Recipes

pasta salad with roasted carrots and sunflower seed dressing

Almost every year, I attempt to set off the summer with a pasta salad that aspires to be everything the underseasoned, swmming-in-mayo pasta salads many of us grew up dreading were not. That is, unsoggy pasta that still has a bite to it, dressings with crunch and acidity, and vegetables that are there for substance, not just flecks of color. But this is the first year I did it by public polling, and by public I mean, my husband keeps reminding me how much he likes roasted carrots, Sara, who helps out behind the scenes here, reminded me how much she likes the roasted carrots at the Dig Inn chain, and many of you have told me over the years about nut allergies and nut-free schools and workplaces, which means it’s high time to give sunflower seeds their time in the spotlight. (Besides, I’d choose sunflower seed butter over almond or cashew butter any day, wouldn’t you?)

sad from the store but taste fine
ready to roast

Look, I don’t know anything about dating or making fashion choices by algorithm, but I think the results of this new-recipe-by-polling were exceptional. Carrots are out at the markets right now, but have also come a long way at the grocery store, where I bought these rainbow pretties, although monochrome carrots work too. While they’re in the oven for a quick, high-heat blast, you grind sunflowers (but not all the way, no powder here) with garlic, parmesan (if you wish), lemon zest, and some carrot greens, and if yours came without, a few kale leaves. The green is important here (and I should have used more) because the natural color of sunflower seeds is a bit gray/beige, not exactly the summery brightness one hopes “sunflower” would impart. You then stir in olive oil, lemon juice, more salt, and pepper, more than you think you’ll need because carrots are sweet, pasta is neutral, and you’re going to want the seasoning to stretch across all of it.

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Recipes

ruffled milk pie

I first learned about ruffled milk pie from Vefa’s Kictchen, a substantial Greek cooking volume that first came out in 2009. A type of galatopita (“pie made with milk,” aka a baked custard pie), this is more striking in appearance than most due to wound and rumpled sheets of pastry, which also provide texture and crunch. It’s so pretty and it sounded so simple — there are 7 ingredients and I bet we keep 6 of them around — it was absolutely, unequivocally something I could get into and want to tell you about immediately save one thing: it uses filo. And would rather do almost anything than work with filo. And I have! I’ve had two kids. I’ve written two cookbooks. I’ve moved apartments. I have planted gardens and taken up running and gone on vacations and okay, maybe I didn’t do all of these things just to avoid using filo in one single recipe, but I can tell you that when the top two items on my to-do list sifted out last week as 1. Purge too-small clothes from kids’ overstuffed dressers, and 2. Make ruffled milk pie, I at last found something I hated more than more than I dreaded working with filo. I am pleased to tell you that my kids clothes are still an unmitigated disaster but this pie is fantastic.

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Recipes

chilaquiles brunch casserole

I have never met an intersection of tortillas and salsa and cheese and eggs I did not love excessively, or at minimum, could leave a restaurant where it was on the menu without ordering. Things were relatively controlled between the earliest iteration of huevos rancheros on this site, to a still-favorite, almost shakshuka-ish baked eggs in ranchero sauce with beans, a cheesy broiled lid, and strips of fried tortilla chips in my first cookbook. But it was during a brief trip to Mexico City two years ago that my obsession really went off the rails as I realized I’d need a month to get through all the glorious ways to eat eggs/salsa/tortillas, see also: huevos revueltos al gusto, rancheros mexicanos, divorciados, motuleƱos, al albaƱil, and ahogados, not to mention chilaquiles.

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Recipes

triple coconut cream pie

I would like to tell you that I made coconut cream pie because after 12 years of requests for it, I submerged my doubts over whether it was my “thing” and finally saw the light. Or that apparently this specific coconut cream pie created by Tom Douglas at Dahlia Bakery in Seattle is so well-known and loved, a previous president would ask for it by name. Or that I made it because I was delighted by the history of coconut in America outlined by Stella Parks in her Bravetart cookbook (which we are already way into), where she explains that the earliest packaged coconut you could get in the US, after the Civil War, was dry and chewy, and not very appealing unless you soaked it in something. That thing became cream for custard, because we have very good tastes. Or that in one of those food holidays I’m a bit dubious of but not above mentioning should the stars/cravings align, apparently May 8th is National Coconut Cream Pie Day, and we might as well begin preparing today.

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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?

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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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