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. Continue reading

Parsnip & Pear Soup | Also, How to be a Better/More Efficient Soup Maker This Winter

pear and parsnip soup

Let’s get right down to business: soup season has officially arrived, bringing with it bowls of warm, comforting goodness, smells that permeate the house, the nourishment we crave on chilly days, and blisters to our little, out-of-practice fingers.

Whenever I make soup, I immediately think back to my time at Fork, when I spent the better part of a year prepping carrots, parsnips, onions and celery, the four vegetables that went into every hot soup chef Thien made. Almost every other morning began with soup making, with the stovetop lined with cauldrons, with a constant sprint up and down the basement stairs, in and out of the walk-in, a large aluminum bowl in hand, hours of peeling and chopping before me. The blisters made haste, but soon calloused, making the work less painful, physically if not mentally.

So many soups require a lot of chopping, but the time dedicated to the process almost always pays off: quantities that feed a crowd often at little cost. Thien liked to remind me that soup was how restaurants made money.

OK, in an effort to make soup season go a little more smoothly, I’ve compiled a few thoughts below: Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Roasted Poblano, Onion, and Jack Quesadilla & A Favorite Drink

roasted poblano, onion & Jack quesadilla

I had one goal in mind when setting out to the farmers’ market this weekend: return with shishito peppers. I keep reading about them, and every time I do, I am reminded of a lovely dinner years ago at Casa Mono, where I sat at the bar with two friends, popping blistered, salty padrón peppers one after another, watching as the cooks worked with intense focus. Of all the delicious bites we sampled that evening, those charred peppers were the unanimous favorite. We ordered two plates.

I have been on the search ever since for padrón peppers and, more recently, shishito and fushimi peppers, which I understand are all similar — small, green and thin walled — and take well to high heat, fast cooking and showers of salt.

Continue reading

Roasted Tomato and Bread Soup

roasted-tomato bread soup

In April of last year, Vince Vaughn hosted SNL, and delivered a hilarious, wise and insightful monologue. After acknowledging the importance of the audience’s role in the success of an SNL show, he ventured off stage, engaged a few of the audience members, and confiscated a cell phone, noting he “believe[s] sometimes it’s better to take the memories with our hearts and minds.” He then turned to the camera to say: “That’s for all you kids out there tonight. It’s OK to put down the phone and be a part of the memory. That lasts a lifetime as well.”

I’ve thought about this monologue often since seeing that SNL episode but never so much as last week, when three hours after arriving in Minneapolis en route to a cabin in Wisconsin, I realized I had left my camera on the plane and that all of the moments I had looked forward to capturing in billions of pixels during the week with friends and family would by necessity be cemented solely into my heart and mind. I know a camera is just a thing, and I shouldn’t fret — we have our health! and happiness! — but I still have a pit in my stomach. New camera arriving tomorrow. Yay.

Continue reading

Chickpea & Quinoa Veggie Burgers

chickpea & quinoa veggie burger

From beans and rice to grains and legumes to eggs and breadcrumbs to cheese and yogurt, many are the variables determining the fate of a homemade veggie burger. It’s dizzying, as maddening as trying to unlock the secret to the chewiest granola bar.

All summer, I’ve been trying to make a good one, and I’ve finally found a formula I love, the inspiration coming from a favorite fritter: falafel. If you’ve made falafel, you’re familiar with the method: soak dried chickpeas (or favas) overnight, drain them, whizz them with onions, herbs and seasonings, deep fry.

Without any binders, falafel manages to hold its shape, crispy on the edges, light and airy in the interior.

Continue reading

Potato Buns (almost) & Two Essential Burger Condiments

burger

Last week, while scrolling through emails on my phone, I came across one subject heading that gave me pause: Never Grill a Burger Again.

And then a depressing image flashed through my head: me, hovering over a sauté pan (albeit my favorite one), flipping burgers in my 100-degree kitchen as my guests reveled outside.

Did I dare make this vision a reality? How could I not? I’ve always considered burgers one of the hardest things to get right, and this post offered a path to burger domination. I followed the tutorial to a T (almost, notes below), and Ben, completely unaware of the experiments I had been conducting, declared it the best burger he’s ever eaten.

Continue reading

Chicken Salad with Olive Oil & Herbs

chicken salad with olive oil and herbs

The quantity of herbs heaped onto nearly every dish at every Vietnamese restaurant never ceases to amaze me. And this time of year, I crave nothing more than eating this kind of food: fresh, light, fragrant. Summer rolls lined with mint, green papaya salad speckled with Thai basil, chicken salad loaded with scallions and cilantro — oh Nam Phuong! You feel so far away.

Continue reading

Chicken Tinga Tacos

tinga tacos

Do you know anyone who, upon seeing the Sriracha bottle on the dinner table, says: “That’s a good sign.”? Or who likes to enjoy a side of scrambled eggs with his hot sauce in the morning? Or who, when watching Rick Bayless make chilaquiles on the cooking channel nods his head and says, “Amen, brother, amen.”?

Well, if you do, tinga is something you should add to your repertoire. Made with only a handful of ingredients, tinga derives most of its flavor from chipotles in adobo sauce, which offer both smoke and heat. Traditionally, the dish begin by boiling a chicken, then pulling and shredding the meat from the carcass. Once the meat is off the bone, it stews with onions, chipotles, tomatoes and chicken stock. Chopped fresh cilantro finishes the dish.

Continue reading

Broiled Lamb Chops with Nigella’s Mint Sauce

broiled lamb chops

Nigella Lawson’s mint sauce first appeared on our Easter table in 2003, the same year the Easter Egg Nest Cake made its debut, both recipes having appeared in the New York Times earlier that week.

Unlike the Easter Egg Nest cake, which we loved — really, we did — the mint sauce returned to the table every following Easter, the fresh combination of mint and parsley, olive oil and vinegar, capers and cornichons the perfect accompaniment to lamb no matter the preparation — roasted racks, braised shanks, broiled meatballs, pan-seared chops.

Continue reading