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Thursday, June 19, 2014

frozen coconut limeade

frozen coconut limeade

New York City is a terrible place to summer. Whereas some water-bound towns have cool breezes rolling in off the ocean all day, we can better rely on the hot exhale of garbage trucks. Offices are set to roughly the same temperature as a polar ice cap, but subway platforms are so unfathomably sweltering that on my first day in NYC 14 years ago, I — adorably, like the wee baby New Yorker I was — uttered the words, “Is this even legal?” It’s a rare day that you don’t walk down the sidewalk and have a window a/c unit drip you-don’t-want-to-know run-off on your head. Flip-flops may cool your feet outside, but you may never recover from seeing the new color of your toes at the end of a day, and it always seems like everyone but me has Summer Fridays. The city tries, it really does, to make things more livable: the 14 beaches are free, there are dozens and dozens of free public pools, something like a zillion sprinkler parks, and you know all those endless photos you see of children frolicking in spraying fire hydrants? Hardly a symbol urban decay, it’s actually legal and encouraged. But the fact is that from July 4th on (and possibly earlier this year), anyone that has the means to be elsewhere is, and the rest of us plebes schvitz it out on the pavement.

limes saved from fridge extinction
gratuitous limes

And this summer, we’re going to do it grandly. We are going to embrace the heat. We are going to pretend we are someplace tropical and glamorous. Our summer house awaits… uh, in the blender.

lime juice for days

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Friday, May 9, 2014

strawberry rhubarb crisp bars

strawberry rhubarb breakfast crisp bars

Look, I have no business giving dating advice. Or marital advice. I didn’t, like, scope the scene or learn the rules or think big thoughts about what kind of person would be the right person for me when I walked into a bar 11 years ago and met this guy for a drink. Nevertheless, if you were to try isolate a single trait essential in a life partnership, I think you should look for a person who is pro-whim — that is, encourages you to have whims and pursue them, for better or for worse. Does that sound too abstract? Okay, fine; let me propose instead the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Bar Test, which should be enlisted as follows. 1. Find a potential mate. 2. Say, “Do I need to good reason to make strawberry-rhubarb pie bars?” 3. If they answer, as mine did on Monday, “Nope. I think they’re always welcome,” you’re probably on the right track. If nothing else, your weekend is about to get tastier.

mix the dry ingredients right in the pan
add the butter

I’d been daydreaming about a late spring riff on an apple-crisp-in-the-pan bars since I got the One Bowl Baking book last fall. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a pie-like cookie bar I didn’t like, but still, these made me nervous because they seemed so (ewww) wholesome. There are more whole grains than white flour, less sugar and less butter than any other cookie bar I’ve ever made. How could this be good? Silly Deb, I should have just trusted the author implicitly. Yvonne Ruperti is a former Cook’s Illustrated writer, America’s Test Kitchen on-air host and bakery owner, so you could say she knows a few things about baking.

mix it right in the baking pan

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

avocado cup salads, two ways

avocado cup confetti salads

I have the most boring thing, ever, to tell you today (and clearly it’s not “how to write an enticing lede”): I tried not to eat bread for a couple months. Wait, come back! Let me explain. I don’t mean ever. I am not anti-carb or anti-dessert, nor is Wheat Belly our new idea of a good bedtime story; I am ever your gluten-full host. I remain certain that freshly-baked, crackly-crusted artisanal bread is one of the greatest things in the world; to turn it down a moderate serving of it when you’re able to enjoy it (chemically and all that) is a sacrilege. But that’s not really what most of our bread looks like, does it? Most often, bread is merely bookends on a sandwich, with the goal of making filling portable. Or, it’s toasted so that it can sop up butter, jam or a runny yolk, or crouton-ed to make a salad feel bulkier. It’s all too infrequently in and of itself noteworthy. These latter categories of bread were what I suspected I wouldn’t miss if when I challenged myself to skip them. That is, at least two meals a day: an ascetic, I am not.

rainbow of peppers, black beans
bell peppers, black beans, jalapeno, white onion

But I promise, I didn’t drag you here today to sell you on a refined carb-free life as I myself have little interest in living one. What I’d hoped to share was the neat thing that many less stubborn than myself have known of eons: when you tip the food scales away from lackluster bread-fill, a wonderful thing happens: vegetables, beans and protein come back into prominence, and it was just the cooking recharge that I needed. To wit, since the beginning of the year we’ve talked about eggs baked in a nest of spinach and mushrooms (biscuits on the side), a seasonal mayo-light riff on devilled eggs, my new favorite three-bean chili (a small amount of brown rice underneath), chicken fajitas loaded with vegetables, beans, slaw, pico, and guacamole (all perched on one or two small corn tortillas) and a kale-quinoa salad I’m so addicted to, if I don’t have it for lunch at least three days a week, I feel twitchy.

radishes, cucumbers, scallions

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

frico grilled cheese sandwiches

frico grilled cheese

With all due respect, I think you’ve been putting cheese on the wrong side of your grilled cheese sandwiches. Or, at the least, neglecting the better ones, the exteriors. Wait, hear me out. It’s basic food math that while cold cheese is good, warm cheese is better. But if you take that a step further — and if you’re new here, let me tell you: we will always take it a step further — you will agree that melted cheese is better than warm cheese, and the melted cheese that rolls off a piece of sandwich bread and sizzles on a skillet, browning and crisping, is the top of the cheese tower… A place I’d very much like to live. Do you think a cheese tower might exist somewhere? Might it be France? Now I’m picturing an Eiffel Tower made out of cheese and what were we talking about? Oh right: melted and browned cheese wins, really for the same reason that browned butter trumps regular butter: the fats melt away from the dairy solids and toast them until they’re caramelized and achingly delicious and you forget why you’d ever eat it any other way. Don’t fight it.

hearty wheat bread
orange cheddar, lots of it

Frico is the official name for it. It’s usually invoked in the realm of Parmesan-Reggiano, or at least in almost every restaurant since the wildly fric-wild heyday of the 80s and 90s, usually in lacy crisps that garnish soups, salads and the like to remind you that they’re fancy. They’re not actually fancy, though. They’re just a pinch of grated cheese, melted in a skillet or on a baking sheet until they bubble, crisp and can be lifted in one lacy disc with a spatula. And I see no reason they should they should be limited in flavor to Parmesan, or at least not when I’m craving grilled cheese and tomato soup, really the perfect early fall meal.

this image has been stamped on my brain

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Friday, July 26, 2013

banana, nutella and salted pistachio popsicles

a banana nutella popsicle stack

Growing up, we made popsicles by pouring orange juice into these molds, letting them freeze and eating them outside so we didn’t sticky up the kitchen floor. But when I first bought these popsicles molds a year ago, did I put juice in them? No. I started dreaming about frozen cherry cheesecake popsicles and key lime pie paletas. I became obsessed with recreating the creamsicles of my youth, but only if the outside layer was orange and the middle was white. I began scratching out recipes for rum-mango-coconut popsicles, roasted peach and frozen yogurt on a stick and strawberry black pepper frozen ices that might taste like one of my favorite summer cocktails.

magical one-ingredient banana ice cream

I first read about magical one-ingredient banana ice cream around the same time. If you haven’t, well, go buy some bananas. Freeze them until they’re almost quite but not completely frozen, then cut them into chunks and blend them in a food processor and you’ll have the most amazing soft serve banana gelato ever.

salted pistachios, shelling and shelling

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