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Friday, April 10, 2015

gong bao chicken with peanuts

Gong Bao chicken - plated. Excellent and will become a regular staple here.

This gong bao chicken (also sometimes written as kung pao chicken) with peanuts is the second new thing I’ve cooked since Avi was born. The first was that amazing pot roast from Deb that I’ve been making entirely in the slow-cooker. There’s also been some light cooking happening, mostly of old favorites and quick weeknight meals that can be made in advance and reheated, or meals that come together in a flash. And I’ve gone so far as to make Marcella Hazan’s bolognese while Andrew’s mom helped to watch Avi. But what I’ve stayed away from was opening cookbooks and learning something new. It was as if my brain was incapable of processing new information. In a way it was — I wanted to write today about postpartum anxiety, which I was diagnosed with a few weeks ago — but I’ll save that for another day, for another post. I’m doing better, I think, than a few weeks ago, but it’s something I definitely want to talk about here in hopes that it might help another new mom or make us all more informed collectively. This parenthood thing is not for the faint of heart.

In a little over a week and a half, on April 21, I go back to work, and I can’t wait. It’s strange to realize that I love my work so much, I have been missing it over the last ten weeks. I also miss the routine and control over my schedule. I’m excited and nervous about striking a balance that works for me; but I’m also a little sad to leave Avi — right as he’s getting more interesting and fun – I have to leave him. I’ve been thinking a lot about the US maternity leave (and how much it is lacking compared to other developed countries), and there’s not much I can add that hasn’t been said before by people far more eloquent than me. It’s a funny conundrum: While I’m ready for more structure, I wish, at the same time, there was more time to see how Avi develops and changes. He’s currently into being sung and read to, likes having a conversation while getting his diaper changed, seems to love both Dvorak and Dr. Dre, and gets really mad when you take the bottle out of his mouth mid-feeding. And I mean, furious! Overall, he is smiley and wiggly, and is turning into such a fun little guy. Also, that hair!

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

mario batali’s eggplant caponata + some news!


Folks, I have much to tell you, and I had hoped that August would be off to a slow start, but I was wrong. It’s been pretty busy and a few things here and there needed to be done for one of the books, so that’s kept me occupied. We had family visiting over the weekend, and by far, my personal highlight was going through The Food of Spain with my two-year old niece who was riveted. She fell completely and unabashedly in love with Angelita Carcia de Paredes Barreda (an 84-year old Franciscan nun) on page 214 and for twenty minutes straight we played the game of “Where’s the old lady?” She was also really taken by the fried goat cheese, but then again, who wouldn’t be? Fried goat cheese is stuff of the gods, right?

I don’t know why, and there’s no segue or connection to my news or to eggplant caponata I wanted to tell you about, but I’ve been thinking – a lot – about a really good high school friend of mine. When I say really good, she might have been one of the biggest influences in my life. She was fiercely smart – smarter than anyone I’ve ever met – and well educated. She spoke, and picked up, languages with great ease: Russian, Arabic, Farsi. She taught herself ancient Greek; she was fluent in Latin. She introduced me to authors and food; music and theatre – and she had a razor sharp wit. I always, always, looked up to her. She pulled me through some hairy situations and it was wonderful and lovely to spend our post high-school and college years in New York. She took me to a hole in the wall restaurant that served outstanding pasta alla carbonara, she extolled the virtues of cacio e pepe; and I still fondly recall our incredible meals at the now-shuttered, excellent, Cookies and Couscous that served, well, you get the idea. She was incredibly hard to get to know, but through our many years of friendship, there were moments when she’d open up. She was like a sister to me.

And then one day she stopped answering her phone. And then the number became disconnected.

Continue reading mario batali’s eggplant caponata + some news!.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

abc kitchen’s carrot avocado salad


I was lucky to do a trail at ABC Kitchen about a year ago. It was made through a connection of a friend who kindly arranged for me to come in for a day. Normally, ABC Kitchen only lets culinary school graduates in their kitchen, but they made a special exception for me, or so I was told. Years ago, the drama department at Carnegie Mellon bent the rules for me as well, letting me take some classes in their closed-to-non-majors program. I’d like to say I have amazing powers of persuasion but that would be wishful thinking; I think I just got lucky. In any case, I got to take classes with this guy among other talented folks, and I’m tickled pink that he’s doing so well. Go Josh!

I had hoped, before my trail, that I was going to impress the ABC Kitchen folks so much with my work ethic and dedication that they’d let me come in for a stage, if only for a few weeks. I wore my kitchen clogs, got my knives sharpened, and even brought tweezers (for plating) in my knife bag. I fancied myself very prepared.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

mushroom bourguignon

mushroom bourguignon

Friends, I’ve been meaning to publish this recipe since Monday, but it has been a seriously busy week. That book I was working on for most of the last year is finally coming back to me, warts edits and all, come Monday. I’m bracing myself: With regular work, the private chef gig, and these edits, I might go into a cave and just work until the edits need to be submitted.

Here is another recipe I made for the client last week: mushroom bourguignon. I adapted it from Deb as it was a perfect “meaty” recipe to satisfy a non-meat eater. My client’s husband eats fish, but we agreed that I will cook a mix of meat and non meat to make sure that my client gets enough different proteins. The husband just agreed to eat all the dinner components that work for him and off we went. But seeing as at home we eat very little meat to begin with, it didn’t feel like a stretch to create many vegetarian meals that had all the heft and flavor of animal protein.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

duck fat potatoes with mushrooms

duck fat potatoes with mushrooms

This here makes a perfectly respectable lunch despite what you might think. You can try and reason as to why you shouldn’t have potatoes bathed in duck fat, but all of your thinking will fall short of one germane truth against which you will have no argument: they are delicious. These are humble ingredients, potatoes, mushrooms. The whole thing will run you about six dollars, excluding the duck fat. How’s that for economy eating?

You can purchase duck fat a nicer stores or your butcher, or if you cook duck, and you should, you should absolutely save the fat that renders out. Not doing so results in a great culinary tragedy. I actually like cooking duck precisely for the duck fat, because, to me, it’s the best part of the duck.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar

roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za'atar

I was forced to relinquish the map; I had no idea where we were and was getting visibly stressed out. This was our first real trip and I was trying to impress not only with my ability to pick out good restaurants but also that I had fine navigational skills, which by the way, normally are quite strong. And yet those skills were failing me at that very moment – big time.

We were somewhere near Notting Hill, desperate to find one of the Ottolenghi restaurants we’ve heard so much about. I thought I had a pretty good handle on the map, but managed to take a wrong turn and there we were, in a cozy residential part of London that was, distinctly, not where we wanted to be.

I started to stress-sweat through my shirt: I expected Andrew to get angry and sullen, and blame me for not doing enough research, but instead, he calmly took the map, looked at it for a minute, and started to walk in the opposite direction.

Continue reading roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar.