Considering that bean salads — a can of beans, a Good Season-ish dressing, whatever chopped vegetables struck my fancy — were a fairly significant staple of my diet in my post-college years, I was shocked, absolutely shook, to realize how sparsely they’re represented here. In fact, there’s onlytwo and they’re among the oldest recipes on this site. Let’s fix this right now. I spotted Alice’s Rosary Cannellini Salad at the end of a Stained Page newsletter last month — a wonderful newsletter if you’re interested in following cookbook news and gossip. The recipe is from a new, charming cookbook called A Good Meal Is Hard to Find: Storied Recipes from Deep South, by Martha Hall Foose, with original paintings throughout from Amy C. Evans in which each recipe tells a story from a quirky Southern character who shares a beloved recipe. I don’t usually look at bean salad recipes because I don’t need a recipe, I stubbornly insist, I can create my own on a whim whenever I want, but a few days after spotting this one — with an intriguing combination of roasted bell peppers, a sherry vinaigrette, and radicchio — a voice within me that said “maybe you can but what if you didn’t have to” grew ever-louder and I succumbed.
The days are getting longer, fruit that has recently emerged from the earth, rather than cellophane, is showing up at markets and in CSAs, and you know what this means, right? It’s time to resist the siren call of pie season and make a galette instead. Galettes are the very best way to bring pie into your everyday life — and yes, I believe your everyday life deserves baked fruit in a buttery, flaky shell — because everything about them is easier. A single crust requires less time and less work. Because it doesn’t have the responsibility of keeping pounds of fruit from soaking into a pie plate, a more tender and flaky dough can be used. The filling uses less fruit and requires less of a shopping commitment. There’s less flavor-occluding sugar and thickeners because galettes are more forgiving of messiness. You don’t need a particular pan or even shape; oblong blobs taste as good and work exactly as well as circles.
The very first thing I cooked in our Inside Days was ragú bolognese. Previous to having all of the time in the world, I didn’t make it very often; we were too busy during the week and on the weekend, I preferred to be away from the stove. But that weekend! Our apartment smelled phenomenal as it gently bubbled on the back burner all afternoon, and I realized it had been way too long since we’d had the luxury of a multi-hour buildup to an anticipated meal.
My friend David Lebovitz, OG food blogger and nine-time author, wrote a book on the iconic cocktails, aperitifs, and cafe traditions of France, including 160 recipes, that came out in March. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel like you’ve hopped on a plane to fly to Paris to spend long, leisurely afternoons-into-evenings wandering, sipping and tasting this and that, something I had the delight to do almost a year ago in person. The circumstances might be terrible, but it feels like a bit of luck that he’s created a book that allows us to recreate these tastes and the feeling, as best as possible, at home.
For many years I’ve been fascinated by variations on yeast-free yogurt flatbread recipes (sometimes called yeast-free naan) that follow a loose formula of a cup of yogurt, a couple cups of flour, some salt, fat, and water. Sometimes there’s baking powder, sometimes there’s not. It’s kneaded together as you would a yeasted bread dough and left to rest for about 30 minutes, sometimes an hour, during which a transformation occurs and the dough becomes springy and smooth and very lovely to work with, like a freshly-opened can of Play-Doh. Once rolled thin, they’re pan-fried, and look, they’re fiiine. But they’re never as good as I want them to be.
It’s true: I’ve dragged my feet over writing a guide to what I keep in my “pantry” (I don’t have a pantry) and fridge for 14 years now. I have my reasons, primarily that I’m not sure I know what your kitchen needs. I mean, shouldn’t you stock the stuff you need for what you’ll want to cook and not some arbitrary list from a lady who loves Triscuits? Maybe you don’t love Triscuits! (Sorry you’re so wrong.) The idea of buying a kitchen full of someone else’s groceries is very much against the way I think anyone should shop. I know your kitchen will grow organically, and accurately reflect what you need if you buy things for what you want to cook as you want to cook them. Second, due to the nature of my work here I have an absolutely unusual amount of stuff in my kitchen cabinets and fridge. It’s totally justified for me, while making little sense for others. On the flip side, I live in NYC and have grocery stores and Greenmarkets quite close, but also as a small kitchen with very few cabinets, meaning that not only can I not stock very much at a time, I don’t need to — I can always dash out for vinegar or dried pasta. This is not the way most people shop.
I didn’t know I needed a new roast chicken in my life when Helen Rosner, the New Yorker’s roving food correspondent and all-around fascinating person, posted on her Instagram a few weekends ago that she didn’t have her usual vegetables to put under her roast chicken so she was using cabbage instead. Yet the very next evening, so was I, plus twice since then, and likely one more time before this week is out and I have a hunch I will not be alone. Rosner won a James Beard award for an essay I still routinely quote from to my kids (“but chicken tenders have no terroir!” because we live in opposite land where they don’t like them but I do — but that’s a whole other blog entry) because it delights me so much. A year ago she nearly broke the internet when she said she likes to use a hairdryer to get the crispiest chicken skin. All I’m saying is that when Rosner talks about chicken, I find good reason to tune in.
My love of french fries is vast and well–documented — preferably in a golden, crisp and glittering-with-fine-salt heap with some aioli, an artichoke or oysters and ice-cold, very dry champagne, outside at a bustling cafe in a life that seems a bit distant right now — so I hope you will take this statement with the utmost gravitas when I say that these crispy potatoes are as good as, if not better, than fries.
I know, I know, you don’t need to tell me that there are already fourbananabreadrecipes on this site, plus fouradditionalbananacakes, and that’s probably enough, right? Genuinely, I believed I was done too, that the Banana Baked Goods course at SK University* had been completed. But then a few things happened. After creating the pumpkin bread of my dreams and what I hope will be the last zucchini bread recipe you’ll ever need over the last couple years, it began to bother me that the banana bread recipes on the site lacked what these have: a towering height and a crunchy top that will be hard not to lift off in one giant tile and swiftly coat the underside with salted butter. So, I created one and I’ve been keeping it to myself for over a year because, see above: SK is probably at Banana Bread Capacity. But over the last few weeks of, well, not doing a whole lot else, I can’t help but notice that we’ve all been making a whole lot of banana bread. And I think you might like this one instead.
I’m really enjoying Lukas Volger’s new cookbook, Start Simple: Eleven Everyday Ingredients for Countless Weeknight Meals. It came out two months ago, a positively bizarre time in which we entered and left our homes with abandon, casually hugged friends we were happy to see, and if our nose became itchy, we’d scratch it and not stand paralyzed in panic afterward. What salad days! Volger’s new book wasn’t created with pandemic cooking in mind — what was, really — but it feels just right for right now because each chapter focuses on a staple our local store is miraculously not out of (tofu, tortillas, beans, greens, squash, and more), and the recipes have refreshingly short ingredient lists and unfussy assemblies. Volger’s vegetarian cooking is very doable, the kind of do-ability that comes from the fact that this is clearly the food he cooks for himself at home, so all of the kinks are smoothed out. Everything sounds so good — smoky chickpea salad with olives and lemon and black beans with scallion-lime vinaigrette from the bean section are on my shortlist — you might find yourself wondering why this unwavering simplicity isn’t the goal of every cookbook.