Entries Tagged as 'Dinner'
I’m a *little* worried this is going to sound like a wedding toast.
I have basically been following Mike Paterniti around for the past twelve years. When I worked at Esquire — as a kid, practically — Mike was the star writer who would come into town, from Portland, Maine, with his Patagonia backpack and his good vibes, and be nice to all the peons, and then fly off to crazy places and bring back stories like this and this, stories that would make 25 year-old assistant editors like me say, Damn, it would be nice to work with a writer like that someday. Then, when I went to GQ in 2002, I went — in large part — because Mike was there and, by taking the job, I would finally become his full-time editor and have the chance to work on stories like this. Then, a few years ago, I moved on to Random House — in large part — to work with Mike again, on a book he’d been obsessing over for the better part of a decade. That book, The Telling Room, was published yesterday, and the easy thing to say about it is that it’s a slow food fable about a cheesemaker, named — proof that there is a god? — Ambrosio, who lives in a tiny village (pop. 80) in Spain and makes his cheese, according to an ancient family recipe, from the milk of sheep that graze on chamomile and sage. But that’s not really what the book is about. This book is about the heartbreaking story of Ambrosio’s world-class cheese, yes, but it’s also about Spain and the ghosts of Civil War, about friendship and betrayal, about love and memory and forgiveness, and, most important, about stories. The stories we tell ourselves in order to live.
Do I love this book? Yes.
Did I warn you this was going to sound like a wedding toast? Yes.
In the course of writing and reporting his book, Mike spent a lot of time in Spain. He estimates he made 15 to 20 trips to Guzman, in fact, during which he learned a lot about Ambrosio and his magical cheese (it was said to conjure memories), but also about family dinner. Given that this is a blog dedicated to that very subject, we asked Mike to tell us how they do in the Castilian highlands. He did, and we’re glad. Congrats, Mike! — Andy
Of all Spanish institutions, family dinner ranks as one of my favorites. Why? Because it happens to be Spanish chaos theory at its best—and the Spaniards are good at chaos. After all, what other nation runs with its bulls… or holds a massive tomato-pelting event, in which citizens throw over 90,000 pounds of tomatoes at each other… or has an annual, mandatory, four-day, wine-soaked party—known as the fiesta—in every village of its great, sun-scorched land?
In classic Spanish fashion, then, family dinner is a microcosm of this craziness and big joy. And of course, there’s a fair amount of confusion about when dinner really is. Is it the big meal in the middle of the day, known as the comida? Or is it the late-evening, smaller meal known as cena? (The Spaniards love their food so much they have five designated grazing times a day: desayuno, or breakfast; almuerzo, the late-morning snack; comida in the early afternoon; and then the latter meals of the day: merienda, or late afternoon snack; and cena, dinner.)
Cena is the best—and in summer begins anywhere between 10 and midnight. In the plazas of the cities, you’ll see families seated at outdoor restaurant tables, telling animated stories, wine, chorizo, and grilled pimientos on the table, a simple green salad and some lomo on the way, the kids sprinting madly over cobblestones, playing soccer, chasing birds, when suddenly someone walks by on stilts, or an orchestra begins to play, or some impromptu marching band comes banging through the square. The voices get louder. Now the gambas sizzling in olive oil are put on the table, the laughter echoes, the kids shriek with joy as they come and go, grabbing tidbits from the table.
In the little Castilian village of Guzmán, where I moved my family one summer as I wrote my book, we often found ourselves with an invite to my friend Ambrosio’s telling room for cena. A telling room is a little hobbit hole dug into the hill on the north boundary of town, most of them equipped with a simple wood-plank table, a fireplace full of dried grapevines, which gives the grilled lamb a sweet taste, and a porron—a glass, decanter-like vessel with a spout—sloshing with homemade red wine. In Ambrosio’s telling room, the shutters were thrown open so we could look out over the picturesque village with its palacio and impressive church as we ate and drank. In fact, I’d often look up from the table, tricked by the illusion that I was gazing upon some ever-changing painting on the wall that just happened to be the village of Guzmán itself. (more…)
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Tags:michael paterniti·spain·the telling room
When you live with someone like Andy, it can be hard to know when he likes something and when he really likes something at the table. This is because his policy is to express how good dinner is if someone else has made it for him — I mean really express it — even if it’s maybe just mediocre. He’ll drop his fork. He’ll “Oh-My-God” a few times. He’ll mmmm through the entire first minute of eating. If it sounds disingenuous to indiscriminately dispense this kind of flattery, he might indulge that accusation for a second before saying that he’d rather err on the side of being overly gracious. As he’s fond of pointing out: “There’s nothing weirder than cooking for someone who doesn’t mention the food they’re eating while they’re eating it.” I love this about him.
Unless, of course I’m the one cooking for him, in which case it drives me batsh*t crazy.
Though it’s weird to even put this in writing, you might say that cooking dinner has sorta kinda become my livelihood. And in that way, it does me no good to be serenaded with “Wows” when I’ve just cooked something that may or may not be book- or blog-worthy. When I need an honest-to-god, incisive breakdown of whether a recipe works or not, the guy is utterly useless. (The kids on the other hand? You might say they are gifted in the Critiquing Department.)
I have noticed, however, that there is a subtle hierarchy to Andy’s compliments. It’s always a good sign when he asks “What’s in here?” after the first bite. It’s even better when the word “keeper” is thrown around at some point during the meal. But I think the compliment that registers highest on the truth-o-meter for me is what he said last Thursday night, after eating nothing but a tiny portion of leftover macaroni and cheese along with three or four salads made right from the CSA box.
“Wow,” he said. “I could eat like this every night.”
There’s a theme to the dinners that earn this compliment. The meals are almost always healthy. They generally involve fish, really fresh, in-season vegetables, and very little intervention on the part of the cook. The compliment is apparently so rare, that I can recite every single meal I’ve made him in 15 years that has earned the honor:
1. Asian Cabbage Salad with Shrimp or Chicken. The classic.
2. Grilled Black Sea Bass with Market Vegetables Pretty much the formula for Sunday Dinner from April through November, when our farmer’s market is open.
3. Sweet-and-Sour “Mongolian” Tofu We are newly obsessed with tofu. More to come on that front soon.
4. Fried Flounder with pretty much anything on the side. Must be the freshest flounder we can find.
5. Spaghetti with Clams (page 56 of Dinner: A Love Story) He is actually the one that always makes this.
6. Detox Soup With or without shrimp
7. Last Week’s Salad Bar Dinner
We had leftover Mac & Cheese, but you could also just serve salads and vegetables with good warm baguette toasts. Slice one baguette in half lengthwise, ten brush with olive oil (or spread with a little butter) and sprinkle with salt. Wrap in foil and heat in 350°F oven for 15 minutes. While it warms, make:
- Any of these Summer Salads (from 2013 round-up), which includes the cilantro-napa cabbage salad you see above
- or these Summer Salads (from 2012)
- or these Summer Salads (from 2011), which includes the tomato-corn salad you see above
- or chopped tomatoes with basil and bocconcini
- lightly cooked carrots with honey, thyme, and butter
- or shredded zucchini sauteed in garlic and olive oil, aka Zucchini Butter via Food52 (not that Andy would ever touch that.)
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Tags:stone barns csa
If we were playing word association (since we just got back from vacay, there has been a lot of this game going on in our house) and we started with say, short ribs…Where would you go from there?
“Winter?” “Braise?” “Dutch Oven?” “Anna?”
I’ll tell you where I wouldn’t have gone:
Call me naive, but it never would’ve occurred to me to associate short ribs with backyard barbecuing — until a week or two ago, when our friends Todd and Anne had our family over for some dinner. Now, as you well know by now, dinner at their house in the summer is not your run-of-the-mill burgers-and-dogs-and-corn-on-the-cob kind of event. (Not that I would EVER turn down ANY of those things EVER!) But every time I walk in to Todd and Anne’s homey kitchen overlooking the Hudson River — whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall — Todd is busy concocting something curious. This time, he was mad-geniusing a cocktail: Lord only knows what the thing was — something that involved beer, cider vinegar, fresh lemons, bourbon, maybe even a small animal, can’t be sure, but whatever it was, it totally got the job done. Next to him was a platter of short ribs that Anne had dropped into a marinade a few hours earlier, getting ready to be tossed onto the grill. “It’s basically Tony’s Steak,” Todd told me, simultaneously working on a pot of quinoa and drizzling rice wine vinegar into some wilted spinach. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. This is so my kind of eatin’.
And I haven’t even gotten to the part in the story where the sun sinks into the horizon, casting a golden glow over the Hudson, the treetops, and the dinner table. So yeah, today, if you asked me to play word association with “short ribs” I’d have no choice but to say one thing: Summer.
Grilled Short Ribs with Scallions
Todd & Anne served this with an herby quinoa dish and wilted spinach that had been tossed with a drizzle of rice wine vinegar, a drop or two of sesame oil, salt, pepper, sesame seeds. Oh and also a nice cold glass of Ramey Chardonnay.
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Juice from one lime
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 pounds boneless short ribs
1 bunch scallions, trimmed (as shown above) and tossed in a little olive oil with salt
Add all the marinade ingredients to a large ziploc bag. Add ribs, seal it, and marinate in the refrigerator for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. Heat grill to high and add ribs and scallions as shown above. Cook ribs about 3 to 4 minutes a side, about 10-12 minutes total, browning all sides. Flesh should feel tender, but not smushy. Scallions are ready when they are slightly charred and wilted.
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Tags:grilled short ribs
When we were kids, summer camp taught us a couple of basic life lessons: (1) Kool-Aid stains do not come out easily, while Cheetos stains somehow do; and (2) on overnight trips, when the counselors “hang out” by the campfire at night, they are not just “hanging out” by the campfire.
Things are a little different with our girls, who came home from day camp last summer, walked into the kitchen with a bunch of recipes, and asked, “Can we make dinner tonight?” The menu: squash fritters with Korean dipping sauce and apricot crumble for dessert. Who were these kids, and what the heck had happened? Well, they’d been lucky enough to attend Farm Camp, run by the Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills, New York. You might know it as our CSA resource, or maybe as the place that provides much of the food served at chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns, possibly the most celebrated farm-to-table destination restaurant in the country. If all this sounds absurd, it is–but in the best way.
At camp, our daughters spent their mornings feeding hazelnuts to pigs and their afternoons “in the field,” which is a nice way of saying that we paid good money to have them weed someone else’s garden. At pickup, they didn’t hand us spray-painted macaroni art that we’d have to figure out how to “misplace” at home, but rather the delicious things they’d made in the camp’s kitchen: a batch of 30-second hummus, a mason jar filled with real buttermilk ranch dressing, a still-warm doughnut. What we came to love most about their experience, though, was that the camp reflected the mission of our family table as well. Behind it all was a desire to instill some love for great ingredients prepared as simply as possible. “Look at the colors,” one counselor would say after helping campers prepare a stack of those tasty fritters. “Look at the texture. How beautiful is that?” Pretty beautiful, if you ask us.
This is our “Providers” column for the July issue of Bon Appetit. Head over to their website for the recipe. Photo by Christina Holmes for Bon Appetit.
Related…Zucchini: A Hate Story.
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Tags:csa zucchini·zucchini fritters
I think once a week since the Atkins craze seized us in the 90s, I’ve told myself that I’m going to try to limit the carbs — and at dinner have two vegetable sides instead of one vegetable and one bready-ricey-potatoey thing. Problem is, I like those bready-ricey-potatoey things a lot. And so do the kids. So I barely make it through one meal before I’ve fallen off the strach wagon. But if ever there was a time of year that I had a shot of making this happen, it’s summer, when our farmer’s market opens for the season and the fridge is overflowing with fresh vegetables. We’ve been rockin’ the summer salads for the past few weeks and thought I’d share a few of my favorites.
1. Market Greens with Beets, Sugar Snaps, Candied Walnuts, and Toasted Quinoa (Above) Wrap beets in foil and cook at 400°F for 40 minutes until a knife slips easily through them. Let cool, then peel and chop. Toss into market greens with chopped sugar snap peas, candied walnuts, scallions, and toasted quinoa. (See bottom of post for instructions.) Toss with your favorite vinaigrette, but nothing too overwhelming. (I’d stay away from one that’s balsamic-based.)
2. Sugar Snaps with Cilantro, Pickled Cabbage. Trim peas and chop into bite size pieces. Add handful of cilantro, finely diced red onion, few tablespoons pickled cabbage (here’s a quick pickle recipe if you want; just replace carrots with red cabbage). Drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Chilled Napa Cabbage with Cilantro and Shallots I know you’re going to think this is overstating things, but I dreamed of this salad all night long after making it last week. I had a head of Napa cabbage and wasn’t in the mood for a mayo-heavy slaw, so I did what any self-respecting farmer’s market-frequenter would do: I referred to Alice Waters’ bible, Vegetables. (You’ll be hearing more from me about this book very soon.) Waters suggested macerating (i.e. soaking) shallots in white wine vinegar for 15 minutes then tossing with shredded cabbage, cilantro, and really good olive oil, salt, and pepper. I’m telling you — it sounds boring, but when the cabbage is fresh, you won’t believe how perfectly the whole thing cuts the char of a grilled steak.
4. Market Greens with Homemade Ranch Dressing The thing is, when the greens are this good, you don’t need to do a lot. A simple homemade ranch dressing does the job just fine. See recipe at the bottom of this post.
5. Mustardy Potato Salad See what I mean! I can’t ever resist the potato-starchy component. We’ve been making some version of this classic for years now — originally a Mark Bittman recipe. Basically, you peel then boil red or Yukon gold potatoes (about as many as you see above) for 15 minutes — until a knife slips through potatoes with no resistance whatsoever. You don’t want to undercook potatoes, but they also need a little structure. While potatoes are cooking, to a large bowl add a heaping tablespoon whole grain mustard, a heaping tablespoon Dijon, then whisk in about 1/3 cup of olive oil and a splash of a mild vinegar (champagne or white wine or red wine). If you have time to fry a few red onion slices or shallots in bacon fat (from one slice bacon) go for it, otherwise just add a handful of them chopped to the dressing. (Crumble cooked bacon in there, too.) Toss in potatoes while still warm and add fresh herbs, like fresh oregano which we had in our CSA box.
I stole both the toasted-quinoa technique and the buttermilk-ranch recipe from my friend Shaina at Stone Barns, who you might have gathered, is a genius.
Add a handful of uncooked quinoa to a pan set over medium-high heat and toast until aromatic and nutty smelling, about 3 mintues. Shake pan so the quinoa rotates and doesn’t burn.
Homemade Ranch dressing:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic salt
salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped shallot or red onion
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
Add lemon juice, mustard, garlic salt, salt, pepper, onions and herbs to a jar. Cover and shake until ingredients come together. Add olive oil and buttermilk and shake again. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.
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Tags:homemade ranch dressing·stone barns csa·summer salads·toasted quinoa recipe
Every year, right around this time, Jenny and I have the same conversation. We will have just finished dinner, and the kids will have disappeared upstairs to take baths or be mad because we are forcing them to take baths even though just they took baths last night, and Jenny will turn to me and say, “I think I could be a vegetarian.” And I am right there with her. Because (a) I like vegetables*, and (b) when this conversation takes place, we are inevitably transitioning from the gray of winter to the technicolor of prime produce season, when the carrots taste like carrots and the beets are like dessert and the kids can easily snack their way through a pint of snap peas, sitting in a bowl on the counter, in the course of a single afternoon.
It’s kind of crazy how a giant box of fresh produce — from the farmer’s market, a CSA or, if we were better people, from our backyard — in the refrigerator can reset your magnetic north (chicken, must have chicken, what can we do with chicken, remember to defrost chicken) when it comes to family dinner and just, in general, get the inspiration juices flowing again. The other day, as I was sitting at my desk, Jenny texted me a photo of some sick-a#s produce, along with a challenge: “What’s for dinner?” Not to go all Alice Waters on you here, but I let the green stuff be my guide. The truth is, you could throw any of this stuff in a bowl with a light dressing, some salt and pepper, and it would taste good. Apart from the roasting of the beets, nothing we did took longer than 15 minutes, start to finish — and the beets, if I’d been smart enough to plan ahead, could easily have been prepared the day before. Which is what I will do next time, because they were the best thing on the plate by far.
“The beets were the star,” Jenny said.
“Phoebe, what’d you think?” I asked.
“Yeah, good,” she said. “Can I have Oreos on my sundae?”
It was after this meal, as we were cleaning up, that Jenny turned to me and said she thought she could be a vegetarian. Will we ever do it? Who knows. It’s possible. That’s a conversation that, for now, gets derailed by Abby’s love of bacon… and Phoebe’s attachment to cheeseburgers… and that also might ultimately be contingent on fish also being in the mix, given our attachments. But what would definitely help speed our conversion along is if I inherited a fertile plot of land in, say, Northern California that would supply us with fresh produce all year round, or at the very least, if this CSA deal could be extended, ad infinitum, until I am old and sick to death of beets. Short of that, we’ll have to see. – Andy
*Except for zucchini.
This is the photo Jenny emailed me: A sampling of our idiot-proof raw materials — tiny Napoli carrots, dragon radishes, kohlrabi, Oregon giant snow peas, super sugar snap peas, red ace beets, and an herb called winter savory. And this is what we ended up having for dinner… (more…)
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The Order of Events
5:30 About to leave for Phoebe’s last lacrosse game of the season; realize I have not thought about dinner for one second. Do quick scan of fridge, see big bouquet of wilting CSA mint sitting in cup of water, screaming “Now or never!” It’s summer and summer + mint immediately sends me in the direction of peas. Yes! A bag of Trader Joe’s peas in the freezer. Leave on counter to thaw. Head out the door.
6:30-7:30 Game a total nail-biter. Would’ve loved to end season on a win — instead added a notch in the “L” column. Whole team fought so hard. 8 to 7. So close!
7:45 Walk in the door. Water goes on stovetop for boiling. Andy adds thawed peas and mint and everything else into blender. I assemble a turkey-and-cheese sandwich for the resident pasta hater. My sweaty, battered Left Attack takes a shower.
8:05 Milk poured. Pasta twirled. Picture snapped. Dinner served.
Spaghetti with Mint-Pea Pesto
This is a feel-your-way kind of recipe. We agreed after the fact that we should’ve used a food processor instead of a blender — because it helps to have the pulse option to control the consistency. Also: If you don’t want to serve this with pasta, just skip the thinning out part and spread on a baguette, Todd-style.
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (I used 3/4 of the bag you see above)
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, washed
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parm, plus more for serving
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Whirl remaining ingredients (except spaghetti) in a food processor. Taste and adjust as you go. (Don’t overprocess or it will be too emulsified.) Consistency should be somewhere in between smooth and chunky guacamole.
Add pasta to the pot and about half way through cooking it, scoop out about a cup of hot water. Set aside. Drain pasta once cooked. Scrape pea mixture into the empty hot pot, then start drizzling reserved pasta water into the dip, whisking until it has the consistency of a creamy sauce. Toss pasta in sauce and serve with freshly grated Parm and some torn mint leaves if you’re feeling fancy.
Note: This was written on Thursday so “last night” in the title refers to Wednesday. In case anyone out there is fact-checking.
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Tags:mint pea pesto·quick summer meals·spaghetti with mint pea pesto·summer pasta·what to do with mint
I have a confession to make. My heart sank a little when I saw escarole in my CSA box for the second week in a row. I know I’m supposed to be so game for the challenge, so excited to explore what kind of gold I can spin from these Vegetables I’d Never Pick Out Myself. But last week, week #1 — and I’m sorry to be all blasphemous about this — I wasn’t so crazy about that escarole. I should’ve probably wilted it into soup with white beans, but it was hot in New York, and I didn’t want soup. I craved fresh, bright, light salads. I chopped up the escarole and dressed it with my new favorite vinaigrette. But it turns out escarole is bitter. Too bitter for me — or any of the nose-wrinklers at my table — to enjoy raw. This, you’d think I’d know by now. I don’t. No amount of pomegranate seeds tossed in with the leaves, no amount of sugar added to the vinaigrette seemed to help the situation. But I ate the whole stinkin’ head. (Kids: Another story.) I was not going to throw it away.
This week, when confronted with escarole for a second week in a row, I knew I had to do something. I knew I had to cook it. And if I wanted my kids to eat it, I knew I’d have to do something drastic that maybe even involved covert operations. With Deb’s pot stickers still fresh in my memory, I decided on dumplings.
Now be warned: Dumplings are not the kind of dinner you’re gonna be glad you have in your back-pocket to whip together at a moment’s notice. Oh no, they most certainly are not. I, in fact, made this batch you see above in the middle of the day, when the kids were still in school, as a reward for finishing up a project that took a lot out of me. (Nothing like pressing ‘pulse’ on the Cuisinart to build oneself back up again.) I had five kitchen stations going simultaneously: the cutting board, a skillet for cooking the vegetables, the food processor, the wrapping area, and a second skillet for frying the dumplings. This meal is not what one might call a No Brainer.
But it is kind of genius. Because that huge mop of escarole that was mocking me from the CSA box? Transformed into a crispy, greens-and-tofu-packed vegetarian entree. And even better, when the kids finally got home they couldn’t help but say as soon as they walked in the door “What smells so good?” (I know, frying wontons is kind of totally cheating) and then gravitated to the kitchen, playdates in tow, where the dumplings were laid out on a platter, and began shoveling them down their collective hatches. “Mom! These are good! What’s in here? Is that cheese?” asked Abby.
“Um, no. I mean, yes it’s cheese. Totally cheese,” I told her, remembering that tofu was on her black list as recently as one month ago.
“And spinach?” asked her friend.
“Yup. Spinach and Cheese.”
And pretty soon, all gone. Every last leaf.
Fried Vegetable Dumplings
Instead of wincing at this long ingredient list think about it this way: Dumplings are what you might call a back-pocket, end-of-the-week meal. As long as you have your basic aromatics (garlic, ginger, onions) and some pantry staples (soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, veg oil) then you can pretty much fold up any about-to-rot vegetable inside the wonton wrappers (which keep in the freezer forever, by the way). Also: I highly recommend making them as a weekend project with the kids.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for frying
Dash of sesame oil
1 small shallot or 4 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
shake red pepper flakes
1 bunch fresh greens that you don’t want to eat raw, but don’t want to throw away (such as escarole, radish greens, turnip greens, or even fresh spinach), roughly torn
2/3 block extra firm tofu (pressed and drained on paper towels for about 15 minutes, and sliced into rectangles)
handful chives, roughly chopped
handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon seasoned rice wine vinegar
Squeeze of lime
1 12-ounce pack of wonton wrappers
Add the oils to a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the scallions, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and Chinese Five Spice for about 2 minutes. Add greens and cook another minute until slightly wilted.
Transfer the filling to the bowl of a large food processor. Add remaining ingredients (except wrappers) and pulse until everything is roughly chopped, but not a big pile of mush.
Set up your dumpling-assembling station: A small bowl of water, the filling, and your wontons.
Dip your fingers in the water and dot or “paint” around the edges of a wonton. (This is an excellent task for the kids.)
Spoon a small amount of the filling into the center of each wonton. (Ignore the one on the upper right, it was my first one and it was waaay too much.)
Fold one corner over the opposite corner to make a triangle shape. Pinch all sides together; smush their centers slightly (so they’ll lay flat in the frying pan) and set aside.
Once all the dumplings are assembled, add a tablespoon vegetable oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Fry in batches adding more oil as needed, until dumplings are crispy and golden, about 2 minutes on each side.
Serve the dumplings with soy sauce. To make it an official dinner, round out with a fresh sugar snap peas salad.
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Tags:csa recipes·escarole·escarole recipes·stone barns csa·vegetable pot stickers
Something momentous has happened in the past month and I haven’t even let you in on it. Not because I’ve been keeping it a secret, but because I just didn’t know how to tell you. And also, I wasn’t exactly sure how to deal with it myself.
In truth, the story begins a little over a year ago, on my birthday, April 2012. At the usual celebratory breakfast, there were a few gifts scattered on the table and Abby, the self-appointed VP and Director of Birthday Events in our house, chose the order in which I’d be unwrapping. There was a small box that looked like jewelry (#1); a medium box (#2) that, I’d eventually find out, held a dove-shaped candy dish (both girls know that I’m a sucker for anything bird-related); and a tablet-sized box, wrapped in leftover snowflake-print holiday paper.
“This is last,” Abby said. “It’s the best one.” She looked conspiratorially at her father.
“Hmmm,” I said shaking it. “What could it be?” I like to take my time unwrapping, because I know it drives the girls crazy.
“RIP IT OPEN, MOM!”
The paper came off fast to reveal a crimson box. In gold across the middle, it read “Liberty of London.”
“Hmmmmm….I like where this is going”
“JUST OPEN IT MOM!”
Inside was a blank notebook with a midnight-navy leather cover, embossed with ornate vines and leaves. ”Holy cow!” I said. “It’s so beautiful.” The only thing I like more than birds is a blank notebook. “Thanks!”
“It’s your next dinner diary,” Andy said. My first dinner diary, as you likely know by now, chronicles fifteen years’ of dinners. It, too, was a gift from Andy, though he didn’t know what it would become when he bought it for me a few months after we got married.
The only way I know how to explain what happened next is by using this phrase we often deploy in my house: Emotional Lockdown. It describes the phenomenon of shutting down what you are feeling in order to get through what you’re feeling without completely breaking apart inside. One might say I’ve been in a state of perpetual Emotional Lockdown all June-long, in anticipation of my eldest graduating from her storybook sweet elementary school next week. Sometimes, the passage of time, the change of an era, is just too much for me to bear.
“So who wants more pancakes?” I said to no one in particular, locking away both the journal and the heartburn back where they belonged. In a box, out of sight.
Andy stared at me, incredulous.
“That’s it!???” he said. “I thought I knocked that one out of the park! You’re almost done with your dinner diary. You need a new one!”
“I like it! Who said I didn’t like it?!?”
“So then what was that reaction?”
“Well. I’m not done with the first diary yet. It’s hard to think about a new one right now.”
“Wow,” Andy said. “That is dark. I’m just sticking to birds next time.” He got up and cleared the girls’ syrup-smeared breakfast plates.
I wasn’t lying. I did like the book. (How could I not? It was freaking gorgeous.) I just didn’t like what it stood for. And the original diary still had a dozen pages left, which roughly translated to one more year of dinner recording. Another year for me to think about all that had transpired since I cracked the spine on it fifteen years ago. Another year for me to decide whether or not I even wanted to start a new diary, now that I am coming to terms with the fact that these eras don’t go on forever. They have last pages. They have graduations. They wrap themselves in white towels instead of the ones with hoodies that have floppy puppy ears. They tell you to dismantle the dollhouse and store it in the basement, next to the box with the words “crib bedding” scribbled across the top in black Sharpie.
Periodically since my birthday, Andy would wander into my office where the Liberty journal lived, tucked away on a shelf, pick it up, and shake his head. “I will never understand your reaction to this.”
Easy, I thought. I was in lockdown, not willing to close the book on the era that began on February 22, 1998 with Andy’s childhood recipe for Chicken Cacciatore, and ended on May 12, 2013, with a Mother’s Day dinner at my sister’s house, where both my siblings, both my parents, my brother-in-law, his parents, and six cousins raised milks and Chardonnays to the first beautiful spring evening of the season. In between those two meals were holiday charcuterie spreads for old high school friends; beef stews and baked pastas for new work friends; Fourth of July barbecues on our Brooklyn rooftop, where we watched millennium fireworks light up downtown Manhattan and the Twin Towers; tortilla pies and lasagnas for college roommates who had their first babies; a grilled soy-limey swordfish for a couple we knew in our hearts to be soul mates, but who would break up five years and two kids later; many million Mark Bittman recipes (especially this one) that pretty much defined the era; spaghetti and meatballs for the Seinfeld finale, pasta with yogurt and caramelized onions for the Palin-Biden debate; breakfast burritos for American Idol every Thursday in the spring of 2011; coq au vin for the first dinner we cooked as new parents; grilled turkey dogs for our first dinner in our first ever apartment that came with a mortgage; take-out pizza with my entire family on the night we moved to our suburban Dutch Colonial (me=seven months pregnant, me=ravenous); mail-order ribs for end-of-the-school-year “bus stop parties;” Grimaldi’s pizza and Junior’s cheesecake for Andy’s Brooklyn-themed 30th birthday party; Andy-made paella, with homemade aioli, for my 30th birthday party; more than fifty birthday cakes for over fifty birthday celebrations; freezer dinners that helped two working parents survive two kids under two; four long-table, champagne-filled dinners from Phoenix to Kiawah Island to New York to Larchmont, celebrating each of our four parents hitting 70; dinners spent mourning the loss of two special uncles; Bugiali’s Minestrone; Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese; Nobu’s Miso-glazed Cod; Jim Lahey’s pizza; David Chang’s Brussels Sprouts; Andy Ricker’s Pad Thai; Fish cakes! My God did we eat a lot of fish cakes! Easter Hams every spring at our daughters’ great-grandmother’s house, until 2008, when she died at age 93; Passover briskets for seders presided over by my father, who once cried at the table remembering his father presiding over his childhood seders; the relentless — the blessedly relentless — roll-out of stir-fries and burgers and pizzas and baked potatoes and pork chops and Grandma Jody’s chicken at our family dinner table night after night after night.
When I think too much about all that happens around that dinner table, it’s hard to know what to do next.
“I’m going to be 57 when I finish the next diary,” I told Andy finally. Adding, as usual, God willing. “And Phoebe is going to be 26, which is how old I was when I got engaged.”
Upon hearing that, Andy — who, I might add, looked like he was in physical pain flipping through Phoebe’s elementary school yearbook the other night — started showing telltale signs of impending lockdown himself. The hand went up and his head turned away. “Stop. Stop,” he said. “Just start writing, would you?”
So here we go.
Page One: Abby snapped the above photo to record my first entry: Cobb Salad.
My New Diary. I’ve been keeping this one for almost a month, but it still feels like I’m cheating on someone when I log in a meal.
Old Diary, Page One. Some of these recipes are still in the rotation: Curried Chicken with Apples, Chicken Pot Pie, Scalloped Potatoes. And, now that I think about it, some of the recipes that have dropped from the rotation, are probably due for a comeback. (Next up: Amatriciana sauce!)
Old Diary, Last Page. After fifteen years, the original diary has completely ripped from its binding. These are the last two pages. On the left are ideas I scribbled three years ago — ideas I thought would make good posts for a blog I thought I might start one day.
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Tags:dinner a love story dinner diary·dinner diary·jenny rosenstrach dinner diary
You could get him a robe. Or another something-or-other that could be categorized as a “gadget.” Or a bottle of gin for his gin & tonics. You could get him a charcoal chimney or grilling tongs monogrammed with his nickname. You could get him any number of things that would make him happy…OR…you could give him something that will directly, immediately, deliciously benefit you and the kids all summer long and for many summers to come. You could give him The Grilling Book, edited by Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appetit and longtime Friend of DALS. I dare you — and I dare you to dare him — to look at these photos and not want to fire up the grill immediately. The book will be your family’s summer bible — and for anyone who can’t seem to break through the hot-dog-and-burger firewall, you’ll find over 400 pages of gorgeously-photographed inspiration; primers for every stage of the grilling process; salads, slaws, cocktails and sauces that pull it all together; and recipes from all over the world, for all kinds of family dinners. Not convinced? How about a little teaser…to start wouldja look at that Cedar Plank Salmon above?
Skirt Steak with “ridiculously addictive” bright green Chimichurri Sauce.
Lamb Burgers with Moroccan Spices and Orange Salsa made from beets, cumin, jalapeno, and cilantro.
Chicken Yakatori, made with ground chicken, scallions, miso, and soy basting sauce. I am so tracking down all the ingredients for it as soon as this post goes live.
Grilled Haloumi with Watermelon, Tomatoes Basil & Mint. We’ve discussed Grilled Haloumi before, but I don’t know if it’s ever looked this good. It’s a sheep-goat milk blend, that’s firm enough to retain its shape over hot coals, but soft enough to ooze a little inside.
Check it out. Or check out Adam grill four fish recipes from the book on the Today Show. Happy Father’s Day!
All food photographs above by Peden + Munk.
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Tags:bon appetit grilling book·chicken yakatori
Sometimes I fantasize about grocery shopping with my food heroes. I don’t mean Jamie Oliver and Marcella Hazan — though certainly I wouldn’t turn them down. I mean healthy, wholesome-minded moms like Alana and Jeanne. I have never even met these women, but based on their books and blogs, I feel certain that they’d make me see Trader Joe’s in a totally new and fresh way. (And that I wouldn’t end up with three separate white-bread products in my cart.) If I wore my Alana or Jeanne goggles before I went to the farmer’s market, I feel like I might actually come home with something outside my comfort zone, and as a result feel healthy and virtuous and heroic 24/7…just like them. (Right Alana & Jeanne?)
Well, in a way, I’ve done the next best thing: I’ve signed up for a CSA vegetable share with Stone Barns Center. Which is sort of like saying that I’ve signed up the girls for a soccer camp run by Alex Morgan. Stone Barns is an 80-acre farm in Pocantico Hills, NY that supplies Dan Barber’s restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Their mission, beyond growing ridiculously delicious vegetables, is to educate the public about sustainability, and to get people cooking their own food. The people know what they are doing, and I’ll be blogging for them to help spread the word.
Based on the emails I get from you guys (Summary: Why don’t you join a CSA? Why haven’t you joined a CSA? Have you thought about joining a CSA? What the heck is wrong with you that a food lover like you hasn’t joined a CSA yet?) it sounds like a lot of you know what this means. For those of you who don’t, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and in return for a modest investment in a farm, you receive a box of fresh, in-season produce from that farm for a set amount of weeks. The price varies depending on length of the program and the amount of produce in each delivery, but it can go anywhere from $20 a week and up to $50. (The one I signed up for is about $40, which is a little more than I drop at my farmer’s market every Saturday.) I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on why the whole thing is a win-win: It’s a great way to eat local on autopilot, to support farmers, and be part of something a little bigger than the four walls of my kitchen.
But the best part about it so far? Well, by definition, it means that someone else is picking out what my vegetable adventure for the week would be. Not Alana or Jeanne, but someone who, presumably, wouldn’t come home with mostly kale and beets all spring in spite of saying to herself before every trip to the farmer’s market, Let’s see if we can come home with something other than kale and beets today. Every week will be like I’m shopping with someone new — like I’m wearing someone else’s market goggles.
I guess you could say that I am forcing myself to accept the advice that I’ve been doling out to my kids ever since they could process English: Eat more vegetables. Try something new. How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it? And I’m hoping you guys are up for the adventure, too. The photo above shows the vegetables that arrived in my first batch on Thursday afternoon and what my initial visions for each one was. But that’s seeing the box through my goggles. What about you? When you put on your market goggles, what do you see?
Clockwise from top left: Seared Tofu with Sauteed Cabbage and Sriracha (recipe below; Sriracha not shown); Grilled Chicken Salad for Everyone; Something I really really like the sound of: Kohlrabi-Carrot Fritters; and shredded Portugese Kale and diced kohlrabi get ready to be turned into slaw. (Recipe follows)
RECIPE 1: Kale Slaw with Pomegranates*
Portugese kale, which was the kind I got in the box, was much more tender than the Lacinato/Tuscan I’m used to. So it needed a little texture to balance out the floppiness. Enter Kohlrabi! Crunchy and fresh, it was the perfect hit of texture.
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
salt to taste
1 teaspoon fish sauce (available at Asian specialty stores and better supermarkets)
lime juice from half a lime
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (crucial)
1 drop of hot sauce (or 1 tsp minced jalapeno or serrano chile)
1/3 cup neutral oil like grapeseed or vegetable oil
1/2 head of kohlrabi, peeled and diced into small pieces
handful of pomegranate seeds
kale, shredded as shown above (bottom left corner)
Whisk dressing ingredients together and toss with the remaining ingredients.
RECIPE 2: Quick-seared Tofu on Wilted Cabbage with Sriracha
I had this for lunch, so serving size here is one. Obviously, it can be doubled or quadrupled to work for your family. You know, since my recipes are so precise.
Add peanut or vegetable oil to a skillet set over medium-high heat. Dredge one playing-card size slice of extra firm tofu (about 3/4 inch thick, pressed on paper towels under a heavy pan for about 20 minutes) in a little flour that has been sprinkled with Chinese Five Spice (optional) salt, and pepper. Add tofu to the pan and fry without poking until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes. Flip and repeat. Remove from pan. Turn heat down to medium add 2 tablespoons chopped onion, shake of red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger (optional) and diced cabbage (“Minuet Napa Cabbage,” as it was called). Add a small drizzle of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. A squeeze of lime. Taste and see how you like it. (You don’t want to overwhelm these already flavorful greens with strong flavors.) Cook until just barely wilted, about 1 minute. Serve with prepared tofu, a sprinkling of sesame seeds (optional), some snipped garlic chives (or regular chives) and a drizzle of Sriracha.
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Tags:csa·kohlrabi recipe ideas·stone barns csa
This salad saved me last week. I’m not sure I really need to go into detail about how many miles we put on the Mazda getting kids to their various weeknight commitments, but put it this way: If our night was an instagram it would’ve read #uniforminwrongcar #again #firstgoalever! #ittakesavillage #i’msorryenvironment
Ever since discovering this chicken-based salad, I’ve gotten in the habit of roasting chicken on the weekend to have as a dinner insurance plan for nights that spiral into chaos. (Beautiful, messy, chaos-I’ll-someday-miss, but chaos nonetheless.) Prepping chicken this way takes about sixty seconds of hands-on time (45 minutes hands-off) and once I have a few breasts sitting in the fridge, I find all kinds of possibilities open up. (And not necessarily just for dinner, but for lunch boxes, too. Lately, Abby has been into chicken wraps — chicken rolled in a tortilla with a smear of mayo, a piece of lettuce, and a strip of bacon if I’m feeling big-hearted.) You can add your cooked chicken to soups and pot pies or chop up for Andy’s chicken salad, but my favorite use this time of year has to be the way you see above: Tossed with fresh greens, dried cherries, blue cheese, candied walnuts and a homemade vinaigrette that was also prepped on the weekend, so all I had to at 8:00 (8:00!) when we all collapsed into our dinner chairs was toss and serve. #genius
Step No. 1: On the weekend, make this vinaigrette.
In an old jam jar shake the following ingredients:
heaping 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
salt & pepper
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Shake again. If you are using this entire bottle of vinaigrette that night add herbs, like chives, parsley, or thyme. Otherwise, save the herbs to toss directly into your salad. That way they don’t get all wilty and black and depressing a few days later.
Step No. 2: On the weekend, roast some chicken.
Roast 2-3 split chicken breasts or boneless chicken breasts at 375°F on a rimmed baking sheet along with 1/4 cup of water and tent with foil for 40 minutes. The bone-in split breasts are good for shredding, the breasts are good for slicing on the bias. (That’s what I did above.)
Step No. 3: On your busiest weeknight, make this: Greens with Chicken, Cherries, Blue Cheese & Candied Walnuts
In a large bowl, toss all of the following:
3 medium sized cooked chicken breasts (see above), sliced as shown
Four generous handfuls fresh greens
handful of tart dried cherries
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (or to taste)
handful candied walnuts*
snipped chives (or scallions)
cider vinaigrette (above, or your favorite mild vinaigrette)
*You can use storebought or homemade if you’re man enough. I was not.
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Tags:chicken cherry salad·homemade cider vinaigrette
Before this blog, before my diary. Before the phrase “cut and paste” conjured up anything more than scissors and glue, there was my spiral black kitchen book. The book is filled with recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers that I felt were manageable for someone like me — a twenty-something recent college grad whose spice rack contained three things: salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Those of you who’ve read Dinner: A Love Story won’t be surprised to hear that most of the sepia-toned, peeling-at-the-corners clippings come from the New York Times Dining pages. The reporters who wrote for that section in the 90s were my rock stars (Marian Burros, Amanda Hesser, Rozanne Gold, Mark Bittman, Ruth Reichl) and I’d look forward to Wednesday, the day “Dining” was published, the way most of my newly workforce-embedded friends looked forward to Happy Hour on Fridays.
One of the recipes glued (literally glued) in there is a Bittman classic from his “Minimalist” column. My scissors practically walked themselves to the newspaper as soon as I read the title: “Chicken with Rice, the Easy Way.” (I have always been a sucker for simplicity.) And last weekend, when I came upon it, I couldn’t believe I’d never pointed you in its direction until now. It strikes me as the perfect dinner for new cooks, new parents, and new toddlers experimenting with new foods. The best thing about a dinner like this, is that once you master the framework, it becomes endlessly customizable — one of those recipes that you forgot ever had a recipe. You can stir in cooked sausage crumbles or asparagus, green peas, sugar snap peas, green beans, mushrooms, or freshly grated Parm during the last few minutes of cooking. You can add ginger and a little red curry paste to the onions, mix in coconut milk with the broth, then finish with lime instead of lemon. Some cilantro instead of parsley. This week, fifteen years after cutting and pasting the recipe into my files, some version of it is on my line-up, for sure.
Chicken and Rice
From Mark Bittman’s “Minimalist” column, New York Times. I’m guessing you have everything you need for it in the pantry and fridge right this very second. Pictured above: My little black book of recipes covered with business cards from restaurants.
2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, about 8 ounces, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 cups white rice (such as long-grain, jasmine or basmati — brown rice takes longer to tenderize and you don’t want to overcook your chicken)
handful herbs, chopped
juice from 1/2 a lemon
Bring broth and one cup of water to a boil. While you are waiting for it to boil, add olive oil to a large skillet (that has a lid) set over medium-high heat. Add onions, salt and pepper. Cook until onions soften, about 4 minutes.
Add rice to the pan and stir until each grain is covered in oil. Nestle chicken in rice, add salt and pepper, then pour in the broth (or water). Reduce heat to medium-low and cover.
Cook 2o minutes, until all water is absorbed and chicken is cooked through. Garnish with parsley and a squeeze of lemon.
Inside the book: Recipes I made (and still make) all the time (left) next to recipes that were complete failures, and that I only ever made once (right).
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I know it seems hard to believe, but there are a handful of people out there in the world (OK, the immediate family) who have never heard of Andy’s seminal “grilled chicken for people who hate grilled chicken.” This, in spite of us linking to it so many times on DALS that I actually hear my early readers (Yo Amanda in SF!) thinking what I used to think at my childhood dinner table: “Oh jeez, not the chicken again.”
The secret of course, is the yogurt marinade. Which yogurt marinade? Well, that’s up to you. As long as you have the basic template ingredients (yogurt, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper) you can go in almost any direction that feels good to you. (Remember, this is marinating, which, I believe is Lithuanian for “You can’t screw it up.”) Start with this template:
2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 large onion
1/3 cup olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
Once you have all that in the blender, you can choose your own adventure:
Option 1 Lemon-Pepper: “The Classic”
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
Juice from two lemons
1 really nice squeeze of honey
Even more black pepper (about 10-15 grinds)
Option 2 Tandoori: “The Crowdpleaser” (from Bon Appetit)
1 cup cilantro leaves (no need to chop since it’s going in the blender)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon garam masala (McCormick now sells this — it’s an Indian spice blend that’s kind of sweet)
1 2-inch piece ginger
juice of one lime
Option 3 Middle Eastern: “The Middle Easterner” (I’m pre-coffee; can’t do better than that at the moment)
1/2 cup fresh oregano, stems removed
1 clove garlic
juice from one lemon
2 teaspoons cumin
Option 4 Mustard and Herb: “The Pantry Special”
½ cup Dijon mustard
leaves from a couple sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Option 5 Chutney: “The Cheater”
1/2 cup your favorite chutney (these are my favorite)
1/2 cup cilantro
Whichever direction you’ve chosen:
Give the ingredients a good whirl in the blender, then pour into a large freezer bag along with your meat — 2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs or breasts (pounded flat between two pieces of wax paper), drumsticks, or…here’s some breaking news: SHRIMP! I’ve discovered that a good flavorful yogurt marinade is a great way to kick up the sometimes bland frozen shrimp we pick up in the Northeast. (The photo above was made with the tandoori marinade — the dipping sauce is chutney mixed with lime and…more yogurt!)
Marinate your chicken or shrimp (thawed if frozen) in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. Build a medium fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Brush grill grates with oil. Scrape excess marinade off chicken or shrimp. If you are making shrimp, thread them onto skewers. Grill chicken turning once, until browned and cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. The shrimp will take a little less time, about 2-3 minutes a side.
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It’s too embarrassing to admit how many times I’ve picked up a block of extra firm tofu at The Trader Joe’s Sunday Shop, only to have it end up, four weeks later, in the garbage can of good intentions. Nonetheless, this past weekend, I tossed one into the cart, avoiding eye contact with my husband who would no doubt be happy to point out my current 0-and-5 bean curd record. Why does it go to waste every time? Why do I have such a hard time figuring out what to do with it? Well, in addition to the big huge minus of the kids not fully embracing tofu (“It’s like a wet flavorless marshmallow,” Phoebe once said), I’m just not confident cooking and experimenting with it, and I don’t feel like I have an archive of inspiring recipes. Once, I confessed all this insecurity to a blogger whose posts led me to believe she had an advanced degree in Tofu, and begged her to be my Tofu Tutor. I think I scared her off, because I never heard from her again.
But this past Monday, I wasn’t messing around. In order for Tofu Family Dinner to happen, clearly I had to get out of my own way. So I made a plan. First, on facebook I asked you guys for suggestions. Wowowowow! Why don’t I do this more? Three hours and over 70 ideas later, I whittled the choices down to five, with the finalists mostly being chosen for simplicity, pantry overlap (no way was I hitting the store the day after our weekly shop), and how golden and shiny the tofu looked. (I did not want anything remotely resembling a marshmallow.) Next, I sent this email to Andy.
From: Jenny Rosenstrach [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, May 06, 2013 2:10 PM
To: W, Andy
Subject: Tofu Multiple Choice
Which one do you want for dinner:
I’m not holding my breath that girls will eat. we have leftover chicken for them.
Can you tell I’m procrastinating my real work in a major way? I hyperlinked the recipes for him and everything. This was his response:
From: Andy [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, May 06, 2013 2:10 PM
To: R, Jenny
Subject: Tofu Multiple Choice
B! But without that much garlic.
So that’s what you’re looking at below. Did the girls like it? No, but they each tried a bite before digging into their auxiliary proteins (leftover chicken sandwiches). For Andy and me, though, it was one of those dinners that ended up pre-empting all other conversation at the table. (“We need to make this again.” and “Damn!” and “So healthy!” and “How can you guys not like this?”) Thanks to all my facebook friends who shared their recipes, particularly Libby, Andrea, Mary, and Miller for providing the finalists above — and big thanks to Jessica who has officially introduced a keeper to the DALS rotation.
Adapted from The Jey of Cooking
I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter, but, per Andy’s request, limited the garlic, used less sugar, and added some vinegar and fresh squeezed lime to cut the salty-sweetness. FYI: To press tofu, place your tofu block on a plate, cover with a few paper towels, then place a heavy pan on top for at least 30 minutes.
1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sesame oil (or olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 scallion chopped (for garnish)
fresh lime juice
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cornstarch to the tofu in a small bowl and toss to coat.
Add the tofu to the skillet and cook until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes.
While the tofu is cooking, combine the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, 1/2 cup water and brown sugar. Mix well.
When tofu has browned, add the sauce, stir, then bring to a simmer before reducing heat to low. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, until sauce has thickened and reduced.
Serve with brown rice, soba noodles, or green beans, and garnish with green onion and a squeeze of lime.
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Tags:quick tofu dinner·quick tofu stir fry·tofu for kids·vegetarian family dinner
When Jenny and I were in our mid-twenties, we both had jobs in publishing – she at Real Simple, me at Esquire – and worked a few blocks apart, in midtown Manhattan. Sounds pretty glamorous, doesn’t it? It wasn’t, not really. But it was fun. For Jenny, who had spent two decidedly unfulfilling years, post-college, at a financial consulting firm in suburban Connecticut, it was a chance to flex those creative muscles, to unleash that side of her that can make a dollhouse out of a pile of clip-art and a cabinet door. For me, it was a chance to work with a bunch of writers I’d long admired and, in the process, come to understand just how little I really understood about writing. Work-wise, everything felt new and different back then, if that makes sense; when each day presents you with something you’ve never done before, you are constantly learning and constantly being challenged and, as a result, constantly feeling like a screaming fraud on the cusp of being found out. This was both motivating and, in hindsight, good for the soul. I can remember telling an older co-worker and mentor, when he asked me how I was holding up during a particularly tough week — one with a lot of late nights — that I was doing GREAT, thank you for asking. I told him, with total sincerity, that in the two years I had been at Esquire, there had not been a single morning when I dreaded coming to work! And I remember the look on his face when I said it, too: a kind of tight smile that said, Ahhh, yes. I remember being twenty-five and naive once, as well, my son. And I am smiling somewhat inscrutably like this right now because it is the only way I can keep myself from informing you that there will come a day when the prospect of editing your 43rd “Women We Love” cover package will make getting out of bed in the morning seem very, very hard.
But in the meantime, Jenny and I were happy just living in the moment. We had no kids yet, no mortgage, no boxes of baby pictures accumulating in the basement, no ballet shoes, lacrosse sticks, soccer bags, emergency granola bar stashes, or Taylor Swift CDs rattling around in the back of our car. (Actually, we didn’t have a car.) Working in the same business, and the same neighborhood, we had so much to talk and commiserate about. (I’d always send her a list of possible titles for a story I was working on before running them by my boss, for example; she was my insurance against public humiliation.) Every couple of weeks, we’d meet for lunch – usually at the local Au Bon Pain or the dreary, sneeze-guarded salad bar at the deli on 54th Street – but once in a while, we’d splurge and walk over to Uncle Nick’s on 9th Avenue. Uncle Nick’s was a cramped and busy Greek place with exposed brick and a sweaty, open kitchen populated by people who yelled a lot. It had too many tables, chairs so heavy you could barely push them back, and excellent souvlaki. An Uncle Nick’s lunch was what I call a “day-ender” – absurd portions of food that is simultaneously so flavorful that you can’t stop eating it and so filling that you immediately resign yourself, upon eating it, to an afternoon spent mourning the decisions you have made in life, and yearning for sleep. We’d get the tzatziki and a salad with blocks of fresh feta, a kebab or souvlaki platter, a side of Greek potatoes and, of course, rice pudding. None of it was what I would call light, but it was the potatoes that dealt the most crushing, and pleasurable, blow. They were roasted, but not crispy, oily but not greasy, crack-like in their addictive qualities.
I haven’t been to Uncle Nick’s in ten years, easy. I don’t even know if it’s still there, and am too lazy at the moment to google it. But in our house, at least, it lives on: I made Greek potatoes to go with a leg of lamb we’d grilled on Jenny’s birthday last weekend and boy, did it ever take us back. There it was, exactly. That fantastic texture, that deep yellow color, those hints of lemon and oregano. Damn! And oddly, given my sappy tendencies, the only thought after eating them was not, Wow, where did all the time go? It was, Why the heck do we ever eat potatoes any other way? – Andy
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup water
1/2 cup good olive oil
Juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon oregano
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 500°F. Place cut, peeled potatoes into a baking dish large enough for each potato to rest on the bottom. In a bowl (I used a large measuring cup), combine water, olive oil, garlic lemon juice, oregano, and salt and pepper. Mix and pour over potatoes. Cook for 45-50 minutes, or until potatoes are slightly brown on the edged and most of the olive oil has been absorbed. Finish with some sea salt.
The main course: a leg of lamb, grilled for about 15 minutes, until medium rare.
Side #2: Arugula salad with radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, and mint. (We added the bulghur later, after we’d served the kids. Kids no like bulghur.)
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I am so happy that Nicholas Day is guest-posting for DALS today. For starters, he has written some of my most favorite family food posts over at Food52. (His yes-we-can-have-sweet-potatoes-for-dinner story comes to mind right away.) Next, he’s feeding a four- and one-year-old, and I love to offer a perspective from the toddler-baby trenches whenever I can, since I can only remember that phase on the most intellectual level. (Who are those strange people in the above photo?) Which brings me to Day’s new book Baby Meets World, a completely fresh, often hilarious examination of exactly that ephemeral period of infancy. As he writes: “This book solves no problem that has to be solved this instant: if your child is screaming
right now I cannot help you. Try the next book over. What this book does do is step back from the problems so they appear in perspective — perspective being that rarest commodity in parenting.” Here, he writes about how that perspective changed the way he approached feeding a baby. It’s a goodie.
When our son Isaiah was a baby, we paid a lot of attention to family dinner: we were careful never to have it. Isaiah ate his premasticated mush early; we ate our toothsome food late. We got to complete our sentences, if we still knew how.
It was because we almost never ate dinner with Isaiah that we decided, someday when he was not yet a year old, that we should eat down and eat together as a family. With impeccable new parent logic, we made Actual Dinner for the occasion. (Leg of lamb: I am not joking.) You know how this ends. At some point during the aborted dinner, I vaguely remember looking at Isaiah and thinking, But this is Special Time! Why are you ruining Special Time?
We went back to not having family dinner.
Isaiah is now four and some. His brother, Samuel, or Mila, is the baby who’s almost a year old. And our life is very different: because Isaiah now always eats with us, we eat early, which means that Mila eats with us too. He doesn’t eat premasticated mush. He eats whatever we eat. (It is never leg of lamb.) We don’t road-test each ingredient first. We don’t even cut it up, really.
This sounds like a disastrous plan. It works brilliantly. We have a solid fifteen minutes of family dinner, before Mila, in some preverbal pagan ritual, starts systemically slaughtering everything on his tray and disposing of the carcasses over the side.
Every baby is different, and aside from Mila’s blood-lust, we got lucky. But I have learned a few things about eating with small humans that I did not know when Isaiah was a baby, and I wish I had. They are:
1) Babies eat food.
This fact is curiously hidden in the literature, which always makes babies sound like very complicated consumers of food-like substances. There is talk of introducing new ingredients in stages, and the phasing-in of difficult tastes, and the super food must-haves with mega-antis and hyper-pros.
In response to the literature, I have devised a single rule for making baby food: at all costs, avoid making baby food. Feel free to write it down for handy reference.
My thinking is basically: Making food for everyone else is hard enough. As I have explained to Mila numerous times, just because he’s an infant doesn’t mean he gets to be infantilized.
The best argument for being Very Cautious and Complicated was always the allergy argument. So it helped that since Isaiah was a baby, the American Association of Pediatrics decided the no-nonsense advice they’d given parents about how to prevent allergies was—and this is a technical medical term—ass-backwards. The old advice, of course, was to postpone introducing potential allergens until later in infancy; the new advice is more or less the opposite. (This month the AAP published a new report about when parents were feeding their babies solid food—and the authors seemed shocked, shocked, that parents were not following the medical advice — waiting until after six months. I am sure the current advice is correct, just as the previous advice was also correct; I am also sure the AAP has forfeited the right to be shocked. The authors were very gently skewered by Perri Klass, a pediatrician herself, in the Times.)
As far as I can tell, the state of the science on allergies is: We’re still figuring it out! We’ll be right with you!
So Mila eats whatever we eat, except when we’re truly desperate and have dinner entirely composed of Isaiah’s leftover Halloween candy. I’m kidding, of course. That rarely happens.
2) Babies eat food the way it looks on your plate.
I was very attentive and semi-paranoid about what I fed Isaiah. For better or worse, I am neither with Mila. It helped that in between their babyhoods, I wrote a book on the history and science of infancy, Baby Meets World, and I learned that babies have survived a lot worse than not having their broccoli pureed. I am not suggesting we revive any of these ancient (and not so ancient) wrongheaded feeding practices. (Dried cow teats for bottles: probably not those either.) But babies are far more flexible and resilient than we think: they can handle a few chickpeas.
This was a major revelation. Cutting up food into neutrino-sized pieces is a hedge against everything else you will do wrong as a parent: at least, you think, at least I never gave you a whole grape. That’s how I felt about feeding Isaiah: I could control very little about the world, but I could control the size of the pear slices on his plate. And I would!
There was a problem, though: after months of feeding Isaiah specks of solid food, he was not especially skilled at eating food that was larger than speck-size. Back when he was about a year old, I still remember my amazement seeing another baby who put O’s in his mouth and then—wait for it—swallowed the O’s. It felt like a magic trick.
I am not the brightest bulb in the pencil case. But eventually I realized that Isaiah was bad at eating food with texture because we gave him so little of it. By the time Mila arrived, we’d seen a primer on baby-led weaning. It has a complicated name to hide the fact that it is extremely simple: It means you pay less attention to what you feed your baby. You let the baby eat big people food in big people sizes. Yes, he did gag occasionally: The first couple times we were apoplectic. Then we calmed down. He did fine.
I still occasionally puree food for Mila; he eats faster than way. But he mostly eats food he can pick up. And it seems emblematic of parenting today that I needed something that looked like a system—that looked like the new way of feeding babies—in order to give myself permission to do this.
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Tags:feeding babies·nicholas day baby meets world
For as long as I can remember my mother has called me “Miss Jenny.” Not all the time and not necessarily in public, but often enough so that I don’t notice unless I really stop and think about it. As an endearing as the little nickname is, I’m convinced my mom started calling me that not to be cute, but because it was part of a bigger plan she had for me.
Right after college, Mom had a roommate named Jane. To the rest of the world, though, Jane was known as “Miss Janey” the host of Pittsburgh’s Romper Room show. She was a celebrity among preschoolers (I feel certain I might hear from a few of you on this one) as well as in the greater Western Pennsylvania region, and to my mom, who at the time had a desk job at U.S. Steel, no one was more glamorous. On top of being a TV star, Miss Janey was warm, witty, and beautiful. Full of life was the term she’d use. ”Oh Jenny,” my mom would say. “She was just like you.” And just like that I’d imagine myself as Miss Jenny the celebrity TV host.
Moms are smart that way.
There would be more plans. My mother would go out of her way at the Grand Union to point out Geraldine Ferraro on the cover of Newsweek, and tell my sister and me whenever the occasion presented itself: “You could be the first woman Justice of the Supreme Court if you wanted to be.” (Until 1981 at which point we learned we’d have to settle for Second.) My mother made sure to steer me in the direction of some wildcard careers, too, pointing out that I’d make a great eye surgeon because “Oh Jenny, you’re so good with your fingers,” and once even making me sit down to draw a cartoon for the New Yorker because “Oh Jenny, you can draw better than any of these guys.” A real estate lawyer whose idea of fun was (still is) pouring through a densely-typed annotated contract, she didn’t quite grasp that the creative industries could sometimes be a little more complicated than that.
Her relentless career-mapping didn’t stop just because I became a grown-up. If anything, it ramped up. When I was just starting out in magazines — I mean just starting out, like bottom-of-the-barrel starting out — she sent me an article in the New York Times that profiled the newly appointed glamorous editor-in-chief of a super high-end lifestyle magazine. (Back when there were such things.) This editor just had a baby and I remember reps from Prada and Calvin Klein falling all over themselves figuring out what to send the little boy for a gift. The editor was a Big Deal and her appointment was Big News. But according to my mom, whoever hired her for the job had made a mistake by not interviewing me, the girl who was in charge of editing the programming schedule for a cable TV guide.
“You would’ve been perfect for that job, Jenny. She reminded me of you. She sounds just like you.”
And then a few weeks ago, during a cold spell in February, Mom called to tell me that she had just watched someone on the Today show making macaroni and cheese — all in one pot apparently. “Oh you would’ve loved her. She was so natural and funny. I think maybe you should try to watch it. She was sweet. Just a doll. She was just like you.”
The seed she planted that time was probably not what she had hoped for. Instead of unleashing my inner Miss Jenny, I instead found myself obsessing over the idea of a one-pot baked macaroni and cheese. My nine-year-old loves Mac & Cheese but for whatever reason I find myself avoiding a homemade batch because of all the gear involved. I started experimenting, spending more time in the kitchen that I would ever admit to Sandra Day O’Connor (or my mother). I discovered that it was a great recipe for salvaging leftover heels of cheese (almost any combo of hard cheeses worked) and though I never quite pared it down to ONE pot, I streamlined it to the point where all the prep work could be done in the time it took for the pasta to cook. Which means I have that much more time to work on my New Yorker cartoons.
Macaroni & Cheese
The first thing Miss Jenny would like you to know is that you should get that pot of water on the stove to boil immediately. Do it right now and then get the rest of the ingredients organized and prepped. In the end, you should only use two pots. This serves about eight kids (or probably two adults and three kids) and seems like the right kind of thing to make for a slumber party.
1 pound tubular pasta, such as penne rigate shown above
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon mustard powder
salt and pepper
1 3/4 cups milk
2 cups grated hard cheese (I used a mix of Parmesan, Cheddar, and aged Gouda Parano because that’s what I had in the fridge)
1/2 cup combination bread crumbs OR panko OR crumbled potato chips, mixed with 1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare pasta according to package instructions and drain. While it cooks melt the butter in a Dutch Oven over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, paprika, mustard powder, salt, and pepper, then slowly drizzle in the milk, whisking continuously until mixture is smooth. Raise heat a bit and bring to a roiling simmer. Cook until it thickens, about 1 minute. Toss in pasta and cheese. (It might look extra gooey — but that will be absorbed in the oven.)
Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and crumbled potato chips and bake for 20-25 minutes until it’s golden on top and bubbly on the sides.
My daughter’s idea of the perfect school lunch. She’ll eat it freezing cold if she has to.
Speaking of mothers, I’ll be at Anderson’s Book Store in Larchmont, NY on May 4 (2:00-4:00), signing books for anyone looking for a nice Mother’s Day gift. For those of you who don’t live in Larchmont, you can always find my book on this thing called the Interweb. As always, I’m happy to send free book plates with a special message. Send requests to jenny AT dinneralovestory DOT com with the subject “Book plate.” Preferably before May 5 to guarantee delivery in time for Mother’s Day on May 12.
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Tags:macaroni and cheese