Entries Tagged as 'Dinner'
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
I should qualify that a bit. When I say that “anyone” can make this, I suppose I should point out — before the haters do — that not just “anyone” would be able to figure out how to invert his or her wrist in a way that helps distribute a container of grape tomatoes onto a baking sheet. This technique, also known as “dumping,” involves a slight acceleration of the wrist, which helps direct the tomatoes onto the baking sheet and not flying across the kitchen at an errant trajectory. Oh…I guess it’s presumptuous of me to assume that pretty much “anyone” is going to own a piece of equipment as arcane as a “baking sheet.” For those of you who don’t own one, and who don’t live near a grocery store (a place where food and cooking miscellany is sold), I’m sorry. This recipe is probably not for you. Nor is it for anyone who has yet to master water boiling. Or pepper mill grinding. Or who hasn’t yet figured out how to transform a hard block of Parmesan cheese into snowy shreds, a technique known by many in the professional food world as “grating.”
But for everyone else in search of a quick dinner on a weeknight? This one’s for you.
Penne with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
This recipe changes for us based on what kind of night it is. If you have some time, I advise slow-cooking the tomatoes for an hour and a half at 300°F. This results in blistered, concentrated tomatoes that fall apart beautifully when mixed into the pasta. If it’s a weeknight and you only have 30 minutes or so, proceed as directed.
1 16-ounce container of grape tomatoes (or however many you’ve got)
1 small onion, chopped roughly (ok, I admit, a little skill involved here, but minimal!)
4 tablespoons olive oil
a shake of red pepper flakes (optional)
salt & pepper
a sprig of thyme, leaves removed (optional)
1 pound penne pasta (I like the ridged kind, penne rigate, or orecchiette)
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Preheat oven to 350°F. Dump tomatoes and onions on a baking sheet lined with foil. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, thyme leaves and toss with your fingers or a spoon. (Do this gently so you don’t rip the foil.) Bake for 25-30 minutes until tomatoes look shrivelly and brown but not burnt.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. When draining, reserve a ¼ cup of pasta water. Place pasta pot back on burner over low heat and add butter and remaining olive oil.
Add penne back to the pot and toss with tomato-onion mixture and cheese. If it’s looking gloppy or sticky, add a little reserved pasta water to loosen.
Serve with additional grated Parm. If you are feeling indulgent, a dollop of ricotta is gonna be pretty excellent.
The post-roast. See how easy?
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Curtis Stone gets it. For starters, every chapter in his new family cookbook What’s For Dinner includes at least one cocktail, including a Blueberry Gin Bramble, a pitcher of White Sangria, and a crazy tempting looking bourbon and ginger-spiked Arnold Palmer. Then there is the introduction, where the host of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, who has worked in some of the most high-profile restaurant kitchens in the world, admits that when people ask him what the best thing he’s ever eaten is, he always finds himself replying the same way: “‘My mother used to make…” Stone continues, “Whether it’s chicken pot pie or meat loaf, the dishes we grew up eating, the ones made with love and shared around the dinner table, are the ones we seem to cherish most.” These days, he hopes to do some memory-making for the people sitting around his own family dinner table — his wife Lindsay and 15-month-old son, Hudson. What does that translate to? Korean Tacos, Potato and Bacon Frittata, Spaghetti with Garlic, Kale, and Lemon, quick Chicken and Chorizo Paella, Classic Meatloaf, Homemade Fish and Chips. In other words, family favorites, fresh ingredients, and simple prep — all of which is on display on every page of his beautiful book. To celebrate its publication, Stone was nice enough to participate in “21 Questions” and share one of his favorite go-to weeknight recipes.
My life in three bullet points:
The kitchen I grew up eating in was… always filled with the smells of home cooked meals.
When I was a child I wanted to be an Australian football player, naturally.
If I was stuck on a desert island, the food I’d make sure to have with me is tacos. They’ve got it all.
A great friend is my mum. I tell her everything.
Secret weapon in the kitchen is a sharp knife. It’s the number one essential.
Turning point in my life was the day I knocked on the door of Marco Pierre White’s Cafe Royal and offered to work for free just for the chance to learn from him.
My ideal breakfast is poached eggs.
My ideal dinner is a backyard barbecue with my best mates.
I stay healthy by… surfing and hiking.
Without my Google Maps app, I’m lost.
You wouldn’t know it but I am very good at gambling.
You wouldn’t know it but I’m no good at dancing…but it doesn’t stop me.
Until I became a father I had no idea how much sleep I used to get.
My favorite item of clothing: flip flops.
I drive a clean diesel Porsche Cayenne.
My house is my home.
A cookbook that changed me: White Heat, by Marco Pierre White.
A cup of coffee is essential.
Best restaurant meal I’ve had in past 12 months is Attica in Melbourne.
Why this shrimp and asparagus is a keeper: It’s fast, flavourful and incredibly easy to make.
Oven-Roasted Shrimp & Asparagus
Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 5 Minutes
From What’s for Dinner, by Curtis Stone
The key to this high-roast cooking technique is to use a large half sheet pan (a rimmed baking sheet measuring 18-by-13) and to spread the ingredients out well so they brown lightly (for caramelized flavor) and don’t steam. See his book for grilling instructions.
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 pound medium-thin asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1 pound large (21 to 30 count) shrimp, peeled, tails left on, deveined
1/3 cup shaved Pecorino Romano (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Grate the zest from the lemon into a small bowl. Squeeze 2 tablespoons of juice from the lemon into the same bowl. Whisk in the shallots, then gradually whisk in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss the asparagus with 2 more tablespoons olive oil on a large rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.
Spread the asparagus on one side of the baking sheet, separating the spears. Roast until they turn a brighter shade of green, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile in a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the oven and arrange the shrimp on the empty side. Return the oven and roast until the shrimp are almost opaque throughout and the asparagus are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
In large bowl, toss the asparagus with enough vinaigrette to coat. Divide the asparagus among four plates and top with the shrimp, drizzling more vinaigrette on top along with a little Pecorino if using. (more…)
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Tags:curtis stone what's for dinner·whats for dinner curtis stone
A few weeks ago, I gave one of my little PowerPoints to some parents at a community center. It was the usual 30-minute presentation, “Eight Rules for Family Dinner,” distilling all the usual DALSian principles (Deconstruct, Shop Once a Week, Plead Ignorance, etc) alongside colorful photos of meatballs and detox soups. As I wrapped up, a woman in the second row who had been nodding and smiling during my talk, raised her hand.
“Have your kids started travel sports yet?”
Was I imagining that her eyes squinted as she asked? Was it weird that I felt like the swordsman in Indiana Jones, the one who confronts Indie with his fancy sword moves, only to be dispatched by Indie with a single gunshot? Here at this talk, I had the distinct feeling that I was staring at a veteran who knew something I didn’t know, and was thinking to herself “Wow, this woman has no idea what she’s in for.”
The good news is that I could at least answer that my daughters had indeed started travel sports — in fact we were about two years into it. The bad news was that I had just started receiving the schedules for spring activities and it seemed as though every single one of them was conspiring to blow up family dinner as we knew it. It’s true what those parental sages warned: the older your kids get, the later their practices finish. It’s also true that more and more parenting seems to be happening in the Mazda in between ballet and lacrosse.
This spring, except for Fridays, we are not home from sports activities any earlier than 7:0o. Three nights a week, the girls are not home until 7:30. So in other words: Every day is now Tumultuous Tuesday, which means that if I want dinner to keep happening as religiously as it has been all these years, I have to be super-organized about things.
Or! If I have a pizza dough in the fridge, I don’t have to think about dinner at all until the minute I walk in the house.
At 6:00 the other night, I dropped the girls off at a field that was 10 minutes away from my house. Once home, I spied the pizza dough then started weeding through the disparate ingredients populating our unorganized fridge. I laid everything out (see below) and made my decision: Half the pie would be Asparagus and Leek, Half the pie would be Tomato & Cheese, which was probably the side the girls would favor. I’d pile on the entire bunch of asparagus (even if the spears never became gooey-ed up in cheese) so they could have their asparagus on the side.
By the time the pizza was assembled, it had been decided over a flurry of texts that Andy would pick up the girls at 7:15, on his way home from work. But because part of me has never quite graduated from competitive sports myself, I looked at the clock: 6:30. I would’ve totally been able to bake that pizza (another 15-20 minutes), pull it out of the oven, pick up the girls in time, drop off their friend who needed a ride home, then arrive home with dinner ready to rock.
Only three more months of this to go.
Pizza: 1/2 Asparagus & Leek, 1/2 Tomato Cheese
1 22-ounce storebought pizza dough
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup pizza sauce (I used 1/2 can of Don Pepino; if you have homemade, congrats!)
1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed of woody ends
1/2 leek, trimmed (see photo for reference) and chopped
salt and pepper
few shakes red pepper flakes, to taste
1-2 kumato tomato* (totally optional!), chopped
Freshly grated Parm to taste
Preheat oven to 500°F. Press dough out to all corners of a large baking sheet that has been lightly brushed with olive oil. (FYI: It’s easier to stretch the dough when it’s room temperature, if at all possible.) Top one side with fresh mozzarella. Top the other half with pizza sauce under the mozzarella. In a medium bowl, toss asparagus and leeks with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Pile vegetables on the side of pizza with the cheese only. (Again, I don’t mind asparagus overflow here because I just pick off those roasted spears and give them to the kids as a vegetable side.) Add fresh tomatoes wherever you think it won’t offend people. (I went right down the middle.)
Top the entire thing with freshly grated Parm.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly. Garnish with chives. Unless you aren’t crazy about chives on top of leeks. (I personally love the double onion effect.)
*I am too lazy to look up what this thing actually is, but Andy always throws them into the cart at Trader Joe’s and they taste really good for out-of-season tomatoes.
A note about pizza for kids: While I love a good fresh round of melted mozzarella on my pie, I find it’s easier for young kids to eat melted cheese when it’s been sliced and chopped into smaller pieces. That way, when it melts, it doesn’t slide off the pizza in one large piece, taking all the sauce with it. (Fascinating, right? What would you ever do without me?)
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Tags:asparagus leek pizza·healthy pizza·quick pizza for kids·split personality pizza·spring pizza
You guys would laugh at my inbox. For starters, it seems like every third email that is sent to my DALS email has the subject line “Pork Ragu.” There’s usually one or two with a panicky vibe, like: “I have people coming over and the short ribs are looking dry! What do I do?” (Answer: Add whatever liquid you can find.) And then occasionally I get something magical, something with a picture attached like the one you see above. With a subject that says “Love Over Sunday Minestrone.” Suzi is a working mom of three kids and a DALS reader. Here’s what she wrote:
I just wanted to say thank you to you and Andy for the entertainment and for keeping our weeknight meals interesting. I think I made at least three DALS recipes per week while on maternity leave with our third baby this fall. A typical comment from my 4-year-old: ”Mom, you should make this again!”
Now that I’m back at work, my husband, Noah, is the prime dinner chef. He is not a reader of blogs, but I am slowly winning him over. My aim is to have him searching the blog for weeknight favorites
soon too. Yesterday he set up this shot with the iPhone tripod. I happened to be making Sunday Minestrone, which you can see. He took one look at the photo and said, “You should send this in to your Dinner: A Love Story blog.” So here you go – dinner and love, all in one shot.
For the rest of you who occasionally write me asking How do you keep this blog going?
There’s your answer. And here’s the Magical Minestrone.
(Results Shown Above Not Guaranteed.)
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Working from home, while wonderful in many ways, has its perils. On some days, for instance, it’s tempting to answer “Leonard Lopate” or “Terry Gross” when your daughter asks you who your best friend is. If I’m not actively fighting the urge, it’s also incredibly easy to get sucked into what I’ve been calling the Double F Vortex, i.e. the condition where you find your house default position to be in front of the Fridge or Facebook. Even worse, I’ll get locked into some work project in my upstairs office, look at the clock, realize that I haven’t eaten in six hours and that the girls have to be picked up from school in mere minutes, which means I rush to the kitchen to start inhaling whatever is grabbable: a piece of string cheese, a handful of grapes, the last few roasted pepitas in the plastic pouch which I throw back like a funneling fratboy. A few buttery crackers, a sea salt potato chip or two or eight. Oh, and look at those Easter baskets just begging to be raided! Two bright purple Peeps later I’m hating myself. And by the time I pick up the girls, all I want to do is take a nap.
So lately, I’ve been making a real effort to control the Fridge part of the Vortex and have come up with a few rules for myself:
1) Eliminate All Triggers. I haven’t read Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, but I’ve read enough interviews with Brian Wansink to know that if I’m working on my laptop at the kitchen table, a mere four feet away from the foil-covered cherry pie, it’s going to be a lot harder to get that perfect balance of tart and sweet and buttery pate brisee out of my mind than it would be if I were upstairs or at the local library. (It’s like my kids, who, upon seeing a commercial for potato chips during Sponge Bob instantly shout from the couch “Mom! I’m hungry!”)
2) Snack Once Mid-Morning. If I have a glass of Pomegranate kefir, a crisp Bosc pear, or a Finn Crisp schmeared with a thin layer of peanut butter at 11:00, I am much less likely to transform into a wild animal come lunch time.
3) Eat Healthy Proper, Sit-Down Lunches. This is hard, because I’m always on the clock — rushing to get something done before the school bell rings — but I’m using my Culinary Intelligence and following Peter Kaminsky’s lead to make this meal as satisfying as possible. Kaminsky’s theory makes a lot of sense to me: If you load up on healthy foods that are high in flavor, you won’t be tempted to polish off that meal with, say, a Cadbury Cream Egg. This one above fits the bill. It’s two Finn Crisps topped with smoked trout (look for the blue tins near the tuna and anchovies at Trader Joe’s) and pickled cabbage. If you are not lucky enough to have a batch of Andy’s Mind. Blowing. Pickled Cabbage lying around, cornichons or regular old pickles will do just fine.
Other lunch ideas: Ever since getting an advance copy of Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6:00 (I feel certain you’ll be hearing more about this one) I’ve become quite fond of a leftover grain salad that’s been loaded with vegetables. This one was barley, chopped peppers, red onion, pomegranates, grape tomatoes, cukes, olive oil, lemon, salt & pepper. (Now you know why you made that big batch of feel-good barley over the weekend.)
Or simply, a smashed avocado and sea salt on sprout bread or whole wheat toast. (I usually only need about 3/4 of the avocado for this; I tightly wrap what’s leftover in plastic wrap and hand guacamole-mad Phoebe a spoon when she comes home from school.)
On Monday, all it took was a big bowl of leftover steamed broccoli and a bag of pre-cooked Trader Joe’s Brown Rice to get me rolling on a vegetable-loaded fried rice. Since I’m not generally in the habit of mincing and whisking and turning on the stove for lunch, I made a double batch so Tuesday’s lunch would be taken care of. It was delicious and can definitely be doubled to feed four for dinner.
Vegetable-Loaded Fried Rice (Pictured Way Up Top)
1 tablespoon neutral oil like canola or vegetable
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 heaping tablespoons onions, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced (optional if you just can’t justify getting this fussy about lunch…but so good)
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 eggs, whisked
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste)
1 to 2 cups vegetables (such as: shredded red cabbage, chopped bell peppers, peas, pre-cooked broccoli, shelled edamame, chopped snap peas)
Add oil to a large skillet set over heat to medium heat. Add onions and ginger and cook until onions are slightly softened, about one minute. Turn heat to medium-high and add rice in one layer so as many of the grains are crisping on the hot pan as possible. Cook about a minute stirring once half way. Push rice to edges of pan and add egg to the center, scrambling with your spoon and gradually pulling in rice as it cooks. Stir in soy sauce and cook another minute until everything is integrated.
Add vegetables and cook until everything is heated through, another minute.
Drizzle with Sriracha if desired.
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Tags:easy lunch ideas·vegetarian lunches
I am always stumped when a vegetarian comes to dinner. It’s not that we don’t have a whole archive of family-friendly vegetarian meals (ok maybe flexitarian meals would be more accurate) in the DALS rotation. Or that I’m in any way annoyed that there won’t be meat on the evening line-up. Quite the opposite actually — I feel like I’ve been heavily leaning towards more plant-and-whole-grain based dishes at our everyday dinner table. But on a weekend night when a guest is at that table — a guest who has sometimes traveled from the far corners of Brooklyn — the 15-minute black bean and goat cheese quesadillas that get the job done on a Tuesday night after soccer is just not going to cut it. I don’t think it’s going overboard to want to present something a bit more elevated than your everyday fare when you’re entertaining — whether your guest is a carnivore, herbivore, locavore, or whatevervore. Do you? (Maybe don’t answer that.)
Anyway, this is why twice a month I seem to issue a plea on facebook begging you for your most show-stopping vegetable main dishes. (One out of three of you seem to point me towards Smitten Kitchen’s Mushroom Bourgignon.) And why one of my resolutions this year was to come up with a meat-free meal that someone might describe as “enticing.” There are way too many vegetarians in this world now for me to NOT have expanded my horizons beyond my comfort zone of minestrone and Amanda Hesser’s tangy-sweet Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onion. (I’ll never forget my friend Laurie taking a bite of that one back in the 90s and saying, “This is, like, a whole different flavor that I’ve just…never….experienced before.”)
But the comfort zone still tastes so damn delicious! And so a few weeks ago, when a vegetarian came to dinner, I stuck with my tried-and-true pasta, but changed up the starters and the sweets. But for some reason it was one of the more successful menu line-ups I can remember. You know how when you buy a new sweater it somehow makes an old top feel fresh? I guess that’s what happened, because it just… worked. And it was incredibly easy, too. Anyway, I thought you guys might like to hear what I did:
To start: blistered peppers. Ratio of Time Spent Making to Wow Factor: obscenely unbalanced. Easiest thing ever. I used shishitos, which you can usually find at better supermarkets. (I found mine at Tarry Market.) I served these alongside burrata (that really soft, creamy mozzarella) and drizzled it heavily with good olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt alongside slices of a crusty baguette. [Careful readers might notice that there's salumi (salumi=pig) scribbled into my diary. Careful readers might also point out that pig is not vegetarian. I have no excuse that would hold up in court other than my kids go crazy for it and I wanted them to have a moment of happiness during the starter portion of the evening.]
Dinner: Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions and Shredded Kale Salad with Lemon & Ricotta Salata (I added a teaspoon of lemon zest and Andy made a very subtly balsamic vinaigrette. Also: You don’t need a lot of ricotta salata because the pasta is already creamy and yogurt-y.)
Dessert: Just-out-of-the-Oven Mexican Chocolate Cookies with Cinnamon Ice Cream (Book owners: Page 72)
Related: A Stress-Free Gluten-Free Menu
Photo of peppers: Ditte Isager for Bon Appetit
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If you had to use one word to describe a Dinner: A Love Story recipe, what would it be?
A reporter asked me this last year when my book came out. Is there a harder question to answer in the world than one that begins “If you had to use one word…”? I mulled it over for a little bit. I thought about “real,” (there’s my dinner diary and all); I thought about “nostalgic” (porcupine meatballs!); I thought about my friend Sally, who, when asked by a younger, cherubic coworker “If you had to use one word to describe your newborn what would it be?” replied: “Annoying.”
Over the years, the one word I’d use to describe a DALS dinner has evolved right along with the family and the family’s dinnertime needs. Early on, pre-kids, it might have been “ambitious.” With new babies around, probably “Quick” or “Easy.” With toddlers: “White.” But these days, for a recipe to earn a spot in the family dinner rotation, above all it has to be flexible. And by that I mean not only flexible because of how beautifully it can be deconstructed for picky eaters and flexitarians, but because of how you, the cook, are able to prepare it.
Take these burrito bowls, which I have been meaning to make ever since the girls walked into Chipotle for the first time and declared it the best restaurant in New York City. I knew the burritos-without-tortillas would become a major player in our family dinner lives because I could make the meal as simple or as complicated as my time and energy allowed. In other words: Every component in a burrito bowl can be either storebought or made-from-scratch (or some combination of the two) and still yield a healthy dinner. The black beans can be just black beans — or they can be black beans simmered with a bay leaf and some onions. The avocado can be chopped avocado, or it can be avocado mashed with cumin and red onion and salt. As I was making simple white rice — one of the few things I thought was a pretty straightforward task — Andy wandered by the stove and said, “You’re gonna add cilantro, lime and a ton of salt in there like Chipotle rice, right?”
On a weeknight, you’d probably want more of the components to be simplified. On the weekend, it would serve you well to go all out because, obviously, if you put that much work into it, it’s gonna be badass. Come to think of it, maybe that would be a better word that flexible.
I gave two versions of each component below: the “weeknight” (quick) and the “weekend” (less quick). Take a look, then expend energy building flavor on the things you like the most — or whatever the clock allows. (The only thing I insist you don’t shortcut is the chicken.) To serve: Present fixins on the table or counter, serve everyone a half cup of rice, then let them top as they please.
I like this meal to be more veg-heavy, so I only cooked two (boneless, skinnless) chicken breasts. You can add another if you think your family will eat more than shown in the above bowl. To make: Cube two medium-size chicken breasts into pieces as shown above. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 onion (chopped finely), then the chicken. Sprinkle everything with 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and more salt & pepper. Let chicken brown a little before tossing around in pan. When chicken is cooked through (about 5-7 minutes total), remove to a bowl. Squeeze a little lime juice on top.
Weeknight version: Heat a 14-ounce can of black beans in a small saucepan until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
Weekend version: Heat 1/4 onion (sliced) in a small saucepan with a little vegetable oil. Add a 14-ounce container of black beans, a bay leaf, and simmer until beans are heated through, about 5 minutes.
Weeknight: Prepare white rice according to package directions — enough to yield 2 cups of cooked rice. (This is based on a 1/2 cup rice per diner — you know your family better than I do, so make more if you think you’ll need it.)
Weekend: Prepare white rice according to package directions — enough to yield 2 cups of cooked rice. When rice is finished, toss in a generous handful of chopped cilantro, the juice from 1/2 lime, and a generous sprinkling of kosher salt.
Weeknight: Use your favorite storebought salsa. (We like Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica or Roasted Tomatillo.)
Weekend: Finely chop 2 cups grape tomatoes (or any tomato if it’s summer) with 2 tablespoons chopped red onion, handful cilantro, splash of red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, 1/2 minced jalapeno pepper.
Weeknight: Slice an avocado into chunks
Weekend: Using a fork, mash one avocado with 1/4 teaspoon cumin, salt to taste, and a heavy squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Sharp cheddar (sliced or grated), fresh cilantro, sour cream, shredded lettuce. (Me: “What do you think about using shredded kale instead of romaine?” Andy: “Sounds great as long as I don’t have to have it.”)
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Tags:burrito bowl recipe·chipotle burrito bowl·Deconstructed Dinner·healthy family dinners
Two weeks ago, I flew down to Fort Myers, Florida to spend a couple of days with five college friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a decade, maybe more. It hurts my heart to type this, but it’d been nineteen years since we’d graduated. Nineteen years since we’d borrowed each other’s toothpaste on the way to the bathroom before class, nineteen years since we ate almost every meal together in the dining hall — a big, smelly-footed family — and did the stupid things that, as long as we survived them, would provide us with the stories we would sit around and laugh about nineteen years later, when we were middle-aged men at bro-downs in Florida. In the intervening years, we’d scattered across the country — Utah, Chicago, Baltimore, Vermont, New York, Florida — and had twelve kids between us, more than a few recessed hairlines, and the requisite number of cranky shoulders, bad backs, and surgically repaired stuff. (I had my old roommate Buck, now an accomplished orthopedic surgeon in Salt Lake City, examine my shoulder as soon as we got there. “Torn labrum,” he told me. “I’ll email you some PT exercises.”) We were not what we used to be, but come on, who is?
We met up at a half-empty hotel with mile-long hallways in Cape Coral, where we’d rented two sprawling, chandeliered suites with water views. We’d spend a couple of days going to spring training games, and maybe even drinking a beer or two before the sun went down. It’d be like The Hangover! We were free! No school lunches to be made. No one shaking you awake at 6:45 to ask if you’d like a tour of her dollhouse. No shuttle service to soccer practice in the freezing, indoor bubble. No one to ask — true story — if “tickling is allowed in boxing.” Our nights would undoubtedly be spent eating 48 dollar ribeyes, drinking martinis, and playing card games into the wee hours. (Only problem there: I don’t know how to play any card games and I go to bed at 11.) We would, in short, turn back the clock. We would party like it was 1999.
Only we didn’t.
On Saturday, after an afternoon game (Sox-Twins), we huddled up to discuss the plan for dinner. The choices, it dawned on us, were grim. I wasn’t strong enough for the hotel bar, which had a sad, swinger-y vibe that depressed the living sh*t out of me. Locally, there was a Chik-Fil-A and a Hardee’s and not much else that we could see — well, beyond a massage parlor, which probably didn’t serve dinner.
“Our room has a kitchen,” Billy said.
“Why don’t we get some groceries on the way back from the game,” said Dave.
“And cook in?” I said.
“Yeah,” said Brian, “you’re the family dinner guy.”
I wish I could say I was bummed or horrified or annoyed at the prospect of staying home, in my shorts and socks, and cooking for six grown dudes. But at this point in my life, why even pretend? The truth is, I loved the idea. It was a relief. So we stopped at the Publix supermarket and loaded up on ingredients for chili — turkey chili, no less — and, lock up the womenfolk… a spinach salad. Oh, it got crazy! We went off! We put on some music and hung out in the kitchen, just like at home, Brian helping with the meat-browning duties, me showing Dave how to chop an onion, Buck loitering in the living room to check the scores on SportsCenter, Dave — who was keeping me company by the stove — peeking over my shoulder to see how much chili powder went into the pot (eight tablespoons; I doubled our usual recipe), Brian making a fresh round of gin and tonics, Billy saying, Huh, he’d never seen anyone put sausage in chili before, but I told him to trust me on this, and he did. All the familiar rhythms reasserted themselves. I was at home. It’d been nineteen years, but these guys were like family. And what do you do for family? You cook for them. And then you sit down and eat. – Andy
Served with bowls of the usual trimmings: avocado, sour cream, cilantro, shredded cheddar, tortilla chips.
Spinach Salad with Almonds and Cranberries (Florida Supermarket Version)
Two bags fresh baby spinach, shredded
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Couple handfuls of dried cranberries
1 tbsp finely minced red onion or scallion
1/4 cup crumbled feta or blue cheese
Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette (Hotel Kitchen Version)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Few healthy pinches of kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne or hot sauce
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I once overheard a conversation between two of my coworkers. This was back when I had a job in a bonafide office that employed actual grown-up human beings with whom I could interact. We were all at the printer.
“What’d you do this weekend?” said one as she jammed a ream of paper into the drawer.
“Oh, our friends came over for dinner,” said the other.
“That’s fun. What’d you make?”
“We all cooked that lasagna that was on the cover of Gourmet.”
“Oooo….I saw that. The Emilia-Romagna one, right?”
Did you make it with the bechamel?”
“And the homemade noodles?”
“Yup, everything. That was the evening’s entertainment. The kids watched Nemo, then we all relaxed and made dinner.”
At the time my girls were 2 and 3 and that kind of night with friends was both unthinkable and enviable. I absolutely fell in love with the concept of Dinner Party cum Personal Challenge and vowed I would do exactly the same thing when our kids were old enough to entertain themselves. And then I vowed to learn how to make homemade pasta. And then I asked myself, How is it that your mother is Italian and three of your daughters’ great-grandparents are 100% Italian, and it took a chance encounter over the Epson to inspire you to make homemade pasta?
Anyway. The girls got older, and as anyone who has read my book knows, we’ve cranked out many batches of homemade pasta with our friends on many memorable nights. (No lasagna yet.) But when I think back to the printer conversation, a different thread of the story jumps out at me: My coworker’s commitment to following an authentic recipe to the letter. And now I’m always on the lookout for dishes that will fit the bill.
As soon as I saw a recipe for Andy Ricker’s Pad Thai last year (described in the headnote as “this is not the dish from the neighborhood takeout joint”), I knew that it qualified. Ricker spent twenty years studying authentic Northern Thai cuisine before he became the James Beard Award-Winning chef-owner behind the Pok Pok empire in Portland (and now New York). The ingredient list for his pad thai was long and the recipe called for things like sweet preserved shredded radishes, tamarind paste, rice noodles that had to be soaked in hot water before frying, and simple syrup, “preferably made from palm sugar.” Oh, my simple syrup would be made from palm sugar all right. I would track down garlic chives (not the same thing as regular chives apparently); I would do whatever I needed to do in order to secure the exact ingredients called for. No shortcutting. No skipping an ingredient and saying It’s just one thing. How crucial can it be? like I tend to do …just about every night. And other than those sweet pickled radishes (I could only find spicy), I managed to do it. We are lucky to have an Asian supermarket superstore nearby (FYI locals: Golden Village on Central Ave), so we hit that, then laid everything on a cutting board (below) and got to work.
Can I just say: Oh My Freaking Lord. This recipe was insane. Every bite a revelation of sour, fishy, sweet and crunchy. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it was as good as the one I ate in Thailand while my toes were wriggling in the powdery sand of Maenam Beach. Maybe even as awesome as the sand and the beach combined. And we made it in our own kitchen, a half a world away.
A few of the ingredients called for: pad thai rice noodles, fish sauce, palm sugar, lime, thai chiles, bean sprouts, tofu. Check out the recipe here.
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Tags:andy ricker pad thai·authentic pad thai
This is how a conversation went with my new friend Sarah, the first time I met her a few months ago:
Sarah: I really love your blog, it gives me hope.
Me: Hey, thanks. I’m so glad.
Sarah: But I don’t cook from it.
Me: Oh…you don’t?
Sarah: No, I don’t cook. I can’t do anything in the kitchen.
Me: Yes you can.
Sarah: No I can’t. I. Really. Can’t.
That week, I had just read a profile of Stacy London and it crossed my mind that Sarah felt the way about cooking the way I felt reading that story — the way I felt trying to figure out what I was going to wear to a fancy holiday party later that month: Intimidated. A little lost.
Me: It’s not hard. You just need a little confidence and one or two solid recipes in your rotation.
Sarah: Well, what are those recipes? I have no idea where to start.
Me: I have almost 500 recipes on my blog, start there!
Sarah: That doesn’t help.
She was totally right! Someone might as well have told me “How do you not have something to wear to that party? There are 500 stores in New York City that sell perfect party dresses.”
On this blog, sometimes we get so bogged down in the (admittedly plentiful) minutae of family dinner — from the benefits of cooking for your kids to how to stay on top of Meatless Mondays to what freaking books to discuss at the dinner table — that we can forget to dial back and address the most elemental of issues: Where Do I Begin? It’s why I recently introduced the “First Time Here” button up there on the right. And it’s also why Andy and I wrote a feature for Bon Appetit this month called A Family Dinner Primer. Besides telling you what to make for family dinner (including this rockin’ steakhouse steak salad pictured above), we hope it goes back to the basics and tells you how to make family dinner.
As for what to wear to family dinner? I’m open to suggestions.
Steak Salad with Creamy Horseradish Dressing
If you want to do this on a weeknight, I highly recommend making the dressing and the pickled onions ahead of time. They are minor tasks, but just the kind of thing you’ll be glad you don’t have to do after a day wearing heels that were supposed to be more comfortable.
For the dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk the following. Can be made in advance and stored for up to a week:
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
For the salad:
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1-pound rib-eye, flank, or skirt steak
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
12 ounces fingerling potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 English hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
6 radishes, cut into thin wedges
2 cups greens (such as arugula or torn Bibb lettuce leaves)
Pickled Red Onions
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium-high heat. Season steak with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until cooked to desired doneness, 5-8 minutes per side for medium-rare rib eye, about 4 minutes per side for flank steak, or 3 minutes per side for skirt steak. Transfer meat to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes.
While steak rests, wipe out skillet and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, season with salt, and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender, 8-10 minutes.
Slice steak and serve with horseradish dressing, potatoes, cucumber, radishes, greens, and Pickled Onions.
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Tags:Deconstructed Dinner·providers bon appetit·steak recipes for kids·steak salad
Probably when most people spy a book like Jeanne Kelley’s Salad for Dinner at the bookstore or in their library they pick it up and think Mmmm, this looks nice and healthy. Or: I could afford to shake up the Romaine routine. My first thought? A veritable treasure trove of potentially deconstructable dinners. True, I can look at almost any meal and envision how it can break down into child-friendly, nothing-touching, no-green-speck meals to please the sauce-o-thropes at the table. (Soup works, so does a pot roast.) But salads have got to be the most conducive. And if ever there were a cure for the parents who cannot seem to find common ground between their craving for The Way They Used to Eat and their toddler’s Craving for White Pasta…it’s this book. Kelley’s recipes take you far beyond the barren world of tomato-and-bagged-lettuce salads into the promised land of hearty, healthy, grain-rich, colorful, incredibly flavorful masterpieces you’d serve to any dinner guest — Seared Salmon with Quinoa, Asparagus, and Spinach; Thai Style Grilled Beef Salad; Toasted Barley, Long Bean, and Shitake Mushroom Salad with Tofu. And yet, very few of them seem out of reach. I opened the book during breakfast, found this jackpot Indonesian Chicken Salad recipe below and realized I had every single thing I needed to get it together for that night. Maybe you do, too.
Indonesian Pineapple, Chicken and Spicy Peanut Salad
Adapted from Salad for Dinner, by Jeanne Kelley
The peanut dressing is what ups the wow factor here, but it’s definitely spicy, so if you are worried about that with the kids, I’d limit the Sriracha to about a teaspoon. Also, Kelley instructs roasting the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet along with 1/4 cup of water then tented with foil. (About 40 minutes at 375°F.) I usually poach, but was curious about her method and found it to be much easier. The chicken (bone-in breasts) ended up incredibly tender and shred-friendly.
Spicy Peanut Dressing
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 large garlic clove, pressed
8 cups thinly sliced cabbage (from about 1 medium head)
1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into strips as shown above
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 pound shredded cooked chicken breast (see note above)
1/2 cup chopped roasted and salted peanuts
In a large bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Season with salt to taste. Add the cabbage, pineapple, carrots, red pepper, scallions, cilantro, and chicken and toss to combine. Serve sprinkled with peanuts and a squeeze of lime juice.
If you are deconstructing this salad for kids: Whisk dressing in a separate small bowl and serve separately from salad. (Or in a little dipping bowl, as shown above.) Instead of tossing all the salad ingredients together, place each one in its own clump in a wide shallow bowl, have the kids pick what they want, then proceed to toss for the normal people.
Last year, I couldn’t walk into a food editor’s office without seeing Jeanne Kelley’s book right on the very top of their cookbook pile with post-its sticking out of every side. I don’t know what took me so long to get my own copy, but I have a feeling I’m going to be using it a LOT.
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Tags:Deconstructed Dinner·Healthy dinners for kids·indonesian chicken salad with spicy peanut sauce·jeanne kelley salad for dinner
It’s been so long since it snowed in our neck of the woods — and by “snowed” I don’t mean the one-inch dusting that disappears as soon as the sun rises, or the icy kind of snow that lands in October on trees with autumn leaves still clinging to them. (What was that?) The snow I’ve missed so much these past few weird winters is snowman snow, snowball fight snow, sledding snow, snow so bright, you see blue when you walk inside after being outside for too long. Snow that gets everyone talking about the snow. Snow that gets everyone talking about what kind of dinner they’re going home to after a day in the snow. My friend Tom swore by his 2-ingredient slow-cooker pork (“a bottle of root beer and a pork loin, and that’s it!”); my friend Bonnie had a big ole pot of minestrone simmering on the stovetop. There was chatter about a stromboli and at least a bolognese or two. Me? I had only one vision: short ribs and creamy polenta — which should go down with Cake and Ice Cream, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Bagel and Cream Cheese as one of the great romances in culinary history. Unless you are 9 or 10 years old, in which case, just the beef, no polenta please. But when it came to warming up snow-chapped faces, the shredded melty beef on its own still seemed to do the job just fine.
P.S. Valentine’s Day giveaway on my facebook page today.
Beer-braised Short Ribs with Harissa
Adam, the editor of Bon Appetit, was the first to give me the idea for serving short ribs with freshly grated horseradish. Just a light dusting cuts the richness a bit and gives the dish a subtle kick. It’s purely optional though. Especially if you are the type who wouldn’t know what to do with a leftover knob of fresh horseradish.
3 lbs short ribs, salted and peppered (we used boneless for this recipe, and they were great, but we both agreed that bone-in tastes better)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chunked
1 pint dark beer
2 heaping tablespoons harissa
half of a 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (about 3/4 cup), reserve the remaining tomatoes in case you need to add to the pot later
5 sprigs fresh thyme
freshly grated horseradish (optional)
Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large Dutch oven, brown short ribs in olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove once brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium, and add garlic, onions and carrots. Cook until onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk in beer, harissa, and tomatoes to the pot, then add back ribs and thyme. Bring to a boil, then cover and place in the oven for 4 to 5 hours. Toss every hour or so. (And add more tomatoes if liquid has boiled down too much and it looks dry.) After 4 hours, ribs should be falling apart.
Serve over Creamy Polenta with a sprinkling of freshly grated horseradish.
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Tags:snow day recipes·winter dinner
The first time we made this was in January 2007 — I remember that not only because, um, it’s written in my dinner diary, but because it was one of the keepers that came out of the original “30 Days, 30 Dinners” experiment (the prequel to Seven Days, Seven Meals that I hope you guys are still reaping rewards from). I want to say it was around Day 28 or 29 when Andy reached up into our cookbook library and pulled down our French Laundry Cookbook to look for ideas.
“Yeah right,” I said. The last time I had thought about The French Laundry was when I had been lucky enough to dine at the Napa legend about a decade earlier. Reservations were impossible to get, they only booked you 30 days in advance, and tables were usually all scooped up within 15 minutes of the reservation line opening. This was before OpenTable — it might have even been before me owning a cell phone – because I remember circling the day on my calendar that was exactly 30 days before the one night during a trip to SF that we’d have free, then camping out in my apartment on Monroe Place in Brooklyn and speed-dialing for an hour until I got through. Thirty days later we sat down to a parade of dishes served with bacon emulsions and pea coulis and quotation marks.
Things were getting blurry. Was that even my life? What on earth could we make from that cookbook that had any relevance to our real life?
But wearing his parent goggles, Andy found one that worked. What he found was basically a cleaner, healthier Trout Amandine and it worked for us because it was a) fast b) took advantage of my daughter’s newly discovered, Nemo-induced fish obsession and c) fast.
Trout with Almonds and Green Beans
Adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook, by Thomas Keller
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 trout filets (about 1 pound for four)
1/2 cup slivered raw almonds
2 large handfuls trimmed green beans (enough to fill four people)
red pepper flakes, a few shakes
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon butter
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook fish skin-side down, 2 to 3 minutes. Lift it out and place on a platter (you might have to do this in batches if your skillet is not large enough.) The fish will not be cooked all the way through, it will still be pink in the middle. To the pan, add the green beans with some red pepper flakes and cook them over medium heat for about 5 minutes. With tongs, lift them out and place on top of the fish on the platter. (By doing that you are adding heat to the fish.) Add one more glug of oil to the pan, throw in the almonds and stir until just toasty, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape them over the fish.
Add lemon juice, butter, wine and stir about 30 seconds until reduced and slightly syrupy. Pour on top of fish, beans, and almonds.
Garnish with chives.
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Tags:dinner ideas for kids·fish recipes for kids·french laundry
I lied to Andy last Thursday. I called him from the car at about 5:00, which was two hours into a four-hour pick-up and drop-off marathon, and said I hadn’t had a second to think about dinner. I had thought about dinner. I had thought about it several dozen seconds that day — in the morning before I left for work, in the afternoon when I had returned from work with just enough time to wolf down a late lunch while standing in front of the fridge (thank God for string cheese) and then a few more times in between activities. “We have nothing to eat for dinner,” I told him via Bluetooth. That part wasn’t a lie. But since he’d be home from work before we’d be home from tennis/doctor/soccer, I figured he could deal with the slim pickins situation.
A few hours later we were sitting down to a frittata. (The girls, egg-haters both, had chili that had been thawed from the freezer.) I figured it would be a bare-bones, clean-the-fridge kind of frittata, but as soon as I had a bite, I tasted it. Bentons! How could I have forgotten? The country ham that I gave Andy for Christmas. The country ham that, when you have it around, means you are never far from a really tasty dinner. The country ham from Tennessee that David Chang and Sean Brock use in their (internationally-acclaimed) restaurant kitchens and that our friend Sean (different Sean) first shipped to us a few years ago as a thank-you gift. The ham that we keep in our freezer and deploy in the smallest amounts whenever we need a hit of smoke or depth — in pea soup, white bean soup, pasta with peas. The stuff is good. The stuff means we’re in for a treat. The stuff would make a great Valentine’s Day gift for someone you love a whole lot.*
*The waiting list can sometimes be long, your Valentine may have to be willing to accept a late gift. Also, no one’s going to stop you from ordering their bacon either.
P.S. Speaking of Valentine’s Day, just one-clicked two of these.
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Tags:bentons bacon·bentons country ham
Our friends Kendra and Mike are what Abby would call “good cookers.” Mike’s a legit restaurant guy, and Kendra is an all-around enthusiast, with excellent taste, who happens to know her way around a kitchen. In other words, they can be trusted. A couple of weeks ago, Kendra poked her head into my office and said, “You know what you gotta make for the girls?”
“Laser-cut paper doll dioramas of unicorns frolicking in shimmering fields of goldenrod?” I said.
“No, dude. Stromboli. Mike and I made one this weekend, and it was insane.”
Stromboli? Here’s what I knew about Stromboli: Nothing. Or, that’s not quite true. I had a vague sense it was something I shoveled into my mouth, wolverine-like, a few times in college, at 2am, after several bottles of Golden Anniversary beer. I think. The point is, it was not what some food types today would call a “mindful” eating experience. (I think I also remember tipping my head back and drinking the cup of marinara dipping sauce it came with; hey, I was hungry!) But last week, Stromboli and I got to know each other a little more deeply. I made one to eat — at halftime; that’s how quick and easy it is — while we sat on the couch and watched the NFL playoffs. The kids, as per usual, could not have cared less about the game, but the Stromboli won in a rout. After cleaning her plate, Abby declared: “That’s the best thing you’ve ever made all year.” If I were a betting man, I’d put a lot of money on this happening again for the Super Bowl. – Andy
Step One: Spread dough (we used pre-made from T. Joe’s, and left it out on the counter for an hour, to make it easier to work with; you can also, obviously, use homemade) on cookie sheet rubbed with olive oil; get it as far into the corners as possible.
Step Two: Sauce it up, almost to the edges. If you have homemade pizza sauce, awesome. But honestly, a good storebought, like Don Pepino or Rao’s Marinara, is fine, too.
Step Three: Sprinkle some fresh basil and dried oregano on this bad boy.
Step Four: Add your meat (if you like that sort of thing; we used pepperoni), and onions. At this point, I threatened to add roasted red peppers, but Jenny shot my sh*t down.
Step Five: Add spinach (thawed, squeezed, no trace of liquid) or kale and shredded mozz.
Step Six: Add some fresh ricotta (and some grated parm, if you want) and red pepper flakes.
Step Seven: Very carefully (so as not to tear the dough), roll the dough up like a giant joint. Brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
Step Eight: Put into 350°F oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until golden brown. Brush again with oil in the last five min. Slice into 1 1/2 inch thick pieces and serve.
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“I’m tired of pretending.”
These were the words I heard from my husband while we sat by the edge of an closed-for-the-season swimming pool in South Carolina over the holiday break. The kids were getting dressed in the locker room after an hour on the tennis court. It was the last week of December and the sun was white in the lonely winter sky.
“Really?” I say. “So that’s it? Fifteen years of marriage and I find this out now?”
“Well, this is important — it’s our first vacation dinner and I don’t want to ruin it by pretending that I like what’s on the table.”
I had just told him I was thinking of making some kind of pork and sweet potato stew with hominy — a riff on a recipe Victoria Granof had developed for Time for Dinner.
“You could’ve told me before now,” I said, at this point more confused than angry. “All those sweet potato fries? All those Thanksgiving mashes with oranges?” The room narrowed and widened simultaneously. The many sweet potato moments in our lives together started pulsing before me like a scene from Run Lola Run. “Your father’s birthday party in our first apartment!” I said, louder than I had intended to. It was one of the first times we had ever entertained, rotating our scrappy desk sideways against the wall to create a makeshift dining room table. “We made Emeril’s Three Potato Lasagna that night — and you ate every bite!”
His eyes were fixed a heron gliding across a lagoon. He said nothing.
“You’re telling me all this time you never liked sweet potatoes?”
“Nope. Not really. Cloying. Overpowering. Too sweet. Like dessert, only bad.” Pause. “Figured I’d tell you before we go shopping. I’m tired of acting like sweet potatoes are good.”
The heron landed on a small upturned log in the lagoon. His eyes scanned the water, like he was looking for some lunch.
“And what about hominy?” I asked. “Should I even bother?” The girls were coming out of the locker room, their hair smooth and brushed in the front, but gnarly and knotted in the back where they couldn’t reach. I looked at him.
“Why don’t you just let me go shopping,” he said. (more…)
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Tags:pork in adobo