl in front of your eyes. Because the ice cream has no time to melt and then refreeze, this means there is not a single ice crystal to be found, resulting in the creamiest mint chip I’ve ever eaten. Abby was wary (ice cream shop or witches lab?) until she tried a bite.

#2 Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes from Plow may not have been on the girls’ list, but they were right at the top of mine. Along with those potatoes fried in rice bran oil that Yolanda told us all about. We took advantage of our jetlag and showed up at the Potrero Hill spot almost as soon as they opened their doors. By the time we left around 8:15, there was a line around the corner.

#3. Miette I do not have girly girls, but even they could not resist the pull of pastels and polka dots at the famous temple of sweets. How could I get away with not going here a zillion times? My kids chose the sour patch stars one day and little candy covered chocolates the next. These are bags of mini cookies.

#4. As Yolanda said, March in Pacific Heights “is the kitchen store of all kitchen stores.” I agree and loved it even more when I saw that right next (more…)

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