I know we are only a day or two into summer, but I can safely say that this chicken Abby is eating is going to be my go-to recipe of the season. In this particular photo, my midfielder is loving it a few hours after a 2-1 loss, but I am pretty sure she would be just as happy to maul it after a victory, or a tie, or for a quick bite before her graduation dance, or in her camp lunchbox, or for a grab-and-go snack out of the fridge after a swim, or with a group of friends for an end-of-the-year party, or in a box or with a fox, or in the dark, or in a tree…
They are so good, so good you see!
As anyone who’s read this blog knows already, we are big fans of Blue Hill Cafe at Stone Barns in Tarrytown. Any time there’s nothing to do on a weekend afternoon (or even when there are a million things to do), you will find us sitting in the courtyard there eating their homemade bologna sandwiches (topped with teeny-tiny pickled vegetables), or chopped egg salad on toast, or farro salad with vegetables, or still-warm scones and lattes and chocolate chip cookies. Everything they serve comes right from the surrounding fields, and is a study in simple, farm-fresh deliciousness. I could eat everything on the menu. And often do.
So I do not say it lightly when I say that this chicken is the main draw for us these days. It’s slightly sweet, slightly smoky, and it is perfect when served cold or room temp, which means it’s perfect for advance summer entertaining or barbecues when you’re not sure the kids are going to go for the grilled whole mackerel or duck with cherry compote that you really really want to serve the grown-ups.
The good news is that the nice folks at Blue Hill have shared the recipe with us and it looks like all that flavor comes from (surprise) a 24-hour marinade. The marinade originated and evolved with two guys from Blue Hill: Adam, the kitchen director, and Pedro, a longtime prep cook. Thanks guys! [Read more →]
Tags:blue hill cafe chicken·picnic ideas
June 19th, 2014 · Rituals
Last year, we sent our then 11-year-old to sleepaway camp for two weeks, where she did all the things kids do at sleepaway camp — she paddle-surfed in the lake, slept in an open-air cabin, competed in color wars, roasted marshmallows in bonfires after dinner, complained about that dinner (and lunch and breakfast), and wrote her parents letters during her free time summarizing it all. Wow, were those some good letters! Though, as anyone who sends their kid away to camp knows, it doesn’t take much for a letter to qualify as “good” — regardless of the contents, it’s almost enough to just know that they are merely surviving without us, and have the wherewithal to put a pen to paper.
Anyway, as you know, I generally don’t share personal details about my kids — let alone personal letters from them — but Phoebe did grant me permission to publish one sentence, which I just re-read the other day, and which I thought you’d appreciate as much as I did:
“I eat fruit before breakfast. I seriously think that if I don’t, my brain will get confused.”
In the same letter, there were multiple tales of her overnight adventure, camping far into the woods (glad I didn’t know about that one til it was over) and swims in the lake at sunrise, but the fruit at breakfast, sadly, was what captivated me. Ever since she started eating solid food (when is that, New Parents?? Eight months, nine months? Can you believe I forget!) we would always start her day with peeled peach chunks, or a mashed banana, or, her favorite, strawberries, chopped up into little pincer-grabbing bites, just to ensure that she got the healthy stuff in before whatever followed. As she got older, and as she was joined by her sister, we just never stopped. To this day, every morning starts with fruit. It’s an honest-to-God healthy habit that stuck. Apparently, it’s so sticky that it happens when we’re not even around to enforce it. Amazing! Something we did actually worked!
I think because Abby’s elementary school graduation (sorry, “stepping up”) is next week, I’ve been more prone to nostalgia and regret — so these kinds of ridiculously small triumphs have been making my heart swell a bit more than is probably normal. But if you are lucky enough to have a baby starting on new foods, try it out. One day, they might even write home about it.
Tomorrow’s Post: Ten Thousand Things We Did Wrong
One summer vacation during my elementary school years, I went on an overnight boating trip across the Long Island Sound with my friend, Andrea and her family. Three decades later, what I remember most about the trip was not the exhilaration of being on the open water for the first time — man vs. sea and all that. What I remember was eating pasta with jarred tomato sauce (my first time ever; SEE: Italian Mother) while bobbing below deck, then feeling seasick until setting foot on land the next day. Andrea’s parents dropped me off at home, where I made a beeline for the fridge — you know that special kind of ravenous you get when you come home from the beach? That was me, and I hunted around for something to wolf down even though it was close to dinnertime, the gold summer sun sinking on the horizon, filtering light through the elm tree in our backyard. My mom told me there was some leftover tuna, so I grabbed the foil-topped bowl, mom handed me a fork, and I ate it in about two minutes while sitting at the kitchen table with her.
To this day, that right there is the gold standard that every tuna experience has to live up to.
My mom’s tuna salad was pretty straightforward as tuna salads go. I’m sure that particular one was like every other batch she whipped up for a brown-bag or quick weekend lunch — Bumble Bee Chunk Light Tuna in Water mixed with Hellmann’s. (And no, this post is NOT sponsored by EITHER.) There might have been salt, but there was definitely not black pepper — she isn’t a big fan of black pepper — and the ratio of mayo to tuna was probably on the high side. But what made it special, somehow, was the temperature. The tuna was cold — like really cold — and somehow two ingredients melded together to impart a third, mysterious flavor (childhood fridge? Mom umami?) that is impossible to achieve when I try to recreate it thirty years later in my own kitchen. I love tuna salad sandwiches, Andy and Phoebe love tuna salad sandwiches, we make tuna salad sandwiches all the time. But as good as they are — they always fall short. Always. (I keep making them, though, because I have to assume that I’m adding the same mystery mom ingredient to Phoebe’s lunch.)
That’s a long way of saying: the way I see it — if I’m going to make a tuna sandwich, the only way to avoid disappointment is to go in a complete and totally opposite direction. This past weekend, our friends Anne and Todd came over post-piano recital to celebrate our children’s most excellent interpretations of Mozart and Schumann. We all picked up some good tuna from the fish guy at our farmer’s market (and some hot dogs for the kids who wouldn’t go near the good tuna) and even though I had visions of going wild to celebrate summer, Andy convinced me otherwise (“this is not a performance!”), so we settled on an easy grilled tuna sandwich with salsa fresca and spicy mayo. Just because it was simple, though, and just because technically it was just a plain old “tuna sandwich,” does not mean it wasn’t the best thing I think I’ve eaten all year. Andy sliced the tuna horizontally so it was easier to eat on an open-face baguette, and we topped it with a cilantro-heavy salsa. It wasn’t my mother’s tuna, no. But why even try?
Grilled Tuna Sandwiches with Salsa Fresca
(Makes 4 Sandwiches)
The Oyster Bar in Grand Central makes a version of this sandwich which I highly recommend eating at the snaky counter with a Coke on a summer day. We served ours with really fresh greens from the market that had been tossed with a rice-wine-vinegar based vinaigrette, and topped with peppery, edible nasturtiums from Anne’s garden. Andy made a farro salad and mixed in chives, feta, dried cherries, and a basic mustard vinaigrette. Todd made this crazy good smashed beet salad with yogurt. All in all, a perfect summer dinner.
1 1/2 pounds tuna, sliced in half horizontally (see: Seafood Watch for Buying Guidelines)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper
juice from half a lime
1 long, skinny baguette
In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, dark sesame oil, and pepper. Place tuna on a large dinner plate and pour marinade on top. Marinate about 15 minutes. Five minutes before you grill, squeeze lime juice over fish, flipping to fully coat. Grill over medium-hot coals for 1-2 minutes a side. (It’s cooks fast when it’s this thin, and we like it on the rare side.)
While fish marinates, make your spicy mayo and salsa fresca.
Slice baguette in half lengthwise, then into four sandwich-size pieces as shown. Spread mayo on each half, then top each half with tuna and salsa fresca. Serve open-face unless you like your sandwiches on the bready-ier end. (We do not.)
Tags:grilled tuna sandwich with salsa fresca·grilled yellowfin tuna·salsa fresca
Any soccer fans out there?
Any (American) people who secretly wish they could call it football instead of soccer without sounding like a weenie?
Any weeneies out there who have more than one pair of Sambas in their closet, even though they haven’t played a game of soccer in 25 years?
Any parents who spend more time than they care to admit showing their daughter youtube clips of the “25 Trickiest Goals in History” (which, unfortunately, also means spending more time than they care to admit listening to the terrible Euro dance music that always seems to accompany these highlights) when you are supposed to be helping her study for a vocab test?
Any (other) grown person out there who has watched this video more than 50 times, and still can’t believe it’s real?
Any dads who have a crush on Neymar?
Any moms who don’t have a crush on Ronaldo?
Any mom, dad, son, or daughter who intends to spend an ungodly portion of the few weeks sitting on the couch and watching the World Cup?
If you answered yes to any of the above, [Read more →]
Yes, that beautiful sight is exactly what you think it is: My twelve-year-old is making dinner. For the family. A stack of pan-fried gray sole with a green salad and ginger-miso dressing to be exact. What you don’t see, out of frame, are her parents, having some chips and salsa at the kitchen table, catching up on the day’s events, and doing their best not to tell their twelve-year-old to turn up the heat or turn down the heat, or salt the bread crumbs, or use a fork and not your fingers to put the fish in the (omg very hot) pan, or maybe set up your dredging station next the stovetop instead of a half mile away.
Like all major milestones in life, the genesis of this particular one began at the hair salon.
My mom has been trying to get me to see her colorist for years now and so finally, a few weeks ago, I conceded. Her name was Gisele and having only met her for about two hours, I can say with confidence that she’s my friend for life. As well as learning that the look for prom this year is the low, loose bun, I learned that she adds breaded chicken cutlets to her baked ziti, that she came to the US from Lebanon 44 years ago, that she’d had many jobs in her life (realtor, executive assistant) but hair had always been her true passion. You can learn a lot about someone when they are inches from your ears for two straight hours.
When Gisele found out that I wrote about food for a living, she was amazed. “How wonderful!” she said. And then,”Your kids must be excellent cooks!”
I thought she was heading in the direction parents normally head which is: “How wonderful! Your kids must be excellent eaters.”
“Well, yeah,” I said. “They can make a few dishes.” In my mind, though, I had a hard time coming up with something that involved a technique more complicated than spreading hummus on pita. “But they eat pretty much anything.”
And that was that. Until the very next morning when my newly highlighted self went to the coffee shop and ran into Phoebe’s friend, Lauren, and her mom.
“I love your cookbook,” Lauren said. “I cook from it all the time!”
Here again, I thought she was heading in the direction kids normally head, which is: “I love your cookbook! My parents cook from it all the time.” [Read more →]
Tags:easy meals kids can cook·teaching kids self-sufficiency
You should see our basement. No, actually, you shouldn’t. It’s not the face we’re interested in presenting to the world. It’s not even a face we’re comfortable presenting to ourselves. In fact, I think of it as the darkest corner of our psyche come to life. You never know what you will find down there. Yesterday evening, for example, our smoke detector started beeping — the dreaded low battery alert — so I went downstairs to find a replacement battery. In the course of about three minutes of searching, I found: a sad cache of 9 volt batteries (all corroded), some butcher’s twine, a roll of neon green duct tape I’d been looking for a few months ago, a stack of bills and bank statements from 2011, about 7 single socks, an ice cream maker, a child’s purple rain boot, an empty can of La Croix seltzer, a wad of yellowing paper towels that we had jammed into a corner when our washing machine flooded about a year ago and, next to the old leather club chair we used to have in our living room and now serves as our thing-to-pile-other-things-on, three rectangular cedar planks, the kind you use to grill salmon.
Back in the day, pre-kids, Jenny and I used to make cedar-plank salmon on our roofdeck all the time, but somewhere along the line, it fell — like square-toed shoes and Everybody Loves Raymond — by the wayside. We moved on. We evolved. Why, though? What’s not to like about cedar plank salmon? (A) It’s easy, and (B) It’s a really flavorful, tender, smoky twist on a dinner staple we have grown a little sick of over the years. So, after ripping our smoke detector out of the wall, I dusted off one of those planks — literally dusted it off — and fired up the grill. It was as good as we remembered, so good that we resolved not to wait another decade before doing it again. It almost made us feel okay about the cry-for-help that is our basement. There’s good stuff down there, if you know where to look. – Andy
This piece of salmon was 1.5 pounds and I rubbed it, about 15 minutes before cooking, with a mixture of brown mustard, a handful of chopped dill, 1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger, and lots of kosher salt and pepper. We served with grilled asparagus and scallions, and roasted potatoes. Note Part 1: Before you cook with a cedar plank, you need to soak the plank in water — like, totally submerged — for about 30 minutes, which helps get the steam going and keeps the wood from burning to a crisp.
Once your fish is on the plank (skin-side down) and placed over medium-high heat, cover (with lid vents open) and cook for 12-15 minutes. It’s ready when salmon is cooked through, and slightly brown and bubbly at the edges. Note Part 2: The consistency of cedar plank salmon is not the same as grilled salmon. It’s closer to steamed — softer, more tender, less flaky. So don’t necessarily go by firmness; go by color.
Tags:cedar plank salmon
I know it’s all about The Third Plate these days, but I have another dilemma in my house, namely the Third Piece issue. That is, in the meat-veg-starch triumvirate, I usually have the meat and vegetable down, but lately I’ve been stumped by what else goes on the plate that my brown-rice and bean-hating kids will be excited about, but that isn’t a big pile of potatoes. (I know, everyone should have my problems.) Sometimes I just go with meat and a double vegetable, but the other night I decided to grab two of the seventy-five cans of garbanzo beans I’ve collected in the pantry (How? Why?), then drained, rinsed, dried, and fried them up in some oil before adding a few spices. And I think I might have found my answer. They were (somewhat) healthy, golden and crispy (read: appealing to the kids — probably because they didn’t recognize them as beans), flexible and can always be in the pantry, loyally awaiting dinner duty. Highly recommend if you have a few dozen cans in the pantry yourself.
The other night I served these with a cucumber-yogurt-mint salad and cold picnic chicken. (Recipe for that one on the way.)
Add a generous amount of canola oil to a cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Drain, rinse and dry two 14-ounce cans of garbanzo beans. When pan is hot but not smoking, add beans (in batches, if necessary, you want a single layer of beans on the pan’s surface) and fry about 15 minutes per batch, tossing every 5 minutes or so. Remove with a slotted spoon into a paper-towel-lined bowl. Once all chickpeas are fried and drained, add salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne, a 1/2 teaspoon of both garlic salt, and paprika, or (Bon Appetit-style) just smoked paprika and cayenne. You can also top with yogurt that has been mixed with a squeeze of lime juice and some freshly chopped mint or cilantro. Or you can stir in some chutney. Or you can offset the spiciness with a cool yogurty-cucumber salad. In short, go crazy.
Speaking of chickpeas, I remember these Crispy Cinnamon Garbanzo Beans being the most addictive after school snack ever.
And apropos of nothing: How good is The Third Man? I just added it to my Netflix queue — I don’t think I’ve seen it since the Orson Welles unit in college. The zither!
Tags:bean dishes for kids·fried chick peas·fried garbanzo beans·healthy side dish
Is it just me, or is it impossible to open a newspaper these days without reading about Chipotle? I know they’ve had a few setbacks lately — there was that whole executive excessive salary issue last week; and then last month when they decided to print inspirational quotes from the country’s literary lights on takeout bags and cups and didn’t include any Latino voices in there…well, that was not the best thing ever. But there’s no question they’re shaking things up a bit and challenging the status quo –I mean, think how crazy it is that your adobo-marinated chicken tacos come with a side of Malcolm Gladwell or George Saunders reading? And how about that whole “Farmed and Dangerous” series they did for Hulu earlier this year — the four-part mini series eviscerating industrial agriculture? (“It’s not about product integration it’s about values integration,” said the campaign’s producer.) It’s also no small thing that whenever we finish a soccer game out in Jersey or Long Island, the first thing my kids ask me to do from shotgun is launch my chipotle app and find the closest location, so we can celebrate their victories (or soothe their defeats) with a big-a$$ burrito bowl. In other words, I’m willing to give Chipotle a pass on their most recent troubles. I’m also crossing my fingers that no one posts a link in the comment field telling me they’re hiring two-year-olds in Bangladesh to do their sustainable farming or something like that.
OK now that all the wonky stuff is out of the way — here’s the real point of this post: Have any of you thought about a Chipotle-catered birthday party for your kids? Because until last month, it never occurred to me, even though all I do is whine about never finding any takeout party food that is as big a crowd-pleaser as pizza. (Remember that dark moment in birthday history when I served California rolls at Abby’s Japanese-themed party? And one of the poor little unsuspecting seven-year-olds actually cried?) Anyway, Phoebe went to a 12th birthday party a few weeks ago where all the celebrants got to make their own burritos, courtesy of the local Chipotle. I thought that was such cool idea. There was shredded pork, chicken, and then beans for the vegetarians. And of course, all the toppings and the cilantro-spiked rice that we love so much in our house and replicate often, along with the rest of it. The order comes with sternos, trays, serving utensils, too. It’s totally my new party move.
Tags:birthday party food for kids·birthday party ideas·chipotle catering·kid birthday party ideas·party food for kids
You guys know the story about how family dinner got majorly kick-started in our house…way back yonder when the girls had to stand on stools to reach the stove…right? For those of you who don’t, a superquick refresher: To bust out of a pizza-pasta-nugget rut, we challenged ourselves to cook 30 brand new meals over the course of 30 days. It was like dinner bootcamp — we thought it might get the kids to try a few new foods, as well as re-ignite our fast-waning love of cooking. (Which is what happens when you eat pasta with butter sauce five nights a week.) It worked on both fronts, and Dinner: The Playbook out in August, will tell the long version of the story, but for now, I want to issue forth a mini challenge. A dinner bootcamp lite.
So who’s ready to bust out of a recipe rut? Or who just wants to inject a little sumpin sumpin into dinnertime again?
If that’s you, pay attention! We will be picking 50 readers and bloggers to partake in a challenge. NO! NOT A THIRTY DAY CHALLENGE! All you have to do is cook at least three meals from Dinner: The Playbook over the course of ONE week (June 22 – June 29) and share the results on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Tumblr page. (Or just call up a friend on the phone and tell her about it. I’d like that very much, too.) Whether you think the meals were successes or failures, I want to hear about them all.
Update: The deadline for applying has now passed. Those selected to participate will be notified the week of June 16.
Tags:dinner the playbook
Toasts might be all the rage right now in cities across America (in my world it begins and ends with the salted butter and anchovy tartinette at Buvette, thanks for asking) but I can say with confidence that I’m pretty sure the whole trend actually originated in my house last spring. Yes, it’s true! For skeptics out there, I can even pinpoint the month — it was April 2013, a full month into a jam-packed spring sports schedule when practices and games began taking place exactly during the hours when we’d normally be eating dinner. I’ve weighed in with many dinner ideas for dealing with this decidedly happy problem, but after my most recent, two readers asked an excellent question that I have never addressed, namely: “Any ideas on snacks/tie- overs so [the kids] have enough energy to make through sports until the late dinner is ready?” (Thanks Melissa and Cynthia!)
The answer, Things on Toast!
Because they are not quite a snack and not quite a meal, we have lately taken to calling these toasts “sneals.” (You heard it here first!) Sneals tend to be healthy but substantial, usually vegetarian, but not always, and are generally consumed between 5:00 and 6:00. Anything after 6:00 is officially dinner. Anything before 5:00 is officially snack.
A few sneals that you might consider if you don’t think your athlete will be begging for anchovies at 5:00 on a weeknight (or, um, ever):
Avocado on Toast: Smash up a half an avocado with salt and a squeeze of lime. Spread on crusty bread and stud with grape tomatoes; Hummus on Pita: Sometimes we have homemade lying around, but that is beyond the call of duty. Hummus on Trader Joe’s whole wheat naan is Phoebe’s favorite. Add some greens and feta, and that’s my favorite; Minty Peas: Whirl a handful of thawed frozen peas with Parmesan, olive oil, mint, salt and lemon juice (note: also makes a good breakfast, I just ate the one you see on the bottom left, which I made specifically to shoot for this post); Smoked Trout and Pickled Anything: You could go crusty bread for this or you could just take two Finn Crisps, smear with a thin layer of mayo, and top with smoked trout (I get this at TJoes) and pickled cabbage (Note: MVP of my weekday lunch rotation); Peanut Butter: With bananas, with raisins, drizzled with honey, and even, to hear Bon Appetit tell it, with Sriracha. Photo on top left by Danny Kim.)
Tags:healthy snacks·healthy snacks for kids·snacks before sports
I know, right? What am I doing posting on a Saturday night – during a holiday weekend no less? Well, the truth is, last night I woke up in a hot sweat thinking that there might be someone out there who has not read Congratulations, By The Way, the book version of George Saunders’ now-famous convocation speech given last June at Syracuse University. And if that is indeed the case, I felt the need to remedy the situation immediately. I know we here at DALS tend to get hyperbolic when the subject is Saunders (author of the award-winning short-story collection Tenth of December and one of the original DALS guest-posters), but diehard readers know why. His writing is big-hearted and generous; his capacity for empathy, seemingly endless. What he regrets most in life, Saunders tells graduating seniors, are failures of kindness.
I believe that by handing Congratulations to a graduate or a friend, you are handing them not just a book, but a message, a philosophy, a worldview.
Here’s one of my favorite moments in the speech: [Read more →]
Tags:congratulations by the way george saunders
Let’s talk about ruts. Specifically the rut I’m in right now, which involves waking up committed to getting some good writing done, and then going to bed twelve hours later with almost nothing to show for it. (Unless you count a few facebook and instagram posts, a lot of soccer-related emails, and a screentime-overload-induced headache “something to show.”) Ruts, no matter what form they take, can be soul-crushing, but I have to believe a writer’s rut is a special kind of torture, because if I sit in front of a computer all day in a small, dark office, and get nothing done, I am haunted by all the other healthy-minded, Vitamin-D-absorbing ways I could have been spending my spring day. I could’ve planted some flowers in the backyard, or gone for a run, or taken my poor ignored dog, Iris to the park. In under 20 minutes, I could’ve been wandering the Garden Court at the Frick**, a quick shot down the West Side Highway. But instead, Iris and I sit there at the end of the day, two lumps, as uncultured and dull-witted as we were when we woke up that morning. (I will also add that all this non-productivity doesn’t exactly make me Mother of the Year. I notice my capacity for yelling is absolutely in converse correlation to the day’s wordcount. Sad, but true.)
I have been at this long enough to realize that I’ll come out of it (and as soon as I get something down on paper, I’ll write off the whole rut as “process”) but until then, I’ve discovered a neat trick that goes a little ways towards making myself feel better. Last week, after re-writing my next book’s introduction for the fourth time (Note to my editor: JT! Still isn’t quite working!), I was seriously craving progress that was measurable. So I browned a pork loin, adding some garlic and onions to the pot, then braised the sucker low and slow all afternoon in some barbecue sauce. (There you have it: my BBQ nod to Memorial Day.) That way, while I was upstairs in the office, deleting and writing, writing and deleting, and burning my eyeballs out all the while, at least I could say something was getting done somewhere else in the house.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
2 1/2 pounds pork loin roast (or shoulder if you want it fattier, meltier, and I wouldn’t blame you if you did), patted dry with paper towel
1 teaspoon-ish dried thyme
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup barbecue sauce (homemade would be lovely, but no pressure; see page 238, Dinner: A Love Story)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 dried guajillo chiles (if you don’t have, just add a few drops of hot sauce)
Heat oven to 325°F.
Rub pork all over with thyme, salt, and pepper. Place a large Dutch Oven or deep ovenproof pot on medium-high heat and add oil. Brown pork on all sides (about 5 minutes a side) and remove.
Turn heat to medium/medium-low and add onion and garlic. Cook until softened. Add barbecue sauce, cider vinegar, bay leaf, and chiles and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and add pork. The liquid should come about 1/3 of the way up the pork. If it doesn’t whisk in a little water.
Place the pot in your oven and cover, leaving lid slightly ajar. Keep it in there for 3 to 4 hours, flipping every 30-45 minutes.* When you’re ready to eat, remove pork from pot. Discard bay leaf and chiles. Shred pork with a fork and place back into the pot. Toss with sauce, which should now be thick and glazey. (See above photo.)
Serve shredded pork on potato rolls with slaw or pickles.
*At one point, I left the house for an hour and a half, turned off the oven, came back, turned it on again. I’m telling you this not because I think you should do the same, but to make the point that when the heat is low and you have a nice block of time, it’s really hard to mess up.
**Weekday museum visits have been on the agenda for roughly four years, ever since I lost my 9-to-5 office job and made a vow that I would see more movies and more exhibits. The movie part of the pact is alive and well (Who wants to talk Godzilla???) but the other part…well, let’s just say there’s room for improvement.
In a dinner rut?? Behold your almost-published solution, available for pre-order.
Over the past few years, it’s safe to say that the topic of Jenny’s Fantasy Coffee Shop has come up in conversation with my friends and neighbors at least once a day every day. Even as I type this, I can feel a giant collective eye-roll from my small town on the Hudson River where I’ve lived for a decade. Oh no, is Jenny talking about her coffee shop again?
Yes, in fact I am. (Deal with it!!) I know my professional drive might seem to point in the direction of food and book-writing, but sometimes I’ll walk by an old building in town with a “For Rent” side in the window and the vision overtakes me: A Hudson-River-themed Coffee Shop Collective. My friend Todd, the lawyer, would handle all the legal issues; Brian, the architect, would design the space; my friend Liz, the art consultant, would find all the historic Hudson maps for the walls; My media friends would curate readings and book events there every Thursday night; Andy would fetishize over the coffee and the name; my daughters could work the registers after school and weekends; and I would oversee everything, all while writing my next few books from the corner table beneath the exposed brick wall. It would be like one big yuppified Richard Scarry story.
I blame Molly Wizenberg for all this dreaming. Molly, if you don’t already know, writes the blog Orangette — one of the original food blogs, and also one of the best — and wrote the book A Homemade Life about the death of her father, a bon vivant who passed along, among other things, his great enthusiasm for food. Molly’s new book, Delancey, out this month and already a New York Times bestseller, tells the story of how she and her husband, Brandon, a musician studying for his Ph.D. and enthusiast of the highest order, decided to open a pizza place in what was then their not-yet-up-and-coming neighborhood in Seattle. This plan was hatched by Brandon, and it came on the heels of several other hatched-and-abandoned plans, including but not limited to: building a boat, designing violins, opening a Bi-Rite-style ice cream store in Seattle. Recognizing a pattern and not really believing the pizza vision would ever come to pass, Molly went along with the plan, and before long they opened Delancey. It was successful enough that a few years later they opened a place next door, Essex, to handle the queue and the spillover. [Read more →]
Tags:delancey book review·delancey molly wizenberg·delancey seattle·orangette
I have been looking for the right angle to write about these steak tacos for a few weeks now, which I’ve decided is just plain unfair. Why deny you guys a solid recipe just in the name of story-telling? As I’m sure you know by now, my goal with this blog and my next book, is not just to chronicle what to eat for dinner, but to put that dinner into context — to give you the how of dinner, i.e. how we here in the DALS house organize, cook, and (most of the time) consume a meal together at the end of a long, chaotic day. (This is reason why you will see “Last Night’s Dinner” posts every so often, showing the exact timing of how and when everything happened, and why I talk about deconstructing dinners ad nauseum.) I hope this comes through, and, more important, I hope it helps. But anyway, sometimes, the day is neither long nor chaotic. Sometimes, I have before me a simple, regular old weeknight, i.e. a simple, regular old angle: These steak tacos with pickled onions and a cilantro-yogurt sauce were delicious and the kids loved it. So there you have it. I will let this recipe tell its own story. The End.
Steak Tacos with Pickled Onions and Cilantro Sauce
By this point in our relationship you probably know this already, but I’m going to say it anyway: Too many ingredients? Too many steps? Just skip what looks dealbreaker-y to you. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of breaking out the blender for the cilantro sauce, just skip the sauce altogether and top with chopped fresh cilantro and sour cream. Kids don’t like pickled onions? (You don’t like pickled onions?) Lose ‘em. Don’t have time to marinate? Use whatever time you’ve got. Just get something on the table.
1 1/2-2 pounds flank or skirt steaks
1/3 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
squeeze of lime
salt and pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced crosswise (optional if you want to avoid heat)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup cilantro (stems and all)
juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 teaspoon cumin
salt to taste
4-6 large whole wheat tortillas (or regular ones)
a few torn lettuce leaves (we like butter or Bibb)
queso fresco or avocado (optional)
Marinate steaks in olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper for about 30 minutes (and up to 4 hours) before you plan to grill.
While steaks marinate, do your quick-pickling and sauce making: Bring red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, water to a boil, add onions and jalapeños and reduce to a simmer. Cook 3 minutes then drain, add to a bowl and set on table. In a blender or a small food processor, whirl together all cilantro sauce ingredients. Pour into a bowl and place on table.
Heat your grill (or stovetop grill — as you can see we were still indoors a few weeks ago when we made ours) to medium high and cook about 4 minutes a side. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing on the bias and placing on the table. (For little kids, please cut steak into teeny tiny pieces.) While meat is resting, add tortillas to the hot grill, flipping frequently until they bubble a little, about 1 minute each. (I like a little char on there.)
Set tortillas and remaining toppings on the table and have everyone assemble his or her own tacos. Squeeze with a little lime and serve with rice.
Tags:grilled steak tacos
We’re not so good at doing nothing. Take the other morning, for example. There we were, the first Sunday in weeks with not a birthday party, soccer tournament, or home-improvement project in sight. It was the kind of lazy day made for sleeping in and reorganizing the sock drawer. But as soon as the coffeepot had been cleaned, we were already getting antsy.
“Put your shoes on, we’re going out.”
“Just trust us.”
By now they know the routine. We are not make-it-up-as-we-go kind of people—at least not when there are kids in the mix. It’s not just Sundays at home, though. It’s also on vacation, where we are convinced that the key to successful family travel—like most things involving young children—is to have some structure. Some kind of plan. A three-point plan, to be exact. With summer vacation-planning in the works, we thought we’d share.
STEP ONE: A Culture Hit
We like to start early(ish), while the energy is high, with the kind of activity that a parent might call “culturally enriching” and a kid might call “the most boring thing ever invented by anyone, ever.” The small museum works well here because (1) unlike, say, the Tate in London—and we say this with all respect—you don’t feel as though you’ve been mugged when you’re done, and (2) small museums have awesome gift shops, and kids love a gift shop. (Note: We define “culture” broadly. The Civil War battlefield at Antietam: yes. Hunting for “authentic” Messi jerseys in the Ladies’ Market in Hong Kong: possibly yes. The kids’ section at Book Passage in San Francisco: absofrigginlutely.)
STEP TWO: Something Outdoorsy
One of our friends grew up in a crazily athletic family that vacationed in Maine and would have races every morning—the entire family swimming out to some distant rock and back. We’re not that intense, but we do believe in the value of fresh air, whether it’s a 20-minute walk from our hotel to the farmers’ market or a sweaty hike through the slot canyons at Tent Rocks in New Mexico. It lifts the general mood, we find, giving us a little of the exhilaration that comes from being outside and seeing something beautiful and being reminded that the world is a lot larger than we thought.
STEP THREE: The Reward
Whether it’s lunch at a divey Mission taco stand or an absurdly priced macaron at Dalloyau in Paris, we always aim to impart to our kids a cardinal rule of travel: The best way to feel you’re part of a place is to find something delicious, and to eat it. –Jenny & Andy
This is our “Providers” column for the May travel issue of Bon Appetit. Pick up the issue for travel and food inspiration from Chicago to Paris and everywhere in between. Or head over to their site for the entire Providers archive.
Speaking of travel: Check out Joanna’s awesome family vacation round-up over on Cup of Jo.
Photo above: Block Island, ca 2009
Tags:bon appetit providers
What I’m into this week:
Are we facing the Death of the Mircowave? (We don’t own one, do you?)
Who is to blame for the obesity epidemic? Fed Up, released in theaters today, goes for the jugular.
I am majorly coveting this happy patio umbrella.
Do you guys know about Mouth? They hunt down the best indie foods (think small-batch gins, artisanal coffees, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate) then group things together in gift boxes. Their selection looks divine.
Five ways to deal with dinner guests who won’t put down their phones. (Can someone please write the companion piece: How to deal with 12-year-olds who won’t put down their phones at a birthday party?)
My friend Tara — whose food photography you have no doubt drooled over many millions of times — is launching a magazine called Wild Apple, dedicated to gluten-free living. Please support her kickstarter campaign.
Local peeps: This new market looks promising! Anyone have intel on it for me?
10 Cakes for Mother’s Day (I’m all over the olive oil.)
A whole new way to think about chicken.
A little too much rang true to me here.
Is it June 6 yet? (Please do yourself a favor and read the book before you see the movie.)
Get ready for the World Cup! (And yes, I shazamed, then bought the song playing in the background.)
What to make for Mother’s Day Brunch: A Slideshow.
Lastly, my friend Marcie might be the most talented person I know. She turns vintage curtains into princess crowns for my daughters; she runs the school garden program at her kids’ elementary school; as a trained biologist, she can tell her plovers from her willers, her zooplankton from her daphnia; and legend has it that on a camping trip once, she caught and gutted a fish with her bare hands. But all that? Child’s play compared to the projects and adventures she’s assembled for her new book This Book Was a Tree: Ideas, Adventures, and Inspiration for Rediscovering the Natrual World. Ever wonder how to make a pinhole camera out of household objects or a sundial out of a tree stump? Make felt out of a thrift shop sweater? This is your manual. Check it out! [Read more →]
May 8th, 2014 · Quick
7:30 AM During breakfast (yes, dinner starts at breakfast in my house), I transfer frozen chicken thighs from freezer to fridge and watch in awe as Phoebe prepares her own lunch for the first time. (Andy and I have sworn to each other that the enabling is over, but ask me about this again in a week.) Pride fades to annoyance as girls argue again over a pair of neon green socks.
8:00 Buses, trains, drop-offs, kisses. See you tonight!
~ Ten hours later ~
6:45 Late start to the girls’ home (Bless you, O God of Sports Scheduling) lacrosse game. Eagles vs. Garnets tie 10-10. (At least we think that was the score — at this age, even the ref loses track after a certain point.)
7:45 Do our best to divert daughters from the fund-raising bake sale and ice cream truck strategically positioned right at the field exit. Fail. Two brownies (baked by me, by the way, and then purchased by Andy for a dollar each) will apparently be tonight’s appetizer.
7:50 Pile into car. Immediately start fending off requests to go out for pizza. It’s late. I’m starving. Please! We are just tired enough to concede, until the backseat becomes a warzone, the girls can’t agree on which pizza place to patronize — old-school vs. “artisanal” — and within minutes, we are headed home in the direction of my thawing chicken.
8:10 Andy pan-fries that chicken, noting that, as usual, I’ve thawed about enough to feed two squirrels. He pops a few of those Trader Joe’s Pastry Pups into the oven for the girls. (OK, who are we kidding, we stole at least four when girls weren’t looking — those things are sick). I boil some fat asparagus (four minutes, then shock in ice water) picked up at Union Square’s Greenmarket earlier that afternoon, top with one avocado (sliced), a mustardy vinaigrette, and a pile of crispy shallots (aka rich man’s French’s fried onions; aka fairy dust, etc.) that, frankly, were better than any artisanal pizza. Both girls, miraculously, agree. (To make: Using your fingers, toss thin shallot slices with flour and salt, then fry in canola oil over medium-low heat until crispy — about 8-10 minutes — before removing with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel.)
Last winter, my 10-year-old, who is a voracious and wonderfully appreciative eater, started making noises about becoming a vegetarian. We engaged the conversation, of course, which then piqued the interest of my 8-year-old. They both decided that, because of their feelings about animals, they wanted to become vegetarians. My husband and I totally supported this, but told her that we wouldn’t have the family go full vegetarian because a) our 4-year-old loves meat and b) we like meat. But we agreed that all meals would have a vegetarian base and possibly some meat on the side, which they could choose to eat or not. They both felt comfortable with this.
So, here’s my question. I have really tried to expand my beans and lentils repertoire but I feel like I’m running out of new and exciting ideas for vegetarian meals. I feel slightly overwhelmed by tofu and frankly grossed out by tempeh. So, any good dishes that we could all eat would be a life saver.