Entries Tagged as 'Uncategorized'

Did You Know….?

October 25th, 2013 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

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The other day my mom was telling me how much she loved the Balaboosta cauliflower story I posted last week. “I’m going to make that recipe,” she said, determined. “But I hate printing from the blog. It always prints out so many pages and I don’t know how to stop it.” It occurred to me that if my mother (aka, my biggest fan) did not know that there was an easy way to print out a DALS recipe, then probably a lot of you guys don’t either. In fact, there are probably a lot of things I assume you know, but don’t. So here’s a quick review.
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Did you know….
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…There’s a Print Function at the bottom left of each post, under the facebook “Like” icon. If you click it, the post turns into a pdf that you can print without the huge ink-depeleting photos. There are some thumbnail photos at the bottom, but they are small and will be gone soon. (Working on it!)
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…There’s a Book Club Discussion Guide for those of you who have been nice enough to select Dinner: A Love Story as your book club selection? Click that yellow box in the right margin or just click here.
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There’s a Huge Archive of every single recipe published on this blog since March 2010. Scroll to the tippy tippy top of the home page and you’ll see a “Recipe Index” link in the chalkboard.
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You Can Be Eligible for Giveaways if you subscribe to my newsletter by clicking the “subscribe to my newsletter” box in the right margin, or just click here.
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That There’s a whole Dinner: A Love Story community you can tap into on facebook? If you ever find yourself in a quandry (cooking, parenting, or otherwise), send me an email and if it’s relevant enough, I can post immediately on the page. (This week, I posted for reader Andrea who was on the hunt for good pre-school potluck ideas.)
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that “Roar” might be the best pre-game pump-up song for 10-year-old girls ever in the history of pre-game pump-up songs for 10-year-old girls?
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Thanks to Linda for sending in the above photo of beautiful little Addie. “Thought you’d get a kick out of this picture,” she wrote over the summer. “As you can see I travel with your book everywhere!”
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Have a good weekend!
Jenny

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15 Recipes Every Parent Should Know

October 15th, 2013 · 27 Comments · Favorites, Uncategorized

This is probably not the smartest business move for a cookbook author who writes books with 100+ recipes…or for a food blogger who wants readers to, you know, come back tomorrow — but I am going to say it anyway:  In spite of everything you’ve read (on this blog and elsewhere), you really only need a handful of culinary moves in your back pocket to survive as a parent. Here’s the indisputably comprehensive, 100% definitive, not-at-all-subjective repertoire Andy and I came up with for your reading and cooking pleasure.

The Elixir
Chicken Orzo Soup (page 290, Dinner: A Love Story)
Why: Because there’s no problem that can’t be hashed out over a bowl of this stuff.
Best When: It’s soccer or football season; you want to make a deposit in the freezer bank; your best friend and her kids are coming for a weekend lunch; your son is under the weather; your daughter is stressed about the algebra test.

The Stalwart
Homemade Pizza
Why: Because it’s easier than you think.
Best When: You want to go under-the-radar meatless with the kids; you’re trying to clear out an end-of-the-week refrigerator; lots of people with lots of kids and lots of different tastes are coming for dinner; you add up how much you spent on take-out last month and have a sad, empty feeling deep down inside.

The New Staple
Kale Salad
Why: Why not? Seriously, though. Because kale has so much more earthy flavor, more nutritional punch, more oomph and body than regular lettuce (no offense, regular lettuce), and because even the smallest portion feels like it has the magical power of canceling out that cider donut you ate this morning.
Best When: Your kids are too young to understand that people might make fun of them (and their parents) for eating kale. If you can hook ‘em young, you’re golden. And if you don’t wan’t to call it kale, lie and call it “salad.” How’s that for ethical parenting?

The Ol’ Reliable
Snickerdoodles
Why: Because I guarantee you have all the ingredients in your house at all times.
Best When: You forgot to make something for the bake sale and the bake sale is tomorrow; you are charged with bring the classroom peanut-free treat; you are in the mood to blow big and small minds alike.

The Template
Chicken and Rice
Why: Because it’s not just learning a recipe, it’s learning a technique.
Best When: You are transitioning the baby to real food; you are learning how to cook; the kids are on a Sendak bender.

The Holiday Hallmark
Homemade Franks & Beans
Why: Because it’s important to get kids associating certain holidays with certain dishes (and because, forreal, when else can you justify it?)
Best When: A fire is blazing in the hearth; you have the whole day to do nothing but bake beans and carve pumpkins; you’ve invited every witch, ghost, princess, and Ironman (and their parents) for a trick-or-treat launch party. (more…)

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Friday Round-up

October 11th, 2013 · 65 Comments · Uncategorized

The Case For Intensive Youth Athletics vs. The Case Against A debate about the state of sports in our kids’ lives right now. (For the moment, we are just trying to figure out how to curb the Nike habit.)

Ten Ways to Clean Your Kitchen Less. Confession: I don’t actually care about the tips. For me, it’s all about the color of the cabinets.

Cooking: Anti-Feminist Trap or Ultimate Expression of a Mother’s Love? The daughter of a feminist, who has lived both sides, weighs in.

Serena Williams, LeBron James, and Peyton Manning aren’t just leading the pack in their respective sports, they’re leading the pack in endorsement deals with junk food products.  (I mean, really, how hard would it be to just endorse the National Orange Growers Association?)

Oh my goodness, this might just be my Super Bowl.

Does ethical parenting exist? Even if this is the quintessential New York story, it’s still an irresistible read. (And as a soccer mom, the annotation all the way to the right of the opening image made me laugh out loud.)

Jimmy Kimmel’s genius solution to the iOS 7 “nausea” problem.

My ten-year-old is loving this.

My eleven-year-old is loving this.

I am pre-ordering this.

Best Parenting Tip Ever. My facebook followers will have seen this already, but it’s so good I need to make sure as many people as possible get the message.

The Weekly Conundrum: What movie do I show to a bunch of 10-year-old girls that they haven’t already seen ten thousand times? Suggestions welcome! (Old-school choices encouraged.)

I am delighted to be part of this healthy lifestyle panel next month. New Yorkers: Get your tickets and come say hello!

From Andy:

This song, which I just now discovered, and which immediately became my Fall Anthem.

Donna Tartt’s new book which I ordered and which, if the reviews can be trusted, is gonna make the next few weeks worth living.

This interview for publishing nerds out there.

What I’m going to drink tonight, courtesy of our pals in Portland, Maine. If you like gin, this stuff is off the hook.

Last night, Jenny agreed to watch The Wire, breaking a five-year stalemate, which is both thrilling (like sharing the best book ever with someone) and also scary (what if she hates it?). I’m gonna do the whole series again, right along with her. Join us!

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Master Chef Junior

September 27th, 2013 · 286 Comments · Uncategorized

I don’t know about you but the DALS house is pumped for this premiere. (“The contestants may be small, but the challenges are huuuuge….”) Add some homemade Stromboli and we’ve got ourselves a Friday night.

PS: For no good reason, I’m giving away a copy of Dinner: A Love Story todayLeave a comment before tonight (Friday, September 27) at 8:00 ET, and you are eligible to win. Update: Keely (#9) is our winner. Thanks for playing everyone!

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What Passes for Fun on a Saturday Night

September 16th, 2013 · 11 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Posts by Andy, Quick, Seafood, Uncategorized

“Make Dinner Not War,” huh? The pacifist ethos may look good on a bumper sticker, and it may reign supreme at our family dinner table, but when it comes to, say, girls’ soccer or beach-kadima-fer-chrisskes or routinely kicking her husband’s arse in a “friendly” game of Clue? Jenny is not to be trifled with. It’s why I hesitate to tell her my top score in Ruzzle, because I know it’s only a matter of time before she borrows my phone — and then hands it back fifteen minutes later, having destroyed my record. It’s why I stopped playing tennis with her, lo these many years ago. We’d be hitting the ball around like normal husbands and wives and the moment would come when she’d walk up to the net and ask, casually tucking a ball into the pocket of her shorts, “Wanna play a few games?” Like an idiot, I’d say yes. And suddenly, she couldn’t miss. Every shot: in. Every impossible angle: not impossible, apparently! I’d hit the ball as hard as I could, and it would come back harder. I’m worried, as I write this, that Jenny is going to come off as too Tiger Mom-ish, that she only cares about winning, which is not really true. So I’ll put it this way: Jenny would rather win than lose. And she usually does, too.

The key word here is usually.

Last Saturday, we picked up some fresh striped bass from our fish guy at the farmer’s market. I drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and as I was going outside to fire up the grill, Jenny said she’d be in charge of making a blender sauce for the fish. A blender sauce with roasted red peppers and walnuts and something else I can’t quite remember, because the truth is, I stopped listening as soon I heard roasted red peppers and walnuts. I must have made an expression that gave me away.

“What?” she said. “You don’t think that sounds good?”

“No, no,” I said. “It sounds really good. It’s just that this fish is so  fresh, I don’t know if we need it. I was thinking of something a little lighter and cleaner-tasting.”

“Like what?”

“Like, with those tomatoes we got today or something. A tomato coulis. Is that the right word? Tomato coulis?”

“I have no idea,” she said. “How about I make mine and you make yours, and we’ll have a taste -off.”

Christ.

Dinner as competitive sport: This is what passes for fun in the DALS house on a Saturday night. We retreated to our respective corners — Jenny with the blender, me with the mini-Cuisinart — and worked in silence, as serious as monks. We roped the kids in at some point, too — appointing them as the official arbiters, a role they naturally cherish — and put a dollop of both sauces on every plate. After a few bites and some mindful chewing, everybody weighed in. The results, I do not regret to say, were clear: The tomato sauce. In a walk. Even Jenny conceded it was better, and you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that doesn’t happen much around here. Victory at last!

The truth is, Jenny’s sauce was better than mine, more sophisticated, more interesting. Add some feta and it’d be an amazing dip, served with pita chips and some gherkins. It would also have been fantastic with grilled chicken. But with fish this fresh, just off the grill, on a beautiful late summer night? Nuh-uh. Not in my house. – Andy

Jenny’s Sauce

In a blender, whirl together:

2 roasted red peppers (halve, brush with olive oil, and broil for 20 minutes; then remove pith and peel off skin. I used the ones from our CSA, which aren’t too big — medium-size, I’d say)
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon balsamic (wished we had red wine vinegar)
Small handful walnuts
Salt & pepper
Squeeze of Sriracha

Andy’s Sauce

In a food processor, whirl together until emulsified:

Couple of handfuls fresh grape tomatoes (I used red and yellow)
Few generous glugs of olive oil
Juice from 1/2  lime OR 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Two basil leaves
One scallion
Squeeze of Sriracha
Salt & pepper, to taste

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Friday Round-up

September 13th, 2013 · 17 Comments · Uncategorized

Did you know that all these dinners I write about…all those tips and tricks and weekly menu plans I dream up daily are really just a way to reel you in so I can discuss the real mission of DALS? i.e. the mission to support writers and artists doing cool things everywhere? The latest of the crop is my friend Kevin — illustrator, designer, father of two of the cutest boys you’ve ever seen — who has been working on an insanely gorgeous illustrated alphabet book called The Curious ABCs for seven years. SEVEN years. And now he’s launched a kickstarter campaign to get it published as a hardcover and an app. Granted, I am a sucker for a good line drawing, but the artwork is beautiful, and the book is designed to grow with your child. Each letter (like the A above) is comprised of things that start with the letter A — anchor, angel, apple, etc. and when you own the app, all kinds of cool things light up at your kids’ fingertips. I just pledged my support and I hope you can, too.

What else is going on? A quick-and-dirty round-up:

I work for Bon Appetit, so you can obviously take this with a grain of salt, but their take on things like the new iPhone launch reminds me why it’s the best food magazine out there. They’ve got every angle covered. Literally!

As long as you’re over there: What’s a Chegan? How sweet does victory taste? What’s Serena’s most favorite thing to eat in the world? The 2013 US Open Champ tells all.

Breakfast: The most important meal of the day. Or is it?

Laura Ingalls had the right idea.

Book insiders: Please tell me who the brilliant designer was behind the cover of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book? I’m sending him or her a bumper sticker.

Phoebe handed me The Fault in Our Stars last month, and I have to say, it’s one of the better books I’ve read this year. Young Adult or otherwise. (My friend Laurie told me if I liked that, I would love this even more.)

30 Ideas for After-School Snacks. (Many of which might pass for dinner in my house.)

Ummm…tickets please!

A delightful discovery: When you replace the chicken with tofu in this Indonesian Salad, you end up with an extremely flavorful, extremely satisfying vegan dinner.

Cocoa Banana Bread, the elixir.

I would like to kiss the geniuses at AMC and Sony Pictures for making this happen. (And then maybe kiss Bob Odenkirk himself?)

Does Mark Bittman’s “Vegan Before 6:00″ diet really work? One woman’s (very well-written) take.

What’s the new Braised Short Ribs? As in, what’s your default plan for fall entertaining these days? No link here just curious!

Lastly, another reminder: The Kindle version of Dinner: A Love Story is on sale for $2.99 right now. As my friend Christine said, you’ll earn that back the first time you cook from my book instead of ordering takeout.

Have a great weekend!
Jenny

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Book News

September 6th, 2013 · 54 Comments · Dinner: A Love Story, the Book, Uncategorized

Update! If you have read my book, Dinner: A Love Storyif you have cooked from my book, lived with my book, are sick to death of hearing about my book, you should feel free to skip to the bottom of this post. And know that I am eternally grateful. In no small way, your support keeps this blog going.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, I just wanted to let you know something: Guess what guys? I wrote a book! And if you read this blog with any kind of regularity, if you get excited by things like mix-and-match menus and Venn diagram-dinners, or if you are the type of person who is required to feed people every day while also doing small things like holding down a full-time job, I think there’s a good chance you will like it.

At last count, there were well over 100 readers on Amazon who have said as much. I only bring that up as an excuse to quote one of the more recent reviewers: “Skip ‘Lean In‘ and try this!” How much do I love that? A lot.
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In other exciting news: Dinner: A Love Story is going into its fourth printing. And for those of you who are inclined to read a cookbook on a Kindle, there’s an Amazon special going on right now through October 7. Dinner: A Love Story has been selected as one of the Kindle 100 (I have no idea what this means, but I’m going to pretend for our purposes that it is a big stinkin’ deal) and is only $2.99.

And then there’s this:
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An honest-to-god, 350-page manuscript for my next book. It’s done. Well, not quite. But a big huge hunk of it is. And if I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on the celebration including a batch of Great Grandma Turano’s meatballs. Tonight. More details on the way very soon!
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Thank you for indulging me. Back to regularly scheduled dinner programming on Monday. Also, big thanks to Jessica, of Feed Me Dearly and her gorgeous pup for sending along the photo way up top.

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A Back-to-School Meal Plan for You

August 29th, 2013 · 38 Comments · Uncategorized

All right people, I’m back. Since last we spoke I have been cranking on work — that vacation I was so wistful for? Those handstands on the beach and dinners on the screened-in porch?  They became distant memories as soon as the iphone photos were auto-flowed into their own Apple album. Closed the book on summer vacation! Gone! To quote one of Pixar’s more brilliant characters, “I never look back, darling, it distracts from The Now.” So what is The Now…now? It’s back-to-school. It’s back to eighty-five pairs of shoes by the front door. Back to forgetting to check backpacks. Back to alarm clocks, school lunch-packing, breathless breakfasts, and…structure. To start the year off right, naturally, I’ve put together a little gift for everyone — me included: A Sunday-to-Thursday weekly dinner plan (plus shopping list — click on link at the end.)  But instead of just, you know, giving it to you, I thought I’d also share the reason why I chose each recipe for each particular night — why pulled chicken on Sunday? Why salad pizza on Wednesday? There is a method to the madness and in the spirit of back-t0-school, I figured you’d want a little lesson plan to go along with the recipes. Here you go and good luck!

Sunday (morning or afternoon)

  • Go food shopping
  • Make a jar of vinaigrette that you can use all week.

Sunday Dinner

Why? So you can make extra BBQ pulled chicken. It freezes well, and is a great thing to have on hand if you have to make a quick serves-one meal for an athlete who needs to eat before or after a game or practice. Or a picky eater who won’t touch whatever it is you are serving. Or a spouse who staggers in late, after everyone has eaten. Alternately: You can freeze the entire thing and have a full dinner for four ready for later in the week. The second half of the cabbage will be used for Tuesday’s dinner.

Monday

Why? Never start with something ambitious on Monday. Remember: You are in it for the long game. This is easy, fast, seasonal, and requires a minimal number of pots. In other words, total keeper. Also: Feel free to replace the country ham with bacon — or with olive oil if you want to make it a Meatless Monday. Make twice as much salad as you eat. Save the rest (undressed) in a bag for salad pizza on Wednesday.

Tuesday

Why? It works because it has a lot of overlapping ingredients with the Tofu you’ll have on Thursday, but feels like something else entirely. The only thing you have to worry about is spacing them out well so people don’t get soy-overload. Also, this is extremely light — another reason why it’s nicknamed “redemption salad” — so feel free to round out the meal with a baguette or some noodles.

Wednesday

  • Salad Pizza (add some of the basil you have leftover from Monday night)

Why? It’s quick and healthy and a nice warm-weather pizza. If kids won’t touch a salad pizza, top one half of the pie with pizza sauce and mozzarella for them. (Note: sauce and mozzarella are not included on the attached shopping list.)

Thursday

Why? I love this meal because it’s totally pantry-driven, so if it works on Thursday, great. If you don’t get to it till next Thursday, that works, too. Obviously the tofu will expire at some point — but unlike meat or fish which comes with use-it-or-lose-it pressure, it gives you a little breathing room. Another reason to make this? It’s so freaking good! If someone protests on the grounds of tofu (as my children still do) heat up that extra bbq pulled chicken from the freezer and slap it on a sandwich.

Friday
Go out. Call it in. Eat in the car. Whatever you do, take the night off!

Click here for your meal line-up and shopping list.

 

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Summer Reading Series: Michael Paterniti

August 19th, 2013 · 11 Comments · Cameos, Children's Books, Gifts, Culture, Uncategorized

Our next guest in the DALS Summer Reading Series is Michael Paterniti, a man who needs no introduction (and not only because we just introduced him last month). Besides being the father of three voracious readers, he is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Revenge, Betrayal, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese, and joins us today to tell us about his two (give or take nine) most memorable childrens’ books. Thanks, Mike!

My favorite children’s books belong to two distinct categories: the ones I adored as a kid, and then the ones I’ve loved as a father reading to my kids. To the first pile belong treasures like Homer Price (who can ever forget Uncle Ulysses’s doughnut machine!), The Tomten (about a mysterious elfin man who rummages a remote farm by winter night, talking to the animals), The Great Brain (oh, how I wanted to be him, pickpocketing the world with his schemes!), and The Hardy Boys catalogue (the recurrence of their friend Chet, in his jalopy, on the prowl for lemonade and chocolate cake while the brothers face harrowing danger, still cracks me up).

To the second, the father pile, belong almost anything by Chris Van Allsberg (The Stranger, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, The Polar Express) and The Hobbit (still one of the world’s great travelogues) and, say, Penguin Dreams (the surreal, wonderfully psychedelic journey of a penguin through his own dreams). For our purposes today, however, I’m limiting myself to a couple of desert-island books, one in each category. I realize only now in writing that both are appropriately animated by food (and one, perhaps the strangest and funniest children’s book I’ve ever read, is actually about animated food!). So here goes…

Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson (Kid Book)

Before this book, which I read at age nine or ten, I’m not sure I fully understood how books work, how a good one can deposit a secret world so whole and alive in your head. A Newberry Medal winner from the 1940s, the story centers around one rabbit family, living on “the Hill” in Connecticut, and begins with the refrain, “New folks coming.” See, the Hill has fallen on hard times because the big house there—and its fantastic garden—have fallen into disrepair after a string of “mean, shiftless, and inconsiderate” owners. Now as the animals grow skinny and sip their “thin soup” everything relies on the new folks being planting folks. Meanwhile Little Georgie is going up “Danbury way,” where times are even harder, to retrieve his old Uncle Analdas, who’s just lost his wife and whose dinners consist of a skimpy turnip. Thinking about Little Georgie out in all that wilderness sets Mother to fretting in the kitchen, worrying about “the possibility of Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets; of shotguns, rifles, and explosives; of traps and snares; of poison and poison gases” while longwinded Father, of southern stock, tries to reassure her of the boy’s capabilities. And sure enough, son and uncle return, the new folks move in, and everything seems quite promising indeed until one night, as Little Georgie sallies forth on another errand, there’s the screeching of car brakes from the road, and Little Georgie disappears. 

Though known for his great illustrations, Robert Lawson is an evocative, lyrical writer. I won’t ruin his ending, which is simple, moving, and wonderful, but I will say that, first and foremost, Rabbit Hill is a book about generosity—at its most elemental about the overwhelming gratitude we feel when down and hungry and offered food—and that’s a very good thing to be reminded of in this world. Ages 7+

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay (Father Book)

Um—I don’t quite know where to begin with this one except to say that when I read it to our son, Leo, some years ago, he wore the most quizzical expression for 169 pages, kept snorting with laughter, and said, “I don’t understand any of this!” which seemed to make him happy and all the more interested. And he never let me stop reading.

First published in Australia in 1918, the book centers itself on Bunyip Bluegum, a tidy, proper koala bear who leaves home to see the world because his uncle’s whiskers are too long, and take up all the space in their tree house, and soak in the soup at dinnertime, which is depressing. Before long, Bluegum’s fallen in with Bill Barnacle, a sailor, and his friend Sam Sawnoff, “a penguin bold,” whom he finds eating lunch. “They had a pudding in a basin,” reads the book, “and the smell that arose from it was so delightful that Bunyip Bluegum was quite unable to pass on.” This pudding is named Albert, and is a little foul-mouthed, and takes no guff. And it loves to be eaten, never runs out, and can transmogrify into the thing you most want to eat. (“It’s a Christmas steak and apple-dumpling Puddin’,” says the penguin. “It’s a Magic Puddin’.”)

Of course, rollicking high jinx ensue, the Puddin’ is stolen, strange characters appear, long, wacky, wonderful poems are delivered, the Puddin’ sulks and snarls and ripostes, and the pictures are fantastic. Lindsay said he wrote the book because children like eating and fighting, but I might add that what they—and their parents—like most of all is to laugh together. And there’s no weirder, funnier children’s book out there, one based entirely on the wonderful ways we feed ourselves, with words, stories, adventures, and cobbler. (Ages 8+)

FYI: Mike is on a West Coast tour right now, reading from The Telling Room tonight, 8/19, at Vroman’s (Pasadena); Tuesday, 8/20 at Book Passage (San Francisco); Wednesday, 8/21, at Omnivore Books (SF); Thursday, 8/22 at Reader’s Books (Sonoma); then Powell’s (Portland) on 8/26.

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¡Viva Family Dinner!

July 31st, 2013 · 7 Comments · Cameos, Dinner, Posts by Andy, Rituals, Uncategorized

I’m a *little* worried this is going to sound like a wedding toast.

I have basically been following Mike Paterniti around for the past twelve years. When I worked at Esquire — as a kid, practically — Mike was the star writer who would come into town, from Portland, Maine, with his Patagonia backpack and his good vibes, and be nice to all the peons, and then fly off to crazy places and bring back stories like this and this, stories that would make 25 year-old assistant editors like me say, Damn, it would be nice to work with a writer like that someday. Then, when I went to GQ in 2002, I went — in large part — because Mike was there and, by taking the job, I would finally become his full-time editor and have the chance to work on stories like this. Then, a few years ago, I moved on to Random House — in large part — to work with Mike again, on a book he’d been obsessing over for the better part of a decade. That book, The Telling Room, was published yesterday, and the easy thing to say about it is that it’s a slow food fable about a cheesemaker, named — proof that there is a god? — Ambrosio, who lives in a tiny village (pop. 80) in Spain and makes his cheese, according to an ancient family recipe, from the milk of sheep that graze on chamomile and sage. But that’s not really what the book is about. This book is about the heartbreaking story of Ambrosio’s world-class cheese, yes, but it’s also about Spain and the ghosts of Civil War, about friendship and betrayal, about love and memory and forgiveness, and, most important, about stories. The stories we tell ourselves in order to live.

Do I love this book? Yes.

Did I warn you this was going to sound like a wedding toast? Yes.

In the course of writing and reporting his book, Mike spent a lot of time in Spain. He estimates he made 15 to 20 trips to Guzman, in fact, during which he learned a lot about Ambrosio and his magical cheese (it was said to conjure memories), but also about family dinner. Given that this is a blog dedicated to that very subject, we asked Mike to tell us how they do in the Castilian highlands. He did, and we’re glad. Congrats, Mike! — Andy

Of all Spanish institutions, family dinner ranks as one of my favorites. Why? Because it happens to be Spanish chaos theory at its best—and the Spaniards are good at chaos. After all, what other nation runs with its bulls… or holds a massive tomato-pelting event, in which citizens throw over 90,000 pounds of tomatoes at each other… or has an annual, mandatory, four-day, wine-soaked party—known as the fiesta—in every village of its great, sun-scorched land?

In classic Spanish fashion, then, family dinner is a microcosm of this craziness and big joy. And of course, there’s a fair amount of confusion about when dinner really is. Is it the big meal in the middle of the day, known as the comida? Or is it the late-evening, smaller meal known as cena? (The Spaniards love their food so much they have five designated grazing times a day: desayuno, or breakfast; almuerzo, the late-morning snack; comida in the early afternoon; and then the latter meals of the day: merienda, or late afternoon snack; and cena, dinner.)

Cena is the best—and in summer begins anywhere between 10 and midnight. In the plazas of the cities, you’ll see families seated at outdoor restaurant tables, telling animated stories, wine, chorizo, and grilled pimientos on the table, a simple green salad and some lomo on the way, the kids sprinting madly over cobblestones, playing soccer, chasing birds, when suddenly someone walks by on stilts, or an orchestra begins to play, or some impromptu marching band comes banging through the square. The voices get louder. Now the gambas sizzling in olive oil are put on the table, the laughter echoes, the kids shriek with joy as they come and go, grabbing tidbits from the table.

In the little Castilian village of Guzmán, where I moved my family one summer as I wrote my book, we often found ourselves with an invite to my friend Ambrosio’s telling room for cena. A telling room is a little hobbit hole dug into the hill on the north boundary of town, most of them equipped with a simple wood-plank table, a fireplace full of dried grapevines, which gives the grilled lamb a sweet taste, and a porron—a glass, decanter-like vessel with a spout—sloshing with homemade red wine. In Ambrosio’s telling room, the shutters were thrown open so we could look out over the picturesque village with its palacio and impressive church as we ate and drank. In fact, I’d often look up from the table, tricked by the illusion that I was gazing upon some ever-changing painting on the wall that just happened to be the village of Guzmán itself. (more…)

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Banned For Life

July 30th, 2013 · 41 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Posts by Andy, Uncategorized

There are certain food items that Jenny has banned from the house forever. Most are desserts. Actually, all are desserts. There were the Mallomars when we were first married, which we stashed in the refrigerator and ate by the box until she turned, viper-like, upon them. There were those sugar-coated, citrus-y gum drops from T Joe’s, which she loved dearly for many months, right up to the day when, in the middle of eating a few of them after dinner, she turned to me and said, “Ugh, god, why am I eating these? What is my problem? I think we need to do ‘Turn Over a New Leaf’ month on the blog.” There was the bag of peanut butter chips that she ate by the handful — paired with alternating handfuls of dark chocolate chips — and that she loved so much that she had to throw them away, or risk eating every one of them. (It was hard to watch, as if the chips, by merely existing, had done her wrong.) There my personal favorite, the batch of snickerdoodles that she first saw as a revelation but then grew so disgusted by that she actually poured water over them before throwing them away to ensure that she wouldn’t, upon reflection, dive back into the garbage for more.

And then there was the tres leches cake that Abby and I made last week.

My struggles with baking have been well-chronicled on this particuar weblog — Jenny loves to say that baking is not my “thing” and she’s right — but Abby had been after me for a month to make this with her, ever since she’d tried it in school on some kind of end-of-year, Spanish celebration day. Abby is nothing if not determined, and had been dying to recreate it for us at home. So I finally relented, busted out the dreaded mixer, and pulled a recipe from Bon Appetit. To my amazement, what we made resembled a cake and tasted… boy, did it ever taste good. Like, seriously, seriously good, and I am not a huge lover of cake. The best part of the process came at the end, after the cake was cooked, when we put it on a baking sheet and Abby poked tiny holes all over the top of it, and then slowly, over the course of several minutes, drizzled seemingly endless quantities of various milk products over the top of it. “Where does all that milk go?” Abby asked, as the liquid disappeared. Then she tried to lift it off the counter, and understood.

Baking may not be my thing, but Jenny didn’t exactly turn up her nose at this creation. She loaded a canister of Reddi Whip and downed two slices, and then cursed her powers of self-restraint, and then had another piece, and then got angry and threatened to throw the rest away. Good sense prevailed, however, and the cake lived to see another day. But that was all. After night two, with about a quarter of it left, Jenny dumped it into the trash and banned it for life. “Don’t bring that into the house again,” she said. “It’s too good.” – Andy

Tres Leches Cake
Adapted only very slightly from Bon Appetit 

1 tablespon unsalted butter (for pan)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup evaporated skim milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon good dark rum

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter bottom and sides of cake pan (I used a spring-form pan, but not sure that was necessary). Set aside. In large bowl, whisk your flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until firm peaks form, about 7-8 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in 2 tsp. of the vanilla and the lemon zest. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into pan; smooth top.

Bake for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 325° and continue baking until cake is golden brown and middle springs back when pressed, 20-25 minutes more. Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes. Invert cake onto a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.

Whisk 1/2 tsp. vanilla, evaporated milk, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Poke holes all over top of cake (we used a wooden skewer). Drizzle half of sauce over cake, letting liquid soak in before adding more. Let cake sit for 10 minutes.

Invert a plate on top of cake. Lift rack and gently invert cake onto plate. Drizzle remaining sauce over. Dust with powdered sugar.

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I Could Eat Like This Every Night

July 29th, 2013 · 7 Comments · Uncategorized, Vegetarian

When you live with someone like Andy, it can be hard to know when he likes something and when he really likes something at the table. This is because his policy is to express how good dinner is if someone else has made it for him — I mean really express it — even if it’s maybe just mediocre. He’ll drop his fork. He’ll “Oh-My-God” a few times. He’ll mmmm through the entire first minute of eating. If it sounds disingenuous to indiscriminately dispense this kind of flattery, he might indulge that accusation for a second before saying that he’d rather err on the side of being overly gracious. As he’s fond of pointing out: “There’s nothing weirder than cooking for someone who doesn’t mention the food they’re eating while they’re eating it.”  I love this about him.

Unless, of course I’m the one cooking for him, in which case it drives me batsh*t crazy.

Though it’s weird to even put this in writing, you might say that cooking dinner has sorta kinda become my livelihood. And in that way, it does me no good to be serenaded with “Wows” when I’ve just cooked something that may or may not be book- or blog-worthy. When I need an honest-to-god, incisive breakdown of whether a recipe works or not, the guy is utterly useless. (The kids on the other hand? You might say they are gifted in the Critiquing Department.)

I have noticed, however, that there is a subtle hierarchy to Andy’s compliments. It’s always a good sign when he asks “What’s in here?” after the first bite. It’s even better when the word “keeper” is thrown around at some point during the meal. But I think the compliment that registers highest on the truth-o-meter for me is what he said last Thursday night, after eating nothing but a tiny portion of leftover macaroni and cheese along with three or four salads made right from the CSA box.

“Wow,” he said. “I could eat like this every night.

There’s a theme to the dinners that earn this compliment. The meals are almost always healthy.  They generally involve fish, really fresh, in-season vegetables, and very little intervention on the part of the cook. The compliment is apparently so rare, that I can recite every single meal I’ve made him in 15 years that has earned the honor:

1. Asian Cabbage Salad with Shrimp or Chicken. The classic.

2. Grilled Black Sea Bass with Market Vegetables Pretty much the formula for Sunday Dinner from April through November, when our farmer’s market is open.

3. Sweet-and-Sour “Mongolian” Tofu We are newly obsessed with tofu. More to come on that front soon.

4. Fried Flounder with pretty much anything on the side. Must be the freshest flounder we can find.

5. Spaghetti with Clams (page 56 of Dinner: A Love Story) He is actually the one that always makes this.

6. Detox Soup With or without shrimp

7. Last Week’s Salad Bar Dinner

We had leftover Mac & Cheese, but you could also just serve salads and vegetables with good warm baguette toasts. Slice one baguette in half lengthwise, ten brush with olive oil (or spread with a little butter) and sprinkle with salt. Wrap in foil and heat in 350°F oven for 15 minutes. While it warms, make:

  • Any of these Summer Salads (from 2013 round-up), which includes the cilantro-napa cabbage salad you see above
  • or these Summer Salads (from 2012)
  • or these Summer Salads (from 2011), which includes the tomato-corn salad you see above
  • or chopped tomatoes with basil and bocconcini
  • lightly cooked carrots with honey, thyme, and butter
  • or shredded zucchini sauteed in garlic and olive oil, aka Zucchini Butter via Food52 (not that Andy would ever touch that.)

 

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Friday Round-up

July 26th, 2013 · 15 Comments · Uncategorized

Five no-cook summer dinners. How soon can I get me some of that up there? (Photo by Romulo Yanes.)

Marion Nestle + Cartoons + Food = A Book I Just Pre-Ordered.

Forget dinner and a movie — Abby and I just had our 2nd annual documentary-and-a-shackburger lunch date. We chose (and loved) 20 Feet from Stardom* playing at Lincoln Center, followed by a visit to Shake Shack up the block.

Speaking of world-class burgers, a very kind reader (whose name and email I lost!) sent along a recipe link for replicating that Hatch Burger I loved so much at Umami last year. Thank you reader whose name and email I lost.

When she’s not baking cakes, she’s watching really good summer movies with the kids.

Is everyone else as in love with the “Jenny’s in the Kitchen column on Food52 as I am?

What Happy People Do Differently.

Everyone wants it. (Show this to the kids.)

I think TeamSnap (and its attending app) has the potential to change my life as I know it.

Oh my god, have you read this book? I feel like she’s my kindred spirit.

From Andy:

Mick Jagger singing a so-good-I-want-to-weep, outtake version of Keith’s song, You Got the Silver.

A really nicely written essay about the joys of traveling solo (containing an excellent Clark Griswold reference) by Ben Loehnen in Slate.

Maybe the best thing I have ever seen on film.

We are so bad about television. Here we are, in the Golden Age of the medium, and the only thing we watch right now, in real time, is So You Think You Can Dance. We do eventually make our way to most of the good stuff, though — we joined Friday Night Lights in Season Two, Breaking Bad in Season Three, and Homeland halfway through Season Two. Our latest one came via a recommendation from a reliable (in the taste department) friend: Top of the Lake, which was created by Jane Campion. Has anyone out there seen this? We loved it, loved the acting, but maybe loved, most of all, the scenery. I wanted to press pause on every frame of this thing. Insanely beautiful.

This piece from Bill Buford is just fun to read, and it makes me hungry.

You’ll be hearing more about this book next week on DALS, but if you feel like getting out and you live anywhere near Brooklyn and you want a free drink and enjoy listening to great writers read from their work, then swing by Powerhouse on Wednesday, July 31 at 7:00 to hear Michael Paterniti (and me) talk about — and read from — his new book, The Telling Room.

*Parental warning: As to be expected in a documentary about the music industry, there are a few unsavory word choices used here and there, but I found it navigable for a nine-year-old.

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Best of Summer Awards (aka The Dollys!)

June 27th, 2013 · 346 Comments · Uncategorized

If you asked our family what summer means, you’d get a few different answers. The girls would say tomato sandwiches, no school, and ice cream. (Seriously, it’s a physical impossibility not to eat a Flav-R-Ice or a scoop of mint cookie every day.) If you asked Andy, it would be tomato sandwiches and road-trips where you’re driving down some county road in upstate New York and you come upon a Rolling Stones-tattooed barn like the one you see above. (We had to pull over to take a picture.) If you asked me, though, it would be tomato sandwiches, a honeysuckle-infused warm breeze off the Hudson, and, of course, the DALS Best of Summer Awards. With no further ado…the Third Annual Dollys!

Best Thing We’d Always Been Too Afraid to Make, Then Made And Discovered Wasn’t Hard: Fried Zucchini Blossoms
A few summers ago, we were lucky enough to eat at The River Café in London where we dined on many many delicious things – all of which have been completely subsumed in our collective memory by one dish: Fritto Misto, featuring Zucchini Blossoms. While it’s probably true that deep-fried battered anything is almost cheating when it comes to culinary trickery, these vegetables were different.  Instead of rendering them greasy, heavy, and filling, the deep-frying seemed to have the opposite effect: The blossoms on our plates were light, airy, melt-in-your-mouth-y, and gone in 30 seconds. We attempted replication last week in our own kitchen with a box from our favorite farmer’s market vendor. Success! – Jenny

Best Seasonal Sundae Topping: Fresh Strawberry Smash
Hurry up and get on this one fast, while those tiny, ruby-red, slightly soft strawberries are dominating the farmer’s market. Ever since we made the pilgrimage to Doug’s Fish Fry in Skaneateles, New York a few years ago and had fresh smashed strawberries drizzled on top of homemade vanilla ice cream, I’ve been wanting to bust this out at home. This will be our year. To execute: Remove stems from berries and halve. (Don’t shy away from the berries that look overripe; those are the best ones.) Put them in a small mixing bowl, sprinkle with sugar, and smash with a fork, until the juice is running and the consistency looks saucy but not smooth. Spoon over vanilla ice cream — or, even better, sandwiched between a slab or pound cake and some fresh whipped cream. – Andy

Best Vegan Breakfast: Strawberries and Vanilla Almond Milk
If you’re not going to smash up those overripe berries for dessert, save them for breakfast. Add a bunch into a drinking glass, pour vanilla almond milk into the glass, then dump the whole thing into a blender and give it a whirl. Every time I start the day with one of these, I think “Now that’s how you start a day.” Then I chug a gallon of coffee. — JR

Best Summer Jam: Wakin’ on a Pretty Day, by Kurt Vile
You know when you’re in one of those phases when you can’t bear to listen to any of the music you have? When you’re sick of your entire iTunes library? When you’re out running and you spend more time scrolling — click, click, click, click — than you do actually listening to music? That was me a few weeks ago. So I emailed my buddy Will, who as far as I can tell, knows as much about music as any man alive and asked him: What should I be listening to right now? He wrote back instantly: “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day” by Kurt Vile, a song he described as “breezy good times.” Three weeks later, I’ve probably listened to it 200 times. Which is more impressive/troubling given that the song is nine minutes long. The kids love the zen-like video and it’s perfect for summer night when the patio door is open and the grill is going. — AW

Best Summer Time-Saver: Grab-and-Go Bag
We do a lot of road-tripping over the summer, which means we do a lot of packing and unpacking and…forgetting toothbrushes and braces gear and lip balm and hairbrushes. To save ourselves from the first-world anxiety that ensues, we bought the girls little cosmetic kits last year and filled them with supplies collected in hotel rooms and Target’s travel-size bins. The products live in the cosmetic kit year round, so all the girls have to do when packing for a quick trip is throw the kit in the duffel. This is one of those things that brings me (and I think them, too) inexplicable happiness every time it works. Especially when I forget my own lip balm. — JR

Easiest Summer Dinner: Grilled Sausages
Thursday is my new favorite day — it’s the day I pick up my farm-share box at Stone Barns. That means I don’t have to do much by way of dinner. I throw together a few fresh salads, then fire up the grill or the skillet, and cook a few sausages that I picked up at the farmer’s market the previous weekend. (Last week, I added some hot dogs to the platter for a friend of Abby’s, but she ended up saying “I don’t usually like sausages, but I’m going to tell my mom to get these!” then ignored the Hebrew Nationals altogether.) Because of the bountiful produce, you don’t need a lot of meat — maybe a single link each — and the whole thing comes together faster than you can drink a glass of chilled rose.  – JR

Most Indispensable Summer Cookbook: Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables 
You need to own this book. Full disclaimer here: I do not own this book. But I’ve given it to pretty much all of my food-loving friends, including Todd, who lives down the street from me, and who I email right about this time every year asking if I can borrow it for a little while. He is nice enough to say yes, but it’s really not so fair of me to take it from him right as the summer produce is peaking. The book is not so much a cookbook as it is an A-to-Z encyclopedia of vegetable inspiration – and it is always the first thing I think to turn to when the CSA box includes a head of kohlrabi or a bunch of garlic scapes or rutabaga or something else I feel utterly ill-equipped to whip into dinner. Waters assumes you’re starting with the freshest stuff possible, so the recipes are always simple (as in, again, yesterday’s slaw) and always inspired. OK, Todd, I’m going to one-click it right now. — JR

Best Accompaniment to Anything That’s Been Grilled: No-Mayo Slaw
We like a classic creamy picnic slaw as much as the next guy (see page 242 of my book), but lately we’ve been super into brighter, healthier, more experimental takes on the genre. Whether it’s our MVP kale-avocado-pickled onion, fennel-apple-sunflower seed (page 243 of my book), the Lee Bros cabbage, peanut, and lime slaw, anything from the slaw section of The Grilling Book (photo above left: Peden + Munk), nothing offers the same kind of fresh, cool counterpoint to the char of a whatever is coming off the Weber. — JR & AW

Best Reminder of Why it’s Fun to Be a Kid: Pink Soccer Socks
It’s crazy how much neon is flying around our house these days. It’s 1987 all over again. (Minus, thank god, the Forenza sweaters.) Neon shirts, neon sneakers, neon hairbands, neon lacrosse sticks. And now, maybe my favorite of all, ridiculously pink neon Adidas soccer socks. There may be a lot wrong with the world today and any number of reasons to despair, but these are definitely not one of them. – AW

Best Way to Use Up Straggling CSA Veggies: Scrambled Eggs
Of course, anything that involves an egg deserves a Dolly (maybe an Oscar? A Nobel?) in my book, but this has been my favorite lunch lately. I chop up whatever leafy green is on its last legs, sauté with a little onion or shallot, red pepper flakes, then scramble in an egg or two that’s been whisked with a little Parm. No one’s gonna complain if there’s a fresh chive or two snipped on top, either. It’s fast, light and, when washed down with an apricot or two, my idea of heaven. — JR


 

Best All-Purpose Summer Shoe for Kids: Salt-Water Sandals
It’s been well established that I don’t have girly-girls. For the most part, I’m OK with this. OK, fine, I freaking love it. Unless we’re talking fifteen minutes before the graduation party or my parents’ 45th  anniversary celebration or the fill-in-the-blank special occasion when they come downstairs wearing something fancy (i.e. anything that isn’t a soccer jersey) with their Nike Free-Runs. When I ever-so-diplomatically suggest trying on a pair of ballet flats at Marshall’s (“just for special occasions”) they make that sucking-a-lemon face. But I’m lucky in one regard — the only fancy shoe (i.e. anything that isn’t a sneaker) they’ll tolerate is a classic: Salt-Water Sandals, or “Salties” as they’re known. I love them because a) they come in every color of the rainbow b) they are not Nikes and c) they work for pretty much every occasion that doesn’t call for Nikes: parties, sightseeing, traveling, beach-going. As long as it’s summer, that is. Come fall, I’m back to square one. — JR (more…)

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Friday Reading

June 21st, 2013 · 11 Comments · Uncategorized

June 21 has been circled in the girls’ calendars since last fall. You know where my Pixarheads are going to be as soon as their parents figure out a way to get them there.

I am about  as sick of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” parodies as the next person, but this one, printed on cocktail napkins really made me laugh. (Thanks, Bonnie!)

A 5-day menu-plan for Vacation House Cooking.

The learning from this: Weekend behavior is very unlike weeknights when it comes to cooking. And: Mothers are crazy.

The power of rituals.  (Thanks, Todd!)

A brand new blog for childrens’ books. (I think we must’ve grown up in the same house because our taste in books is identical.)

She believes in family dinner. She just can’t make it happen every night.

Always fun to hear what New York Times staffers are reading.

My summer reading, so far.

An absolute treasure trove of summer-ready ice cream treats, cheesecakes, pies, parfaits.

Have a great weekend!

 

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RE: What’s for Dinner?

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

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

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

“The beets were the star,” Jenny said.

“Phoebe, what’d you think?” I asked.

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

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

*Except for zucchini.

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

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Teacher Gifts

May 23rd, 2013 · 22 Comments · Uncategorized

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In a few days it will be Memorial Day, two words that are, of course, code for: white pants, grilling, and holy-sh*t-there’s-so-much-to-do-before-school-ends! If you’re like me, one of the things that inevitably falls through the cracks until the very last minute is teacher gift ordering.  Not this year! To pre-empt the angst, I’m figuring it all out now. Or at least after I take care of the other dozen things on my falls-through-the-cracks list. (See: immunization records to camp.)  Herewith, some go-to ideas (both storebought and DIY) from a star-studded panel of teachers, friends, and bloggers: Marcie Cuff of Mossy, Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo, Yolanda Edwards of Momfilter, Alana Chernila of Eating From the Ground Up, Caroline Fennessy Campion of Devil & Egg, Donna Duarte of Motherburg and one or two from yours truly. First gift up (above) from Joanna: Silk Peonies ( Terrain, $24).
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Totes McGotes! Because it’s so much more exciting than the ABCs! Click on your teacher’s initial to see your options. If you’re feeling ambitious fill it with a beach read. (Alphabet Bags, $12-21. They are UK-based and ship worldwide with delivery options that seem reasonably priced, but I would order like RIGHT NOW to be safe.) –via Donna
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Homemade Dulce De Leche
A sugary, milky, gooey sauce that’s takes ice cream, coffee, and waffles to new levels. To make: Pour 1 can sweetened condensed milk into a double boiler. Bring water in the bottom pan to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cover the pan and continue to simmer for about an hour. (You will need to add more water to the bottom of the pan if it simmers off.) Check on the milk occasionally and stir–it should thicken and gradually change colors from milk-white to butterscotch to a light caramel color–then you know it’s done. Let the dulce cool and then place in a jar. (Chalkboard Labels: Martha Stewart for Staples.) Keeps in the fridge for 2 months.  –via Caroline
Gift Cards Much as I’m sure they hold their class photo mugs near and dear to their hearts, most of the teachers canvassed for fave gifts had no problem stating their preference for Gift Cards. For a Blow-Out, a spa, a mani-pedi, the coffee shop where she gets her lattes, any place where pampering is on the menu. One teacher, who preferred to remain anonymous, said his favorite gift is credit at the local gourmet store where they sell alcohol. “Because what I really need at the end of the year is a drink.”  (Above: Drybar gift card, $35 – $40; select cities only) –via Joanna and Yolanda (more…)

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You Say Potato, I Say Greek Potato

May 6th, 2013 · 24 Comments · Dinner, Posts by Andy, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

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

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

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

Greek Potatoes

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

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

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

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

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