I always find a brightly-colored salad to be uplifting in wintertime. Lettuce may not be not a winter crop, but I like to overlook that fact and focus instead on salad as an opportunity to let winter citrus shine. And at this time of year fresh herbs are starting to peek up in the garden, which is a perfect excuse to supplement your salad greens with generous handfuls of parsley. The play of flavors and textures here—sweet, salty, bitter, crisp—will brighten any winter day. Continue reading
The Best Tomato Sauce
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
It’s unfortunate that we’re not supposed to eat sugar anymore, because at this time of year I’m zesting citrus like mad and there’s nothing like a little (or a lot of) sugar to tame the delectable bitterness of orange and lemon peels. Think marmalade, think lemon-olive oil cake, think whole wheat quick bread with orange zest and brown sugar. Need more ideas? I loved this recent post from Food In Jars.This isn’t a recipe so much as a good idea: before the next time you peel or juice a (washed, organic) lemon or orange, scrub off the zest with a microplane first. Zest the fruit directly into a bowl to catch every drop of oil and essence from the peel. Add sugar. For this batch I added 1/2 c. granulated sugar to the zest of one orange and half a lemon. Mash it around to help the sugar absorb the flavor of the zest, then leave the bowl uncovered at room temperature for a day or two, stirring occasionally, until the zest is completely dry. Transfer to a sealed jar for storage. Continue reading
Black Bean Enfrijoladas
Today I’m here to offer you another version of my favorite black bean chilaquiles. The original recipe gives you a riot of textures and bright flavors: the salty crunch of tortilla chips, lime, feta, chunky salsa, cilantro, a drizzle of crema, maybe even a few crisp radishes, all supported by a spicy puree of black beans, smoky chipotles, and garlic. A bowl of those chilaquiles is one of my favorite foods.
But some days call for something a little simpler, a little healthier, and a heck of a lot less work. On those days, lately, I’ve been making this version of the recipe instead. The backbone of the dish, the spicy black bean puree, is unchanged from the earlier recipe. But once the beans are ready, I don’t fuss with the little bowls of assorted toppings or with baking or frying the tortillas into chips. Instead, I just dunk warm corn tortillas into the beans and then fold them into quarters right on our plates, topping them with a scoop of salsa, avocado, a handful of toasted pine nuts, and a dusting of cilantro. With a salad alongside, dinner is served. Continue reading
Sweets for the Sweet: Homemade Hearts
If your house is anything like mine, your floor is littered with hearts and stickers, confetti and sparkles, the uncontainable detritus of the month-long operation that consumes our home at this time every year: making Valentines. The glue! The glitter! The little girls cutting hearts and hearts and hearts and hearts, and the thousands of tiny scraps of paper that float to every corner of the floor! The never-ending sweeping….
I mostly try to just smile and nod, enjoying the spectacle and vaguely hoping that we’ll manage to reclaim the table in time for dinner each night. As you probably know, I prefer to make my own messes in the kitchen.
With Valentines Day coming up this week, if you’re like me, you might like to know that you don’t have to settle for crumbly, flavorless conversation hearts with pre-printed messages. Since I’m rarely organized to make holiday treats before the day itself, I’ll refer you back to a post from last year: Make your own easy DIY conversation hearts and express your true feelings instead!If that’s too extreme for you, though, you should probably at least make your Valentine a plate of cookies.Hope your homes are full of sweetness this week!
Red Pepper and Walnut Dip (Muhammara)
Of all the tasty little meze dishes that have passed through my kitchen in recent weeks—and oh, there have been many—this muhammara is certainly our favorite. It’s a thick, rich, flavorful paste of roasted red peppers and walnuts, spicy with harissa and just a touch exotic with the sweet-tart, unplaceable flavor of pomegranate molasses. Watch around the table: the first bite prompts a moment’s confusion, a second take, another bite, a smile. “What IS this?” It’s muhammara.
Whole Wheat Pasta with Greens, Caramelized Onions, and Creamy Walnut Sauce
There’s a new category of food in our house these days that I like to call “decadent vegan.” Regular vegan food, as everyone knows, is steamed quinoa with shredded carrots and a squeeze of lemon, but decadent vegan food is different. It’s this creamy, hearty pasta, and my first experiment with deep-frying and that addictive roasted squash salad that we’re still making every chance we get. In truth, a lot of recipes on this site fall into the decadent vegan category, but for some reason I hadn’t thought of them that way before. This year, I’m making a conscious effort to cook more vegan meals. Decadent, delicious vegan meals.
What are your favorite recipes or ideas that fall into the decadent vegan category? Please share!
If you keep a jar of caramelized onions in the fridge, as I’ve been doing lately, this recipe can be prepared in the time your pasta takes to cook. And if you don’t keep a jar of caramelized onions in the fridge, I encourage you to start. Continue reading
Spiced Lentils and Rice with Fried Onions (Mejadra)
I recognize that early January is a time of year traditionally reserved for repentance and asceticism, but I’ve never been much good at either of those. After many years of making my never-changing Annual New Year’s Resolution (yeah, I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours), this year I didn’t make one at all.
So while better women are perfecting their green smoothie technique or annoying the regulars at the gym, I’ve been getting over my fear of deep frying.And I’m so glad I did. This dish is spectacular for a few reasons. The flavors are deep and rich and sweet, beautifully spiced but not at all spicy. You probably already have all the ingredients in your cupboard, but I bet it won’t cost you $2 if you have to restock anything for this recipe. And the leftovers just get better and better as the days go by. Continue reading
How to Boil an Egg
Well, hello! Let’s pick up where we left off, shall we? As I recall, we were enjoying lots of good food and the people we love and life in general, and then I went on a very long vacation. I hope you did too, or that you stayed home and snuggled your family and drank hot chocolate, and that either way you’ve had a restful and happy end of one year and beginning of the next.
So happy new year! I wish you a year of good health and simple pleasures.And what, after all, is as healthy and simple as an egg? I think of the egg as a secret weapon in my kitchen: it cooks in seconds, it’s cheap and filling, it makes leftovers into a meal. And I owe another debt of gratitude to the egg: it’s the thing that got me started writing this blog a year ago today, in an effort to branch out from my cooking regimen of scrambled eggs and scrambled eggs. I’ve managed to diversify a bit this year, it’s true, but there’s still always room for a good egg in my kitchen.
Boiling an egg is an economical preparation: the shell holds it tidily, no added fat is required, and you needn’t even exert your wrist with whisking. You only need water, a pot, a few minutes of patience and, preferably, a pinch of salt at the end. You can leave the yolks soft to smear over toast or cook them through to creamy perfection for a composed salad. Continue reading
Roasted Squash Salad with Tahini and Za’atar
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