Thursday, February 26, 2015

the ‘i want chocolate cake’ cake

the 'i want chocolate cake' cake

About six weeks ago, around 9 p.m. on a day I had consumed mostly air and maybe a slice of toast because I couldn’t for the life of me imagine how food had ever tasted good, without any warning, I wanted a slice of chocolate cake with swirls of chocolate frosting and probably some sprinkles and the sprinkles, so help them, better be rainbow. Except the word “wanted” doesn’t accurately describe the craving; it was suddenly everything. I needed a piece of chocolate cake so badly that I began to regret every cupcake shop I’d ever walked past and not gone in during the height of the mid-aughts cupcake craze. I regretted not licking every beater of chocolate buttercream that had ever crossed my path when I worked at a bakery in high school. And I regretted that when I asked my husband why we didn’t have any chocolate cake, he said “because you haven’t made any?” He was correct — I’d made them dinner, instead — and the great unraveling of all that had once been right and good but failed to lead me to chocolate cake continued.

what you'll need plus some buttermilk
sift the dry ingredients if your cocoa is lumpy

I recently warned (threatened?) that I might have to exclusively dedicate this space for a while to a few currently acceptable categories, those that involve butter, bread, peanut butter or chocolate. And while I’m happy to tell you that my interest in most foods (except for chicken, sweet potatoes and soup, they know what they did) has returned, my devotion to these categories hasn’t waned in the slightest. So, here is the promised Oh My God, Is That Chocolate Cake? Give It To Me Right Now Cake. Or The Nothing Is Ever Going To Be Okay Again If I Don’t Have Chocolate Cake Cake. Or The I Want Chocolate Cake Cake. Really, I tried to come up with a less cumbersome title, but “chocolate cake with chocolate frosting” doesn’t connote the central urgency here.

thick batter, spread it flat

Continued after the jump »

Monday, February 23, 2015

spaghetti pangrattato with crispy eggs

spaghetti pangrattato with crispy eggs

Several years ago, because we didn’t have a kid yet, didn’t know about things like school break schedules and figured midway through February was as good of a time to escape the snow as any, we decided to get away to someplace warm and winter-free during Presidents’ Day week. We found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a beach resort that had to have easily been 75% children, and the kind that were at that time my worst nightmare of what kids could be [insert yours here, then multiply it as far as you can see] and we decided to both never have kids and never ever go away on Presidents’ Week again.

what you'll need, pecorino optional
pecorino, pangrattato, capers, parsley

Flash forward seven or so years and last week we went to probably one of the most kid-centric, kid-mobbed resorts* one can go to on the most kid-centric and kid-mobbed week of the year and it was the best thing, ever. Previous to last week, I wouldn’t say we’ve exactly mastered the art of family vacations. Sure, we always have fun together but it often either feels like we’re either someplace exciting for adults but less so for little kid, or someplace awesome for a little kid but it feels more like this for the adults. This may not be for everyone, but at least for now, the resolution turned out to be a place where us grownups could lay on the beach, reading books, napping, and being total slackers for most of the day while the kid attended a day camp with everything from pony rides to water slides, trapeze school and circus training and also a pirate-themed treasure hunt for … underwear which if you’ve ever been around 4 and 5 year-olds, know was the greatest. We’d retrieve our kid, sticky with ice cream, chocolate pastries and sugar cereals from his mid-afternoon goûter and then play on the beach or in the pool for a couple hours before dinner, stories, bed and everybody won. Everyone had an awesome vacation. Thank goodness we’re not doing anything in the coming months that would upset the chances of repeating this bliss next year!

spaghetti time

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

perfect corn muffins

perfect corn muffins

We escaped the Frozen North this week to someplace warm and tropical and it almost feels like cheating. Shouldn’t we be shivering? Shouldn’t we be eating rib-sticking comfort food and not slurping fresh passion fruit from a spoon? How can we have the audacity to shuffle-smack around in sandy flip-flops while our arctic puffers collect dust in the closet?

goodbye, winter!my favorite viewmy second favorite view

It turns out it’s not so difficult at all. But I’m not here to gloat, promise; I, too, was bone-chilled, quietly resentful of people anywhere that their face didn’t freeze within half a block of their apartment and questioning all of the life choices that had led me to take up residence in such a place just a few days ago. Instead, I’d like to offer small packages of what passes for sunshine until real warmth returns: the best corn muffins I’ve ever made.

dry ingredients

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, February 12, 2015

pecan sticky buns + news!

pecan sticky buns

Long after our son turned one, two, and then three; a good while after my first cookbook was published, which I liked to refer to as my “second” baby, much to the disappointment of grandparents, who were hoping for the kind they could snuggle with; a sizable amount of time after we’d more or less accepted that we’d be a family of three and three only, and thus made a few decisions that might make a fourth human seem a tiny bit poorly planned […adored new apartment with no space for a fourth resident, a second cookbook and expanding midsection racing towards competing deadlines, details] and a couple months after our son started kindergarten and I was a little gloomy because I guess this meant the baby days were really behind us, the craziest thing happened.

toast your nuts, please (!)
simmering the dark caramel

In five months, give or take, I’m going to have to give up these stretchy waistband pants and accidental afternoon naps for good, or so I hear, but not without a fight. But before then, oh boy, I think we’ve got a rather fun spring/summer ahead, and nobody, not a single human on earth is more excited than the future big brother, who has already declared his agenda of teaching the baby the ABCs, to read, to play soccer and to always let it have cookies before dinner, even if it doesn’t eat its vegetables.

an unapologetic amount of goo

Continued after the jump »

Monday, February 9, 2015

oven-braised beef with tomatoes and garlic

oven-braised beef with tomato and garlic

I realize that if you’re scouring the internet this week looking for something romantic to cook for that little Hallmark holiday this weekend, the words “pot roast” probably didn’t cross your search threshold. It’s not sexy food; nobody is writing aphrodisiac cookbooks about bottom rounds and boneless chucks. But if you ask me, it’s something better, something cozy, warm, and classic, which neither steals the show nor keeps you from enjoying it. It’s for people who long ago stopped aspiring to entertain in multi-course and completely exhausting meals (for host and guest) and turned instead to comfort foods that surprise and delight on sleety winter nights. Sure, those individual gratins, galettes, microgreens and shooters of soup look elegant, but none of them have ever gotten the reaction that a massive batch of spaghetti and meatballs, from-scratch lasagne or great big short rib braise with a green salad did. No dessert, frosted, layered or crimped has ever had the delighted reception of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (dough prepared days before, shh), still on their baking sheet. Why are we pretending we have a team of line cooks at our disposal, anyway?

a quick chop of tomatoes
a head of garlic

My favorite meals can be prepped in advance, often taste even better the second day, require no trips to specialty stores and are hard to mess up. And I’m never, ever able to resist the siren call of a recipe that promises transcendence in less than five ingredients.

ready to braise

Continued after the jump »