Recipes

twisty cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns are perfect — they don’t need disruption, nobody needs a fresh new take on them, and they don’t need refining. I suspect that for most of us, our only grievance is that nobody makes them often enough. Have you ever woken up to the smell of fresh cinnamon buns baking in the oven? Yeah, me neither, but boy does my family have good things to say about it.

So what is this? Well, these are cinnamon rolls with a little update, exactly what I said nobody needs, but it turns out… I do. This is the exact recipe, down to the last teaspoon, I use to make cinnamon buns at home, which I’ve tweaked and tweaked over the last few years until it was exactly the way I wanted it: no separated eggs, easy-to-remember measurements, a plush, rich dough wound with the perfect cinnamon bite. But — maybe this has been written about somewhere else, not sure — but we’ve been home a lot over the last year and when I’m home a lot, I start tinkering. I applied the kind of twisting we use for a krantz cake-style babka and stuffed four of these twists in a pan and let them expand and bronze in semi-chaotic ribbons in the oven and I found three things that these do even better than cinnamon buns.

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Recipes

quick, easy salsa

I had a very good reason for making this, in fact, the very best reason, the only reason I ever really want to cook anything on busy weeks with no other gravitas-adding forces at play: I wanted it. Last week I had an intense craving for the kind of salsa you get in a jar, that we went through buckets of when I was in college, the kind of salsa that you’d get on a table at a Mexican restaurant that may or may not sell margaritas in cactus-stem glasses and I wondered why I didn’t have a go-to recipe for making it at home. Isn’t that, like, my purpose here? Isn’t that what I do here, week after week for nearly 15 years, share recipes I hope will become your go-tos as much as they’ve become mine? Where was my seasonless* salsa recipe?

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Recipes

classic shortbread

At some point in the swamp of time that has been this past winter, my husband convinced me that we should watch Ted Lasso and, despite my skepticism about a dad-joking American football coach who gets a job coaching professional soccer in England’s ability to hold my interest, I begrudgingly agreed. It turned out to be… kind of delightful? Objectively enjoyable, really. Don’t worry, I will not be discussing sports today and there won’t be any spoilers, but do know that homemade shortbread cookies have a recurring role and that is where our story begins.

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Recipes

spring asparagus galette

I know it’s too early for asparagus, at least in New York, but I’m tired of waiting, a feeling that both encapsulates my cooking right now and my mood about [waves hands] everything. I am sure I’m not alone in being ready for summer, for outside, for all of my friends to get vaccinated, for my kids lives to normalize so they can be off screens all day, and I know you do not get things by stamping your feet and demanding them (I may have tried) but if there’s one thing on this list we can safely take an advance on, it’s spring vegetables. Grocery store asparagus is lovely and here for us until the freshly-plucked Greenmarket stuff emerges and I say we embrace it with abandon.

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Recipes

sheet pan chow mein

Here’s a really fun dinner I made recently, the sheet pan chow mein from Hetty McKinnon’s, new cookbook, which is a love letter to all the vibrant Chinese food she grew up eating plus many of her other Asian favorites. You — we, if I may be so presumptuous — love McKinnon’s vegetarian cooking because she’s so creative, as we saw in this chickpea and kale shakshuka, and yet it’s all so practically-minded, clearly having been vetted in the chaos of real life family dinners.

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Recipes

lemon potatoes

Is this a good place to admit that I almost never ate potatoes growing up? I tell my Russian husband this and he’s baffled. Mashed? No. Roasted? No. Fries, only at restaurants. Tater tots, from the freezer on a too-rare occasion. Baked potatoes were definitely a dinner menu item and I don’t think anyone had anything against potatoes, just not a strong pull towards them. Needless to say, if the archives here are any indication, my kids will not be saying the same. And yet despite the gratins, the crispy crumbled, the melting, the brown butter mash, the kugel, twice-baked and the Anna, I still crave potatoes in ways I have yet finetuned a recipe for, and this brought me to a surge of lemon potato studies over the winter.

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Recipes

hummingbird cake

I know, I know: We’re still in a global pandemic. It’s no time for party-sized cakes. Passover is in three days and those who celebrate it don’t want to be tempted by forbidden baked goods. But it had been so long since I’d made a towering and abundantly festive layer cake and ever since spotting this hummingbird cake in Zoë François’s fantastic — like, just go buy it right now, you are in for a treat — new cookbook, Zoë Bakes Cakes, I couldn’t think about anything else. It feels forward-looking and spring-celebrational. It is deliciously warm and happy, almost defiant, planning for a brighter year ahead, no matter what the one before it looked like. And so I went all in and made a three-layer celebration cake and flung slices off with friends and neighbors and have absolutely no regrets, except for the fact that it’s gone now.

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Recipes

crispiest chicken cutlets

Whether you call them milanese, schnitzel or “they’re just big chicken tenders and you like chicken tenders, please try them!”, I absolutely love perfectly seasoned, craggy bread-crumbed, deeply golden, crispy chicken cutlets but I absolutely hate making them. Which, as you can imagine, leads to a bit of an impasse. We’ve bought them at our local grocery store, but I disagree with the store on seasoning, in that I believe in it and they do not. Maybe it’s just that my kitchen counter is small, or maybe I’m just kind of lazy, but I find the whole process interminable: pounding the cutlets if you want them thin, dredging them in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, then frying them, then draining them on endless paper towels or paper bags, then trying to either reuse or dispose of the oil properly, and somehow, after all of this, dinner isn’t made. We still need salad and/or another vegetable. That is me, throwing my hands in the air, 370 days into a global pandemic, wondering why anyone bothers cooking at home.

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Recipes

the perfect margarita

This week many of us are coming up on the anniversary of all sorts of things we had little idea would define the year ahead. I remember saying things like “these masks are really expensive but they’re all that’s available, should I buy them?” (yes, Deb, and also some flour) and “they can’t cancel school, can they?” and “we can still plan a summer vacation because things should normalize by then, right?” and I’m sure I’m not alone in these one year-ago reminders throwing me for a big emo loop. It’s also been delightfully almost spring-like in NYC after a consistently wintery winter and I haven’t been able to stay inside, inventing as many reasons as I can come up with for taking walks, which is bad for productivity but doing wonders to counteract all of those heavy moods. At the end of one yesterday, I swung by the grocery store to get ingredients for crisp black bean tacos and because I cannot make this up, you must believe me: a bird pooped on me in the store. Is it still luck if it happens while you’re inspecting cabbages, hoping to find an apartment-sized one?

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Recipes

marbled cheesecake hamantaschen

It’s almost too on-the-nose that I tried to make hamantaschen cookies that look like carrara marble and actually made cookies that evoke cow hides. Is the universe trying to tell me something about my kitchen hopes and dreams? Don’t worry, I’ve chosen to not read into this at all.

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