Entries Tagged as 'Sides, Salads, Soup'

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.

Love,

Caitlin

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.

Hummus
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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Two-for-Ones

October 22nd, 2012 · 15 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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Interesting

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

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

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

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

But do you like it?

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

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

Red pepper flakes. Just a few.

Innnteresting.”

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

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

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

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

“Chicken barley soup,” I said.

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

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

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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I’ll Take My Steak Rare, Cut in Microscopic Pieces

April 2nd, 2012 · 19 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized

I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t call up about a line that Lisa Belkin wrote in the New York Times two or three years ago. In an article about overparenting and the self-esteem generation used to getting praise at every turn, she asked Are we raising kids who are prepared for college, but not for life? I think about it when my 8-year-old refuses to tie her cleats by herself because she likes the way her parents tie them tighter. I think about it when I read about Ramona walking to kindergarten by herself (or maybe with Henry) while we have a really hard time letting our 10-year-old walk home from a friend’s house around the corner. I think about it when I’m reading about 11-year-old Laura Ingalls helping Pa turn straw bundles into kindling in sub-zero blizzard conditions during The Long Winter. I think about it when I see my daughters’ ballerina classmates twisting up their own buns (complete with hair net and bobby pins), when I am picking up their rooms, and hanging their wet towels, and reminding them to pack their homework, and on “Steakhouse Night” when I’m cutting their filets into teeny tiny pieces because if left to their own devices they’d probably shove Buick-sized chunks into their mouths. Or at least that’s what I think they’d do. Since I’ve never trusted them to cut their own steak, I don’t really know what they’d do. And even though I wish I was a different kind of parent, the way things are going, I don’t think I’m going to find out any time soon.

Steakhouse Night
“Steakhouse Night” includes about 2 pounds of filet, Andy’s no-cream creamed spinach, and pretty much always takes place on a Saturday night. The only variable is the potato dish. This past weekend we did a rosti (or, as Abby calls it “the hugest potato pancake ever”) but nothing should stop you from switching it up with twice-baked potatoes or oven fries.

Grilled Steak

Generously salt and pepper four steak filets. Grill over medium-high heat about 5-6 minutes a side (depending on thickness) until meat is firm but not rock hard. Cut into microscopic pieces if serving to a child under 21.

Potato Rosti (or “Hugest Potato Pancake Ever” as Abby calls it)
This is the kind of thing you don’t really need a recipe for. If you have two or three baking potatoes you can make a thicker rosti; if you only have one, it will work fine, too. Just be sure to add the potatoes to the pan as quickly as possible after shredding to prevent the potatoes from turning brown. But if it does turn brown, fear not, they’ll still taste as good. They just won’t look as golden.

1 to 2 baking potatoes, peeled
1/4 to a 1/3  small onion
salt and pepper
vegetable oil and butter

Using a grater or the shredding attachment on a food processor, shred your potatoes and onion into a large bowl. If you have time, take a paper towel or dishtowel and pat the potatoes to soak up as much moisture as you can. Add salt and pepper and toss. (You can also get creative with add-ins here — herbs, shredded cheese, etc.)

In a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a tablespoon of butter. Add potatoes to the pan, spreading and pressing flat so it looks like a large pancake. Let sit for 8 to 10 minutes until the edges look golden and crispy.

Place a large plate on top of the skillet and, working carefully, invert pan so cake flips onto plate. Add a little more butter and oil to skillet and slide the cake back into pan, uncooked side down. Cook another 8-10 minutes until cooked through. Cut into wedges and serve.

Creamed Spinach

Thaw a box or a bag of frozen spinach by placing it in a colander and running warm water over it for a few minutes. Press down on the spinach to squeeze out all the liquid. In a small frying pan over medium heat, add olive oil and a half a large onion (chopped), salt, pepper, a few red pepper flakes (optional, as always). After about 5 minutes, add spinach and toss with onions until spinach is heated through. Sprinkle 1 to 2 teaspoons of flour (this will prevent curdling of milk in next step) and stir. Add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of milk (lowfat, 1%, whole…any kind but chocolate!) depending on how creamy you like your creamed spinach, and a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg. Stir until heated through and serve.

 

 

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A Stress-free, Gluten-free Menu

February 27th, 2012 · 32 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Sides, Salads, Soup

Remember when a dietary restriction was the exception rather than the norm? A decade ago, having a vegetarian over for dinner was a panic-inducing proposition in our house, but now, given that we are eating plant-based meals so much more regularly, it hardly even registers as an issue. These days it seems to be all about the gluten-free guest. And by that I mean, the unnecessarily apologetic gluten-free guest who says at some point before he or she comes over: Please don’t think about it — just cook the way you normally do. I can always find something on the table to eat. I pretend to honor this request, but if you looked at my Google history over the past six months you’d probably find a whole mess of search terms that reveal exactly how clueless I am (“Who is Emma Stone?” is the latest example I feel comfortable sharing) intermingled with this daily query: “Is Fill-in-The-Blank gluten free?” This dinner I cooked a few weeks ago for my in-laws (Grandma “Hubba” is GF) was a good one and I thought I’d share it with you guys from soup to nuts.

(PS: Other recipes referenced in my diary above (which aren’t gluten-free): Black Bean Burritos, Cold Sesame Noodles, Scalloped Potatoes and Kale SaladCooked Carrots.)

This menu serves four. Bonus: Every bit of it can be done in advance including the quinoa. (Just don’t toss your greens with the vinaigrette until it’s time to eat.)  If you want a starter, go with the always-reliable Chips and Guac. I never have to worry about dessert since I have a world-class gluten-free bakery in my neighborhood. But I’m interested in hearing from you guys about sweet notes to end on.

MAIN: Sweet and Sticky Chicken Pieces
This recipe started out as the chicken wings I shared last year — but turned into something else entirely on the night I realized I had no wine in the house. I used pomegranate juice instead and now that’s the only way I prepare it. It could not be easier and it makes the house smell so good. Note of warning: DEFINITELY line your baking dish with a layer of foil — maybe even two layers. The sauce gets sticky and makes for a dish-washing nightmare.

2 pounds chicken pieces (we do thighs and drumsticks)
1 cup gluten-free soy sauce or Tamari
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange chicken in one layer in a foil-lined large baking dish or roasting pan. Combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Pour this mix evenly over chicken pieces. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn chicken over and bake until sauce is thick and sticky, about 1 hour more. They are supposed to be dark and gooey, but keep an eye on them in this second round of baking so they don’t get more charred than you prefer.

SALAD 1: Quinoa with Feta and Herbs

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add 1 cup of quinoa and simmer, covered, until tender, fluffy, and water is absorbed — about 15 minutes. Let stand, covered, off the heat for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. (This yields about 4 cups cooked quinoa.) Add 1 bunch scallions (chopped), a handful of chopped parsley or mint or both, and a handful of crumbled feta to taste.

SALAD 2: Greens with Fennel and Blood Oranges

In a large bowl, add the following: Fresh greens (or as fresh as you can find in the winter), 1/2 bulb fennel, shaved superthin (preferably with a mandoline), 2 small blood oranges (outer layer of pith removed, sliced horizontally), and a handful of chopped mixed herbs such as cilantro, chives, parsley. Toss with cider vinaigrette below.

Cider Vinaigrette

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/2 cup good quality olive oil

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Sunday Dinner

February 16th, 2012 · 14 Comments · Posts by Andy, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup

“What’s my angle on this post?”

I don’t want to pull back the curtain on this whole DALS thing too far, but that’s a question you hear a little too often around our house, at about 10:00 at night, when the kids are in bed and one of us is sitting at the kitchen table, trying to write 400 words about baked potatoes or 7,000,000 words on, gulp, a freakin’ chicken salad sandwich. (Not that we’re complaining.) What’s my angle? What’s my point? What, exactly, am I saying about this plate of food or that pile of children’s books? This is what I asked Jenny last Sunday night when she informed me I would be posting, in the coming week, about the meal we’d just eaten.

“Sunday dinner,” she said. “That’s your angle. You don’t need anything more than that.”

And, as usual, she was right. Sunday dinner conjures certain feelings and carries certain expectations and I suppose we’d met most of them that night. It was cold that day — or, at least, what passes for cold now — and we’d bunkered down most of the afternoon, reading Anne Frank (school project) and playing Apples to Apples (dying, truly dying) and getting antsy (very antsy), and I craved something basic and warm and tasty. You could say I was craving comfort food, but comfort food is a phrase that gives me the willies and I swore I would never use it, in earnest, on this blog. And yet: I needed something that went well with bourbon. I needed me some meatloaf! Not only that, I needed the meatloaf I grew up eating. (You will find this recipe in Jenny’s forthcoming book. Have you heard about her book? I’ve read it and it is GOOD.). Anyway, to go with that meatloaf, we needed potatoes, but I wasn’t totally feeling the roasted kind, so Phoebe and I went retro and made a cheesy gratin — I did the slicing, she did the arranging — and just so there was one indisputably healthy, green thing on the plate, we made our favorite raw kale salad. All of this, working in concert, made the house smell so good. At one point, Abby actually took a break from her doll playing, appeared at the top of the stairs, and shouted: “Dad! What smells so good?!” That’s what you want to hear on Sunday night. And that’s my angle. – Andy

Potatoes au Gratin

We used to make this all the time before we had kids. You can do it with red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes — we even used to mix in some sweet potatoes, too. Hard to go wrong. If you have a mandoline, you can use it to slice your potatoes nice and thin, about the thickness of a quarter. If not, a sharp knife will do just fine. If you want the full treatment, use cream instead of milk.

1 tbsp flour
1/4  to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, depending on your tolerance for heat
1 cup 2% milk
4 to 5 medium Yukon gold potatoes, skin on, sliced thin
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded cheddar

Grease 9″ pie dish or casserole with olive oil or butter, and set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together flour, cayenne and milk, and set aside. Arrange sliced potatoes neatly on bottom of dish, then a few onions, in one layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a handful of each cheese. Repeat three times: potatoes, onions, cheese, reserving a little cheese for final layer. Pour milk mixture evenly over the potatoes. Top with shredded cheese and salt and pepper, and cover with foil. Bake at 425° for 40 minutes. Remove foil, and broil for 5 minutes, or until cheese gets slightly brown and bubbly.

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The Little Cabbage that Could

February 14th, 2012 · 14 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup

It pains us to even admit this, but it took us a long time to come around to Brussels sprouts. They didn’t crack the dinner rotation until we were well into our 30s, with two kids, a mortgage, a dog, and a creeping difficulty reading the fine print on aspirin bottles. In other words, until we were full-fledged adults. But in our defense: When we were kids, way back in the 80s, Brussels sprouts, like liverwurst and canned sardines and that weird gelatinous pate you’d see at our parents’ dinner parties – was a grown-up food, a punch line food, the kind of thing you associated only with thinly veiled threats. “OK, guys, if you don’t eat your Brussels sprouts…”

From an early age, then, it was drilled into our heads: Brussels sprouts were something to be choked down. They were what had to be endured if you wanted your bowl of Rocky Road. One thing you learn as a parent, though, is that you are not necessarily doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. With our kids, we could start over. We could change the narrative. We could, if we went about it the right way, get them to like Brussels sprouts. So a few years ago, we set out to try. We spied a billy-club-size stalk of fresh-looking sprouts at the farmer’s market, brought it home, and began experimenting. And by experimenting, we mean spinning. “Baby lettuces,” we began calling them.Hey kids, aren’t they cute? We shredded and sautéed them (“Look kids, it’s like confetti!”), then tossed with fettuccini and Parmesan; we blasted them at high heat in the oven, and dressed them up with mint, cilantro, fish sauce, and Rice Krispies. (“Can you say Mo-mo-fu-ku, kids?”) But it was, of course, bacon that took us to the Promised Land. We fried some Brussels in bacon fat, drizzled them with cider vinegar (they love a little sweetness), then watched as our daughters popped “baby lettuce” after “baby lettuce” into their hungry little mouths. They didn’t know they weren’t supposed to like what accompanied (and elevated) our boring old chicken that night. All they knew was that they wanted seconds of this magical vegetable that – bonus! – came with bacon bits on top. And we were only too happy to oblige. – Jenny & Andy

This is our “Providers” column from the March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit — on newsstands today. Please head over to their site for the brussels sprouts recipe. Photo by Romulo Yanes for BonApp.

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