Entries Tagged as 'Vegetarian'
O, haricot verts, how it pains me to say this, given all that you have given us (nay, done for us), but I have grown tired of you. For eight years, you — the basic steamed and salted version of you — were there for us, a rock in our rotation, a reliable side dish we could count on. You made us feel better about ourselves, because our children loved you, too, and you were healthier than tater tots. But eight years is a long time, and I have grown weary. I have grown bored. Whatever the opposite of leaping is, that’s what my heart does when it sees you. My heart, I suppose, squats when it sees you. It sinks into the floor. But I am also loyal, and I do not want to banish your crunchy, svelte little self from our family table forever. I can’t do that to the kids and besides: I don’t want anyone else. What I want is a slight upgrade. I want to see you in a new light. I want you to impress me again. I want you to try. And that is why I am going to pair you with some toasted almonds and mint, and shower you in fresh lemon juice. Ah, yes. That’s better. What are you doing later? As a great poet once wrote — paraphrasing slightly here — your tastiness balks account! I sing you electric! And you only take four and one half minutes to prepare, which I know because I timed you, and which makes me love you even more. Consider yourself upgraded, old friend, and consider our love rekindled. – Andy
Green Beans with Toasted Almonds and Mint
2 cups haricot verts
1/4 cups roasted almonds, roughly chopped
One handful chopped fresh mint
Juice of one half lemon
Salt, to taste
A few glugs of olive oil
One small pat of butter (about as much as you’d put on a piece of toast)
In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Add almonds and cook 2 minutes, letting them darken slightly in color. Add haricot verts and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice, a few pinches of salt, and remove to platter. Sprinkle with mint. Serve.
[Read more →]
Our poor side dishes. Always getting buried at the bottom of a post that stars some showstopping piece of meat. But as anyone who is putting together her holiday party outfit knows, it’s all in the accessories, and so herewith, a round-up of some of our favorite unsung sidedish heroes.
1. Gingered Green Beans Add a couple handfuls of green beans (about 2 cups or what’s shown above) to boiling water that has been salted. Cook 2 minutes then immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the beans’ bright green color. After a minute, drain and pat dry with a paper towel. In a medium skillet set over medium heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil with a drop or two of sesame oil. Add 1 tablespoon minced, peeled, fresh ginger, 1 large garlic clove (minced), and cook 1 minute. Add beans, a little kosher salt, and toss everything until beans are coated. Raise heat a bit and stir in a teaspoon of rice wine vinegar and a teaspoon and a half soy sauce. Cook another minute then serve.
Roast Potatoes with Chutney and Yogurt Chop 6 to 8 red or Yukon gold potatoes a few handfuls of fingerlings and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 30-35 minutes until potatoes are golden and crispy. Toss in a dollop of fruity chutney (increasingly the only ones I ever use are Pomegranate or Plum from Bombay Emerald) a few chopped chives, and serve topped with another dollop of plain yogurt.
Roasted Beets with Honey, Feta, and Thyme Wrap 4 to 5 beets in foil and Roast at 425°F for 40 minutes. Remove and cool. Peel and chop them into a fine dice then toss with a squeeze of honey, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle with crumbled feta and some fresh thyme. (more…)
[Read more →]
“This looks amazing,” my friend Mike said, as we sat down to dinner. He was in town on business, and Jenny was at a work event, so it was just me, Mike, and the kids, rocking out on a Wednesday night. On the table: chicken tandoori burgers with a yogurt-mint sauce, sauteed spinach, curried carrots, and the remnants of some math homework. “Man, if we could eat like this every night…”
Mike’s one of my best friends. He’s a smart guy. He’s also an extremely talented writer with some serious — and rare — powers of observation. He’s crazy insightful. His stories, as they say, get at the deeper truths. He’d just spent the last 30 minutes, standing in our kitchen, getting his gin-and-tonic on and watching me put this dinner together. How had he not seen how unmagical this really was? What had I done that could have possibly suggested this was hard, or complicated, or beyond his skillset? In some ways, this was like watching a friend back his car out of his driveway and saying, “Holy sh*t, dude, you are amazing! How did you do that?” It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good, undeserved compliment — and oh, how we love a gracious guest — but I can’t, in good conscience, let this perception stand. I can’t let Mike get away with acting like what we’re doing is hard. The big secret here is that most of the stuff we make on any given night is simple, requires very few ingredients, very little prep time, and no expertise (which I don’t have, anyway, at least not in any real sense of the word). All it takes is will, and a little planning ahead. This was no exception.
“God, these carrots,” he said, taking a bite.
The tandoori burgers take all of 20 minutes. The yogurt sauce is plain yogurt spiked with a handful of chopped mint. The spinach is sauteed in olive oil for three minutes, with a clove of garlic, and then topped with a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt. And the carrots he was talking about? Our Boston Terrier, God love her peanut brain, could make them with one paw tied behind her back. Here’s how I did it: I peeled four carrots and cut them into quarter-inch rounds, and tossed them in a pot. I added 1/2 cup of water, 2 tsp of curry powder, a small pat of butter, some kosher salt, and a squeeze of honey. I simmered, covered, for 15 minutes. That’s it.
“That’s it?” M. said.
Illusion shattered. – Andy
Iris takes notes on preparation. “Yeah, I got this,” she says.
[Read more →]
Tags:curried cooked carrots·easy side dish·easy side dishes for kids·vegetables for kids
I want to talk a little bit, today and tomorrow, about time. More specifically, about our lack of it when it comes to dinner. About that moment when you come home from work at 7 pm and the dog is begging for a walk and your fourth grader really needs you to drill her on her social studies definitions (quick: what’s wampum mean?) for her big test tomorrow and your third grader is asking you to watch — no, Daddy, watch! — her stand on one leg and you’re still in your jacket, staring into a mostly empty refrigerator, and wondering what you’re going to make for dinner tonight. Or, more likely: what you have time to make for dinner. Jenny seems to be more resourceful than I am in these situations, but when it’s a weeknight and I’m on Dinner Duty, and I couldn’t quite get on the earlier train, and the kids are hungry, and I need to make something fast…. why is it, in moments like this, that the human mind — my human mind, at least — automatically goes to pasta with a jarred sauce? My best guess: because it’s quick, it’s healthy, and it’s convenient.
But what does convenient mean, anyway? And what exactly is quick?
This weekend, I finally decided to conduct an experiment. I say finally because I’ve been meaning to write this post for about two months now, and I could just never seem to find the… time. What I wanted to do was to time myself, from a standing start, and see what took longer: a weeknight dinner made mostly with pre-made ingredients, or a dinner made with all real stuff. For the pre-made dinner, I would make spaghetti with Old World Style Ragu, and a pre-washed mesclun salad with Ken’s Light Ranch Dressing. For the homemade dinner, I would make an old stand-by, cacio e pepe, with sliced kumato tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt. I want to stress: I have nothing against jarred sauces. I spent the first three years after college, living in Brooklyn with very little money and an arrested culinary imagination: I know from jarred sauces. Had I opened a vein when I was 24 years old, Ragu Garden Style and Heineken would have poured out. The goal here is not to make some kind of Michael Pollan-y political statement or to suggest that one of these dinners is evil while the other is righteous and pure. Anyone who’s ever had Rao’s or Cucina Antica or even T. Joe’s marinara knows that’s baloney (which I also enjoy, by the way, on white bread with yellow mustard). The goal is only to suggest that, often, what we have been conditioned to think of as quick and healthy is not, in fact, any quicker or healthier (or cheaper, for that matter) than the real deal. The most important thing is to have a few of what Jenny calls “back-pocket recipes” in my repertoire, things I can go to when I’m feeling paralyzed and time is tight. Cacio e pepe is one of those recipes. And the inconvenient truth is, it tastes better, too.
Below, the results of the test. Note: I used the same amount of cold water (4 cups) and started the timer the minute the burners were turned on. No prep work was allowed. – Andy
Coming up tomorrow: What is Easy? And maybe after that: What is Cheap?
PRE-MADE DINNER: Spaghetti with Old World Style Ragu Pasta Sauce, Bagged Mesclun and Ken’s Light Ranch Dressing
21 minutes, 15.8 seconds
Pasta: Trader Joe’s spaghetti, boiled in salted water.
Sauce: Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Soybean Oil, Salt, Sugar, Dehydrated Onions, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Spices, Romano Cheese (Part-Skim Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Natural Flavor.
Salad: Pre-washed mesclun (though I washed it again because we’re paranoid like that).
Dressing: Water, Vegetable Oil (Soybean and/or Canol), Buttermilk, Distilled Vinegar, Sugar, Maltodextrin, Egg Yolk, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Contains less than 2% of Omega-3 [Fish Oil and Fish Gelatin (contains Tilapia, Sardine, and Anchovy)], Salt, Modified Food Starch, Phosphoric Acid, Garlic (Dried), Natural Flavor (Milk), Vegetable Base [Salt, Sugar, Corn Oil, Potato Flour, Onion Powder, Natural Flavor, Carrot Powder, Garlic Powder], Monosodium Glutamate, Disodium Phosphate, Titanium Dioxide, Xanthum Gum, Sorbic Acid, Spice, Carrageenan, Disodium Innosinate and Disodium Guanylate Calcium Disodium EDTA to protect flavor.
HOMEMADE DINNER: Cacio e Pepe with Kumato Tomato Salad
20 minutes, 28.6 seconds
Pasta: Trader Joe’s spaghetti, boiled in salted water.
Sauce: Olive oil, pasta water, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper.
Salad: Tomatoes, olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, sea salt.
Cacio e Pepe
Boil one package of spaghetti in salted water. In a large bowl, put 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, a few pinches of salt, and lots and lots of freshly ground pepper (thus, the pepe part of cacio e pepe). I usually do about 15 or so grinds. When the pasta is done, reserve 1/3 cup of the water, and drain the rest. Take the reserved pasta water and pour into the bowl, whisking it into the ingredients as you do, until it is emulsified. Add pasta to bowl, and toss thoroughly. When you plate it, top with more ground pepper and parmesan cheese.
[Read more →]
Tags:cacio e pepe recipe·quick dinners for kids·quick family dinner
I’ve learned the hard way that when it comes to kids, don’t make a promise you won’t be able to keep. Don’t promise a trip to Barnes and Noble this weekend if you know it’s going to take some logistical heroics to squeeze it between all the games and practices and trips to the mall to buy new boots. (Again! Why am I always buying boots?) Don’t promise you will kick the soccer ball around after work if you know it’s going to be dark outside when you get home. (They will blame you no matter how convincingly you try to explain Daylight Savings, the meeting that ran late, the train that chugged along at a snail’s pace.) Don’t promise you’ll make a cereal box village on Sunday afternoon, if you know there’s a good chance you’ll have to wrap up some last-minute work on a project due Monday and will likely respond “in a minute…in five minutes…in ten minutes…in about an hour” to the little voice that keeps asking you “Now Mom? Now Mom? Now?” and then eventually with resigned, puppy-dog disappointment, “Oh forget it.” Does anything make me feel lousier? I don’t think so.
Whatever you do, don’t promise them you’ll take part in Meatless Monday! Don’t get me wrong — it’s not that I don’t love the idea of a weekly vegetarian meal and the hugely popular initiative to get families to cut back on meat once a week – I more than love it. I embrace it! We like to do our part for the planet with plant-based dinners at least two times a week. It’s just that those dinners somehow don’t ever seem to fall on a Monday. And for my two little literalists, this is not acceptable. They don’t ever seem to give me props when we have salad pizza on Thursday or Minestrone on Sunday or Bean Cakes on Wednesday. It’s the Pomegranate-braised Pork Loin I dared to make on Monday that they remember. “Mooooom,” said one of my eco-policewomen last week, setting her fork down, leaning back, and crossing her arms. “It’s Monday! Why are we eating pork?”
So next Monday we’re having veggie Quesadillas. Because they are fast, because they are good, and because I promised.
Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
The girls aren’t goat cheese lovers, so for their quesadillas, I usually replace it with shredded cheddar or Jack.
1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup water
3 scallions (white and green parts only) chopped
6 8-inch whole wheat tortillas
4 ounces goat cheese
Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Stir in beans and mash them with a large fork. Add water and scallions and cook, stirring until most of water is absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Set a separate skillet over medium-high heat and add a little more vegetable oil. Place one tortilla in skillet, spreading about a sixth of bean filling on one side. Sprinkle a little goat cheese on top of beans and fold other half over to seal. Flip around a few times until tortillas are golden and cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a dinner plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
I served these with crispy kale, which is another way of saying I sauteed the kale in olive oil over medium-high heat, added salt, and then completely forgot about it as I was summoned to explain a bar model math problem. But you know what? The leaves turned crispy and with a little more salt, they became delicious, easy-to-eat (and easy-to-sell) kale chips.
[Read more →]
Tags:black bean quesadillas·meatless monday·quesadillas·vegetarian entrees·vegetarian recipes for kids
Every spring, growing up, my elementary school would put on a fifth grade Science Fair. They’d clear out the gym, bring in a bunch of those long cafeteria tables, and the fifth graders would file in early, groggy and grumpy, to set up their exhibits. Later that day, we’d take our places behind our posters and dioramas and baking-soda-and-vinegar volcanoes, as the rest of the school filtered through, pretending to be interested. My exhibit was a poster-board triptych about beach erosion, which is strange to me now, seeing as we lived nowhere near the beach and I gave not one fig about erosion.* The thing I remember most from that day, though, was not my lame poster or the sweet feeling of relief when the fair was finally over. What I remember most was an exhibit, a few doors down from mine, cheerily titled “Nuclear Winter.”
I wasn’t sure what nuclear winter was, exactly. Was it related to acid rain, that great scourge of the late 70s and early 80s? Was it the same thing as fallout? Would it require a bulkier winter coat? No, if this exhibit was to be believed, nuclear winter was something far, far worse. This was no shoebox diorama. This was, no exaggeration**, a 2×3 foot topographical model of a ravaged landscape. When nuclear winter came knocking, it announced, the world would turn the color of cigarette ash and bus exhaust. Human beings – those that survived – would be forced underground. The sun would be extinguished, winter settling in for the long haul. Here and there were shattered (painted plastic) tree trunks and a pile of rubble that was once a house. The boy who made the exhibit had strewn some white, stick-like things on the ground which, he said, were supposed to represent animal bones. Here was a simple law of nature that even a fifth grader could understand: without sun, there is no food; without food, everything dies. Call me sheltered, but this was a possibility I had not yet contemplated in life. What fifth grader does? Either this kid was the love child of Cormac McCarthy and Ingmar Bergman, or he was onto something real, in which case my family would need to be prepared. We had no stockpiles of food in our basement, only a workbench, a giant foam mattress, a pool table, and some old cans of Minwax. If nuclear winter hit and the animals died and our Safeway was reduced to a gray smudge, how would we survive? What would we do for food?
Thirty years later, I know exactly what I’d do: I’d head to my in-laws’.
Open the door to Jenny’s mother’s refrigerator, and this is – more or less – what you will see: very little that resembles what we think of as “groceries.” You will see orange juice and water, a tub of whipped cream cheese, and a smattering of condiments. But mainly, you will see endless bowls and plates and little glass dishes, all neatly covered in Saran Wrap, containing leftovers. A dessert plate with five green beans. A bowl with three flaccid strawberries. A plastic take-out container with two ounces of plain spaghetti, cooked, and another plastic take-out container with about four tablespoons of marinara sauce. One-third of a breaded chicken cutlet. Half a piece of French toast. A Chinese food carton containing a single piece of black-bean shrimp. A Ziploc bag containing one sad leaf of Boston lettuce. Enough hummus to satisfy a field mouse. A slice of honeydew melon, vintage unknown. None of this will go to waste, by the way. Not one bit of it will be thrown out. Everything here will be repurposed, over the coming days, into the brown bag lunches that Jenny’s mom has taken to work every day for the last 30 years. Think of it as leftover tapas. This is an actual picture I took at her house last weekend: (more…)
[Read more →]
Tags:leftover spaghetti·pantry dinner·spaghetti omelet·what to do with leftover spaghetti
I think we are way overdue for another edition of Wax-On, Wax-Off, don’t you? You know the concept, right: Once you learn how to cook something without using a recipe, you are more inclined to cook it. So taking everything you know about pasta (you can use this really helpful primer from Bon App to refresh yourself), take a look at the ingredients on the cutting board above, and maybe, if you’re a by-the-book, stick-to-the-recipe-kind of cook, try winging it tonight instead.
And of course, let me know what you come back with.
Pictured above are all the makings of an easy 20-minute dinner: Pappardelle, mushrooms, red pepper flakes, goat cheese, shallots. (Olive oil, salt, and pepper not shown.)
The mushrooms are maitake (aka hen-of-the-woods) that I picked up at the farmer’s market, but you can sub in your favorite mushrooms if maitakes are a tall order. You can also replace the pappardelle with fettucini and the goat cheese with Parm or Pecorino. The point is: Have fun, improvise, and if you screw up – who cares?
[Read more →]
In the mid-80s, after a long day of wrestling with algebra and 7th-grade-girl politics, my best friend Jeni and I would head to her house to decompress with a Ms. Pacman marathon. I remember the two of us walking into the sunny foyer of their tall Victorian, dumping our CB jackets and LeSportSacs in a big mound on the floor (so thoughtful), and then, like programmed robots who had no say in the matter, heading straight for the kitchen.
Remember when Bugs Bunny would smell something delicious and he would literally float in the air following the wafting aroma? That was what it was like walking into that house. More often than not, Jeni’s mother Rosa would be in her kitchen cooking up a roast, baking a pie, or concocting dinner from one of the stained cards or yellowed New York Times clippings that were jammed into a little wooden recipe box on the counter.
I felt so comfortable in their home that I would open the refrigerator and poke around for something to eat without even asking. Unlike in my house, where the idea of a jackpot after school snack was an Entenmann’s chocolate frosted doughnut dipped in a glass of whole milk, a jackpot at Jeni’s was a tupperware container filled with leftovers from dinner the night before. And on the best days, one of those leftovers was Rosa’s lentil salad. There was nothing terribly fancy about the recipe — it was made with lentils, scallions, peppers, and a tarragon-spiked vinaigrette — but something magical would happen overnight when all those flavors mingled. I would’ve bypassed the entire Entenmann’s section in Grand Union for a bowl of the stuff.
I probably ate the lentil salad eight hundred times in my childhood, but I don’t think one of those times was in a proper dinner table setting. The only way I can remember eating it is straight from the tupperware container, both Jeni and I sitting on the Marimekko-cushioned kitchen bench fighting each other for every last bite. And even though I’ve since made some version of the recipe in my own kitchen eight hundred times (most recently last week alongside a simple salmon), that still remains my favorite way to eat it. (more…)
[Read more →]
Tags:creative salads·lentil salad
This recipe for Potato Salad “Buttered” and Lemoned, comes from the Canal House cookbook series, volume 1, and when I first flipped through the pages and landed on the recipe, I thought something along the lines of: Holy Freaking Cow. I need to make this NOW. Who cares if it calls for preserved lemons, the recipe for which is in the section called “Why Buy it When You Can Make it,” and which, upon further inspection, would take 30 days to actually make. Who cares if, for me, NOW roughly translates to “someday when kids are bigger and I have more time, about a zillion years from now.” Well, finally, in the beginning of this summer I motivated to preserve a huge batch of lemons. Now it’s “harvest” time and I’ve been using the tart-sweet-briny bits in just about every salad that has graced the dinner table. Totally worth the wait.
And it goes without saying, that if preserved lemons are my new obsession, Canal House is my ongoing obsession. If you are not a subscriber, please remedy this immediately! (more…)
[Read more →]
Tags:canal house·preserved lemsons·summer salads
Phoebe has been on a tear in the kitchen lately. I would love to say this is due to the fact that she’s watched her parents cook every night for her whole little life, and so now, at 9 1/2, her interest in cooking has finally kicked into high gear, but I think it’s more likely due to something else: Farm Camp. She has spent the last four weeks spraying pigs to keep them cool (did you know they don’t sweat?) harvesting yellow cherry tomatoes (which we then bought at the market for $8 a box), examining microbes in the compost pile, herding sheep, and cleaning and collecting eggs. In other words, we’ve been paying for her to do slave labor.
Not really — there are, of course, other activities like soap-making, hikes around the lake, painting with egg tempera, and cooking with the farm chef — a guy named Dan. I don’t know who this Dan guy is, but he not only sent home a little packet of inspired plant-based recipes after the session ended, but he also sent home a blossoming little cook. Last week, Phoebe invited our 20-year-old neighbor/friend/babysitter for dinner and oversaw the production of a pile of Korean Pancakes for her. And when we were finished she held up the heel of a carrot and asked where we keep the compost pile. I guess I know what our next project is. (more…)
[Read more →]
Tags:how to make pa jun·korean pancakes·pa jun·pancakes for dinner·pancakes for kids·shredded spicy slaw
How…why….does one find oneself baking Bittman’s macaroni and cheese in a 425° oven on a 100° day when there is a perfectly fine box of 10-minute stovetop Annie’s Mac & Cheese in the pull-out pantry? It seemed so logical the day before when I made dinner plans out with my friend Elizabeth and her husband. I had a babysitter booked so I suggested they drop their kids at our place while the four grown-ups went out to a local Italian spot. I’ll make sure there’s dinner here for the kids, I offered. “George likes macaroni and cheese, right?”
“It’s his favorite thing,” said Elizabeth.
It’s not that I like Elizabeth more than most of my friends, but…well, maybe I do. And maybe that’s why, when she and her husband come over, I find myself splurging for the truffled Pecorino on the cheese plate instead of the aged gouda, or going out of my way to track down the delicate farmer’s market kale instead of the tougher Stop-and-Shoppy kind. Do you have friends like this? Who you want to impress? I mean, Who bring out the best in you? Everybody does, right? This is what I convinced myself when I was whisking up the bechamel at 5:00, boiling gemelli, cranking my oven past the 400-degree mark — because apparently 15 out of 20 days over 90 degrees in New York has not been hot enough for me. But, I have to say, 45 minutes later I did have a damn good looking baking dish of golden, bubbly mac-and-cheese to serve Elizabeth’s boys. So what if Elizabeth herself wouldn’t be eating it — she would see my macaroni magnum opus when she dropped them off and…I had to wonder where this thought was leading me. She’d see it and…what? Like me more? Seriously. Why? What the…? Who am I cooking for? What am I trying to prove? What is wrong with women? I don’t know a single man who would find himself in this position. Do you?
I got a call right before Elizabeth was due at my house. She was running late at work so her babysitter would drop the boys off and she would meet us at the restaurant. “Hope that’s OK!”
No. Nothing about this was OK. At all.
Mac & Cheese Notes
I follow Bittman’s recipe to the letter. Except at the end, I use my friend Kate’s trick and crumble potato chips into the bread crumb topping. Also, I like prepping the M&C in advance when I’m entertaining families — it’s a nice “bridge” dish that can be the main for the kids and a side for the grown-ups. (Especially if BBQ chicken is on the menu.) Just prepare until the point where you top with bread crumbs, then refrigerate, pull out about an hour before you want to serve, and continue with instructions.
[Read more →]
Tags:homemade macaroni and cheese·macaroni and cheese·Mark Bittman·mark bittman macaroni and cheese
This might sound paranoid, but one can never be too safe. I have this feeling that some kind of shadowy, proxy war has broken out in our house lately. It’s small, seemingly innocuous things that, when I add them up, suggest something more ominous might be afoot. It’s coming home every Saturday morning from the farmer’s market, unpacking the loot, and finding two or three large zucchinis staring up at me from the bottom of the bag, zucchinis I was not aware were purchased. (The old Trojan horse strategy.) It’s telling me, again, how popular the “green fries” post continues to be with DALS readers (so weird!), and asking me, all innocent-like, if we should throw a little zucchini on the pizza tonight before it goes bad. (Classic psy-ops technique.) It’s standing in the kitchen, and hearing you say, “Mmmm, this looks delicious, we have to make this sometime, look,” only to realize that the recipe you’re pointing to is for something called “zucchini crudo,” which, upon closer inspection, is really just raw squash, sliced thin, with a little lemon juice drizzled on top. And it’s somehow always managing to say this in front of your little agent provocateurs, who then respond, (as if) on cue, “Daddy hates zucchini!”
No, Daddy does not hate zucchini. Daddy does not have the energy to hate zucchini. Zucchini is not worthy of hate. (Garlic mashed potatoes, on the other hand…) Here’s an attempt to clarify my position, once and for all: I would never willingly choose to eat zucchini. I find zucchini bland. Bland can be okay, but I also find it kind of flaccid and soggy, and it’s that soggy, slightly gelatinous quality, that weird spongy texture, when combined with the blandness, that keeps it from rising even to the level of inoffensiveness. Zucchini, to me, is the Three and a Half Men of vegetables: Can I endure it, if absolutely necessary? Yes, I can. Do I enjoy putting it in my mouth? No, I don’t. Will I swallow it whole in order to get it down because of said mushiness issues? Yes, I will. I mean, have you ever heard anyone take a bite of zucchini, drop the fork, and say, “Holy sh@t, that zucchini is INSANE?” Because I have not. But, honestly, I feel like you know this already. We’ve been married thirteen years, and my position vis a vis zucchini has remained steadfast. (About as steadfast as your position on bell peppers and olives, for the record.) Which makes me wonder: why the renewed guerilla campaign? Why all the subterfuge? When you say you love zucchini, and resent that you hardly ever get to eat it anymore because I don’t really like it: what, exactly, do you love about it? Help me out here. I want to know. Or is this, getting back to the proxy war thing, not about zucchini?
[Read more →]
Tags:zucchini bread recipe·zucchini crudo·zucchini dinner ideas·zucchini recipes for kids
And by that question I mean, is it easier for families to get everyone around the table at the same time eating the same thing first thing in the morning — before the playdates and the meetings and the deadlines conspire to pull everyone in different directions?
In case you can’t tell by now, we’re big fans of a shared meal at the end of the day. But that’s most likely because, after a few harrowing years with apron-hangers and witching-hours babies, we’ve found our dinner rhythm. We know the meals we can make blindfolded. We know what kind of surgery — rice removal surgery — has to be performed on the porcupine meatballs in order for Phoebe to eat them. But if morning is the best time for your family to unplug and connect — what’s stopping you from declaring breakfast the new family dinner? Actuallly….What’s stopping you from declaring the all-parties-present road trip or bike ride or the weekend hike the new family dinner?
For all of our inspired steaks and salads, we here at DALS haven’t yet cracked the breakfast code. Every week at Trader Joe’s we beg the girls to keep breakfast in mind as they shop — we will buy them anything if it doesn’t fall into the starch-fest category, aka pancakes, bagels, waffles, french toast, aka their morning-time default mode. (Our morningtime default mode: Smoothies, which the girls go back and forth craving and rejecting.) But no matter how many cartons of strawberry yogurt and granola we lug home, we’re usually back to our pancake routine by Wednesday. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll have Nigella’s homemade mix in the countertop canister, but it’s usually Trader’s buttermilk batter we’re shaping into silver dollars and the girls’ initials. If we’re going to have the same thing every day, might as well make it interesting.
Initial Pancakes (shown above) I find they turn out better when you drizzle the letter into the pan in its mirror image and then flip to its correct positioning.
Fakey Crepey Remember when we handed the girls ten bucks and challenged them to find something new at the farmer’s market? The first time they came back with lavendar honey and two sourdough rolls. The second time, they wisened up and found the newest vendor at the market: they found the crepe guy. With his French accent, twirly wand, and charming little cones, I am no match for him, but I make what Abby now calls my “Fakey Crepey,” achieved by thinning out my pancake batter with milk, then smearing Nutella across the middle. It ain’t Paris, but it’ll do for now.
Silver Dollar Stack A perennial favorite in my house. (How could it not be?) The trick is to pile the tiny cakes as dramatically high as possible.
Nine Years. Nine Blueberries When I was six, I made my mother insert six blueberries into my pancake. When I turned seven, I made her insert seven. The ritual continued for an embarrassingly long time. When I told Phoebe about it, she responded “Grandma better get ready to make you a big pancake next time!” And then: “Make me one with nine!”
[Read more →]
Tags:creative breakfasts for kids·fun pancakes for kids·healthy breakfast for kids·pancakes·pancakes for kids
It’s not like I stay up at night wondering how I’m going to get my kids to eat eggplant, but when the situation presents itself — in the form of an enormous garden-fresh farm share delivery — I’d be crazy not to try right? On Wednesday, Andy and I both came home from work later than we wanted to and found ourselves, drink in hand, pondering a mound of misshapen cucumbers, onions, chard, zucchini, parsley, stone fruits (jackpot!), and deep purple little eggplants that our neighbor, who’s traveling, asked us to claim in her absence.
“Should we go veg tonight?” Andy asked.
“Definitely,” I said, examining the loot. “I’ll take the eggplant, you take the chard.”
Andy broke out the smoked paprika, attacked an onion in record speed, and before I knew it the Dutch Oven was filled to the rim with confetti’d chard. I did what I always do when there’s even a question that the girls will approach a new food with skepticism:
1) I set up dredging stations (egg, flour, breadcrumbs) and start frying.
2) I put off the girls’ requests for chips and salsa before dinner — hunger being the best sauce and all.
3) I do whatever I can to transform the new-food-in-question into pizza.
Did it work? Yes. They inhaled the things like wild beasts. Can I check off “eggplant” on my mental checklist of “foods they like.” Hmm. Not yet. As I’m not entirely convinced they knew they were eating it. (more…)
[Read more →]
Tags:eggplant for kids·eggplant parmesan·vegetarian·vegetarian dinners for kids
You know when you go to someone’s house for dinner and they seem to have it all together? One of the hosts is mixing you a drink and asking your children about camp while the other is sipping a glass of Prosecco, tossing some sort of delicious summery salad, listening intently to what you are saying, and showing no outward sign of doing what I often feel myself doing — which is pretend to listen intently to what you are saying while mostly worrying about the fact that — s#@t! – I forgot to make the g@#$*%n salad dressing! I should probably not admit this in a public space that is accessible by public…people, but I very much aspire to be the confident, nonchalant host who, when cooking for a large group of guests, can wing it without stressing. I’ve been aspiring for about fifteen years now.
But in those fifteen years, I’ve discovered something about myself. I am not a wing-it kind of person. I like to have a plan. This diagnosis probably gets to the root of my dinner diary pathology and my contract-drafting habit. And it is (more…)
[Read more →]
Tags:entertaining families·family entertaining ideas·guacamole recipe
When it comes to summer cooking, we have a pretty strict family policy: Do everything you can to avoid turning on an oven. Which is all well and good except that it clashes with our other family policy: Eat pizza once a week. By pizza, we don’t mean the takeout pie from Tony’s on Main Street or the personal pans the kids get on Fridays at the school cafeteria. We’re talking pizza – made, when possible, with a homemade crust — that may or may not include cheese, is topped with fresh ingredients (potatoes and bacon, arugula and ricotta), and can bring even the most reluctant eater (e.g., Abby) to her little knees with gratitude. In our minds, pizza is the ultimate family dinner – you can have three entirely separate meals on one crust and still, if you close your eyes, pretend that you’re all eating the same thing. But to keep our strict family pizza policy intact this summer, we had to learn how to do it without turning on the oven. We had to learn to cook it outside. This took some doing. We burned a lot of crusts, and yet, we fought on, grilling pizza after pizza after pizza until we got it right. Here is what we learned.
HOW TO GRILL PIZZA: SIX VERY IMPORTANT RULES
1. Oil Everything. If the crust sticks to the grate, you’re done. Avoid this by brushing the grate and both sides of the crust with olive oil. (more…)
[Read more →]
Abby: Mom, what’s for dinner?
Me: Grilled cheese!
Abby: For dinner????
Me: Yes! On the grill!
Abby: What? The grill?
Me: Yes! And without bread!
Abby: What the…let me get this straight. Grilled cheese made outside on the grill with no bread? For…dinner?
Me: You got it. And we’ll have some chicken and vegetables on the side. (more…)
[Read more →]
Tags:grilled haloumi·grilled vegetables with haloumi·how to grill haloumi
It’s Mother’s Day morning, and Jenny is standing over me with her iPhone, timing me as I type this. The goal is to write this post in seven and a half minutes or less, which is exactly how long it took us to get this dinner going the other night. So: have you had ramps before? We hadn’t either, as of three or four years ago. Were they the same thing as garlic scapes? Were they spring onions? Did you have to cook them first? All we knew was, they were one of those slightly mysterious things we’d heard serious food types talk about rapturously every spring, but we’d never willingly eaten one, let alone cooked one in the comfort of our own home. Thanks to some generous friends upstate, who happen to have them growing all over their yard, all that has now changed, and we’re here to say: ramps freakin’ rule. They’re a fleeting, fragrant, oniony-garlicky vegetable, also known as the wild leek, that pop ups every spring for a few weeks (if you’re lucky) and then disappears. They look kind of delicate, like green feathers, but don’t be fooled; these things announce themselves, flavor-wise. We’re now among the geeks who look forward to their arrival, spend time tracking them down, and then eat as much of them as humanly possible over their limited engagement in our lives. (Jenny just announced that I am about to pass the five-minute mark. “Hurry,” she says.) Anyway, ramps: They’re embarrassingly (more…)
[Read more →]