Recipes

falafel

Until recently, if you’d asked me if I ever wanted to make falafel at home, I’d have said “sure, one day” but what I meant was “nah, why bother?” I was certain that falafel was fussy to make and had a long ingredient list. It probably related in some way to a fritter, meaning that it was bound with eggs and flour, and probably had breading on it too, all pesky steps and this is even before you get to the peskiest of all: deep-frying them. I figured that it’s one of these things that there as many recipes for as there are people who make it, thus whatever I came up with would be wrong by default – too firm or too soft, with chickpeas instead of favas or vice-versa — no matter what. But this isn’t the whole truth. The fact is that below 14th Street, there are two locations each of Taim and Mamoun’s every time I even distantly considered whether I needed a homemade falafel recipe in my life, I knew I could get a perfectly executed sandwich in my hands before I even wrote out a grocery list.

soaked chickpeas and everything else
onion, garlic, herbs, spices, salt
the right texture

Hey, I’m not proud of this. I pride myself on being a curious person in the realm of cooking so it’s pretty pathetic that I had falafel all worked up in my head as this highly complex thing and never once, you know, read a few recipes. Had I, I’d have learned many extremely cool things about falafel such as the fact that while you do need to start with dried chickpeas (come back!), you don’t even have to cook them, or not in the classic long-simmered way, to make it. You soak them overnight in cold water, grind them up with seasonings and herbs, pack them into spoonfuls, fry them in less than an inch of oil in merely a few minutes, and that is it. There’s no egg. There’s no breading. It’s vegan, it’s gluten-free, it’s dirt cheap, and it’s easy, I mean criminally easy, to make. And I had to do it immediately.

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Recipes

chocolate caramel tart

Shortly after my husband and I began dating — the dark ages; no seriously, his phone at the time looked like this and I was like whoa, look how fancy you are, dude — we went on a road trip somewhere, stopped at a gas station, and I told him to grab something candy-ish, surprise me. This boy came back to the car with a pack of Rolos, and honestly, it’s amazing we didn’t break up right then and there because Rolos are terrible candy and it’s about time someone said it. [Oh I can hear the reverberations of a thousand unfollows but I will absolutely die on this hill, and remain undeterred.] They’re gooey so they give off the appearance, the suggestion, of being good candy but the goo tastes like nothing. I feel this way about all caramel that appears inside candy bars, which tastes me more like thickened corn syrup than anything toasty and nuanced. Plus, they’re inside a milk chocolate shell, so it’s sweet against sweet, no contrast whatsoever, and so help you if you don’t eat them in a single bite, I hope you enjoy having sticky hands for the rest of the drive. I know, I know what you’re thinking: it’s an absolute mystery how I ended up with such a picky child.

In my unsolicited opinion, three things could improve Rolos: a real toasty, buttery caramel, the contrast of dark chocolate, and a bit of salt. As good caramel is gooey, we’re not going to fight it, but that’s what plates and forks are for.

dry ingredients for shellblend up the crustchocolate tart crustpressed in and trimmedfoil tightly, no weightsmelt the sugar and cook until amberadd butter, then creamblurry poured caramelcooled caramel layerchopped chocolate or chipschocolate and creamspread the ganache

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Recipes

roberta’s roasted garlic caesar salad

I realize that the internet needs another recipe for caesar salad as much as it probably needs another new spin on chocolate chip cookies (guilty as charged, of course). Thus, it was nowhere on my agenda to suggest one. Plus, I’ve told you before that the only caesar dressing I need in my life is my hopelessly, unapologetically inauthentic one — no raw yolks, no tinned fish, and keeps in the fridge for a month, easily — which I’ve shared in some form over here and in Smitten Kitchen Every Day (in a salad with broken eggs and crushed croutons that you need in your life, trust me).

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Recipes

sunken black forest cake

My kids will be at least 25% candy for the rest of the week, as the season demands. If it doesn’t come individually wrapped, if the first, second, or third ingredient isn’t chocolate, a food dye, or high fructose corn syrup, if it doesn’t have a marketing tie-in with Spongebob or Legos, they’re not eating it. Which means, since they’ve now definitely left the room, we get this cake all for us. You’re welcome, because we’re not going to share it anyway.

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Recipes

candy pork

What’s in a cooking repertoire? Is it basics, like how to make rice and a go-to method for roasting chicken? Is it your family’s classics, like a plum cake or the roast a cousin makes on Christmas Eve? Is it a collection of durable, flexible recipes that might be the last you ever need? I’ve been thinking about this since getting Jessica Battiliana’s first cookbook, Repertoire, this spring. I loved the concept immediately: the recipes she relies on most — not demanding but rewarding; not fancy, but special. There are recipes for parmesan chicken cutlets, meatballs, and a simplified eggplant parmesan; chicken tortilla soup, pretzel rolls, and corn fritters. There’s a recipe for the thing that most quickly went into my repertoire — a negroni (although I made it boulevardier-style) and potato chips (spoiler: they’re from a bag) — and birthday cakes too. But it was this candy pork that I couldn’t forget about, and I’m so glad I chose it, well, second.

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Recipes

even more perfect apple pie

I did not intend to go on an apple pie making bender. I merely did what we always do in October: go apple picking, balk at the price of a bag, insist upon filling it way past the brim (because: economics) and then we ate some apples on the way home home and the bag was still overflowing. So I made an apple pie with 4.25 pounds of apples in it and the bag looked exactly as full as it had been at the orchard. Might they still be growing in there? It’s the only explanation.

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Recipes

crispy spinach pizza

I went through a phase this summer where I couldn’t stop making crispy spinach pizza, but I had no plans to tell you about for a couple reasons, the first of which is it’s absolutely hideous. It looks like someone melted Oscar the Grouch onto a pizza dough and little I did improved this, not making it round, nor rectangular, in good light nor light so dim that maybe you wouldn’t notice it at all.

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Recipes

breakfast burritos

The first time I made breakfast burritos the way I like them — that is, the eggs softly scrambled and never dry, busy with vegetables, and nothing terrifying like hot, wet lettuce inside, second only to eating them in front seat of your car in an Austin parking lot on a chilly morning, a Topo Chico in the cup holder (i.e. maybe not exactly the way I like them, but real life requires compromises, or so you adults keep telling me) — I felt woundingly betrayed. It seemed like every cooking website on the internet made them seem so simple, but there I was with separate skillet-fuls of bacon and greens and mixed vegetables and eggs, and then more bowls than I could count for assembly. We were going to have them for an “easy” breakfast-for-dinner that night; dinner was spectacularly late and everyone was hangry and ate my 90 minutes of prep in less than 5, further insult to injury. Never again, I vowed, never.

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