Friday, September 28, 2012

branzino with roasted grapes

You would think that working from home might mean that we dine on fancy, elaborate dinners, and that Andrew eats like royalty around here. I run an elaborate ruse: come weekdays, we’re all about quick meals around here. Roast chicken is for the weekend, and so is stuffed cabbage. Mondays through Fridays, it’s all about the manageable, or if I am feeling lazy – take-out.

Our regular weeknight rotation includes: shrimp and broccoli, deconstructed banh mi, merguez burgers, Thai beef salads, and lots and lots of pasta dishes.

But sometimes, instead of cooking a meal I can’t wait to write about, I fail. I burn dinner. I discover that chickpeas and kale stewing together in a slow-cooker, while sounding amazing in theory, look like the split pea soup they used as vomit in Poltergeist.

[I just wrote “vomit” on my blog. Excuse me for my brutal honesty.]

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Friday, September 21, 2012

apple butter with rum burnt sugar sauce and vanilla

apple butter with rum burnt sugar syrup and vanilla

This is not what I’d call a great picture of apple butter. Far from it. I hope you can forgive me – I’m a little pressed for time these days.

I’ve got about six whole meals to make and freeze this weekend. There’ll be veal ricotta meatballs (thank you, Marco Canora!), tamarind turkey meatballs (recipe soon!), a three-bean stew, some chili, chana masala, tomato sauce with onion and butter, and slow-cooked chicken soup. All will be made and frozen for early to mid-October.

Why October? Well, on October 2, I’m getting surgery on my wrist to remove a benign (but extremely painful) ganglion cyst, and won’t be able to cook for a couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to type one-handed too. Who knows, maybe while wearing a cast, I’ll learn a few one-handed dishes while in the kitchen. If that happens, you’ll be the first ones to know about them—it’s a useful thing to know how to do. I refuse to surrender to the lure (and ease) of take-out as our only dinner option—I want to see if it can be easily done, and if so, maybe it’ll be helpful to someone reading this blog who might be anticipating surgery or a period of time when they won’t be able to cook. And, truthfully, after a hot, sticky summer when I lived on salads and smoothies, I’m itching to put my slow-cooker back to work. So while it would probably work in my favor to offer you more enticing pictures, I’m winging it this time.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

tomato sauce with onion and butter + tomato sauce techniques

tomato sauce with butter and onion

I think that many things have been said about this tomato sauce that it feels almost redundant to jump in at this point. Enough praises have been sung*.

But as I was thinking about this sauce and why it’s so great, and why it’s just so great to make your own tomato sauce for dinner rather than reach for a jar of it, it got me thinking about the technique of making a proper tomato sauce. The tomato sauce is a simple, humble thing, and yet it too has a few rules that need to be followed in order to wind up with a sauce that will take your breath away each and every time. The most important one is to cook your tomato sauce uncovered.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

chocolate chunk and sea salt challah

chocolate chunk and sea salt challah

Believe it or not, but making challah with chocolate and sea salt had been on my mind for awhile now. Years ago, while on a walk getting lost in the city, which was still new to me, I got caught in the mother of all storms. Or so it seemed, because typical to my habits, I never check the weather when I head out for a day-long excursions. It’s a good thing I married a guy with several radar apps on his iPhone, otherwise, I might have gotten blown away by now.

Anyway, seemingly out of nowhere, the skies opened up and dumped what seemed like buckets and buckets of rain on New York. I couldn’t even see individual drops or streams. It was a wall of water coming down with the mightiest of forces. I ducked into the first café I could find to pass the time. Once seated, I quickly scanned the menu and ordered a chocolate brioche bread pudding. I expected a chocolate brioche made into bread pudding, but instead what arrived was regular brioche with generous chunks of chocolate tucked between the bread slices. Even better, I thought. But that wasn’t all. On top of the bread pudding, there was a slight shimmer – a delicate sprinkling of flaky sea salt.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

how to prepare fresh tomatoes for tomato sauce

how to prep your tomatoes for a sauce

I don’t know whether to rejoice that it’s September or to cry. On the one hand, it’s my favorite month. I don’t know what to get excited about the most: Apples! Sweaters! Bourbon! Things generously scented with cinnamon!

On the other hand, I’m frenetic as I try to get to the greenmarket every few days so that I can preserve whatever produce there’s left to savor. I carry my weight in plums and other remaining stone fruit, and try to eat it all before it goes bad. A few peaches may or may not have been unceremoniously tossed out – but let’s not blame anyone. But what concerns me now more than anything is tomatoes.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

pflaumenkuchen – yeasted plum cake

Plaufmenkuchen – Yeasted Plum Cake

Dispatch from a photoshoot: I’m sitting at the Marc Forgione Restaurant right now, while the book photo shoot is under way. It’s kind of an amazing feeling to see something you’ve worked on for over eight months to be coming together so clearly, so resolutely. The cooks are in the kitchen cooking and plating; the restaurant is buzzing with activity; there’s a photographer, an assistant, a stylist, an editor, just to name a few. And all I think to myself – wow, we’re making a book! We’re making a book! It’s been the hardest and best nine months – like having a baby, it feels, but without any breaks whatsoever.

I’m supposed to be editing, but I’m sneaking in a writing break. In my bag, along with my laptop, book materials and notebook, is Luisa’s wonderful book, My Berlin Kitchen* and a slice of her yeasted plum cake, pflaumenkuchen. I read her book in two days (read: you want this book!) while out on the Cape in Wellfleet a few weeks ago. I look back to that week as a singular bright spot after the wedding. My first vacation since January when the book got its start, and I lifted nary a finger. My computer, usually a workhorse and a mainstay on every single trip we’ve taken, got no use; and instead I read, slept, cooked, and ate. The moment I hit “send” on the computer and sent the manuscript onto the editor, my brain shut down. It was time for some Wellfleets and some beer.

Continue reading pflaumenkuchen – yeasted plum cake.