Book Update, Toasts & Tartines, A Pasta Trick!

Lesson learned: Never sign off a blog post saying “See you tomorrow.” I’m so sorry for the radio silence, and thank you to everyone who checked in on me. It’s been such a heavy news stretch that I’ve had a hard time justifying posting the usual kitchen dispatch. I’ve also been prepping one daughter for college send-off, another for a road test (passed!), and (drum roll) shooting The Weekday Vegetarians. Oh man, you guys. So far, we’ve photographed about 30 of the 100 recipes in the book and I keep opening the folder on my laptop where the images live to look at them because they make me so happy.

I can’t show you just yet what we’ve done, but in the meantime, here is my lovely and talented photographer, Christine Han. It’s been so fun to hang out with her, her tech assistant Stephanie, and Olivia McCool, who is doing all the food styling. Olivia and Christine both had babies in the past six months, so this has been a common sight on shoot days…

You’d think I’d be getting all wistful about breastmilk in my fridge, given that my first-born is heading off to college next week, but I’m just so entertained by their stories and videos. And I’m also incredibly grateful that college is even happening for Phoebe (it’s shaping up to be mostly virtual, but she’ll be on campus) that I haven’t had a chance to indulge any sentimental instincts around the whole leaving-the-nest thing. Yet. We’ll see how I’m doing next week. Mostly I just wake up a hundred times a night thinking things like Did I ever teach her what the purpose of an extension cord is? and Did we pack the nail clippers? Maybe it’s denial — or some form of emotional lockdown? — because “You Are My Sunshine” has been playing on a loop inside my head for the last month, and that’s the song I used to sing her when she was the littlest thing in Brooklyn so many years ago. But all good problems, right? Life working out the way it’s supposed to. This is not lost on me, especially given how fragile the world feels right now.

In food news, I’ve been all about the toasts and tartines. (I’m not going to do this in the usual PPP format, but I’ll be back to that shortly.) Shown way up top, the OG Tomato Sandwich: Lightly toasted buttermilk-white bread, a nice smear of Hellmann’s, aka Best (Duke’s is also acceptable), slices of the best tomatoes you can find, a sprinkling of Maldon’s sea salt. THAT’S IT. Don’t go messing around with pesto or mozzarella, I beg you! Join the purists! Keep it simple! I’ve been eating them 24/7 and plan to continue until tomatoes are no longer aromatic and juicy. There was also that night I attempted to replicate the famous ABC Kitchen crab tartines: Fresh lump crab (the freshest you can find) tossed with the lightest amount of mayo, a squeeze of lemon, and some chopped fresh dill, chives or tarragon. Holy moly.

And here’s something completely random that I think might just change your life: You know how a lot of pasta recipes ask you to reserve a half or third cup of the pasta water before straining? (All the better to make your sauce saucier.) And you know how nine times out of ten, you forget and strain the whole stinking pot, then say “OH MY GOD I FORGOT ABOUT THE PASTA WATER AGAIN!”? Well…I’ve been placing the measuring cup right in the strainer as a reminder, and ask me if I’ve had that forehead-slapping moment even once this summer?? Anyway, I hope you’ll think of me, and say a little thank-you to the Dinner: A Love Story spirits every time you deploy this strategy, the way I think of my old friend Hunter every time I roll a stack of basil leaves and chiffonade them the way he taught me to in 1993. This is how we all stay connected, friends.

Stay safe everyone!

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So happy to see your update today, as I was getting worried, as well! Take good care next week with the college move!


Hi, The pasta water trick was such a duhh… moment. ingenious! I observed that your fridge might be on the smaller side. I would love if you could share, how you organize it.

Kerry-Ann Warren

Yes! The simplest tomato sandwiches are the best! Sending you lots of strength with the college send-off. I dropped my son (firstborn) at Amherst last week. So many tears, but excited too. It’s a new adventure for all of us!

Sara B

Oh man, my oldest just started kindergarten AND an adult tooth has broken through and I feel like I’m barely handling that! I almost feel like we need to have another baby every time one of our kids reaches a big milestone (my husband would be VERY surprised by that plan) Thinking about you during this.

Quick question: where does one go about getting fresh lump crab? I live in a landlocked state, and I know we have canned crab meat but I don’t know that I’ve seen fresh. Would it be best to buy crab legs and use that meat?


I am so uptight about NOT losing all of the pasta water down the drain that i go ahead and scoop out a cup while the pasta is still simmering (but very close to the end). I’m usually just standing there anyway.

Congrats on Phoebe! Where is she going? (is that too nosey? i want to live vicariously!)


wow-I thought your oldest was only like 15! Didn’t realize you had an 18 year old! Wishing you both good luck!!


Good luck to Phoebe! Congrats to Abby! The house dynamic definitely changes, but it is all positive and you will find your new groove. I’m really looking forward to your new book.

Jennifer O.

Re: Tomato sandwiches. As a Southerner, Duke’s is required, Hellmann’s is not considered. 🙂 I’ve been quarantining at my mom’s house in GA for the last month, so I’ve gotten to eat a lot of sandwiches with tomatoes from her garden. So yum!
Best wishes to Phoebe on her new adventure! It definitely seems to be a time where we need to be flexible with our expectations and hold things loosely. Hopefully by next fall (or even earlier) the college experience will be back to “normal.”


It’s hard to find good white bread at the grocery store that is worthy of the tomato/mayo sandwich. Any suggestions?


This is very hard, indeed. When I don’t have access to a great bakery or farmer’s market, I have had luck with the Texas toast from Trader Joe’s — hope you have one near you?

Daisy Grattan

Another trick to not forgetting the pasta water: never drain it, always transfer the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss it in that pan instead. That way you have ALL the pasta water to add at your leisure. This is a hack on the way it’s done in restaurants (just without the giant pasta boiler).

robin zerbib

Emotional lockdown! You nailed it Jenny. You’re in my bookmark toolbar…I need cooking and emotional distraction!! The NY Times cooking app is a big yawn. LOL, it’s fine. Looking forward to your new cookbook and everything in between. Thank you for not giving up on your fans and followers.:) Btw, I put the pyrex under the strainer for the pasta water, but your way is probably more stable.