Quick Archive

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

Continued after the jump »

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

Continued after the jump »

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

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

mama canales-garcia’s avocado-shrimp salsa

mama canales-garcia's avocado shrimp salsa

I’m not a summer person. Is it uncool to admit that you sort of hate sweating? Probably, so it’s a good thing you already knew I was a dork. New York City summers seem to be endless strings of heatwaves, and humidity so thick that even 82 degrees can feel like 105. Being pale and freckled, I seem to go through my body weight in sunscreen each summer, and still burn. Inside, the window air-conditioner units are always buzzing and always too cold; I consider summer something I must endure until my real love — crunchy fall leaves, cardigans, apple cider stands — returns in late September.

tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, avocado and shrimp
tiny shrimps, cut tinier is triply redundant, right?

Or so I thought. This summer, something has shifted and it’s like I finally paid attention, and when I did, I realized I’ve had it all wrong. Summer is awesomely, fantastically busy, and with only the good stuff, long days and social butterfly weekends. We haven’t even put the kid to bed on Sunday night before we start discussing how many friends-with-pools/barbecues/ferry excursions/beach towns/playground sprinklers/grilled anything we might be able to stuff into the next weekend. When the heat starts melting your brain, and with it, any ridiculous attempts at dissecting something you read in The New Yorker that week, you get to instead have intense discussions about the ideal popsicle format, how to best fill water balloons, which beaches have the silkiest sand and who makes the best Aperol Spritz. (Buvette, you’re winning.) I realized that there’s barely a month left to summer yesterday, and felt sad, because we need more time. The whole time I’ve been kvetching, summer waged a quiet war on my view of the seasons (“Does fall have watermelon this good? I didn’t think so!” “When was the last time you saw a rainbow through a sprinkler in January?!”) and it won.

chop this: small tomatoes or big

Continued after the jump »

Monday, July 15, 2013

one-pan farro with tomatoes

one-pan farro with tomatoes

I was not, in fact, looking for a new farro dish. It rarely occurs to me over the summer, when there’s more eggplant/zucchini/tomatoes/peaches/plums/berries than anyone could fathom going through in the scant weeks they’re available, to wish I had more whole grains in my diet. And since we’re being honest, only occasionally in times that it probably should, such as in February, when refined flours and pasta are used to fill the endless gap in growing seasons. But, as it happens, because I’m terrible at timely meal-planning, I was attempting to make this chicken for dinner a couple weeks ago and it wasn’t ready on time, or even close to it, and I remembered a one-pan linguine dish I’d read about in Martha Stewart Living last month that sounded fascinating. Realizing I had almost all the ingredients on hand, I rustled it up instead and felt like such a domestic diva, I nearly took a bow when I brought it out, but resisted, as I prefer to only drop one dish a season. In the dish, pasta, only enough water to cook it, an onion, garlic cloves, some cherry tomatoes, olive oil, basil, salt and red pepper flakes are combined cold, brought up to a boil and cooked until the pasta is al dente and everything else becomes the dish’s saucy servant, all in a single saucepan, all at once. I realize you’re all leaving me right now to make it this very moment, and I don’t blame you. At the very least, you need to bookmark the recipe for when you’re in a pinch, and really, when is anyone not?

tomatoes, farro, onion, basil, garlic, parmesan
whole farro

The thing is, it totally fit the dinner bill when we needed it to but I wasn’t as crazy about it as I should have been. It was… soft. The sauce seemed a little gummy. I had barely finished my second bite when I became obsessed, yes, actually preoccupied to the point of sickness, with making the dish with farro instead. Farro, a variety of wheat grain (here’s a fantastic guide I found to more) that that has a meaty chew I find appealing in salads, soups, faux-risottos and more, isn’t bad the way it is usually cooked — in water, maybe with a pinch of salt — but it’s hard to argue it wouldn’t benefit from a more complex flavor base. To wit, you rarely see farro dishes or salads that don’t include at least one sweet thing (dried fruit or roasted-until-sweet vegetables), one bright thing (vinegar, lemon juice or a bit of pickled onion), one salty thing (crumbled feta, ricotta salata or anchovies), one crunchy thing (usually toasted nuts) and a good helping of a fat, usually olive oil, and if you’re lucky, all of the above. But imagine if farro arrived from its saucepan already perfectly balanced and ready to eat?

grape tomatoes that taste good at last

Continued after the jump »


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