Recipes

a really great pot of chickpeas

A side-effect of doing this cooking thing for 10+ years is that people seem to imagine I’m so sort of domestic diva, eating only homemade bread and milling my own grains and not just someone with an obsessive streak when it comes to making things exactly the way she wants them. Even though I’d love to live in some alternate universe where I’d always have time and energy to make my own, I’m unbothered by frozen breaded chicken things (erm, occasionally), tortellini, boxed stocks, and canned beans; the freezer almost always contains the first two (lunchbox heroes!) and the cabinets, the latter, which is why when friend told me a couple weeks ago kind of sotto voce, almost like a confession, the other day that she’d never cooked her own dried beans, I couldn’t even rouse myself to gasp in faux horreur.

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Recipes

pistachio cake

Now that I’ve gotten a few bigger projects out of the way — hooray! And more soon on all of that, eee — I have a little more time again to do the things I like: read books with pages, fuss endlessly over our charges, get excited about summer events (I might make another wedding cake!), this year’s container gardening attempts, what color lipstick Refinery29 says was all the rage at Coachella this year (if I’m being completely honest) and more relevantly, cooking. Brainstorming earlier this week, Sara, who helps (I mean, she tries, she has only so many superpowers) keep me organized, said she’d had a really good pistachio cake at a coffee shop recently and I immediately wanted to try my hand at my own.

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Recipes

granola bark

In a departure from pretty much all of our norms, we went to Las Vegas this past weekend to celebrate a friend’s big birthday because… why not? Possibly needless to say, my opportunities these days to take long plane rides with no kids, lounge by pools long enough to finish books, uninterrupted even, and spend exactly zero minutes searching for or scrubbing sippy cup parts are scarce and when graced with a chance to do all of the above at once, it took half a second to book our tickets. Also needless to say, I could now use more sleep, less gin, and to reintroduce my system to fresh fruits and vegetables. This probably means we did it correctly.

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Recipes

almond horn cookies

The only thing my mother ever asked me to bring home from the bakery where I worked in high school where almond horn cookies, or Mandelh√∂rnchen, probably no surprise as we are a family of established marzipan fiends, most especially when dark chocolate is also involved. Chewy at the center with crunchy edges, the best ones are dipped in chocolate and while I have yet to see them also with rainbow sprinkles, I say there’s no time like the present to make this a Thing.

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Recipes

mushroom tartines

Would this be a good place to admit that I only moderately enjoy sandwiches? I know, what kind of monster says such things! But, wait, come back. What I mean is, it’s the proportions: too much bread, too little filling. The obvious solution would be Dagwoods or sandwiches from one of those Jewish delis that are taller than your glass of Cel-Ray, but what if you didn’t want to have to unhinge your jaw just to take a bite?

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Recipes

cornbread waffles

American breakfasts are predominantly sweet: yogurts with fruit sauces and overnight oats with more fruit sauces and lattes with caramel syrup and whipped cream and our secret household love, that flaky cereal with the dried strawberries, but most especially the baked goods, muffins and quickbreads and cinnamon buns. I love them all but more Saturdays than not, I wake up craving something savory I can plop a wobbly egg on top of and it’s for this reason that knew the second I saw cornbread waffles in Joy Wilson’s, aka Joy The Baker’s, new brunch cookbook that they’d be the first thing I was going to make.

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Recipes

peanut butter swirled brownies

I realize that you might have been expecting something green, rainbow-ed or four-leaf clover-ed or filled with beer, cabbage and potatoes today. But sometimes life presents bigger exigencies, needs that must be addressed tout de suite, wrongs that cannot wait for the ideal slot on the calendar to be righted. What I mean is: I really wanted a chocolate and peanut butter brownie the other day and realized I’ve never, in 10-plus years of showing up here a couple times a week, made time for these. This is reprehensible.

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Recipes

easiest french fries

Last weekend, we had 13 friends over for moules-frites. This — plus a big green salad, some crusty baguettes and more white wine than seems conscionable — is my favorite dinner party menu. It makes the easiest, surprisingly budget-conscious meal and might, if you play your cards right, make you feel ever-so-slightly like you’re on vacation somewhere European and full of sailor-types. Okay, maybe that’s pushing things but let’s run with it. I forgot to add, however that it’s best for 6 people, 8 at most. As soon as the mussels exceed the volume of your largest pot or the fries surpass the one large tray that fits in your oven (plus you have a salad you really only want to toss at the last minute), basically everything needing to be cooked √† la minute, you’re going to have to hustle. I am constitutionally incapable of hustling; we ate dinner at 10.

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Recipes

punjabi-style black lentils

Because I have strange habits, I spent a lot of time one night last week watching videos on YouTube of grandmothers and other home cooks making dal makhani, a rich black lentil dish from the Punjab region. Unpolished home cooking videos are one of my favorite ways to learn how to make a dish that is foreign to me, and while what I’ve made here isn’t an authentic black lentil (urad) dal, it’s worth knowing why it is isn’t. For example, it would have a small portion of kidney beans (rajma) it in too, you’d definitely have soaked your lentils and beans together the night before and in almost every case, cooked them in a pressure cooker on another burner while making the spiced base sauce, and then together for a little or long while. The more authentic versions I looked at have a lot more butter and cream in them, and only sometimes began with an onion. In every case, the cook had a “ginger-garlic paste” that seemed to have come prepared, something I was previously unfamiliar with but find brilliant as they are so often better together, and of course all spices were added with eyeballed measurements.

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Recipes

butterscotch pie

I love two things most of all about chess pie — that sweet, buttery baked custard pie well-known across the South but whose reach can be tasted in everything from Canadian butter tarts to Brooklyn-ish Crack Pies — one, that it has none of the fussiness usually associated with custards and flans (separated egg yolks, tempering, straining and water baths); you could, and in fact should, make this with any little chefs in your life with ease.

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