Entries Tagged as 'Sides, Salads, Soup'

Three Steps to Healthier Days

April 3rd, 2013 · 34 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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March 11th, 2013 · 23 Comments · Dinner, Posts by Andy, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized

Two weeks ago, I flew down to Fort Myers, Florida to spend a couple of days with five college friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a decade, maybe more. It hurts my heart to type this, but it’d been nineteen years since we’d graduated. Nineteen years since we’d borrowed each other’s toothpaste on the way to the bathroom before class, nineteen years since we ate almost every meal together in the dining hall — a big, smelly-footed family — and did the stupid things that, as long as we survived them, would provide us with the stories we would sit around and laugh about nineteen years later, when we were middle-aged men at bro-downs in Florida. In the intervening years, we’d scattered across the country — Utah, Chicago, Baltimore, Vermont, New York, Florida — and had twelve kids between us, more than a few recessed hairlines, and the requisite number of cranky shoulders, bad backs, and surgically repaired stuff. (I had my old roommate Buck, now an accomplished orthopedic surgeon in Salt Lake City, examine my shoulder as soon as we got there. “Torn labrum,” he told me. “I’ll email you some PT exercises.”) We were not what we used to be, but come on, who is?

We met up at a half-empty hotel with mile-long hallways in Cape Coral, where we’d rented two sprawling, chandeliered suites with water views. We’d spend a couple of days going to spring training games, and maybe even drinking a beer or two before the sun went down. It’d be like The Hangover! We were free! No school lunches to be made. No one shaking you awake at 6:45 to ask if you’d like a tour of her dollhouse. No shuttle service to soccer practice in the freezing, indoor bubble. No one to ask — true story — if “tickling is allowed in boxing.” Our nights would undoubtedly be spent eating 48 dollar ribeyes, drinking martinis, and playing card games into the wee hours. (Only problem there: I don’t know how to play any card games and I go to bed at 11.) We would, in short, turn back the clock. We would party like it was 1999.

Only we didn’t.

On Saturday, after an afternoon game (Sox-Twins), we huddled up to discuss the plan for dinner. The choices, it dawned on us, were grim. I wasn’t strong enough for the hotel bar, which had a sad, swinger-y vibe that depressed the living sh*t out of me. Locally, there was a Chik-Fil-A and a Hardee’s and not much else that we could see — well, beyond a massage parlor, which probably didn’t serve dinner.

“Our room has a kitchen,” Billy said.

“Why don’t we get some groceries on the way back from the game,” said Dave.

“And cook in?” I said.

“Yeah,” said Brian, “you’re the family dinner guy.”

I wish I could say I was bummed or horrified or annoyed at the prospect of staying home, in my shorts and socks, and cooking for six grown dudes. But at this point in my life, why even pretend? The truth is, I loved the idea. It was a relief. So we stopped at the Publix supermarket and loaded up on ingredients for chiliturkey chili, no less — and, lock up the womenfolk… a spinach salad. Oh, it got crazy! We went off! We put on some music and hung out in the kitchen, just like at home, Brian helping with the meat-browning duties, me showing Dave how to chop an onion, Buck loitering in the living room to check the scores on SportsCenter, Dave — who was keeping me company by the stove — peeking over my shoulder to see how much chili powder went into the pot (eight tablespoons; I doubled our usual recipe), Brian making a fresh round of gin and tonics, Billy saying, Huh, he’d never seen anyone put sausage in chili before, but I told him to trust me on this, and he did. All the familiar rhythms reasserted themselves. I was at home. It’d been nineteen years, but these guys were like family. And what do you do for family? You cook for them. And then you sit down and eat. – Andy

The Menu

Served with bowls of the usual trimmings: avocado, sour cream, cilantro, shredded cheddar, tortilla chips.

Spinach Salad with Almonds and Cranberries (Florida Supermarket Version)

Two bags fresh baby spinach, shredded
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Couple handfuls of dried cranberries
1 tbsp finely minced red onion or scallion
1/4 cup crumbled feta or blue cheese

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette (Hotel Kitchen Version)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Few healthy pinches of kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne or hot sauce

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This Week in Deconstructing Dinners

February 13th, 2013 · 33 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Deconstructing Dinner, Dinner, Favorites, Sides, Salads, Soup

Probably when most people spy a book like Jeanne Kelley’s Salad for Dinner at the bookstore or in their library they pick it up and think Mmmm, this looks nice and healthy. Or: I could afford to shake up the Romaine routine. My first thought? A veritable treasure trove of potentially deconstructable dinners. True, I can look at almost any meal and envision how it can break down into child-friendly, nothing-touching, no-green-speck meals to please the sauce-o-thropes at the table. (Soup works, so does a pot roast.) But salads have got to be the most conducive. And if ever there were a cure for the parents who cannot seem to find common ground between their craving for The Way They Used to Eat and their toddler’s Craving for White Pasta…it’s this book. Kelley’s recipes take you far beyond the barren world of tomato-and-bagged-lettuce salads into the promised land of hearty, healthy, grain-rich, colorful, incredibly flavorful masterpieces you’d serve to any dinner guest — Seared Salmon with Quinoa, Asparagus, and Spinach; Thai Style Grilled Beef Salad; Toasted Barley, Long Bean, and Shitake Mushroom Salad with Tofu. And yet, very few of them seem out of reach. I opened the book during breakfast, found this jackpot Indonesian Chicken Salad recipe below and realized I had every single thing I needed to get it together for that night. Maybe you do, too.


Indonesian Pineapple, Chicken and Spicy Peanut Salad
Adapted from Salad for Dinnerby Jeanne Kelley

The peanut dressing is what ups the wow factor here, but it’s definitely spicy, so if you are worried about that with the kids, I’d limit the Sriracha to about a teaspoon. Also, Kelley instructs roasting the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet along with 1/4 cup of water then tented with foil. (About 40 minutes at 375°F.) I usually poach, but was curious about her method and found it to be much easier. The chicken (bone-in breasts) ended up incredibly tender and shred-friendly.

Spicy Peanut Dressing
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 large garlic clove, pressed

8 cups thinly sliced cabbage (from about 1 medium head)
1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into strips as shown above
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 pound shredded cooked chicken breast (see note above)
1/2 cup chopped roasted and salted peanuts
lime wedges

In a large bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Season with salt to taste. Add the cabbage, pineapple, carrots, red pepper, scallions, cilantro, and chicken and toss to combine. Serve sprinkled with peanuts and a squeeze of lime juice.

If you are deconstructing this salad for kids: Whisk dressing in a separate small bowl and serve separately from salad. (Or in a little dipping bowl, as shown above.) Instead of tossing all the salad ingredients together, place each one in its own clump in a wide shallow bowl, have the kids pick what they want, then proceed to toss for the normal people.

Last year, I couldn’t walk into a food editor’s office without seeing Jeanne Kelley’s book right on the very top of their cookbook pile with post-its sticking out of every side. I don’t know what took me so long to get my own copy, but I have a feeling I’m going to be using it a LOT.

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The Magic Onion Effect

February 4th, 2013 · 17 Comments · Picky Eating, Posts by Andy, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup

A cherished ritual seems to have sprung up in this house, without us ever consciously putting it into effect: we go out to a local restaurant, just the four of us, every Friday night for dinner. The culinary options in our neighborhood being somewhat…limited, we usually end up at a sushi place run by a super friendly Japanese man who I will call Bob. Bob works as hard as is humanly possible. Bob cares. He is the great patriarch of the place, demanding and loving, standing by the door in sushi chef garb, directing traffic, taking pickup orders by phone, making the rounds to check on general levels of satisfaction. He has a photographic memory, as well, which manifests itself in a remarkable ability to remember every customer’s name, which I know because he shouts every customer’s name the second they walk in the door. ANDY! TODD! JENNIFER! EMILY! HELLOHOWAREYOUUUUUUUU! There’s a big, well-tended fish tank by the door, and some mermaid murals on the walls, and the fish is good and fresh; the kids love it here. We always order family style, and we’ve got it down to a science: yellow tail scallion roll, eight pieces of salmon sushi, spicy shrimp tempura roll, a few pieces of tuna, coupla orders of shumai, coupla bowls of miso, and most important, one chicken teriyaki dinner, which is served in a sizzling cast-iron skillet. The chicken is tender, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and cut into strips, but it’s the onions that we end up fighting over. They’re sweet and still slightly crunchy, caramelized in the pan and doused in teriyaki sauce. Abby drizzles them over her rice and goes to town; Phoebe just takes her chopsticks and shovels them in until the pan is picked clean. Without fail, they are the highlight of the meal.

We’ve chronicled our caramelized onion obsession here before — and in Jenny’s book — but a little homemade teriyaki sauce takes things to another level. The first time I made these, I spooned them over some fresh tuna, which I seared in a grill pan on the stovetop. The next time, we served them with roasted salmon. They go with almost everything, is the thing: steak, chicken, fish, tofu, they’d even be good on a burger (with some hoisin instead of ketchup, mmmmmm). The downside is, we never have enough. My hard-won advice: use more onions than you think you’ll need, because you’ll need them. — Andy

Teriyaki Onions

Teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp chicken broth
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
3 scallions minced
2 tsp sesame oil

Add all of the ingredients above to a bowl or large measuring cup, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Thinly slice two or three large yellow onions and sautee in cast iron skillet (with one tbsp canola or grapeseed oil) over medium heat until they soften slightly, about five minutes. Drizzle in a few spoonfuls of the teriyaki sauce, to coat the onions, and stir. Cook 2-3 minutes, until sauce is absorbed. Then, do it again: drizzle some of the sauce over the onions — but don’t let it get soupy, you don’t want to boil these things — and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with chicken, fish, or rice.

Speaking of cast iron skillets, the newsletter giveaway winner of the super-awesome Lodge Cast Iron Skillet that we use daily is Sarah L . Thanks to everyone who participated! 

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Soup on the Brain

January 28th, 2013 · 60 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup

This post is for those of you in the Northeast who haven’t felt their toes since last week. And for those of you who keep tweeting and emailing requests for soups right now please, Jenny! And for my mom who called me last night and said Why haven’t you done some kind of soup yet? For those of you in warmer climes, sorry, this post is not for you. In fact, I’m going to do my best to suppress my envy of you and your warmer climes by just ignoring you completely.

Best Get-it-On-the-Table Fast Soup Greek Chicken Soup (Avgolemono), above. A Greek twist on chicken noodle. Just don’t do what I did last night, which was try to temper and whisk the egg into the broth during the 30 seconds my egg-hating sous chef Abby was retrieving bowls for serving. I panicked, didn’t get the egg mixture hot enough, whisked it into the main soup just as she was coming my way, only to find the pot of broth more Egg Drop Soup-ish than creamy, luscious Avgolemono. This wasn’t a disaster (I love Egg Drop soup) except Abby kept picking up little strings of white and yellow with her spoon and saying “This looks an awful lot like an egg.” (Me: “You were with me the whole time. How could there be an egg in there??”) If you have everything you need, you can be eating this in under 20 minutes.

Best Soup for Picky Eaters Tortilla Soup. If you are all set up for Super Bowl Nachos, then you are all set up for this soup. For me, it’s all about the lime, but for the kids, it might be all about the cheese. So think about the diners at the table as you assemble and customize accordingly.

Healthiest and Heartiest Butternut Squash Soup. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with this one, replacing the curry powder with smoked paprika (just a little; stuff’s strong) and topping with pepitas and Greek yogurt instead of walnuts and creme fraiche. No matter what you do, though, it’s a classic. It was also the recipe that convinced Andy that butternut squash was maybe worth a shot.

Scrappiest Soup Grated Vegetable. This is a riff on the soup made famous by Jacques Pepin that’s always good to have in your back-pocket. You basically bring a pot of chicken stock to a boil, then shred whatever vegetables you have directly into the pot. The only rules are to keep your carrots-onions-celery to an even ratio and, if you are using greens, to tear instead of shred. Simmer for about 15 minutes and stir in a few tablespoons of grits to thicken if desired. Serve with grated Parm or Gruyere and olive oil drizzled on top. And crusty bread.

Soup Most Likely You Could Convince the Baby Was His Regular Old Vegetable Puree Ariel & Yolanda’s Broccoli Soup. This looks so good, and calls for ingredients I always have in the pantry — I think I’ll try it out for lunch today since (shocker) girls are home from school due to inclement weather.

Others from around the web: Chorizo and White Bean, Tomato Bread Soup, Jamie Oliver’s Leek & Potato, Ina Garten’s Italian Wedding – amazing I haven’t made a version of this for the girls yet.

Stay warm.

Photo credit: Marcus Nilsson

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What’s Your Security Blanket?

December 13th, 2012 · 30 Comments · Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

A few weeks ago I got this letter from reader Catilin:

Dear Jenny,

So, um, DALS is one of the only things I read right now. I’m a lawyer (work about 65 hours a week), mother of two kids (3 and 1, oy) and have a great husband.  Our life is really blessed, but as you can imagine, we do nothing but work and take care of our kids – literally NOTHING except that!  BUT we both want to eat healthy food that gives us more energy (and less food coma), so we do eat frozen pizza sometimes, yes, but we also prep veggies, make soups and chicken stew and pot roast on the weekends so we can reheat it most nights for dinner.  And I make homemade hummus every week, not because I’m Laura Ingalls Wilder, but because I find when we have it in the house, everything else falls into place.  Hummus becomes a base for us to eat well and choose foods that last in the belly, as opposed to quick, fatty, salty things.  It was one of the first things I learned to make that changed the way I thought about how to eat for energy and to keep up with my kids. It keeps body and soul together.

I tell you all this because DALS helps me keep the faith that at some point we may actually have the time and space from our kids to make things in a more spontaneous way – right now “cooking” on weeknights (even if its only 20-30 minutes) is impossible.  So, we’re settling for reheating homemade stuff during the week.  Which isn’t terrible, but not as fun as throwing together Chicken Marsala on a Tuesday night. Sigh.  Anyway, thanks for all the good cheer and parental commiseration.



Let’s count how many things I love about this letter:

1) She has no time for anything except kids and work (sound familiar?) and yet she’s making time for DALS (yes!)
2) She has the good sense to make things on the weekend that can be reheated during the week. (And they sound almost exactly like what I make on the weekend.)
3) She also has to good sense to realize that this is just a phase and pretty soon she will be spontaneously throwing together that Chicken Marsala on a Tuesday night. (See “The Years the Angels Began to Sing,” in my book.)
4) She is not beating herself up over falling back on a frozen pizza now and then. (I just did that last night!)
5) It’s so well-written!
6) She knows what her security blanket is — she knowns what she has to have on hand in order to feel that all’s right with her dinner world. For me, it’s homemade salad dressing. For Andy, it’s Tuscan kale. For her, it’s hummus.

What is it for you?

Thanks for writing, Caitlin.

Phoebe learned how to make this hummus at camp last summer and we’ve been looking for an excuse to write about it ever since. I’ve tried a lot of recipes before, but this seems to have the right balance of lemon and isn’t overly garlicky. She throws everything into the bowl of an unplugged food processor, then I take over.

1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups drained chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
juice of 1 lemon
water as needed

On a cutting board mince and mash the garlic to a paste with the salt. In a food processor, puree the chickpeas with the garlic paste, the tahini, lemon juice, scraping down the sides. Add olive oil in a thin drip until the hummus is smooth. Salt to taste.

Add water, if necessary, to thin the hummus to desired consistency and transfer the hummus to a bowl. Serve with pita or vegetable sticks.

For nut-free hummus, omit tahini.

Related: Two-minute hummus dinner.
Related: What’s Your Page-Turner?
P.S. An excerpt from  Dinner: A Love Story on Cup of Jo. Thanks, Joanna!

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Happy Thanksgiving

November 21st, 2012 · 1 Comment · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Chicken and Turkey, Sides, Salads, Soup, Thanksgiving

Wherever you are, however you celebrate, be safe, give thanks, and don’t forget the leftover sandwich.

Happy Thanksgiving from Team DALS!

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Thanksgiving Eve

November 19th, 2012 · 10 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup, Thanksgiving


My mother owns Thanksgiving. Which is another way of saying that she is in charge of the turkey. We are, of course, with her in my sister’s kitchen every step of the way, mincing onions for stuffing, browning anchovy-studded breadcrumbs for the cauliflower, shredding Brussels sprouts, rolling out our pate brisee, whisking Scharffen Berger into chocolate pie filling, and providing moral support (and sometimes actual muscular support) when the bird makes its dramatic entrance into the 400°F oven. Because I don’t get to cook side by side with my mom and my sister very often, Thanksgiving Dinner is like the World Series for people like me — a heavily choreographed effort that I have always felt is just as fun to assemble as it is to actually consume.

The night before Thanksgiving? Another story altogether. We are all arriving at my sister’s house at different times with different levels of hunger and desires. (Read: We are all arriving with our children.) And in situations like these I’m not sure which is worse: Cooking up a “quick meal,” which before you know it fills the sink with a truly soul-crushing pile of ketchup-streaked dishes….or ordering a sad-sack pizza because in all the pre-game hype leading up to the big day no one even gave Thanksgiving Eve a thought until the moment we arrived. No one owned it. (more…)

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For Me to Know and You to Find Out

November 6th, 2012 · 35 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Thanksgiving

Last Thanksgiving, after much reply-all-ing — and many quality hours spent with Sam Sifton’s manuscript for Thanksgiving, How to Cook it Well – the menu my mom, dad, sister, brother, Andy, and I came up with for the big feast was the following:

Mom’s Classic Herb-Roasted Turkey
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots
Three-Pepper Sausage Cornbread Stuffing  (from Thanksgiving, by Sam Sifton)
Roasted Cauliflower with Anchovy Breadcrumbs (ibid)
Butternut Squash with Sage Butter (ibid)
Mashed Potatoes (ibid)
Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans and Mandarin Oranges
Chocolate Pudding Pie with Whipped Cream
Hominy Grill’s Buttermilk Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie 

As usual, my brother would bring the snacks — some goodies from Zabar’s — and my father would be in charge of the wine.  I emailed the finalized line-up to everyone for official sign-off. Except I left out one very important word in the cauliflower dish.

I left out the word “anchovy.”

Why? I find there are two kinds of people in this world: People who understand the kind of umami blast an anchovy imparts to a dish, and people who see the word “anchovy” and think only of greasy, smelly, peel-back tins of castor-oil fishiness. (Put it this way: It’s the kind of ingredient my mother might call… interesting.) I sat squarely in camp two until about a decade ago when my friend and coworker Pilar pitched a three-page story to our editor about how anchovies are the secret to making everything taste better. (The response: “I think we better write the garlic story first.”)

In any event, I was happy to have Sifton validate my covert anchovy operation in the headnote of the cauliflower recipe. This is what he wrote:

“It is important to note that this dish does not have an anchovy flavor. Indeed, there is no reason ever to tell anyone who eats this dish that there are anchovies in it. The taste is merely salty and rich — and reflects beautifully off the sweet, creamy taste of the cauliflower beneath its slightly crunchy breadcrumb topping.”

To which I will add that the dish was a true showstopper…amidst a bounty of showstoppers. After one forkful I decided this was the recipe that was most deserving of side dish stomach real estate. My brother-in-law Nick — some day we will write about his great, if bizarre, love of cauliflower — looked up mid-bite and asked “What is in this?” (We didn’t answer.) At least four-sixths of the under-10 set around the table had a helping without a complaint. Yes, this one was destined to be a keeper. The only downside of no one being turned off by the anchovies was that no one was turned off by the anchovies…so I couldn’t go back for seconds.

Roasted Cauliflower with Breadcrumbs that May or May Not Contain Anchovies
From Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well, by Sam Sifton

2 heads cauliflower
8 to 10 fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

For the anchovy breadcrumbs:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and diced
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Break cauliflower into florets and toss in a bowl with sage, lemon zest, sugar, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread out on a large baking sheet. Place in oven and cook until tender and golden, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare breadcrumbs. Heat olive oil in a saute pan set over medium heat. When oil shimmers add the anchovies, garlic, shallot, and breadcrumbs. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until golden.

3. In a large bowl, toss together cauliflower and breadcrumbs and serve on a warmed platter.

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October 22nd, 2012 · 17 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized

I was talking to another mom on the soccer sidelines last week, and when she got wind of my book and blog, she asked what everyone asks: What’s for dinner tonight? I wasn’t going to walk in the door that night until almost 7:00 so I had planned my come-together-fast Fettucini with Pre-Shredded Brussels Sprouts. I told her that, and then she told me she was going vegetarian also with “a big fresh salad.” She then added, “Remember how our mothers used to think about dinner? A protein, a vegetable, and a starch?” Ha ha ha ha ha! I can’t remember exactly what she said next but it was something like this “Remember how charming and silly that was?”

If I’m making her out to be an ogre, I’m sorry, that is absolutely not the case — the woman is a saint — it’s only that I was kind of embarrassed. Apparently, the person who’s supposedly in love with dinner (me) is still thinking about dinner the way our mothers do. I mean, we’re big on Meatless Mondays in my house, and for a while there during the Atkins craze we made a big effort to replace the starch with a second vegetable. But for the most part, I have to say, the meat-starch-veg template is my default mode. When I’m thinking up dinner ideas, the plate is still a puzzle with three fill-in-the-blank pieces.

I will say, however, that I’ve updated that three-piece model a tiny bit with what I call my Two-for-One strategy. This means I try whenever possible to make a single dish that combines two food groups so I don’t feel like I’m making three separate dishes. For whatever self-delusional reason, it feels like less work and it makes dinner come together faster. Here are some of my favorites:

White Beans with Onions and Spinach (Protein + Veg, shown above)
Saute a halved garlic clove in a few glugs of olive oil to a skillet. Let it infuse the oil for a minute, then remove. Add 2 tablespoons chopped onions (or shallots or scallions), a shake of red pepper flakes, and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add one can of rinsed and drained white beans (such as Great Northerns or Cannellini), stir. Add a handful of frozen spinach (it’s best if it’s thaws, but works fine if it’s not). Add salt and pepper, and stir. Serve with grated Parm. (more…)

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September 26th, 2012 · 16 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Posts by Andy, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized

Jenny’s mom is an extremely nice person. She was raised right, is how I think about it: quick with a smile, asks questions about you and compliments you on your mashed potatoes, stops and chats with virtual strangers at the stationery store in town, and most impressive of all, consistently chooses not to say anything if she has nothing nice to say at all. She was elected May Queen in college, for crying out loud — and that doesn’t happen if you’re unkind to people. Which is not to say she is not discerning or without opinions, and strong ones, of her own; it’s just that she’s monk-like in her discipline and is somehow able, when called for, to keep these opinions to herself. She’d rather know how you are than tell you how she’s feeling; seriously, the woman is incapable of complaint.

If you know her, though, and listen carefully, there are ways to determine where she really stands on things. There is a word she uses that seems innocuous, but is, in fact, devastating. It is a hammer wrapped in velvet. When you hear it, you know you’re a goner. Interesting. As in:

When opening the box containing her birthday present, a sweater-dress you sensed was a little risky, fashion-wise, but went ahead and bought for her anyway because, hey, it’s cashmere and how could someone not love a cashmere sweater-dress: “Oh, it’s a sweater. Thank you. What a lovely color.”

But do you like it?

“Well,” folding it neatly back into the box, “it’s…innnteresting.”

After watching you toss a handful of red pepper flakes into the pot that will soon hold the sauce for the pasta: ”What is that you’re adding there?”

Red pepper flakes. Just a few.


After going to see Pulp Fiction, which you’d just seen and had been kind of blown away by and talked about to the point that she finally decided to go see it for herself: “I found the director’s style very…innnteresting.”

Her use of interesting had achieved the level of Family Lore long before I entered the picture. It was, apparently, a cherished Christmas morning ritual, the response to every new bathrobe or attempted slipper upgrade. Say it out loud at any family gathering, even today, and everyone cracks up: it has achieved that kind of shorthand power. Jenny had warned me about it before our first holiday we spent together, telling me to keep an eye on her mom as she unwrapped the latest set of pajamas her dad had picked out at Lord and Taylor, thinking that maybe, somehow, this would be the year when he would succeed, when his gift would not be deemed…innnnteresting.

The first time I encountered it for myself, though, was in 1994, in the kitchen of the brick row house I shared with three roommates in Brooklyn. I was a 22 year-old editorial assistant who wore pleated pants and spent a shameful amount of time watching the Yankees and drinking Heineken. Thinking maybe it was time to act like a grown-up, I invited Jenny and her parents to dine one Saturday night in my grime-encrusted living room as a thank you, I suppose, for being nice to me. Looking back on it now, this must have been the first time I’d ever entertained. I mopped and Dust-Bustered and lit candles, but when it came to planning a meal, my cupboard was pretty bare. I knew what my own mom did in these situations, and I had a shaky grasp on three or four meals, so I decided to approximate a dinner she might have put together at home: I’d start with cheese and some fancy water crackers, maybe a bunch of green grapes. For the main course, I decided to do a chicken barley soup, a salad dressed by Paul Newman, and a loaf of bread from the local Italian bakery. For dessert: rice pudding (with raisins) from The New York Times Cookbook.

We were sitting on the cratered couch, eating the cheese and crackers, when Jenny’s mom asked me what was on the menu.

“Chicken barley soup,” I said.

“Soup for dinner,” she said. “Innnteresting.”

Oooooof, that hurt. And, okay, so she was right. Soup at a dinner party is maybe not the best call, but I was 22 and it was either that or chili, so I went with what seemed the more sophisticated option. Plus, in my defense: the presence of barley raises this, Chunky-style, from a soup to a meal — or, at least that’s what I told myself. I ended up marrying Jenny, of course, so it couldn’t have been that bad. – Andy

Please see Dinner: The Playbook for Andy’s Chicken and Barley Soup recipe.


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Six Summer Salads

July 23rd, 2012 · 17 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

Sick of corn and tomatoes accessorizing your burgers and dogs? Of course you aren’t! But I thought I’d give some options for summery side dishes anyway. Be sure to stock up on your olive oil, lemons, salt, and pepper because this time of year, that’s pretty much all you need to lift your side acts to show-stealers.

Wheat Berry Salad with Feta, Cherries, Walnuts and Onions
I’m sick of quinoa. I know Andy has outed me before about this, and it’s not necessarily that I’m sick of eating it. It’s just that there are so many other grains worthy of the rock star status that we have bestowed upon quinoa that I feel it’s my duty to ignite a new grain frenzy going forward. Let’s start with the humble wheat berry: Firm, flavorful, nutty, hard to overcook, a delicious vehicle for any greens or summer vegetables you might want to mix in with it. For now, try tossing in lots of chopped mint, dried cherries (be generous here; you want one in every bite), chopped walnuts, squeeze of lemon, olive oil and red onions that have been sauteed in olive oil and finished with balsamic vinegar. (I set aside a small bowl without feta for a guest at our table who was pregnant and not eating feta) Basic wheat berries instructions: Combine 2 cups wheat berries, 6 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy about 45 minutes to an hour. The berries should be slightly firm. Drain and set aside.

Arugula with Radishes and Mint As always, I discover some of my most favorite things when I’m challenged to cook for someone with dietary limiations. In this case I was charged with bringing a salad to my neighbor’s backyard barbecue, which shouldn’t seem like too much of a challenge, given that this time of year greens are about as good as they ever get so don’t need much by way of creative adornment. But no matter how fresh, I usually like just a little feta or Parm -(scratch that…neighbor is dairy free ) or barring that, maybe a splash of  rice vinegar or soy sauce (abort: neighbor is also gluten-free) or, since I can’t use soy sauce, at least a little bit of my new favorite ingredient, fish sauce….woops, you guessed it: he’s also vegan. So instead I tossed arugula, fresh snow peas, scallions, radishes, tons of mint and cilantro then just tossed with a vinaigrette made of equal parts rice vinegar and grapeseed oil with a squeeze of lime and a dash of hot pepper flakes. And guess what? I found myself making it last night for a decidedly more omnivorous crowd: my kids. So insanely fresh tasting and flavorful.

Tomatoes White Beans & Rosemary Phoebe’s camp incorporates cooking again this year, which means that every few days she hops in the car and tells me what we need to have for dinner. This was the inspired idea last week. So easy! So satisfying! So fast! If a bunch of ten-year-olds can make it, you can, too. We used one 15-ounce can of white beans (such as cannelini, rinsed and drained), a handful of cherry tomatoes (halved), 3 scallions (chopped), 1 tablespoon or so of rosemary (chopped), olive oil, squeeze of lemon (+ a bit of lemon zest), salt, pepper.

Shredded Kale Salad Cannot. Get. Enough Kale. I don’t know what it is. When I pick up my stash at the farmer’s market and other people on line inevitably ask what I do with it, I bestow upon them these simple words: Shred, my friend, Shred! I don’t know why it makes such a difference but when it’s presented like confetti, it has a tenderizing effect so the kids are more likely to eat it, it’s summery, easy, and with every bite, you feel like you’ve added a year onto your life. On this particular night, we tossed the kale (I like lacinato or Tuscan) with avocado, pecorino, scallions, a drizzle of good-quality olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, then salt and freshly ground pepper.

Oldie but Goodie Our friends Todd and Anne were having friends over for dinner and being the neighborly person I am I decide to stop by unannounced to drop off a few albums that Andy has been meaning to give them. Well of course I interrupted the whole beautiful dinner — everyone stopped eating and got up to say hello and I felt terrible. But not terrible enough to not notice what they were eating: some delicious looking homemade vegetarian pizzas with eggplant plus Matt & Ted Lee’s soybean and cherry tomato salad with buttermilk dressing that I made all the time two summers ago and had completely forgotten about. Well, guess what I made the very next night?

Yogurt-Dressed Salads I am so loving the yogurt dressing trend. (Or has it been a trend for a while and I just didn’t notice and now everyone’s on to tahini or something?) Anyway, this cole slaw with apple-yogurt dressing caught my eye as did David Tanis’s beet salad with yogurt-dill dressing. Haven’t made either yet, but plan to remedy this very soon. (Photo by Marcus Nilsson)

Related: Julia Moskin interviewed me and a bunch of parent cookbook authors for her New York Times story called “Raw Panic,” i.e. dealing with the summer bounty that “comes with a deadline.” Some delicious looking solutions in there.

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And All I Got Was This Lousy Bean Dip

July 10th, 2012 · 7 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

I finally got around to downloading photos from the mini vacation we just enjoyed at my sister’s beach house. There were about 400 shots, each one screaming summer louder than the next, and I’m somewhat alarmed to report that only about 20 of them contained the presence of an actual human. Though I’m unable to prove it in pixels, I swear we did normal things that normal vacationing families do: We bodysurfed in the Atlantic, worked out the kinks in our backhands (some of us, at least…mine is forever ruined), did the whole Breakfast at Wimbledon thing, never bothered to change out of our bathing suits, engulfed crime novels and graphic novels, went on bike rides and runs along redwing-blackbird studded beach roads. But from the look of this download, you’d think it was all dinner all the time: corn and tomatoes, summer fruit galettes, soft-shelled crabs, Dark & Stormies, grilled fish tacos, bright slaws, and the beautiful minty pecorino’d fava beans you are looking at above, which are in season for approximately six more minutes, so use them immediately. I’m already depressed about how fast summer is going — so anyway, who has time to take pictures?

Fava Bean, Mint, and Pecorino Crostini

Remove fava beans from pods. (I used about four handfuls of pods.) Boil beans in water for about 3 to 4 minutes, then immediately plunge in ice bath. Remove each bean from its casing (this is a big pain, be forewarned) and add to a medium bowl. Add a tablespoon olive oil, frehsly grated Pecorino a small squeeze of lemon, 1 sprig of mint (chopped) salt and pepper. Mix and mash with a fork until it reaches desired consistency. Serve with baguette slices.

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Not My Thing

June 18th, 2012 · 16 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Sides, Salads, Soup

When the Lego sets arrived by mail — gifts from the grandparents — the girls ripped open their boxes right on the doorstep and immediately ran inside to start examining the plastic packages that held the magical little blocks that would eventually turn into Harry Potter’s bus (Phoebe’s) and a summery little log cabin (Abby’s). It was a rainy weekday — a rainy weekday in June at that — and with homework and cello and piano and ballet winding down, they found themselves in the long-forgotten position of having a long stretch of hours seemingly made for perfecting their pitched roof technique. And I found myself in the long-forgotton position of wanting to maybe get down on the floor with them like the old days and help out.

“Whaddaya say, guys? How about we work on these together?”

Two little blank faces looked at me, then at each other, then back at me.

“No offense, Mom,” said my little one, “but Legos aren’t really your thing.”

(Truth: “No offense” is always followed by something offensive.)

But she so nailed me. Legos are like some kind of nightmare for me — not the free-form ones I grew up with, but the sets that come with weird diagrams, zillions of teeny tiny pieces, and (here’s the real death knell) the expectation of a precise outcome. Any project that relies on proper technique or requires reserves of patience is, in general, “not my thing.” I can’t tell you how many times this phrase has come up during my various baking misadventures.

“Guess I shouldn’t've cut corners with butter there,” I’ll say as I slice into a sawdusty cornbread.

“Hmmm,” says my patient husband, washing down a bite with some aggressive swigs of coffee. “Maybe baking’s not really your thing.”

Neither is something like homemade mayonnaise, which, with its drip-by-drip oil-whisking technique, requires the patience of a kindergarten teacher, and which I need to be in the perfect mindset to execute correctly. You’d think being on vacation in Paris, preparing a market-fresh sole in a picture-perfect St. Germaine apartment, might be conducive to that mindset, but there’s a reason why you don’t see it anywhere in those vacation photos. My thought process: It stands to reason that if eventually all the oil is going to be whisked into the egg, why not just dump it in all at once? Again, this kind of kitchen task: Not my thing.

Nor was that backyard soccer goal. In spite of (because of) objections from the girls (“Mom, just wait until Dad gets home!”) I put the thing together in a fit of steely resolve…only to find myself sweaty and finished (yes!), but with about 25 nuts and bolts and washers orphaned on the patio. But the goal’s ensuing wobbliness wasn’t anything a little duct tape couldn’t address.

Then there’s that Perfect Pan-Roasted Chicken Thigh recipe from Bon Appetit that we make all the time. What sold me on it initially was that a) it required three ingredients: chicken, salt, oil and b) the head note said if you followed the simple but incredibly specific (uh oh) technique it miraculously ended up tasting like bacon. Well, you know where this one ends up. Here’s the thing: I almost always need the oven to be making something else — in this case, some oven fries — and so even though Bon App was very clear about the 475°F thing I thought, Well let’s bring that heat down a little to make sure the fries don’t burn at the same time. And maybe we can just keep them in a little longer than the exact 13 minutes it spells out in the recipe. You know, let’s just duct tape this sucker a little.

So the results? Perfect Good-Enough Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs. But, in my book, still kind of a perfect family dinner.

Fries and Thighs
When you break the rules on this one, it comes together so fast. We are big Oven Fries people in our house (see page 210-212 of cookbook), but the addition of oregano and Parm was inspired by Lucinda Scala Quinn’s awesome Mad Hungry

Preheat oven to 450°F.

3 baking potatoes, cut into wedges (I get 12 wedges per potato)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parm (or to taste)
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1⁄4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons water (For whatever reason, I find the steam this water generates in the oven makes fries crisp and fluffy.)

In a medium bowl, toss together all the ingredients.  Line a baking sheet with foil and coat it with cooking spray (crucial—fries will be hard to remove otherwise). Line up your fries in rows and bake for 25 minutes, or until they are crispy and golden. If they are burning, toss them around a bit with a spatula, and cover with foil.

Follow Bon App‘s instructions for Perfect Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs, placing them in the oven with the fries and keeping oven temp at 450°F (even though the chicken recipe says 475°F). While you wait for everything to finish, assemble your salad. The one above is Bibb lettuce, leftover haricot verts, scallions, tomatoes, and a creamy dressing. Why does it just feel wrong not to have a Bibb lettuce salad without a creamy dressing? I usually just dollop a tablespoon of mayo into my all-purpose vinaigrette.

FYI: To My Boston Bretheren — I’ll be reading at Brookline Booksmith (279 Harvard St, Brookline, MA) tonight. Come say hi if you are in the neighborhood. Click here for upcoming events.

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Dinner: A Morning Show Story

June 14th, 2012 · 19 Comments · Deconstructing Dinner, Favorites, Picky Eating, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup

So I went on the Today Show yesterday to talk about some themes you know well by now — deconstructing meals, picky eaters, my Trickle-Down Theory of Dinner (see page 10!) and of course, the book itself. I’ve known about this segment for about three months now — my publisher called me with the news while I was watching soccer practice — and if I were a certain kind of person I suppose I would have been broadcasting this news all over the world, posting it on my events page and facebook, tweeting from the green room and all that, but the truth is: I was kinda terrified about the whole Live TV thing. To the point where over the past few months I’ve been dividing my life into two distinct eras:   (more…)

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The All-Day Dinner

May 17th, 2012 · 6 Comments · Dinner, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup

By now you know that for weeknight meals, we are all about efficiency. And by the looks of my Analytics, it looks like you guys are too. (“Quick“ shows up consistently as one of the top 3 most-clicked Categories.) But the weekend? That’s another story entirely. Especially when the weekend in question conspires to create the most conducive dinner-making conditions in modern history: Grandparents = in town; weather = glorious; farmer’s market = open; kids = not cranky; and only two officially scheduled events for the entire day: Early morning soccer practice, and a 6:00 cocktail on the just-opened-for-business patio. On days like this, unconsciously or not, dinner is something that only barely resembles the scramble on the weeknight. We talk about it and shop for it and cook for it all day long. You might even say we make things as difficult as possible for ourselves — plying the kids with cider donuts while we wait in the interminable line at the market to secure the beautiful local sea bass you see below; whisking homemade mayonnaise to serve with French fries when, really, is there anything wrong with Heinz?; tracking down the spring-iest spring greens available (sorrel was the winner); pureeing asparagus into the vinaigrette that we will drizzle on top of those greens; digging out the fancy crystal tumblers for gin and tonics — which is another way of saying it’s our idea of the best day ever.

Spicy Fries with Homemade Mayonnaise. I used some very green looking olive oil to make my mayo, which accounts for the very green color. Don’t let it fool you, though: Delicious! And paired nicely with the fish, too. (more…)

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Guest Post Contest!

May 9th, 2012 · 49 Comments · Dinner: A Love Story, the Book, Posts by Andy, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

That’s one handsome-looking bowl of quinoa, isn’t it? Looks pretty tasty, right? It’s really healthy, too. And so versatile. Have you heard about the extraordinary nutritional properties of quinoa? Amazing stuff. Packed with protein. The Incas survived on it! Now try writing 500 words about this bowl of quinoa, but it can’t be too similar to the 500-word post you wrote about the magic of (sigh) barley a few weeks ago, and it definitely can’t be like the other quinoa post you did about six months ago, the one in which you… extolled its extraordinary nutritional properties (protein, Incas, etc.) and its versatility (feta, pesto, etc.) and the way it goes so well with zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. We want to be clear here: we are not complaining. We love cooking and we love doing this blog, and we’d happily do it for free. (Wait, we already do it for free!) All we’re saying is, posting three or four or five times a week for two and a half years — about things like quinoa — isn’t always easy. There have been nights when Jenny, sitting there in bed with her laptop and trying to write about the raw kale salad we just had for dinner, has turned to me with a look of true despair and said, “I got nothing.” It’s rare, but it happens. I figure you can handle the truth.

So here’s a question: how would you like to guest post on DALS? If you’re interested, here’s what we need from you, by midnight, May 14:

  • A presentable photo of something you’ve cooked.
  • A story (not more than 500 words) about that something you cooked.
  • A recipe that works.*

Once all the entries are in, we’ll pick a winner and you (or your food blog, if you have one) will be a featured – and tweeted-about, and commented-upon — guest poster on a day, tbd, in June. Not only that, there’s a prize in it for you, too: the winner gets a free, personally inscribed copy of Jenny’s book when it is published a few weeks from now OR a call-in from both of us for your book club if you select Dinner: A Love Story as your group’s next pick. Up to you. Essie, mek, Amanda, Julia, Kendra, Cecilia, Carolyn, Melissa, June, Caitlin, Jan, Minty Pea Todd, Torie, MommyLisa, Auntie, 654Carroll, A Plum By Any Other Name, the Russian Guy Who’s Always Spamming Us About Cheap Cialis: I’m talkin’ to you, people! Start writing. Help us out. Win a book. – Andy

* And to be clear, the post doesn’t have to be about quinoa. Send all entries to: jenny AT dinneralovestory.com with the subject “Guest Post Contest.” Many of you have asked if you can still submit something if it’s not your own recipe. This contest is going to be focused more on the writing and the story than the recipe. You can still submit with someone else’s recipe, but please credit the source and embed the link to that source in the post. If it’s a recipe from a cookbook, please send us a link to the cookbook.

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Happier Meals

April 27th, 2012 · 15 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Travel, Vegetarian

Twice a year, every year, for the past ten years, we drive 850 miles from New York to South Carolina to spend a week at the beach. It’s a long drive. With two kids in the back, singing Adele a capella, it’s a really long drive. We try to do it in one shot with just one stop: Sally Bell’s Kitchen, two minutes off the highway in Richmond, Virginia. Their famous lunchboxes, which they’ve been packing since the ’50s, are almost worth the trip alone. We buy four, then walk to a park nearby to sit in the sun, stretch our legs a bit, and eat.

Inside each box is a happy meal from another, better time: a Smithfield ham-and-iceberg sandwich on a roll, a paprika-dusted deviled egg wrapped in parchment paper, a two-bite cupcake (You get three choices: chocolate, almond, or caramel) that is frosted on three sides, a cheese crisp, a packet of Duke’s mayonnaise and, best of all, a small paper cup filled with super-eggy potato salad and topped with a lone sweet pickle chip. Hot damn!

While the girls love the salty ham with mayo and the novelty of a cupcake that’s more frosting than it is cake, it’s the whole package—and the act of unwrapping of it—that blows their small minds. The white cardboard boxes, tied with bakery twine and lined with checkerboard tissue paper, are prizes they’ve earned by enduring four hundred miles lashed to their booster seats, watching I-95 roll by, and being force-fed Dad’s music. The food is real and great and they love it, but they also love what it represents: the trip is halfway done, and the next time we stop, they’ll be in vacation land, with all its attendant promise.

Occasionally, we try to replicate the lunchbox at home. The tangy potato salad in particular is a mainstay at our summer barbecues, and goes perfectly with a well-cooked burger and a salad. The kids eat up a (slightly less eggy) version as eagerly as ever. For them, it’s a little taste of vacation — but from the comfort of their own home

This is our “Providers” column from the May 2012 issue (The Travel Issue!) of Bon Appetit — on newsstands today. Please head over to their site for the Eggy Potato Salad with Pickles recipe and to access the entire Providers Archive. Photo by the amazing Marcus Nilsson for BonApp.

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