Whole-Roasted Cauliflower with Fried Capers and Brown Butter Breadcrumbs

whole roasted cauliflower with brown butter breadcrumbs

Last Friday, for the first time in months, Ben and I braved a dinner out with the children, an exercise that most often leaves us asking ourselves, “WHY?!” and swearing off future dining excursions with the children for life.

Much to our surprise, the dinner at Ali Baba in Troy, which began with a wood-fired, manta ray-sized, puffed, blistered and seed-speckled lavash, transfixed the children, keeping them mostly content throughout dinner, allowing us to shovel down our kebabs, smoky eggplant salads and pickled onions at a relatively civilized pace.

Inspired by our Ali Baba success, we joined friends Sunday evening at Ala Shanghai, where we ordered nearly everything on the menu — cold spicy cabbage, cucumber salad, fish soup, pork and leek dumplings, to name a few — and two dishes — scallion pancakes and fried rice — that again, along with the lazy Susan in the center of table, kept the children seated, happy and (mostly) quiet.

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Garlic and Thyme Monkey Bread with Spicy Tomato Sauce

just-baked monkey bread

This past fall, a friend who was traveling, cooking and eating her way through Italy, sent me the loveliest book: Pasta, a collection of recipes from the kitchen of The American Academy in Rome. She had learned about the book and the story of the Rome Sustainable Food Project during her travels, and found the recipes in the book, many of which she made during her stay, matched the food she was eating out and about on a daily basis. [Read more…]

Hot Crab Dip & A Few Ideas for New Year’s Eve

hot crab dip

Shortly after volunteering to bring baked fontina to a casual New Year’s Eve gathering with the neighbors, fear of becoming a one-trick pony sent me back to the drawing board.

So I scoured my favorite hors d’oeuvres cookbooks and files and pulled out a recipe — Martha Stewart’s hot crab dip — I have been meaning to make since last February when I read The Wednesday Chef describe it as the “number one most delicious thing [she] made over the holidays.” Sounded like a winner.

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Butternut Squash and Cider Soup served with Rosemary and Sage Flatbread

soup and bread

The trouble with the butternut squash soup I make again and again every winter is that it takes so much time: 45 minutes to roast the squash, 30 minutes to simmer it with the stock, and 15 minutes here and there for prepping. Although much of the time is hands off, I never feel I can whip it up on a weeknight.

So when I saw this recipe for butternut squash soup with cider and sour cream, which apparently could be “made in a flash,” a few things caught my eye: In step 1, onion and garlic simmer in a small amount of water — not butter or oil — for about five minutes. In step 2, the squash cubes steam in stock for 20 minutes. In step 3, the soup is puréed with apple cider and sour cream, and then it’s done. [Read more…]

Crispy Eggplant Rounds & Eggplant Parmesan

crispy eggplant rounds

A few weeks ago, as I stood at the counter flouring, egg dipping, and breading two pounds of eggplant rounds, a little dolly screaming at my feet wanting nothing more than to be held at the height of this witching hour, I found myself asking “WHY?!” I know better than to make this sort of thing at this sort of hour. I shouldn’t be so stubborn. But a craving for eggplant parmesan left me inflexible, and I pushed on until crumbs and parmesan covered every slice, trying to stay composed through every piercing cry. Oiy.

But as soon as those rounds entered the oven, I relaxed. And this is the beauty of The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook eggplant parmesan recipe. Once the breading is done, the hard work is over — there is no standing at the oven, frying the eggplant in batch after batch. The Test Kitchen’s recipe calls for baking the eggplant on preheated baking sheets, a technique they developed to solve the oil-laden, pan-fried eggplant problem that leads to heavy, greasy eggplant parmesan. Oven-frying saves time to boot.

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Chard Fritters | Montreal

fritters

On Monday morning I opened the fridge to find no milk, no eggs, no juice and two vegetable drawers filled with greens. We had left the house in a scramble on Friday, dropped the kids in Vermont en route to Montreal, and returned too late on Sunday evening to think about groceries.

What was on my mind, however, was unloading some of those greens before the next CSA share arrived later that evening. The stars had aligned for Swiss chard fritters, an Ottolenghi recipe my friend Dee alerted me to this winter, which, along with the prawns with tomato and feta and the almond-clementine cake, she described as “not-to-be-missed” Jerusalem recipes.

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Baked Ricotta & Wisconsin Cheese Giveaway

baked ricotta

Can we talk about the Madness? Uconn upsetting Michigan State? Kentucky’s last-second 3-pointer for the win? The Wisconsin-Arizona overtime nail biter?

I sound like I know what I’m talking about, right? I don’t. But thanks to theSkimm, I am up-to-date on all the most important goings-on in the world. (Really, you should subscribe, it might change your life.)

You also should make this baked ricotta for any guests you might find at your house watching the Final Four this weekend. As is the case with so many baked cheese dips, the success of this one can be attributed to the synergistic reaction that takes place in the oven, the final melty product amounting to so much more than the sum of its herbs, spices, and cheeses. In other words: cheese is good, melted cheese is better. At least when placed before a crew of ravenous, raucous, raging sports fans.

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Burnt Eggplant with Za’atar Flatbread

Burnt Eggplant with Za'atar Flatbread

Last summer I discovered eggplant caviar, a dish made from peeled eggplant roasted in a foil-covered pan, a preparation that, with minimal oil, produces the creamiest lightest flesh imaginable. Seasoned with fresh herbs and macerated shallots, spooned over grilled bread, this mashup makes a wonderful summer hors d’oeuvre.

This year, I’ve been using my grill to make the eggplant caviar, and I think I might love it even more. After reading about charring whole, unseasoned eggplants over coals or in the oven seemingly everywhere I turned — in Mark Bittman’s Flexitarian column, in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem, and in the book I always rely on this time of year, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables — I had to try the method myself.

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Cucumber & Green Grape Gazpacho | Quinoa Salad with Mango, Lime & Ginger

Cucumber and grape gazpacho

I arrived at the Albany airport to find my auntie Marcy waiting at baggage claim ready to snatch Wren from my arms and to feed me, as always, immediately.

She led me to her car, and before I could even buckle my seatbelt, she had pulled a ball jar filled with cucumber and green grape gazpacho — one of my favorites — from a cooler and handed me a Lifefactory water bottle — I want one! — filled with ginger-mint-and-orange-flavored water.

Feeling nourished and ready to face the task of the day — find me a place to live — we zoomed off in Marcy’s mobile spa, equipped with coolers holding bowls of quinoa and mango salad, a brown paper bag sheathing a loaf of Shelburne Farms chili cheese ciabatta, and a little baggy holding rice crispy treats for dessert. My auntie spoils me.

I returned home to a heat wave craving nothing more than this cool summery meal. As I mentioned, this white gazpacho, loaded with dill, is one of my favorites. I find nothing more refreshing this time of year, and had I not been so worried about disappointing some of you, I would have shared this recipe ages ago. You see, some of you may be turned off by the zing of the raw garlic. One clove imparts an amazing amount of bite, and while you certainly could leave it out, I fear something would be lost without it. While variations of white gazpacho can be found all over Spain (so I’m told), raw garlic (along with the stale bread) seems to be a constant. This soup makes a wonderful first course, especially when every sip is accompanied by slivers of toasted almonds and sweet grapes.

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Ricotta with Thyme, Olive Oil & Grilled Bread

ricotta

Last week, while packing away a few cookbooks, an old newspaper clipping tucked between two books slipped off the shelf and swooped into my lap, opening as it landed to reveal a photograph of a mouth-watering spread: a bowl filled with herb-and-olive oil topped ricotta, a few slices of grilled bread, and a handful of halved black mission figs. A quick glance through the article led me to discover that this appetizer, described as “stupid simple” by the chef of A Voce at the time (2008) was the most popular appetizer on the menu.

With the task at hand long forgotten — I’ve always been a hopeless packer — I made my way to the kitchen, hoping to find cheesecloth and heavy cream, making ricotta the order of the hour. And thirty minutes later, the stupid simple appetizer had materialized: creamy curds seasoned with sea salt, fresh thyme, dried oregano, and a drizzling of olive oil.

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