Winter Archive

Monday, March 4, 2013

french onion tart + uk cookbook release

french onion tart, little tuft of salad

Hello from 30,000 feet! I wrote this on my 23rd airplane flight since November 2012, but here’s the part where you can be certain at last that I’m as weird as you already suspected: I still love flying as much as this guy. How could I not? At the time, there were perfect white puffs of clouds below us (I always call them Simpson’s Clouds, because they remind me of the ones in the show’s opener) and the sky above the clouds, as always, was piercingly blue. The day before, it was snow-sided mountains down below, and before that, circular fields inside perfect grids, fern-like trenches and mosaics that stretched to the horizon. That I also get to hang out at awesome bookstores and meet really nice people who indulge me (but really shouldn’t, lest I feel encouraged) by laughing at my terrible jokes only makes it more fun.

a two-pound bag, you can use all/most
onion halves and peels

This strange thing that’s been happening over these book tours that I spend the entirety of my time outside the kitchen pining for it. I constantly jot down recipe ideas and become obsessed with making something very specific when I get home, like English muffins that taste like rye bread or a breakfast burrito like the awesome one I had at the Salt Lake City Airport (seriously) or intense homesick cravings for street meat from Rafiqi’s. Then I get home and… nothing. My cooking motivation goes through the floor. I try not to fight it; I hate when cooking is a chore, so we’ll order in or go out for one night, and then another. Usually, by the third evening, I am so completely over it — the salad with too much dressing, the raw-centered burger that you send back and comes out burnt through — that I’m back in the kitchen, relieved that absence made my cooking obsession stronger.

starting to wilt

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Friday, February 22, 2013

blood orange margaritas

blood orange margaritas

Is everyone on vacation without you? Are your social media feeds one big blur of the freckled faces of people you once thought you loved basking in the Caribbean sun, showing unintentional contempt for you, back here, shivering and damp? Do your so-called friends in warmer climes gush about pea tendrils and new artichokes while your local market has shriveled roots that last saw the unfrozen earth in October? Of last year? Maybe, just this one time, an exception should be made and a tidy, brief pity party would be acceptable. I have just the elixir.

blood oranges
freshly squeezed blood orange juice

You may not be in the tropics, but glass-for-glass, we can fake it. You may not have fresh coconuts overhead and sweet mango and papaya slices on your breakfast plate, but if we hurry, we can grab onto the tail end of blood orange season and squeeze it into something better.

the prettiest thing

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Monday, February 18, 2013

italian stuffed cabbage

italian stuffed cabbage

Prior to November, what I knew of stuffed cabbage rolls were limited to the Jewish/Eastern European variety, which I make the way my mother-in-law does. I hadn’t given it further thought because as far as I was concerned, it was never broken, and needed little improvement, and when there’s little room for me to tinker in the kitchen, I quickly lose interest. But if I had, it might have occurred to me that cabbage, being one of the ultimate peasant foods, has probably been wrapped around meat that’s been ground and then stretched (always budget-minded, those peasants) with other ingredients and cooked in a sauce in a zillion different ways over the centuries. And oh, the fun we might have been having this whole time.

peeling the savoy
big floppy cabbage leaves

As it turns out, it could be argued that any region that can grow large cabbage leaves is indeed stuffing them with something. The most cursory of Google searches leads one on a tour of Greek lahanodolmathes, stuffed with ground beef and rice and covered with a traditional egg and lemon (avgolemono) sauce; French chou farci, stuffed with beef or pork, sometimes mushrooms, wrapped in large layers of cabbage leaves and served in wedges; Polish gloabki, or “little pigeons,” with pork and beef, and rice or barley (sigh); Slovak holubky or halupki; Serb or Croatian sarma with (hold me) sauerkraut and ham hocks, and Arabic mahshi malfouf which adds lemon juice, cinnamon and mint (swoon) to the usual ground meat and rice medley. And guys, I’m just getting started. The idea that there are this many ways to fall in love with stuffed cabbage torments me, and leaves me daydreaming about a Westeros-length winter wherein we could audition each one.

quickly blanching the cabbage leaves

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

pasta and white beans with garlic-rosemary oil

pasta, white beans, garlic-rosemary oil

If you have a thing for chocolate, the world is your oyster. On this very site, 86 of the just over 800 recipes boast a significant chocolate component and entire sections of bookstores will be happy to fill in any cravings I missed. If you have a thing for bacon, the internet would be overjoyed to find you places to put it, zillions, even, although I’d proceed with caution before auditioning a couple. But if you have a thing for something slightly less of a prom king/queen ingredient, say, tiny white beans, well, it can be tough. It’s not there are no uses for them, it’s just that when you’re very much in love, there are never enough ways to be together. And if you’re me — someone who sometimes ups and makes a mega-pot of white beans just because you feel like it, presuming you’ll find things to do with them later — you sometimes end up scrambling, yanking down nearly every cookbook in your collection but still coming up bereft of uses outside the well-trodden soup-and-salad territory.

sometimes i cook beans and figure out why later

So tell me: What are you favorite uses for beans outside the ever-popular realm of chili, tacos, soup and salad? Really, I’m hankering for more inspiration. I ended up finding some — but never enough — in this month’s Bon Appetit, in a stack of pasta recipes you will find it impossible to choose among from Sara Jenkins of Porchetta and Porsena (and green bean salad, sigh) fame. I was so charmed by the short tubes of pasta with chickpeas, I made it almost immediately but maybe it was because I’ve overdone it on chickpeas this month, but I kept thinking it would be nice with something… daintier. And considering that it is an established fact (um, in Italy, where I suspect both my white bean and artichoke obsessions could roam free) that white beans, garlic, rosemary and olive oil are a combination sent from above, I had a hunch they’d be happy here too.

parsley, garlic, onion, carrot, celery

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

lentil soup with sausage, chard and garlic

winter, bring it on

Every year around this time — well into the winter season, but long after we found it charmingly brisk, as it is when you do googly-eyed things like ice skating around a sparkling tree at the holidays — we get some sort of brittle cold snap in the weather that catches me by surprise. Even though we live in New York, a place where a cold snap or two a January is as predictable as being hosed by some unspeakably awful puddle of street juice slush by a car spinning through an intersection; even though I’ve lived in this exact climate for every one of my thirty-I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it years; and even though I have the audacity to look forward to winter every sticky concrete-steaming summer, when I walk outside on that first 20-degree day and the wind gusts into my face and renders it hard to exhale, the very first thing I do is audibly holler in rage and disbelief, “WHAT THE WHAT?” I am nothing — as we joke when my sweet little son tries to clomp down the hallway in his dad’s massive boots and immediately falls on his tush — if not Harvard Material.

all of this + 24 degrees outside: let's go!

Weeks like the one we’re having on the East Coast require their own bourbon cocktail plane tickets to someplace tropical and child-free, uh, family-friendly elixir and although I’ve previously found comfort in such meal intensities as lasagna bolognese, chili and mushroom and noodles, glorified, I think this year’s pick — a hearty Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard and Garlic trumps them all. It hails from the new cookbook from the guy behind one of the first food blogs I ever read, and still do, The Amateur Gourmet. I think you should buy it right this very second. Why? Because in it, Adam Roberts does what he does best — schmooze with great chefs and get them to spill the dirt, all in the name of making us better home cooks.

[He's also good at this with less famous, non-chefs, such as yours truly, when he got me to confess to a packed room last month my top-secret, totally-un-PC method of getting toddlers to occasionally eat what you'd like them to, not that I'd be crazy enough to let that happen twice.]

the easiest simmer

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