Entries Tagged as 'Quick'
Last Thursday night I called Andy from the parking lot of a school. It was 7:45 PM. I was waiting for my 10-year-old to get out of soccer practice, held in the school’s gym. It was frigid. I was starving.
“What’s for dinner?”
I heard Keith Richards’ guitar in the background and some ice clinking in what I rightly guessed was a Manhattan.
“Some chicken with lemon, wine…” Clink, clink. “…Capers. Goin’ old School.” Clink. “Barley salad. Slaw.”
He was alone in the house cooking. Our 11-year-old wasn’t coming home until 8:15.
“I am so f-ing starving.”
What I love: That my daughters play sports. That they play soccer. That they have great coaches and great teammates. That I can watch them get stronger, better, faster almost before my eyes. That they play year-round. That they play year-round in freezing-cold bubbled domes, and public-school no-frills gyms and, unlike their mother, it doesn’t occur to them to complain. Ever.
What I don’t love: That practice times are creeping later and later. That, in fact, the other night we reached a milestone in our house: The dinner table had been cleared, the tomato-sauce-smeared plates loaded into the dishwasher, the dog walked, the lights (mostly) turned off while we headed upstairs to read in bed — and Phoebe was still not home from soccer practice. She was dropped off at 9:40 by the sainted parent of a teammate. Her dinner, a bowl of pea soup with crusty bread, had been consumed at 6:30, before practice, which started at 7:30 across the county.
I am not complaining. Nor will I tolerate a single person who tells me that we are idiots for getting ourselves into this predicament. I firmly believe that what my kids are learning being part of a team is every bit as valuable as what they are learning at our dinner table. And I firmly reserve the right to change my mind when it starts happening more than once a week. (Hello lacrosse season!)
So like every dinner obstacle before this one, we are adjusting. But if I was competing against extracurriculars for victory over weeknight dinnertime, the score right now would be Dinner: 4, Activities: 1. In my book — in any book — that’s a Win.
Plus, Andy got an hour to cook dinner while savoring a drink, without feeling like the game clock was ticking the whole time. And we all got to come home to Old School Chicken.
Old School Chicken with Lemon and Capers
4 medium chicken breasts, pounded, salted and peppered
few glugs of olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1-2 pats butter
juice from 1 lemon
Brown chicken in olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Remove chicken, add a little more olive oil to the pan and turn down heat to medium-low. And add onions and cook until slightly softened. Add wine, broth, and lemon juice to the pan, and then chicken. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover until chicken is cooked through and liquid is slightly thicker. Swirl in butter, add capers and serve.
Andy served with barley salad that had been tossed with arugula, grape tomatoes, feta, and vinaigrette.
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Time for another round of crowd-sourced inspiration! Here’s the question I posed to you all via facebook the other day: ”I have at least half a rotisserie chicken in the fridge at home that I have to use tonight or forever regret tossing it. How would you stretch it into dinner?” A few hours later I was faced with an embarrassment of riches — There were almost 150 directions I could’ve taken. My faves:
1. Pot Pies, Tacos, and Enchiladas seemed to be the default direction for 50% of you.
2. From Sally: “Lettuce Wraps: Shred, layer with cilantro, pickled onions, cucumber, and hot chilis on a lettuce leaf. Wrap in rice paper wrapper that has been dunked in warm water for a second. Wrap, roll, and dip in a garlic chili lime sauce. Easy, engages the whole table, and super fresh.”
3. From Adina: “Burrito Bowls, every time!”
4. From Naria: “Curry Chicken Salad, crunchy bread, hearty green salad.”
5. From Cheryl: “My favorite Chicken Salad. So nice to have a simple cook night. Chicken with a light coating of mayonnaise, halved red grapes, salt & pepper to taste, and roasted cashew halves served on top so they keep their crunch. Eat with lettuce as wraps or on a nice rosemary bread.”
6. From Ada-Marie “Orzo cooked in chicken broth and a little butter; mix in chicken, frozen peas, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, shake of oregano. We call this Easy Peasey Cheesey Chicken Orzo.”
7. From A Bowl Full of Simple: Summer Rolls
8. From Molly: “Obviously, you have to make Indonesian Chicken Salad.”
9. From Jorena: “Avgolemeno.”
10. From Alex: “Cold Ginger Peanut Noodles with sliced cucumber, green onions, and chicken.”
That last one from Alex was exactly what I was in the mood for. But instead of making a peanut sauce, like I usually do (See page 261, Dinner: A Love Story) I decided to put my ponzu to use:
Ponzu Noodles with Chicken
1) I whisked together about 1/3 cup ponzu sauce, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, a dash of fish sauce, a teaspoon of Sriracha, a squeeze of lime, few drops of sesame oil.
2) Boiled 3/4 pound of soba noodles, drained, then (in same pot) sauteed minced scallions, garlic, and ginger in a little grapeseed oil (you can use vegetable oil) before tossing the noodles back in to the pot with chopped up CSA green beans, chicken, chopped cilantro and mint, and the ponzu dressing. I really wished I had cukes or chopped peanuts — that would’ve been killer. It was missing the crunch factor.
3) I reserved a little of the chicken for Phoebe, who doesn’t like noodles in any form, and made a quick chicken salad for her with mayo, mustard, salt, pepper and a little curry powder (thanks Naria!) Green beans on the side.
And that was dinner. Thanks for the help everyone!
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Tags:ponzu noodles with chicken·rotisserie chicken·what to do with rotisserie chickens
It will not come as a surprise to anyone out there that I love my freezer. There is no greater mom-porn moment for me than transferring a big batch frozen pork ragu to the fridge before work, knowing that by the time I walk in the door at dinnertime, it will be thawed, and all I have to do is boil some rigatoni to make dinner happen.
But recently, I’ve started to do things a little differently, and I know this might be a hard concept to get your head around, but it has made me love my freezer even more. Why? Because I’ve started to freeze in single-serving batches.
Now, you might be wondering, this is a blog devoted to family dinner. In theory, the four of us are always sitting around the table at the same time eating the exact same thing. When on earth would we have any use for a single-serving meal?
I am so glad you asked! Three scenarios come to mind immediately:
Scenario 1: Babysitter Night
The grown-ups are going out to dinner, the kids are staying home. Having single-serve homemade meal at-the-ready makes it much easier to not reach for the Trader Joe’s frozen chicken pot pies, which are ridiculously addictive (read: salty), but let’s face it, not exactly healthy. As for cooking a fresh meal for them before I go out to dinner? Nuh-uh. That’s the whole point of going out — so I have a night off.
What to have at the ready: Four or five turkey Meatballs (frozen in a little sauce) and a baguette that’s been sliced up into sandwich-size pieces. Both in BPA-free ziptop bags. Combine for Turkey Meatball Sandwiches (pictured above).
To reheat meatballs: Run bag under slightly warm water to get started on thawing, then dump into medium pot over low heat with a little water, covered. Usually ready in about 15 minutes.
Scenario 2: Entertaining Families
When we’re having people over, we do our best to find out ahead of time who’s kosher, who’s Paleo, who skips gluten, whose vegan, which kid has sworn off pig this week — but it’s hard to keep up with all the dietary restrictions these days. It’s nice to be able to pull something homemade out of the freezer and tell the guest “It’s no problem at all! Now go have another glass of wine.”
What to have at the ready: Minestrone, frozen in single-serve batches in BPA-free ziptop bags. If you skip the bacon, it’s the most indulgent vegetarian (vegan actually) meal I know. The only problem is that it might end up showing up the main event.
To reheat: Run bag under slightly warm water to thaw, dump into medium pot over low heat with a little water, breaking up as much as you can. Cover. Usually ready in about 15 minutes.
Scenario 3: Protester at the Table
As you know, I’ve never been much of a stickler for the rule that everyone has to eat the exact same thing at dinner. I’ve served Abby a peanut butter sandwich while the rest of us eat steak (she no longer eats beef), I’ve served Phoebe a PJ Frozen Burrito while the rest of us eat pasta (she has never eaten pasta). I’ve heated up a Trader Joe’s frozen pizza for the girls when it’s late and all I want in the world is fast, farm-fresh omelet with good cheddar (neither of them will touch eggs). My philosophy, which you will not find validated in any picky eater expert book (nor by any parents of 3+ kids), is basically “If it means the dinner table is a pleasant place, and you’re not short-order cooking every night, well then who the heck cares if you have to spread some PB&J on bread?” Having a serves-one dinner in the freezer just lets you upgrade that PB&J a bit.
What to have at the ready: Chili and Cornbread Freeze single serve batches of chili in individual BPA-free ziptop bags. For the cornbread, cut into squares and store all of them in one large ziptop freezer bag.
To reheat: Run bag of chili under slightly warm water to thaw a bit, dump into medium pot over low heat with a little water, breaking up as much as possible. Cover. Usually ready in about 15 minutes. To reheat cornbread, wrap in foil and heat in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes.
I am your loyal freezer meatballs, ready to serve when you need me.
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Tags:freezable dinners·freezer meals
“Make Dinner Not War,” huh? The pacifist ethos may look good on a bumper sticker, and it may reign supreme at our family dinner table, but when it comes to, say, girls’ soccer or beach-kadima-fer-chrisskes or routinely kicking her husband’s arse in a “friendly” game of Clue? Jenny is not to be trifled with. It’s why I hesitate to tell her my top score in Ruzzle, because I know it’s only a matter of time before she borrows my phone — and then hands it back fifteen minutes later, having destroyed my record. It’s why I stopped playing tennis with her, lo these many years ago. We’d be hitting the ball around like normal husbands and wives and the moment would come when she’d walk up to the net and ask, casually tucking a ball into the pocket of her shorts, “Wanna play a few games?” Like an idiot, I’d say yes. And suddenly, she couldn’t miss. Every shot: in. Every impossible angle: not impossible, apparently! I’d hit the ball as hard as I could, and it would come back harder. I’m worried, as I write this, that Jenny is going to come off as too Tiger Mom-ish, that she only cares about winning, which is not really true. So I’ll put it this way: Jenny would rather win than lose. And she usually does, too.
The key word here is usually.
Last Saturday, we picked up some fresh striped bass from our fish guy at the farmer’s market. I drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and as I was going outside to fire up the grill, Jenny said she’d be in charge of making a blender sauce for the fish. A blender sauce with roasted red peppers and walnuts and something else I can’t quite remember, because the truth is, I stopped listening as soon I heard roasted red peppers and walnuts. I must have made an expression that gave me away.
“What?” she said. “You don’t think that sounds good?”
“No, no,” I said. “It sounds really good. It’s just that this fish is so fresh, I don’t know if we need it. I was thinking of something a little lighter and cleaner-tasting.”
“Like, with those tomatoes we got today or something. A tomato coulis. Is that the right word? Tomato coulis?”
“I have no idea,” she said. “How about I make mine and you make yours, and we’ll have a taste -off.”
Dinner as competitive sport: This is what passes for fun in the DALS house on a Saturday night. We retreated to our respective corners — Jenny with the blender, me with the mini-Cuisinart — and worked in silence, as serious as monks. We roped the kids in at some point, too — appointing them as the official arbiters, a role they naturally cherish — and put a dollop of both sauces on every plate. After a few bites and some mindful chewing, everybody weighed in. The results, I do not regret to say, were clear: The tomato sauce. In a walk. Even Jenny conceded it was better, and you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that doesn’t happen much around here. Victory at last!
The truth is, Jenny’s sauce was better than mine, more sophisticated, more interesting. Add some feta and it’d be an amazing dip, served with pita chips and some gherkins. It would also have been fantastic with grilled chicken. But with fish this fresh, just off the grill, on a beautiful late summer night? Nuh-uh. Not in my house. – Andy
In a blender, whirl together:
2 roasted red peppers (halve, brush with olive oil, and broil for 20 minutes; then remove pith and peel off skin. I used the ones from our CSA, which aren’t too big — medium-size, I’d say)
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon balsamic (wished we had red wine vinegar)
Small handful walnuts
Salt & pepper
Squeeze of Sriracha
In a food processor, whirl together until emulsified:
Couple of handfuls fresh grape tomatoes (I used red and yellow)
Few generous glugs of olive oil
Juice from 1/2 lime OR 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Two basil leaves
Squeeze of Sriracha
Salt & pepper, to taste
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A few Augusts ago, my friends Jeni and Ben and their three kids came to visit us. They live on the Upper West Side, which is only about a 20-minute drive from my house, and yet, with full-time jobs and full-time families (their oldest daughter was about 4 which would make her twins 2, and my kids were 6 and 4), we had the hardest time coordinating get-togethers. (You know that famous New Yorker cartoon, “How about never — does never work for you?” That was us.) Well, on this particular occasion, we had by some miracle figured out a time that worked for a drive-by. It was a Saturday — couldn’t do lunch (soccer practice, naps) couldn’t do dinner (twins’ bedtime looming) so we settled on the somewhat odd, not-quite-cocktail-hour of 5:00.
“Just stay for dinner,” I told her when she called that morning.
“No no no,” she said .”Please don’t do anything.”
“But it’s no trouble.”
“Just trust me. It’s more stressful if I try to feed the kids there. Please don’t worry!”
I agreed begrudgingly. But then I hit the farmer’s market where, of course I was bamboozled by my daughters into buying a container of BuddhaPesto. The stuff is so good. I mean, so so good and leprechaun green and fresh you just can’t believe it. (The Times‘ Jeff Gordinier was similarly smitten last summer.) And, since it was August, there were tomatoes. The kind of tomatoes you dream of all year long. Striped, heirloom, green, gold, cherry, plum, little, big, blistered, exploding. The kind of tomatoes you slice at dinnertime, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, and then back away from. Because to do anything more, to add anything else, would be to incur the wrath of the tomato gods…or me, for that matter.
The thing is, I never promised Jeni and Ben I wouldn’t cook for them. Just the kids. So at some point during the course of the family’s two-hour cameo — at which point I think every single toy in the toy box had been removed and discarded on the floor by five gleeful children – I plopped two dinner plates on the table for the grown-ups. Spaghetti tossed with that BuddhaPesto, and slices of heirloom tomatoes (salted, oil-drizzled) that looked like they should’ve been painted by Cezanne. (I can brag about that because I had absolutely nothing to do with it. They came that way.)
You know the Virginia Lee Burton book The Little House about the cottage that stands peacefully still as construction and skyscrapers and general chaos looms all around. That’s how I picture Jeni and Ben eating that dinner. I will never forget how grateful two people could look eating the world’s simplest summer meal, as five screeching kids launched into their fifteenth game of Elefun in the living room.
Jeni tried to fight it, but was powerless in the face of the tomatoes.
“I told you not to do anything,” she attempted weakly.
“I didn’t. I boiled a pot of water. That was the extent of my cooking.”
“But you did! Look at this.”
I guess. But, I reminded her, it doesn’t take much.
Spaghetti with Pesto and Summer Tomatoes
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water. Toss pasta with a little olive oil while it sits in the colander. Add prepared pesto (the freshest you can find, such as BuddhaPesto) to the same pot you boiled spaghetti in and whisk in a drizzle of pasta water until it’s saucy, but not watery. Add pasta back to the pot and toss. Serve garnished with freshly grated Parmesan.
While spaghetti cooks, slice summer tomatoes onto a plate. Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of the best olive oil you’ve got, sprinkle with sea salt (and pepper, if you must) and serve alongside pasta.
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Tags:buddha pesto·quick family dinner·tomato recipes for kids
Every year, right around this time, Jenny and I have the same conversation. We will have just finished dinner, and the kids will have disappeared upstairs to take baths or be mad because we are forcing them to take baths even though just they took baths last night, and Jenny will turn to me and say, “I think I could be a vegetarian.” And I am right there with her. Because (a) I like vegetables*, and (b) when this conversation takes place, we are inevitably transitioning from the gray of winter to the technicolor of prime produce season, when the carrots taste like carrots and the beets are like dessert and the kids can easily snack their way through a pint of snap peas, sitting in a bowl on the counter, in the course of a single afternoon.
It’s kind of crazy how a giant box of fresh produce — from the farmer’s market, a CSA or, if we were better people, from our backyard — in the refrigerator can reset your magnetic north (chicken, must have chicken, what can we do with chicken, remember to defrost chicken) when it comes to family dinner and just, in general, get the inspiration juices flowing again. The other day, as I was sitting at my desk, Jenny texted me a photo of some sick-a#s produce, along with a challenge: “What’s for dinner?” Not to go all Alice Waters on you here, but I let the green stuff be my guide. The truth is, you could throw any of this stuff in a bowl with a light dressing, some salt and pepper, and it would taste good. Apart from the roasting of the beets, nothing we did took longer than 15 minutes, start to finish — and the beets, if I’d been smart enough to plan ahead, could easily have been prepared the day before. Which is what I will do next time, because they were the best thing on the plate by far.
“The beets were the star,” Jenny said.
“Phoebe, what’d you think?” I asked.
“Yeah, good,” she said. “Can I have Oreos on my sundae?”
It was after this meal, as we were cleaning up, that Jenny turned to me and said she thought she could be a vegetarian. Will we ever do it? Who knows. It’s possible. That’s a conversation that, for now, gets derailed by Abby’s love of bacon… and Phoebe’s attachment to cheeseburgers… and that also might ultimately be contingent on fish also being in the mix, given our attachments. But what would definitely help speed our conversion along is if I inherited a fertile plot of land in, say, Northern California that would supply us with fresh produce all year round, or at the very least, if this CSA deal could be extended, ad infinitum, until I am old and sick to death of beets. Short of that, we’ll have to see. – Andy
*Except for zucchini.
This is the photo Jenny emailed me: A sampling of our idiot-proof raw materials — tiny Napoli carrots, dragon radishes, kohlrabi, Oregon giant snow peas, super sugar snap peas, red ace beets, and an herb called winter savory. And this is what we ended up having for dinner… (more…)
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The Order of Events
5:30 About to leave for Phoebe’s last lacrosse game of the season; realize I have not thought about dinner for one second. Do quick scan of fridge, see big bouquet of wilting CSA mint sitting in cup of water, screaming “Now or never!” It’s summer and summer + mint immediately sends me in the direction of peas. Yes! A bag of Trader Joe’s peas in the freezer. Leave on counter to thaw. Head out the door.
6:30-7:30 Game a total nail-biter. Would’ve loved to end season on a win — instead added a notch in the “L” column. Whole team fought so hard. 8 to 7. So close!
7:45 Walk in the door. Water goes on stovetop for boiling. Andy adds thawed peas and mint and everything else into blender. I assemble a turkey-and-cheese sandwich for the resident pasta hater. My sweaty, battered Left Attack takes a shower.
8:05 Milk poured. Pasta twirled. Picture snapped. Dinner served.
Spaghetti with Mint-Pea Pesto
This is a feel-your-way kind of recipe. We agreed after the fact that we should’ve used a food processor instead of a blender — because it helps to have the pulse option to control the consistency. Also: If you don’t want to serve this with pasta, just skip the thinning out part and spread on a baguette, Todd-style.
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (I used 3/4 of the bag you see above)
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, washed
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parm, plus more for serving
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Whirl remaining ingredients (except spaghetti) in a food processor. Taste and adjust as you go. (Don’t overprocess or it will be too emulsified.) Consistency should be somewhere in between smooth and chunky guacamole.
Add pasta to the pot and about half way through cooking it, scoop out about a cup of hot water. Set aside. Drain pasta once cooked. Scrape pea mixture into the empty hot pot, then start drizzling reserved pasta water into the dip, whisking until it has the consistency of a creamy sauce. Toss pasta in sauce and serve with freshly grated Parm and some torn mint leaves if you’re feeling fancy.
Note: This was written on Thursday so “last night” in the title refers to Wednesday. In case anyone out there is fact-checking.
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Tags:mint pea pesto·quick summer meals·spaghetti with mint pea pesto·summer pasta·what to do with mint
Sometimes I fantasize about grocery shopping with my food heroes. I don’t mean Jamie Oliver and Marcella Hazan — though certainly I wouldn’t turn them down. I mean healthy, wholesome-minded moms like Alana and Jeanne. I have never even met these women, but based on their books and blogs, I feel certain that they’d make me see Trader Joe’s in a totally new and fresh way. (And that I wouldn’t end up with three separate white-bread products in my cart.) If I wore my Alana or Jeanne goggles before I went to the farmer’s market, I feel like I might actually come home with something outside my comfort zone, and as a result feel healthy and virtuous and heroic 24/7…just like them. (Right Alana & Jeanne?)
Well, in a way, I’ve done the next best thing: I’ve signed up for a CSA vegetable share with Stone Barns Center. Which is sort of like saying that I’ve signed up the girls for a soccer camp run by Alex Morgan. Stone Barns is an 80-acre farm in Pocantico Hills, NY that supplies Dan Barber’s restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Their mission, beyond growing ridiculously delicious vegetables, is to educate the public about sustainability, and to get people cooking their own food. The people know what they are doing, and I’ll be blogging for them to help spread the word.
Based on the emails I get from you guys (Summary: Why don’t you join a CSA? Why haven’t you joined a CSA? Have you thought about joining a CSA? What the heck is wrong with you that a food lover like you hasn’t joined a CSA yet?) it sounds like a lot of you know what this means. For those of you who don’t, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and in return for a modest investment in a farm, you receive a box of fresh, in-season produce from that farm for a set amount of weeks. The price varies depending on length of the program and the amount of produce in each delivery, but it can go anywhere from $20 a week and up to $50. (The one I signed up for is about $40, which is a little more than I drop at my farmer’s market every Saturday.) I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on why the whole thing is a win-win: It’s a great way to eat local on autopilot, to support farmers, and be part of something a little bigger than the four walls of my kitchen.
But the best part about it so far? Well, by definition, it means that someone else is picking out what my vegetable adventure for the week would be. Not Alana or Jeanne, but someone who, presumably, wouldn’t come home with mostly kale and beets all spring in spite of saying to herself before every trip to the farmer’s market, Let’s see if we can come home with something other than kale and beets today. Every week will be like I’m shopping with someone new — like I’m wearing someone else’s market goggles.
I guess you could say that I am forcing myself to accept the advice that I’ve been doling out to my kids ever since they could process English: Eat more vegetables. Try something new. How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it? And I’m hoping you guys are up for the adventure, too. The photo above shows the vegetables that arrived in my first batch on Thursday afternoon and what my initial visions for each one was. But that’s seeing the box through my goggles. What about you? When you put on your market goggles, what do you see?
Clockwise from top left: Seared Tofu with Sauteed Cabbage and Sriracha (recipe below; Sriracha not shown); Grilled Chicken Salad for Everyone; Something I really really like the sound of: Kohlrabi-Carrot Fritters; and shredded Portugese Kale and diced kohlrabi get ready to be turned into slaw. (Recipe follows)
RECIPE 1: Kale Slaw with Pomegranates*
Portugese kale, which was the kind I got in the box, was much more tender than the Lacinato/Tuscan I’m used to. So it needed a little texture to balance out the floppiness. Enter Kohlrabi! Crunchy and fresh, it was the perfect hit of texture.
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
salt to taste
1 teaspoon fish sauce (available at Asian specialty stores and better supermarkets)
lime juice from half a lime
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (crucial)
1 drop of hot sauce (or 1 tsp minced jalapeno or serrano chile)
1/3 cup neutral oil like grapeseed or vegetable oil
1/2 head of kohlrabi, peeled and diced into small pieces
handful of pomegranate seeds
kale, shredded as shown above (bottom left corner)
Whisk dressing ingredients together and toss with the remaining ingredients.
RECIPE 2: Quick-seared Tofu on Wilted Cabbage with Sriracha
I had this for lunch, so serving size here is one. Obviously, it can be doubled or quadrupled to work for your family. You know, since my recipes are so precise.
Add peanut or vegetable oil to a skillet set over medium-high heat. Dredge one playing-card size slice of extra firm tofu (about 3/4 inch thick, pressed on paper towels under a heavy pan for about 20 minutes) in a little flour that has been sprinkled with Chinese Five Spice (optional) salt, and pepper. Add tofu to the pan and fry without poking until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes. Flip and repeat. Remove from pan. Turn heat down to medium add 2 tablespoons chopped onion, shake of red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger (optional) and diced cabbage (“Minuet Napa Cabbage,” as it was called). Add a small drizzle of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. A squeeze of lime. Taste and see how you like it. (You don’t want to overwhelm these already flavorful greens with strong flavors.) Cook until just barely wilted, about 1 minute. Serve with prepared tofu, a sprinkling of sesame seeds (optional), some snipped garlic chives (or regular chives) and a drizzle of Sriracha.
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Tags:csa·kohlrabi recipe ideas·stone barns csa
We’re not a camping family. Or maybe, to be fair, we’re not camping parents. We’ve done it a couple of times, for one night, and I wouldn’t say we excelled at it. I’d say we survived it. The ground was too hard. The birds were chirping too loudly. Our sleeping bags were too hot, but our ears were too cold. The bugs were bad and refused to keep a respectful distance. We went to bed smelling like lakewater and campfire, and woke up smelling like lakewater and campfire — and we would have done something about this had there been a shower within a mile of our campsite. Also, the bottom of our tent was sandy.
Camping may not be our thing, but we do love to be outside, and to hike, and there’s no day trip our kids love more than the walk up Anthony’s Nose, about an hour north of our house. We started doing this hike when the kids were in backpacks, unable to make it up themselves, and ten years later, here we are — the parents — calling for water breaks and bringing up the rear. You can have your dafodils and your exploding magnolia trees and your thick golden blankets of pollen: In our house, nothing says spring has sprung like a trip up Anthony’s Nose on a beautiful warm day, the sky so blue it looks pixellated and the river, muddied from spring storms, churning its way south to New York City. After admiring the view, we sit and have a picnic on the summit, perched on a giant, sloping slab of granite, overlooking the Bear Mountain Bridge with what seems like the entire Hudson Valley sprawled out before us. Yesterday, we sat out there for an hour and had sandwiches made from weekend leftovers — breaded chicken breasts, sliced on the bias, with Duke’s mayo; grilled leg of lamb, sliced thin, with a little dijon; some bulgur salad with feta, tomatoes, and mint — as a DIY American flag, which was tied to a fallen tree limb, hung with what looked like Buddhist prayer flags, and held upright by a pile of rocks, flapped in the breeze. Memorial Day! We picked out some landmarks, including the nuclear plant at Indian Point and the ice rink down below us, at Bear Mountain, that we go to during the winter, and from which we always stop and look up and say, “Look, there’s Anthony’s Nose. See it? Those rocks up there?” And as we say that, we’re usually freezing our butts off, longing for that first warm day when we can get up there and have our picnic and feel the sun and watch the summer roll in. – Andy
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Tags:anthonys nose·easy lunch ideas·picnic lunch
Before this blog, before my diary. Before the phrase “cut and paste” conjured up anything more than scissors and glue, there was my spiral black kitchen book. The book is filled with recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers that I felt were manageable for someone like me — a twenty-something recent college grad whose spice rack contained three things: salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Those of you who’ve read Dinner: A Love Story won’t be surprised to hear that most of the sepia-toned, peeling-at-the-corners clippings come from the New York Times Dining pages. The reporters who wrote for that section in the 90s were my rock stars (Marian Burros, Amanda Hesser, Rozanne Gold, Mark Bittman, Ruth Reichl) and I’d look forward to Wednesday, the day “Dining” was published, the way most of my newly workforce-embedded friends looked forward to Happy Hour on Fridays.
One of the recipes glued (literally glued) in there is a Bittman classic from his “Minimalist” column. My scissors practically walked themselves to the newspaper as soon as I read the title: “Chicken with Rice, the Easy Way.” (I have always been a sucker for simplicity.) And last weekend, when I came upon it, I couldn’t believe I’d never pointed you in its direction until now. It strikes me as the perfect dinner for new cooks, new parents, and new toddlers experimenting with new foods. The best thing about a dinner like this, is that once you master the framework, it becomes endlessly customizable — one of those recipes that you forgot ever had a recipe. You can stir in cooked sausage crumbles or asparagus, green peas, sugar snap peas, green beans, mushrooms, or freshly grated Parm during the last few minutes of cooking. You can add ginger and a little red curry paste to the onions, mix in coconut milk with the broth, then finish with lime instead of lemon. Some cilantro instead of parsley. This week, fifteen years after cutting and pasting the recipe into my files, some version of it is on my line-up, for sure.
Chicken and Rice
From Mark Bittman’s “Minimalist” column, New York Times. I’m guessing you have everything you need for it in the pantry and fridge right this very second. Pictured above: My little black book of recipes covered with business cards from restaurants.
2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, about 8 ounces, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 cups white rice (such as long-grain, jasmine or basmati — brown rice takes longer to tenderize and you don’t want to overcook your chicken)
handful herbs, chopped
juice from 1/2 a lemon
Bring broth and one cup of water to a boil. While you are waiting for it to boil, add olive oil to a large skillet (that has a lid) set over medium-high heat. Add onions, salt and pepper. Cook until onions soften, about 4 minutes.
Add rice to the pan and stir until each grain is covered in oil. Nestle chicken in rice, add salt and pepper, then pour in the broth (or water). Reduce heat to medium-low and cover.
Cook 2o minutes, until all water is absorbed and chicken is cooked through. Garnish with parsley and a squeeze of lemon.
Inside the book: Recipes I made (and still make) all the time (left) next to recipes that were complete failures, and that I only ever made once (right).
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It’s too embarrassing to admit how many times I’ve picked up a block of extra firm tofu at The Trader Joe’s Sunday Shop, only to have it end up, four weeks later, in the garbage can of good intentions. Nonetheless, this past weekend, I tossed one into the cart, avoiding eye contact with my husband who would no doubt be happy to point out my current 0-and-5 bean curd record. Why does it go to waste every time? Why do I have such a hard time figuring out what to do with it? Well, in addition to the big huge minus of the kids not fully embracing tofu (“It’s like a wet flavorless marshmallow,” Phoebe once said), I’m just not confident cooking and experimenting with it, and I don’t feel like I have an archive of inspiring recipes. Once, I confessed all this insecurity to a blogger whose posts led me to believe she had an advanced degree in Tofu, and begged her to be my Tofu Tutor. I think I scared her off, because I never heard from her again.
But this past Monday, I wasn’t messing around. In order for Tofu Family Dinner to happen, clearly I had to get out of my own way. So I made a plan. First, on facebook I asked you guys for suggestions. Wowowowow! Why don’t I do this more? Three hours and over 70 ideas later, I whittled the choices down to five, with the finalists mostly being chosen for simplicity, pantry overlap (no way was I hitting the store the day after our weekly shop), and how golden and shiny the tofu looked. (I did not want anything remotely resembling a marshmallow.) Next, I sent this email to Andy.
From: Jenny Rosenstrach [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, May 06, 2013 2:10 PM
To: W, Andy
Subject: Tofu Multiple Choice
Which one do you want for dinner:
I’m not holding my breath that girls will eat. we have leftover chicken for them.
Can you tell I’m procrastinating my real work in a major way? I hyperlinked the recipes for him and everything. This was his response:
From: Andy [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, May 06, 2013 2:10 PM
To: R, Jenny
Subject: Tofu Multiple Choice
B! But without that much garlic.
So that’s what you’re looking at below. Did the girls like it? No, but they each tried a bite before digging into their auxiliary proteins (leftover chicken sandwiches). For Andy and me, though, it was one of those dinners that ended up pre-empting all other conversation at the table. (“We need to make this again.” and “Damn!” and “So healthy!” and “How can you guys not like this?”) Thanks to all my facebook friends who shared their recipes, particularly Libby, Andrea, Mary, and Miller for providing the finalists above — and big thanks to Jessica who has officially introduced a keeper to the DALS rotation.
Adapted from The Jey of Cooking
I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter, but, per Andy’s request, limited the garlic, used less sugar, and added some vinegar and fresh squeezed lime to cut the salty-sweetness. FYI: To press tofu, place your tofu block on a plate, cover with a few paper towels, then place a heavy pan on top for at least 30 minutes.
1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sesame oil (or olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 scallion chopped (for garnish)
fresh lime juice
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cornstarch to the tofu in a small bowl and toss to coat.
Add the tofu to the skillet and cook until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes.
While the tofu is cooking, combine the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, 1/2 cup water and brown sugar. Mix well.
When tofu has browned, add the sauce, stir, then bring to a simmer before reducing heat to low. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, until sauce has thickened and reduced.
Serve with brown rice, soba noodles, or green beans, and garnish with green onion and a squeeze of lime.
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Tags:quick tofu dinner·quick tofu stir fry·tofu for kids·vegetarian family dinner
I’m going to try not to turn this blog into The Sporting Life, but — what can I say? It’s where I’m at right now. The girls’ spring games and practices are threatening to take over dinner. Now, I’m not in any way shape or form complaining about this (Rule #49 always and 4-ever!), but it occurred to me that even though my work life ends at 3:00 on many days, I’m not coming home to dinner until about the same time that many of you are coming home from the office. Sports or no sports. So I thought it might be helpful to see how the upcoming week of family dinners might play out.
Monday: Chicken Chili
There’s a game tonight that ends at 7:30, which means we will all walk in the door at 7:45. I think the girls could probably wait a half hour while I put a quick dinner together, but since I’m working from home today I’m going to do my best to cook something later this afternoon. Reheating it will take just about as long as it takes the girls to untie their cleats, remove all their gear, and then not put any of it away in their bags meant solely for this purpose. The plan is to sit down before 8:00.
Tuesday: Burgers with Bulghur Salad and Roasted Ramps (above)
I’ll walk in the door around 6:45 which means I’ll have a good 45 minutes to get something together. I’m thinking it will be basic burgers with caramelized onions, some kind of salad made with the batch of bulghur made on the weekend, and roasted ramps that Andy picked up at the farmer’s market yesterday. Andy has been lobbying to toss those roasted ramps into a pile of spaghetti with Parm, toasted bread crumbs (and perhaps an egg stirred in at the end) but I’m a little pasta’d out these days. Plus, going that direction means making something separate for Phoebe since she doesn’t like pasta, so I think I know who’s gonna win this one. But ramps will be on the menu no matter what because they’ll be wilted if we wait one more day.
Wednesday: Black Bean Tacos
Another game. Dinner won’t be until 7:45, but I’ll be home from work around 5:30, so will try to prepare the bean filling for this one before I have to drop off Abby at her field at 6:00. The good thing about beans is that you can cook them, turn off the stove, then let them sit until the post-game reheat. As anyone who has been following this blog (or who has a pulse for that matter) knows, there is no easier meal than a black bean quesadilla or taco. My friend Elena brought me a big hunk of tangy Queso Fresco from a Mexican market last week and it was just the kind of ingredient that instantly upgrades the entire meal. (Unless you are Abby and consider it blasphemy to add any cheese to a taco that’s not Cabot’s Extra Sharp Cheddar.) For filling: I’ll cook some garlic in olive oil in a skillet then add two cans of (drained) beans, chopped scallions, a teaspoon of cumin, a little water, and smush it with my fork until it looks about right. When it’s time to sit, add the filling to corn tortillas with some radishes, sliced avocado, sour cream, crumbled queso fresco (if you have it) and you are set. In less than 20 minutes, no less! Five minutes if you’ve already made the filling.
Thursday: Meatballs from the Freezer/Eggs for Mom and Dad
Abby and I will be home from soccer at 6:45, but Andy will pick up Phoebe at her practice so they won’t be home til 7:30. I’ll aim to have dinner ready when they come home — not because Phoebe will be starving, but because we will be dealing with deadline pressure on the other end of the meal: American Idol. (Elimination night is a big deal for the girls and it has become increasingly crucial that they watch it live.) So what’s for dinner? Last week I made a big batch of Great Grandma Turano’s Meatballs for a friend dealing with a sick kid (he’s going to be OK, don’t worry) and I set aside about a dozen of them for my freezer. Even though that’s not enough to feed the four of us, it’s enough for two little people which is better: Having their dinner already solved gives me permission to cook the grown-ups something else entirely — something the girls would never allow in the airspace on or around their dinner plates. Which is to say, we can make ourselves eggs. I love an omelet for dinner — especially for an end-of-the-week dinner because it’s one of those excellent repository recipes for wilting vegetables on their last legs. I’ll post an omelet recipe soon, but for those of you afraid of the flipping and breaking, I’d like to remind you that scrambled eggs serve the same purpose without the same pressure. (FYI, book owners: My favorite omelet recipe is on page 114. There’s a good frittata recipe on page 117, too.) Anyway, to summarize: Girls will get freezer meatballs, grown-ups will get omelets. Two totally different dinners, but only one is actually being cooked that night for those of you keeping score. (I always am.)
No activities. Dinner with my friend Liz’s family. We have no idea what the plan is, and after a week of nothing but planning, I really like it that way.
PS: Today, my friend Shauna Ahern, aka the sensational Gluten-Free Girl, and her husband Danny are coming out with their latest book Gluten Free Every Day and would like for it to spark a national conversation about Family Dinner. Naturally, we here at DALS are down with that — check it out if you get a chance.
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I should qualify that a bit. When I say that “anyone” can make this, I suppose I should point out — before the haters do — that not just “anyone” would be able to figure out how to invert his or her wrist in a way that helps distribute a container of grape tomatoes onto a baking sheet. This technique, also known as “dumping,” involves a slight acceleration of the wrist, which helps direct the tomatoes onto the baking sheet and not flying across the kitchen at an errant trajectory. Oh…I guess it’s presumptuous of me to assume that pretty much “anyone” is going to own a piece of equipment as arcane as a “baking sheet.” For those of you who don’t own one, and who don’t live near a grocery store (a place where food and cooking miscellany is sold), I’m sorry. This recipe is probably not for you. Nor is it for anyone who has yet to master water boiling. Or pepper mill grinding. Or who hasn’t yet figured out how to transform a hard block of Parmesan cheese into snowy shreds, a technique known by many in the professional food world as “grating.”
But for everyone else in search of a quick dinner on a weeknight? This one’s for you.
Penne with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
This recipe changes for us based on what kind of night it is. If you have some time, I advise slow-cooking the tomatoes for an hour and a half at 300°F. This results in blistered, concentrated tomatoes that fall apart beautifully when mixed into the pasta. If it’s a weeknight and you only have 30 minutes or so, proceed as directed.
1 16-ounce container of grape tomatoes (or however many you’ve got)
1 small onion, chopped roughly (ok, I admit, a little skill involved here, but minimal!)
4 tablespoons olive oil
a shake of red pepper flakes (optional)
salt & pepper
a sprig of thyme, leaves removed (optional)
1 pound penne pasta (I like the ridged kind, penne rigate, or orecchiette)
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Preheat oven to 350°F. Dump tomatoes and onions on a baking sheet lined with foil. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, thyme leaves and toss with your fingers or a spoon. (Do this gently so you don’t rip the foil.) Bake for 25-30 minutes until tomatoes look shrivelly and brown but not burnt.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. When draining, reserve a ¼ cup of pasta water. Place pasta pot back on burner over low heat and add butter and remaining olive oil.
Add penne back to the pot and toss with tomato-onion mixture and cheese. If it’s looking gloppy or sticky, add a little reserved pasta water to loosen.
Serve with additional grated Parm. If you are feeling indulgent, a dollop of ricotta is gonna be pretty excellent.
The post-roast. See how easy?
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Curtis Stone gets it. For starters, every chapter in his new family cookbook What’s For Dinner includes at least one cocktail, including a Blueberry Gin Bramble, a pitcher of White Sangria, and a crazy tempting looking bourbon and ginger-spiked Arnold Palmer. Then there is the introduction, where the host of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, who has worked in some of the most high-profile restaurant kitchens in the world, admits that when people ask him what the best thing he’s ever eaten is, he always finds himself replying the same way: “‘My mother used to make…” Stone continues, “Whether it’s chicken pot pie or meat loaf, the dishes we grew up eating, the ones made with love and shared around the dinner table, are the ones we seem to cherish most.” These days, he hopes to do some memory-making for the people sitting around his own family dinner table — his wife Lindsay and 15-month-old son, Hudson. What does that translate to? Korean Tacos, Potato and Bacon Frittata, Spaghetti with Garlic, Kale, and Lemon, quick Chicken and Chorizo Paella, Classic Meatloaf, Homemade Fish and Chips. In other words, family favorites, fresh ingredients, and simple prep — all of which is on display on every page of his beautiful book. To celebrate its publication, Stone was nice enough to participate in “21 Questions” and share one of his favorite go-to weeknight recipes.
My life in three bullet points:
The kitchen I grew up eating in was… always filled with the smells of home cooked meals.
When I was a child I wanted to be an Australian football player, naturally.
If I was stuck on a desert island, the food I’d make sure to have with me is tacos. They’ve got it all.
A great friend is my mum. I tell her everything.
Secret weapon in the kitchen is a sharp knife. It’s the number one essential.
Turning point in my life was the day I knocked on the door of Marco Pierre White’s Cafe Royal and offered to work for free just for the chance to learn from him.
My ideal breakfast is poached eggs.
My ideal dinner is a backyard barbecue with my best mates.
I stay healthy by… surfing and hiking.
Without my Google Maps app, I’m lost.
You wouldn’t know it but I am very good at gambling.
You wouldn’t know it but I’m no good at dancing…but it doesn’t stop me.
Until I became a father I had no idea how much sleep I used to get.
My favorite item of clothing: flip flops.
I drive a clean diesel Porsche Cayenne.
My house is my home.
A cookbook that changed me: White Heat, by Marco Pierre White.
A cup of coffee is essential.
Best restaurant meal I’ve had in past 12 months is Attica in Melbourne.
Why this shrimp and asparagus is a keeper: It’s fast, flavourful and incredibly easy to make.
Oven-Roasted Shrimp & Asparagus
Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 5 Minutes
From What’s for Dinner, by Curtis Stone
The key to this high-roast cooking technique is to use a large half sheet pan (a rimmed baking sheet measuring 18-by-13) and to spread the ingredients out well so they brown lightly (for caramelized flavor) and don’t steam. See his book for grilling instructions.
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 pound medium-thin asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1 pound large (21 to 30 count) shrimp, peeled, tails left on, deveined
1/3 cup shaved Pecorino Romano (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Grate the zest from the lemon into a small bowl. Squeeze 2 tablespoons of juice from the lemon into the same bowl. Whisk in the shallots, then gradually whisk in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss the asparagus with 2 more tablespoons olive oil on a large rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.
Spread the asparagus on one side of the baking sheet, separating the spears. Roast until they turn a brighter shade of green, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile in a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the oven and arrange the shrimp on the empty side. Return the oven and roast until the shrimp are almost opaque throughout and the asparagus are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
In large bowl, toss the asparagus with enough vinaigrette to coat. Divide the asparagus among four plates and top with the shrimp, drizzling more vinaigrette on top along with a little Pecorino if using. (more…)
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Tags:curtis stone what's for dinner·whats for dinner curtis stone
A few weeks ago, I gave one of my little PowerPoints to some parents at a community center. It was the usual 30-minute presentation, “Eight Rules for Family Dinner,” distilling all the usual DALSian principles (Deconstruct, Shop Once a Week, Plead Ignorance, etc) alongside colorful photos of meatballs and detox soups. As I wrapped up, a woman in the second row who had been nodding and smiling during my talk, raised her hand.
“Have your kids started travel sports yet?”
Was I imagining that her eyes squinted as she asked? Was it weird that I felt like the swordsman in Indiana Jones, the one who confronts Indie with his fancy sword moves, only to be dispatched by Indie with a single gunshot? Here at this talk, I had the distinct feeling that I was staring at a veteran who knew something I didn’t know, and was thinking to herself “Wow, this woman has no idea what she’s in for.”
The good news is that I could at least answer that my daughters had indeed started travel sports — in fact we were about two years into it. The bad news was that I had just started receiving the schedules for spring activities and it seemed as though every single one of them was conspiring to blow up family dinner as we knew it. It’s true what those parental sages warned: the older your kids get, the later their practices finish. It’s also true that more and more parenting seems to be happening in the Mazda in between ballet and lacrosse.
This spring, except for Fridays, we are not home from sports activities any earlier than 7:0o. Three nights a week, the girls are not home until 7:30. So in other words: Every day is now Tumultuous Tuesday, which means that if I want dinner to keep happening as religiously as it has been all these years, I have to be super-organized about things.
Or! If I have a pizza dough in the fridge, I don’t have to think about dinner at all until the minute I walk in the house.
At 6:00 the other night, I dropped the girls off at a field that was 10 minutes away from my house. Once home, I spied the pizza dough then started weeding through the disparate ingredients populating our unorganized fridge. I laid everything out (see below) and made my decision: Half the pie would be Asparagus and Leek, Half the pie would be Tomato & Cheese, which was probably the side the girls would favor. I’d pile on the entire bunch of asparagus (even if the spears never became gooey-ed up in cheese) so they could have their asparagus on the side.
By the time the pizza was assembled, it had been decided over a flurry of texts that Andy would pick up the girls at 7:15, on his way home from work. But because part of me has never quite graduated from competitive sports myself, I looked at the clock: 6:30. I would’ve totally been able to bake that pizza (another 15-20 minutes), pull it out of the oven, pick up the girls in time, drop off their friend who needed a ride home, then arrive home with dinner ready to rock.
Only three more months of this to go.
Pizza: 1/2 Asparagus & Leek, 1/2 Tomato Cheese
1 22-ounce storebought pizza dough
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup pizza sauce (I used 1/2 can of Don Pepino; if you have homemade, congrats!)
1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed of woody ends
1/2 leek, trimmed (see photo for reference) and chopped
salt and pepper
few shakes red pepper flakes, to taste
1-2 kumato tomato* (totally optional!), chopped
Freshly grated Parm to taste
Preheat oven to 500°F. Press dough out to all corners of a large baking sheet that has been lightly brushed with olive oil. (FYI: It’s easier to stretch the dough when it’s room temperature, if at all possible.) Top one side with fresh mozzarella. Top the other half with pizza sauce under the mozzarella. In a medium bowl, toss asparagus and leeks with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Pile vegetables on the side of pizza with the cheese only. (Again, I don’t mind asparagus overflow here because I just pick off those roasted spears and give them to the kids as a vegetable side.) Add fresh tomatoes wherever you think it won’t offend people. (I went right down the middle.)
Top the entire thing with freshly grated Parm.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly. Garnish with chives. Unless you aren’t crazy about chives on top of leeks. (I personally love the double onion effect.)
*I am too lazy to look up what this thing actually is, but Andy always throws them into the cart at Trader Joe’s and they taste really good for out-of-season tomatoes.
A note about pizza for kids: While I love a good fresh round of melted mozzarella on my pie, I find it’s easier for young kids to eat melted cheese when it’s been sliced and chopped into smaller pieces. That way, when it melts, it doesn’t slide off the pizza in one large piece, taking all the sauce with it. (Fascinating, right? What would you ever do without me?)
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Tags:asparagus leek pizza·healthy pizza·quick pizza for kids·split personality pizza·spring pizza
Working from home, while wonderful in many ways, has its perils. On some days, for instance, it’s tempting to answer “Leonard Lopate” or “Terry Gross” when your daughter asks you who your best friend is. If I’m not actively fighting the urge, it’s also incredibly easy to get sucked into what I’ve been calling the Double F Vortex, i.e. the condition where you find your house default position to be in front of the Fridge or Facebook. Even worse, I’ll get locked into some work project in my upstairs office, look at the clock, realize that I haven’t eaten in six hours and that the girls have to be picked up from school in mere minutes, which means I rush to the kitchen to start inhaling whatever is grabbable: a piece of string cheese, a handful of grapes, the last few roasted pepitas in the plastic pouch which I throw back like a funneling fratboy. A few buttery crackers, a sea salt potato chip or two or eight. Oh, and look at those Easter baskets just begging to be raided! Two bright purple Peeps later I’m hating myself. And by the time I pick up the girls, all I want to do is take a nap.
So lately, I’ve been making a real effort to control the Fridge part of the Vortex and have come up with a few rules for myself:
1) Eliminate All Triggers. I haven’t read Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, but I’ve read enough interviews with Brian Wansink to know that if I’m working on my laptop at the kitchen table, a mere four feet away from the foil-covered cherry pie, it’s going to be a lot harder to get that perfect balance of tart and sweet and buttery pate brisee out of my mind than it would be if I were upstairs or at the local library. (It’s like my kids, who, upon seeing a commercial for potato chips during Sponge Bob instantly shout from the couch “Mom! I’m hungry!”)
2) Snack Once Mid-Morning. If I have a glass of Pomegranate kefir, a crisp Bosc pear, or a Finn Crisp schmeared with a thin layer of peanut butter at 11:00, I am much less likely to transform into a wild animal come lunch time.
3) Eat Healthy Proper, Sit-Down Lunches. This is hard, because I’m always on the clock — rushing to get something done before the school bell rings — but I’m using my Culinary Intelligence and following Peter Kaminsky’s lead to make this meal as satisfying as possible. Kaminsky’s theory makes a lot of sense to me: If you load up on healthy foods that are high in flavor, you won’t be tempted to polish off that meal with, say, a Cadbury Cream Egg. This one above fits the bill. It’s two Finn Crisps topped with smoked trout (look for the blue tins near the tuna and anchovies at Trader Joe’s) and pickled cabbage. If you are not lucky enough to have a batch of Andy’s Mind. Blowing. Pickled Cabbage lying around, cornichons or regular old pickles will do just fine.
Other lunch ideas: Ever since getting an advance copy of Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6:00 (I feel certain you’ll be hearing more about this one) I’ve become quite fond of a leftover grain salad that’s been loaded with vegetables. This one was barley, chopped peppers, red onion, pomegranates, grape tomatoes, cukes, olive oil, lemon, salt & pepper. (Now you know why you made that big batch of feel-good barley over the weekend.)
Or simply, a smashed avocado and sea salt on sprout bread or whole wheat toast. (I usually only need about 3/4 of the avocado for this; I tightly wrap what’s leftover in plastic wrap and hand guacamole-mad Phoebe a spoon when she comes home from school.)
On Monday, all it took was a big bowl of leftover steamed broccoli and a bag of pre-cooked Trader Joe’s Brown Rice to get me rolling on a vegetable-loaded fried rice. Since I’m not generally in the habit of mincing and whisking and turning on the stove for lunch, I made a double batch so Tuesday’s lunch would be taken care of. It was delicious and can definitely be doubled to feed four for dinner.
Vegetable-Loaded Fried Rice (Pictured Way Up Top)
1 tablespoon neutral oil like canola or vegetable
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 heaping tablespoons onions, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced (optional if you just can’t justify getting this fussy about lunch…but so good)
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 eggs, whisked
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste)
1 to 2 cups vegetables (such as: shredded red cabbage, chopped bell peppers, peas, pre-cooked broccoli, shelled edamame, chopped snap peas)
Add oil to a large skillet set over heat to medium heat. Add onions and ginger and cook until onions are slightly softened, about one minute. Turn heat to medium-high and add rice in one layer so as many of the grains are crisping on the hot pan as possible. Cook about a minute stirring once half way. Push rice to edges of pan and add egg to the center, scrambling with your spoon and gradually pulling in rice as it cooks. Stir in soy sauce and cook another minute until everything is integrated.
Add vegetables and cook until everything is heated through, another minute.
Drizzle with Sriracha if desired.
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Tags:easy lunch ideas·vegetarian lunches
Our friends Kendra and Mike are what Abby would call “good cookers.” Mike’s a legit restaurant guy, and Kendra is an all-around enthusiast, with excellent taste, who happens to know her way around a kitchen. In other words, they can be trusted. A couple of weeks ago, Kendra poked her head into my office and said, “You know what you gotta make for the girls?”
“Laser-cut paper doll dioramas of unicorns frolicking in shimmering fields of goldenrod?” I said.
“No, dude. Stromboli. Mike and I made one this weekend, and it was insane.”
Stromboli? Here’s what I knew about Stromboli: Nothing. Or, that’s not quite true. I had a vague sense it was something I shoveled into my mouth, wolverine-like, a few times in college, at 2am, after several bottles of Golden Anniversary beer. I think. The point is, it was not what some food types today would call a “mindful” eating experience. (I think I also remember tipping my head back and drinking the cup of marinara dipping sauce it came with; hey, I was hungry!) But last week, Stromboli and I got to know each other a little more deeply. I made one to eat — at halftime; that’s how quick and easy it is — while we sat on the couch and watched the NFL playoffs. The kids, as per usual, could not have cared less about the game, but the Stromboli won in a rout. After cleaning her plate, Abby declared: “That’s the best thing you’ve ever made all year.” If I were a betting man, I’d put a lot of money on this happening again for the Super Bowl. – Andy
Step One: Spread dough (we used pre-made from T. Joe’s, and left it out on the counter for an hour, to make it easier to work with; you can also, obviously, use homemade) on cookie sheet rubbed with olive oil; get it as far into the corners as possible.
Step Two: Sauce it up, almost to the edges. If you have homemade pizza sauce, awesome. But honestly, a good storebought, like Don Pepino or Rao’s Marinara, is fine, too.
Step Three: Sprinkle some fresh basil and dried oregano on this bad boy.
Step Four: Add your meat (if you like that sort of thing; we used pepperoni), and onions. At this point, I threatened to add roasted red peppers, but Jenny shot my sh*t down.
Step Five: Add spinach (thawed, squeezed, no trace of liquid) or kale and shredded mozz.
Step Six: Add some fresh ricotta (and some grated parm, if you want) and red pepper flakes.
Step Seven: Very carefully (so as not to tear the dough), roll the dough up like a giant joint. Brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
Step Eight: Put into 350°F oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until golden brown. Brush again with oil in the last five min. Slice into 1 1/2 inch thick pieces and serve.
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I’m a thigh man, though I am ashamed to admit: it was not always so. I grew up, in fact, turning my naive little nose up at dark meat. I actively avoided the stuff. I was a strict white meat guy, a fan of the Perdue boneless breast, and now that I look back on it, a person who apparently didn’t care much for how things actually taste. But then, a couple of summers ago, our tiny universe expanded. In our search for the perfect grilled chicken recipe — i.e., a grilled chicken recipe that (a) we could serve to guests and that (b) did not suck — we discovered boneless thighs. O boneless chicken thighs, where had you been all my life? This was a revelation. They took to our yogurt marinade so well. They cooked quickly and evenly. They didn’t dry out. They fit perfectly on a warm hamburger bun (with a little Hellman’s, of course). They were good for school lunches the next day. Best of all, they tasted like something. Since then, we’ve taken this well beyond the grill, too. Thighs are great with an apricot-mustard glaze (see: Jenny’s book), or baked with a little homemade barbecue sauce. They’re tasty when breaded, in the Shake ‘n Bake style. But our latest go-to move is the pan roast, a crazily simple and delicious and crispy and pleasingly-browned and crowd-pleasing way to eat chicken. Last week, in a rush to get food on the table and not having a lot of non-rotten vegetables in our refrigerator, I threw some thighs in our cast iron skillet with cremini mushrooms, fresh thyme, and some roughly chopped onions. Total hands-on time: extremely low. Flavor quotient: high. – Andy
Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms
1-1.5 pounds boneless chicken thighs
1 cup cremini mushrooms
4 or five sprigs of thyme
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
Few glugs olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 475°. Season chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Add chicken to skillet, skin side down, and cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook another 10 or so minutes, until skin is golden brown. Flip chicken, gently toss in mushrooms, onions, and thyme so they are coated in oil, and transfer skillet to oven. Cook another another 15-17 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Let rest a few minutes before serving.
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