Entries Tagged as 'Sides, Salads, Soup'

Scalloped Potatoes

November 18th, 2014 · 25 Comments · Posts by Andy, Sides, Salads, Soup, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

One night last week, Jenny and I were in the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner, and Phoebe was sitting at the table, finishing her homework, surrounded by the contents of her scoliosis-inducing backpack. As Jenny checked Instagram and I scrubbed a pan of rice, talk turned to Thanksgiving — and our total lack of planning for it thus far. The way it usually works around here, Thanksgiving-wise, is that Jenny’s mom provides the turkey and the Jell-O chocolate pudding pie, and we are (happily) responsible for everything else: i.e., pan-roasted Brussels, cauliflower with anchovy breadcrumbs, three pepper cornbread stuffing, and mashed potatoes. “I assume we’re just making the usual?” I said.

“Actually,” Jenny said, “I was kind of thinking we should try scalloped potatoes this year instead of mashed.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s radical.”

“I’ve had a total craving ever since Todd mentioned that he made them recently. How good are scalloped potatoes?”

At this point, Phoebe’s pencil stopped moving. You should have seen the look on her face. It was like she’d just overheard us say we we’re going to give the dog away. “Wait, wait, wait,” she said. “You guys are joking, right?”

Phoebe, it should be noted, is a true creature of comfort. The stuff she likes, she really likes. Her bed, for instance, with its disintegrating quilt. Her house. Her little chair in her reading nook. Her Tintin collection. Her water-damaged Timex watch. Her pair of jeggings with the hole in the right knee. Her mashed potatoes. God, the kid loves mashed potatoes.

“Please,” she said. “It’s Thanksgiving. How can we not have mashed potatoes?”

Fast forward to the next day. I am at work and, in my building, there is an hour-long panel talk going on between Sam Sifton (author of Thanksgving: How to Cook it Well) and Gabrielle Hamilton, superstar chef and author of Prune. They talk about the beauty (and difficulty) of the three-ingredient recipe, the perfect temperature of butter when smeared on fresh radishes (waxy, never oily, and sprinkled with sea salt), and how they feed their kids (at this stage, Gabrielle says, her goal is simply caloric intake), and when they’re done, they take questions from the audience. First question: How do you guys feel about a traditional Thanksgiving? Pro or con?

Sam, after pointing out that felt obligated to answer first since, as he noted, he “literally wrote the book on Thanksgiving,” said he believed in tradition, and in Thanksgiving as the Great American Secular Holiday — it was pretty stirring, I have to say — and one that should be properly celebrated as such. How many times a year, he asked, do you eat a turkey? Are you sick of turkey or something? Gabrielle agreed, and launched into this beautiful paean to the familiar smells and tastes of the Thanksgiving table, and talked about how there is no night she looks forward to more at the restaurant — where, after the place clears out and the customers have all gone home, the staff gathers for their “family meal,” with all the fixings. The point was, however you celebrate it, and whoever you celebrate it with, tradition matters.

So it was decided. We would make the scalloped potatoes this weekend, when the stakes were low, and Phoebe would make the call: yea or nay. And this is what she sent me, via text, upon being asked her where she stood, when all was said and done: “Though your new potato dish is good,” she wrote, “in no way does it live up to the greatness of mashed potatoes, and I DO NOT permit you to serve these potatoes in mashed potatoes’  stead. The end.” So we’ll be eating these again soon, but not for Thanksgiving. At least not this year. – Andy

Scalloped Potatoes for Thanksgiving or Otherwise
From Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well, by Sam Sifton
Note: I baked them in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, so upped the quantity on the milk/cream mixture a bit. The important thing is the instruction to make sure the milk comes “almost to the top” of the layered potatoes.

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cream
1 large garlic clove, peeled, smashed, and minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and ground white pepper, or freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, sliced thin, and kept in a bowl of cold water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 425. Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan and bring to almost a boil. Remove from heat and add garlic, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Lightly butter a 9-inch square baking dish or a 9-inch casserole with half the butter. Drain the potatoes and dry them lightly, then layer half of them in the dish so that they overlap slightly. Add half the milk, pouring it all over the potatoes. Layer the remainder of the potatoes in the dish, then add the rest of the milk so that it comes almost to their top.

Top with dots of the rest of the butter and place in the upper third of the oven until the potatoes are browned and the milk has been absorbed, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve in its container.

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Soup Dumpling Souvenirs

November 13th, 2014 · 9 Comments · Picky Eating, Quick, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup

Those of you who have been with DALS for a while might know my theory, based on years of research (read: making dinner) in my personal lab (read: kitchen table), that the key to expanding kids’ palates is to bring them along with you on the weekly food shop. As the theory goes, when they select the pack of pomegranate seeds themselves — or the leeks or the avocadoes — they’ll be more likely to try it all at home.

When I wrote about this in Playbook, I focused mostly on the main grocery store run, the one where you pick up the dishwasher detergent right along with the week’s supply of chicken breasts. But I didn’t spend a lot of time talking the other kind of shopping trip, the ones that, for me, can be as exciting as the North American premiere of Mockingjay. (Countdown: One more week!) Think big food halls like Eataly and the Ferry Building; or small farm markets in parking lots; or, my favorite, ethnic mom-and-pop shops that we are constantly stumbling upon as we make our way around the Tri-State New York metropolitan area. There’s the Middle Eastern place sandwiched between two giant car dealerships in White Plains; the cluster of Latino stores in Port Chester (where, among other things, I procured the ingredients for mole last year); the old-school Italian market in Mamaroneck where prosciutto is pronounced with two syllables and two syllables only; the packed-to-the-gills Asian market where I can find cheap, authentic ingredients for my pad thai or just about anything else I want to cook from Thailand, India, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, or China. I even find myself drawn to the C-Town a few miles away because it has an entire wall devoted to any kind of Mexican cheese my little heart (or little recipe) calls for.

These places are magic for me. And for the kids, wandering their aisles in the middle of a weekend day can feel like a quick trip to another corner of the universe. Adding to the thrill: It is 100% required for them to bring home souvenirs. Last weekend, we stopped by our authentic Asian superstore after my midfielder’s rough loss (my midfielder’s really rough loss) and picked up some noodles for pan-frying, some lemongrass, a bottle of hoisin, and this big bag of pork soup dumplings, which, when simmered in homemade chicken stock and sprinkled with scallions, was just the ticket for the world’s easiest dinner on Monday night.

They were richer than I thought, so each of us only got three or four per bowl. (At that rate, we’ll  finish the bag by May.) We rounded out the meal with Andy’s “accidental broccoli,” that I drizzled with citrusy-miso dressing. As the kids on instagram might say: Yassss.

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Today’s Lunch, Tomorrow’s Dinner

October 14th, 2014 · 24 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized

“Wait you just made that now?”

That’s what Abby said about this soup when she came in from the backyard, and it was exactly what I was thinking as I ladled the noodley broth into a bowl for her lunch. Wow, that was fast. This was yesterday — a holiday — and we had been on the road at various soccer tournaments throughout the DC area for three straight days. I don’t know how much time I logged in the car, but let’s just say I’m not going to be on the receiving end of a Friend of the Environment award any time soon, and the idea of getting in the Mazda even to go grocery shopping was more than I could handle.

Instead, I did what I do best: I procrastinated. If I could just scrape something together for lunch, I could maybe buy myself another few hours watching Glee re-runs before hitting Trader Joe’s.

The fridge was looking bleak — even the peanut butter jar was scraped clean — but I found an onion, a handful of dusty looking baby carrots, and about 30 ounces of a 32-ounce chicken broth container, which was about five minutes away from expiring. There was a single fat chicken breast. Maybe it was the ingredients speaking to me, or maybe it was something more primal (with chicken noodle soup moments, you can never be so sure), but I needed soup. That was as big and obvious to me as anything.

I’m not in the habit of whipping up homemade soup for lunch – or dinner for that matter — but now I’m wondering why that is. My friend Pilar used to give me soup recipes in pictures, drawing a cross-section of the stockpot to show me each layer of flavor: aromatics, seasoning, broth, fillings. And that’s really all the instruction I needed to turn a tumbleweedy, end-of-week fridge into something pretty damn comforting. Is it going to yield a flavor that is deep and multi-dimensional and Ivan-Ramen-worthy? Uh, no. But did it get the job done? Yes. And then some: There’s a batch of it in the freezer waiting for me for tomorrow’s dinner.

Noodle-Loaded Chicken Soup
I don’t love soups that are overly brothy, but if you do, no need to include as many noodles as I did. No set rules here.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 large carrot (or a handful of baby carrots) chopped
salt and pepper
1 32-ounce container chicken broth (about 4 cups)
1 large chicken breast, cut into thirds
angel hair, to taste (I used about a third of a 1-pound package), broken half with your hands

Add olive oil to a medium pot set over medium heat and add onions, celery, carrot, salt and pepper. Saute about 2 minutes until vegetables have slightly softened.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Add chicken, reduce heat, and simmer for about 12 minutes. Remove chicken from soup and shred with two forks. (The less artful you are the better.) Bring soup back to a boil and add pasta. When angel hair is cooked through — about two minutes — add chicken back to the post. Season to taste and serve.

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Addicted: Vegetable Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

August 7th, 2014 · 33 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

I had such buyer’s remorse the other day. But sometimes, that’s a good thing.

I’ll start at the beginning. Instead of writing from home last week, I decided to set up shop at the Starbucks that was down the block from my daughter’s camp. That way, I wasn’t wasting any time in the car, I was maximizing my time working, and I was only ever ten feet away from re-caffeinating, should it come to that. (Note: It often comes to that.)

The only problem? I was also ten feet away from those delicious coffee cakes, the ones they offer to heat up for you? (Yes, please.) And the egg biscuit sandwiches. You know, those things are not awful. Neither are the blueberry lemon scones. I bought one to bring to Abby after camp, but ended up eating it myself as I cranked away at the laptop, too productive to leave, too lazy to walk outside to get something a little healthier. (Not to mention, too greedy to risk giving up my table near the coveted computer outlet.)

By Day 3, I had had it with the baked good bacchanalia. I needed something for lunch that included a vegetable. As usual, though, I was pressed for time, and starving, and the only thing I could find nearby was a Whole Foods in a strip mall. Against my better judgement, I headed to the prepared food department to see what I could grab quickly. Hmmm. Salad bar? Too complicated. Tandoori potato flatbread sandwiches? Too carby. Sushi? Too expensive. But next to the chopstick display (more…)

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The Third Piece of the Puzzle

June 5th, 2014 · 21 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup

I know it’s all about The Third Plate these days, but I have another dilemma in my house, namely the Third Piece issue. That is, in the meat-veg-starch triumvirate, I usually have the meat and vegetable down, but lately I’ve been stumped by what else goes on the plate that my brown-rice and bean-hating kids will be excited about, but that isn’t a big pile of potatoes. (I know, everyone should have my problems.) Sometimes I just go with meat and a double vegetable, but the other night I decided to grab two of the seventy-five cans of garbanzo beans I’ve collected in the pantry (How? Why?), then drained, rinsed, dried, and fried them up in some oil before adding a few spices. And I think I might have found my answer. They were (somewhat) healthy, golden and crispy (read: appealing to the kids — probably because they didn’t recognize them as beans), flexible and can always be in the pantry, loyally awaiting dinner duty. Highly recommend if you have a few dozen cans in the pantry yourself.

Crispy Chickpeas
The other night I served these with a cucumber-yogurt-mint salad and cold picnic chicken. (Recipe for that one on the way.)

Add a generous amount of canola oil to a cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Drain, rinse and dry two 14-ounce cans of garbanzo beans. When pan is hot but not smoking, add beans (in batches, if necessary, you want a single layer of beans on the pan’s surface) and fry about 15 minutes per batch, tossing every 5 minutes or so. Remove with a slotted spoon into a paper-towel-lined bowl. Once all chickpeas are fried and drained, add salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne, a 1/2 teaspoon of both garlic salt, and paprika, or (Bon Appetit-style) just smoked paprika and cayenne. You can also top with yogurt that has been mixed with a squeeze of lime juice and some freshly chopped mint or cilantro. Or you can stir in some chutney. Or you can offset the spiciness with a cool yogurty-cucumber salad. In short, go crazy.

Speaking of chickpeas, I remember these Crispy Cinnamon Garbanzo Beans being the most addictive after school snack ever.

And apropos of nothing: How good is The Third Man? I just added it to my Netflix queue — I don’t think I’ve seen it since the Orson Welles unit in college. The zither!

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Beautiful Buvette

April 22nd, 2014 · 302 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup

On a rainy Monday night in midtown a few weeks ago, I found myself faced with classic New York dilemma. I was running late to meet Andy for his birthday dinner downtown and needed to make a decision: Should I try to catch a cab (always a risky proposition on a rainy night) or just get on the subway, which involved a transfer (always a time-eater)? At the same time, I was also asking myself Why didn’t we just stay home for his birthday? The girls could’ve been part of it and I certainly wouldn’t be standing on a corner soaking wet, nervous about being late. To add to my decidedly First World anxiety, we were going to Buvette, a jewel box of a restaurant on Grove Street in the West Village, run by Jody Williams, who has become something of a cult hero to food insiders and bon vivants everywhere. In other words, it’s popular. Every minute I was late felt like an hour I’d have to queue up for an open table.

I took the subway to Christopher Street, sprinting a block in the rain, by then coming down sideways. When I finally bulldozed into the gastrotheque, feeling very much like a wet dog, I made my way back to Andy seated at a small table tucked into a corner. “Happy Birthday, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Happy Birthday,” I said, but less sorry than relieved that we still had a table.

“What’s the stress?” he said, taking a sip of his Manhattan and leaning back. “You’re here. Look at this place.” He opened his arms wide, as if personally presenting Buvette to me.

He loved Buvette — which is why we picked it for his birthday. I looked around at the intimate, brick-exposed space, at the regulars reading books and drinking cocktails at the marble-topped bar, at the chandelier made from old cooking equipment hanging like a piece of modern art in the back room. For all the trendy chatter about this place, it felt neighborly and warm, as if it had been here forever. Within minutes, I was sipping my own Manhattan, overtaken by the warmth, the cold rainy streets fading away like a jet trail. (more…)

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Eggs: A Love Story

April 7th, 2014 · 29 Comments · Dinner, Entertaining, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

There are four cartons of eggs in my refrigerator right now, which might sound strange considering my childrens’ well-chronicled antipathy towards all things orb-shaped and yolk-filled, but as far as I’m concerned, it might not be nearly enough. The first carton, our standard Trader Joe’s Large Brown Organic, is almost depleted so that hardly counts. The second is one I picked up at our farmer’s market this past Saturday (Hallelujah! It’s open!), and the last two dozen I bought at Stone Barns where we went for lunch a few hours later, because I couldn’t help it. Eating an egg from Stone Barns after a winter of Trader Joe’s eggs is like picking up Anna Karenina after a year of flipping through Archie comics. I needed to stock up. (more…)

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Abby’s Famous Swiss Chard (with a Side of Steak)

March 24th, 2014 · 22 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized

Guest-post from 10-year-old Abby:

I am so sick of kale. Good thing I taught my family to like chard with this world famous dish. Well not world famous, but famous in my house.

I love chard. The second I saw the rainbow-colored stems at farm camp growing in a garden with beautiful fluffy green leaves I knew that they would taste good. One morning I bought then at the farmers market. Later though, when we brought it home, I had no idea how to cook it. My dad started cooking the chard in a pan and putting red pepper on it. I took a taste, but it was a bit spicy, so I added some soy sauce to make it salty and to balance the spicy-ness. Then I tried it again, and it tasted really good, but it needed some sweetness. Finally I thought of the perfect solution: Rice Wine vinegar! (Mom’s note: seasoned rice wine vinegar!) I drizzled it on and sampled the chard. It was delicious! I put the whole thing into a bowl and honestly could not stop eating it. By the time it was dinnertime there was only half the amount I had cooked left in the bowl. Since that dinner, I make the recipe very often and every time it tastes even better.

And my mother (now typing) would like to add that it’s very delicious with a quick broiled (or grilled) marinated skirt steak. Here are both recipes:

Quick Broiled Skirt Steak with Abby’s Chard
Her mother would also like to let you know that this entire dinner can be made in 2o minutes, 15 if you have a 10-year-old sous chef taking over the chard. (more…)

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Rock-Your-World Cranberries

November 20th, 2013 · 39 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Thanksgiving

I feel like I’ve been dancing around this one for a few posts now — I keep alluding to the mysteriously adventurous cranberry sauce that includes ingredients some Thanksgiving traditionalists (read: My Mom) might categorize under “newfangled:” Ginger, mint, raw, fresh cranberries. (We’ve never been a molded-from-a-can family, but we have definitely been in the boil-them-down-to-jelly camp.) The recipe, Cranberry-Orange Relish, is from Bon Appetit‘s Andrew Knowlton, and offers the perfect fresh-and-bright hit on a plate piled with rich, buttery, beige-y starches. (And hopefully piled high.) Last Thanksgiving, it was so good, so necessary, that I found myself not just tolerating it for the sake of tradition, as I usually do, but actually loving it, going back for seconds, and all year long dreaming of making it again.

Related: The Official Application for Submitting a New Dish to the Thanksgiving Table.

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Cauliflower with Magical Powers

October 10th, 2013 · 22 Comments · Dinner, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

Some days I look at this screen and wonder how on earth I can spin a story out of thin air about a pork chop or a kabocha squash. And then some days, like today, I can’t believe how much I have to say about a head of cauliflower. So many different roads I can go with this, I’m not sure which one to take.

I could tell you about my brother-in-law, Nick, who is famous in our family for his habit of eating an entire head of cauliflower (raw, unadorned, stem and all) as soon as he walks in from work. But the guy deserves an entire post (character study?) all his own, so look for that one soon.

I could also tell you about my dinner last week downtown, and how I almost didn’t go because the day had been long and there was some babysitting drama and instead of getting on a train and a subway, then back home again, what I really wanted to do was just pick up the girls at soccer and not have to worry about someone else finding or not finding the field in the dark. Well, guess what? It turns out you do not need an advanced degree in astrophysics to drive at night and follow directions (insane, handwritten directions with lots of maps) and I was worried for no real reason. The little snag reminded me of a rule I used to live by, but haven’t been so great about following: When I have the chance of doing something or not doing something, I’m rarely going to regret getting my butt in gear and doing it…in partaking.

Especially when, on this particular evening, the partaking was happening with one of my more favorite dinner dates, Lia, at one of the more exciting restaurants in New York, Einat Admony’s Balaboosta on Mulberry Street. The name is Yiddish for “perfect housewife, wonderful mother” and also serves as the title for Einat’s gorgeous new cookbook geared towards home chefs…who aren’t necessarily perfect housewives or wonderful mothers. Her food is what I would call modern Mediterranean (Harissa-spiked hot wings anyone?) and I swear I could’ve eaten everything on the menu (and everything in the book). But Lia and I managed to narrow it down to six or seven small plates — including shrimp kataif, shredded kale and brussels sprouts, burrata, and a crispy cauliflower dish that was topped with pine nuts and currants and was, to be honest, mind-blowing, worth the commute in and of itself.

Lastly, what I could also tell you is that the following week when I pulled a head of cauliflower out of the CSA box, I found myself standing next to my daughter, who I felt like I hadn’t heard from in a while. I mean, I had heard about the math test, and I could see her working on her soccer juggling in the backyard, and I knew she was thinking about being a vampire for Halloween. But I hadn’t really heard from her, if you know what I mean. And it just seemed to be the exact right time for me to hand her the recipe for the Balaboosta cauliflower, teach her how to cut off the florets with a paring knife, shake up the vinagrette in a jam jar, and talk about some real stuff. On principle, I can’t get into the details on what the real stuff is these days, but let me just say that because of Einat’s beautiful little recipe — simple enough for a tween to help with, but complicated enough to keep her talking and standing next to me for a good 20 minutes — I’ll probably be relying on this recipe a lot in the next few years.

Cauliflower Everyone Loves 
I’m not the only one who finds this dish magical. Apparently, it’s one of Einat’s most-requested items on the menu. I cut back on the amount of oil called for (5 cups) in the book, but trust me the dish still lived up to its name. I served with a simple roast salmon and green salad. Serves 4 to 6; recipe from the beautiful Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love.

White Wine Vinaigrette

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper

Cauliflower

Canola oil, poured to about a half an inch high in a large, straight-sided skillet or (better) a Dutch oven
1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
1 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Dried currants (optional)
Toasted pine nuts (optional)
Coarsely chopped parsley (optional)

1. Whisk together the vinegar, honey, and mustard. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk to emulsify. Add salt and pepper and set aside. (Or add all ingredients to a jam jar, seal tightly, hand to your kid, and have him or her shake it like crazy.)

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add cauliflower and boil for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into an ice bath to stop the cooking. (Or just put it on a paper-towel lined plate, like I did.)

3. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large resealable bag. Throw in the florets, seal, and shake until thoroughly coated.

4. Heat the oil in you large skillet or a Dutch Oven to medium-high. Working in small batches, carefully drop florets into the oil and fry until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel-lined serving bowl.

5. Remove paper towel and toss cauliflower with vinaigrette, currants, pine nuts, and parsley.

Excerpted from Balaboosta by Einat Admony (Artisan Books). Copyright (c) 2013. Photographs by Quentin Bacon.

 

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Vacation Dinner Highlight Reel

August 21st, 2013 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup, Travel

I can’t promise you this will be a very usable guide to exciting eating. As you know, on vacation, you can toast a pop tart for dinner and it will make you as happy as a four-course meal at Cafe Boulud. (In fact, maybe we’ll try that tonight.) But, as you can imagine, we are getting seriously into our South Carolina vacation dining, doing our best to adhere to the 50 Rules, outlined so dutifully last week so we don’t lose total control. Herewith our top six dinner moments this side of the Mason-Dixon line…

1. Shrimp Cocktail. I once read that if you’re not going to eat shrimp right off the boat in Southeastern US, you might as well always buy it in the freezer aisle — there’s pretty much no such thing as fresh, flavorful shrimp outside of this region. I think that’s why whenever we are down here, we eat shrimp like we’re never going to eat shrimp again. The run-up so far: Shrimp cocktail before dinner as often as possible (chilled with cocktail sauce, natch), grilled shrimp in salads at lunch; shrimp salad rolls for dinner.

2. Oyster Sliders at The Ordinary. We’ve gone out to dinner a few nice places, but so far the winner has been The Ordinary — perhaps a tip-off was the fact that Bon Appetit nominated it for one of the country’s 50 best new restaurants this year. Or perhaps it was the oyster sliders with the crazy coconut action that Abby ordered and which put the rest of our meal to shame. And that’s saying something because the rest of the meal — lobster rolls, pickled shrimp, John Dory schnitzel — was pretty damn tasty.

3. Beet & Carrot Slaw Our CSA pick-up was the day before driving from New York to South Carolina, so what were we going to do, give our neighbor that week’s share? I don’t think so. Not when, among other things, heirloom tomatoes and cylindra beets were in the box. We packed all our produce in a cooler and tended to the bundle like it was a third child. The love and care paid off because on our first night cooking we made some flounder and, not wanting to turn on the oven (Rule 45!), I shredded those beets on a box grater with some carrots, tossed in rice wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, cilantro and mint. (Full disclosure: There was no mint, but there should’ve been.)

4. Phoebe’s Crostini You’re looking at grilled tuna (that Andy had spackled in mayo before throwing on the Weber) a very JV succotash made with butter beans, corn, red peppers, onion, sauteed in a little bacon fat (apologies to real southerners) and Phoebe’s crostini. At camp, Phoebe learned that if you toss chopped fresh tomatoes, fresh peaches, corn kernels, a drizzle of balsamic and some Parm, and put the whole thing on baguette toasts, then very delicious things ensue. “It’s like summer in a bowl,” she announced when she put together the topping. I’ll take it!

4. Roast Carrots with Garam-Masala Yogurt Sauce. OK, so fine, I confess: we turned on the oven once. Or twice. But the cause was a noble one — carrots, cut on the bias, tossed with a little chopped onion, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted at 425°F for about 30 minutes (keep an eye on them). While they roasted, I whisked together about 3/4 cup plain yogurt with a teaspoon garam masala, lime juice, olive oil, chopped cilantro and mint. I’m not going to go so far to say it was the best thing on the plate — that’s an impossible honor when a grilled burger with special sauce is in the mix — but it was a clear leader in the side dish department this summer.

6. Beach Picnic The homemade pizza with fresh tomatoes was pretty good. So was the asparagus that Andy quickly sauteed in olive oil, salt, and pepper during the 30 minute stretch that the girls were totally, absolutely, relentlessly begging for a beach picnic. You promised! It’s so easy! I’ll help pack everything! Come on it’s vacation! Be fun! What parents know but kids don’t yet is that beach picnics are one of those things that always sound really fun, but are actually kind of a nightmare. Especially if you don’t have any of the right gear (see baking pan cum nonbreakable tray above) and especially if you try to take photos showing how ideal the night is (full moon, clear sky, silky calm ocean, etc), then get sand in your fancy camera making things a thousand times more stressful. So why is this even on my highlight reel? Because after dinner was over, we all jumped in the ocean. And there’s very little that beats a post-dinner sunset swim.

For more real-time dinner highlights, follow us on instagram: andyward15 and dinneralovestory.

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Only on Vacation: Salsa Fresca

August 14th, 2013 · 20 Comments · Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

Far and away, the most beloved pre-dinner snack in our house is chips-and-salsa. Every night, while the grown-ups are do-si-do-ing around each other assembling something that resembles a meal, the kids are generally popping into the kitchen to dunk a chip into a bowl of decanted Trader Joe’s salsa (and ask, yet again, dinner almost ready? Mom? Dinner almost ready? Dad?) It would never occur to me to make that salsa from scratch. Even if the tomatoes were in season all year long, even if I had more time than the usual turbo-charged weeknight affords.

But when I’m on vacation, as I am now, it’s a different story. For as long as I can remember — pre-book, pre-blog, maybe even pre-diary — one of the first things we ever started experimenting with was fresh salsa. Even when the tomatoes weren’t perfect like they are right now, even when we had a perfectly acceptable jar of prepared stuff in the fridge, we’d make a point to chop up a few heirlooms, toss in some onion, play around with hot sauce and tomato paste and cilantro before striking the right formula. It’s so easy, in fact, that every time we make it, as we did last night, we wonder why we never make it back home. Of course as soon as we ask the question, we answer it immediately: Some things just belong on vacation.

Salsa Fresca

There’s definitely no official recipe for this, which is another way of saying that you should have some spare chips by your side so you can taste and correct as you concoct. (Chef’s privilege!) But the basic idea is this: Chop up 1 or 2 of the freshest tomatoes you can find — heirlooms are best, but really any good summer tomatoes will do. (And chop them into smaller pieces than you see above.) For every cup of chopped tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons cilantro, 1 tablespoon finely diced red onion, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, dash of hot sauce, salt and pepper. That’s your baseline salsa fresca, but even that is flexible depending on how juicy the tomatoes are (and how juicy you like your salsa). Once you have your base, you can add whatever you’d like: corn, chopped yellow peppers, chopped peaches, pineapple. If your tomatoes aren’t quite as flavorful as you’d like them to be, whisk a little tomato paste into the red wine vinegar before tossing with tomatoes. Serve with chips.

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Five Summer Salads

June 25th, 2013 · 16 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

I think once a week since the Atkins craze seized us in the 90s, I’ve told myself that I’m going to try to limit the carbs — and at dinner have two vegetable sides instead of one vegetable and one bready-ricey-potatoey thing. Problem is, I like those bready-ricey-potatoey things a lot. And so do the kids. So I barely make it through one meal before I’ve fallen off the strach wagon. But if ever there was a time of year that I had a shot of making this happen, it’s summer, when our farmer’s market opens for the season and the fridge is overflowing with fresh vegetables. We’ve been rockin’ the summer salads for the past few weeks and thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

1. Market Greens with Beets, Sugar Snaps, Candied Walnuts, and Toasted Quinoa (Above) Wrap beets in foil and cook at 400°F for 40 minutes until a knife slips easily through them. Let cool, then peel and chop. Toss into market greens with chopped sugar snap peas, candied walnuts, scallions, and toasted quinoa. (See bottom of post for instructions.) Toss with your favorite vinaigrette, but nothing too overwhelming. (I’d stay away from one that’s balsamic-based.)

2. Sugar Snaps with Cilantro, Pickled Cabbage. Trim peas and chop into bite size pieces. Add handful of cilantro, finely diced red onion, few tablespoons pickled cabbage (here’s a quick pickle recipe if you want; just replace carrots with red cabbage). Drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Chilled Napa Cabbage with Cilantro and Shallots I know you’re going to think this is overstating things, but I dreamed of this salad all night long after making it last week. I had a head of Napa cabbage and wasn’t in the mood for a mayo-heavy slaw, so I did what any self-respecting farmer’s market-frequenter would do: I referred to Alice Waters’ bible, Vegetables. (You’ll be hearing more from me about this book very soon.) Waters suggested macerating (i.e. soaking) shallots in white wine vinegar for 15 minutes then tossing with shredded cabbage, cilantro, and really good olive oil, salt, and pepper. I’m telling you — it sounds boring, but when the cabbage is fresh, you won’t believe how perfectly the whole thing cuts the char of a grilled steak.

4. Market Greens with Homemade Ranch Dressing The thing is, when the greens are this good, you don’t need to do a lot. A simple homemade ranch dressing does the job just fine. See recipe at the bottom of this post.

5. Mustardy Potato Salad See what I mean! I can’t ever resist the potato-starchy component. We’ve been making some version of this classic for years now — originally a Mark Bittman recipe. Basically, you peel then boil red or Yukon gold potatoes (about as many as you see above) for 15 minutes — until a knife slips through potatoes with no resistance whatsoever. You don’t want to undercook potatoes, but they also need a little structure. While potatoes are cooking, to a large bowl add a heaping tablespoon whole grain mustard, a heaping tablespoon Dijon, then whisk in about 1/3 cup of olive oil and a splash of a mild vinegar (champagne or white wine or red wine). If you have time to fry a few red onion slices or shallots in bacon fat (from one slice bacon) go for it, otherwise just add a handful of them chopped to the dressing. (Crumble cooked bacon in there, too.) Toss in potatoes while still warm and add fresh herbs, like fresh oregano which we had in our CSA box.

I stole both the toasted-quinoa technique and the buttermilk-ranch recipe from my friend Shaina at Stone Barns, who you might have gathered, is a genius.

Toasted Quinoa:

Add a handful of uncooked quinoa to a pan set over medium-high heat and toast until aromatic and nutty smelling, about 3 mintues. Shake pan so the quinoa rotates and doesn’t burn.

Homemade Ranch dressing:

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic salt
salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped shallot or red onion
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk

Add lemon juice, mustard, garlic salt, salt, pepper, onions and herbs to a jar. Cover and shake until ingredients come together. Add olive oil and buttermilk and shake again. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.

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RE: What’s for Dinner?

June 19th, 2013 · 24 Comments · Posts by Andy, Quick, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Every year, right around this time, Jenny and I have the same conversation. We will have just finished dinner, and the kids will have disappeared upstairs to take baths or be mad because we are forcing them to take baths even though just they took baths last night, and Jenny will turn to me and say, “I think I could be a vegetarian.” And I am right there with her. Because (a) I like vegetables*, and (b) when this conversation takes place, we are inevitably transitioning from the gray of winter to the technicolor of prime produce season, when the carrots taste like carrots and the beets are like dessert and the kids can easily snack their way through a pint of snap peas, sitting in a bowl on the counter, in the course of a single afternoon.

It’s kind of crazy how a giant box of fresh produce — from the farmer’s market, a CSA or, if we were better people, from our backyard — in the refrigerator can reset your magnetic north (chicken, must have chicken, what can we do with chicken, remember to defrost chicken) when it comes to family dinner and just, in general, get the inspiration juices flowing again. The other day, as I was sitting at my desk, Jenny texted me a photo of some sick-a#s produce, along with a challenge: “What’s for dinner?” Not to go all Alice Waters on you here, but I let the green stuff be my guide. The truth is, you could throw any of this stuff in a bowl with a light dressing, some salt and pepper, and it would taste good. Apart from the roasting of the beets, nothing we did took longer than 15 minutes, start to finish — and the beets, if I’d been smart enough to plan ahead, could easily have been prepared the day before. Which is what I will do next time, because they were the best thing on the plate by far.

“The beets were the star,” Jenny said.

“Phoebe, what’d you think?” I asked.

“Yeah, good,” she said. “Can I have Oreos on my sundae?”

It was after this meal, as we were cleaning up, that Jenny turned to me and said she thought she could be a vegetarian. Will we ever do it? Who knows. It’s possible. That’s a conversation that, for now, gets derailed by Abby’s love of bacon… and Phoebe’s attachment to cheeseburgers… and that also might ultimately be contingent on fish also being in the mix, given our attachments. But what would definitely help speed our conversion along is if I inherited a fertile plot of land in, say, Northern California that would supply us with fresh produce all year round, or at the very least, if this CSA deal could be extended, ad infinitum, until I am old and sick to death of beets. Short of that, we’ll have to see. – Andy 

*Except for zucchini.

This is the photo Jenny emailed me: A sampling of our idiot-proof raw materials — tiny Napoli carrots, dragon radishes, kohlrabi, Oregon giant snow peas, super sugar snap peas, red ace beets, and an herb called winter savory. And this is what we ended up having for dinner… (more…)

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When in Doubt: Dumplings

June 13th, 2013 · 30 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

I have a confession to make. My heart sank a little when I saw escarole in my CSA box for the second week in a row. I know I’m supposed to be so game for the challenge, so excited to explore what kind of gold I can spin from these Vegetables I’d Never Pick Out Myself. But last week, week #1 — and I’m sorry to be all blasphemous about this — I wasn’t so crazy about that escarole. I should’ve probably wilted it into soup with white beans, but it was hot in New York, and I didn’t want soup. I craved fresh, bright, light salads. I chopped up the escarole and dressed it with my new favorite vinaigrette. But it turns out escarole is bitter. Too bitter for me — or any of the nose-wrinklers at my table — to enjoy raw. This, you’d think I’d know by now. I don’t. No amount of pomegranate seeds tossed in with the leaves, no amount of sugar added to the vinaigrette seemed to help the situation. But I ate the whole stinkin’ head. (Kids: Another story.) I was not going to throw it away.

This week, when confronted with escarole for a second week in a row, I knew I had to do something. I knew I had to cook it. And if I wanted my kids to eat it, I knew I’d have to do something drastic that maybe even involved covert operations. With Deb’s pot stickers still fresh in my memory, I decided on dumplings.

Now be warned: Dumplings are not the kind of dinner you’re gonna be glad you have in your back-pocket to whip together at a moment’s notice. Oh no, they most certainly are not. I, in fact, made this batch you see above in the middle of the day, when the kids were still in school, as a reward for finishing up a project that took a lot out of me. (Nothing like pressing ‘pulse’ on the Cuisinart to build oneself back up again.) I had five kitchen stations going simultaneously: the cutting board, a skillet for cooking the vegetables, the food processor, the wrapping area, and a second skillet for frying the dumplings. This meal is not what one might call a No Brainer.

But it is kind of genius. Because that huge mop of escarole that was mocking me from the CSA box? Transformed into a crispy, greens-and-tofu-packed vegetarian entree. And even better, when the kids finally got home they couldn’t help but say as soon as they walked in the door “What smells so good?” (I know, frying wontons is kind of totally cheating) and then gravitated to the kitchen, playdates in tow, where the dumplings were laid out on a platter, and began shoveling them down their collective hatches. “Mom! These are good! What’s in here? Is that cheese?” asked Abby.

“Um, no. I mean, yes it’s cheese. Totally cheese,” I told her, remembering that tofu was on her black list as recently as one month ago.

“And spinach?” asked her friend.

“Yup. Spinach and Cheese.”

And pretty soon, all gone. Every last leaf.

Fried Vegetable Dumplings
Instead of wincing at this long ingredient list think about it this way: Dumplings are what you might call a back-pocket, end-of-the-week meal. As long as you have your basic aromatics (garlic, ginger, onions) and some pantry staples (soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, veg oil) then you can pretty much fold up any about-to-rot vegetable inside the wonton wrappers (which keep in the freezer forever, by the way). Also: I highly recommend making them as a weekend project with the kids.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for frying
Dash of sesame oil
1 small shallot or 4 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
shake red pepper flakes
1 bunch fresh greens that you don’t want to eat raw, but don’t want to throw away (such as escarole, radish greens, turnip greens, or even fresh spinach), roughly torn
2/3 block extra firm tofu (pressed and drained on paper towels for about 15 minutes, and sliced into rectangles)
handful chives, roughly chopped
handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon seasoned rice wine vinegar
Squeeze of lime
1 12-ounce pack of wonton wrappers

Add the oils to a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the scallions, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and Chinese Five Spice for about 2 minutes. Add greens and cook another minute until slightly wilted.

Transfer the filling to the bowl of a large food processor. Add remaining ingredients (except wrappers) and pulse until everything is roughly chopped, but not a big pile of mush.

Set up your dumpling-assembling station: A small bowl of water, the filling, and your wontons.

Dip your fingers in the water and dot or “paint” around the edges of a wonton. (This is an excellent task for the kids.)

Spoon a small amount of the filling into the center of each wonton. (Ignore the one on the upper right, it was my first one and it was waaay too much.)

Fold one corner over the opposite corner to make a triangle shape. Pinch all sides together; smush their centers slightly (so they’ll lay flat in the frying pan) and set aside.

Once all the dumplings are assembled, add a tablespoon vegetable oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Fry in batches adding more oil as needed, until dumplings are crispy and golden, about 2 minutes on each side.

Serve the dumplings with soy sauce. To make it an official dinner, round out with a fresh sugar snap peas salad.

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What Do You See?

June 3rd, 2013 · 31 Comments · Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

Sometimes I fantasize about grocery shopping with my food heroes. I don’t mean Jamie Oliver and Marcella Hazan — though certainly I wouldn’t turn them down. I mean healthy, wholesome-minded moms like Alana and Jeanne. I have never even met these women, but based on their books and blogs, I feel certain that they’d make me see Trader Joe’s in a totally new and fresh way. (And that I wouldn’t end up with three separate white-bread products in my cart.) If I wore my Alana or Jeanne goggles before I went to the farmer’s market, I feel like I might actually come home with something outside my comfort zone, and as a result feel healthy and virtuous and heroic 24/7…just like them. (Right Alana & Jeanne?)

Well, in a way, I’ve done the next best thing: I’ve signed up for a CSA vegetable share with Stone Barns Center. Which is sort of like saying that I’ve signed up the girls for a soccer camp run by Alex Morgan. Stone Barns is an 80-acre farm in Pocantico Hills, NY that supplies Dan Barber’s restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Their mission, beyond growing ridiculously delicious vegetables, is to educate the public about sustainability, and to get people cooking their own food. The people know what they are doing, and I’ll be blogging for them to help spread the word.

Based on the emails I get from you guys (Summary: Why don’t you join a CSA? Why haven’t you joined a CSA? Have you thought about joining a CSA? What the heck is wrong with you that a food lover like you hasn’t joined a CSA yet?) it sounds like a lot of you know what this means. For those of you who don’t, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and in return for a modest investment in a farm, you receive a box of fresh, in-season produce from that farm for a set amount of weeks. The price varies depending on length of the program and the amount of produce in each delivery, but it can go anywhere from $20 a week and up to $50. (The one I signed up for is about $40, which is a little more than I drop at my farmer’s market every Saturday.) I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on why the whole thing is a win-win: It’s a great way to eat local on autopilot, to support farmers, and be part of something a little bigger than the four walls of my kitchen.

But the best part about it so far? Well, by definition, it means that someone else is picking out what my vegetable adventure for the week would be. Not Alana or Jeanne, but someone who, presumably, wouldn’t come home with mostly kale and beets all spring in spite of saying to herself before every trip to the farmer’s market, Let’s see if we can come home with something other than kale and beets today. Every week will be like I’m shopping with someone new — like I’m wearing someone else’s market goggles.

I guess you could say that I am forcing myself to accept the advice that I’ve been doling out to my kids ever since they could process English: Eat more vegetables. Try something new. How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it? And I’m hoping you guys are up for the adventure, too. The photo above shows the vegetables that arrived in my first batch on Thursday afternoon and what my initial visions for each one was. But that’s seeing the box through my goggles. What about you? When you put on your market goggles, what do you see?

Clockwise from top left: Seared Tofu with Sauteed Cabbage and Sriracha (recipe below; Sriracha not shown); Grilled Chicken Salad for Everyone; Something I really really like the sound of: Kohlrabi-Carrot Fritters; and shredded Portugese Kale and diced kohlrabi get ready to be turned into slaw. (Recipe follows)

RECIPE 1: Kale Slaw with Pomegranates*
Portugese kale, which was the kind I got in the box, was much more tender than the Lacinato/Tuscan I’m used to. So it needed a little texture to balance out the floppiness. Enter Kohlrabi! Crunchy and fresh, it was the perfect hit of texture.

Dressing:

3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
salt to taste
1 teaspoon fish sauce (available at Asian specialty stores and better supermarkets)
lime juice from half a lime
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (crucial)
1 drop of hot sauce (or 1 tsp minced jalapeno or serrano chile)
1/3 cup neutral oil like grapeseed or vegetable oil

The rest: 

1/2 head of kohlrabi, peeled and diced into small pieces
handful of pomegranate seeds
kale, shredded as shown above (bottom left corner)

Whisk dressing ingredients together and toss with the remaining ingredients.

RECIPE 2: Quick-seared Tofu on Wilted Cabbage with Sriracha
I had this for lunch, so serving size here is one. Obviously, it can be doubled or quadrupled to work for your family. You know, since my recipes are so precise.

Add peanut or vegetable oil to a skillet set over medium-high heat. Dredge one  playing-card size slice of extra firm tofu (about 3/4 inch thick, pressed on paper towels under a heavy pan for about 20 minutes) in a little flour that has been sprinkled with Chinese Five Spice (optional) salt, and pepper. Add tofu to the pan and fry without poking until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes. Flip and repeat. Remove from pan. Turn heat down to medium add 2 tablespoons chopped onion, shake of red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger (optional) and diced cabbage (“Minuet Napa Cabbage,” as it was called). Add a small drizzle of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. A squeeze of lime. Taste and see how you like it. (You don’t want to overwhelm these already flavorful greens with strong flavors.) Cook until just barely wilted, about 1 minute. Serve with prepared tofu, a sprinkling of sesame seeds (optional), some snipped garlic chives (or regular chives) and a drizzle of Sriracha.

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You Say Potato, I Say Greek Potato

May 6th, 2013 · 25 Comments · Dinner, Posts by Andy, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

When Jenny and I were in our mid-twenties, we both had jobs in publishing – she at Real Simple, me at Esquire – and worked a few blocks apart, in midtown Manhattan. Sounds pretty glamorous, doesn’t it? It wasn’t, not really. But it was fun. For Jenny, who had spent two decidedly unfulfilling years, post-college, at a financial consulting firm in suburban Connecticut, it was a chance to flex those creative muscles, to unleash that side of her that can make a dollhouse out of a pile of clip-art and a cabinet door. For me, it was a chance to work with a bunch of writers I’d long admired and, in the process, come to understand just how little I really understood about writing. Work-wise, everything felt new and different back then, if that makes sense; when each day presents you with something you’ve never done before, you are constantly learning and constantly being challenged and, as a result, constantly feeling like a screaming fraud on the cusp of being found out. This was both motivating and, in hindsight, good for the soul. I can remember telling an older co-worker and mentor, when he asked me how I was holding up during a particularly tough week — one with a lot of late nights — that I was doing GREAT, thank you for asking. I told him, with total sincerity, that in the two years I had been at Esquire, there had not been a single morning when I dreaded coming to work! And I remember the look on his face when I said it, too: a kind of tight smile that said, Ahhh, yes. I remember being twenty-five and naive once, as well, my son. And I am smiling somewhat inscrutably like this right now because it is the only way I can keep myself from informing you that there will come a day when the prospect of editing your 43rd “Women We Love” cover package will make getting out of bed in the morning seem very, very hard.

But in the meantime, Jenny and I were happy just living in the moment. We had no kids yet, no mortgage, no boxes of baby pictures accumulating in the basement, no ballet shoes, lacrosse sticks, soccer bags, emergency granola bar stashes, or Taylor Swift CDs rattling around in the back of our car. (Actually, we didn’t have a car.) Working in the same business, and the same neighborhood, we had so much to talk and commiserate about. (I’d always send her a list of possible titles for a story I was working on before running them by my boss, for example; she was my insurance against public humiliation.) Every couple of weeks, we’d meet for lunch – usually at the local Au Bon Pain or the dreary, sneeze-guarded salad bar at the deli on 54th Street – but once in a while, we’d splurge and walk over to Uncle Nick’s on 9th Avenue. Uncle Nick’s was a cramped and busy Greek place with exposed brick and a sweaty, open kitchen populated by people who yelled a lot. It had too many tables, chairs so heavy you could barely push them back, and excellent souvlaki. An Uncle Nick’s lunch was what I call a “day-ender” – absurd portions of food that is simultaneously so flavorful that you can’t stop eating it and so filling that you immediately resign yourself, upon eating it, to an afternoon spent mourning the decisions you have made in life, and yearning for sleep. We’d get the tzatziki and a salad with blocks of fresh feta, a kebab or souvlaki platter, a side of Greek potatoes and, of course, rice pudding. None of it was what I would call light, but it was the potatoes that dealt the most crushing, and pleasurable, blow. They were roasted, but not crispy, oily but not greasy, crack-like in their addictive qualities.

I haven’t been to Uncle Nick’s in ten years, easy. I don’t even know if it’s still there, and am too lazy at the moment to google it. But in our house, at least, it lives on: I made Greek potatoes to go with a leg of lamb we’d grilled on Jenny’s birthday last weekend and boy, did it ever take us back. There it was, exactly. That fantastic texture, that deep yellow color, those hints of lemon and oregano. Damn! And oddly, given my sappy tendencies, the only thought after eating them was not, Wow, where did all the time go? It was, Why the heck do we ever eat potatoes any other way? – Andy

Greek Potatoes

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
1  garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup water
1/2 cup good olive oil
Juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon oregano
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 500°F. Place cut, peeled potatoes into a baking dish large enough for each potato to rest on the bottom. In a bowl (I used a large measuring cup), combine water, olive oil, garlic lemon juice, oregano, and salt and pepper. Mix and pour over potatoes. Cook for 45-50 minutes, or until potatoes are slightly brown on the edged and most of the olive oil has been absorbed. Finish with some sea salt.

The main course: a leg of lamb, grilled for about 15 minutes, until medium rare.

Side #2: Arugula salad with radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, and mint. (We added the bulghur later, after we’d served the kids. Kids no like bulghur.)

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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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