Recipes

crispy tofu pad thai

Like a lot of people who go way back in the land of food blogs, I learned how to make pad thai from Pim Techamuanvivit. Pim wrote Chez Pim for many years before moving onto make jams (still the best apricot I’ve ever had) and then, homesick for the food she missed from growing up in Bangkok and disappointed by the versions of Thai food she saw in American restaurants (and “the tyranny of peanut sauce”), opened her first restaurant, Kin Khao, in San Francisco in 2014. It received a Michelin star a year after it opened because why do anything mediocre?

what you'll need

But in 2007, she wrote a seminal post called Pad Thai For Beginners that I’ve read and reread so many times over the years, I’ve practically memorized it. As pad thai is one of the most popular street foods in Thailand, she encouraged us to approach it at home the way the street vendors do: the prep is already done, so you can finish it in a flash. First, she wants you to make the sauce in advance because the ingredients are not standardized — fish sauces and tamarind concentrates will vary in intensity between brands — and you’ll want to adjust as needed, not over a screaming hot pan while your noodles get soft. And she wants you to make extra because it keeps well, and then if your dish needs a little more oomph, you won’t have to run back to the fridge to measure more from bottles and jars. Finally, she wants us to never make more than two portions at once, which will lead to “clumps of oily, sticky noodles.” She explains that the textures and flavors of a proper pad thai “derive largely from the way the dish is cooked, that is to say its quick footloose dance in an ultra hot wok. That simply means you can’t do many servings at once.” This doesn’t mean you cannot feed a crowd, you simply prep as much as you’d need, but only cook a portion or two at a time.

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Recipes

fig newtons

I have grandma tastes. I don’t have a pocketbook full of butterscotch candies or a plastic cover on the sofa or anything, but I’m sitting on it right now and think our elders are probably onto something, especially when you have two kids with an unnatural contempt for napkins. But I will stan [Grandma Deb has Googled this word, feels ready to give it a spin] for thick cardigans, tins of Danish butter cookies, Walkers shortbread, and Fig Newtons.

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Recipes

asparagus and egg salad with walnuts and mint

I found my new favorite spring lunch salad while I was hiding from a pot of brisket, which is the kind of thing that happens three days after Passover. Day one (which is actually day two or three after you’ve cooked the brisket, because you know I’d never lead you astray, right?) is lovely: my goodness, why don’t we eat long-cooked, saucy slabs of beef more often? Day two isn’t so bad either, albeit a touch less enthusiastic: yay, brisket. Day three is: my god this isn’t natural, nobody should eat this much brisket, what am I going to do? I cannot waste food. It’s too long into the brisket’s lifespan to freeze it now. And my thoughts turned to the vibrant green asparagus stalks we’d had with it, and that brisket was instantly relegated to a side dish.

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Recipes

melting potatoes

A few weeks ago — although, you can imagine, it feels like it’s been much, much longer* — I learned bout something called melting potatoes and had to make them immediately. This is my favorite way to fall into something new: swiftly and static-free, even better when it has outsized pleasing results. I find the energy that comes from it kind of infectious. Why limit this fun to potatoes? Why don’t I do something random and new and unpredictable every single day? I should start right away. Or after I make these potatoes again because the only bad thing about them was that we had plans that night and I left them with the kids and babysitter. I did sneak one off the pan. It was hot. I dropped it. I definitely definitely did not eat it anyway. I am way too classy for that. Totally.

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Notes

1940-2018

My dad passed away last week. You might have known him here as SantaDad. He took great delight in that nickname, which came from an early story about how confusing as a kid I found the pictures of my dad on a fire truck dressed as Santa Claus as a) we are Jewish; and b) everyone knows Santa Claus comes down a chimney, duh. I realize this doesn’t make it any less head-scratching and I’ve decided to not even try to clear it up.

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Recipes

luxe butterscotch pudding

Happy Valentine’s Day! I thought we should make this for a date night in… erm, three weeks ago. It was on my editorial calendar and everything! (Okay I don’t have one, but it was definitely something I would have put on one.) The fact is, I’ve always been a slow cook but I’ve gotten so much worse in the last year or so, and I think I’m just getting fussier. I can’t sleep well until I know I am not making you use even one more bowl or egg yolk than the recipe requires and I wish I was joking because it sounds more quirky and charming that way.

Take this. For years, I’d be hearing about the wonder that is Butterscotch Budino from the pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez at Nancy Silverton’s Mozza, one of Los Angeles’s most famous desserts. Think of it like a classic, homey butterscotch pudding (kinda like this) made as luxe as possible with more butter, a deeper caramel, egg yolks, cream, salted caramel, whipped creme fraiche, yes, I too would be on a flight to Los Angeles right now after reading that if they weren’t all grounded.

butterscotchadd cream and milkre-melt the butterscotchan egg and two yolks plus cornstarch

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Recipes

quick, essential stovetop mac-and-cheese

A couple years ago, at my second home (the grocery store, alas, not, like, the shore) I was passing through the boxed macaroni and cheese section and realized my son, then five, had grown up so far without ever trying it. I realize some people pat themselves on the back about this, but I’m more skeptical about things. Realistically, by the time my kids grow up, I will have inundated them so with so many kale caesars, farro salads and wholesome slaws, sweet potatoes, and homemade from-scratch birthday cakes they’ll have no choice but to rebel with a steady diet of sugar cereals, frozen pocketed foods, and frosting from a can. Maybe leveling things up earlier on will help avoid this outcome? So I bought a box, made it for dinner that night (with the requisite steamed broccoli on the side, nobody ever tells you how much broccoli you’re going to steam when you become a parent) and oh, I’m sorry, were you waiting for me to call it terrible? A disappointment? A memory from childhood that did not hold up? It was anything but. I love orange cheese powder and I do not wish to keep it to myself any longer.

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Recipes

korean braised short ribs

The single most frequently asked questions on this site of late has not been “Wait, you just put peanut butter inside a chocolate cookie, are you pregnant?” (Which is too bad because I want nothing more than an excuse to say this.) It’s not “Can I make this recipe gluten-free/dairy-free/Whole30-compliant?” (Me.) And it’s not even, “How do you do your daughter’s hair?” (We wake her up at 4 to set it in curlers, it’s a little crazy but obviously worth it). It is, in fact, some combination of “I need Instant Pot recipes.” and “How do I make this in an Instant Pot?” or “Should I get an Instant Pot?” Today I’ll do my best (and, of course, just skip ahead if you’ve already made peace with the presence or absence of one in your life):
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Recipes

slow-roasted sweet potatoes

I have been obsessed with the Argentinian chef Francis Mallman since I saw his of Chef’s Table episode in 2015. Sure, about the only thing we have in common is a desire to set food on fire, you know, artfully. He does so these days to great acclaim on his private Patagonian island (and 8 other restaurants around the world), accessible through two flights, a five-hour drive, and then 90-minute raft across a lake. I live on a busy block of a crowded city accessible by nearly every format of public transportation, and do so to moderate acclaim (relative mostly to how well the patrons slept that day) under a wispy-by-design gas broiler.

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