Entries Tagged as 'Seafood'

This Week in Salmon

March 27th, 2014 · 15 Comments · Quick, Seafood


I know this is likely to ruffle a few feathers, but I’m going to say it anyway. Ready for it?? Here we go: Weeknight Entertaining is the New Dinner Party.

You heard it here first, don’t forget that.

So, um, why? Why would any of us want to throw one more variable into the dinnertime scramble? One more variable who actually needs to be fed? Simple: Because the bar is so much lower. As much as I love to have people over on a weekend night, it’s a production. And that’s good. I like some theatrics on a Saturday night. That’s what Saturday night is about when you are over 40 and your idea of excitement includes a Baltimore Oriole sighting during your morning run. (Forreal!! Right at the bottom of my street!)

But the other night, our friend Kendra came over for dinner. It was Monday, kind of a last-minute plan, and since we had already decided on Salmon Salad for dinner — I’m telling you, the recipe is MVP in our house — that was going to be the meal. No special cocktail, no special meat and cheese starter, or homemade dessert. (At least no homemade dessert homemade by us; Kendra rocked our world with this little number.) Starters would be chips and salsa; the milk glasses would be set on the kitchen table (not the dining room table) by Phoebe; and Kendra would essentially be folded into family dinner. When expectations are low, you can only be a hero.

Anyway, igniting dinner party trends (just watch!) was not supposed to be point of today’s post. What I really wanted to remind you about was how amazingly easy salmon is for weeknight cooking, dinner guest or not. That Salmon Salad (page 62 of DALS) is so clutch. This time, I tweaked the technique a bit — I used yellow potatoes and tossed them in the dressing before tossing the rest of the salad, so they were like silky German-Potato-Salad potatoes. It’s the only way I’m going to make it from now on.

I’ve also been looking for an excuse to really sing the praises of this Salmon with Mustard-Brown-Sugar Glaze over at Martha. I’ve linked to this before, but I just need to say again how genius it is. With red wine vinegar and sugar in the glaze, it has the sweet-and-sour thing going, and it could not be easier to whip together. The first time I made the recipe, Abby declared it the best salmon she’d ever eaten, and seven or eight times later, she still stands by that claim.

Lastly, there’s this basic salmon teriyaki recipe that is a good compromise to have in your back-pocket when, say, the kids are begging to go to the local Japanese place for dinner instead of Not another boring chicken, pleeeease? With a side of sushi rice and some magic teriyaki onions, it tastes like the version they order in the restaurant, only it’s a heck of a lot cheaper.

Salmon Teriyaki

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 sake
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 pound salmon filet

Preheat broiler. In a small saucepan, whisk together everything except the fish. Let it simmer about 10 minutes until reduced and slightly syrupy. Brush sauce on top a salmon and broil for 10-12 minutes (depending on thickness of salmon), brushing sauce on every four or five minutes to get a nice caramel-y color. Serve with sushi rice and teriyaki onions.

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How to Get (a Rockin’) Dinner on the Table in 20 Minutes

March 13th, 2014 · 8 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Seafood

Tuesday night:

5:30 Wrap up work in my home office — even though I meant to wrap up work before kids got home from school two hours earlier. Oh well.

5:40 Realize that Andy is out tonight and it’s Tuesday, which means everyone has their various extracurricular pursuits until almost 9:00. Make radical decision: Let’s eat dinner before practice tonight instead of after.

5:41 Realize this means I have to get dinner on the table immediately if my midfielders stand a chance at digesting in time to run around like maniacs. Remove flounder from fridge.

5:45 Place large skillet on stovetop, add a few glugs olive oil, turn heat to medium-high, set up dredging station (whisked egg, flour, panko crumbs) for flounder.

5:52 While four flounder filets brown in olive oil, slice half head of Napa Cabbage very finely, drizzle in a dressing (mayo, apple cider vinegar, celery seed, olive oil, salt, black pepper, sugar whisked in a measuring cup) and toss.

5:59 Remove four cooked flounders, tent with foil; add another two to the pan. Meanwhile, open a can of Trader Joe’s organic baked beans and dump into a small pot. Much like a cat who can recognize the sound of a tuna can opening from two rooms away, Abby arrives within seconds. “Are we having baked beans?” Got her.

6:05 Dinner. Game over.

Related:

Basic Everyday Fried Fish; Cole Slaw, Trader Joes Hit List.

Last Night’s Dinner: Pasta with Mint Pea Pesto;

Anatomy of a Monday Night Dinner: Baked Mustardy Chicken Drumsticks with Brussels Sprouts.

 

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Thanksgiving Eve 2013

November 15th, 2013 · 21 Comments · Rituals, Seafood, Thanksgiving

By the time Thanksgiving week rolls around, the game plan, for the most part will be fully mapped out. The menu will have been tweaked and retweaked to reflect just the right amount of tradition (Grandma Jody’s herb-roasted turkey, mashed potatoes) and adventure (maple buttermilk custard pie!); the duties will have been divvied up among aunts and uncles. Anything that can be done in advance—grocery shopping, pie crust making, bourbon stocking—will be done in advance. When we wake up on the last Thursday in November, we will be totally, 100 percent ready to rock.

And then we remember the last Wednesday in November—also known as Thanksgiving Eve, also known as Oh, Sh-t, We Have 14 People Standing Around the Kitchen, Half of Them Starving Kids, and We Forgot We’re Responsible for Feeding Them.

On Thanksgiving Eve, we at least know what we don’t want to make. We don’t want to make poultry. We don’t want to make anything that requires a bunch of pots and pans or taps into the precious reserve of psychic energy we need for Thanksgiving. We don’t want to order pizza, which just feels wrong. And above all, we don’t want something heavy. That’s what the next day is all about.

It’s like this: On the night before a championship bout, did Muhammad Ali go out and pick a bar fight? The night before performing in The Marriage of Figaro, does the diva practice her primal screams? The night before the food-lover’s Olympics, do we make a 20-ingredient paella? No. We rest, we get our heads together, we create optimum conditions for the main event.

So this year we’re doing salmon en papillote, which only sounds complicated. Here, everyone can customize what vegetables go into her parchment paper–wrapped fish packet (Kale? Spinach? Thinly sliced potatoes?) before drizzling (or not) the horseradish dill sauce on top after the whole thing has cooked. It’s fresh and light, and best of all, there is minimal cleanup—only a baking sheet or two. For that, we give thanks.

This is our “Providers” column for the November issue of Bon Appetit. Head over to their site for the salmon in parchment paper recipe.

Related: Thanksgiving Eve 2012

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What Passes for Fun on a Saturday Night

September 16th, 2013 · 11 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Posts by Andy, Quick, Seafood, Uncategorized

“Make Dinner Not War,” huh? The pacifist ethos may look good on a bumper sticker, and it may reign supreme at our family dinner table, but when it comes to, say, girls’ soccer or beach-kadima-fer-chrisskes or routinely kicking her husband’s arse in a “friendly” game of Clue? Jenny is not to be trifled with. It’s why I hesitate to tell her my top score in Ruzzle, because I know it’s only a matter of time before she borrows my phone — and then hands it back fifteen minutes later, having destroyed my record. It’s why I stopped playing tennis with her, lo these many years ago. We’d be hitting the ball around like normal husbands and wives and the moment would come when she’d walk up to the net and ask, casually tucking a ball into the pocket of her shorts, “Wanna play a few games?” Like an idiot, I’d say yes. And suddenly, she couldn’t miss. Every shot: in. Every impossible angle: not impossible, apparently! I’d hit the ball as hard as I could, and it would come back harder. I’m worried, as I write this, that Jenny is going to come off as too Tiger Mom-ish, that she only cares about winning, which is not really true. So I’ll put it this way: Jenny would rather win than lose. And she usually does, too.

The key word here is usually.

Last Saturday, we picked up some fresh striped bass from our fish guy at the farmer’s market. I drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and as I was going outside to fire up the grill, Jenny said she’d be in charge of making a blender sauce for the fish. A blender sauce with roasted red peppers and walnuts and something else I can’t quite remember, because the truth is, I stopped listening as soon I heard roasted red peppers and walnuts. I must have made an expression that gave me away.

“What?” she said. “You don’t think that sounds good?”

“No, no,” I said. “It sounds really good. It’s just that this fish is so  fresh, I don’t know if we need it. I was thinking of something a little lighter and cleaner-tasting.”

“Like what?”

“Like, with those tomatoes we got today or something. A tomato coulis. Is that the right word? Tomato coulis?”

“I have no idea,” she said. “How about I make mine and you make yours, and we’ll have a taste -off.”

Christ.

Dinner as competitive sport: This is what passes for fun in the DALS house on a Saturday night. We retreated to our respective corners — Jenny with the blender, me with the mini-Cuisinart — and worked in silence, as serious as monks. We roped the kids in at some point, too — appointing them as the official arbiters, a role they naturally cherish — and put a dollop of both sauces on every plate. After a few bites and some mindful chewing, everybody weighed in. The results, I do not regret to say, were clear: The tomato sauce. In a walk. Even Jenny conceded it was better, and you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that doesn’t happen much around here. Victory at last!

The truth is, Jenny’s sauce was better than mine, more sophisticated, more interesting. Add some feta and it’d be an amazing dip, served with pita chips and some gherkins. It would also have been fantastic with grilled chicken. But with fish this fresh, just off the grill, on a beautiful late summer night? Nuh-uh. Not in my house. – Andy

Jenny’s Sauce

In a blender, whirl together:

2 roasted red peppers (halve, brush with olive oil, and broil for 20 minutes; then remove pith and peel off skin. I used the ones from our CSA, which aren’t too big — medium-size, I’d say)
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon balsamic (wished we had red wine vinegar)
Small handful walnuts
Salt & pepper
Squeeze of Sriracha

Andy’s Sauce

In a food processor, whirl together until emulsified:

Couple of handfuls fresh grape tomatoes (I used red and yellow)
Few generous glugs of olive oil
Juice from 1/2  lime OR 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Two basil leaves
One scallion
Squeeze of Sriracha
Salt & pepper, to taste

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RE: What’s for Dinner?

June 19th, 2013 · 24 Comments · Posts by Andy, Quick, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

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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Choose Your Own Adventure: Yogurt Marinades

May 13th, 2013 · 26 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Grilling, Seafood

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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21 Questions for Curtis Stone

April 15th, 2013 · 15 Comments · Cameos, Dinner, Quick, Seafood

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:

  • Cook
  • Create
  • Celebrate

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.

1 lemon
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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Real Deal Pad Thai

March 4th, 2013 · 13 Comments · Dinner, Seafood, Vegetarian

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?”

“Yup.”

Did you make it with the bechamel?”

“Yup.”

“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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Trout with Almonds and Green Beans

January 30th, 2013 · 64 Comments · Seafood

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
chives, optional

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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The Little Things

October 1st, 2012 · 8 Comments · Entertaining, Quick, Seafood

One of the first things I learned about food when I started caring about food was that smaller usually translated to better. As in, a golf-ball-size lime is going to be juicier than a steroided-up one. As in, the meat from a 1 1/4 pound lobster is going be sweeter than meat from his 4-pound older brother. As in, those two-carat-size spring strawberries are going to taste more like strawberries than the strawberries that resemble McIntosh apples. And after writing a story about hors d’oeuvres for the current issue of Bon Appetit I remembered another one: Hors d’oeuvres for dinner are so much more fun than dinner for dinner. (See: Small Bites Phenomenon sweeping New York City Restaurant Scene) Why did it take writing this story to remind me that those shrimp rolls I’ve been making since my 1999 visit to Nova Scotia would be so much more appealing for the kids if I miniaturized them? How had I forgotten Cardinal Rule #2 of Family Sandwiches: Minimizing Size = Maximizing Appeal. (Cardinal Rule #1: Anything Tastes Better in Slider Form.) Well, either way, the little rolls were on the dinner table last week (it’s a good make-ahead if you can swing it) and will likely show up there again very soon.

Perhaps my most favorite magazine opener ever. (“Opener” = Old-school parlance for the image that opens the story.) Alex Grossman, the creative director, actually had this invitation letter-pressed before it was shot.  Credit: Kallemeyn Press.

This Butternut Squash Tart with Fried Sage, developed by the BA test kitchen, was in the star-studded line-up, too. Instead of a assembling a platter of fussy finger food for your party, each puff pastry square requiring it’s own individual piping of spicy mayo, this is just one big tart that you bake and cut up like a pizza before your guests arrive. It’s called Economy of Scale and it is up next on my Hors d’oeuvres-Turned-Dinner menu

Check out this month’s issue of Bon Appetit (The Entertaining Issue) to read the story and the entire issue. They’ve also put together an appetizer slide show which party-throwers would be wise to bookmark as the calendar inches its way towards the holidays. Two words: Queso Fundido.

Photos by Romulo Yanes for Bon Appetit. 

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Don’t Get Mad, Get Cooking

July 31st, 2012 · 29 Comments · Seafood

One day I’m going to write an in-depth post about our weekly shop — how we strategize, prepare, and, eventually attack our local Trader Joe’s like a bunch of Navy SEALs. But for now, all I’ll say is that we have it down to a pretty precise science, so when I open the fridge or pantry and can’t find what I’m looking for….well….I get mad. That’s what happened a few weeks ago when the girls were nice enough to suggest grilled shrimp tacos for dinner. (You know how much I love it when someone else dreams up the menu.) This meal is a classic go-to in our house because it’s so fast and also because the ingredients called for are all items we would never dream of leaving Trader Joe’s without: scallions, tomatoes, cilantro, limes, greens, sour cream, tortillas. All we have to do is stop by a fish market at some point to pick up some (preferably peeled) shrimp. On this particular occasion, however, I had fired up the grill, knocked back at least half my dark & stormy, whisked lime and sugar into sour cream, and skewered up the shrimp before realizing that we were all out of tortillas — in our house a crime punishable by I-thought-you-got-them-no-you-said-you-did. But I set aside the blame game for the moment in order to make some frontline decisions. I could easily abort mission and go with a southwesternish salad. Or I could channel my inner Alana Chernila and — get this — make my own tortillas from scratch. I know the last two words of that sentence strike fear into the hearts of many a new parent, and so of course, you should feel free to go ahead and click on the “Quick” category over there in the margin, while making a note to return to this page in 2019. (Please please come back!) But emboldened by my cocktail and a few willing little partners, this was the route I decided to take. And wow did our dinner taste good. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that “from scratch” can be as simple as mixing together flour and water. And also that it’s usually the simplest things that make all the difference.

Flour Tortilla Recipe
Adapted from something I found on squidoo. Makes about 6-8 eight-inch tortillas. (PS: No one is keeping score here. You should definitely skip the from-scratch version and just go with storebought if it’s going to be the thing that crushes you and your dinner spirit.)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for flouring the board)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm water

Combine flour and salt. Add vegetable oil and mix lightly. Add the warm water and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a soft dough. Divide into equal pieces of 6-8 balls. Brush with a little vegetable oil and cover with a dish towel and let sit for 15 minutes.

Roll out each ball on a floured surface. Preheat an ungreased griddle or cast iron pan. Add tortilla and cook until it begins to puff with a few browning spots on the bottom. Flip and press down to release the air pockets. Cook for about 1 minute. Remove and keep warm on a platter under foil until ready to fill.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

About 20-25 pieces of medium shrimp, peeled
olive oil
2 teaspoons-ish chili powder
salt & pepper
tortillas (homemade, see above; or your favorite storebought ones prepared according to package directions)

Prepare grill. Thread your shrimp on skewers and place on a platter. Drizzle a little olive oil on top, then, using your fingers, rub chili powder all over shrimp, turning them on skewers as you go. Grill for about 3-4 minutes, flipping them along the way, until they are cooked through. (You could also saute the shrimp — un-skewered in a skillet.) Remove shrimp from skewers into a bowl. Place shrimp on the table with your tortillas and other fixings such as shredded cabbage, chopped tomatoes, chopped scallions, lime wedges, chopped cilantro. Have everyone assemble their own.

I serve these with my usual sauce: 1/2 cup sour cream whisked with 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. You could also just do sour cream.

 

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Top of the To-Do List: Lobster Rolls

June 29th, 2012 · 8 Comments · Quick, Rituals, Seafood

We’ve just wrapped up what you might call an “unstructured” week — other than a late-afternoon soccer clinic for the kids and other than one full day of meetings in the city for me, we had nothing on the schedule for the first few days of summer vacation. And now I’m wondering why we registered them for their upcoming organized activities at all. I could get used to a schedule where we get to sleep in and not once have to hear ourselves say tie your shoes immediately or you will miss the bus and please please please don’t make me ask you again! (Happiness is the laceless summer shoe.)

This is not to say that we were sitting around watching Nick Jr and bumming at the beach. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Without even realizing it, we began checking things off the List of Things We’ve Been Meaning to Do All Year. Monday: We finally saw that documentary First Position about the Grand Prix ballet competition and the girls loved it. Tuesday: We hit Shake Shack. (It’s hard to even admit this to myself as a parent, but my poor, deprived daughters had to live eight and ten years respectively before ever sinking their teeth into a Shack Burger.) We roadtripped to Ikea in search of a “swivel stool” for Abby’s new desk and wound up stuffed to the gills with Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. (You know, one of those nice light summer meals.) We visited a new Asian Supermarket across town which everyone keeps talking about and where we found all sorts of cool and crazy little things to try like quail eggs, mochi, and Korean melon. It was there, in the glisteningly clean seafood aisle where I spied a five-dollar cooked lobster ($5!) and remembered one other thing on the List: Make Lobster Roll! I came home from that trip, tossed the lobster meat with mayo, scallions, and the slightest sprinkling of paprika, and with one bite, officially initiated summer.

Lobster Roll
Makes one lobster roll. Recipe can be multiplied accordingly.

meat from a cooked 1-pound lobster (about 1/4 pound of cooked lobster meat), roughly chopped
1 scallion (light green and white parts only), chopped
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
squeeze fresh lemon juice
sprinkling of paprika
salt to taste
hot dog bun
butter

Add all ingredients (except bun and butter) in a mixing bowl. Fold together gently. Toast hot dog bun then spread with a thin layer of butter. Top with lobster salad.

Don’t forget about the Mega Giveaway: Tell me your favorite part of the book (not on the comment field of this post, but through the official contest survey) and be eligible to win some pretty awesome prizes. You have until July 9 to enter so get reading!

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Dinner: A Morning Show Story

June 14th, 2012 · 19 Comments · Deconstructing Dinner, Favorites, Picky Eating, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup

So I went on the Today Show yesterday to talk about some themes you know well by now — deconstructing meals, picky eaters, my Trickle-Down Theory of Dinner (see page 10!) and of course, the book itself. I’ve known about this segment for about three months now — my publisher called me with the news while I was watching soccer practice — and if I were a certain kind of person I suppose I would have been broadcasting this news all over the world, posting it on my events page and facebook, tweeting from the green room and all that, but the truth is: I was kinda terrified about the whole Live TV thing. To the point where over the past few months I’ve been dividing my life into two distinct eras:   (more…)

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A Dinner Pas de Deux

June 11th, 2012 · 7 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Rituals, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

It’s rare that we find ourselves in the position of having to execute a Saturday night dinner while the clock is ticking — as I’ve mentioned before, we like our weekend meals to be all-day affairs —  but this was the situation we found ourselves in a few nights ago. We had just spent six hours shuttling our two ballerinas back and forth to their recitals and because the girls’ mother (yours truly) had hastily prepared snacks for the marathon (two walnut-sized apricots and a Ziploc of trail mix), we had two starving performers on our hands when we finally walked in the door at 8:00.

The choreography for dinners like these is so rehearsed we barely even have to discuss who plays which part: Andy turns his attention to the main (frying some fresh flounder we had picked up at the farmer’s market earlier) and I focus on the sides: some leftover barley salad from the night before (page 245 of my book) and an Asian-inspired slaw I had been dreaming about all through Abby’s Tarantella. And after about 20 minutes of pas de bouree-ing around each other, we all sat down for the second big show of the night. (more…)

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The All-Day Dinner

May 17th, 2012 · 6 Comments · Dinner, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup

By now you know that for weeknight meals, we are all about efficiency. And by the looks of my Analytics, it looks like you guys are too. (“Quick“ shows up consistently as one of the top 3 most-clicked Categories.) But the weekend? That’s another story entirely. Especially when the weekend in question conspires to create the most conducive dinner-making conditions in modern history: Grandparents = in town; weather = glorious; farmer’s market = open; kids = not cranky; and only two officially scheduled events for the entire day: Early morning soccer practice, and a 6:00 cocktail on the just-opened-for-business patio. On days like this, unconsciously or not, dinner is something that only barely resembles the scramble on the weeknight. We talk about it and shop for it and cook for it all day long. You might even say we make things as difficult as possible for ourselves — plying the kids with cider donuts while we wait in the interminable line at the market to secure the beautiful local sea bass you see below; whisking homemade mayonnaise to serve with French fries when, really, is there anything wrong with Heinz?; tracking down the spring-iest spring greens available (sorrel was the winner); pureeing asparagus into the vinaigrette that we will drizzle on top of those greens; digging out the fancy crystal tumblers for gin and tonics — which is another way of saying it’s our idea of the best day ever.

Spicy Fries with Homemade Mayonnaise. I used some very green looking olive oil to make my mayo, which accounts for the very green color. Don’t let it fool you, though: Delicious! And paired nicely with the fish, too. (more…)

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Quick Miso-Glazed Salmon

April 19th, 2012 · 19 Comments · Dinner, Rituals, Seafood

On any given day, there are about a zillion things that can derail family dinner  – where do we begin? — and I’ve probably heard about every one of those things from you guys these past few years. How do I deal with the fussy toddler? The spouse who won’t help? My coworker who makes me feel bad about leaving the office before him? The relentlessness of after-school activities and all the schlepping it entails? This last one always stumped me. It seemed of all the obstacles one could face, this one was something we could control instead of complain about. What I didn’t know until fairly recently, though, was how broadly defined the term “after-school” has become. We just got the soccer schedule for the spring and one of my daughters has a practice that ends at 7:30, at a field that’s a 20-minute drive away. That’s a dinner deal-breaker if there ever was one. Well, unless you have this recipe in the repertoire. Cause you can have this on the table in the time it takes for your midfielder to walk in the door, change out of her jersey, get washed up, and return to the table where she belongs.

Simple Miso-Glazed Salmon
A big reason why I could get this on the table so fast was because I had a stash of the glaze in the fridge already. Making the glaze definitely qualifies as the kind of task your bright-eyed morning self can do ahead of time — it takes only a minute or two if you have all the ingredients on hand.  Your beaten-down evening self will thank you later.

1 1/3 pound salmon
2 tablespoons white miso*
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon brown sugar
squeeze of lime

In a small bowl, mix together everything but the lime. Slather the miso glaze on salmon and broil for 10-12 minutes until it gets golden on top. (Watch it carefully. The sugar in the glaze will burn.) Serve with lime wedges.

While the salmon was broiling, I briefly sauteed some snap peas in a drop of sesame oil, then tossed them with a sliced radish, sea salt, a squeeze of lime, and chives. (Scallions would be better than chives, but I didn’t have any on hand.)

*You can buy white miso at Asian specialty stores or better supermarkets like Whole Foods. It keeps in the fridge for ages.

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My New Favorite Dinner

February 6th, 2012 · 36 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Seafood

Do you guys know that story about Robert Rauschenberg? The one where the interviewer asked him “How do you know when you are finished with a painting?”  and he responded “When I sell it.” Meaning, he’s never finished, and as long as the work is in his possession he will keep reworking it forever. This is what came into mind the other night as I stared at the galley of my book, which, in one form or another, has been sitting on my dining room table for the past six months, as I go back and forth from the kitchen tweaking and replacing and reworking and driving my editor and designer crazy. But I had just made this dinner — salmon and brussels sprouts, a combination which I had spied in both Martha Stewart and Real Simple in the same week, then married that with a Momofuku-inspired ginger scallion sauce — and I began to leaf through the pages looking for a place to squeeze it in. It’s so quintessentially DALS — simple, weeknight-friendly, tasty — how could it not be in the book?!! And not that I’m in any way comparing my writing to a Rauschenberg Combine painting, but I do believe it’s just the element that would turn my book from cookbook to masterpiece. It’s so good! It’s so easy! But alas, my deadline was for real this time (I said goodbye to the galley forever — terrifying) so I have no choice but to give you the recipe here and now. (more…)

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A Little Something Special

December 8th, 2011 · 14 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Dinner, Rituals, Seafood

New Year’s Eve is so overrated. I realize I’m not breaking any ground with this statement — which became a mantra in our house long before we even had kids who would’ve insisted on playing Dora dollhouse at 5:30 AM with no regard for how much champagne was consumed the night before. All it took was one aggressively mediocre $100 prix fix dinner out — which offered nothing more special than what you’d find on the menu on a Tuesday night in March — to convince us that we’d be much less resentful of the New Year and way better fed if we just stayed home for the night and watched Larry Sanders re-runs.

That doesn’t mean we don’t properly recognize New Year’s Eve. (As my friend Rory noted the other day, my family has never met a ritual or an opportunity to celebrate that we haven’t seized upon.) Before the kids came along and before Andy’s brother, Tony, and his wife Trish had to go and move across the world to Hong Kong, we used to dress up in our holiday best (for me: black velvet Ann Taylor pants, chunky-heeled Nine West loafers, something shiny on top from Banana) and make multi-course dinners in each other’s Brooklyn apartments that almost always included something worth a splurge. Something special.

Something Special could mean just about anything: a bottle of Champagne that was not procured from the sale bin (1995); a tin of beluga caviar that one of us had received as a corporate gift, served on blinis with creme fraiche (1996); a bottle of 1963 Port that Andy’s dad had been saving for a big night (1999!). But if I am to believe my Dinner Diary — and why wouldn’t I? — the “something special” that, as of 2002, began dominating our New Year’s Eve celebrations was… is lobster.

It might be dipped in Champagne butter. It might be part of a paella or served alongside a wild mushroom risotto or a citrusy salad or horseradish mashed potatoes. Early on in our parenting career, it was usually just the two of us feasting on 1 1/4 pounders after the girls went to sleep; later the lobster dinner became a family affair that would splinter into two teams: The Tail is Better Team (me and Abby) and the Claws are Better Team (Andy and Phoebe). No matter how the lobsters are prepared or who is eating them, there is a 100% chance that they’ll wind up in the family photo album, with Andy or me doing our obligatory imitations of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall.

And that’s the plan for this year, too. (more…)

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