About this time last year, I discovered the beauty of baking pizzas naked and dressing them out of the oven with simple, light herb-and-cheese sauces. The benefits of this method are twofold: 1.) Liberated of toppings, the dough springs in the oven, emerging with dramatic crests and craters that so nicely cradle sauce and cheese. 2.) Ingredients, herbs especially, sprinkled on post baking retain their fresh, bright flavors.
A surefire way to create a viral stir, in the food blogosphere at least, is to post a three-ingredient-or-less recipe: One-ingredient ice cream! Two-ingredient pancakes! Three-ingredient pasta sauce! What’s not to love?
I am the first to click on these links and never cease to be amazed by their outcome. They often take little time to make and rarely require odd ingredients. Last fall, I discovered one of my favorite such recipes: the Canal House’s chicken with preserved lemon, a dish that, in my mind, exemplifies the notion of simple meeting spectacular.
I’m sharing a recipe for orecchiette with Swiss chard, brown butter and walnuts over on Cup of Jo today. This is a variation of a favorite recipe I make all winter with Brussels sprouts, brown butter and walnuts, which I love, but which is a little fussy — peeling all of those sprouts takes time.
Here, the pasta is simply drained over the chard or kale — just enough to wilt it — and when you use baby Swiss chard or kale, which I found at my Green Market last Sunday, it is especially good. Recipe over on Cup of Jo!
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.
Thanks to an amazing co-op in Albany, I’ve discovered the joys of bulk food shopping. A quarter (wild guess) of the 31,000 square feet that is the Honest Weight Food Co-op is lined with tubes, bins, and barrels holding every nut, seed, grain, flour, pasta, oil, butter, extract, paste you could imagine. It’s an astonishing site — really, I’ve never seen anything like it: whole aisles dedicated to unpackaged food, which you can cart home in your own vessels or in an array of glass jugs and jars sold at the store.
I had never found myself drawn to bulk food shopping until I started making this toasted muesli (granola, really), which everyone in my family adores. It’s truly the only thing I make that instantly silences my children, that keeps them sitting at the table focused on what’s before them, that they invariably ask for seconds of. When I found myself making double batches of it twice a week, I started paying more attention to the prices of the teensy bags of almonds and flaked coconut and large jugs of maple syrup I was ripping through.
More often than I would like to admit, I open the fridge and think: How can this be? How can there be nothing to make for dinner? Again.
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.
So much to do, so little time!
I hope you all have yummy dinners in the making for the days ahead. Tonight I’m making Balthazar’s Moules à la Marinière, an on old favorite that takes no time to throw together, peasant bread, and this salad, a mix of paper-thin watermelon radishes, Cara Cara oranges — so sweet and pretty — toasted walnuts and goat cheese, dressed with shallots macerated in vinegar, olive oil, and chives.
Snow, dogs, a constant fire — I couldn’t have asked for anything more of Thanksgiving in Vermont.
But, as always, all of the VT treats — the Jasper Hill Farm cheeses, the Dakin Farm ham (with the ham sauce!), Uncle Wade’s waffles with Vermont maple syrup, Shed beer — did make we want to pack up and stay forever. I left dreaming about all of my aunt and mother’s cooking, from biscotti and koulourakia to grilled artic char and coconut-milk marinated cauliflower steaks.
Punch and paté (following this recipe to a T) were a hit but hands down, the hit of all hits was this butternut squash lasagna, a dish brought to Thanksgiving dinner by a vegetarian friend of my aunt and uncle’s. Having taken a peak inside the insulated carry tote (which is the coolest thing…Santa, take note), I had to ask for some details immediately. Kris, the friend, kindly obliged and described the basic process, brushing it all off as an old recipe from Gourmet, just something she and her mother had been making for years.
So, I really want to tell you all about this farro risotto, made with homemade vegetable stock, roasted and puréed butternut squash, and a handful of thinly sliced kale, but I can’t right now.
If any of you have listened to one minute of Serial, you understand. I just got to the part in Episode 4 where Sarah Koenig says: “If you want to figure out this case with me, now is the time to start paying close attention, because we have arrived, along with the detectives, at the heart of the thing.”
And, Friends, I do! I am on edge! I will not be able to sleep until I hear more. But before I leave you, let me share a few thoughts: risotto is something I feel moved to make about once a season — it’s delicious, everyone loves it, and when it’s made with whole grains and lots of vegetables, it’s healthy to boot.
But it takes FOREVER to cook. I used pearled farro, which still cooked for over an hour before it became creamy. My mother and I gobbled up the whole pan sitting by a roaring fire, which made every effort worthwhile, but, just to be clear, this isn’t something to whip up at the end of the day. You kind of have to be in the mood to make risotto, right?
Anyway, have you listened to Serial? A friend told me about it over the weekend, and I have spent every spare second since streaming it over my phone, completely gripped by each detail that emerges. It makes me realize I haven’t explored the wonderful world of podcasts enough. Any suggestions? What are you listening to? Would love to have a few more podcasts in queue.
Hope you all had a Happy Halloween.