Entries Tagged as 'Quick'
Are you guys following Joanna’s cooking series over at Cup of Jo? She’s 33, mother to a 1-year-old, and sick of not knowing how to cook. So in her words, her plan is “to try to master–really master–the classic recipes: scrambled eggs, mac n’ cheese, tomato soup, chocolate chip cookies, that kind of thing.” Each week she’s highlighting a new recipe courtesy of her favorite food bloggers. This week The Wednesday Chef weighed in with ”the best tomato sauce you’ll ever have“ which does indeed look as though it lives up to its name.
Here are a few other things I’m excited about this week.
The new Everyday Food video series on youtube. Editor Sarah Carey makes dinners in (almost) real time. How easy does this this one look?
Jennifer Steinhauer’s ambitious attempt at recreating hostess cupcakes, Twinkies, and ho-hos in “It’s Not Junk if I Made it.“
How many times have I announced to the girls that we are embarking on a baking project only to find myself abandoned in the kitchen as soon as something more interesting comes along? The upside, as Melissa Clark points out in her Hamantaschen story, is that when you’re in charge, at least “the cookies turn out very very good.”
Am I the last to know about this super simple starter? I think I’ll make it for my friends coming over for dinner tomorrow.
Caroline’s perfect avocado and celeriac sandwich.
Those of you following DALS on twitter know this already, but Bon App’s hoisin meatloaf was every bit as satisfying for last week’s Sunday dinner as I had hoped it would be.
I’m going to leave you with a few quotes I read in The Corrections last night. And then re-read and re-read and re-read until I came to terms with how good they were:
“Whether anybody was home meant everything to a house. It was more than a major fact. It was the only fact.”
And, on the next page: ”And if you sat at the dinner table long enough, whether in punishment or in refusal or simply in boredom, you never stopped sitting there. Some part of you sat there all your life.”
Have a good weekend.
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God knows, it’s not that I don’t love the kid. I have pledged my undying devotion to her here — she’s our firstborn, is kind to animals, has the soul of a poet, and is generally an all-around solid performer at the table. But Phoebe does not eat pasta. Phoebe, in fact, actively dislikes pasta. She hasn’t touched the stuff in five years. She wrinkles up her nose at the sight of it, says it’s slimy, boring, without flavor. I don’t know where she comes from, when she says things like this. The girl has not one but two Italian grandmothers and she doesn’t like pasta? As they say in the Old Country, WHAT THE? To each her own and te gustibus and etc. — we all have our food bugaboos, and there’s no accounting for them – but the upshot of Phoebe’s pasta aversion is that Jenny and I, two lifelong pasta lovers, have basically given it up in the interest of family dinner harmony. (Hence the minimal pasta entries on the ol’ DALS recipe index. Apologies!) But then, last Saturday morning, Phoebe woke up with some kind of virus. “Churny,” is how she described the feeling in her stomach. She didn’t have a bite of food all day, and spent much of the afternoon in bed. You know it’s for real when Phoebe says dinner doesn’t appeal to her.
Again: I love her dearly and I evinced real sympathy for her plight, but I also chose to see this as a rare opportunity. Jenny was out with friends, so it was just Abby, me, and a bag of good linguine. Phoebe, nursing her mild fever, was fully laid out — a sad-eyed Lady with the vapors — on the kitchen counter, a couch cushion under her head, watching us as we cooked. As Jenny has noted here before, the recipe we settled on (below) looks so much more daunting, when you write it all out, than it actually was to pull off. This was a pure and simple pantry meal: we did no pre-planning, and no shopping. Everything we needed was already in the house — and most of it was frozen. When it came time to eat, Phoebe couldn’t bear to sit with us at the table: the sight of food, she said, would put her over the edge. So she sat in the TV room, reading Garfield under a blanket, as Abby and I tucked in. “How good is pasta?” I said to her, but she didn’t answer back. Her mouth was full. – Andy
Pasta with Vegetables and Pecorino
We used frozen corn and peas here, but you can use anything, really: broccoli would be good, as would spinach. You can also skip the pork at the beginning, but adding bacon in our house is like baiting a hook, and Abby can’t resist. So we went with the pork. Which doesn’t seem to gratuitous, as the chicken broth base makes this feel somewhat light, and a little bit healthy.
1 pound linguine
1/4 cup bacon, pancetta, or good country ham, chopped
1 shake red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
4 scallions, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon salted butter
Pecorino Romano, grated, in great quantities
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. While pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, over medium-low heat, cook bacon in olive oil with red pepper flakes, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and turn heat to medium. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping any brown bits on bottom of pan as it cooks. Dump in peas, corn, scallions, salt and pepper. Stir and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon and butter, and stir until it’s silky and emulsified. Dump cooked pasta into skillet and toss with tongs. Serve topped with plenty of Pecorino Romano.
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Besides the meaning of life, there are three things that I am forever in search of: An affordable, authentic spindle bed for my 8-year-old; dining room chairs that I love as much as our kitchen chairs; and an easy-to-clean, nontoxic skillet in which I can fry or scramble my beloved morning eggs. Thanks to the cookware sleuths at Bon Appetit, I’m delighted to say that I can check this last obsession off my list. You are looking at my brand new Bialetti Aeternum 10-inch nonstick saute pan, which is 100% Teflon-free and which only set me back thirty bucks! A very small price to pay for the happiness it brings me every time I clean it with a little water and a single swipe of a dishtowel. Even my egg-hating kids peered over the edge of the pan, noses wrinkled, to steal a peek of the action.
PS: In other egg news, per Andy’s request, I have mastered poaching thanks to SmittenKitchen’s masterful tutorial. What was I so afraid of?
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Tags:best pan for eggs·bialetti aeternum·bialetti nontoxic skillet·teflon free cookware
There’s a photo we have, in our album from 2002, that captures the exact moment my parents and Jenny’s parents saw Phoebe for the first time. Jenny’s in the hospital bed, all wired up and groggy from surgery, head slightly elevated, and she’s holding Phoebe in her arms. Phoebe is swaddled, purple-faced, about thirty minutes old. Thirty minutes old. All four of our parents are lined up on one side of the bed, leaning in, as though peering off the edge of a cliff. The expression on Jenny’s mom’s face is one of those amazing, ecstatic expressions you see in life’s happiest moments – such as the birth of your daughter’s first child – or on the front page of the New York Times, in the grief-stricken face of the person who has just walked away from some kind of life-altering natural disaster. For real, her expression has that kind of emotional weight to it. Stripped of context, it could be an illustration of the most sublime kind of joy, or the most warping kind of pain. In this case, thank god, it was joy. I remember taking that picture — standing off to the side in my scrubs with my old-fashioned film (!) camera — and the one that came a few seconds after it (above) when all four parents had moved one step closer to Jenny and that primal expression had morphed into something more closely resembling tears of joy. When I think of Phoebe’s birth, I think of that moment, and how little we really understood about, you know, what it all meant.
I have a bunch of these kinds of memories from the day Phoebe was born, flash-frozen moments floating through my head, mostly intact, ten years later – writing a rambling journal entry, as Jenny was in labor, on the Esquire notepad I’d stolen from my place of work, though God, I could never ever bring myself to read it now; standing in the waiting room in my white sterile booties, waiting to be reunited with Jenny as she was being prepped for surgery; being so incredibly confused when we realized Phoebe was a girl because we’d been so firmly convinced that Phoebe was a boy (something about the angle of the bump); I even think I remember what it felt like to hold Phoebe for the first time, though if I really focus on it now and try to conjure it up, I can’t be sure.
If it sounds like I’m protesting too much, that’s probably because I feel some weirdness around the fact that so much of what I remember about those four days in the hospital has to do with food. It’s bizarre – and might point to a larger problem — but I can remember pretty much everything I ate, and how I felt when I ate it. The hamburger and Tanqueray-and-tonic I devoured at the legendary JG Melon’s with my in-laws, six hours after Phoebe’s birth. The bagel (plain, with scallion cream cheese) and coffee I bought at Eli’s, and ate on a bench on Madison Avenue the morning after: the bagel and coffee were average, and I hadn’t slept a wink, what with the baby in the room and my rolled-up jacket as a pillow, but the sky was so incredibly blue and I’d never felt that kind of euphoria before in my life. If someone could bottle that feeling, I would eat it, inject it, and snort it. I would snuggle it to death. I would be king of the… that was a heartbreakingly good morning. The turkey ragu I made when I raced back to our apartment the next afternoon, and froze in batches, to be eaten when we returned home. The O’Henry bar I bought in the gift shop. The bottle of Bordeaux my brother-in-law brought over, and which we took down in short order, with a corkscrew I ran out to buy at a wine store down the block. The chicken consommé and lime jell-o I plucked from Jenny’s hospital tray as the Percocets worked their magic. The dinner we had, on the third night, when my aunt Patty – whom we’ve written about on this blog before – dropped by to see the baby. She brought a white paper bag with her.
“What’s in the bag?” I asked.
“William Poll,” she said.
“What’s William Poll?” I asked.
“Jesus, nephew,” she said. “It’s only the best deli ON THE PLANET.”
Out of the bag came two neatly-wrapped sandwiches: chicken salad with bacon on pumpernickel bread that had been sliced about ¼ inch thick. “These things cost a fortune,” Patty said.
“How much?” I asked.
“You don’t want to know,” she said.
We sat there in the hospital room, by flourescent light, and ate. I’d had a lot of chicken salad in my life, but this was insane. I was in a heightened state (more…)
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Tags:chicken salad·easy lunch ideas·william poll chicken salad·william poll upper east side
Do you guys know that story about Robert Rauschenberg? The one where the interviewer asked him “How do you know when you are finished with a painting?” and he responded “When I sell it.” Meaning, he’s never finished, and as long as the work is in his possession he will keep reworking it forever. This is what came into mind the other night as I stared at the galley of my book, which, in one form or another, has been sitting on my dining room table for the past six months, as I go back and forth from the kitchen tweaking and replacing and reworking and driving my editor and designer crazy. But I had just made this dinner — salmon and brussels sprouts, a combination which I had spied in both Martha Stewart and Real Simple in the same week, then married that with a Momofuku-inspired ginger scallion sauce — and I began to leaf through the pages looking for a place to squeeze it in. It’s so quintessentially DALS — simple, weeknight-friendly, tasty — how could it not be in the book?!! And not that I’m in any way comparing my writing to a Rauschenberg Combine painting, but I do believe it’s just the element that would turn my book from cookbook to masterpiece. It’s so good! It’s so easy! But alas, my deadline was for real this time (I said goodbye to the galley forever — terrifying) so I have no choice but to give you the recipe here and now. (more…)
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Tags:easy weeknight dinner·quick dinner·robert rauschenberg·salmon recipe for kids·salmon with brussels sprouts
Recipe writing can be such a buzzkill sometimes. Last week, as I was making this classic skillet meal — Chicken with Spinach and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette — I was, as always, amazed by how fast it came together. While I was whisking in the wine, I was mulling over the angle I wanted to take when I would eventually write it up for DALS. (I make a lot of things that never end up on this site, but there wasn’t even a question about this one.) The angle could be about bacon being the magic ingredient — a little goes a long way, especially with kids. It could be a “quick classic” — who doesn’t love a quick classic? It could be a five-ingredient dinner, i.e. “money in the bank” for working parents. The only problem was — it’s not a five ingredient dinner. But it was so easy and fast that I didn’t even realize that until I started writing the recipe. Suddenly I’m noticing that there was some flour in there for the dredge and that there was not only vinegar, but wine and also — I forgot — there was olive oil after the bacon fat got used up. When I described the recipe to my friend Todd on the train the other day it took about 10 seconds. (“Fry some chicken in a little bacon fat, then add shallots, wine and vinegar and toss in spinach until it’s slightly wilted.”) But when I wrote it out below, it suddenly seemed so much more involved. Trust me, though. It’s not. It’s quick and easy and even if there are eight ingredients in it (as opposed to the magic five), it’s likely you have all of them in your pantry or fridge right now.
Chicken with Spinach and Warm Bacon and Shallot Vinaigrette
2 slices thick-cut bacon
4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin (and halved if they are large and unwieldy)
3/4 cup flour, salted and peppered
olive oil, as necessary
1 small shallot, chopped (I know, that’s an onion up there, it’s all I had, so I used about 1/4 cup chopped onion)
2 tablespoons-ish vinegar (I used tarragon vinegar, but red wine or white wine would be fine, too)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 large bunch or bag of baby spinach
In a large skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until crispy. Remove, cool, and crumble.
Turn up heat slightly to medium-high. Dredge chicken breasts in flour, then add to bacon fat, frying on both sides until cooked through. Cook in batches, tenting finished chicken with foil on a separate plate. If necessary, add a little more olive oil to the pan before adding more chicken.
Once all chicken has cooked, add a bit more olive oil, then shallots and cook about one minute. Add vinegar and wine, whisking gently until warmed through. Add spinach and toss until it wilts slightly. (You do not want it to shrivel to nothing.) Toss in bacon crumbles.
Add warm spinach to four plates along with chicken, drizzling any sauce that remains in pan on top of each. Serve with rice or those cool par-baked Trader Joe’s dinner rolls that my children are officially addicted to.
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O, haricot verts, how it pains me to say this, given all that you have given us (nay, done for us), but I have grown tired of you. For eight years, you — the basic steamed and salted version of you — were there for us, a rock in our rotation, a reliable side dish we could count on. You made us feel better about ourselves, because our children loved you, too, and you were healthier than tater tots. But eight years is a long time, and I have grown weary. I have grown bored. Whatever the opposite of leaping is, that’s what my heart does when it sees you. My heart, I suppose, squats when it sees you. It sinks into the floor. But I am also loyal, and I do not want to banish your crunchy, svelte little self from our family table forever. I can’t do that to the kids and besides: I don’t want anyone else. What I want is a slight upgrade. I want to see you in a new light. I want you to impress me again. I want you to try. And that is why I am going to pair you with some toasted almonds and mint, and shower you in fresh lemon juice. Ah, yes. That’s better. What are you doing later? As a great poet once wrote — paraphrasing slightly here — your tastiness balks account! I sing you electric! And you only take four and one half minutes to prepare, which I know because I timed you, and which makes me love you even more. Consider yourself upgraded, old friend, and consider our love rekindled. – Andy
Green Beans with Toasted Almonds and Mint
2 cups haricot verts
1/4 cups roasted almonds, roughly chopped
One handful chopped fresh mint
Juice of one half lemon
Salt, to taste
A few glugs of olive oil
One small pat of butter (about as much as you’d put on a piece of toast)
In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Add almonds and cook 2 minutes, letting them darken slightly in color. Add haricot verts and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice, a few pinches of salt, and remove to platter. Sprinkle with mint. Serve.
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It’s almost irresponsible of me to tell you about the way I served this meal to my kids — because it’s exactly the way that, if practiced often enough, will drive you to swear off family dinner forever. I love fried rice. Before Andy and I had kids we’d make it with shrimp and pork and chicken all the time. Or at least we’d always make it when we had leftover rice from sushi or Chinese takeout, which was surprisingly often. Nowadays, though, with Trader Joe’s frozen cooked rice (which I highly recommend) we can, in theory make fried rice meals as the main event instead of the spinoff. But we don’t. That’s because, as most of you know by now, we have two miniature egg-o-thropes in the house. And one rice-hater to boot. I’ve spent more hours that I should probably admit, thinking about how to deconstruct this old favorite so that we can all enjoy it in one form or another as a family meal. But as I found out yesterday, some things are just not meant to be. Even quick and easy and cheap and deLISHous meals like this one. Abby ended up having her version as you see below — with pork, rice, and peas that were tossed with soy sauce tableside. Phoebe ended up having…a barbecue pork sandwich on a biscuit and a butter lettuce salad with tomatoes and onions on the side. What was supposed to be quick and easy and delicious became drawn-out and complicated and…delicious. In spite of the drama, I’m giving you the recipe anyway — it’s pretty clear I won’t make it again until the girls are college-bound, but it’s too good a recipe to not share with families who might have better children luck. Who says I don’t do anything nice for you? (more…)
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Tags:easy fried rice recipe·fried rice recipes·pork fried rice·quick family dinners·skillet meals
“This looks amazing,” my friend Mike said, as we sat down to dinner. He was in town on business, and Jenny was at a work event, so it was just me, Mike, and the kids, rocking out on a Wednesday night. On the table: chicken tandoori burgers with a yogurt-mint sauce, sauteed spinach, curried carrots, and the remnants of some math homework. “Man, if we could eat like this every night…”
Mike’s one of my best friends. He’s a smart guy. He’s also an extremely talented writer with some serious — and rare — powers of observation. He’s crazy insightful. His stories, as they say, get at the deeper truths. He’d just spent the last 30 minutes, standing in our kitchen, getting his gin-and-tonic on and watching me put this dinner together. How had he not seen how unmagical this really was? What had I done that could have possibly suggested this was hard, or complicated, or beyond his skillset? In some ways, this was like watching a friend back his car out of his driveway and saying, “Holy sh*t, dude, you are amazing! How did you do that?” It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good, undeserved compliment — and oh, how we love a gracious guest — but I can’t, in good conscience, let this perception stand. I can’t let Mike get away with acting like what we’re doing is hard. The big secret here is that most of the stuff we make on any given night is simple, requires very few ingredients, very little prep time, and no expertise (which I don’t have, anyway, at least not in any real sense of the word). All it takes is will, and a little planning ahead. This was no exception.
“God, these carrots,” he said, taking a bite.
The tandoori burgers take all of 20 minutes. The yogurt sauce is plain yogurt spiked with a handful of chopped mint. The spinach is sauteed in olive oil for three minutes, with a clove of garlic, and then topped with a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt. And the carrots he was talking about? Our Boston Terrier, God love her peanut brain, could make them with one paw tied behind her back. Here’s how I did it: I peeled four carrots and cut them into quarter-inch rounds, and tossed them in a pot. I added 1/2 cup of water, 2 tsp of curry powder, a small pat of butter, some kosher salt, and a squeeze of honey. I simmered, covered, for 15 minutes. That’s it.
“That’s it?” M. said.
Illusion shattered. – Andy
Iris takes notes on preparation. “Yeah, I got this,” she says.
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Tags:curried cooked carrots·easy side dish·easy side dishes for kids·vegetables for kids
I want to talk a little bit, today and tomorrow, about time. More specifically, about our lack of it when it comes to dinner. About that moment when you come home from work at 7 pm and the dog is begging for a walk and your fourth grader really needs you to drill her on her social studies definitions (quick: what’s wampum mean?) for her big test tomorrow and your third grader is asking you to watch — no, Daddy, watch! — her stand on one leg and you’re still in your jacket, staring into a mostly empty refrigerator, and wondering what you’re going to make for dinner tonight. Or, more likely: what you have time to make for dinner. Jenny seems to be more resourceful than I am in these situations, but when it’s a weeknight and I’m on Dinner Duty, and I couldn’t quite get on the earlier train, and the kids are hungry, and I need to make something fast…. why is it, in moments like this, that the human mind — my human mind, at least — automatically goes to pasta with a jarred sauce? My best guess: because it’s quick, it’s healthy, and it’s convenient.
But what does convenient mean, anyway? And what exactly is quick?
This weekend, I finally decided to conduct an experiment. I say finally because I’ve been meaning to write this post for about two months now, and I could just never seem to find the… time. What I wanted to do was to time myself, from a standing start, and see what took longer: a weeknight dinner made mostly with pre-made ingredients, or a dinner made with all real stuff. For the pre-made dinner, I would make spaghetti with Old World Style Ragu, and a pre-washed mesclun salad with Ken’s Light Ranch Dressing. For the homemade dinner, I would make an old stand-by, cacio e pepe, with sliced kumato tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt. I want to stress: I have nothing against jarred sauces. I spent the first three years after college, living in Brooklyn with very little money and an arrested culinary imagination: I know from jarred sauces. Had I opened a vein when I was 24 years old, Ragu Garden Style and Heineken would have poured out. The goal here is not to make some kind of Michael Pollan-y political statement or to suggest that one of these dinners is evil while the other is righteous and pure. Anyone who’s ever had Rao’s or Cucina Antica or even T. Joe’s marinara knows that’s baloney (which I also enjoy, by the way, on white bread with yellow mustard). The goal is only to suggest that, often, what we have been conditioned to think of as quick and healthy is not, in fact, any quicker or healthier (or cheaper, for that matter) than the real deal. The most important thing is to have a few of what Jenny calls “back-pocket recipes” in my repertoire, things I can go to when I’m feeling paralyzed and time is tight. Cacio e pepe is one of those recipes. And the inconvenient truth is, it tastes better, too.
Below, the results of the test. Note: I used the same amount of cold water (4 cups) and started the timer the minute the burners were turned on. No prep work was allowed. – Andy
Coming up tomorrow: What is Easy? And maybe after that: What is Cheap?
PRE-MADE DINNER: Spaghetti with Old World Style Ragu Pasta Sauce, Bagged Mesclun and Ken’s Light Ranch Dressing
21 minutes, 15.8 seconds
Pasta: Trader Joe’s spaghetti, boiled in salted water.
Sauce: Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Soybean Oil, Salt, Sugar, Dehydrated Onions, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Spices, Romano Cheese (Part-Skim Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Natural Flavor.
Salad: Pre-washed mesclun (though I washed it again because we’re paranoid like that).
Dressing: Water, Vegetable Oil (Soybean and/or Canol), Buttermilk, Distilled Vinegar, Sugar, Maltodextrin, Egg Yolk, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Contains less than 2% of Omega-3 [Fish Oil and Fish Gelatin (contains Tilapia, Sardine, and Anchovy)], Salt, Modified Food Starch, Phosphoric Acid, Garlic (Dried), Natural Flavor (Milk), Vegetable Base [Salt, Sugar, Corn Oil, Potato Flour, Onion Powder, Natural Flavor, Carrot Powder, Garlic Powder], Monosodium Glutamate, Disodium Phosphate, Titanium Dioxide, Xanthum Gum, Sorbic Acid, Spice, Carrageenan, Disodium Innosinate and Disodium Guanylate Calcium Disodium EDTA to protect flavor.
HOMEMADE DINNER: Cacio e Pepe with Kumato Tomato Salad
20 minutes, 28.6 seconds
Pasta: Trader Joe’s spaghetti, boiled in salted water.
Sauce: Olive oil, pasta water, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper.
Salad: Tomatoes, olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, sea salt.
Cacio e Pepe
Boil one package of spaghetti in salted water. In a large bowl, put 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, a few pinches of salt, and lots and lots of freshly ground pepper (thus, the pepe part of cacio e pepe). I usually do about 15 or so grinds. When the pasta is done, reserve 1/3 cup of the water, and drain the rest. Take the reserved pasta water and pour into the bowl, whisking it into the ingredients as you do, until it is emulsified. Add pasta to bowl, and toss thoroughly. When you plate it, top with more ground pepper and parmesan cheese.
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Tags:cacio e pepe recipe·quick dinners for kids·quick family dinner
I’ve learned the hard way that when it comes to kids, don’t make a promise you won’t be able to keep. Don’t promise a trip to Barnes and Noble this weekend if you know it’s going to take some logistical heroics to squeeze it between all the games and practices and trips to the mall to buy new boots. (Again! Why am I always buying boots?) Don’t promise you will kick the soccer ball around after work if you know it’s going to be dark outside when you get home. (They will blame you no matter how convincingly you try to explain Daylight Savings, the meeting that ran late, the train that chugged along at a snail’s pace.) Don’t promise you’ll make a cereal box village on Sunday afternoon, if you know there’s a good chance you’ll have to wrap up some last-minute work on a project due Monday and will likely respond “in a minute…in five minutes…in ten minutes…in about an hour” to the little voice that keeps asking you “Now Mom? Now Mom? Now?” and then eventually with resigned, puppy-dog disappointment, “Oh forget it.” Does anything make me feel lousier? I don’t think so.
Whatever you do, don’t promise them you’ll take part in Meatless Monday! Don’t get me wrong — it’s not that I don’t love the idea of a weekly vegetarian meal and the hugely popular initiative to get families to cut back on meat once a week – I more than love it. I embrace it! We like to do our part for the planet with plant-based dinners at least two times a week. It’s just that those dinners somehow don’t ever seem to fall on a Monday. And for my two little literalists, this is not acceptable. They don’t ever seem to give me props when we have salad pizza on Thursday or Minestrone on Sunday or Bean Cakes on Wednesday. It’s the Pomegranate-braised Pork Loin I dared to make on Monday that they remember. “Mooooom,” said one of my eco-policewomen last week, setting her fork down, leaning back, and crossing her arms. “It’s Monday! Why are we eating pork?”
So next Monday we’re having veggie Quesadillas. Because they are fast, because they are good, and because I promised.
Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
The girls aren’t goat cheese lovers, so for their quesadillas, I usually replace it with shredded cheddar or Jack.
1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup water
3 scallions (white and green parts only) chopped
6 8-inch whole wheat tortillas
4 ounces goat cheese
Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Stir in beans and mash them with a large fork. Add water and scallions and cook, stirring until most of water is absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Set a separate skillet over medium-high heat and add a little more vegetable oil. Place one tortilla in skillet, spreading about a sixth of bean filling on one side. Sprinkle a little goat cheese on top of beans and fold other half over to seal. Flip around a few times until tortillas are golden and cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a dinner plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
I served these with crispy kale, which is another way of saying I sauteed the kale in olive oil over medium-high heat, added salt, and then completely forgot about it as I was summoned to explain a bar model math problem. But you know what? The leaves turned crispy and with a little more salt, they became delicious, easy-to-eat (and easy-to-sell) kale chips.
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Tags:black bean quesadillas·meatless monday·quesadillas·vegetarian entrees·vegetarian recipes for kids
Every spring, growing up, my elementary school would put on a fifth grade Science Fair. They’d clear out the gym, bring in a bunch of those long cafeteria tables, and the fifth graders would file in early, groggy and grumpy, to set up their exhibits. Later that day, we’d take our places behind our posters and dioramas and baking-soda-and-vinegar volcanoes, as the rest of the school filtered through, pretending to be interested. My exhibit was a poster-board triptych about beach erosion, which is strange to me now, seeing as we lived nowhere near the beach and I gave not one fig about erosion.* The thing I remember most from that day, though, was not my lame poster or the sweet feeling of relief when the fair was finally over. What I remember most was an exhibit, a few doors down from mine, cheerily titled “Nuclear Winter.”
I wasn’t sure what nuclear winter was, exactly. Was it related to acid rain, that great scourge of the late 70s and early 80s? Was it the same thing as fallout? Would it require a bulkier winter coat? No, if this exhibit was to be believed, nuclear winter was something far, far worse. This was no shoebox diorama. This was, no exaggeration**, a 2×3 foot topographical model of a ravaged landscape. When nuclear winter came knocking, it announced, the world would turn the color of cigarette ash and bus exhaust. Human beings – those that survived – would be forced underground. The sun would be extinguished, winter settling in for the long haul. Here and there were shattered (painted plastic) tree trunks and a pile of rubble that was once a house. The boy who made the exhibit had strewn some white, stick-like things on the ground which, he said, were supposed to represent animal bones. Here was a simple law of nature that even a fifth grader could understand: without sun, there is no food; without food, everything dies. Call me sheltered, but this was a possibility I had not yet contemplated in life. What fifth grader does? Either this kid was the love child of Cormac McCarthy and Ingmar Bergman, or he was onto something real, in which case my family would need to be prepared. We had no stockpiles of food in our basement, only a workbench, a giant foam mattress, a pool table, and some old cans of Minwax. If nuclear winter hit and the animals died and our Safeway was reduced to a gray smudge, how would we survive? What would we do for food?
Thirty years later, I know exactly what I’d do: I’d head to my in-laws’.
Open the door to Jenny’s mother’s refrigerator, and this is – more or less – what you will see: very little that resembles what we think of as “groceries.” You will see orange juice and water, a tub of whipped cream cheese, and a smattering of condiments. But mainly, you will see endless bowls and plates and little glass dishes, all neatly covered in Saran Wrap, containing leftovers. A dessert plate with five green beans. A bowl with three flaccid strawberries. A plastic take-out container with two ounces of plain spaghetti, cooked, and another plastic take-out container with about four tablespoons of marinara sauce. One-third of a breaded chicken cutlet. Half a piece of French toast. A Chinese food carton containing a single piece of black-bean shrimp. A Ziploc bag containing one sad leaf of Boston lettuce. Enough hummus to satisfy a field mouse. A slice of honeydew melon, vintage unknown. None of this will go to waste, by the way. Not one bit of it will be thrown out. Everything here will be repurposed, over the coming days, into the brown bag lunches that Jenny’s mom has taken to work every day for the last 30 years. Think of it as leftover tapas. This is an actual picture I took at her house last weekend: (more…)
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Tags:leftover spaghetti·pantry dinner·spaghetti omelet·what to do with leftover spaghetti
There’s this thing Abby and I do, before every soccer game. She’s usually sitting on the wooden bench by our door, in her too-big uniform, and even though she’s in third grade, I’m enabling…I mean, tying her cleats. When I’m done, I give her a pat on the knee and look into her eyes.
“You ready?” I ask.
“Yeah,” she says. The affect couldn’t be more flat. She has heard this before.
“You gonna be tough out there today?” I ask.
“Yeah,” she says.
“Good,” I say, “because if you lose, don’t bother coming home.”
She rolls her eyes.
So when I was loading my stock pot full of chili into the back of our car at 8:30 last Saturday morning, on my way to deliver it unto the judges of our town’s first annual Chili-Off, Abby saw her opening.
“Hey, Dad,” she said.
“If you lose today, don’t bother coming home.”
You know where this is going, right?
We’d signed up for this Chili-Off — which would take place at the Pumpkin Fair, which raises money for our town’s elementary school — a few weeks ago, and Abby wasn’t the only one having fun at my expense. Jenny, too, had been gleefully applying the pressure, getting all up in my mug about it. (“Remember that venison chili Francine made for us like ten years ago?” she asked a few days beforehand, out of nowhere, which I took as challenge — brazen in its passiveness — to my manhood. “Mmmm, that was so good.” Damn, I thought. Should I be using venison?). The night before the contest, she’d been watching me like a hawk as I got my mis en place going, hovering, looking skeptical, asking me if I was nervous, if I knew anything about “the competition,” if I had a secret ingredient up my sleeve (meaning: you might need one), if I’d be able to show my face at the coffee shop if we lost. But I had waited until 9:00 on the night before the contest to start cooking, and I didn’t have the time or bandwith for new recipes or special ingredients. Go with what you know, as they say, and so I did. I’m not about to abandon the chili I love because there might be someone out there building a better, prettier one. It’s called loyalty, people.
Besides, I only know how to make one chili by heart. It’s quick and easy, about thirty minutes of hands-on time, and is a regular in the family rotation. Every Halloween, actually, we make a batch of it for friends and neighbors, who stop in before they go trick or treating, or while they’re out trick or treating, sort an open house kind of deal. It’s a dinner party in a pot. We stick a ladle in the Le Creuset, put some paper bowls and fixings on the counter — sour cream, cheese, cilantro, avocado, chips — and everybody stands around with a glass of red wine and serves themselves. It’s become something of a tradition, and nobody has ever complained about the food. To my face, at least.
The chili itself is a pretty straightforward base with lots of possible variations, but for the First Annual Chili-Off, I decided to go classic (beef), with a slight twist (chorizo). The chorizo adds some subtle heat and smokiness and, in general, just really good depth of flavor. I mean, it’s sausage, for chrissakes; it’s not going to make it worse. By 10 pm, the stock pot was in the refrigerator, marking its time until Judgment Day.
We showed up at the fair at 12:30, having completely missed the Chili-Off, not to mention the panel of seven judges who apparently tasted all fourteen entries with the seriousness of the dead. The day was beautiful, sunny and windy, the leaves just beginning to turn. High clouds were blowing through in long formations. A soccer kind of day. One of Phoebe’s friends ran right up to us as we walked in. “You guys came in second place!” she said. “Phoebe, your dad almost won!”
Almost. Hey, I tried, right?
Jenny looked at me. She smiled. “Second place, wow,” she said, throwing an arm around my shoulder. “Not bad, not bad. But you know what George Steinbrenner said: Second place is really first place loser. I’m just saying.”
Ouch. I don’t the name of the guy who won first place, but I have two things to say to him: Congratulations, your chili rules. And: Stay away from my wife. – Andy
Second Place Chili
Serves 12 to 15 (more…)
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Tags:chili·easy chili recipe·entertaining families·family entertaining ideas·halloween entertaining
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog as long as I have, and never told you about one of my greatest talents. (No, not my proclivity for cocktails.) Last night as I made dinner, it occurred to me that I have a remarkable ability to convince myself that whatever I’m making for my family is healthy — even on nights when I am forced to go upstairs to change my T-shirt that has been splattered with the canola oil I used to fry the deliciously crispy skillet potatoes you see above.
Because the potatoes are from my favorite organic vendor at the farmer’s market. And they are technically vegetables. And they are sitting next to a pile of kale. (Remember the Kale Effect? Which is related to Andy’s Broccoli Rule?) And plus, we were having a college friend over for dinner, and when a guest is at the table, the decision to fry the potatoes (instead of roast them) and the decision to use an extra pat or two of butter in the pan-sauce for the chicken (chicken = not red meat) is a no-brainer. Extra fat doesn’t officially register in the arteries when you are cooking for someone else. I can’t believe you didn’t know that.
Last night was a little more buttery than I’m used to, but I will say that as a general rule, I am a firm believer that there needs to be at least a hint of hedonism on the dinner plate — whether it’s crumbled feta in the salad, sour cream on the baked potatoes, or bacon in the brussels sprouts. Because if every meal is boiled kale with quinoa and flax, I have to ask: Where is the joy in life? (more…)
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Tags:Chicken recipes for kids·crispy skillet potatoes·easy chicken dinner·fried potatoes·skillet meals
We’re not the types who keep the Weber burning all year long — something just doesn’t feel right to me about grilling a leg of lamb while wearing a parka. Which means that this past Saturday night, when the sun was on its way down before the girls’ muddy cleats had been kicked off, may have just marked our final grilled fish dinner of the season. But it was a good one. (more…)
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Tags:ginger green beans·grilled yellowfin tuna·healthy family dinner·sustainable tuna
I wasn’t sure I heard her right.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“What’s up with the flat bags?”
I heard her right. The question came from the photographer’s assistant during the DALS Book photo shoot a few weeks ago. She was in her twenties, hailed from Williamsburg. I didn’t get a peek at her iPod, but I feel certain it would be loaded with songs by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the New Pornographers. In other words, bands I’d never heard before. She was referring to the bags of chilis and soups in my freezer — I always freeze dinners in flattened Ziplocs. When you do it that way, you save time (by thawing whatever is frozen under running water for 60 seconds) and you save space. (After your soup or stew is frozen, you can file the bag in your freezer like a book in a bookshelf.) How did she not know this?
Most likely because she hadn’t spent six years of her life at Real Simple or four years editing the food pages of Cookie. I need to remember that not everyone is a former magazine editor walking around with a mental catalog of time-saving, money-saving, energy-saving, sanity-saving, life-saving, surefire, guilt-free, guaranteed fool-proof, plan-ahead, stress-free, problem-solving shortcuts, tips and tricks. (And yes, in case you are wondering, all those words consistently scored the highest with the focus groups.) I need to remember that not everyone out there feels comfortable with recipe-writing language that calls for a “handful of beans” or a “pinch of cayenne.” (Don’t literally pinch cayenne, especially if you are using those same pinchers to remove contact lenses an hour later.) I need to remember that calling for lemongrass in a recipe is a potential deal-breaker and that calling for a ”large” can of whole tomatoes is going to elicit this comment from my book editor, Lee: “Ounces please! Lord, define large!” This is why she is so awesome. Not only because I can hear her southern drawl through the most miniscule of notes, but because she yells at me now so you won’t have to later.
Anyway, in honor of all of you out there who don’t know to store your folded garbage bags inside the garbage can (so you can conveniently grab a replacement as soon as you discard the full one –classic Real Simple tip ) or that adding skim milk to boiling liquid is going to result in curdling (classic Jenny screw-up), here are a list of things I wish someone told me fifteen years ago, when I was the one with the loaded iPod (Sony Walkman?) who did not understand the kind of happiness that a quick-thaw might someday bring me.
1. Don’t ever make recipes (or trust cookbooks) that have overly cutesy recipe titles like “Struttin’ Chicken.” These kinds of dishes rarely have the kind of staying power that a good simple Roast Chicken will. (Grilled Chicken for People Who Hate Grilled Chicken is the obvious exception.)
2. Buy yourself a pair of kitchen scissors. You will use them to snip herbs. You will use them to chop canned whole peeled tomatoes that have been dumped and contained in a 4-cup Pyrex. You will use them to snip spinach right in the skillet as the spinach wilts. Spinach! As long as we’re on the subject: always make more of it than you think you need. This way you will not find yourself in the position of having one cupcake-sized mound of sesame spinach for your whole family of four to share.
3. Some Type-A behaviors worth stealing: Do everything you can in advance when you are having people over for dinner. No matter how easy and tossed-off the task may be. No matter how many times your partner-in-crime says, Why don’t we just do that later? Filling a sippy cup takes 30 seconds! If you forgo this advice and do nothing in advance, at least make sure you start off the evening with an empty dishwasher. You will thank yourself a few hours and a few cocktails later when staring at the mountain of greasy plates in the sink. Lastly, if at all possible, go to sleep with a fresh trash bag in the kitchen garbage can. I find it somewhat soul-crushing to see last night’s dinner scraps piled up before I’ve had my morning coffee. And I sleep better when I know it’s empty. (See: Type A.)
4. Brushing dough with a quick egg-wash is the secret to getting that shiny, lacquered, I’m-worth-something-after-all glow to your pies, breads, and cherry galettes (pictured above). This comes in especially handy when trying to pass off storebought crust as homemade. Whisk one egg with a fork, then use a pastry brush to cover every inch of the exposed crust before baking.
5. Meat will never brown properly if you add it to the pan when it’s freezing cold and wet. (And browning properly is where you’re going to get most of your flavor.) It should be patted dry and room temperature. Unless you have just walked in the door, it’s 7:30, the kids are screaming and the instruction to “bring it to room temperature” is the instruction that will make you swear off family dinner forever.
6. Add acid. A drizzle of vinegar, a spoonful of tangy buttermilk, a simple squeeze of lemon or lime will always add brightness to an otherwise boring and flat dish. I’ll never forget an interview I read with Mario Batali that reconfirmed this: He said the easiest way to pretend you know what you’re doing in the kitchen is to talk about the “acidity” level of a dish.
7. Never use the phrase “pun intended” or “no pun intended.” Oh sorry! That’s from my “Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Started Writing” list.
8. Learn the correct way to slice and dice an avocado. You will not only save time, energy, sanity [insert up to 4 more Real Simple focus group words here] by doing this, but you will find yourself giving tutorials to awed, in-the-dark observers every time you make guacamole in front of them.
9. Ice in the cocktails, people. Don’t be stingy. Nothing worse than a lukewarm Gin and Tonic.
10. You won’t get arrested if you leave out an ingredient or replace it with something that’s not called for. That doesn’t mean leave the shrimp out of the shrimp and grits, but if you don’t have scallions for the chopped salad, or if you don’t have red wine called for in the braised pork, take a look around and see what else might stand in for what’s missing. Every time you do this and it works, you’ll be a little more confident in the kitchen. And every time you do this and it doesn’t work, you have one more good story to tell.
Flattened freezer bag photo by Jennifer Causey for DALS.
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Tags:advance cooking·cooking 101·dinner strategy·how to cook
And so the question is, what does one have for dinner the night after she swears off eating for a year? The answer: Fish in Parchment Paper. We had a ton of vegetables left over from the shoot (if anyone needs to borrow an onion, I’m your lady) so Andy sliced them up, arranged them on a cutting board, then asked the girls to top their flounder filets with whatever topping they wanted. We’ve written about these before (“fish presents“) but I was reminded of how flexible the recipe is — we never make it the same way twice. Last time we wrote about them, we went in an Asian direction with bok choy and sesame oil. This time we went in a more classic (if slightly purply) direction: purple peppers, purple potatoes, shallots, asparagus, haricot verts, kale, lemon slices, olive oil and sea salt.
Fish in Parchment Paper, A Refresher Course
You’ll need one square of parchment paper or aluminum foil per filet. (Again, we used flounder, but you can use any fish you want: sole, salmon, tilapia, sea bass, snapper, you can’t go wrong.) Lay the fish on the paper, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover with thin slices of lemon and shallots.
Layer on your desired toppings (see photo above) drizzle with olive oil, then add herbs (parsley, chives, cilantro), a squeeze of lemon, and a final dash of salt.
To “wrap the presents,” lift up the sides of the parchment paper until they meet above the fish. Turn down a few times and fold the ends under the fish — picture the way the deli guy wraps a sandwich — creating a seal so the steam doesn’t escape. Slide the packets onto a cookie sheet, and bake in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes. (It’s hard to overcook the fish when steaming it like this.) Remove from oven and serve on plates. Be careful when unwrapping, though: steam is hot.
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Tags:fish en papillote·fish in parchment·quick dinners for kids
If I didn’t know that September was here by the first-day-of-school butterflies, the sudden, almost primal urge to re-organize my bulletin board, or the to-do list spinning through my brain like a slot machine at 3am, I’d know it by looking at my DALS email inbox. Help! You all write. I need quick dinner ideas for the back-to-school scramble. I started replying one by one, but then I thought almost everyone out there would be interested in my suggestions. So here they are, in no particular order.
1. Pretzel Chicken Courtesy of City Bakery (pictured Below).
2. Chicken Chorizo Tacos with Spinach and Avocado Or just eat the chorizo plain — it’s so good!
3. Pork Chops with Kale A Bugiali favorite.
4. Angel Hair with Corn and Bacon Your window for sweet summer corn is about to shut — take advantage of the fresh ears as much as possible!
5. Sausage Stew with Kale and White Beans I’m making this tonight.
6. Avgolemeno Insane how creamy this lemony Greek soup tastes — without using any cream at all.
7. Salmon with Brussels Sprouts and Ginger-Scallion Sauce Superfast, superhealthy.
8. Quick and Easy Pork Fried Rice Easily made veg by omitting the pork. It’s almost too easy!
9. Turkey Sloppy Joes with Melted Cheddar For nostalgia night.
10. Chicken with Artichokes in a Creamy Mustard Sauce This is in danger of becoming my new “Stairway to Heaven” of Dinners. It always makes whatever list I’m compiling. But I promise it’s more satisfying.
Quick Dinner #2.
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Tags:easy dinner recipes·Fast dinner·quick dinner·quick dinner recipe