“No, no, no. Don’t rinse. Look, you waste.” She reached for my hand, the one that had grabbed the can and she guided me to the running water in the sink. Together, we caught the sauce on the sides of the can with a tiny stream of water and she took the can from me and swirled it so the water spun up all the way to the top of the can’s wall and took everything back down with it. “Look at that,” she said and she showed me the pink bath inside. She dumped it into the pot without care or ceremony and handed me the second can. “You try.”
You would be amazed at how varied a simple tomato sauce can be. First of all, it has different names depending on when you’re from; sauce, gravy, marinara. (We’re firmly in the sauce camp although my mother does occasionally toss out “marinara” but with an s and an accent because my mother does what she wants.) You would think, if we all call it the same thing, we would all make it the same way. I think the stereotype is along the lines of “Gram made it this way and I learned how to make it this way and you’re going to learn how to make it this way too.” But that’s not the case. My aunts and my mother and I all have a variation of my grandmother’s sauce. They spun out into different directions from the same base and use different tomatoes, process them differently (food processor or food mill? Crushed with your hands? Wooden spoon?) but all of them have a thicker sauce than my grandmother’s original. My aunt told me her boys preferred it thicker when they were young and we did too, when we were little. I have a memory of complaining to my mother that my grandmother’s sauce was too thin, almost like water, because I was a child and also an idiot.
Crush the garlic, mince it, slice it or drop it in whole? Heat it in the oil first or put it in the cold sauce? Basil first or basil last? Salt yes but pepper? Sugar or no sugar?
My father loved my grandmother’s (his mother-in-law) sauce the most and so did my uncles (also my grandmother’s sons-in-law. She had four daughters. When she was in the hospital and very ill, she asked to see “her sons” and that memory still makes me cry). My only memory of grandma’s sauce was how thin it was so I asked my mother and my aunt how to make it- I wondered if she had spun some magic into it that I couldn’t recognize as a child.
My mother gets very heated when she talks about my grandmother- the volume and forcefulness of her voice intensifies immediately- not out of anger but out of love. (I learned that volume and intensity is very much a Southern Italy thing when we visited Calabria a few years ago, where my grandmother is from. I’m not yelling, I’m just talking to you.)
“Grandma used to slice the garlic in her hands. She didn’t use a cutting board, she took a knife and did it right over the pot. That’s how you have to do it.”
“Ma, I can’t tell people on a blog to slice garlic into their palms. It’s not exactly safe.”
“Well, that’s how she did it. And she didn’t use an electric stove! She never had an electric stove. You cannot make this sauce on an electric stove.” Note: I have an electric stove. My mother, to her endless chagrin, now has an electric stove in her new house in Connecticut. I can assure you that you can absolutely make this sauce on an electric stove, you just need to clean it afterwards to prevent any oil build up, but that’s the easy part, you can just check this guide on how to clean a stove top.
So here’s the deal. Grandma’s tomato sauce, like Marcella Hazan’s, is so ridiculously simple that you’re going to think we’re crazy and also wonder how something so simple and with so few ingredients can be good enough to make, let alone write about and tell people they should make it too. When I saw the instructions, I had my doubts too. For one thing, it only simmers for 30 minutes which sounded crazy to me (doesn’t it taste raw unless it cooks long enough? My mother cooks her sauce low and slow, for hours) but I did as I was told and it is delicious. It’s thin, yes, but that makes it ideal for delicate pasta, baked fish and even something like tortellini or gnocci where you have enough heft that the sauce could serve from some lightness. I thought maybe partly it was the punch of nostalgia that made me a little tearful, a little comforted as I ate it but Nicole’s family enjoyed it and I’m confident you will too.
Grandma’s Tomato Sauce
Serves: 4-6 | Ideal with: 1lb of thin spaghetti, tortellini or gnocci. Perfect with baked fish, as we made it here. (My grandfather would approve.) | Print Recipe
2 (28oz) cans of Tuttorosso Whole Tomatoes*
2 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced (use a cutting board)
2 TBsps olive oil
Basil, whole leaves
Baked cod or haddock filets, for serving
Note: we use a food mill for the tomatoes but a blender or food processor works fine too. Just strain through a mesh strainer to remove seeds and skins before adding to the pot.
1. Process your cans of whole tomatoes with a food mill over a bowl. Once the cans are empty, take the cans and fill them with water (about 1/4 of the can) and roll the water to catch the sauce on the sides of the can. Dump the water and remaining sauce into the bowl as well.
2. In a medium saucepan, drizzle your olive oil and warm pan over medium heat for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and sliced garlic and a handful of whole basil leaves. Bring to a boil and then simmer (it should be barely bubbling), partly covered, for 35 minutes. Season with salt to taste. The sauce should be very wispy and thin, almost broth-like.
3. Cook pasta according to instructions.
4. To make the baked fish: take a 1lb piece of fish like cod or haddock. On a baking sheet, lay parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay fish down, drizzle with more olive oil, salt and pepper and sliced lemons. Wrap parchment into a bundle and bake in a 325 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until fish is opaque and cooked through.
5. To serve: toss cooked, drained pasta with sauce and top with fish fillet.
*My aunt Catherine and my mother were very specific on the brand of tomatoes for this, because of the water content in the tomatoes. If you use a different brand of canned tomatoes, you may need to adjust the amount of water added to get the desired consistency. Also, the swishing of the water in the can to catch the sauce on the sides is a pretty fairly common tactic and my mother guesses that my grandmother picked it up from the Depression where nothing could be wasted, ever.
She found the first letter on the first day, the day they handed her the keys. She wandered around the big empty rooms and found the little envelope taped to the outside of a kitchen cabinet, the one closest to the sink. She pulled it down and slid the paper out of the envelope. The paper was a little too big for its holder and she had to all but wrench it out. She thought it would be instructions or a note about the kitchen. But the paper read just one line. I didn’t want to leave.
It haunted her, that first letter. She figured it was from the seller, a man she didn’t know and had never met. The movers called then and beckoned her outside to receive them. She tried to put the letter out of her mind.
She found the second letter tucked behind a door on the second floor. Same envelope. She opened it with some trepidation. The paper read just one line. I left. Disturbed, she crumpled the paper into her fist and, with no trash cans yet unpacked, stuffed it into her pocket to get rid of it later.
The third letter, attached to the basement railing. I can’t go on, it read. She wondered about him. She said a silent prayer.
The fourth and final letter was on a window in the bedroom that would be hers. Her hand was trembling by now. She pulled the paper from its temporary home and read the words aloud, on a single, relieved breath. I’ll go on.
I am 33 years old and in two months, I’ll be 34. I’m not a superstitious person but, maybe I am at heart, because I do believe 3 is something of a magical number. It’s present in all of my favorite (humor- the rule of threes) and least favorite things (tragedy- the rule of threes). Regardless of the number’s power, this has been a year for me. I’ve changed more in this year than I have in many, many years previously. A swirling, tight ball of change- that’s me, this year. This morning, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and just stared.
I’ve decided to share a few of the things I’ve learned this year, with you. Here’s the first one: so many people spend their whole, entire lives coloring firmly within the lines. It’s amazing that a simple word has so much power- should. It’s become my least favorite word, this year. Should is rife with judgement. It has such little bearing on you, or me. But it’s safe and so we stay safely cocooned within it walls, its lines.
Here’s to a dish that we made ourselves, inspired by one of the restaurant journeys and picked by me because it sounded simple, fresh and good, Overstand Breakfast & Coffee was voted Best Breakfast in Chiang Mai. Stacked, it’s perfectly beautiful. Once you start to pick at it, it falls apart, just slumps into a beautiful mess. (You can still eat it though, don’t worry. I’m starting to think that it’s the messiest things that taste the best.)
Heirloom Tomatoes with Lemon Ricotta and Arugula
Serves 4 | Print Recipe
6 Medium heirloom tomatoes
1 Cup of arugula
2/3 Cup of ricotta
1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1/4 Teaspoon of sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper
1. Slice the heirloom tomatoes in thick slices and set aside.
2. Dress the arugula with enough olive oil to lightly coat the leaves.
3. Mix ricotta, lemon juice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
4. To serve, layer ricotta and tomato slices on a plate and top with arugula. Serve with warm bread and extra salt and pepper if desired.
“This is really wonderful, Flo.”
Oh, please. No. It’s not. I can’t believe we’re eating it. “Thanks!”
“Yes. I love the chicken, Flo.”
Are you kidding? You’re kidding, right? The chicken is dry, the salad is too sharp, I used too much cheese in the pasta salad. I’m actually shocked you’re all eating it and haven’t stormed out of here. Was that an eye roll? Did Kay just roll her eyes? She’s an amazing cook, she knows everything on this table is oversalted and overcooked. The gig is up. “That’s so nice of you, thanks!”
“You’ll have to give me the recipe for all of this!”
You mean the recipe for the chicken, the recipe that’s so vague and poorly written that I spent thirty minutes trying to figure out what ‘vapor the chicken’ means and then threw off the whole schedule to get the rest of the dinner party menu on the table at the same time? All for a chicken that’s so dry and tasteless, I can use it to plaster the guest room? That recipe! “Sure! I’ll make you a copy!”
I just posted this on Instagram this morning, an excerpt from As Always, Julia which I’m rereading and loving just as much as the first time . It’s a collection of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto that span Julia’s writing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (it’s not for everyone- if you can read a three page letter about the quality of kitchen knives in the 1950s with delight, then you will love it. And also, hi, we should be friends.)
In this particular letter, Julia lets out a random little rant about how annoying it is to be a guest at a dinner party and have to be constantly reassuring the hostess that the food she cooked is actually good:
“I make it a rule, no matter what happens, never to say one word, though it kills me. Maybe the cat has fallen in the stew, or I have put the lettuce out the window and it has frozen, or the meat certified by the Australian Halal Authority & Advisers is not quite done… Grit one’s teeth and smile.”
It’s so hard to actually do this. I think about it a lot as I bite my tongue over something I’ve made. (Or am I crazy? Please tell me I’m not crazy.) Is it connected to our inability to take a compliment without being self-effacing (hi Amy) or are we just our harshest critics? Or do we have expectations that something we worked really hard on will be transcendent, and usually it’s just… a lot of hard work to make something that’s very, very good… and that’s absolutely good enough but maybe “very, very good” is not enough for the effort? I don’t know. But it’s hard.
And yet this salad… look how pretty this summery salad is! Wouldn’t you be so happy if someone put this down in front of your face and you did not have to make it or pay for it? And you got to eat it on a deck with your favorite friends or your sister or your new neighbors? What a gift food can be. What a gift Julia is, to be there in the morning, ranting beside my morning cup of coffee, reminding me not to be an idiot and focus on the best part of making food- that others get to eat. That you get to eat. That you made something, kid. And that’s definitely good enough for today, tonight and every day. Bon appetit indeed.
Tomato Peach Salad with Tofu Cream
Do Ahead: Tofu cream can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
8 Ounces of silken tofu
4 Tablespoons of Sherry vinegar, divided
4 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2 Tablespoons of soy sauce, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Medium heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch wedges
1 Pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Medium peaches, cut into 1⁄2-inch wedges
1⁄2 Small red onion, thinly sliced
1⁄2 Cup of fresh corn kernels (from 1 medium ear)
2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh tarragon
2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh chervil or basil, plus sprigs for serving
3 Slices of thick grilled or toasted country-style bread, cut lengthwise into wide strips
1. Make tofu cream: blend the tofu, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of oil, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce in a blender until light and smooth; season tofu cream with salt.
2. Make the dressing and the salad: whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, peaches, onion, corn, tarragon, and chopped chervil and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning if needed.
3. To plate: swipe tofu cream on a platter and arrange tomato salad over; top with herbs. Serve with crusty bread.
June was a brutal month. The calamities, mishaps and tragedies had been piling up for weeks until finally Millie pulled her old Camry up the street and parked it in front of her mother’s house. When the car idled and stopped, Millie actually let out a sigh of relief. It was the last day of June- already that month, she’d blown a tire and gotten into a fender bender in the office parking lot. She was fairly certain as she wound the car toward her mother’s house across town, that June would keep fighting her until its very last breath.
“It’s Mercury in retrograde,” her coworker Lisa had said flatly. The complaints around the office had spread like a brush fire and everyone around her marveled at the onslaught of bad news that seemed to come their way daily. Millie didn’t know anything about Mercury. But she was starting to get very familiar with sympathetic nodding.
She opened the car door and suddenly a boy on a bicycle flew past her, missing the door by inches. He yelled and called her a bad name as he sped away and Millie paused for a minute to catch her breath, still caught in the vision of what might’ve been. It took her a moment to collect herself and when she closed her eyes, she was hit with a scent in the air, one that sent her spinningly back to childhood. Browning beef, like the back of a Taco Bell. Millie smiled. That’s right, she thought, it was Tuesday. Taco Tuesday. To her mother, this was a very real thing, a weekly holiday. The dining table would be filled with colorful plates and bowls, dotted with peppers and onions and relish, dishes of sour cream and bright orange cheese. There would be a plate of those taco shells that stood up on their own.
Millie sat back in the front seat of her car, her door dangerously open, safe for a moment in the scent of her memories.
I have a few hard-and-fast taco rules. 1) Corn tortillas only. Toasted until warm, pliable. 2) 1 part creamy (avocado/cream) 1 part crunchy (radish/white onion) 1 part savory (fish/meat/hearty, seasoned veg) 1 part green (avocado again/lime/cilantro or all three) 3) 2 tacos for an austere, weeknight meal and 3 tacos for the weekend because #party. 4) Always make sure there’s cotija or feta on the table. 5) A side of tortilla chips and salsa counts as a side salad.
Nicole came up with this awesome recipe using roasted potatos and poblano peppers. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that it was all too easy for me to make this since I always have a bulk of the ingredients in my house. Which makes me wonder how many tacos I’m eating…
Our 4th of July Recipes
No Bake Happiness Pops | Holy Crap S’More Cookies | Vanilla Ice Cream Cake with Berry Sauce | Hamburger Cupcakes | Berry Cobbler | Blueberry Hand Pies | Sour Cherry Lemonade | Sweet Whiskey Lemonade | Caesar Wedge Salad with Bacon and Parmesan
Roasted Potato and Poblano Tacos with Chipotle Cream
Makes approx. 10 tacos | Print Recipe
1 Pound potatoes, such as fingerling, cut into 1/2” pieces
4-5 Poblano peppers
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
FOR THE CHIPOTLE SOUR CREAM:
1 Cup creme fraiche or sour cream
2 Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/3 Cup of chopped sweet onion
Salt to taste
8-10 corn tortillas
Cotija cheese crumbles
To make the peppers:
1. Preheat broiler or heat a gas grill to high. If broiling, put poblano peppers on a lined baking sheet and roast, turning a few times, until tender and charred all over, approx. 15 minutes.
2. Place peppers in a large ziplock bag and allow to steam for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, peel peppers, remove seeds and slice into 1/4 – 1/2” strips. Set aside.
To make potatoes:
3. Preheat oven to 425°. Line baking sheet with parchment.
4. Toss potatoes with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Scatter over baking sheet in an even layer and roast for 20-15 minutes, stirring a few times to toast evenly. Roast until lightly browned and tender through.
To make the chipotle sour cream:
5. Combine sour cream, chipotles, and onion in a food processor or blender. Blend until creamy and smooth. Salt to taste.
To assemble tacos:
6. Warm corn tortillas in a pan (I like to toast mine right on my burner, watching them carefully, because I’m a rebel) and top with chipotle sour cream, roasted peppers and potatoes, cotija cheese crumbles and fresh cilantro. Serve with lime wedge.
Marnie opened one eye and looked at the clock. 5:45am. She groaned and turned it off, 5 whole minutes before it was set to start ringing. Beside her, Ed stirred. She rolled over onto her back and into his shoulder, looked into the one eye he had open and said, “I don’t know if I can handle going into work today.”
He was on his stomach, his arms shoved under the pillow. He shifted closer so his bare shoulder leaned up against hers and closed his eyes. “This week sucked.”
“Don’t say ‘sucked’,” she said automatically.
She snorted. “Right. Sorry.” She let out a sigh that shook the bed. “I think I need a mulligan.” Ed opened his eyes. With a grunt, he rolled over and pulled a piece of paper from beneath the mattress. They looked at it together. “Tiger’s next,” he said, pointing to the list of their children’s names. Beside each name was a few dates. “I think she’s good- no tests or anything at school today, no projects due.”
“Great.” Marnie let out a pitched yawn.
“What are you guys going to do?”
“Let’s see. She’s been yapping about Asia since she did that history paper. We’ll get Thai food for lunch downtown. It’s a good day for fried rice.”
“It’s always a good day for fried rice.”
“And then we’ll walk around Chinatown. I haven’t been there in ages. And then, you know, whatever we feel like.” She let out another sigh, this one happier than the first. “I feel better all ready. Think you can you help me with the extraction?”
“Sure.” Ed tucked the paper back under the mattress and wrapped an arm around her, thinking. “I’ll tell the kids she’s got a dentist appointment before school. And I’ll volunteer to take her but whoops, I’ve got that meeting by the school and the dentist is across town. So maybe you should get her and I’ll run the lunatics to the school.”
“Perfect.” Marnie lifted a hand and he gave her a high-five. “Perfect day.”
So the heat. The heat is happening. The dog basically feels the way I do which is “can we just… stop moving… altogether?” He’s become so immobilized, my furry grandpa of a beast, that it feels like he’s moving underwater. And it’s not even that hot out yet- by July, we’ll both be walking around with ice packs tied to our heads.
I’m slooooowly transitioning to “summer food town.” My body, as I’m sure yours is too, is starting to crave really crisp, cool tasting things. This afternoon I ate a salad without complaint. I know that won’t last (like Leslie Knope, I just cannot feign interest in salad) so I’m stocking up on dishes that satisfy my summer requirements (crisp, clean, flavorful and spicy) and this fried rice is perfect. Nicole can’t stop eating it and neither will you.
Thai Pineapple Fried Rice
Source: Cookie and Kate | Makes: 2-4 Servings | Print Recipe
2 Tablespoons of coconut oil or quality vegetable oil, divided
2 Eggs, beaten with a dash of salt
1 and ½ Cups of chopped fresh pineapple
1 Large red bell pepper, diced
½ Bunch of green onions, green and white parts, thinly sliced
2 Cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
½ Cup of chopped raw, unsalted cashews
2 Cups of cooked and chilled brown rice, preferably long-grain brown jasmine rice
1 Tablespoon of reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 to 2 Teaspoons of chili garlic sauce or Sriracha
1 Small lime, halved
Season with salt, to taste
Handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, for garnishing
1. Heat a large cast-iron skillet or non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles on contact, add 1 teaspoon of oil. Pour in the eggs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs are scrambled and lightly set. Transfer the eggs to an empty bowl. Wipe out the pan of excess oil.
2. Add one tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the pineapple and red pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has evaporated and the pineapple is caramelized on the edges, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then add the green onion and garlic. Cook, while stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds or longer. Transfer the contents of the pan to your bowl of eggs.
3. Add the remaining two teaspoons of oil to the pan. Pour in the cashew and cook, stirring constantly, until the cashews smell fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice to the pan and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is hot, about 3 minutes.
4. Pour the contents of the bowl back into the pan and stir to combine. Once the contents are warmed through, remove the pan from heat.
5. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce and sriracha, to taste. Squeeze the juice of ½ of a lime over the dish and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt. Garnish with a sprinkling of torn cilantro leaves, with Sriracha on the side.
Note: Cookie and Kate has fantastic notes on how to make this vegan and gluten free! She’s become one of my go-to sources since I’ve started cutting back on gluten and dairy for stomach reasons. Check it out.
When the alarm kicked off, Sandra didn’t hesitate- she could feel the tired still ripping through her in waves. It was an exhaustion she could not ignore. She checked her phone to see if any morning meetings had popped up overnight (aka the worst, aka this better be important, aka are-you-aca-kidding-me-with-this shit) and they hadn’t. She promptly patted George the dog on his big, dopey head, climbed back into bed and was asleep in minutes.
She walked into work humming under her breath. It had been a glorious morning. She’d taken George to the beach, an impromptu treat and he’d sorely needed the run. After, she’d done yoga, drank a giant cup of coffee and read a magazine. She’d taken a few minutes in the parking lot at the office and just stared at the light coming through the trees. She was an hour and a half late to work. When Sandra walked in calmly with her lunch in her hands for later, Carly the receptionist stared.
As soon as she made it to her cube, he was on her, in an instant. Tyler, the little tyrant, who had been promoted far too many times at the age of 27 because he’d chosen to abandon his condo and move into their boss’s butthole. His head barely edged over her cubicle wall, the dark hair slicked back. He must’ve just watched Boiler Room again. Sandra took her time removing her coat and took off her sunglasses last, ignoring the way he tapped her wall impatiently. She put her things in order and finally smiled warmly at Tyler. “Good morning. Oh.” She picked up her delicious salad and tapped the edge of the container. “Better put this in the fridge.”
“You’re late,” he hissed in a huff as she walked past him toward the kitchen. He was on her heels like her neighbor’s yipping shih-tzu. “Over an hour late. I had a question about your report from yesterday and you weren’t there.”
Sandra pursed her lips thoughtfully. “The report that I gave you yesterday? The one you suddenly told me about on Monday that was due on Friday, today, even though it was easily two weeks worth of work and I had four days to get it done? The report that required me to stayed late at the office, until nine or ten, all week to finish? That report?” She turned on her heel (they were new and tall, she towered over him now and she loved them. She considered bronzing them for her wall) and raised an eyebrow.
Tyler’s eyes darted around. People were watching. Ben was practically on the edge of his chair, she was surprised he didn’t have popcorn in his hands for the show. Tyler cleared his throat. “Yes,” he said, his smirk still up and defiant. “That report.”
Sandra smiled. “Well, I’m here now. And I was an hour and a half late into work because I decided to stay late in my own life, at home. I felt that really needed serious attention. I’m glad I did because I feel wonderful now and ready to answer any questions you might have about the outstanding, thorough and well-written report that I worked so hard on this week, per your request.” In one swift motion, she put the salad in her fridge, twirled around, grabbed a bottle of water and relished the sound of her heels on the tile as she walked away. “If anyone needs me, I’ll be at my desk.”
Happy Friday sunflowers!
Did you have a good week? Did you make stuff? Did you take care of your own heart? Did you ask for help when you needed it? Did you eat delicious things? I hope you did all of those things. If you didn’t and the week was very long and difficult, I’m happy to remind you that it is now practically over. If days of the week were food, Saturday would be your favorite food. Saturday is a chocolate peanut butter cake and you get to have it tomorrow, yay.
Actually, I’m going to take this pep talk one step further and say that if you had a long and difficult week, the question “did you take care of your own heart?” still very much applies- in fact, it matters more during hard weeks than it does during easy weeks. Women tend to put themselves last on the care list when there’s so much external stuff to do.
Nicole is on a well-deserved vacation with her family, frolicking on a beach in the Carolinas. I hope she’s sincerely not reading this. (Or am I the only one who views a vacation as a terrific excuse to flee any and all screens that don’t have the letters T and V attached to them? Just me? Fair enough.) But I hope she packed up and brought more of this delicious, flavorful, protein-rich salad with her. I’m having it again next week, myself. Maybe adding some dried apricots to it or cherries. Whatever my heart wants, that is.
Garlicky Salad with Crispy Chickpeas
Source: Minimalist Baker | Serves 2-3 | Print Recipe
10 ounces (6 cups) kale, baby spinach, green leaves- loosely chopped or torn
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained and thoroughly dried
1.5 Tbsp of olive oil
2.5 – 3 Tbsp of tandoori spice*
1 Head of garlic
1/4 Cup of tahini
2 Tbsp of olive oil + more for roasting garlic
2 Lemons, juiced (1/3 cup)
1-2 Tbsp of maple syrup or honey
Pinch each salt + pepper
Hot water to thin
1. Peel apart garlic cloves but leave the skin on. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Add drained chickpeas to a mixing bowl and toss with oil and seasonings.
3. Add garlic cloves and seasoned chickpeas to a baking sheet. Drizzle garlic with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until the chickpeas are slightly crispy and golden brown and the garlic is fragrant and slightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
4. Squeeze garlic out of skins / peel away skins and add to a mixing bowl. Add all remaining dressing ingredients and whisk vigorously to combine, smashing the garlic with the whisk. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired, adding more lemon for brightness and maple syrup/honey for sweetness. Set aside.
5. Add kale to a large mixing bowl. Before adding dressing, add 1 Tbsp each lemon juice and olive oil to the kale and massage with hands to soften the texture and lessen bitterness. Then add as much dressing as desired (some may be leftover) and mix with a spoon.
6. Top with chickpeas and serve immediately. (If making ahead, I’d go only as far as to massage the lemon and olive oil into the kale- it’ll help the kale break down and taste better. Then, stash the components in the fridge and just assemble right before eating.)
* Make your own Tandoori Masala Blend: 3 Tbsp cumin, 2 Tbsp garlic powder, 2 Tbsp paprika, 3 tsp ginger, 2 tsp coriander, 2 tsp cardamom. Multiply as needed.
Gerald, you don’t need a cookie.
You don’t need a cookie, Gerald.
Gerald, listen to me. I am your brain. I know what’s best for us. What’s best for us is… not to eat any more cookies.
You made them for your nephew’s birthday party, Gerald! Those cookies ARE NOT FOR YOU.
What are you doing? Gerald, sit down. Don’t pretend like you’re “just getting water” and “you must be thirsty.” You think I don’t know your tricks, GERALD? I invented the “I’m just getting up to get some water and oh, look, the cookies are right here.” I also invented the “I mean, we should probably try them, we don’t want anyone to get food poisoning.” No one has ever gotten food poisoning from properly prepared cookies, Gerald. Did you put shrimp in the cookies? Old shrimp? I must’ve missed that when we were making them. Also, if anyone’s going to get food poisoning, it’s going to be you because you ate some of the cookie dough even though it has raw eggs in it.
Gerald, no, don’t…. huh… God, cookies are amazing. You were right, Gerald. This is good, I’m glad we did this. No, no, you were right. You always are.
Okay buddy. Let’s go back to Netflix.
Cookies… see you in 15 minutes.
And I’m off! Three days in beautiful Vermont to spend some quality time with my mama, eat way too much food, get massaged and hopefully not cry in the masseuse’s arms when she comments on how “tense” I feel in my shoulders (it’s… happened). I hadn’t planned this mini-vacay for very long but I knew I needed it. I plan on enjoying every second of it.
Until next time…
Red Pepper and Baked Egg Galettes
2 large or 4 small red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 small onions, (red or white) halved and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
fresh sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
6 Tbsp olive oil
handful fresh parsley, chopped
handful cilantro, chopped
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry
12 tsp sour cream
4 large fresh eggs
salt and fresh cracked pepper
1. Set oven to 400F°
2. Mix together the pepper, onions, thyme and spices in a bowl. Add the olive oil and toss well so that everything is coated with the oil and spices.
3. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring and rearranging the veggies a few times so they don’t burn.
4. Sprinkle the veggies with half the fresh herbs and set aside.
5. Turn the oven up to 425. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface until it reaches a 12×12 inch square. Cut into four 6 inch squares. Transfer to two parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.
6. Take a dull knife and score a little 1/4 inch frame around each square of pastry. Don’t cut all the way through. Prick the inside of the squares all over with the tines of a fork. Put back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
7. Remove the pastry from the fridge and brush all over with a beaten egg. Spread the inside of each square with 3 tsp of sour cream.
8. Top each with some of the veggie mixture, spread it out evenly, leaving the borders free, and leaving a shallow depression in the center for the egg, which will go in later.
9. Bake for about 10 minutes until rising and starting to brown.
10. Remove and carefully crack in egg into the center of each galette.
11. Put back into the oven for about 10 minutes until the egg is set.
12. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and remaining herbs. Drizzle with some good olive oil and eat right away.
All day long, Frances prayed that she would hear words she knew.
She sat on the bus with her flashcards, barely noticing the trees that flew by, their new buds slowly emerging, little nubs jutting into the sky. She looked outside but didn’t look outside at all and mouthed the words on her cards. She spelled some from memory, anchor words, words like luxuriance and dulcimer and guerdon. She’d always loved words, the long ones, the ones that tripped over in her mouth. Frances tapped her fingers against the flashcards and timed her spelling. Tap, letter, tap tap, letter. Syllables were drops of rain.
Frances looked at the next card and smiled. Panzanella. Her mother had surprised her with it for breakfast, put it on the table in front of her daughter and nudged her cards down, just for a second. “Panzanella,” her mother said with her eyebrows up. “Bread salad!” Frances could spell the word forwards and backwards but hadn’t known what it was. It was Italian, she knew that. All she needed was the origin of the word, not the meaning.
She had speared a cube of toasted bread, drenched with dressing that was a little too sour, and popped it in her mouth, enjoying the sensation as she rolled the old word around on her tongue.
Technically, panzanella is made with tomatoes but you’ll forgive us, won’t you? All we want is green. Green, green, green. We’re greedy for it. We bet you are too.
Spring Panzanella Salad with Lemon Dressing
For the Salad:
8 Cups of cubed bread, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 Stick (1/4 Cup) of butter, melted
1 Teaspoon of finely chopped chives
1 Teaspoon of finely chopped parsley
1 Large bunch of fresh asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 Cups of baby arugula
1 Cup of fresh or frozen (thawed) peas
1/2 Cup of crumbled feta cheese
For the Lemon Dressing:
1/3 Cup of extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 Teaspoon of white or golden balsamic vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon of honey
1 Tablespoon of minced shallot
1 Clove of garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon of chopped chives
1 Tablespoon of chopped parsley
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place bread cubes in a bowl. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, chives and parsley. Pour herb butter over the bread cubes and toss until well-coated. Pour bread onto a large baking sheet. Season with salt and black pepper. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes or until bread cubes are crunchy and slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
2. When bread is toasted, increase heat to 400°F. Place asparagus pieces on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast, turning occasionally, 18-20 minutes or until asparagus is tender, but still crisp. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
3. In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, asparagus, arugula, peas and feta.
4. To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combined olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, honey, shallot and garlic. Whisk until well combined. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.
5. Drizzle dressing over the salad and gently toss. Garnish panzanella salad with additional chives and parsley. Serve. (Best the day it’s made.)
“Do you think we should move?”
“Move?” Amber turned her head slightly and peered at Joe. “You want to move?” She glanced around their well-worn apartment, and in one fell swoop, took in the peeling paint and the cracks in the ceiling. The tilted floors that seemed to cave slightly under the weight of the coffee table. The chipped paint around the windowsill that she was fairly certain was laced with lead. Still, she shifted under the blanket they shared, feeling slightly unnerved. She loved the apartment. He loved the apartment. Weren’t they always saying how much they loved that apartment?
Joe tore his eyes away from the TV screen. There were still crumbs on his chin from the leftovers they’d just inhaled. He must’ve caught something, an edge of her thoughts, because he started to laugh. “Not move move. I mean, do we need to like, move?” He wiggled his arms and legs.
“Oh!” Amber started to laugh too. It was true, they had been in the same spot for hours, days, weeks. It was winter. It seemed like this was what they would always be in winter.”Nah. I’m good.” She snuggled down in the blankets and shared a triumphant smile with the peeling paint.
GREETINGS. I’m waving hello to you from a mound of snow, 26 inches of it. Portland heard its residents grumbling about what a mild winter we’ve had so far, snow-wise, and responded by dumping a blizzard on our Tuesday (which, it’s been decided, is the absolute BEST day for a blizzard! The only day that could be better is Friday but then, everything’s better on Friday) As much as I am a winter girl in my heart of hearts, I’m also a New Yorker, born and raised, and fulfilling my NY destiny by spending at least a handful of days in Florida. Ah, Florida. Where the accents are thick and the kvetching over shit bagels and pizza can be heard for miles. Let’s do this, slightly-lighter-jeans!
Caramelized Garlic, Spinach and Cheddar Tart
Source: Bon Appetit, February 2015 | Makes: 4-6 Servings | Print Recipe
All-Butter Pie Dough* (my favorite recipe)
Flour (for surface)
5 Large eggs
3 Heads of garlic, cloves peeled
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup
1 Teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary
1 Teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
6 Ounces (2 Cups) of sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
2 Cups of baby spinach (or baby kale as we used)
3/4 Cup of creme fraiche
3/4 Cup of heavy cream
*Make it faster: use store-bought pie crust. Life is too short, noodles.
1. Place rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350ºF. Roll out your pie dough and place in plate (or leave store-bought crust chilled until ready to bake). Pie crust needs to be blind-baked with parchment and pie weights until dry, 25-30 minutes. Remove weights and parchment and bake until crust is dry and set, 10-15 minutes. Let cool.
2. Cook garlic in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes; drain. Wipe saucepan dry and heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until cloves start to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes.
3. Add vinegar and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until garlic is tender.
4. Add syrup, herbs and season with salt and pepper, cook until liquid is syrupy and coats garlic, about 5 minutes.
5. Scatter cheese over crust and top with spinach.
6. In a medium bowl, whisk creme fraiche, cream and remaining eggs and season with salt and pepper.
7. Pour egg over spinach, add garlic and syrup.
8. Bake until custard is set and golden brown in spots, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
“Into the pot you go,” Shan said. He spoke aloud when he cooked, as if coaxing a confession from the ingredients. As an adult, a grown man with children and grandchildren of his own, it would bring a smile to Kayin’s face. As a boy, he sighed with impatience and resisted the urge to tap his hands against the round table. The room smelled sticky and rich, the sheen of the broth resting itself temporarily on Shan’s face.
Shan knew his grandson was hungry. Kayin was always very, very hungry. He hungered for everything under the sun, even the sun; the morning before last, Shan had opened the door to find Kayin standing in the tall grass, his round face tilted up to the sun with his mouth open wide. Now he sat at the table and watched Shan’s every move. “Into the pot, one, two, three.” Shan would not be rushed, not even for his grandson. He kept one eye on the pot and one eye on Kayin, in case Kayin gave in to his urge and began to chomp at the table.
He had not always been so hungry, Kayin. When his mother lived, he had enough. Now, there was never enough for Kayin. Shan stirred the pot and urged patience, for them both.
Happy New Year! We resisted the urge to continue filling the blog with cookies and bars and other sweet treats. Instead, you’re getting a taste of what’s in our kitchens these days. Rich, soul-satisfying soups, stews and broths.
Every year, it seems like there are more and more cleanses happening but it’s never been my style. It’s just so… severe. I need a little comfort with my austerity, if that makes any sense. I need heat and heft and something, you know, to chew. Chewing is good, I think. Chewing implies that you’re working some stuff out, in your head and in your heart- mulling it, chewing it, thinking it over. And to keep doing that, one may Visit website and cast a curt perusal at how one can maintain teeth.
You know (as I’ve said every year) how much I thoroughly adore the spirit of January. I just do. Spring may be nature’s renewal but January is our renewal time. And I do, I just love it. Bring on the self-help books and the encouraging articles about habits and getting organized and stress-relief tips and “letting it go” and mindfulness and heart health. Love love love. January is a month of chicken soup for the soul and this year, we need it more than ever.
So here’s my own tip, to be tossed into the ring with all the others- protect your eyes. Don’t shut out the world but don’t absorb so much that you become immune to its pains. Take care of your heart this month. Yes, you need to listen. Yes, you need to know. But you’re only going to be a force of good in the world if you hold on to the good with two hands and don’t let it drown in the bad. Take care of your heart, please. Do it for all of us.
Shrimp Khao Soi
4 Large New Mexico or guajillo chiles, stemmed, halved, seeded*
2 Medium shallots, halved
8 Garlic cloves
One 2″ Piece of ginger, peeled, sliced
1/4 Cup of chopped cilantro stems
1 Tablespoon of ground coriander
1 Tablespoon of ground turmeric
1 Teaspoon of curry powder
2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
Two 14 Oz. cans of unsweetened coconut milk
2 Cups of chicken broth, low sodium
1 and 1/2 Lb of shrimp
1 Lb of Chinese egg noodles
3 Tablespoons of fish sauce (to taste)
1 Tablespoon of packed palm or light brown sugar
Sliced red onion, bean sprouts, cilantro sprigs, crispy fried onions or shallots, chili oil and lime wedges (for serving)
Make the paste:
1. Place chiles in a small heatproof bowl, add boiling water to cover, and let soak until softened, 25–30 minutes.
2. Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid. Purée chiles, shallots, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems, coriander, turmeric, curry powder, and 2 Tbsp. of soaking liquid in a food processor, adding more soaking liquid by tablespoonfuls, if needed, until smooth.
Make the soup:
3. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add khao soi paste; cook, stirring constantly, until slightly darkened, 4–6 minutes. Add coconut milk and broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, simmer for 20–25 minutes. Add shrimp and remove when cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.
5. Add shrimp, 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, and sugar back to soup. Season with salt or more fish sauce, if needed. Divide soup and noodles among bowls and serve with toppings.
*I’ve had a lot of luck finding chili like these at Whole Foods- J
I’ve lived alone for a number of years now so having my brother stay with me for a few months has been pretty eye-opening.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that having someone live with you for weeks is SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT than a weekend visit (right? Am I right?). After a few days, once he’d settled in, I quickly settled in too, right back into the my cherished routine… and now my poor brother has a front row seat to the inner workings of my daily life that no one else in my family has ever really seen. And he is BAFFLED by me.
The food thing is probably the biggest thing, which is why I’m bringing it up here.
He’s always known that I like to cook and bake but I don’t think he realized until he moved in, how much I am consumed by this hobby. Hell, I don’t think I even really realized it until he walked into the living room his first Saturday morning here and saw me on the couch, watching a cooking show, a food magazine open next to me (okay, two magazines open), surrounded by a fort of cookbooks and an iPad open to Pinterest on the coffee table. He stopped and said, “Uh, this is kind of intense.” And I glanced around me at all of my happy things and blinked at him, formerly oblivious to the den of insanity I create every weekend morning.
He made the mistake, on day 2, of mocking Nigella’s accent while I worked steadily on my meal plan for the week. He has not made that mistake since.
Apparently, I study and practice and practice and study cooking all the time. I had not even realized how intensively I was doing it, how much I’d amped it up lately- I just like it and I’d suddenly gotten to a sweet spot of cookery where things suddenly felt easier and more fluid and I wanted to keep going.
It’s amazing what you learn about yourself when you suddenly have an audience.
Luckily for Lee, obsession has its rewards, especially when it comes to being obsessed about cooking good food. That boy is up to his elbows in homemade ice cream, giant bowls of gleaming, summer salads, slow-cooked and fall-apart meats, and there’s more on the way. Like grilled pizza, which is, incidentally, tonight’s dinner.
Lemon Basil Pizza
Your favorite pizza dough
High-quality extra virgin olive oil
6 Thin lemon slices
3 Ounces of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
1 Cup of baby spinach leaves, loosely packed
1 Ounce of smoked provolone, grated
1. Preheat oven to 500°F. (If using a pizza stone, place on middle rack in oven while preheating.)
2. Shape pizza dough on pan until it’s about 10-12 inches in diameter.
3. Drizzle dough evenly with olive oil and layer toppings (spinach, then mozzarella, lemon, basil and top with provolone.)
4. Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese begins to brown.
The young girl she once was would’ve been so disappointed. It was what Mad thought whenever she stepped onto a tour bus. She’d flashed her badge to the hefty bouncer and climbed the filthy steps up into the bus to find that it was precisely like all the others. Crowded with guitars and scarves, littered with debris, and the air vaguely damp. This one smelled like soup, she thought with a pang for that young girl. Vegetable soup, she thought and wrinkled her nose. She had become a reporter to write about music but the rock stars she followed around the country had, mostly, left their wild ways behind. Most of them were vegan and skinnier than her. The heaviest thing they drank was tea with honey and lemon.
The band was absent from the bus at the moment, thankfully. Mad appreciated the moment to collect herself. She was exhausted. Festival season was going to put her in the ground. The hot, dusty ground. She caught a glimpse of herself in one of the many, many mirrors on the bus and scowled. With her cropped black blazer, the sleeves rolled up past the elbows, the loose braid over her shoulder, the smeared black mascara, she looked like a poor imitation of Chrissie Hynde. And there was another pang.
She’d met Chrissie Hynde, almost eight months prior. Introduced herself. When she mentioned she was a reporter, a music critic, Chrissie Hynde had paused. “Who isn’t, these days?”
Mad wiped the liner from her eyes and took a swig of water from the bottle in her purse. There was a whiff of that soup again and she swore under her breath. This interview would be insufferable, she thought. Another week of her life that she would not be able to get back. It would be one thing to talk to The Kit Shickers and then leave but she had agreed to ride with them for their next slate of shows down the West Coast. A few years ago, she would’ve leapt for a shot like this. But the hot desert air made her brain throb and the bands had started to blur, merge together, into one androgynous blob. She cleared some debris from a seat and perched herself at the edge of it. She needed a break from herself, is what she needed.
Then there was a rush of sound outside, a kind of roaring, and suddenly The Kit Shickers were there, up the stairs, hollering their greetings to the hefty bouncer. Two of them were in conversation and glided right past her, two sylphs in black, heading for the back of the bus. That would be Tom and Harris- she mentally checked them off her band dossier. They were cousins. And then the lead singer, whose name escaped her, hilariously, since he zeroed in on her instantly and clasped his hand to hers. He was beautiful, they usually were, and magnetic in a harmless way. He wasted his magnetism, she thought uncharitably. “You must be from Vinyl. I’m Pot.” He gave a little shrug, one that said she probably already knew that, and Mad felt her free hand clench against her side, into a fist. “Welcome.” He glanced down at the state of the bus and smiled apologetically. Christ, how old was he, she thought. Twenty? “Sorry for, uh, you know, the state of things here. Baxter, come here and say hi. This is Baxter.” He grabbed his bandmate and pulled him to his side. “Apologize better, would you?
“Yeah, no probl-” The words got stuck in her throat, just for a second. Baxter was drums. He was tall. Older than the rest. Cleaner than the rest. Of all the rock and roll on the bus, he was the least. He met her eyes and offered her a smile, a real one. Shit, Mad thought. There she goes. Another one bites the dust.
*You all gave such lovely character name suggestions for our annual giveaway so I thought I’d give you proper credit. Our last story featured the names Margo and Natalie, suggested by Tabitha H. and Mitzie T, respectively. Today’s story names come courtesy of Natalie.
You may have noticed, over the last three years, that the typed recipe on the blog often looks different than the beautiful recipe card that’s attached to each post. That’s my fault. I cannot leave well enough alone. Nicole creates the beautiful recipe card and sticks to what was written by our source (in this case, the lovely Love and Lemons. I could crawl into that site and pull up the covers and take a nap there, I love it so much.) And I… futz. I tinker with the words. I can’t help it.
I never used to be this way but over the last three years, I’ve become obsessed with scribing (or re-scribing) recipes in a way that makes sense to me, that makes me feel calm and in control. Beyond my notice, I’ve developed recipe idiosyncrasies. They are, as follows:
Adding “of” to the ingredients list. As in “3 cups of flour.” For some reason, the lack of “of” was making me crazy.
Writing “and” between whole numbers and half numbers. I actually stand by this one- do you know how many times I’ve glanced down and thought 1 and 1/2 teaspoons actually stated 11/2 teaspoons and ended up doing crazy math in my head before coming to my senses?
Numbering each separate task in the instructions. (Hi, is this the party for Type A List Makers? It is? Great.)
Again, in the instructions, stating the item you need first. As in, “take a baking sheet and add cauliflower” and not the other way around. I… don’t know why I feel it’s necessary to do this, I just do.
Anyway. No matter how you choose to read the recipe, you should make the soup. I will, this weekend. It’s lovely. There’s something about creamy white soups that remind me of Julia Child and leeks always make me think of spring. I feel like I could use a dose right now.
Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup
Note: Overnight alert! You will need to soak the cashews overnight.
About 2 cups chopped cauliflower
2-3 Leeks, white and very light green parts, chopped (about 1 to 1.5 cups)
2 Cloves of garlic
Olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 Cup of raw, unsalted, un-roasted cashews, soaked overnight*
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of miso paste (or just salt if you don’t have any)
Leaves from a few sprigs of marjoram or thyme
3 Cups of water
2 Tablespoons of more olive oil (to blend into the soup)
1/8 Teaspoon of smoked paprika (or more to taste)
A squeeze of lemon
A few more pinches of salt
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Splash of white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar, at the end
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. On a baking sheet, spread cauliflower, leeks and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Remove when everything starts to turn golden; you don’t want to burn the leeks.
3. Toss the roasted veggies, drained cashews, marjoram leaves, miso paste, a squeeze of lemon and 1.5 cups of water into a blender. Blend until pureed. Add olive oil, paprika and the rest of the water. Blend again. Taste and adjust seasonings.
4. Pour puree into a medium saucepan and heat until it’s just warm (and thus, soup). Stir in a little more water to desired thickness. Serve with bread.
*Use plain, raw cashews or the soup will taste too much like cashew.
Destiny and Keevah never really met, formally. There were no real introductions, no mention of last names or what they each did for a living, at the time. They ended up in the same small circle at the home of their mutual friend Maris who had decided, on a whim, to throw an informal brunch for everyone she knew. The only thing she had said as she glanced from side to side at her friends was, “My two most unusually named friends, under one roof!”
Destiny and Keevah had both smiled sheepishly and sipped their coffee before they fell into separate conversations.
In the corner of the room, unseen, the same Destiny and Keevah stood. They were ten years older and surveyed the brunch scene, and their younger selves, with bemused horror. “God, look at my hair,” Keevah said. She reached a hand up to touch her own natural curls, now unruly but still far, far improved from the days when she would forcibly iron her hair into flat, shiny submission. “Why am I talking to Brad Saunders? Ugh, I hated that guy.”
“She’s serving that burrata salad. I remember how impressed I was about that. Burrata at brunch.” Destiny, now largely pregnant, rested a hand on her kicking belly and stared at the back of her younger self. “Is that really how I look from behind?”
“You’re fine.” Keevah scowled at her younger self who, at that moment, batted Brad Saunders on the arm and laughed. “I wish we’d been friends at this party,” she said. She’d shuffled home miserably after the party, Keevah remembered, exhausted by the chitchat and the forced splendor of Maris’ home in the South Loop, depressed about her own crumbling apartment, stung by an offhand comment from Maris about the state of her love life. Or lack thereof.
“Me too.” Destiny arched her back and winced. “Look at poor Maris. Trying so hard to have a good time.” They both glanced over at the friend who had introduced them or, really, just off-handedly put them together in the same room. She was wearing pearls but was barefoot because that had seemed very elegant, to be in pearls but barefoot. She could not really pull off the look though, when so many people nearly stepped on her naked feet.
How could Maris have known that this was the first of many times that the two women would be thrown into the same awkward party or social situation? That they would eventually come to seek each other out. That they would catch each other’s eye when someone said something just too ridiculous to go unnoticed. That they would then meet up for a drink, just the two of them, and end up, as it happened, talking about Maris, who they were both struggling to still be friends with, or find things in common with.
More trips to the bar, stops at the bookstore, coffee after coffee after coffee, lounging movie nights, late night texts after one of them had broken up with a guy or was starting to see a guy or when each of them had met the guy. Keevah at Destiny’s mother’s funeral; there was a moment when she could feel Destiny start to go beside her and Keevah reached out and grabbed her arm and Destiny did not cry, which was what she wanted- she was trying to be strong for her brother. Destiny running up the steps at city hall in her black pants and boots when Keevah called in the middle of work on a Tuesday to tell her she was getting married and could she get there quick, as Keevah had changed her mind at the last second about wanting a witness. All the little moments in between; countless, endless, stacked up like gold coins between them.
They watched the scene before them and their singular, struggling selves and then Keevah snagged two glasses of mimosa from the side table and handed one to Destiny. “Just a sip for you, Mama,” Keevah said and she raised her glass. Destiny looked at her expectantly. “To Maris. Who did her job.”
Destiny grinned and raised a glass to toast their hostess. “Who did her job.”
Thank you so much for helping us celebrate our three years of SKS this week! All of your warm and lovely comments were deeply appreciated. And, uh, wow- I got a lot of good name ideas so thank you for that too. The full list is below. I think it’s safe to say that we, as a group, wish we were living in a romance novel.
And now… drumroll please for our two winners! The numbers picked, by Random.Org were comments 31 and 3; congratulations to Allison Day and Melanie!
We will email you today to discuss which foodie package you would like to receive in the mail from us. Our most sincere thanks to everyone who participated.
Here were your character names, in the order received. I should be good for the next three years with these. Or ten years.
Computer (for a dog)
Earlene and Earl (twins)
Eleanor and Leanore (twins)
Jeanette and Antoinette (twins)
Axel de Luna
Baloney Raymond (ha!)
Anders (Workaholics fan?)
Bronwyn (perfect for that Lord of the Rings fan-fiction I’ve been meaning to write…)
Ogee Eckard (your own name IS amazing)
Reese Luisi (I’m Italian, so I liked the full name)
And now, ladies and gentlemen, your salad… specifically, your Heirloom Tomato, Chorizo and Burrata Salad which, frankly, is almost too beautiful to eat. Let us just stare at it and behold its wonder and be thankful that cheese exists. Especially burrata which is like mozzarella but magic. If burrata is ever on a menu, you say “We will have all of the burrata you have.” End of lesson.
Heirloom Tomato, Chorizo and Burrata Salad
400 grams of heirloom tomatoes, halved
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
6 Slice of chorizo, sliced diagonally
1 Tablespoon of capers, rinsed
1 Ball of Burrata cheese
2-3 Slices of fresh baguette
1 Garlic clove, halved
Fresh basil leaves
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 265°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Place halved tomatoes on baking tray, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Turn tomatoes so cut side is facing up and roast for 30 minutes. Transfer smaller tomatoes into a bowl to cool while the larger tomatoes roast for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and add to bowl.
3. In a frying pan, grill the chorizo on each side for 1 minute until golden. Transfer to paper towel to drain. To hot pan, add capers and fry for 30 seconds until slightly golden. Transfer to paper towel with chorizo.
4. On a baking sheet, place the baguette slices. Drizzle both sides with olive oil and grill until golden. Remove and rub one side with the cut garlic.
5. To serve, place the tomatoes, chorizo and capers together on a plate. Top with the burrata, drizzle with oil and balsamic to taste. Scatter with basil leaves and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with grilled baguette.
Next week, I’ll tell you a story. I promise.
Something magical. Something with faeries maybe. An angry faery named Tegan. Yeah, that sounds good.
Right now, it’s nine o’clock on a Friday and I can barely keep my head up. I am amazed at how thoroughly tired I feel. Everything is depleted, everything, everything. I am so entirely and wholly grateful to my parents, who drove to Maine from New York and took care of my dog while I was in Austin for six days. I walked into the house on Wednesday night, at one in the morning, and found four loaves of Irish Soda Bread waiting for me on the dining room table, and a fridge full of pasta and sauce and meatballs and chicken cutlets. What more could an exhausted thirty-two year old Irish/Italian ask for?
Things will resume their normal pace soon, I hope. For right now, all I’m focused on is taking said dog for one last walk and climbing into bed. Maybe I’ll shake the dreams of snow and cold and dream of this salad instead, all bright color and snap and verve. Nicole tells me it was delicious and I believe her- we eat with our eyes first and it’s a beauty, isn’t it?
Roast Carrot and Avocado Salad with Orange and Lemon Dressing
500 Grams of medium carrots (leafy tops still attached)
2 Teaspoons of whole cumin seeds
1-2 Small, dried chillies
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Cloves of garlic, peeled
4 Sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Red or white wine vinegar
1 Orange, halved
1 Lemon, halved
3 Ripe avocados
Red wine vinegar
Small slices of ciabatta or other good-quality bread
2 Handfuls of mixed winter salad leaves (arugula, radicchio, Treviso), washed and dried
2 Punnets cress (just kidding, I have no idea what that is)
150 ml of fat-free yogurt
4 Tablespoons of mixed seeds, toasted
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Parboil your carrots in boiling, salted water for 10 minutes until they’re nearly cooked. While they’re cooking, smash up the cumin seeds, chillies, salt and pepper. Add the garlic and thyme leaves and smash them too, until you have a kind of paste. Add enough olive oil to cover the paste and a splash of vinegar. Stir together.
3. Drain the carrots and arrange them on a roasting tray. Pour over the marinade and coat the carrots well. Add the orange and lemon halves to the tray, cut-side down. Place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden.
4. While the carrots and marinade are roasting, halve and peel the avocados, discard the stones, then cut them into wedges lengthways and place in a big bowl.
5. Remove the carrots from the oven and add them to the bowl with the avocados. Using tongs, squeeze the roasted orange and lemon juice into a bowl and add the same amount of olive oil and a little swig of red wine vinegar. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
6. Mix together, have a taste and correct the seasoning.
7. Toast your bread. Tear the toasted bread into little pieces and add to the dressed carrot and avocado. Mix together and toss in salad leaves. Spoon over a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle with toasted seeds and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
*I’m in Austin this week for SXSW Interactive. I’m presenting on Tuesday (gulp) and will be spending the next few days impersonating a sweaty, nervous taco-eating hot mess. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.*
Comfort food for the soul. As soon as I saw this recipe on Cookie + Kate, I knew it was exactly how I wanted to spend the waning days of winter (IF ONLY). I love that it’s creamy and yet vegan, I love the brightness of it, I love that it’s carbs. I’m saying yes to the dress.
Butternut Squash Linguine with Fried Sage
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 Tablespoon of finely chopped fresh sage
2 Pounds of butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into small ½-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 Medium yellow onion, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
⅛ Teaspoon red pepper flakes (spice as desired)
Sea salt and/or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Cups of vegetable/chicken broth
12 Ounces of whole grain linguine or fettucine
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the sage and toss to coat. Let the sage get crispy before transferring it to a small bowl. Sprinkle it lightly with sea salt and set the bowl aside.
- Add squash, onion, garlic and red pepper flakes to skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
- Once the squash mixture is done cooking, remove it from heat and let it cool slightly. Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender. Reserve the skillet. Purée the mixture until smooth, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Combine pasta, squash purée and ¼ cup cooking liquid in reserved skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
- Serve pasta topped with fried sage, more black pepper and shaved Parm.