Entries Tagged as 'Vegetarian'
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?)
[Read more →]
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.)
[Read more →]
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.
[Read more →]
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
[Read more →]
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.”)
[Read more →]
Tags:burrito bowl recipe·chipotle burrito bowl·Deconstructed Dinner·healthy family dinners
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.
[Read more →]
Tags:andy ricker pad thai·authentic pad thai
A few weeks ago I got this letter from reader Catilin:
So, um, DALS is one of the only things I read right now. I’m a lawyer (work about 65 hours a week), mother of two kids (3 and 1, oy) and have a great husband. Our life is really blessed, but as you can imagine, we do nothing but work and take care of our kids – literally NOTHING except that! BUT we both want to eat healthy food that gives us more energy (and less food coma), so we do eat frozen pizza sometimes, yes, but we also prep veggies, make soups and chicken stew and pot roast on the weekends so we can reheat it most nights for dinner. And I make homemade hummus every week, not because I’m Laura Ingalls Wilder, but because I find when we have it in the house, everything else falls into place. Hummus becomes a base for us to eat well and choose foods that last in the belly, as opposed to quick, fatty, salty things. It was one of the first things I learned to make that changed the way I thought about how to eat for energy and to keep up with my kids. It keeps body and soul together.
I tell you all this because DALS helps me keep the faith that at some point we may actually have the time and space from our kids to make things in a more spontaneous way – right now “cooking” on weeknights (even if its only 20-30 minutes) is impossible. So, we’re settling for reheating homemade stuff during the week. Which isn’t terrible, but not as fun as throwing together Chicken Marsala on a Tuesday night. Sigh. Anyway, thanks for all the good cheer and parental commiseration.
Let’s count how many things I love about this letter:
1) She has no time for anything except kids and work (sound familiar?) and yet she’s making time for DALS (yes!)
2) She has the good sense to make things on the weekend that can be reheated during the week. (And they sound almost exactly like what I make on the weekend.)
3) She also has to good sense to realize that this is just a phase and pretty soon she will be spontaneously throwing together that Chicken Marsala on a Tuesday night. (See “The Years the Angels Began to Sing,” in my book.)
4) She is not beating herself up over falling back on a frozen pizza now and then. (I just did that last night!)
5) It’s so well-written!
6) She knows what her security blanket is — she knowns what she has to have on hand in order to feel that all’s right with her dinner world. For me, it’s homemade salad dressing. For Andy, it’s Tuscan kale. For her, it’s hummus.
What is it for you?
Thanks for writing, Caitlin.
Phoebe learned how to make this hummus at camp last summer and we’ve been looking for an excuse to write about it ever since. I’ve tried a lot of recipes before, but this seems to have the right balance of lemon and isn’t overly garlicky. She throws everything into the bowl of an unplugged food processor, then I take over.
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups drained chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
juice of 1 lemon
water as needed
On a cutting board mince and mash the garlic to a paste with the salt. In a food processor, puree the chickpeas with the garlic paste, the tahini, lemon juice, scraping down the sides. Add olive oil in a thin drip until the hummus is smooth. Salt to taste.
Add water, if necessary, to thin the hummus to desired consistency and transfer the hummus to a bowl. Serve with pita or vegetable sticks.
For nut-free hummus, omit tahini.
Related: Two-minute hummus dinner.
Related: What’s Your Page-Turner?
P.S. An excerpt from Dinner: A Love Story on Cup of Jo. Thanks, Joanna!
[Read more →]
On a freakishly warm night this past spring, we dragged the family (our ten-year-old, our Samba-wearing eight-year-old, and our vegetable-hating five-year-old nephew) to Boqueria, a tapas restaurant in Soho. The reservation was at the Chuck E. Cheese-ish hour of 6:00 p.m., but the place, thank God, was full–and not with a bunch of other families, either. Our host took us to a high table with high stools on one side and a banquette on the other. He asked if we wanted menus, or if we were interested in sitting back and taking our chances. Since we like to think we’re past the phase where one of us has to escort a kid to the bathroom or take a tantrum-quelling walk around the block, we took our chances.
An open kitchen let the kids watch the staff crank out dish after dish until almost 20 little plates were vying for space on our long, happy table. Caught up in the energy, the drama, and the sense of surprise, our gang would’ve tried anything that night. In fact, they pretty much did: squid, Idiazûbal cheese, two kinds of ham, crisp potatoes with a smoky sauce and garlic mayo, fluke crudo with hazelnuts and grapefruit, rabbit (gulp) paella, lamb toasts with salsa verde, flatbread pizzas with mushrooms, and something with ramp pesto that we can’t remember because by the time it arrived our brains were officially overloaded.
True, our nephew eyed the crudo as if it might hurt him, and the Spanish tortilla barely got the shot it deserved, but one look at all the adventurous little fingers sampling whatever landed in front of us, and we claimed victory over boring kid dinners everywhere. These new flavors were embraced, free of parental nagging or pressure (the veggie-phobe even scarfed down a mushroom pizza). Something tells me there’s a lesson in there we can take home. –Andy & Jenny
This post appeared in Bon Appetit’s October Issue (The Restaurant Issue). Andy and I write a bi-monthly column for BA called “The Providers.” Head over to their site for the Spanish Tortilla recipe shown in the photo. Or click here for an archive of all our Providers columns and recipes.
Photo for Bon Appetit by Christina Holmes.
[Read more →]
Tags:bon appetit providers·spanish tortilla·tapas for kids·tortilla española
You know that feeling you carried around with you all day yesterday? As you shepherded one kid back and forth to the doctor, the other to camp, then back to the library to accomplish ten hours of work in a very crunched three, then back to camp? You know how all day long you felt like you had things together even though you were up the whole night before ruminating over the latest worries playing on your insomnia plex? It was like your brain had just done that 30-minute Metamorphasis workout from Tracy Anderson — its core strong and capable. And this was why? Because you finally did what you’ve been wanting to do for months now — you took a few minutes over the weekend to boil some whole grains so they’d be pret-a-manger for dinner all week long. If I may be so bold, I think you might call the feeling…euphoria. (Or…psychosis? Two sides of the same coin?) Don’t you know yourself by now? Don’t you know how irrationally happy you feel when you are in control of some corner of your life? Even if it’s just one small corner of your plate? Because when you have a tupperware filled with wheat berries and barley (as you do right now, Praise Be!!) you can do anything! You can even somehow resist the decidedly not whole grain dinner rolls from Trader Joe’s that the kids pick out and that lately Andy has been baking on the grill so they are all smoky and irresistible, especially when smeared with a nice pat of creamy butter. With a stash of cooked whole grains in the fridge, you may not be able to cross off those tasks that always make their way back on the to-do list (just call your d@#% accountant) but you sure can check off tonight’s starch! Which might even look like this:
And true, the kids will probably just try a bite or two, but who cares — they have the simple tomato-corn-red onion salad you made before mixing in the wheat berries and the feta. All you have to do is grill a piece of fish or pan-fry some chicken and you have the makings of the perfect summer dinner: fast, easy, fresh, and enough left over for tomorrow. When you can feel good about yourself all over again.
Big Feel-Good Batch of Barley
Rinse 1 cup of barley under cold water. Bring 3 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil and add barley. Bring to a low boil (not quite as roiling as you would for potatoes), then cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Check after about 40. The grains should be slightly al dente because they’ll cook a little more when they sit in a bowl. Yields about 4 cups cooked barley.
Big Feel-Good Batch of Wheat Berries
Combine 3 cups wheat berries, 4 1/2 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy about 45 minutes to an hour. The berries should be slightly firm. Drain and set aside. Yields about 4 cups cooked wheat berries.
Big Feel-Good Batch of Quinoa
Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add 1 cup of quinoa and simmer, covered, until tender, fluffy, and water is absorbed — about 15 minutes. Let stand, covered, off the heat for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Yields about 4 cups cooked quinoa.
-Chopped tomatoes, red onion, fresh corn, feta (or smoked mozzarella), vinaigrette
-Dried cherries, scallions, walnuts, mint, a little blue cheese, plus a mild vinaigrette.
-Chives, mint, parsley, cilantro, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper
-Arugula, pesto, a squeeze of lemon
-Charred kale and onions (for wheat berries)
-Black beans and cilantro (for quinoa)
Who needs yoga when I can just look at my cooked, tupperware’d, stored, refrigerated wheat berries and feel at peace?
[Read more →]
Sick of corn and tomatoes accessorizing your burgers and dogs? Of course you aren’t! But I thought I’d give some options for summery side dishes anyway. Be sure to stock up on your olive oil, lemons, salt, and pepper because this time of year, that’s pretty much all you need to lift your side acts to show-stealers.
Wheat Berry Salad with Feta, Cherries, Walnuts and Onions
I’m sick of quinoa. I know Andy has outed me before about this, and it’s not necessarily that I’m sick of eating it. It’s just that there are so many other grains worthy of the rock star status that we have bestowed upon quinoa that I feel it’s my duty to ignite a new grain frenzy going forward. Let’s start with the humble wheat berry: Firm, flavorful, nutty, hard to overcook, a delicious vehicle for any greens or summer vegetables you might want to mix in with it. For now, try tossing in lots of chopped mint, dried cherries (be generous here; you want one in every bite), chopped walnuts, squeeze of lemon, olive oil and red onions that have been sauteed in olive oil and finished with balsamic vinegar. (I set aside a small bowl without feta for a guest at our table who was pregnant and not eating feta) Basic wheat berries instructions: Combine 2 cups wheat berries, 6 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy about 45 minutes to an hour. The berries should be slightly firm. Drain and set aside.
Arugula with Radishes and Mint As always, I discover some of my most favorite things when I’m challenged to cook for someone with dietary limiations. In this case I was charged with bringing a salad to my neighbor’s backyard barbecue, which shouldn’t seem like too much of a challenge, given that this time of year greens are about as good as they ever get so don’t need much by way of creative adornment. But no matter how fresh, I usually like just a little feta or Parm -(scratch that…neighbor is dairy free ) or barring that, maybe a splash of rice vinegar or soy sauce (abort: neighbor is also gluten-free) or, since I can’t use soy sauce, at least a little bit of my new favorite ingredient, fish sauce….woops, you guessed it: he’s also vegan. So instead I tossed arugula, fresh snow peas, scallions, radishes, tons of mint and cilantro then just tossed with a vinaigrette made of equal parts rice vinegar and grapeseed oil with a squeeze of lime and a dash of hot pepper flakes. And guess what? I found myself making it last night for a decidedly more omnivorous crowd: my kids. So insanely fresh tasting and flavorful.
Tomatoes White Beans & Rosemary Phoebe’s camp incorporates cooking again this year, which means that every few days she hops in the car and tells me what we need to have for dinner. This was the inspired idea last week. So easy! So satisfying! So fast! If a bunch of ten-year-olds can make it, you can, too. We used one 15-ounce can of white beans (such as cannelini, rinsed and drained), a handful of cherry tomatoes (halved), 3 scallions (chopped), 1 tablespoon or so of rosemary (chopped), olive oil, squeeze of lemon (+ a bit of lemon zest), salt, pepper.
Shredded Kale Salad Cannot. Get. Enough Kale. I don’t know what it is. When I pick up my stash at the farmer’s market and other people on line inevitably ask what I do with it, I bestow upon them these simple words: Shred, my friend, Shred! I don’t know why it makes such a difference but when it’s presented like confetti, it has a tenderizing effect so the kids are more likely to eat it, it’s summery, easy, and with every bite, you feel like you’ve added a year onto your life. On this particular night, we tossed the kale (I like lacinato or Tuscan) with avocado, pecorino, scallions, a drizzle of good-quality olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, then salt and freshly ground pepper.
Oldie but Goodie Our friends Todd and Anne were having friends over for dinner and being the neighborly person I am I decide to stop by unannounced to drop off a few albums that Andy has been meaning to give them. Well of course I interrupted the whole beautiful dinner — everyone stopped eating and got up to say hello and I felt terrible. But not terrible enough to not notice what they were eating: some delicious looking homemade vegetarian pizzas with eggplant plus Matt & Ted Lee’s soybean and cherry tomato salad with buttermilk dressing that I made all the time two summers ago and had completely forgotten about. Well, guess what I made the very next night?
Yogurt-Dressed Salads I am so loving the yogurt dressing trend. (Or has it been a trend for a while and I just didn’t notice and now everyone’s on to tahini or something?) Anyway, this cole slaw with apple-yogurt dressing caught my eye as did David Tanis’s beet salad with yogurt-dill dressing. Haven’t made either yet, but plan to remedy this very soon. (Photo by Marcus Nilsson)
Related: Julia Moskin interviewed me and a bunch of parent cookbook authors for her New York Times story called “Raw Panic,” i.e. dealing with the summer bounty that “comes with a deadline.” Some delicious looking solutions in there.
[Read more →]
I finally got around to downloading photos from the mini vacation we just enjoyed at my sister’s beach house. There were about 400 shots, each one screaming summer louder than the next, and I’m somewhat alarmed to report that only about 20 of them contained the presence of an actual human. Though I’m unable to prove it in pixels, I swear we did normal things that normal vacationing families do: We bodysurfed in the Atlantic, worked out the kinks in our backhands (some of us, at least…mine is forever ruined), did the whole Breakfast at Wimbledon thing, never bothered to change out of our bathing suits, engulfed crime novels and graphic novels, went on bike rides and runs along redwing-blackbird studded beach roads. But from the look of this download, you’d think it was all dinner all the time: corn and tomatoes, summer fruit galettes, soft-shelled crabs, Dark & Stormies, grilled fish tacos, bright slaws, and the beautiful minty pecorino’d fava beans you are looking at above, which are in season for approximately six more minutes, so use them immediately. I’m already depressed about how fast summer is going — so anyway, who has time to take pictures?
Fava Bean, Mint, and Pecorino Crostini
Remove fava beans from pods. (I used about four handfuls of pods.) Boil beans in water for about 3 to 4 minutes, then immediately plunge in ice bath. Remove each bean from its casing (this is a big pain, be forewarned) and add to a medium bowl. Add a tablespoon olive oil, frehsly grated Pecorino a small squeeze of lemon, 1 sprig of mint (chopped) salt and pepper. Mix and mash with a fork until it reaches desired consistency. Serve with baguette slices.
[Read more →]
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…)
[Read more →]
Tags:Healthy dinners for kids
If you asked 8-year-old Abby to list her favorite foods, I have a feeling the following would show up in the top ten: penne, fettucini, rigatoni, farfalle, gnocchi, orechiette, and (as of last week), cavatelli. I don’t know how much of this love affair is because she’s defining herself in opposition to her sister, a world class pasta hater, but I do know that because of Phoebe’s refusal to touch the stuff, Abby doesn’t get a nice bowl of spaghetti and meatballs nearly as often as she’d like to. I also know that eliminating pasta from our dinner repertoire is not an option given how much Andy and I love it, and given how much the girls’ Great Grandmothers are named Turano and Catrino. So while the rest of us might get a nice bowl of cavatelli with spring asparagus, tomatoes, ricotta, and lemon, Phoebe would get something that looks like this:
Not bad, right? I might call this ricotta and tomatoes on baguette a first cousin of the real dinner.
And maybe I’d call this one a second cousin, which I might serve a toddler (or a pincer-grasping baby) who prefers his food equal but separate.
Pasta with Asparagus, Tomatoes, Ricotta & Lemon
This recipe has you tossing the aspargus in with the boiling pasta water which saves you a pot to clean. (You’re welcome!) For Version 2 dinner: toast a baguette, top with ricotta and tomatoes as shown. Drizzle with olive oil and some good sea salt. Serve asparagus on the side. For Version 3: I think you got that one.
Cook 1 pound pasta according to package directions. (We used cavatelli, but any kind will do.) While pasta is cooking, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl a halved garlic clove in the oil just for a quick flavor hit, then remove. Add 1 1/2 cups chopped grape tomatoes (yellow or red), salt, pepper and cook until tomatoes are wilted.
During last three minutes that the pasta is cooking, toss in 1 bunch asparagus spears (chopped) to the pot. Drain pasta and asparagus together and immediately toss in with tomatoes, cooking until pasta is coated with tomato juice.
Remove from heat and toss in 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of ricotta (or to taste), 2 teaspoons lemon zest, salt, and pepper. (If it’s too hard to toss in the skillet, you can do this in a large bowl.)
Serve with chopped fresh basil.
[Read more →]
Tags:deconstructed·feeding toddlers·meatless monday·pasta for kids·Picky eaters·vegetarian pasta recipes
We’ve been talking a lot about the idea of pacing in our house. This is partly because it’s spring, which means it’s Presidential Physical Fitness Award time, which means that, among other things, the girls have been forced to learn how to run a mile without running out of steam. (I’m both horrified and proud to discover that they take these fitness challenges as seriously as I did in 1981.) I’m also talking a lot about pacing because it seems that every interviewer I’ve spoken with in connection with my book, at some point comes around to this question: Is it OK to order takeout every now and then?
Well, you guys have been with me from the start, so you know how I’m going to answer this one. Obviously it’s NOT OK. Seriously, if you order in from that Chinese place again, God only knows what will become of your children who were doing so well in school and now — just because you were too lazy to make your own moo shu pork — they are on the fast track to failure. You know exactly who to blame when your kid comes up two minutes short on his mile run.
Sometimes I’m really tempted to answer it that way. I think everyone — including the interviewer — knows deep down that this whole family dinner thing is about balance. It’s not about everyone sitting down together every single night eating the exact same thing while deconstructing Kant. It’s about doing as many of these things (um, except the Kant part) as often as you can, and letting go when you can’t. As I’ve said before, to my daughters, and way back when I first started this blog, I’m pretty sure this whole dinner thing (this whole parenting thing actually) is about the marathon, not the sprint. Why wouldn’t I order Chinese if it means that’s the only way family dinner is going to happen that night?
Especially since the next day, I can take the leftover sticky rice and fry up a homemade crispy rice omelet.
Crispy Rice Omelet
Of course, this was only enjoyed by the two people at the table who don’t wrinkle their noses in disgust at the sight of eggs. That is, it was enjoyed by the grown-ups.
2 tablespoons minced scallions or onions
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
shake of red pepper flakes (to taste)
3/4 cup leftover rice, preferably sticky Chinese takeout
3 – 4 eggs (I used 3 but wished it was more eggy)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
handful frozen peas (to taste)
Preheat broiler. Add a little oil to a cast iron or nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add scallions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute until everything is soft and fragrant. Add rice and spread out in one layer, turning up heat a bit. Don’t stir for about a minute so it gets nice and crispy. Stir again and wait another minute. Meanwhile whisk together eggs and soy sauce and add peas to egg mixture. Turn heat down to medium-low and pour egg mixture over fried rice, tipping the pan so the egg distributes itself evenly over the rice. Cook until underside is crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a broiler and bake another 3 minutes or until egg looks golden and bubbly on top. Serve with a drizzle of soy sauce and a green salad.
Then give yourself an award.
[Read more →]
Tags:family dinner pep talk·leftovers·quick dinner recipe
That’s one handsome-looking bowl of quinoa, isn’t it? Looks pretty tasty, right? It’s really healthy, too. And so versatile. Have you heard about the extraordinary nutritional properties of quinoa? Amazing stuff. Packed with protein. The Incas survived on it! Now try writing 500 words about this bowl of quinoa, but it can’t be too similar to the 500-word post you wrote about the magic of (sigh) barley a few weeks ago, and it definitely can’t be like the other quinoa post you did about six months ago, the one in which you… extolled its extraordinary nutritional properties (protein, Incas, etc.) and its versatility (feta, pesto, etc.) and the way it goes so well with zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. We want to be clear here: we are not complaining. We love cooking and we love doing this blog, and we’d happily do it for free. (Wait, we already do it for free!) All we’re saying is, posting three or four or five times a week for two and a half years — about things like quinoa — isn’t always easy. There have been nights when Jenny, sitting there in bed with her laptop and trying to write about the raw kale salad we just had for dinner, has turned to me with a look of true despair and said, “I got nothing.” It’s rare, but it happens. I figure you can handle the truth.
So here’s a question: how would you like to guest post on DALS? If you’re interested, here’s what we need from you, by midnight, May 14:
- A presentable photo of something you’ve cooked.
- A story (not more than 500 words) about that something you cooked.
- A recipe that works.*
Once all the entries are in, we’ll pick a winner and you (or your food blog, if you have one) will be a featured – and tweeted-about, and commented-upon — guest poster on a day, tbd, in June. Not only that, there’s a prize in it for you, too: the winner gets a free, personally inscribed copy of Jenny’s book when it is published a few weeks from now OR a call-in from both of us for your book club if you select Dinner: A Love Story as your group’s next pick. Up to you. Essie, mek, Amanda, Julia, Kendra, Cecilia, Carolyn, Melissa, June, Caitlin, Jan, Minty Pea Todd, Torie, MommyLisa, Auntie, 654Carroll, A Plum By Any Other Name, the Russian Guy Who’s Always Spamming Us About Cheap Cialis: I’m talkin’ to you, people! Start writing. Help us out. Win a book. – Andy
* And to be clear, the post doesn’t have to be about quinoa. Send all entries to: jenny AT dinneralovestory.com with the subject “Guest Post Contest.” Many of you have asked if you can still submit something if it’s not your own recipe. This contest is going to be focused more on the writing and the story than the recipe. You can still submit with someone else’s recipe, but please credit the source and embed the link to that source in the post. If it’s a recipe from a cookbook, please send us a link to the cookbook.
[Read more →]
When I first typed out the recipe for this very forgiving flatbread pizza, I added the word “optional” after “freshly grated nutmeg” and “fresh thyme” and then thought long and hard about why. For as long as I’ve been editing recipes I’ve been using “optional” as a way to say “I realize this is an ingredient you might not have on hand” or “I realize this is an extra step you might not want to take on a night that allows for not a single extra step” or “If this is the ingredient that makes dinner a deal-breaker with your kid, by all means omit!” Have you noticed that you don’t ever come across “optional” in a serious recipe collection? (A quick flip through The Essential New York Times Cookbook, The Babbo Cookbook, and The Classic Italian Cookbook just confirmed this.) I’m guessing their philosophy is: If you’re going to do it, DO it. I love and embrace this philosophy. But I love and embrace it mostly on the weekend.
Here’s what you need to know about any of the Quick recipes on this site: Within reason, almost all the ingredients in any recipe are optional — or at the very least replaceable. This is especially true if not having the ingredient in question derails your plans for what was going to be a home-cooked dinner. (more…)
[Read more →]
Tags:family dinner pep talk·meatless monday
Twice a year, every year, for the past ten years, we drive 850 miles from New York to South Carolina to spend a week at the beach. It’s a long drive. With two kids in the back, singing Adele a capella, it’s a really long drive. We try to do it in one shot with just one stop: Sally Bell’s Kitchen, two minutes off the highway in Richmond, Virginia. Their famous lunchboxes, which they’ve been packing since the ’50s, are almost worth the trip alone. We buy four, then walk to a park nearby to sit in the sun, stretch our legs a bit, and eat.
Inside each box is a happy meal from another, better time: a Smithfield ham-and-iceberg sandwich on a roll, a paprika-dusted deviled egg wrapped in parchment paper, a two-bite cupcake (You get three choices: chocolate, almond, or caramel) that is frosted on three sides, a cheese crisp, a packet of Duke’s mayonnaise and, best of all, a small paper cup filled with super-eggy potato salad and topped with a lone sweet pickle chip. Hot damn!
While the girls love the salty ham with mayo and the novelty of a cupcake that’s more frosting than it is cake, it’s the whole package—and the act of unwrapping of it—that blows their small minds. The white cardboard boxes, tied with bakery twine and lined with checkerboard tissue paper, are prizes they’ve earned by enduring four hundred miles lashed to their booster seats, watching I-95 roll by, and being force-fed Dad’s music. The food is real and great and they love it, but they also love what it represents: the trip is halfway done, and the next time we stop, they’ll be in vacation land, with all its attendant promise.
Occasionally, we try to replicate the lunchbox at home. The tangy potato salad in particular is a mainstay at our summer barbecues, and goes perfectly with a well-cooked burger and a salad. The kids eat up a (slightly less eggy) version as eagerly as ever. For them, it’s a little taste of vacation — but from the comfort of their own home
This is our “Providers” column from the May 2012 issue (The Travel Issue!) of Bon Appetit — on newsstands today. Please head over to their site for the Eggy Potato Salad with Pickles recipe and to access the entire Providers Archive. Photo by the amazing Marcus Nilsson for BonApp.
[Read more →]
Tags:memorial day·potato salad
If I had a nickel for every email in my inbox saying I’m making Andy’s Pork Ragu this weekend for guests. What should I serve with it?…I would’ve shut down this site by now and built my dream house in Block Island overlooking Mohegan Bluffs. But since I seem to have mastered the art of working my tail off for no money*, I will just give you the quick answer: This salad. Herby, easy, wintery-not-pretending-to-be-summery. You can shave an apple in here, too, but the sweetness in the vinaigrette will suffice as a counterpoint to the pork.
Herby Greens with Fennel and Cider Vinaigrette
In a large bowl, add the following:
Fresh greens (or as fresh as you can find in the winter)
1/2 bulb fennel, shaved into slices with a mandoline
handful of chopped mixed herbs such as cilantro, chives, parsley
Make this vinaigrette:
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
Toss vinaigrette into salad.
*shameless, thinly-veiled attempt to guilt you into pre-ordering my book.
[Read more →]
Tags:creative salads·easy side dishes for kids