Entries Tagged as 'Quick'

Pizza on the Clock

April 10th, 2013 · 30 Comments · Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Quick, Vegetarian

A few weeks ago, I gave one of my little PowerPoints to some parents at a community center. It was the usual 30-minute presentation, “Eight Rules for Family Dinner,” distilling all the usual DALSian principles (Deconstruct, Shop Once a Week, Plead Ignorance, etc) alongside colorful photos of meatballs and detox soups. As I wrapped up, a woman in the second row who had been nodding and smiling during my talk, raised her hand.

“Have your kids started travel sports yet?”

Was I imagining that her eyes squinted as she asked? Was it weird that I felt like the swordsman in Indiana Jones, the one who confronts Indie with his fancy sword moves, only to be dispatched by Indie with a single gunshot?  Here at this talk, I had the distinct feeling that I was staring at a veteran who knew something I didn’t know, and was thinking to herself “Wow, this woman has no idea what she’s in for.”

The good news is that I could at least answer that my daughters had indeed started travel sports — in fact we were about two years into it. The bad news was that I had just started receiving the schedules for spring activities and it seemed as though every single one of them was conspiring to blow up family dinner as we knew it. It’s true what those parental sages warned: the older your kids get, the later their practices finish. It’s also true that more and more parenting seems to be happening in the Mazda in between ballet and lacrosse.

This spring, except for Fridays, we are not home from sports activities any earlier than 7:0o. Three nights a week, the girls are not home until 7:30. So in other words: Every day is now Tumultuous Tuesday, which means that if I want dinner to keep happening as religiously as it has been all these years, I have to be super-organized about things.

Or! If I have a pizza dough in the fridge,  I don’t have to think about dinner at all until the minute I walk in the house.

At 6:00 the other night, I dropped the girls off at a field that was 10 minutes away from my house. Once home, I spied the pizza dough then started weeding through the disparate ingredients populating our unorganized fridge. I laid everything out (see below) and made my decision: Half the pie would be Asparagus and Leek, Half the pie would be Tomato & Cheese, which was probably the side the girls would favor. I’d pile on the entire bunch of asparagus (even if the spears never became gooey-ed up in cheese) so they could have their asparagus on the side.

By the time the pizza was assembled, it had been decided over a flurry of texts that Andy would pick up the girls at 7:15, on his way home from work. But because part of me has never quite graduated from competitive sports myself, I looked at the clock: 6:30. I would’ve totally been able to bake that pizza (another 15-20 minutes), pull it out of the oven, pick up the girls in time, drop off their friend who needed a ride home, then arrive home with dinner ready to rock.

Only three more months of this to go.

Pizza: 1/2 Asparagus & Leek, 1/2 Tomato Cheese

1 22-ounce storebought pizza dough
olive oil
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
chives, snipped

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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Three Steps to Healthier Days

April 3rd, 2013 · 32 Comments · Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

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)
Serves 2

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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Stromboli!

January 17th, 2013 · 68 Comments · Dinner, Favorites, Posts by Andy, Quick, Uncategorized

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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Chicken of the Year

December 3rd, 2012 · 20 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Posts by Andy, Quick

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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The New Ketchup

October 15th, 2012 · 20 Comments · Grilling, Picky Eating, Posts by Andy, Quick, Uncategorized

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

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The Little Things

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Romulo Yanes for Bon Appetit. 

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Interesting

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.

Innnteresting.”

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.

 

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My Top 10 Skillet Dinners

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.

5. Pan-fried Scallops I’ve heard from so many of you on this one — you seem to especially love it when served with the corn-bacon hash. This is why it lives both on the blog and in the book.

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.

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That Chicken You’re All Asking About

August 13th, 2012 · 11 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.

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Top of the To-Do List: Lobster Rolls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tried-and-True Cobbler

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.

Summer Cobbler
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.

 

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The Dadoo Special

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.

“Yes?”

“Is Santa Claus real?”

He paused.

(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.”

“Seriously, dad.”

“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!

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A Dinner Pas de Deux

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

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

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

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One Meal, Three Ways

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.

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Pace Yourself

May 23rd, 2012 · 16 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.

canola oil
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.

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Optional

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…)

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Kale Cobb Salad (or How to Turn Easter Eggs into Dinner)

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.

That’s all.

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 SandwichCaesar Salad Deviled EggsSalad Nicoise Sandwich; French meatloaf (page 136 of Time for Dinner)

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Perfect Little Starter Plate

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.

 

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