Universal law of childhood eating, #217: Kids like to dip stuff in stuff. At least, our kids do. They dip roasted potatoes in ketchup. They dip baby carrots in ginger dressing. They dip sausages in yellow mustard, cookies in milk, and breaded chicken in ketchup. They dip salmon in Soyaki, grape tomatoes in ketchup (not sh*tting you!), burritos in salsa, apples in Nutella, bacon strips in maple syrup, Hershey’s kisses in peanut butter, ketchup in ketchup in ketchup in ketchup. I’m not sure what evolutionary quirk is playing out here re: the dipping impulse, but as long as the food goes down, it is all good in the hood, right? A couple of weeks ago, I added another one to the rotation. It was Sunday night and we had grilled a couple of tuna steaks and I was standing in the kitchen, trying to think of something to help seal the deal with the kids. Tuna is not always easy. What goes well with it? Spicy mayo! So I made one, using Hellmann’s and Sriracha. (About 1 teaspoon Sriracha to every 3 tablespoons mayo.) It had a beautiful, peachy color. It had some serious umami action, without being too spicy. It went over huge. Not only that, I’ve since discovered it’s a pretty versatile tool. It’s not just for dipping, in other words. You can use this on turkey sandwiches, in canned tuna salad, in potato salad, in slaws, and, maybe best of all, with – yeah, you heard me Henry John Heinz – Tater Tots. – Andy
Entries Tagged as 'Quick'
October 15th, 2012 · 20 Comments · Grilling, Picky Eating, Posts by Andy, Quick, Uncategorized
Tags:dips for kids
October 1st, 2012 · 8 Comments · Entertaining, Quick, Seafood
One of the first things I learned about food when I started caring about food was that smaller usually translated to better. As in, a golf-ball-size lime is going to be juicier than a steroided-up one. As in, the meat from a 1 1/4 pound lobster is going be sweeter than meat from his 4-pound older brother. As in, those two-carat-size spring strawberries are going to taste more like strawberries than the strawberries that resemble McIntosh apples. And after writing a story about hors d’oeuvres for the current issue of Bon Appetit I remembered another one: Hors d’oeuvres for dinner are so much more fun than dinner for dinner. (See: Small Bites Phenomenon sweeping New York City Restaurant Scene) Why did it take writing this story to remind me that those shrimp rolls I’ve been making since my 1999 visit to Nova Scotia would be so much more appealing for the kids if I miniaturized them? How had I forgotten Cardinal Rule #2 of Family Sandwiches: Minimizing Size = Maximizing Appeal. (Cardinal Rule #1: Anything Tastes Better in Slider Form.) Well, either way, the little rolls were on the dinner table last week (it’s a good make-ahead if you can swing it) and will likely show up there again very soon.
Perhaps my most favorite magazine opener ever. (“Opener” = Old-school parlance for the image that opens the story.) Alex Grossman, the creative director, actually had this invitation letter-pressed before it was shot. Credit: Kallemeyn Press.
This Butternut Squash Tart with Fried Sage, developed by the BA test kitchen, was in the star-studded line-up, too. Instead of a assembling a platter of fussy finger food for your party, each puff pastry square requiring it’s own individual piping of spicy mayo, this is just one big tart that you bake and cut up like a pizza before your guests arrive. It’s called Economy of Scale and it is up next on my Hors d’oeuvres-Turned-Dinner menu.
Check out this month’s issue of Bon Appetit (The Entertaining Issue) to read the story and the entire issue. They’ve also put together an appetizer slide show which party-throwers would be wise to bookmark as the calendar inches its way towards the holidays. Two words: Queso Fundido.
Photos by Romulo Yanes for Bon Appetit.
September 26th, 2012 · 16 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Posts by Andy, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized
Jenny’s mom is an extremely nice person. She was raised right, is how I think about it: quick with a smile, asks questions about you and compliments you on your mashed potatoes, stops and chats with virtual strangers at the stationery store in town, and most impressive of all, consistently chooses not to say anything if she has nothing nice to say at all. She was elected May Queen in college, for crying out loud — and that doesn’t happen if you’re unkind to people. Which is not to say she is not discerning or without opinions, and strong ones, of her own; it’s just that she’s monk-like in her discipline and is somehow able, when called for, to keep these opinions to herself. She’d rather know how you are than tell you how she’s feeling; seriously, the woman is incapable of complaint.
If you know her, though, and listen carefully, there are ways to determine where she really stands on things. There is a word she uses that seems innocuous, but is, in fact, devastating. It is a hammer wrapped in velvet. When you hear it, you know you’re a goner. Interesting. As in:
When opening the box containing her birthday present, a sweater-dress you sensed was a little risky, fashion-wise, but went ahead and bought for her anyway because, hey, it’s cashmere and how could someone not love a cashmere sweater-dress: “Oh, it’s a sweater. Thank you. What a lovely color.”
But do you like it?
“Well,” folding it neatly back into the box, “it’s…innnteresting.”
After watching you toss a handful of red pepper flakes into the pot that will soon hold the sauce for the pasta: ”What is that you’re adding there?”
Red pepper flakes. Just a few.
After going to see Pulp Fiction, which you’d just seen and had been kind of blown away by and talked about to the point that she finally decided to go see it for herself: “I found the director’s style very…innnteresting.”
Her use of interesting had achieved the level of Family Lore long before I entered the picture. It was, apparently, a cherished Christmas morning ritual, the response to every new bathrobe or attempted slipper upgrade. Say it out loud at any family gathering, even today, and everyone cracks up: it has achieved that kind of shorthand power. Jenny had warned me about it before our first holiday we spent together, telling me to keep an eye on her mom as she unwrapped the latest set of pajamas her dad had picked out at Lord and Taylor, thinking that maybe, somehow, this would be the year when he would succeed, when his gift would not be deemed…innnnteresting.
The first time I encountered it for myself, though, was in 1994, in the kitchen of the brick row house I shared with three roommates in Brooklyn. I was a 22 year-old editorial assistant who wore pleated pants and spent a shameful amount of time watching the Yankees and drinking Heineken. Thinking maybe it was time to act like a grown-up, I invited Jenny and her parents to dine one Saturday night in my grime-encrusted living room as a thank you, I suppose, for being nice to me. Looking back on it now, this must have been the first time I’d ever entertained. I mopped and Dust-Bustered and lit candles, but when it came to planning a meal, my cupboard was pretty bare. I knew what my own mom did in these situations, and I had a shaky grasp on three or four meals, so I decided to approximate a dinner she might have put together at home: I’d start with cheese and some fancy water crackers, maybe a bunch of green grapes. For the main course, I decided to do a chicken barley soup, a salad dressed by Paul Newman, and a loaf of bread from the local Italian bakery. For dessert: rice pudding (with raisins) from The New York Times Cookbook.
We were sitting on the cratered couch, eating the cheese and crackers, when Jenny’s mom asked me what was on the menu.
“Chicken barley soup,” I said.
“Soup for dinner,” she said. “Innnteresting.”
Oooooof, that hurt. And, okay, so she was right. Soup at a dinner party is maybe not the best call, but I was 22 and it was either that or chili, so I went with what seemed the more sophisticated option. Plus, in my defense: the presence of barley raises this, Chunky-style, from a soup to a meal — or, at least that’s what I told myself. I ended up marrying Jenny, of course, so it couldn’t have been that bad. – Andy
Chicken Barley Soup
Few glugs olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs thyme
4 cups homemade chicken stock (if you have the book, see page 289) or store-bought chicken broth, plus more as needed
3-4 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup uncooked barley
Handful fresh parsley, for serving
In a large stockpot, warm olive oil and red pepper flakes over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery, salt and pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add the stock, bay leaf, and thyme, and bring to a boil. Add the uncooked chicken and simmer, over medium-low heat, for 15-20 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and, using two forks, shred it. Return chicken back to pot, add barley, and simmer on low, covered, for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until barley is tender but not mushy. Add more stock, if necessary. Serve with parsley and a fat slice of good bread.
September 18th, 2012 · 15 Comments · Dinner, Quick
Even before I was given a shiny new 12-inch All-Clad stainless skillet for my birthday last year, which makes me sigh in apprecation every time I pull it out of the pot drawer, there was always a special place in my heart for the Skillet Dinner. Once I got the formula down for it…
[Add fat to pan; brown meat; remove meat; add onions and other vegetables; return meat to pan with liquid; simmer til meat is cooked]
…there seemed to be no end to the combinations I could churn out for a quick one-pot family dinner that was made for improvising. Here are my top 10 favorites. I’m always looking for more, so feel free to suggest your own.
1. Chicken with Artichokes (Pictured above) A classic. It’s the first dinner I think of when I spy my bag of frozen artichokes in the freezer. It’s on the line-up this week.
2. Fried Rice with Pork or Shrimp - You need leftover rice for this one (and the next) or you just need to pick up the pre-cooked rice in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s.
3. Crispy Rice Omelet with Soy Sauce - Good vegetarian option and takes 10 minutes.
4. Chicken with Lemon-Butter-Wine Sauce - The full dinner is not cooked all at once, but just add some spinach or kale to the pan after you’ve finished with the chicken and wine and butter and you’ve got yourself a meal.
6. Pork Chops with Tomatoes and Kale - A quickened Bugiali recipe that I really need to make more often. So simple and the kale turns out silky and sweet — which is just right for my kids.
7. Beef with Broccoli - A recipe developed by my friend and former Gourmet kitchen staffer Melissa Roberts. Good all year long, but great when broccoli is in season.
8. Cornmeal-crusted Chicken with Soy-Lime Sauce OK, fine, this isn’t all done in one skillet, but it’s so quick and satisfying that tossing together a salad on the side will not feel like extra work.
9. Chicken with Spinach and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette How could this be bad? And you don’t have to feel so guilty about the bacon because remember, a little goes a looong way.
10. Shrimp with Feta - We made this once a week in the early days of parenting. My daughters are currently in an anti-feta phase which makes things difficult, but I’m thinking they need to just suck it up and deal.
August 13th, 2012 · 10 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick
A lot of you have been asking about Mark Bittman’s cornmeal-crusted chicken with soy-lime sauce that I mentioned in the “You Make it, You Own it” section of my book. That chapter, as most of you know, was all about the practically signed-in-blood rule of law in our kitchen, wherein if one person in the couple cooks something new and it’s a keeper, then that person own’s it — i.e. it’s his or her job to prepare this recipe from then on out, ad infinitum. Well a funny thing happened. So many of you wrote to me requesting the page number for the recipe in How to Cook Everything that I was forced to look it up for the first time (remember: it’s an “Andy-owned” dish) and was subsequently reminded of how freaking good it was. Why did this recipe follow the similar trajectory of Alanis Morrisette and Snackwells, and fall out of favor in our house by the end of the 90s? Why had it been so long? It’s so easy and calls for soy sauce which is almost better than saying “it’s covered with a chocolate shell” in my house. Of course this meant I needed to breach our contract and make it immediately. So I guess this now means we share ownership? Uncharted territory here, so not sure how to proceed.
Chicken with Soy-Lime Sauce
For those of you who have How to Cook Everything, it’s on page 391 (I have the first edition, with the yellow cover; For those of you who have other editions it’s called “Sauteed Chicken Cutlets with Lime Sauce” and I’m sure you could look it up in the index.) For those of you who do not have HtCE, first why don’t you? And second, here is a slightly adapted version of Bittman’s so you can try it out for yourself.
oil (olive or vegetable)
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 pounds chicken (breasts or thighs) pounded thin, salted and peppered
1 garlic clove, minced
3 to 4 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
juice of one lime
cilantro, chopped for garnish
Add oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Pour cornmeal onto a dinner plate and dredge chicken pieces so they are completely covered, then drop into hot skillet. Try not to crowd the pan. (I always do, but this is because of a deep behavioral flaw. Please don’t follow suit.) Rotate and flip for a total of about 8 minutes until chicken is firm to the touch but not rock hard. As you cook your chicken, remove to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Add a little more oil with each new batch.
When all your pieces have been cooked, add a little more oil, then cook garlic and scallions, about one minute. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, and lime juice, turn heat up and cook until it reduces slightly, about 30 seconds. Drizzle pan sauce over platter of chicken. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
I served with snow peas that had been quickly sauteed in olive oil, then sprinkled with salt, pepper, lemon, and feta.
Note: How to Cook Everything is one of the dozen or so cookbooks I consistently rely on to get dinner on the table. Please see pages 45-59 of my book (the chapter called “Starter Cookbooks”) for the others.
June 29th, 2012 · 8 Comments · Quick, Rituals, Seafood
We’ve just wrapped up what you might call an “unstructured” week — other than a late-afternoon soccer clinic for the kids and other than one full day of meetings in the city for me, we had nothing on the schedule for the first few days of summer vacation. And now I’m wondering why we registered them for their upcoming organized activities at all. I could get used to a schedule where we get to sleep in and not once have to hear ourselves say tie your shoes immediately or you will miss the bus and please please please don’t make me ask you again! (Happiness is the laceless summer shoe.)
This is not to say that we were sitting around watching Nick Jr and bumming at the beach. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Without even realizing it, we began checking things off the List of Things We’ve Been Meaning to Do All Year. Monday: We finally saw that documentary First Position about the Grand Prix ballet competition and the girls loved it. Tuesday: We hit Shake Shack. (It’s hard to even admit this to myself as a parent, but my poor, deprived daughters had to live eight and ten years respectively before ever sinking their teeth into a Shack Burger.) We roadtripped to Ikea in search of a “swivel stool” for Abby’s new desk and wound up stuffed to the gills with Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. (You know, one of those nice light summer meals.) We visited a new Asian Supermarket across town which everyone keeps talking about and where we found all sorts of cool and crazy little things to try like quail eggs, mochi, and Korean melon. It was there, in the glisteningly clean seafood aisle where I spied a five-dollar cooked lobster ($5!) and remembered one other thing on the List: Make Lobster Roll! I came home from that trip, tossed the lobster meat with mayo, scallions, and the slightest sprinkling of paprika, and with one bite, officially initiated summer.
Makes one lobster roll. Recipe can be multiplied accordingly.
meat from a cooked 1-pound lobster (about 1/4 pound of cooked lobster meat), roughly chopped
1 scallion (light green and white parts only), chopped
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
squeeze fresh lemon juice
sprinkling of paprika
salt to taste
hot dog bun
Add all ingredients (except bun and butter) in a mixing bowl. Fold together gently. Toast hot dog bun then spread with a thin layer of butter. Top with lobster salad.
Don’t forget about the Mega Giveaway: Tell me your favorite part of the book (not on the comment field of this post, but through the official contest survey) and be eligible to win some pretty awesome prizes. You have until July 9 to enter so get reading!
June 27th, 2012 · 32 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Quick
I knew it was a good sign when my mother-in-law, Emily, started rattling off the ingredients for her go-to berry cobbler over the phone, then interrupted herself to say, This index card is so stained and old, who knows where on earth I got it from? Those of you who have read my book know about Emily’s Index Card Cache (a.k.a The Recipe Starter Kit) we inherited from her a few months after we were married. And those of you who have made her Meatloaf know that those index cards rarely disappoint. This cobbler — a flexible, non-fussy, absolutely-screams-summer kind of dessert — follows suit. My favorite thing about the recipe (besides the crunchy crumbling topping that somehow weaves all the way into the filling) is that it doesn’t involve getting butter to the right temperature, then smushing it into the sugar and flour, which I always find to be a somewhat perilous (and messy) proposition. You simply drizzle the melted butter on top at the end, which means the whole thing comes together fast and with minimal fuss.
My other favorite thing about it? The original recipe called for that butter to be margarine.
I assembled this particular cobbler (made with peaches and blueberries) in about 10 minutes, shoved it into the oven, drove across town for a playdate pick-up, and was back in time to pull out the bubbly goodness just about a half hour later.
3-5 cups fruit (Any combo: peeled, sliced peaches or nectarines, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries; for this one I used 8 medium peaches, peeled and sliced, and 1 1/2 pints blueberries) enough to mostly fill a 13-by-nine inch baking dish.
juice from half a lemon
1 cup flour, whisked
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 beaten egg
5 tablespoons butter, melted
Place fruit in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle on lemon juice and toss. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add egg, tossing with fork until mixture is crumbly. (It should not be mushy.) Sprinkle flour-egg mixture over fruit then drizzle as evenly as possible with melted butter.
Bake at 375°F for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Emily’s Index Cards. See page 15 of Dinner: A Love Story.
June 15th, 2012 · 14 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy, Quick, Uncategorized
I remember this vividly. When I was six years old, I was in the basement of our house on Aldenham Lane, playing with my dad. Our basement was the kind of basement I feel bad that my kids don’t have today – a concrete floor, an old wooden workbench, high metal shelves sagging with caulk and stains and Maxwell House cans filled with screws, a queen-sized foam mattress, a pool table (with ivory inlays and broken slate), and a paint-splattered station where my older brother would lose entire afternoons building these intricate models of Spitfires and Messerschmitts. The kind of basement, in other words, where you could dismember GI Joe dolls in relative peace.
Anyway, we were sitting on the floor, building something with my Erector Set.
“Dad?” I said.
“Is Santa Claus real?”
(A parent now, I know what he was thinking.)
He looked at me.
“Nope,” he said.
Cue sound of bowling ball crashing through giant pane of glass. The bracing, ammoniac sting of honesty like that! Wow. Damn! I still, to this day, give him grief for this. (Me: I can’t believe you just came out and said it. Dad: Well, what was I gonna do, lie?) This could be the adult in me talking, but I feel like I remember the room going all wobbly, like the staircase shot in Vertigo. Clearly, my dad did not believe in secrets.
Except when it came to his cooking. And by cooking, I mean the one meal he was responsible for making all by himself, from start to finish. His lone specialty was known around the house as The Dadoo Special, a name which, it’s true, does have a certain grandeur to it, but which – no offense, Dad — also sounds a lot like something a dude with zero chops in the kitchen would name the one dish he figured out how to make on his own. I loved the Dadoo Special. Partly because I loved my dad, but also because it did, in fact, feel special. It tasted really good, and appeared only in the warm summer months, when school was out and the Weber was up and running and the grown-ups enjoyed their grown-up drinks outside, in the woodchipped area out back, behind the azeleas, where my dad had set up – this was the seventies, after all, the era of lawn sports, mandals, and non-ironic mustaches – a freakin’ horseshoe pit. Looking back, the Dadoo Special was nothing more than a souped-up burger – a little sweet, a little spicy – that, amazingly, required no ketchup at all. I would tell you exactly how my dad made it…if he had ever let me watch him make it. The Dadoo Special, you see, was always prepared in private, behind closed doors, on a need-to-know basis only. And I, apparently, did not need to know.
“What’s in it?” I would ask.
“That’s a secret.”
“Get out of the kitchen,” he’d say, and to stay and risk not having Dadoo Specials for dinner always seemed a risk not worth taking.
I still don’t know exactly what was in the things, and – since my dad probably hasn’t made one in thirty years – I doubt he does, either. But I do remember the taste, and the slight crunch of the onion, and feel fairly confident that I can recreate it – heck, maybe even improve upon it — here. We’ll be making these on Father’s Day, in honor of my dad, and in the spirit of openness. No more secrets, not in this house. – Andy
P.S. Re the photo above: Yeah, that’s a puka shell necklace I’m wearing. And yeah, that’s zinc oxide on my nose. And yeah, I’m wearing plaid JAMS. The thing on my dad’s upper lip? That would be a mustache. Viva los 70s!
The Dadoo Special
Okay, so the Dadoo is basically meatloaf on a bun. Pretty sure my dad used Heinz barbecue sauce, but the homemade stuff is better. (See our recipe for that on page 238 of Jenny’s book.) In a large bowl, combine 1 ½ pounds ground beef, 1/3 cup barbecue sauce, ½ cup of finely chopped Vidalia onion, a couple dashes of Worcestershire, and lots of salt and freshly ground pepper. Combine gently, as you want to preserve some of that loose texture of the meat. Grill over medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side.
Reminder: Tell me your favorite part of the book (not on the comment field of this post, but through the official contest survey) and be eligible to win some pretty awesome prizes. You have until July 9 to enter so get reading!
June 11th, 2012 · 7 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Rituals, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian
It’s rare that we find ourselves in the position of having to execute a Saturday night dinner while the clock is ticking — as I’ve mentioned before, we like our weekend meals to be all-day affairs — but this was the situation we found ourselves in a few nights ago. We had just spent six hours shuttling our two ballerinas back and forth to their recitals and because the girls’ mother (yours truly) had hastily prepared snacks for the marathon (two walnut-sized apricots and a Ziploc of trail mix), we had two starving performers on our hands when we finally walked in the door at 8:00.
The choreography for dinners like these is so rehearsed we barely even have to discuss who plays which part: Andy turns his attention to the main (frying some fresh flounder we had picked up at the farmer’s market earlier) and I focus on the sides: some leftover barley salad from the night before (page 245 of my book) and an Asian-inspired slaw I had been dreaming about all through Abby’s Tarantella. And after about 20 minutes of pas de bouree-ing around each other, we all sat down for the second big show of the night. (more…)
June 4th, 2012 · 15 Comments · Deconstructing Dinner, Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Pasta, Picky Eating, Quick, Vegetarian
If you asked 8-year-old Abby to list her favorite foods, I have a feeling the following would show up in the top ten: penne, fettucini, rigatoni, farfalle, gnocchi, orechiette, and (as of last week), cavatelli. I don’t know how much of this love affair is because she’s defining herself in opposition to her sister, a world class pasta hater, but I do know that because of Phoebe’s refusal to touch the stuff, Abby doesn’t get a nice bowl of spaghetti and meatballs nearly as often as she’d like to. I also know that eliminating pasta from our dinner repertoire is not an option given how much Andy and I love it, and given how much the girls’ Great Grandmothers are named Turano and Catrino. So while the rest of us might get a nice bowl of cavatelli with spring asparagus, tomatoes, ricotta, and lemon, Phoebe would get something that looks like this:
Not bad, right? I might call this ricotta and tomatoes on baguette a first cousin of the real dinner.
And maybe I’d call this one a second cousin, which I might serve a toddler (or a pincer-grasping baby) who prefers his food equal but separate.
Pasta with Asparagus, Tomatoes, Ricotta & Lemon
This recipe has you tossing the aspargus in with the boiling pasta water which saves you a pot to clean. (You’re welcome!) For Version 2 dinner: toast a baguette, top with ricotta and tomatoes as shown. Drizzle with olive oil and some good sea salt. Serve asparagus on the side. For Version 3: I think you got that one.
Cook 1 pound pasta according to package directions. (We used cavatelli, but any kind will do.) While pasta is cooking, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl a halved garlic clove in the oil just for a quick flavor hit, then remove. Add 1 1/2 cups chopped grape tomatoes (yellow or red), salt, pepper and cook until tomatoes are wilted.
During last three minutes that the pasta is cooking, toss in 1 bunch asparagus spears (chopped) to the pot. Drain pasta and asparagus together and immediately toss in with tomatoes, cooking until pasta is coated with tomato juice.
Remove from heat and toss in 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of ricotta (or to taste), 2 teaspoons lemon zest, salt, and pepper. (If it’s too hard to toss in the skillet, you can do this in a large bowl.)
Serve with chopped fresh basil.
May 23rd, 2012 · 15 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Vegetarian
We’ve been talking a lot about the idea of pacing in our house. This is partly because it’s spring, which means it’s Presidential Physical Fitness Award time, which means that, among other things, the girls have been forced to learn how to run a mile without running out of steam. (I’m both horrified and proud to discover that they take these fitness challenges as seriously as I did in 1981.) I’m also talking a lot about pacing because it seems that every interviewer I’ve spoken with in connection with my book, at some point comes around to this question: Is it OK to order takeout every now and then?
Well, you guys have been with me from the start, so you know how I’m going to answer this one. Obviously it’s NOT OK. Seriously, if you order in from that Chinese place again, God only knows what will become of your children who were doing so well in school and now — just because you were too lazy to make your own moo shu pork — they are on the fast track to failure. You know exactly who to blame when your kid comes up two minutes short on his mile run.
Sometimes I’m really tempted to answer it that way. I think everyone — including the interviewer — knows deep down that this whole family dinner thing is about balance. It’s not about everyone sitting down together every single night eating the exact same thing while deconstructing Kant. It’s about doing as many of these things (um, except the Kant part) as often as you can, and letting go when you can’t. As I’ve said before, to my daughters, and way back when I first started this blog, I’m pretty sure this whole dinner thing (this whole parenting thing actually) is about the marathon, not the sprint. Why wouldn’t I order Chinese if it means that’s the only way family dinner is going to happen that night?
Especially since the next day, I can take the leftover sticky rice and fry up a homemade crispy rice omelet.
Crispy Rice Omelet
Of course, this was only enjoyed by the two people at the table who don’t wrinkle their noses in disgust at the sight of eggs. That is, it was enjoyed by the grown-ups.
2 tablespoons minced scallions or onions
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
shake of red pepper flakes (to taste)
3/4 cup leftover rice, preferably sticky Chinese takeout
3 – 4 eggs (I used 3 but wished it was more eggy)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
handful frozen peas (to taste)
Preheat broiler. Add a little oil to a cast iron or nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add scallions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute until everything is soft and fragrant. Add rice and spread out in one layer, turning up heat a bit. Don’t stir for about a minute so it gets nice and crispy. Stir again and wait another minute. Meanwhile whisk together eggs and soy sauce and add peas to egg mixture. Turn heat down to medium-low and pour egg mixture over fried rice, tipping the pan so the egg distributes itself evenly over the rice. Cook until underside is crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a broiler and bake another 3 minutes or until egg looks golden and bubbly on top. Serve with a drizzle of soy sauce and a green salad.
Then give yourself an award.
May 2nd, 2012 · 2 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Vegetarian
When I first typed out the recipe for this very forgiving flatbread pizza, I added the word “optional” after “freshly grated nutmeg” and “fresh thyme” and then thought long and hard about why. For as long as I’ve been editing recipes I’ve been using “optional” as a way to say “I realize this is an ingredient you might not have on hand” or “I realize this is an extra step you might not want to take on a night that allows for not a single extra step” or “If this is the ingredient that makes dinner a deal-breaker with your kid, by all means omit!” Have you noticed that you don’t ever come across “optional” in a serious recipe collection? (A quick flip through The Essential New York Times Cookbook, The Babbo Cookbook, and The Classic Italian Cookbook just confirmed this.) I’m guessing their philosophy is: If you’re going to do it, DO it. I love and embrace this philosophy. But I love and embrace it mostly on the weekend.
Here’s what you need to know about any of the Quick recipes on this site: Within reason, almost all the ingredients in any recipe are optional — or at the very least replaceable. This is especially true if not having the ingredient in question derails your plans for what was going to be a home-cooked dinner. (more…)
April 23rd, 2012 · 16 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick
I bought the perfect black blazer earlier this spring. I had been looking for one forever — it’s such a basic wardrobe staple that it had to be exactly right — and as soon I brought it home, I headed straight to my closet and started pulling out different tops and pants I could wear it with. I tried it on with jeans and Bensimons. With wedges and a skirt I hadn’t seen in ages. Then with jeans and flats. And then with those white jeans that had been buried way at the bottom of the trunk. And the dress jammed in the back of the closet. (Hello old friend!! Where have you been?) Does this happen to you? When you are excited about a new piece of clothing does it somehow make you see everything else in your closet with brand new eyes?
Well, last week, I think a pack of chicken chorizo sausage had a similar effect on the contents of my refrigerator. Whenever I have a few links in my kitchen, opening the fridge door on a weeknight at 6:30 seems somehow rich with potential — instead of fraught with peril. This week it was all excitement and experimenting: What should I wear my chorizo with? Last week I sliced up some links for a frittata with kale, potatoes, manchego, onions, and tomato. This week, I browned some slices and stuffed them in a tortilla with spinach, avocado, and a creamy cilantro dressing — a riff on a salad I order all the time at the local Tex-Mex joint. It almost feels like cheating, this having chorizo around. Like I need to suffer more for my dinner somehow. Oh well. There’s always tomorrow.
Chicken Chorizo Taco with Spinach and Avocado
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 links smoked chicken chorizo sausage, sliced into rounds (or 1/2 link per eater)
4 whole wheat tortillas
4 handfuls fresh spinach, cleaned and chopped
1 avocado, chopped
Make creamy cilantro dressing: Using a small food processor, blend together yogurt, cilantro,lime, cumin, and salt.*
In a small skillet (preferably cast-iron), fry chorizo rounds until crispy on both sides, about 2 minutes a side. Remove from skillet. Turn heat to medium-high and cook each tortilla until brown, about 30 seconds per side. Top each with a handful of spinach, chorizo rounds, avocado and a drizzle of cilantro dressing.
*If you are pressed for time and can’t deal with a food processor, you can skip the dressing and just garnish your taco with cilantro, lime, and yogurt (or sour cream).
Chorizo and Kale Frittata
1 link chorizo, sliced into coins
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped onions or shallots
Handful of fingerling potatoes, thinly sliced into “coins” like thick potato chips (about 1⁄2 cup)
8 to 10 grape tomatoes, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 handful washed and roughly chopped kale
1/3 cup shredded Manchego cheese (or cheddar or Jack)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley or chives
Preheat the broiler. In a cast-iron (or oven-proof) skillet, fry the chorizo over medium-high heat until brown and crispy, 3 -5 minutes. Remove from pan.
Add oil and cook onions about 1 minute.
Push onions to side of the pan and add the potatoes in a single layer. Cook another 5 minutes, until the potatoes are crispy and mostly cooked through. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the kale to the pan and stir until the leaves wilt. Add chorizo.
Whisk together the eggs, cheese, and herbs in a small bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and stir lightly to make sure the spinach and potatoes are evenly distributed.
Let cook without stirring for about 2 minutes. When eggs are mostly cooked around the edges, transfer to the oven. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until eggs are cooked and top is slightly golden. Cut into pizza-like wedges and serve.
April 12th, 2012 · 13 Comments · Deconstructing Dinner, Dinner, Quick
It’s 10:45 on Wednesday night. I’m in bed. The girls are too. If they are not yet asleep, they are puzzling over who will be booted from American Idol tomorrow. My husband is sitting next to me working on something very exciting for DALS that we will tell you all about the week of April 23. (Please make a point to visit that day.) And I’m writing about Cobb Salad. (How exactly did I get here? Please tell me.) I don’t have a whole lot to say about the meal, other than it was assembled between 4:00 and 4:20 (wedged in between a long overdue pediatrician appointment and a soccer practice that was plotting to invade our dinner hour), and that the swap-in of shredded kale for crunchy romaine went largely unnoticed by the girls since it was buried under some favorite flavors (read: bacon), and that it works well for kids because it can be customized like a salad bar, and that it made a dent in our significant stash of hard-boiled Easter eggs, and that I wish my kids would eat eggs as enthusiastically as they decorated them, and that every time I eat it I wonder why I only think to make this the week after Easter.
Kale Cobb Salad
In a bowl, toss together large bunch kale (shredded), 3 pieces bacon (crumbled), 2 tablespoons scallions/red onion/shallots (minced), handful tomatoes (chopped), 2 hard-boiled eggs (chopped), 1/2 cup crumbled blue or feta, 1 avocado (chopped), 1 cup cooked chicken (shredded or chopped) with your favorite dressing or this all-purpose vinaigrette. Set aside any potentially deal-breaking ingredient for the kids — in my house, that would be the ingredient that inspired the meal to begin with: eggs.
A few other ways to use up hard-boiled eggs! Spring asparagus with chopped egg and onion (serve with crispy chicken or fried fish); sliced hard-boiled eggs on white toast with mayonnaise and chopped chives (Andy’s personal favorite); classic potato salad (if you have an advance copy of my new book, see page 244); Curried Egg Salad Sandwich; Caesar Salad Deviled Eggs; Salad Nicoise Sandwich; French meatloaf (page 136 of Time for Dinner)
April 6th, 2012 · 10 Comments · Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Quick, Rituals
One of these days Andy will write his post calling bull$#@t on starters. (He could, in fact, fill a book dedicated to calling bull$#@t in general.) “Why,” he always asks “do we spend so much time putting together a delicious dinner if our guests are just going to fill up on cheese and crackers and approach the table stuffed before they even lift their forks?” I think he has a point, but I also know that a well-curated starter plate is one of the great pleasures in life, and if assembled correctly can actually make you hungrier. As usual, I have a formula in the back of my head when I’m putting one together. It goes something like this:
Perfect Starter Plate = something sweet + something crunchy + something pickled + something from a pig + something aged
The trick is just to not have an obscene amount of any one thing. Above, you’ll see a small hunk of aged Manchego, about a quarter pound of Parma (you could do regular prosciutto or Serrano ham), some cornichons from Trader Joe’s (the best in my opinion and there would be more in that bowl if the girls didn’t eat them like popcorn right from the jar), and some pecan-raisin crackers from Eli’s Bread. Lesley Stowe’s raincoast crisps (Whole Foods) hit the sweet-crunchy note nicely, too.
Have a great holiday.
March 26th, 2012 · 16 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick, Uncategorized
Friday Night Spicy Chicken Sausages with Baked Beans and Kale Salad
1. Procure 6-8 good quality Italian-spiced chicken sausages.
2. Fry in a skillet for 10-12 minutes until brown and cooked through.
3. Pour wine.
4. While sausages are frying, chop up some kale into shreds. Toss with olive oil, tablespoon or two of chopped shallots, handful grated Pecorino, squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper.
5. Heat up some canned baked beans, preferably Bush’s original.
6. Serve everything with a dollop of whole grain mustard.
*PS: Iris is our dog. She’s not Hasidic. That was iphone’s autocorrect for “has gone.” Obviously.
March 22nd, 2012 · 33 Comments · Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Quick, Rituals
Last weekend I was in my friend Nina’s bright, airy kitchen, taking in the expansive view of the Hudson River out the back window, when she motioned me over to the kitchen table. ”Please sit down,” she said. In front of me, there was a small pile of cookbooks, some old Gourmet magazines, and a well-loved, yellowed recipe booklet that once belonged to her grandmother. Nina handed me a pad of paper and a pencil. She took a seat next to me and said, “I feel like maybe I should be lying on a couch.”
Her 9-year-old came bounding into the kitchen and thanked me — unprompted! — for the meal Andy cooked for him at our house the night before. We laughed. We talked about last night. He left and she turned to me again, a serious look on her face.
“OK, Nina,” I said. ” What seems to be the problem?”
She took a deep breath. “I just can’t get organized when it comes to grocery shopping” she said. “I really need help.”
Because of my line of “work,” I seem to land myself in these kinds of dinner heart-to-hearts all the time. I imagine my friend Kate, a psychologist and the world’s best listener, helping her friends through stress and anxiety and deeply personal issues, offering them comforting advice with phrases like “That’s normalizing.” Not me. My patients’ issues — at least as they present themselves to me — tend to center more on pork chops and grocery lists. Last year, at pick-up, a mother of three approached me and said “I get angry – really angry, when my kids say they don’t like the food I’ve spent time cooking for them.” She paused then added, “Sometimes I have to get up and walk away from the table.” About a gazillion times a month I hear this complaint: “We eat the same things week after week. I can’t seem to break out of the rut!” Last year, after a book talk I gave at a local school, a mother asked me: “What do you do if you don’t know how to make sauce?”
But of all the issues that can face a dinner-maker — no time, no skills, no inspiration, no help with the cooking — Nina has the big one down: Family dinner is the house default mode. She and her husband (who both work from home) and their two kids sit down to a meal together every night.
“What are you so worried about?!” I told her. “That’s the hardest part to nail!”
She didn’t quite see it that way. “I guess. But I never have a plan when I go shopping,” she told me. “I never seem to have what I need to improvise.” She led me to her pantry and, Vanna-White-style, swept her arm across the shelves. There were three full bags of panko breadcrumbs, about a dozen bags of pecans. Nina told me she hits the supermarket once a week for the kids’ school lunch and breakfast staples, but on that shop doesn’t ever think about dinner ingredients. “Honestly,” she told me, “I don’t really think about dinner until the moment I’m standing in front of my refrigerator at 6:00.”
I had a sudden urge to rewrite the first line of Anna Karenina: Every unhappy family dinner-maker is unhappy in his or her own way. But instead I started scribbling some strategies that I wanted her to put into play immediately.
Strategy 1: Think about dinner before you have to make it. It’s not exactly breaking news, but if the goal is to make dinner something to look forward to — as opposed to one more task in between “pay taxes” and “schedule root canal” on the to-do list — you need to plan ahead. And planning ahead comes in all shapes and sizes. It means on Sunday, you look at the schedule for the upcoming week to determine which nights are going to be home-cooked meal nights and which ones are going to be storebought dinner nights. (And which ones are going to be Moo Shu pork in front of American Idol.) It means on a Monday or Tuesday morning taking two minutes to ask yourself: What can my 8:00am self do to help my 6:00pm self? Marinate something. Chop something. At the very least, decide on something. Get the momentum going.
Strategy 2: Try something new once a week. Nina’s kids eat almost any meat and love salmon, but they don’t love things mixed together, and could use some help expanding their vegetable repertoires. We looked in my upcoming book for some salmon recipes that were familiar to the boys, but different enough to feel like she was busting a rut. We also looked for interesting ways to upgrade the vegetables so the grown-ups could get a little more joy out of the steamed broccoli. I always feel like the trick to trying something new is to introduce it gradually — and preferably when there’s something else on the plate that is universally loved and embraced.
Strategy 3: Give yourself at least one From-the-Freezer night. Whether it’s thawing something homemade or chucking in the storebought default dinner you picked up at Trader Joe’s. Nina’s go-to in this situation is Trader Joe’s Mandarin Chicken. (Note to self: That stuff looks goood.) Don’t put pressure on yourself to cook something from scratch every night of the week. I don’t have to remind Nina, a sustainability consultant, that the name of the game is to create a sustainable dinner system.
Strategy 4: Be your own sous chef. Make something on the weekend (or at least a Sunday dinner) that can carry over to one meal during the week. It doesn’t even have to be a bolognese — though that would be nice. Even a five-minute homemade salad dressing will end up yielding some seriously happy dividends.
Strategy 5: Go out on Thursday or Friday night. No matter what your dinner issues are, you’ve earned it.
Above photos shot by Jennifer Livingston.
March 19th, 2012 · 32 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick
Do you know how annoying it is every night to have to wait another five hours for Mom to finish taking pictures of her food? If you are wondering why she has to take pictures of food, well, you’re looking at it. Take for instance a black bean burrito! Shrimp rolls! And this chicken with artichokes that you are looking at right now. I think that all of you — well most of you — are sitting at the table and having your parents sit right down and eating a delicious dinner. It’s different in my house. I have to wait, as I told you, for fiiiive hours for ONE picture to be tooken of SHRIMP SALAD!!! That seems psychotic to me. I’m an innocent child! All I want to do is sit down at the table and enjoy my dinner. Imagine if you were me, sitting at the table with a warm ficelle right in front of you without EATING IT! It’s TORTURE! All of you out there are LUCKY. You sit at the table with your family, pick up your fork, and eat. My life would change if my mom wasn’t a blogger! I do have one positive reason why being a food blogger’s daughter is fun. It is fun because every night we get to have a different dinner that some families might never have. We have interesting dinners and basically I have not had one dinner that was made by Mom or Dad that was not fantabulous. Except the egg dinners that are all mushy and slimy and D-I-S-G-U-S-T-I-N-G in my opinion. – ABBY, 8
Chicken with Artichokes in Creamy Mustard Sauce
1 1/3 pounds chicken thighs, salted and peppered
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chopped grape tomatoes, or to taste
8 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) thawed frozen artichokes canned artichokes (drained) or to taste
zest from 1 lemon (about 1/2 teaspoon)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 – 1/3 cup cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
chopped parsley or thyme
In a large skillet, brown chicken pieces in olive oil over medium-high heat, in batches if necessary, about 2-3 minutes a side. (They do not have to cook through.) Remove, decrease heat to medium, and add onion. Cook a minute or two, scraping brown bits leftover from chicken. Add tomatoes, artichokes, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Nestle chicken thighs in the vegetables then add wine and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook another 8 to 10 minutes.
While it’s simmering, whisk together cream and mustard. Remove skillet from heat and stir in creamy mustard mixture.
Garnish with parsley or thyme. Serve with rice. Or ficelle — the par-baked loaf from Trader Joe’s. The kids will sit through any food photography nonsense if they have one of these waiting for them at the other end.