Recipes

focaccia sandwiches for a crowd

Last year, Alexandra Stafford published a very good book about bread. It sprang from a recipe for the peasant bread her mother made often when she was growing up. When she shared it on her site, it went viral, which is no surprise given that it’s no-knead, comes together in under five minutes, rises in about an hour, and after a brief second rise, you bake it in buttered bowls that form it into a blond, buttery crusted bread that she boasts is “the antithesis of artisan.” Because there are no hidden tricks; no steam ovens, special flours, lames to score the crust, or bannetons to shape the loaves. Her central tenet is that “good bread can be made without a starter, without a slow or cold fermentation, without an understanding of bakers’ percentages, without being fluent in the baking vernacular: hydration, fermentation, biga, poolish, soaker, autolyse, barm.” (None of those words appear in the book.) She knows that there are a lot of no-knead breads out there, but this is the only one that can be started at 4pm and be on the dinner table at 7.

what you'll needwhisk flour, salt, and yeastadd waterlet it proof for an hour

I realize you’re thinking, as I briefly worried before I read it, how does one write an entire cookbook based on one recipe? But Stafford is a gifted recipe developer, and there isn’t a thing in this book — one part breads (with all types of flours, grains, and shapes, including pizzas, flatbreads, rolls and buns), one part toasts (including sandwiches, tartines, stratas, panzanellas, soups, summer puddings and so much more), and one part crumbs (a celebration of crunchy gratin toppings, stuffing, burgers, eggplant parmesan, fish sticks, meatballs, and brown bettys) — that I didn’t want to make. (I suspect that having four kids to feed ensures that these recipes were vetted by the most finicky of reviewer classes.) It’s also a gorgeous book, with a focus and format that my inner, long-surrendered organized person finds deeply pleasing.

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Recipes

marbled raspberry pound cake

This small, fearless wildling we literally just brought home from the hospital turned three a couple weeks ago, but despite my certainty that we just got her, I won’t lie, this feels like a gazillion years ago because when did she not have hair. Strangers on the street often ask us about her hair, and I get it, I do. She’s small, it is big, and also red and with spiral curls going in every direction and there are three other members of our family and none of us have spiral curls or red hair. This isn’t the only way she’s already her own fierce little person. I was definitely not into dolls or dresses growing up, so I watch with awe as she plays for hours with her very pink baby doll, the doll’s stroller, the doll’s purse, the doll’s crib and high chair; when she comes home after being out all day, she likes to sit quietly with her baby on her lap on the sofa for a while to catch up and it is, objectively (I am known for my objectivity when talking about my kids), one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.

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Recipes

minimalist barbecue sauce

Every summer, I promise that I’m going to tell you about this shortcut barbecue sauce I use when I don’t have it in me to bring home 11 bottles and jars plus 2 vegetables for what I consider the ultimate, Queen Ina’s. I love that one, regardless. I make it every year or two and I freeze it in 1-cup packages. Sometimes, like last summer, I completely forget to freeze it and find it in the fridge 8 months later and it’s completely and totally fine to eat? It’s pretty magical like that. But it’s not simple. And most of the time, when it’s just weeknight chicken or tofu skewers on the grill or even as a base for what I call Fake Baked Beans (more on this at the end), three ingredients is all you need, plus up to two more to your tastes. Don’t look askance at me; I bet you already have them all.

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Recipes

bourbon peach smash

Most conversations about shrubs go like this.

“Wait, like the green bushy things that grow in the ground?”
“No, it’s a drink.”
“A leafy drink?”
“No, it’s actually just three ingredients — fruit, sugar, and vinegar…”
“Wait, you drink vinegar? Why would you drink vinegar?”
“Well, we love sour things like lemon and lime in drinks, they complement sweet flavors…”
“So there’s booze in this?”
“… Sometimes. Sometimes it’s just a soda.”
“Well, that sounds nice.”

[Note: They are being polite.]
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Recipes

corn fritters

We used to fritter on the regular. The earlier archives of this site are filled with favorites that got us through many snacky toddler meals and excesses of vegetables: broccoli-parmesan, zucchini, cauliflower-feta, cabbage and mixed vegetables with an okonomiyaki vibe, mixed vegetables with a pakora-spiced vibe, and of course, potato latkes in every shape and form. According to the date stamps, it’s been over 5 years since we last frittered, and this is unacceptable, especially as we are again deep in the toddler years.

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Recipes

grilled zucchini ribbons with pesto and white beans

I have never once woken up on a cold January day and longed for pesto or summer squash. It doesn’t even occur to my taste buds in the winter. But like clockwork around this time each summer — usually when it’s only the first week of July but already hot enough that I cannot even remember why I live in NYC, where it currently as stagnant and steamy as a bathroom after a shower with none of the hygienic aromatics, seriously, why do I, I digress — it is all I want to eat.

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Recipes

ciambellone, an italian tea cake

A ciambellone is a simple, sunny Italian tea cake with lemon zest and a rich crumb typically baked in a tube pan, which gives it a torus shape, i.e. the appearance of a doughnut, which is, in fact, what Google Translate tells me is the translation of ciambellone. As I can never resist the siren call of either an everyday cake or a doughnut, I am unequivocally here for this.

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Recipes

linguine and clams

It’s only the first day of summer and I’m already weeks deep into our unofficial dish of it, linguine alle vongole, preferably hastily prepared about 10 to 15 minutes before we dive in, eaten outside with a current favorite rosé, caprese salad and a massive bowl of kale caesar (from SKED). It’s infinitely summery. It’s pasta, but I don’t feel like I need a nap after I eat it. And hey, there’s even a t-shirt to go with it (hat tip).

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Recipes

watermelon cucumber salad

We’ve decided to spend as much time as humanly possible at the beach this summer, which has led to my other new favorite habit: grabbing a few cookbooks I’ve been meaning to go through and reading them en route. In the fleeting moments when the kids have limited their bickering in the backseat and the traffic isn’t too terrible, when I’ve been away from my laptop and the kitchen for enough hours that I’m ready to absorb new inspiration, I find myself more open-minded and curious to try new recipes than I am, understandably, in the thick of deadlines and or hangry o’clock, approximately 6:15pm when dinner is nowhere near done.

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Recipes

garlic lime steak and noodle salad

For most of the last decade or two, my dad was on a perennial low-carb diet, eschewing bread and often sugar, save for carefully chosen exceptions. When family would come over for dinner, he’d always tell me I didn’t need to make anything special for him, but I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a menu that would work for everyone. The results became some of my favorite meals to this day. Previously, dinner parties usually had a carb-assault at the center — lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs or mussels and fries — but in these, protein (and a great heap of vegetables) get the spotlight: chicken gyro salad, street cart chicken (one of my favorites in Smitten Kitchen Every Day), piri piri chicken, and many steak salads. As should be clear, these aren’t bread- or carb-free, but they’re set up in an assemble-your-own style that allows the carb-rejecting to eat as they wish, and the carb-demanding (or not) children to get into the meal too. Everybody wins.

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