Budget Archive

Thursday, April 19, 2012

pasta with garlicky broccoli rabe

easiest garlicky broccoli rabe pasta

In my humble opinion, there’s cooking and there’s cooking. (I know, I’ll just give you a minute for the staggering profundity of that sentence to kick in.) What I mean is, it’s one thing to turn banana bread into a crepe, that crepe into a cake, that cake into a vehicle for walnut butterscotch, drooling, diet-postponing, and seconds, and it’s an entirely other thing to find yourself at the playground at 5:15 p.m. and realize a) you don’t actually have anything in the fridge that you can turn into dinner, b) you, in fact, barely feel like cooking, in fact, your interest in cooking is only a single degree stronger than your desire to order in, so this better be easy, and c) the adjacent farmers market which you have heard from others boasts ramps and asparagus and spinach and other new! spring! delights! in fact, at the tail end of the day, boasts few things aside from a straggler of a single bundle of broccoli rabe. And you like broccoli rabe, you’ve warmed to it quite a bit since you’ve accepted it into your life, but you hardly excel in turning it into a lightning-quick, lazy, and completely satisfying dinner (or LQLACSD for short).

all you need: oil, pasta, garlic, rabe, pepper
mowing the rabe lawn

Or, I didn’t before last Wednesday afternoon. This thing where you can grab anything at random without a shopping list in hand or recipe in mind and transform it effortlessly into a LQLACSD, this is real cooking. This is what separates those grandmothers that cranked out dinner like clockwork every night for 60 years, that didn’t throw in the towel because they only had canned peas and stale rice in the pantry, from the dilettantes. And people? Over 750 recipes into this site, I’m still getting there. Sometimes a simple recipe, one that you make once and instantly memorize and throw into the dinner rotation, helps.

pretty, pretty pasta ("campanelle")

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

buttermilk roast chicken

buttermilk roasted chicken

Without a doubt, the very best part of fried chicken is the battered, seasoned, gold-tinged and impossibly crisp exterior. But, as far as I’m concerned, the tender chicken within is no distant second. The best fried chicken recipes have you soak the uncooked chicken in a salty/sweet brine of buttermilk and seasonings for at least day, resulting in meat that’s decadent long before it hits the fryer. Wouldn’t it be great if the insides could garner the same gushing their pretty skins do?

the next evening
drizzled lightly with olive oil

This is what I was thinking of when I stumbled on an old Nigella recipe for buttermilk roasted chicken. Of course, that was four weeks ago and for three of them, I sat at a table piled with eraser dust and red pencil overlooking the avenue below, editing away dreaming mostly of the buttermilk chicken I would finally make when I was done. The recipe turned out to be a good place to start, but I wanted more — a longer soak, more salt, less oil, more garlic and, for some reason, I felt the recipe was itching for paprika. So, I went another round with it last night — finishing it with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of more paprika and flaked sea salt before roasting it — and this, at last, was the buttermilk chicken I had dreamed about.

sprinkled with paprika and sea salt

Continued after the jump »

Monday, May 2, 2011

ribboned asparagus salad with lemon

a nest of tangled asparagus

Spring arrived while I totally wasn’t paying attention. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen these days. Over the winter, this was hardly a discomfort but now that we’re getting glimpses of the warm weather to come, I’m finding it harder to look out my kitchen window at these people walking down the sidewalk with their sandals and short sleeves and a pep in their step and an air of freedom around them I can sense even from four flights up and not feel consumed with envy. The other day, as I wearily approached round five of something I was stupidly convinced I’d nail on round one, I saw one of these not-sweating-it-out-in-a-shoebox-kitchen types carrying a bundle of tulips and I had to close my eyes for a minute and imagine myself somewhere I’d rather be. And then I walked out of the kitchen and went there.

it's back!

You see, I’ve been avoiding the Greenmarket as well. It’s been a Brownmarket for over half a year and there are only so many cold storage apples and yams one can stomach before they fall for the ever-freakishly-ripe berries the street carts are selling. But it was nearly May and sticky as July outside and I had a hunch that things had improved while I was buried under pots and pans. And lo and behold, stands were bursting with things that had been recently plucked from the ground: spinach! ramps! bright pink orbs of radishes too! asparagus for miles! And as I brought home my first haul of the season — and a little package waiting downstairs — I knew exactly what every single one of us must do this very second with the asparagus.

ribbon-ing the asparagus

Continued after the jump »

Saturday, April 23, 2011

crispy potato roast

crispy potato roast

I fell for a photo this week. It was on marthastewart.com and it looked like an accordion, or maybe a Slinky, of thinly sliced, crisped potatoes and my brain computed this as CHIPS. POTATO CHIPS MASQUERADING AS GROWN-UP SIDE DISH. MUST MAKE POTATO CHIP CASSEROLE (I was kind of like this dog here) and although further investigation of the recipe unveiled no actual use of potato chips, creamed canned soup or anything also that would really allow it to be titled a Potato Chip Casserole, it was too late and I was making it anyway.

spuds
peeling

Plus, I was looking for a gratin alternative for potatoes for my family’s Seder on Monday night and this fit the bill perfectly. It’s not that I don’t like, nay love, any excuse to drown potatoes in cream and butter and swaddle them in a blistered cheese lid, but given that there was already going to be a spread, it didn’t seem necessary that the potatoes be so over-the-top.

slicing

Continued after the jump »

Saturday, April 9, 2011

french onion soup

french onion soup

I’m firmly of the belief that no matter what ails you in the realm of the kitchen, onion soup can cure it. Never cooked before? Don’t think you’ll be able to pull off the kind of cooking you believe you need to go to a restaurant to experience? Start with onion soup. Have only $5 to spend on dinner? Refrigerator is almost bare? Onion soup is your friend. Want your home to have a transcendent aroma bouncing off every wall, the kind that’s so distracting that you don’t even know or care what’s on the stove, only that you must have it now? Onion soup is waiting for you.

sliced onions, weepy blogger
after 15 minutes heating

I realize it was unfair to even make a passing reference to weepingly delicious onion soup the other day without refreshing it here. I talked up once in 2006, a lifetime ago (or several, if you’re this guy) but it was a very literal recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking which benefits from some streamlining. And yet, not too much. Onion soup is a remarkably simple thing to make but when simplified too liberally — I’ve seen recipes that instructed you to just caramelize onions for a bit, add stock, cheese etc. — the nuance that raises it to the transcendent level I’ve known it to be gets lost. Julia Child’s original version — with the very long caramelization of onions that I beg you not to skimp on because this is all the work there really is, the slip of raw grated onion, the cheese within and on top of the soup and starting the croutons toasted hard so they don’t fall apart in the soup — raises the soup beyond the everyday, without making it too difficult to whip up almost any day. Which I promise will happen when you realize the staggering gap between effort and outcome that Child’s onion soup manages to bridge.

after long, slow caramelization

Continued after the jump »