Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
My KEEPERS co-author and I are thrilled to be included in the June/July issue of Fine Cooking magazine! We contributed 10 recipes for using spring peas, all simple and fast enough for preparing on a weeknight, and none use more than 10 ingredients each. It was a fun challenge, but if there’s a vegetable more versatile than a pea (fantastic fresh but also wonderful frozen), then I don’t know what it is. Dishes include: creamy linguine with peas, ham, and sage; a baked pea and artichoke dip, pea and ricotta toast, pea-mint-sunflower seed pesto, and a spicy lemongrass pea side dish (I also love that FC gives you a wine-pairing for every dish).
It’s also just a gorgeous magazine, have you read it? If not, then really highly recommend you grab a copy (and not just because I’m in it). The design is clean and engaging, the photos gorgeous, and the recipes are doable but still clever. There’s a pastrami-kimchi reuben that needs to be in my regular rotation immediately, plus I love the spread “Anatomy of a Lettuce Wrap”, a profile of chef April Bloomfield’s favorite food-stops in NYC, and a feature on one family’s BBQ Cuban-Style. All so good.
Run and get your copy now!
Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
So I’m going to admit something here, and it’s not like it’s any kind of big deal, but it might come as a surprise to those of you who assume food writers make positively everything from scratch…My family has acquired an addiction to frozen pizza, and we are not ashamed.
It started when I brought home a box of Amy’s organic frozen margherita pizza (and I want to emphasize here that this is NOT a product placement, I have never met Amy, nor has she ever sent me free pizza…at least not yet). I picked it up at the supermarket because I think I was going to be out of the house for a few nights and I thought it would be good to have something healthful and easy in the freezer that Tim (who, I may have mentioned before, does not boil water) could make for him and the kids. Normally they could just pick up a pie from our neighborhood place, but truth be told, our local pizza is no great shakes, and I was intrigued by the organic-healthfulness of the Amy’s pizza. I think my internal dialogue went something like this:
“This pizza doesn’t look half bad.”
“It’s kind of pricey for such a small pizza, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, but the ingredients are all recognizable and pronouncable!”
“But I could just go home, make some dough, defrost that sauce I made that’s in the freezer, get the good mozzarella…”
“Stop being such a snob! Not everything has to be D.I.Y. Can’t you try and embrace the frozen food aisle for once? You can always go back to making your own dough when you have the time.”
So I bought the pizza, brought it home, and our household has not been the same since. Tim and the kids flipped for the thing. Delightful! So tasty! Best ever! They asked if I could stock the freezer with more, MORE!
I have to admit, on our “crazy” night—which is the night where play rehearsal-lacrosse practice-swim clinic-ballet-visit to the orthodontist—all seem to collide, this pizza has become a savior. There’s just something kind of delightful about these little frozen pizzas, they really do taste good. Plus, I have taken to doctoring them so that they feel even more like a meal. Typically I will top one of the pizzas with any and all of the following:
Fresh goat cheese
Slices of prosciutto.
A handful of arugula tossed in vinaigrette.
Dollops of pesto.
Steamed broccoli rabe.
A drizzle of good balsamic vinegar.
Perhaps it’s the additional ingredients, that personal touch, which allows me to finally embrace the frozen pizza as a worthy weeknight meal-from scratch alternative. Also, there’s the ease: They’re cooked in like 10 minutes (not including pre-heating the oven), and are a nice vehicle for finishing off whatever leftovers or odds-and-ends are in the fridge. It even allows us extra time to bond and relax with one another because I’m not racing home to start a meal or cooking when I could be helping with homework or the million other things that need to be done. We’ve also added one other formally-a-no-no-perk: The kids set the table in front of the tv so we can eat our pizza in front of Dancing With the Stars (yes, another one of my family’s guilty pleasures). This new routine has become something we all look forward to, and I may argue, has become as much of a quality bonding activity as assembling around the dinner table to eat chicken and dissect our day. Don’t get me wrong. Eating a homemade meal is also something we do on most weeknights and it’s very worthwhile. But if it wasn’t for frozen pizza and DWTS, we wouldn’t have known that Conor can do a truly hilarious imitation of Patti Labelle dancing the cha-cha.
So here’s to you, frozen pizza, and you, Amy, whoever you are…you’ve reminded me that a quality shared meal can come in many forms, and that it’s OK to shake-off the pressure that I (and I think many) parents feel to make each and every single meal totally from scratch. I love that labor of love, I really do, but I also love watching C-list celebrities dressed in sequins attempt the fox trot. I really do.
Thursday, April 16th, 2015
You know it’s spring when asparagus shows up at your supermarket. It’s always a happy surprise, “oh, that’s right, you again!”, one that makes me feel like we’ve finally rounded the corner into a new and hopeful season. As soon as I spied the spears in the produce aisle I decided to go all in and put several bunches in the cart, which meant I had to do something with all of that asparagus when I got home. I used the first bunch in a lemony risotto—one of my all-time favorite dishes—with lemon zest, lots of grated pecorino and freshly ground pepper. Perfect. The next couple of bunches got the KEEPERS technique of pan-roasting at high heat in a slick of oil until they breakdown and get ever so slightly charred (it sounds scary but it produces the most delicious asparagus). And for the last bunch I decided to keep it very simple…
I steamed the spears in a large skillet (adding enough water to go barely half way up the spears if they’re lying on their sides) until bright green and just soft enough to pierce with a steak knife but not too soft. I then cut the cooked spears into bite-size pieces and tossed with lemon juice, good olive oil, pepper, and flaky salt (at this point you can put the asparagus in the fridge and chill to eat as a cold salad whenever you’re ready, or you can toss it with some warm pasta). Then I cooked a 7-minute egg (boiled until the yolks are just set, a bit runny in the middle) to put on top of my asparagus salad. I also could have added a nice slice of prosciutto, a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar, a flurry of chopped herbs, some stale bread cubed then toasted in a skillet with olive oil and garlic…but for once, I laid off the extraneous toppings and ate the salad as simple as possible. Happy Spring!!
Monday, April 6th, 2015
After this holiday weekend, there’s a good chance that you’re now in the possession of a few dozen hard-boiled, pastel-colored eggs. This of course does not include the eggs that got cracked, stepped on, or dropped during your family’s hunt (I won’t even count the eggs that have not yet been discovered, perhaps hidden behind a sofa cushion or under a bush in the backyard where it will make a tasty treat for your neighborhood raccoon family). For the remaining eggs that have survived your rabid children and local wildlife, you could of course whip up an egg salad for a week’s worth of sandwiches…or…why not whip up some herby green deviled eggs? Deviled eggs for dinner tonight? Sure, why not! As long as you didn’t boil your eggs into oblivion (no judgement if you did), you’re already halfway there to a delicious evening treat.
For this springtime version I make my deviled eggs verdant NOT by adding food dye, but by combining the cooked yolks with lots of herbs. The kind you choose to use is up to you, but my favorite combination includes any and all of the following: tarragon, dill, parsley, and cilantro. You could also just grab whatever herbs are still in the crisper, leftover from this weekend’s Easter dinner. So what to do:
*Gently crack your cooked eggs with the back of a spoon, remove and discard the pretty shells, cut the eggs in half with a knife, and scoop out the yolks (I recommend using a small spoon) into a bowl. Put bowl with all of the yolks aside. Place the egg halves on a platter and put in the fridge until you’re ready for them.
*In a blender or food processor add: about 1 cup of mayo (this would be enough for a dozen eggs’ worth so adjust accordingly), 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, a splash of apple cider vinegar, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and a very large handful of your herbs of choice (optional is to also add a 1/4 tsp of anchovy paste). Combine in the machine until the dressing is a uniform green with some very small flecks of herb; taste for salt and pepper.
*Pour the dressing directly onto the yolks and use a fork to smash and combine them with the dressing.
*Remove the egg-white halves from the fridge and add the green yolk concoction to the middles (If you’re feeling rustic and rushed for time, then just scoop it in with a spoon; if you want it to look pretty, then scoop the green yolks into a Ziploc bag, seal tightly, cut just the tip off of one of the bottom corners of the baggie, and then use it like a pastry bag to pipe the filling directly into each egg.
*Serve your green deviled eggs for dinner with a little salad and leftover ham. If you have a bit more time, then I love this trick from Southern food writer Martha Foose of cooking the eggs (filling side down) in a skillet with a little olive oil to give it a bit of a crust.
Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Back when I lived in New York City, I used to make regular visits to a small Korean nail salon just a block away from our apartment in Yorkville. The place was called Jin Soon (there’s also a second location in the much posher nabe of Soho and she has since grown into a mini-nail polish mogul) and unlike most neighborhood nail places—soundtrack: Phantom of the Opera; decor: pastel—Jin Soon was like a Zen haven in the midst of the urban jungle. Quiet to be point of almost being somber, discreet, dimly lit, Asian-chic in every way. Added bonus, on almost every occasion I was there, I sat across from another regular customer—the heavily tattooed New York Knick Stephon Marbury. We both always ordered the same pedicure treatment called Milk & Honey, and then we would do the silent bro-nod, like “yes, Stephon, your NBA pedals and my far less valuable feet both deserve this”.
Although I sort of loathe the process of getting my nails done, in particular waiting for the varnish to dry (is there anything more tedious?), I loved going to Jin Soon, not only because I could pretend to be feet buddies with Stephon, or because it was one of the only calm places in the city where I could truly relax, but because they served the most amazing tea. I had never had anything like it and became completely addicted to it…it was tart and sweet, there were bits of lemon rind floating at the bottom of the cup, and it made the fact that I was spending many dollars to have paint brushed onto my finger nails seem totally worth it. I was always too shy to actually ask the ladies who worked there what the concoction was, but I did spy them scooping what looked like jam from a jar into my cup.
I finally figured out what the stuff was when I asked a Korean-American co-worker at Glamour magazine. She shared that it was Korean honey citron tea and said she’d track down a jar. Just as promised, she told her parents about her co-worker’s tea addiction, and the next time they came to visit, they brought her a jar from their local Korean market. The stuff was heaven. Just one big spoonful added to a cup of simmering water and you have the most intoxicating (non-alcoholic) beverage.I’ve since located citron honey tea at my local Asian supermarket, H Mart (HERE is a link to purchase it from their site) and so I always have a jar handy, especially in the winter when it’s so good for fighting a head cold or general winter malaise. Although I am now far away from Jin Soon and Stephon, whenever I have a cup it takes me back to that quiet little haven.