Today’s newsflash is that you can’t believe every health claim you read on a pill bottle, which is one of the reasons I think it’s smart to count on food for your vitamins instead. And although nutritional science waffles on what’s good and bad for us, I think we can agree that it’s always nice to see presumably-health-promoting-and-also-delicious foods smiling up at us from our plates. Probiotics are a current darling of the health-food scene, which pleases me because I always like when my favorite foods come into vogue (hello, dark chocolate!). Sandor Katz emboldened me to ferment my first batch of sauerkraut two years ago, and since then, in the secret world of off-blog cooking, I’ve continued the science experiments of fermentation in bubbling jars in the fridge and basement. Continue reading
At 2 a.m. I was still in the kitchen. Peach jam in the canner, tomato jam out of the canner, three trays of fruit leather in the oven, tomatoes and peaches in the dehydrator, prepping zucchini relish. This is what I always forget in those dreamy, carefree spring months when I plant my garden or sign up for a CSA (or, this year, do both): The harvest season is also a season of all-out frenzy.
This recipe is here to help. You will find both emotional and practical relief as you reduce two truly gargantuan zucchini to five tidy pints of the hot dog relish you remember from childhood.
Pile it onto a field roast sausage with that better-than-ketchup (and I don’t say that lightly) tomato jam and a beery mustard, and you’ll almost forget about the boxes of ripe pears in the basement still awaiting your attention.
Any ideas for those pears? Continue reading
For the most part I’m a lazy cook, which is why I don’t get along too well with fava beans.
If you have it in you to shuck the beans from the pod, simmer them briefly and then peel each and every single bean, more power to you. You are now ready to make some elegant little appetizer that will be gone in two bites, like this fava bean and arugula crostini or that fava and ricotta bruschetta. (That second recipe recommends having a friend do the work for you, which is at least a step in the right direction.)
If you don’t have it in you to do all that work, this recipe is for you. It neatly foists the labor of excavating the tender beans straight onto your guests, providing a lively to start to your dinner party as your guests roll up their sleeves and forge a camaraderie based on their mutual amazement at your laziness. Provide a tiny bowl of good salt for dipping the beans, napkins, and a bowl for discarded pods and bean skins. Continue reading
I like my friend Knox for lots of reasons, one of which is that everything he cooks (and bakes, and preserves) is divine and he always shares his recipes. He always has good ideas, and several projects up his sleeve at once, so you won’t be surprised to learn that among his many accomplishments, Knox is the granddaddy of Soup Swap. (What, you haven’t held a soup swap yet this year? It’s not too late! The rules are here.)
And I think it was at Knox’s first soup swap, more than a decade ago, that he made us The Best Tomato Sauce for the first time. There were lots of us, and lots of frozen soup, packed into Knox’s tiny house, and in characteristic fashion he breezily served steaming bowls of pasta to all of us crowded onto the couch and floor and standing in every corner and doorway. The sauce was incredible. I squeezed after him into the arms-width kitchen and wrote down his instructions on a now-battered-and-stained recipe card. Continue reading
Some days more than others, cooking is a dance.
“I’ll be there in a minute, honey!” I crank the oven, scrub a butternut squash, lean in toward the counter, hack the peel away. (Some people eat it, do you?) Losing patience, my big girl comes over to talk subtraction, negative numbers, first grade math, the number line. The squash falls away from my knife in isosceles wedges. I show one to the girls.
“Do you want your squash in big pieces like this or little squares like squash candy?” You can guess the answer. I dice the last third of the squash, sling the pan into the oven, sweep the peels and seeds into the freezer for making broth, correct math homework, give in to the baby’s demand for a cracker.
Back to the recipe. I scoop tahini and squeeze lemon, press garlic, whisk, text with an old friend about soup, recite the memorized words from a favorite children’s book that we can’t find today. And then, in a moment of calm, I give my full attention to the stove, stirring, for the three minutes it takes to toast pine nuts. Success. They don’t burn.
Sweet roasted squash and red onions, a generous drizzle of tahini dressing, those salty toasted pine nuts, a shower of za’atar. I taste a piece of squash, then stop doing everything else. J wanders in at that moment and I hand him the plate and two forks. We sit down in the middle of the chaos and eat every bite. Continue reading
Cooking is a lot of work, wouldn’t you say? That’s why I like to let my dining companions share in the effort every chance I get. Also, interactive food is fun! Everyone enjoys rolling their own sushi. From now on, I’m always going to let dining companions shell their own favas. And serving roasted wedges of unpeeled winter squash lets each eater participate in a simple task that makes the cooking much easier for you. (I’m sure they’ll thank you for the opportunity.)
The rules below are mine. What are your ideas or family traditions for feeding the vegetarians on Thanksgiving? Please share your own insights—or feel free to request advice!—in the comments. Continue reading