Those of you who know me, know that if I had to tell you the most important things in my life after my family and my PicMonkey ”Royale” membership, high up on the list would most likely be my 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven, presented to us as a wedding gift 17 years ago this month. So given our anniversary, given that we’re closing in on braising season, and given that a few of my favorite meals in Playbook involve a Dutch Oven, I’m offering that giveaway I promised way back in the decidedly non-braising season of August. One lucky Playbook reader will be the recipient of a free 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven (your choice of color). All you have to do to be eligible to win is answer this question: What’s your favorite recipe, trick, tip, detail, or piece of advice in the book? Whatever your answer is, head to the Playbook page, and hashtag it #DinnerPlaybookLC so I can find you. Good luck! (One commenter will be chosen at random; Contest ends a week from today, September 19, 12:00 ET.)
Entries Tagged as 'Uncategorized'
September 12th, 2014 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized
September 10th, 2014 · 35 Comments · Posts by Andy, Uncategorized
We have no one to blame but ourselves, but Tuesday nights are hell. I’ll spare you the numbing logistical details, but all that’s relevant here is that a few times a month, by the time I pull into the driveway with the girls in the backseat, it’s almost 8:30 at night. We stagger through the door, shedding soccer bags, shin guards and rancid socks, the girls head upstairs to shower… and we start dinner. It’s late on a school night, and everyone is starving. The goal here, to be clear, is not a Michelin star. The goal is to get something on the table in 25 minutes, and then get the kids to bed. This means a no-fuss main (say, sweet Italian chicken sausage fried with some roughly sliced onions), a starch that will satisfy the hunger of a post-soccer-practicing
hyena tween (bread fried in olive oil, or some quick potatoes), and a vegetable that does not require any washing, chopping, peeling, mandolin-ing, or de-stemming. One recent Tuesday night, I went with broccoli. I tossed it in the baking dish with a bunch of olive oil, salt, and pepper, cranked the oven to 450, and threw it in.
Fifteen minutes later, Abby came downstairs. She’s always the first to come down, dressed in her white nightgown with the little green flowers on it, running a brush through her still-wet hair. She walked into the kitchen, and stopped. She crinkled up her nose.
“What’s that smell?” she said.
“Really, Abby? Is that a nice thing to say to the person who’s making your dinner?”
“No,” she said. “I think something’s burning.”
Oh, right. The broccoli. The broccoli was burning! I opened the oven door to find a baking dish filled with a tangle of smoldering black twigs, what looked to be evidence from a forest fire investigation. But it was late, and we were hungry, so sucked it up and we went to town on that burned broccoli. I don’t know what it says about our vegetable-preparing skills in general, but something happened that night that has never happened before in all the dinners we have eaten together as a family over the last ten years: The kids went nuts over broccoli. It’s not like they are broccoli haters. They’ve always eaten it without complaint, but it’s not like they go out of their way to eat it. This was different. This was crispy and salty and way more flavorful and intense than the soggy, steamed stuff they were used to, the stuff Abby would unapologetically DIP IN KETCHUP before placing in her mouth.
I wish we could say we meant to do it. — Andy
1 bunch broccoli (about 4 cups), cut into small florets. (the smaller the florets, the crispier the experience)
1/4 olive oil, maybe a little more
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450°F. In a baking dish, toss the broccoli with olive oil and salt. The goal is for every little mini broccoli bud to be glistening but not drenched, so monitor the oil drizzling process carefully. Roast for 15 minutes, tossing if you think to, until broccoli is slightly sizzling and the tips are browned, but not black. (It can be a fine line between crispy and charred to the core.) It would definitely not be the worst thing to toss with a drop or two of Sriracha, or the dressing from David Chang’s famous brussels sprouts recipe*, but you’ll see, each broccoli stalk is like a little piece of salty popcorn. They’ll be gone before you can do any dressing up at all.
*other suggestions from Facebook commenters that sound reaaaally good: finish with a squeeze of lemon or grated Parmesan; toss in a little sugar before roasting for extra caramelizing. (Thanks Andrea, Krista Anne, Johanna)
September 5th, 2014 · 16 Comments · Uncategorized
Seems like everyone’s in meal-planning mode this week!
- Head over to Motherlode today to hear about the Goldsteins, a family of four, who are in need of a little dinner boot camp. Using recipes from Playbook, Bon Appetit, and DALS, I’ll be coaching her through a week of family meals all week long, starting this Sunday, September 7. (The plan includes a shopping list — woo hoo!)
- I also put together a super-delicous, super-easy, one-size-fits-all* weekly game plan for you over at Bon Appetit – the companion to our “Providers” column this month. In addition to telling you what to cook, it also attempts to explain why you should pick certain meals on certain nights of the week. It’s a good line-up.
- And I just found this meal plan (plus shopping list) that I put together for you guys last September — during this same last-chance-for-corn-and-tomatoes time of year. Shall we call it the Last Gasp of Summer Plan?
*I admit it, this was cheap — there ain’t no such thing.
September 4th, 2014 · 28 Comments · Uncategorized
I should probably say that I am “deeply humbled” to announce this — but it’s more like I am freaking PSYCHED beyond beyond: Dinner: The Playbook comes in at #17 on next week’s New York Times Bestseller List. Big props to the whole village that made it possible: Jennie Tung, Sharon Propson, Gina Centrello, Elyse Cheney, Maggie Oberrender, Kristina DiMatteo, Carole Lowenstein, Evan Camfield, Richard Callison, Mark McGuire, Andy, Phoebe, Abby, Iris, Mom, Dad, Emily, Steve, and every single DALS reader who has ever cooked one of my recipes, shared one of my posts with a friend, tagged me on one of your ever expanding social media platforms, blogged about DALS, bought one of my books, commented on a post, sent me a personal note telling me exactly how you feel — you can’t imagine the gratitude. I could not have done it without you guys — thank you so much. Now get back to cooking.
September 2nd, 2014 · 20 Comments · Uncategorized
Does this look familiar? It’s my friend Annie’s answer to the Tabula Rasa Dinner Dilemma, also known as The Moment You Walk in From Work, Look in Your Completely Full Fridge, but Still Draw a Total Blank on Dinner Ideas Even Though You’ve Made Dinner Roughly Thousands of Times Before This Night. (It’s an affliction most acute during the first week of school.) Annie looks at this evolving cheat sheet of a dozen or go-tos dinners to remind her what to make for her family of four. There are three categories: “Easy,” “Soups,” and “Sundays.” What qualifies? From the look of it, meals that are simple, straightforward, real — meals that everyone will eat, that don’t set off any Richter-scale-level eruptions with the kids. I’m happy to see a bunch of DALS dinners made the cut: Quinoa with Fried Eggs and Soy Sauce, Yogurt Chicken, Sesame Noodles, Dumplings, fried chickpeas.
I used to have a similar system on the inside of my cabinet door. I taped recipe clippings from newspapers and magazines, and posted stickies with ideas all over the place, until, as you know, I permanently memorialized some favorites in actual paint (see below). I’m willing to bet — even when there are approximately three zillion recipes available to us with the swipe of a touchscreen — that you have some low-tech version of this cabinet door, as well.
Why am I bringing this up now? Because when Annie was flipping through The Playbook, she awarded me one of the highest honors a family dinner blogger can receive: She said she couldn’t believe how many recipes in my book were Cabinet Worthy.
Cabinet Worthy! Is it too late to to change the name of my book? (And does Seinfeld have a patent on this phrase already?) I would like to retroactively assert that this was the litmus test every recipe in Playbook had to pass: Would it be posted inside the cabinet? Yep? Ok, it’s in.
On this first week back to school I ask: What’s Cabinet Worthy in your house?
Incidentally, Gina Triplett, who painted these recipes inside my cabinet, is the illustrator who designed the beautiful spine on Playbook. I like to keep things all in the family. Speaking of which: Great Grandma Turano’s Meatballs.
PS: Locals! Next Tuesday, September 9, I’ll be speaking/reading from Dinner: The Playbook at the fabulous “story salon” Spoken Interludes in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. Hope you can come by to say hello. It’s quite a line-up! Click here for more details.
August 29th, 2014 · 8 Comments · Uncategorized
A family-friendly Labor Day menu, including these ridiculously delicious spare ribs. (Warning: I’m going to make you read through an interview with Yours Truly in order to get there. #nofreelunch)
Six Easy Weeknight Meals that great chefs like to cook. (That marinated tofu dish is officially on the DALS line-up.)
Sam Kass: Foodmaster General, Policy Shaper, and Assistant Chef in Charge of Family Meals.
This is the coolest Friday night family ritual ever – and proves my theory that meatballs can solve almost anything. (Thanks Jenna G!)
A zillion school lunch ideas from the always inspiring Weelicious.
Yes, Luisa, I would definitely say those fritters are family dinner material!
Attn: Greek Myth Nerds! A new post on Phoebe’s book blog. (Warning: The girl is enraged!)
Fiesta Kale Wraps: Might be my new favorite lunch.
Sometimes I go back to the DALS archive and rediscover a mind-blowing gem by Andy all over again.
I’m declaring this the official Song of Summer. (In our house, at least.)
Lastly, thank you to everyone for all the Playbook love this week through instagram, Facebook and my regular old email, which has been buzzing with messages from friends olds and new. Not surprisingly, it’s one of my most favorite parts of the whole book-writing enterprise. Another favorite part? When someone really gets what I am trying to achieve with a book. I don’t know who E. Johnson is, but here’s an excerpt from a review she wrote on Amazon a few days ago:
The most valuable evidence for feeding a family does not come out of test kitchens and recipes by committee. They come from actual practice and valuing that time around the table with quality food preparation and ingredients…Knowledge lessens anxiety. Having Jenny Rosenstrach’s 30 day plan can be a life-saver, and the kids will feel that and know…that it’s not been a drive by dinner….Because I am calmer, the kids may wonder what’s going on and seeing some ‘Joy’ in cooking and less of the Ordeal of the Evening Meal. [edited for clarity]
Thank you for getting it, E. Johnson. Enjoy!
Have a great holiday.
August 28th, 2014 · 22 Comments · Uncategorized
Twelve years into this whole parenting thing, I know a few things for sure: The baby will need your attention at the exact moment the garlic in the pan goes from golden to blackened; bribery is a necessary evil; and—perhaps most relevant for the phase I’m in right now—mashed potatoes are crucial for surviving the middle-school years. I’m not talking about the kids’ survival here. I’m talking about my own.
Let me back up a bit. In the spring of 1983, I was probably the happiest 12-year-old who ever lived. I had the starring role of Adelaide in my elementary school’s production of Guys and Dolls; I was on the travel soccer team; I never lacked for lunchroom companions. I had my own CB windbreaker, which wasn’t a hand-me-down from my sister (a first), and I even had a requited crush (another first) on a kid named Mike, who was cool enough to pull off a shell necklace.
By the fall it was all gone. My small grade of 100 kids matriculated to the much larger middle school, where my lunchroom companions found new lunchroom companions, who were interested in makeup (I was not); snapped each other’s bras at gym (I was years away from wearing one); and made fun of me when I asked them to “play.” (“We say ‘hang out’ now, Jenny.”) Even when I said it the right way, though…
This is the beginning of an essay I wrote for September’s Real Simple. Head over to their site for the continuation.
August 26th, 2014 · 52 Comments · Dinner: The Playbook, Uncategorized
We’ve been on vacation for the past week, a sort of calm-before-the-storm deal. From the moment we made our reservations a few months ago, I began thinking of it as our “Week Before” vacation: The week before school starts, the week before reality descends again, before work gets crazy again, before life morphs, as it seems to do every September, into a series of carpools and soccer practices and cello lessons, and — most important, at least in this house — the week before Jenny’s new book, Dinner: The Playbook, comes out. Today is the big day, in fact, and as much as Jenny loves writing about family dinner and doing this blog and spreading the word about the transformative powers of chicken parm meatballs, she still worries about wearing out her welcome, book-wise, with you guys. Which is why I want to take this opportunity, on the day of publication, to tell you a few things about her book that she isn’t going to tell you herself. –Andy
1. Dinner: The Playbook is the physical manifestation of her list-making, organizing, lift-you-up-and-get-it-done personality. If Jenny’s first book was part cookbook, part memoir, this book is straight-up battle plan: If you want to turn family dinner into a regular — and edifying — part of your day, The Playbook will show you how. I am here to tell you that it works, and that I am grateful for it every day of my life.
2. The recipes are all good, and I can say this because we eat them ALL THE TIME. These are not recipes that Jenny dreamed up for some book about family dinner. These are our go-to meals, they are simple and tasty and time-tested, and except for the Crispy Rice Omelet (our kids still loathe eggs with a scary intensity) and the Zucchini Fritters (you know how I feel about zucchini), we stand behind all of them, 100%.
3. The recipes are all good, but the shrimp rolls are the best. Sweet Jesu Christo, are they good. (And even better when you butter the rolls.)
4. It’s a deal. Twenty bucks (sometimes less) for 80 recipes, 60 color photos, 220 pages, countless tips and fun little hand-drawn design-y things throughout? Considering that I dropped 30 bucks yesterday at lunch on a basket of mini corn-dogs, two Shirley Temples, and a flaccid chicken wrap, I consider this money well spent.
5. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to Deb Perelman, of Smitten Kitchen, who knows a thing or two about food: “This book is for anyone who loves the promise of a home-cooked dinner but gets bogged down by the day-to-day reality of it. Which is to say that this book is for me, me, me. And I bet it’s for you, too.” Or no less than Ruth Reichl, who stares hyperbole square in the eyes and says, “This is the most sensible advice on cooking for kids I’ve ever seen.” Ever, people! Ever!!!
6. It’s lovable. That’s not my word, in case you were wondering. A friend of ours who had just opened an advance copy described it that way — “OH EM GEE, it’s so lovable!!!!!!!!!” was her actual quote — and I have to say, she’s right. I know I’m biased, but it’s a freakin’ delight: pint-sized and warm and colorful and beautifully designed. We’ve been living with a copy of it on our counter for a solid month now, and — in what I take as a very good sign — I feel happy every time I see it. (See above, re: bias, but still.)
6. Lovable does not mean cheesy. I spend a scary amount of my life staring at books, and I just love the way this one looks, love how much care and thought and quality-control went into its creation. Over the course of the past year, Jenny enlisted a bunch of talented friends to help make this book true to the DALS brand, from the illustration on the spine by the awesome Gina Triplett, to the cover and unusual and inspired interior design by Kristina DiMatteo, to the editing by longtime colleague Jennifer Tung, to the interior photos by, yes, Jenny Rosenstrach. Every word, every sentence, every picture, every Weekly Meal Plan, every Dinner Report Card waiting to be filled out by you, every hand-drawn border and color choice in this book, was made, by Jenny, for a reason.
7. It’s dedicated to YOU. This book, this blog, would simply not exist were it not for you — as readers, commenters, supporters, book-buyers, word-spreaders, recipe testers, dinner cookers, and friends. So, a million times: thank you.
Don’t you already feel more organized and prepared just looking at this grid of ridiculously easy dinners? I have eaten them all, and they are good.
And aren’t you dying to know what the heck this means?
P.S. First Time Here? Come on in!
August 22nd, 2014 · 10 Comments · Uncategorized
There’s still a week left to go before school starts, but already the back-t0-the-grind jitters are creeping into our last few vacations days at the beach. The girls’ class schedules arrived yesterday by email — this is when I long for the days of snail mail notification — and now, when I close my eyes, all I seem to see on the back of my eyelids are calendars and meetings, sports schedules and to-do lists. It’s all good — there’s richness in the chaos, etc etc — but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t all sleeping a little more restlessly. As usual, to deal with this, I turn to the age-old “Distract-Don’t-React” strategy (also known as denial): We asked the girls to pick their most favorite dinners to ride out the rest of the season. Here’s what we’ll be weeping into/dining on as we head into the final week of summer.
Saturday: Salad Pizza (or Taco Pizza, which is in the new book — stay tuned!) Why? “It’s fun because it’s a mix of two things that normally don’t go together — salad and pizza and tacos and pizza.” –Abby. (Plus, you can grill the dough on the Weber — just grill one side, flip over, add toppings and cover with the grill lid.)
Monday: Shrimp Rolls (in the new book — my pick as well) “It’s my favorite. Plus, we always have it in South Carolina because the shrimp is really fresh down here.” -Abby
Tuesday: Tony’s Steak with Double Mustard Potato Salad and Something with Beets Why? In Abby’s words ‘I don’t even need to give you a quote.’” (I think she means that steak speaks for itself; see my instagram feed last night.)
Wednesday: Picnic Chicken with Crispy Chick Peas Why? “They are so much more appetizing than regular chick peas. And the chicken is soooo good for lunch the next day.” -Phoebe
Thursday: Grilled Tuna Sandwiches with Salsa Fresca (or, for Abby, with a side of sushi rice) “I like it because it’s not fully cooked so it reminds me of going out for sushi.”
Friday: Salmon Salad Why: Me: “We have this one so much, though.” Phoebe: “Well, do it again.” (This is in my first book, but there’s a version here.)
PS: **CASTING CALL*** Who needs a little hand-holding when it comes to back-to-school dinners?? I’m teaming up with K.J. Dell’Antonia over at New York Times’ excellent Motherlode blog to help a family through a week of new meals using recipes from Dinner: The Playbook, the Times, and Bon Appetit. Head over there to read my piece and enter.
August 18th, 2014 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef, Travel, Uncategorized
On Saturday we found ourselves in an unusual predicament: It was 4:00 and we hadn’t decided what was for dinner yet. Oddly, if it were a normal weekday at home, this wouldn’t be an issue. But we were on vacation, and as anyone who has read my first book (or read the post “My Drill Sergeant of Leisure“) might recall, on vacation, we like to lock down the dinner plan over morning coffee. This way we don’t steal away a single unit of psychic energy from what should be the only order of business: kayaking, swimming, pretending-to-read-but-really-napping. (OK, so that’s a few orders of business.) Andy’s idea of hell is wandering a packed grocery store with other sunburned dinner-makers at 5:30, the time he should be mixing up an icy, limey Gin and Tonic on the porch.
But this is where we found ourselves nonetheless. We knew we wanted to grill — that was a given. But what? A family meeting on the pool chairs didn’t yield any obvious candidates: One kid wanted burgers, the other wanted fish. I suggested the old healthy stand-by, yogurt-marianted chicken, but Andy wasn’t in the mood. (I think we’ve made that twice a week all summer long.) And plus, we didn’t have time for any marinating.
I should’ve known that we’d wind up anchoring the plate to grilled sausages. No matter where we are in the world, there is a variety to choose from (pork, chicken, lamb, veggie) to suit different tastes, they can be grilled (we’re at the beach so there is a moratorium on oven use) and they don’t require a single second of prep-work, a crucial quality when there is a bike begging to be ridden. To round out the ideal vacation dinner formula (grilled something + fresh something + something the kids go crazy for) we added cucumber raita and a puffy, salty grilled flatbread, which Phoebe said tasted like a doughnut. Done and done.
Grilled Sausages with Cucumber Raita and Grilled Flatbread*
1/2 cup plain yogurt (if you have time to strain the yogurt, add yogurt into a strainer lined with a coffee filter and let sit over a glass in the sink for a half hour)
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic (or garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
handful fresh mint, chopped
3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped into bite size pieces
2- 2 1/2 pounds good-quality sausages (extra credit for merguez, but can be hard to find, we did a mix of sweet and hot Italian)
1 16-ounce ball pizza dough, divided into four pieces and placed on a cookie sheet
In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, garlic cumin, olive oil, salt, pepper, and mint. Toss with chopped cucumbers and chill until ready to serve, so flavors meld.
Meanwhile, heat your grill. When coals are medium-hot, add sausages and grill and turn until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes depending on thickness. Remove from grill and cover with foil to stay hot.
Meanwhile, brush each ball of dough with olive oil, then using your hand and fingers, flatten and press into pita-size pieces. Flip the dough as you shape it, so oil is covering the entire ball of dough. Sprinkle with salt. When the sausages come off the grill, add the dough to the bread and flip a few times, making sure they don’t burn, until cooked through and puffy, about 5 minutes total.
Vacation dessert is never hard to figure out when you have access to Good Humor Bars. (The only dilemma: Toasted Almond or Chocolate Eclair?)
P.S. As for styling the photo with starfish: Guilty as charged.
August 15th, 2014 · 7 Comments · Uncategorized
When I have a bag of pre-mixed cobbler topping ready to go, I am always a half hour away from the best summer dessert. (Also nice if you’re traveling somewhere and don’t want to buy or schlep all your baking supplies.)
Is it November 4 yet? Just pre-ordered what is sure to be the cookbook of fall 2014.
The Lost Art of Conversation. The link is old, but the topic will never be.
Beastie-fans-turned-parents will freaking love this.
Hooray! Bon Appetit‘s Best New Restaurant nominees are out.
I’ve always been impressed by Times reporter C.J. Chivers, but I think I’m more impressed with his 12-year-old, striped-bass-filleting son.
Speaking of kids in the kitchen: I had a quart of buttermilk in danger of going bad, so yesterday I handed my girls two recipes: Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins (winner; bookmark it!) and Buttermilk Ranch salad dressing. (We’ll get to striped bass ceviche some day.)
This might be one of Roz Chast’s all-time greatest cartoons. Maybe because it describes the exact the way I get things done.
Still a few weeks of summer left to squeeze in a seafood boil.
In my fantasy of fantasies, my walk-in pantry will one day look like this. (But first: a house with a walk-in pantry!)
Book Update. Look what landed on my doorstep this week! Publication is two weeks away, but I have a few readings/events lined up that I wanted you to know about: September 9: Spoken Interludes (Hastings-on-Hudson, NY); September 13 Powerhouse on 8th (Brooklyn); September 21 “A Barn Raising Brunch” (Great Barrington, MA); October date TBD: Mom2Mom (Chicago). Hope to see you on the road!
Have a great weekend.
August 14th, 2014 · 19 Comments · Domestic Affairs, Entertaining, Rituals, Uncategorized
You know when you go to someone’s house for dinner and you walk out of the house three hours later thinking, We might have some room for improvement, parenting-wise? That’s what happened last summer when we went to visit our friends, Will and Alaina, and their excellent kids, Eli and Bee. Will is a freshly-retired 20 year veteran of the US Navy who spent several years deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a forward air controller, and man: to borrow a vaguely military-sounding phrase I heard once, that family had their sh*t locked down tight. Their kids greeted us, smiling, at the door. Eye contact was unwavering. Conversation: superb. Engagement: total. And the most impressive thing of all? When dinner was over, the kids rose from their chairs, cleared the table, and — it never gets old — cleaned up the entire kitchen without being asked. It’s been exactly one year since that night, and Jenny and I are still talking about it, still marveling at the precision and can-do spirit of the whole operation. So we asked Cmdr. Mackin, who in addition to his military career, happens to be a supremely talented writer of fiction, to let us in on his secret. He went deep. — Andy
As I transition from a Navy career to life as a full-time writer, I’m lucky to have Andy as an editor and friend. As the editor of my forthcoming collection of short stories, he’s helped me find direction in jumbled piles of miscellaneous thoughts. As a friend, he’s imparted essential knowledge regarding the publishing world (e.g. former editors at fancy men’s magazines do not necessarily have organized closets full of beautiful Italian shoes) that would’ve otherwise taken me years to gain. I like to think I’ve returned the favor, in part, by disabusing him of certain notions regarding the military.
One of those notions is this: Andy is under the impression that my two teenage kids do the dishes because I’ve subjected them to military-style discipline. But the fact is, I’ve rarely exercised military-style discipline in the Navy, let alone at home.
Like other branches of service, the Navy is made up of people from all over the country, each of whom has his or her own ideas about right and wrong, good and evil, not to mention the best way to go about “training and equipping combat-ready maritime forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas,” as the Navy’s official mission statement goes. To that end, the establishment of a baseline of acceptable behavior among individuals who must learn to trust each other with their lives strikes me as a good idea.
My first exposure to military discipline came at the hands of Gunnery Sergeant Wise, who, back in 1988, indoctrinated me into the Navy. The first thing he taught me, as I climbed off the bus from Slimesville, was how to stand at the position of attention. Next, he explained that in moving forward, one must step off with the left foot and never the right. I screwed this up over and over, not only because I was nervous, but because I never thought it made any difference. Wise corrected me: left is left, and right is right. Take your first step with one and you begin a journey of a thousand miles. Take your first step with the other, and while you suffer the pain of push-ups, mountain-climbers, and eight-counts, you cover no ground.
As a parent, whose mission statement might read “to produce good human beings,” I want my kids to do the right thing, and to do it well, and for the right reasons. Ideally, they’d have their own motivations to do so beyond fear of reprisal. As it turns out, though, self-motivation is not innate. In order to encourage its development, my wife Alaina and I have enforced time-outs and longer periods of house arrest. We’ve taken away iBots, PS720’s, and Bedazzlers. We’ve made our children scrub toilets, pull weeds, and chisel the sludge from the dark corners of the litter box. But our forays into coercion are often born of frustration. As such, they tend to be subjective, unmeasured, and worst of all, inconsistent.
Saturday, July 13th, 2013. 5:20 p.m. I’d been telling the kids over and over, but it hadn’t sunk in. So ten minutes before our guests were scheduled to arrive, we reviewed who they were and why they were coming: My recent story in The New Yorker had won me an agent. My agent had landed me a book contract. Andy was the editor of that book. Jenny was his wife (and also — as I’d soon find out from Jenny herself, as she stood in my kitchen, while the appetizers that my wife had left me in charge of while she showered burned on the grill — the person behind this blog).
“And writing the book is going to be your job after your retire from the Navy, right?” asked my daughter, Bee.
“Right,” I said. (more…)
August 13th, 2014 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized
Tomatoes, basil, corn, stone fruits, lobster, berries, al fresco dining! It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Sure, I could throw you to the DALS archives for a little tableside inspiration (our summer salad series comes to mind at once) but instead, I thought I’d show how a few of my favorite instagrammers are celebrating the bounty.
I’m pretty sure everyone I know has made his or her own version of Vongole in the past week — including us. (For proof, see mine and @andyward15‘s feed.) But I’m certain only @wednesdaychef‘s sweet little Hugo was cute enough to get away with eating it shirtless.
Heirlooms, basil, burrata, and olive oil — nothing we haven’t seen before, and yet…it never. gets. old. Especially when it’s composed like this on a plate like that, @taradonnephoto
It’s pretty hard to convince me to do anything with an apricot besides eat it out-of-hand and whole, but this treatment? Roasted with ricotta and honey? Yeah, this might be the exception. Nice, @kitchenrepertoire. (more…)
August 8th, 2014 · 19 Comments · Uncategorized
OK, so I know it’s August, and that these last few weeks are probably a good time to relax, slow down, savor what remains of the summer. But the fact of the matter is, we here at DALS have a lot of exciting things going on so I just wanted to call your attention to two of them.
For starters: My next book, Dinner: The Playbook is out in two short weeks — just in time for the back-to-school grind. As you hopefully know by now, this is my 80-recipe, 220-page response to the email I get more than any others: “I love family dinner. I want to have family dinner. But I don’t know how do family dinner. Where, pray tell, where do I begin?”
You begin with this book, which will be officially out on August 26. But you might want to think about pre-ordering today because I am lining up a pretty awesome giveaway during pub week that I need to keep mum about. All I’ll say is that it will help to have a copy of the book around in order to participate. (And big huge thanks to those of you who have already done so — I don’t want to go all NPR on you, but this blog could not exist without you.)
Next up: Did you see that delicious looking sandwich over there in my right margin? For the next few weeks, Mouth, the super-fun indie-food packager is offering 20% off to all Dinner: A Love Story readers on any of their products. All you have to do is type in the code DALS20 when you check out. I for one have my eye on that New Baby Taster.
Have a great weekend.
August 5th, 2014 · 10 Comments · Uncategorized
Remember this one? I found myself re-reading it the other day — sniffling away again, as usual — and thought it was high time I re-issued it — just in case there are any new readers here who have never had the chance to download a copy, or just in case you have kids who need to squeeze another book or two onto their summer reading logs. SO: For a LIMITED time only, I am unlocking the page where you can download our 2012 e-book 121 Books: A Very Subjective Guide to the Greatest Kid Books of All Time for FREE. Click here for more details, and please spread the word.
July 21st, 2014 · 6 Comments · Picky Eating, Uncategorized
Last week I was driving with my best friend — Leonard Lopate, obviously — whose guests were two parenting podcasters: Dan Pashman, host of “The Sporkful,” and Hillary Frank, host of “The Longest Shortest Time.” They were discussing “Raising Adventurous Eaters,” and had some good advice for parents of picky eaters — I’m happy to report that family dinner and the idea of repeated exposure came up a few times. But my favorite moment in the radio segment occurred at the end, when a listener called in to share how she raised her kids to love vegetables — specifically peppers. It sounds like her children are all grown now, but she still could not mask her delight when she told Lopate and his panel that the way she got her kids to eat bell peppers was by asking them to close their eyes before eating one, then seeing if they could correctly identify the color — red, green, or yellow? As her kids tested, they tasted, as they tasted they got their daily intake. I thought this was pretty hilarious — and I couldn’t help but think of endless options for riffing, especially now that the farmer’s market is exploding with crazy varieties of just about every vegetable. Carrots: Orange, red, or white? Tomatoes: yellow, red, green? Beans: purple or green? Eggplant: Purple or white? Beets: Red, orange, striped, golden? I could go on. I’m sure you could, too.
Anyway, thanks for the tip, Sidney* from New Jersey, whoever you are!
Related, Oldie but Goodie: Can you tell the difference between white wine from red wine when blindfolded? Don’t be so sure. (And don’t do this one with the kids.)
*I think that was your name. Forgive me, I didn’t re-listen.
Photo: Edible Cape Cod
July 15th, 2014 · 39 Comments · Travel, Uncategorized
We don’t even know where to start with this one. We have just returned from a two-week vacation in Alaska, and the prospect of adequately capturing the magic of the experience seems about as overwhelming as the state itself. You know that feeling you get when you’re on vacation, the one where you just keep looking around and thinking “How can I get more of this into my life at home?” Well multiply that by a thousand and you’ll get a taste of what we’re dealing with. Even though Alaska is now 4500 miles away and almost a full week behind us, we are still living on (and, in the case of our gravlax and halibut) dining on the memories.
We were lucky enough to be staying with our friends Jenny and Dan in and around Homer, a five-hour drive from Anchorage. (Dan is the man behind The Talent Code blog and book empire, and a big DALS favorite, as longtime readers know.) They have four kids and roughly seventeen thousand friends, so visiting them was like being folded into a giant family reunion, complete with glacier hikes, midnight beach picnics (it never gets dark in a Homer summer), and a weekend at the family camp, which was a long boat ride away, and the scene of, among other things, an epic Fourth of July party worthy of an entire post — no, an entire blog – in its own right. Actually, it would be easy to devote every DALS post for the rest of 2014 to this trip — that’s how much fun we had — but we have somehow managed to whittle it down to 21 rules, recipes, and stories from the Last Frontier. And because we don’t see our post-vacation high waning any time soon, you can be sure there will be some Alaska-inspired recipes coming down the pike later on this week as well. Trust me, you’re all in for a treat. – Jenny & Andy
21 Things We Loved and Learned in Alaska:
1. We don’t know how to do anything. People in Alaska, on the other hand, know how to do everything. And by everything, we don’t mean, like, caulk their bathtubs and install new wiper blades. We mean, like, build their houses and find water sources and install sewage systems and mill their own lumber and navigate stuff without getting lost or dead and clean fish and roast whole pigs and read tidal charts and tell edible plants from ones that will kill you and drive boats and not just fly planes but BUILD planes. (Yes, we met a guy who builds his own freakin’ planes, and he was awesome.)
2. Frosted Cherry Pop-Tarts are the perfect snack for a hike, particularly when eaten on the deserted shore of a glacial lake with bald eagles and sea planes flying overhead, and SUV-sized chunks of blue ice out there, melting slowly in the sun.
3. “There is always a lucky spot on the boat.” This is what Capt. Dan told us as we headed out to spend the afternoon fishing in the cold blue waters of Kachemak Bay. Capt. Dan is as trustworthy as they come, but we had our doubts: When you’ve got five lines in the water, how could one really be any better than the others? But sure enough, Phoebe and her new pal and fellow 12 year-old, Zoe, proceeded to spend the next two hours hauling in fish after fish — three halibut, between 15 and 20 pounds each (shown above) along with a few black cod – as the rest of us looked on. Later on this week, we’ll show you what everyone made with the day’s catch. (more…)
June 26th, 2014 · 24 Comments · Entertaining, Uncategorized
We have been entertaining machines lately — I think partly because it’s June (so many things to celebrate), but mostly because we bought some new furniture for the patio, and we are looking for any excuse to sit outside with one of these in hand, and hang with friends. Dinners have been your typical DALS summer standbys (grilled fish, baby back ribs, yogurt-marinated everything) but lately, we’ve gotten kind of creative with the starters. I thought I’d share a few with you.
Deviled Eggs with The Works (above) This one is ripped right from the pages of Canal House Cooks Everyday, a book that should be front and center on your cookbook shelf. (Unless you have something against simple, elegant food.) They’re deviled eggs, topped with various trimmings: roasted red peppers, smoked salmon, pickled onions, snipped chives, and bacon. (Leave a few unadorned for the kids.) You can make them ahead of time and chill in the fridge. Always key.
Potato Chips with Caviar and Creme Fraiche Now, just to be clear, caviar is not something that happens every day in our house. (We had some very special guests and the mandate going in was “We Are Leaving it All On The Field.”) But every time we eat this little starter, I start figuring out ways to justify the expense. We picked up American Caviar at Whole Foods (about $18 for a small tin — I know, ridiculous, but when you think about a hunk of Parm costing upwards of $15…well you see what I mean re: Justifying) and served them on top of plain old Kettle Chips for some high-brow/low-brow action. (more…)