Roasted Artichokes – 30/67

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I am not really an animal person. I don’t ooh and ah over dogs passed on the street or with their owners on the train (RIP going anywhere). I hate movies about animals, I think zoos are dumb, and I would gladly never watch a cat video again on youtube. I don’t really like the term “fur baby” or “dog mom” because… how could an animal be like a baby? It never learns to talk or read, it will always get in the way of vacations, and kids eventually wipe their own butts. I love my friends and family who love their pets, and so I give as much love as I can to their pets. I don’t dislike them! I promise! I just didn’t really get the point. 

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This is not a popular opinion. It doesn’t make you liked at parties. In fact, it makes people think you’re a psychopath. 

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I’m not a psychopath! I just didn’t grow up with animals. I may have been slightly traumatized by a friend’s giant Newfoundland in first grade and a dog bite or two in elementary school. Animals don’t really like me either, so ha. 

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And so it is slightly incongruent that I have now found myself the owner of a very cute cat. I have officially had a cat in my house for one week… and I like it!

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A couple things incited this progression. In our old garden unit apartment, we had a bunch of strays living in the backyard. And oh my lord were they adorable. They just kept breeding and breeding, so there was a new crop of kittens every few weeks. They played and climbed and stared at us through our window. They warmed my cold, animal-averse heart! And then I started spending more time with a friend’s two adorable cats. I found myself wanting to hang out with them. The cats! Not just the friend! So we began to talk about fostering. 

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And then this whole quarantine thing happened. Now was the time! We signed up to foster with 4 different agencies and — there were no cats left in NYC. Sigh. Good for the kitties, bad for us. But then, lo and behold! Our friend Becky was one of those lucky fostering ones, and she happened to have a wonderfully cute and friendly and curious cat who turns out she was allergic to and did we want her?? 

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And this is how I’ve found myself a new card carrying member of the I Have A Pet club. And I am totally smitten with Sadie Pumpernickel! She’s a little love. I can’t stop taking pictures of her. And poking her when she’s sleeping so she’ll wake up and play with me. I’m not sure I’m at “cat mom” level yet, but I get you, loved people, who want to talk about your animals a lot. I don’t blame you. Let’s send each other pet pics! This little cat is breaking up the monotony of isolation and bringing us so much joy. I’m so glad she’s here. 

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This artichoke recipe came from my friend Erin, who I’ve likely offended in the past with my pet feelings. I’m sorry, Erin! Your dog is a total sweet face! I promise it wasn’t personal. I have you to thank for seeing a wonderful, committed pet owner in action. And also for forever changing the way I’ll make artichokes. These are so great, so permeated by the garlic and flavorful after basting in their own juices. These roasted artichokes are the purest, highest calling of one of the most magical vegetables. Make them now, it’s artichoke season y’all!

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Roasted Artichokes

from my friend Erin, thanks!

fresh artichokes
some peeled garlic cloves
lemon juice
olive oil
kosher salt

melted butter
mayo thinned with lemon juice
toast

Preheat oven to 425F. Cut off the top third of the artichoke. Snip any pointy leaves. Cut down the base. Rub all over with lemon juice to prevent browning. Pull back inner leaves of the artichokes, stab with a knife, and stuff with whole garlic cloves. At least 2-3 each. Drizzle all over with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and add a final squeeze of lemon. Wrap tightly in two layers of tin foil. Roast for an hour and twenty minutes, until the bottom is soft when pricked with a paring knife. Remove from oven and let sit til cool enough to handle. 

Spread garlic on toast. Dip bottoms of leaves into your sauce of choice. Or not! They’re so delicious even without. Don’t forget the heart, the best part. Avoid the choke.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves – 29/67

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My high school graduation party was catered by a little mom and pop Egyptian market in the suburb next to ours. Instead of burgers and potato salad, we had vats of falafel, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, hummus, buttery rice pilaf, and stuffed grape leaves. My mouth waters just typing all those words in a row. I’m not sure where my Middle Eastern food obsession began (maybe the Lebanese restaurant next to my dad’s work that was a treat when we’d visit him there?), or how/where/if it collides with my Jewish roots, but I do know the love is deep. I’m not interested in debating ownership of my favorite foods — I know many countries claim creation of falafel and hummus and dolmas, but I will not engage. I will happily eat all varieties. Whichever is nearest is the best. (Except for my vast disappointment while teaching in Azerbaijan a couple years back, where I learned ALL dolmas there have meat. They called this rice-filled stye “fake dolmas” and looked down their noses at it. I had zero stuffed grape leaves in Azerbaijan 😦 .) 

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The owner of that mom and pop market loved my parents and got to know them a bit — I mean, they’d order TONS of food for big parties every so often, how could they not. At some point around high school he told us that he couldn’t wait to cater my wedding someday. I’m sure I was immediately embarrassed and rolled my eyes and said yeah sure, whatever…

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And then ten years later, lo and behold, I was engaged! And the first thing I knew I wanted at my wedding (besides the right husband 😉 ) — was the food! Stuffed grape leaves, falafel, mezze and dips galore. Homey, bright, flavorful food with history. No chicken breasts or veggie pastas. We started from food and made decisions from there. As the wedding was not close to my childhood home, alas, we could not fulfill the prophecy made by Mr. Market Owner, but I never forgot his words.  We hired a different mom and pop operation — or I guess it was more like pop and friends — and it was more Turkish than Egyptian, but oh man I feel pretty good about claiming we really had the best ever wedding food. The grape leaves were lip-pursing with pomegranate molasses, the hummus silky smooth, the fattoush crunchy and seasonal. I only wish I ate more of it. 

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I can’t believe I’ve never tried to make grape leaves, long one of my favorite foods. I will always order stuffed grape leaves if they’re on the menu (well, if they’re meat-free and nut-less, not guaranteed), and rarely have I found one I don’t like. Daniel was iffy about them until I came along and showed him the light. Calling them “grape leaves” doesn’t do justice do the tangy, spicy, citrusy, poppy dare-I-say vegetal dumpling that awaits. And so this seemed like a great project for a Sunday afternoon during quarantine. I had a jar of grape leaves around from my bridal shower and had a recipe for them in #thebinder, but I went off script and used a completely different recipe, one that had Turkish spices, as we just bought black Urfa chili flakes and dried mint from my friend’s amazing spice company and wanted to put them to use, and because it was vegetarian. Daniel added some beef to his, but admitted it wasn’t necessary. We didn’t totally nail the cooking time on these, but they’re still amazing, and still highly recommended for a weekend project. 

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five years ago: grilled pineapple and baked bean tacos

Stuffed Grape Leaves

adapted from Give Recipe

1 lb jar of grape leaves (we didn’t use all of them)

Filling
2 cups white rice, rinsed
1 big tomato, peeled and finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
4-6 cloves garlic, finely diced
¼ – ½ cup fresh parsley, finely diced
½ teaspoon cayenne (these are on the spicy side! do less if you’d like)
½ teaspoon black urfa chili flakes (optional, but nice and smoky)
2 teaspoons dried mint
1 teaspoon sumac
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon tomato or pepper paste (optional)
juice of 1 lemon
½ cup olive oil

Ground beef, optional

To Cook
At least 2 cups water
¼ cup olive oil

Remove grape leaves from jar and soak in hot water to remove some of the brine. 

To make filling, mix all filling ingredients in a big bowl. To make a meaty version, remove about a quarter of the mixture and place in a new bowl. Add about a quarter pound of ground beef and mix to incorporate. 

Lay out a grape leaf. Cut off the pointy stem with a paring knife. Place about a teaspoon or two of filling in a line right above the removed stem. Fold the bottom of the leaf up. Fold both sides in. Roll up to form a small log. Don’t roll too tightly, as rice will expand as it’s cooked and you don’t want them to explode. (The video from from Give Recipe shows this folding process clearly.)

Repeat until done with filling. As you’re filling, remove any misshapen or torn leaves. Use them to cover the bottom of a wide pot or braiser. Then, stack all filled and rolled grape leaves in the pot. Pour 2 cups water and ¼ cup olive oil over your nested grape leaves. Cover pot and turn heat to low. Cook for at least 45 minutes. Check for rice doneness and continue adding water and steaming as necessary. Ours took another 20ish minutes. 

Try to stop yourself from eating the whole pan warm off the stove. Store in the fridge and serve with yogurt if you’d like. 

Charoset, aka Drunken Fruit Salad

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I don’t celebrate Passover every year, but try to when I can. And, for some reason, I am most determined to celebrate it when it is least convenient to. Last year, for example, when I was in Russia, I got it in my head that I MUST attend a seder. Through a complicated series of events, I ended up getting myself invited to the Head Rabbi of St. Petersburg’s family’s seder — by far the most Orthodox and traditional Jewish thing I’ve ever done. I was incredibly out of my element but luckily everyone mostly ignored me. They couldn’t wrap their minds around that, yes, I was Jewish, I knew the prayer over the candles and had been to many seders, but why would I dream of eating my matzah with something before the 8th day? Apparently these folks wouldn’t eat a matzah pizza or the famous cream cheese jelly schmear until the last day. As someone brought up pretty Jewish, these were the staples of the holiday! My Russian hosts were shocked when I spoke about our tradition of hiding the afikomen — a looked-forward-to treasure hunt for all Jews under Bar Mitzvah age, I had supposed incorrectly. To each their own, but I was so surprised to learn my own was so different than their own. There are so many ways to be Jewish, and our ways were very, very different. It was possibly one of the more uncomfortable evenings of my life, but I’m still glad I forced myself to seek it out and attend and have some sort of ritualistic connection itch scratched – and now I have this great story. 

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And this year, I decided I wanted to try to replicate Passover from my apartment as much as possible, never mind that I’ve never hosted it or tried to locate the various seder plate elements. I usually show up to family or a friend’s with wine or a flourless dessert and then happily eat the matzah ball soup and gefilte fish and carrot pudding and roasted veggies provided by others. 

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Here was the plan: chocolate covered matzah, homemade matzah, matzah ball soup, boiled eggs, charoset. (I contemplated gefilte fish made from a can of tuna but luckily stepped away from that madness before it was too late.) Then I had one boring tragedy after another: the caramel didn’t set for the chocolate covered variety, turns out homemade matzah tastes like baked glue, I didn’t have matzah meal so made “masa” ball soup (which was actually great), and, oops used all the eggs in the soup. Sigh, thwarted at every step. But! My charoset was awesome. Charoset is supposed to represent the mortar of the bricks the Jews were forced to use in ancient Egypt. It’s usually apples, nuts, Manischewitz. Welp, I do like apples? I decided to basically make sangria, but with proportions inverted. And it was delicious. There’s a recipe-ish below. You should try it. 

Some fail pics:

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Oy, matzah isn’t supposed to be floppy. It’s funny that the moments I want to cling closest to my Jewish roots are when everything else has been turned over. Being in a new country, experiencing a pandemic unlike anything in lifetimes. I find comfort in clinging to old traditions and family and feeling grounded. In feeling like I am more than this moment — I am a continuation of what was before me and the future will continue to spiral outwards from this moment. There have been thousands of 30-year-old women fussing about boiled eggs and soup and wine glasses. I take comfort that in that when so much else is unknown. 

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So, whether you are of the tribe or not, drunken fruit salad is never a bad idea. It’s pretty great on matzah (from a box, please) or just with a spoon. 

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one year ago: nothing of note, but I made this black sesame Mochi cake recently and can’t stop thinking about it…
two years ago: nothing of note, but if you’re looking for a perfect pantry meal, may I recommend my fav red lentil dal?
three years ago: apple cheddar quinoa cakes
four years ago: baked stuffed sweet potatoes with chickpeas, kale, and tahini
five years ago: roast eggplant and pepper soup with orzo 

Drunken Fruit Salad, aka Charoset, aka Inverse Sangria

a swanky original

Chop fruit of your choice into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces. I used one red apple, a big handful of red grapes, a perfectly juicy clementine, and a couple dates. Mix in a bowl. Add a healthy pour of red wine. (I finished an old bottle — probably about ¼ cup). Add two big spoonfuls honey, about ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon, and many dashes of orange bitters. Stir everything together and refrigerate, stirring every so often, until cold and well-combined. 

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Perfect Glazed Salmon – 28/67

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Two new experiences I have coronavirus quarantine to thank for:

1. Online grocery shopping.  I must confess, I love going grocery shopping in person. I am a walking stereotype at the farmers market, pointing at each variety of potato and sampling each apple. I stop in every new bakery I pass, rarely to buy anything but just to see and smell what they have and file it away for later. I take great joy in going slowly through the aisles of our grocery store, thinking about future combinations of ingredients or if it’s overkill to get another jar of fancy olives. In our neighborhood, I go to different markets for produce, cheese, breads, and pantry staples. 

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Alas, the pandemic has made all of these excursions moot for the time being. The one time we went to a store in the past three weeks, it was stressful and fast and overwhelming. So! Now we find ourselves scouring freshdirect for available time slots. We tried instacart before their strike; didn’t recommend it then and definitely don’t recommend it now. (Daniel had ordered under a pound of chicken breasts and they delivered (and charged us for!) $26 of chicken!) When Daniel and I got a freshdirect timeslot last week in a stressful episode well past midnight, we literally whooped and high fived. More coveted than Hamilton tickets. What a relief to have ingredients delivered. We’re so lucky to have this option. And most things were in stock! Friends, we are back in full-stocked flour and canned bean and toilet paper land, I am happy to report. 

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A note – I have so much respect for the folks at our grocery stores right now —  restocking, cashier-ing, limiting customers, and continuing to show up for their essential work in these scary conditions. Thank you, thank you. 

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Anyway, we online-ordered salmon, which I usually cook about once a year. I like to eat fish out of the house, but rarely cook it myself. Since we’re not eating out of the house, now seems like a good time to practice that fish cookery! This recipe is really the only way I ever make salmon. It’s how my mom made it growing up. It’s just sweet enough and full of umami and comes out perfectly cooked and honestly every other preparation just wishes it were this one.  I ordered “one piece salmon” on freshdirect, I guess not paying attention to sizes. We received one fillet, which was a fine dinner for one. Daniel was fine with one of the aforementioned chicken breasts given the same treatment. It worked remarkably well, a good trick to keep in mind for next time. Served with leftover farro and green bean salad, it was a perfect dinner in. I wish we had leftovers! 

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2. And the second new experience I have is reading graphic novels! I’ve wanted to read Watchmen for years, but it’s a bulky two-hands-needed book to bring on the train everyday. And so hurrah! What a perfect moment to read it. I was shocked by how theatrical the whole thing was, playing with time and memory and realizations in beautiful ways. I thought it was going to be low on plot, high on action, but it really was a psychological character study about a world on the brink of destruction. An apt and engaging book to read in this moment. Highly recommend! And the movie was cool too. Lots of imagery and dialogue taken impressively from the book, though some characters and diversions I would’ve imagined differently. Regardless, it was a joy to watch while eating salmon for dinner. Looking forward to the HBO show next! 

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What are you reading and watching during this pandemic? Anything good??

one year ago: ah, no posts, as I was in Russia, eating mayo-y salads and lots of smoked fish and black bread aplenty. Perhaps I should try to recreate the famous herring under a fur coat while I expand my fish-cooking repertoire?
two years ago: –
three years ago: 
italian egg drop soup
four years ago: charred chipotle broccoli tacos
five years ago: simple pasta with smoked scamorza and tomatoes 

Perfect Glazed Salmon 

my mom’s classic recipe 

4 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 pound salmon

Preheat oven to 450F. 

In a small bowl, mix together mustard, soy sauce, and brown sugar. 

Remove roughly 2 tablespoons of this mixture and put in a new small bowl. Add rice vinegar and set aside. This is now your dipping sauce. 

Put fish in a baking dish. Pour the not-dipping-sauce on the fish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until desired doneness. My mom says you could also grill it for 4 minutes/side. 

Serve with dipping sauce and a green vegetable and a carb. 

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole – 27/67

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Today is day 17 of my quarantine in Brooklyn. 

18 days ago, I cautiously went out for dinner, took the subway, met a friend for coffee, waited in a line that wrapped around the whole grocery store. 18 days feels like a year ago. This day 18 days ago didn’t feel like a particularly noteworthy day (besides the long check-out line), but has now become a symbol of everything that changed since then. 

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Since then, like you (I hope), I have left my apartment rarely. I have not gone more than 5 blocks from my home, besides one bike ride. I have ordered takeout 0 times. I have washed more dishes than I thought possible. I have slogged through the workday to the hum of (still considered “essential”????) construction next door. I haven’t done laundry and am still not sure where/how/when we will accomplish that. I have gotten very mad at online grocery delivery services whose websites break and who have no delivery times available, and who I am continuing to find empathy for. I have cycled between work leggings – sleep leggings – yoga leggings – repeat. I have gone stir crazy and sang dramatic musical theater songs at the top of my lungs. 

And also — I have cried at NYTimes push notifications calling the hospitals in my beautiful city “an apocalypse”. I have cried while donating to GoFundMes for our local restaurants and bars. I have cried about all the plays that had to close early, the artists out of work, the nonprofits wondering how they will keep up their payroll. I have cried about the health care workers putting their lives at risk to treat the flood of patients that isn’t slowing down. I have teared up at many a casual “how are you doing”, because the answer is still, well, not great. 

And also — I celebrated my one year anniversary not by visiting one of the best omakase places in NYC (in the Upper East Side, which might as well be as far away as Alaska at this point), but instead by making a version of ma po tofu with the somewhat correct ingredients we happened to have at home and by getting drunk on a full bottle of champagne leftover from our last party. I have made dinner with my remarkable husband every single night and shared a pot of coffee with him every single morning. I have gotten said husband to do online yoga classes with me! I have facetimed, zoomed, google hang-outed, phone called, texted, instagram messaged, keybased, and whatsapped friends I haven’t spoken to in months. I have felt extraordinarily lucky to be safe at home, still with a source of income, still eating well, still healthy. 

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I am cycling through being grateful, and scared, and anxious, and just sad like no other moment in my life. It gives me hope to know everyone else I know is experiencing this cycle too. And throughout all these micro-adjustments, we’re all cooking! All the time. I made a dorky silly google doc to track what we’re making for dinner — partly because it gives me some structure and partly because hey, I already did the work, maybe others can get inspiration from it? A mini blog. You can find that here. All recipes are loosely followed and adapted aplenty. 

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We’ve been making some comfort food, some projects, lots of fresh veggies, many easy pantry meals. In the comfort food category: I can’t believe I’ve never shared my Grandma Evie’s mac and cheese recipe. It is one of the first foods I remember eating growing up, one of the first things I made for a dinner party in college, a staple at every family event (especially alongside bagels and lox at brunch!). Most of the family fought over the crunchy parts on top, but I always liked the creamy core more. My mom always said her version wasn’t as good as her mom’s, and mine is likely not as good as either of theirs. 

The recipe is from my great-grandma Aranka, a Hungarian immigrant to NYC (hence the paprika finishing this recipe). When I get overwhelmed with what’s going on in the world, I take comfort in thinking all I have to do is stay at home, in constant contact with my family and loved ones, and I should be safe. I can’t imagine the trip taken by my great-grandparents, escaping hateful countries, getting on a boat to a new home, with no way to communicate besides snail mail. I think of these family stories and am strengthened: New York City, and its vast network of resilient residents, will recover. It may not be how it was before, but it will be back. People always need food and art and gathering places. We will pick up the pieces and move always forward. We just need to stay the f home and cook cook cook. 

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one year ago: caramelized onion and goat cheese hamantashen
four years ago: kung pao Brussel sprouts and tofu
five years ago: spicy lemon fregola with artichokes and caramelized onions (omg I might actually have everything to make this during quarantine!!)

Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

passed down from my spunky Great Grandma Aranka

Most of a 1 lb box of pasta (elbows are traditional, for yesterday’s version I used part farfalle and part orecchiette)
About 8 oz cheese (a block of cheddar is great. I did half cheddar, half gouda)
One can tomato sauce (14 oz preferably, or 8 oz if that’s all you have in you pantry, like me)
Milk – one can’s worth
Salt and pepper
Paprika (I only have smoked and it’s great!)
**this time I added in a chopped chile in adobo sauce because it sounded good. It was!**

Preheat the oven to 350F. 

Boil your pasta in salty water til al dente. Drain. 

Grate your cheese into a big bowl. Add tomato sauce. Pour milk into the tomato sauce can and add to the bowl. Add chile in adobo if you’d like. Add drained pasta and a bit of salt and pepper. Mix together. If it looks dry, add a bit more milk. 

Pour pasta into a baking dish. Sprinkle paprika on top. Bake for 50 minutes, until bubbling and top is golden brown. Let a cool a bit before serving. This makes amazing leftovers, and can be frozen too. 

 

Garlic Bread Chilaquiles (ish)

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Ah, the hungry, tipsy grocery store trip. Living in Brooklyn makes this too easy, as there’s a walkable grocery store on every corner, and at least 4 bars in between. A grocery shopping pub crawl is all too easy to accidentally happen. 

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What are the things you buy when not in sound judgment? This particular day in recent history, my overloaded basket contained:

  • These seedy everything crackers that I could eat for every meal. (Ignoring the fact that we currently have at least 4 open things of crackers. Oh well, book club is approaching, crackers will be eaten. If they make it til then.)
  • Fancy granola. I’m always happier making my granola, but I apparently do get pleasure from staring at the giant wall of prepackaged varieties and choosing one. This grocery shop was over a week ago and have I opened the granola? No. Do I know where it is? Uh, no. Can you return granola?
  • the Expensive Cheddar. I literally always buy cheese at the grocery store, but usually I opt for a sensible one, one that will complement the other misshapen blocks and wedges taking up significant fridge space. This time, we already had at least 3 kinds of cheddar. WHY, self, WHY MORE CHEDDAR?
  • Frozen Garlic Bread. Oy, this is just the least me-y ingredient. First of all, it’s frozen and weird, and second of all, I KNOW I can make garlic bread from stuff I already have at home. And it would’ve been great. But on this day, I just had to have the frozen variety. Daniel didn’t even realize you could buy frozen garlic bread, which I hope opens a world of opportunities for him on ski trips in the future. 
  • (speaking of Daniel, he bought a bag of pork rinds. Packaged fried pork rinds. Did you know that’s a thing you could buy from a grocery store?! They are still unopened and forgotten in the pantry. 🤢)

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Okay so, we got home, we made Alison Roman’s trendy caramelized shallot pasta, a big salad, and baked off this random loaf of garlic bread. Then both of us ate a giant bowl of pasta (yum), a giant bowl of salad (delish), and … one little piece of garlic bread (meh). Leftover pasta makes a great work lunch. Leftover salad doesn’t exist. Leftover garlic bread, the giant pile of it, from the entire loaf, because we are only two people and you can’t not bake the whole loaf and because it’s really not that good, took over the fridge.

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Leftovers are the mother of invention. Since that night, I’ve used them as croutons in my favorite kale caesar salad. I’ve melted cheese and tomato on them and sprinkled them with chaat masala a la Priya in her book Indian-ish. And I made this for breakfast!

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Chilaquiles is usually made with old tortillas, which are cut into strips, fried, and coated in a spicy salsa before being covered with eggs, cheese, herbs, etc. You get to eat a pile of chips for breakfast, basically breakfast nachos, so obviously it’s one of my favorite things ever. This version does not have chips or salsa or anything particularly Mexican, but it does use up a carb I had lying around. Inspiration, not authenticity! This came out way better than it had any right to. So, if you too have leftover garlic bread as the result of an ill-advised shopping trip, join me on the inauthentic dark side.  

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Ah, our first hand view of the construction process, starting every morning promptly at 7am

Some notes – you don’t need garlic bread for this, you could easily use any other bread you need to use up. It just adds extra flavor! This version isn’t particularly saucy, but you could continue cooking the tomatoes until they burst if you prefer it that way. Alternatively, if you too made the NYTimes’ shallot pasta, adding some leftover caramelized shallot paste would add extra sauciness and umami-ness, never bad things.

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last year: kale, sumac, and crispy rice salad
roughly three years ago: black eyed pea stew
roughly five years ago: butternut tahini mash

Leftover Garlic Bread “Chilaquiles” for One 

a Swanky original

glugs and drizzles of olive oil
1 very large garlic clove
big handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
glug of balsamic vinegar
day old garlic bread, cut into bite sized pieces (I dunno, 4, 5ish slices? Really, however much you want to eat for breakfast)
1 egg
small handful shredded mozzarella cheese
lots of chopped fresh parsley
s+p

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a small nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Smash and peel your garlic clove, and add to the pan. When it smells good but hopefully before it starts to brown,  add cherry tomatoes and turn heat up a bit. Add a glug of balsamic vinegar, and shower with salt and pepper. Cook til charred, stirring frequently. This will only take a couple minutes. Remove to a small bowl.

Return skillet to heat, add a bit more olive oil, and toast your garlic bread til beginning to crisp. 

Return tomatoes to pan; stir to combine. (This would be when I’d add the shallot paste.) Make a well in the center and crack an egg into it. Sprinkle s+p on egg, and sprinkle mozzarella cheese all over the pan. Cover (I used the top of a dutch oven) and cook for a couple minutes, or until egg is at your desired doneness and cheese has melted. Remove from heat and sprinkle liberally with parsley. Eat with fork and knife and get your butt to work. 

 

Hermits a la Grandma

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Shall we talk about something generic like how long January felt? Or how frustrating your commute was today? Or the raging primary and how Klobuchar beat(?) Elizabeth Warren? Or about how I haven’t updated this blog since November? 

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Oooh! Or we could talk about TV. That’s fun, people like talking about TV. We’re watching Schitt’s Creek, which is only getting funnier as it develops. And Killing Eve, that’s a good show too. Daniel’s getting me to watch Old Star Trek so I can appreciate New Star Trek. And the Oscars, they happened too! White male rage, amiright? Thank goodness for Parasite. 

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When someone asks “how are ya”, like a barista or a coworker, these are all very good things to bring up. But they don’t really answer how I AM. They talk about how the world is. They’re so much easier than looking the person in the eyes and talking about fear and grief. Of being vulnerable and open and sharing stories. 

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So, because many of us are internet strangers, and strangers don’t do sadness so well, I give you this recipe without much story. We ate them at my grandma’s house growing up, and I miss them. Endish of story.

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I used her recipe and, though they’re close, they’re not perfectly right. But they are delicious and easy and perfectly seasonal. And perhaps when you try them, you too will hear the sound of the harp in the background, and wrinkle your nose about needing to finish dinner before dessert. Or you’ll eat them and think — I know what’s missing, a bowl of strawberries with sugar on top! And tiny vases of fresh cut flowers all over my kitchen. And maybe you’ll hear a creaky old rocking horse in the basement and smell fresh laundry drying in the breeze. I don’t know how to be honest about feelings, but I do know taste memory is real. These bars transport me and comfort me, and I’m glad they’ll live forever on this site. 

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Now, read any good books lately?

one year ago: sicilian stuffed eggplant roll-ups
two years ago: gochujang roasted squash pasta salad
three years ago: miso ginger kale salad
four years ago: kasha bowl with roasted tomatoes
five years ago: bengali egg curry approximation

Hermits a la Grandma

Makes enough for two people to snack on all week, easily double it for more

6 tablespoons butter, at room temp
½ cup sugar, plus extra for topping
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of salt
½ cup raisins (if old, rehydrate in hot water for 10 minutes before using)

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Pour in roughly half of your beaten egg (toss the other half or reserve for tomorrow’s scrambled eggs) and the molasses. Mix on medium speed until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.

In a separate medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Add to wet mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Stir in raisins. 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Wet your hands. Scoop up half the cookie batter and form into a long rope, one inch thick, on the baking sheet. Flatten the dough just a bit. Sprinkle with extra sugar. Repeat with other half of dough. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until sides are starting to brown but centers remain pliable. Slice on a diagonal when cool. They keep for a very long while in a covered container at room temp. 

 

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This is the recipe my mom found and attributes to my grandma. It’s her handwriting at the bottom! A quick google revealed zero hermit recipes from Ruth Reichl, so… who knows the origin of this one.

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Birthday Paella – 26/67

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This recipe, the one you are about to read about and hopefully make, is the dinner I’d request on my birthday growing up. It had all the umami, a blanket of carbs, and my favorite psuedo-vegetables: artichokes hearts and olives. It was warm and comforting — perfect for late August! (I joke.) My “favorite food” as I was growing up always shifted with the day and age, but I know for a while there I said paella. 

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Daniel and I went to Barcelona together last week for an impromptu adventure. And! we did not try! any! paella! Gasp! My middle school self would be disappointed. (One reason we didn’t have paella was that as we looked at menus, many had the symbol for “contains tree nuts”. I got nervous and decided perhaps we should just avoid it. My guess is that many use romesco sauce as a base, which contains almonds? Happy that menus used that notation, not happy that it kept me away from trying this. Oh well, I am alive and didn’t need to find a hospital in Spain. Who gets travelers insurance anyway.) However! We did have fideua, which is a coastal paella variation that uses small broken toasted spaghetti instead of the traditional rice.

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It was covered with fresh seafood, served with a side of aioli, and hella good. I do not regret our paella-esque choices in Barcelona.

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I think I’ve had real paella exactly one time, at Boqueria in NYC. Which is, not coincidentally, where we got engaged, but this was a different evening. We had just eaten our weight in amazing tapas when they brought out our paella. It was… okay. They took the whole crispy-bottom thing to a next level, and it was kinda dry and almost charred. Disappointing. 

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This is a long way to say, we made my mom’s birthday-requested paella for dinner recently. I was skeptical of its short ingredient list (no saffron, just turmeric for seasoning, no hours-long cooked sofrito, no acid). And yet! A really delicious, balanced, well-seasoned dinner. The rice on the bottom gets sticky and a little charred and so flavorful. The whole thing is incredibly flexible and adaptable.  Perhaps I’ve just been on team inauthentic paella this whole time. 

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Some notes on the ingredients, namely vegan sausage: I hate it. The brand we got was just… very hard to swallow. I’d try with a different kind next time, or just add a little smoked paprika and forego the sausage all together. Growing up we used a weird kosher sausage that I would also pick around. But I do remember chicken sausage being a good thing, so maybe that’s the way to go here. Sausage as you will. Also, I didn’t see sausage in any of the paellas in Spain. Most had seafood, or maybe rabbit or another gamey meat. Some had veggies, most didn’t seem to. So, if you like cooking with mussels and venison, try it out, why not. Also, there is no need to use the chicken here. Could definitely do more sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, and peas and make this totally vegan. 

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some recipes to revisit from the blog from autumns of years past:
garlicky eggplant and cubanelle pepper stir-fry
winter squash and quinoa stuffed poblano peppers
blueberry lemon ginger celebration cake
warm apples over ice cream
kabocha, caramelized onion, and ricotta toasts <– this is on my must make again soon list

Birthday Paella 

adapted from my mom!

olive oil
3 bone-in chicken thighs (original recipe called for 6, but we added extra veggies instead)
2 sausages, vegan or otherwise, thick slices
2ish small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and in big chunks (optional)
1 onion, chopped small
1 bell pepper (green or red), chopped small
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup rice (we used Arborio)
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons Bouillion powder
handful baby carrots (or regular carrots cut into batons)
2 cups hot water (or broth) (a little more if more rice)
half a bag frozen peas
small jar artichoke hearts
½ can black olives
½ can roasted piquillo peppers, sliced
small handful cherries tomatoes, halved
1 lemon, to serve

In a big skillet for which you have a lid, heat up a bit of olive oil. Brown the chicken and sausage for a few minutes, then remove to a plate and set aside. 

If using sweet potato, put chunks in a microwavable bowl with a bit of water. Microwave for two minutes, or until potatoes are starting to soften. Drain and set aside. 

Return skillet to heat and add a bit more oil if it’s looking dry. Cook onion, bell pepper, and garlic with a sprinkle of salt for 5ish minutes, or until all start to brown and soften. Add the raw rice, turmeric, and bouillon powder and cook for another minute or so, stirring frequently. 

Level the rice out. Put carrots and sweet potatoes atop rice. Then arrange chicken and sausage on top. Cover with hot water and bring to a boil. Don’t stir! Cover with a lid, turn heat to low, and simmer for twenty minutes.

Sprinkle peas evenly around the skillet. Arrange artichoke hearts, olives, roasted peppers, and tomatoes over the top. Cover with lid and simmer for another twenty minutes. Serve with lemon slices.  

 

Fennel Orzotto with Roasted Baby Eggplants (or Chicken) – 25/67

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Today (well, Friday, when I wrote this), the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the weather feels like it should for September. This morning, students all over the country went to climate strikes, and let the world know they aren’t afraid to use their voices. Earlier this week, Elizabeth Warren held a rally in Washington Square Park and talked about how she’s here because of women’s work. And she took selfies with the crowd for 4 hours. And she had people in the crowd introduce themselves to their neighbors (the best way to quickly form community, imho). I can’t help but be excited. (Feel free to listen to this episode of The Daily and then talk about it with me.) Change and plans and revolt are in the air. 

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Also today, I had my first rehearsal for a new kid’s puppet show I’m directing. It felt like the right group of humans in the room, and we joked around about Ritz the Rat (“The name’s Ritz, Puttin’ on The”) and silly songs. It was goofy and fun and optimistic. Today I’m marginally hung over from drinking two carafes of wine last night with friends over pizza and burrata. Today I have happily consumed leftovers from Daniel’s last night solo cooking adventure, a rice-bean-veggie instant pot affair, even though it includes some little pieces of chicken. I have come to accept I am more flexitarian than vegetarian these days. I will not go out of my way to order or buy meat. But if someone has already purchased it and made it, I don’t have to be as strict, especially when it means free lunch. I’m still not particularly interested in cooking chicken (and that’s really the only meat I’d broach the subject about), but please don’t get mad at me for eating a soup dumpling and still calling myself mostly a vegetarian. (Nobody actually does this, everyone I know is quite even-keeled and open-minded, I’m just putting it out there as a generality.) I realize the earth doesn’t need more meat eaters, and I never want it to be a regular part of my diet. But also, meat dumplings taste better than veggie dumplings. 

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All this to say, I don’t mind a couple Daniel-made chicken-adjacent ingredients. A cup of chicken broth goes far in an otherwise vegetarian dish, and usually makes Daniel more excited to eat whatever it is we’re cooking. I was okay eating this orzo, even though it was browned in chicken fat. I know this isn’t the case for real vegetarians, and apologize if I’ve offended you or lead you astray. So I give the caveat of this delicious recipe — I’ve only made the meaty version of the orzotto (which is, uh, orzo cooked like risotto). And I loved it. So much flavor! However I’m sure it would be equally delicious as a purely veggie main, using just butter or some olive oil in the early steps. The eggplant was a wonderful chicken replacement. Let me know if you try it. 

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three years ago: miso mizuna soup
five years ago: spicy micheladas

Fennel Orzotto with Roasted Baby Eggplants (or Chicken) 

thank you Molly for this delicious dinner recipe! (that I totally hacked to make it more veg-adjacent)

Baby Eggplant – a riff on this real simple recipe 

2 baby eggplants
1 lemon, half in slices, half juiced
Herb sprigs such as thyme, oregano, or rosemary
A couple sliced garlic cloves
Olive oil
s&p

Preheat oven to 450F. Make a slit in your eggplants, and stuff with lemon and garlic and herbs if you got them. Drizzle with half a lemon’s worth of juice and some olive oil. Liberally salt and pepper. Place in a small dish and cover with foil. Roast for 40ish minutes, flipping occasionally, until puckery and soft and tender. Take foil off for last 5 minutes of cooking.

 Chicken and Fennel Orzotto 

2 tablespoons butter
3 chicken legs, bone-in and skin-on (This recipe originally called for 6 pieces of chicken, but I decided the eggplants were a good sub for half the chicken. All other amounts from Molly’s original recipe have remained) 

1 fennel bulb, chopped small (fronds chopped and reserved for garnish)
1 leek, white and pale green parts, in half moons
1 cup dried orzo
⅓ cup dry white wine
2½ cups broth
Zest and juice from half a lemon, plus extra wedges to serve
Chopped fresh parsley
s&p

(This is the part about Chicken)

Preheat oven to 400F. 

Melt butter in a biggish cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper your chicken legs. Place chicken in pan, skin side down. Make sure chicken is in a single layer. If it doesn’t all fit, nestle in new pieces when old ones have slightly shrunk. Cook until meat is opaque around the edges and skin is deeply golden, about 6-7 minutes. Turn chicken so the skin side is up, and transfer skillet to oven, where your eggplant may already be cooking. If so, turn oven down to 400 for this part. Bake until chicken is cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Or until a sticky pokey thing says 160F. Transfer chicken pieces to a plate. Turn oven back up to 450F if roasting eggplant. 

(Start here for Veg Orzotto)

Return skillet to medium heat. (If veg version, add EVOO or a nub of butter.) Add fennel and leek, sprinkle with salt, and saute for about 5 minutes. Veggies should be starting to turn golden brown. Add orzo and toast for a couple minutes, or until evenly browned. 

Deglaze the pan with wine and cook for some moments, until absorbed. Add broth in half cup increments, stirring fairly frequently. Wait until each dose is mostly absorbed before adding the next half cupful. Don’t let the pan get too dry. Taste around 2 cups of broth to see if orzo is cooked, if not, keep adding broth until it’s al dente. This process should take 10-15 minutes. 

Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to your liking, and lemon juice and zest. Place chicken and/or eggplant on top. Sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds and parsley. Serve with lemon wedges. 

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great leftovers!

A Pile of Apple Cake – 24/67

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The problem with claiming you’re good at baking is that people expect you to be good at baking. Ugh. I’ve been setting expectations too high. Nothing good can come of that! 

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So okay, I admit, this cake did not come out of the bundt pan as I would have wished. But! It still tastes amazing. Amazing enough to publicly share on the internet and admit to my vast readership. So, as they’d say on the Great British Bake Off, flavors and texture wonderful, looks like absolute shite. (Do they say that? I haven’t watched it in a couple seasons, but it seems more or less right…)

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We brought this cake pile to a housewarming party. Daniel thought I should dump it into a bowl and call it a crumble, but I insisted on the cake carrying case, with a sad pile of cake roughly in the shape of a bundt. You could still see a couple layers of cake – apples – cake, after all. We definitely got some funny glances from passersby, who looked expectantly into our cake carrying thing (I feel like you have to be pretty proud of your cake to schlep it through the streets of New York usually), expecting to see a masterpiece. And they were instead greeted by a crumbling tower of artfully placed could-be-cake. I made Daniel carry the case. I was too embarrassed. 😦 

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However! The cake was delightfully consumed! And no needs for plates when it looks like this, everyone just dug in with forks or fingers, as if it was pull apart bread. And the hosts even wanted to keep leftovers! I had my leftovers the next day microwaved with ice cream. Could’ve been way worse. So! Make this. But grease TF outta that pan. 

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one night ago: the amazing pasta alla norma from vegetables illustrated was last night’s really really good dinner 
another thing I’ve been cooking: caramelize a shredded zucchini with garlic and olive oil, mix in parmesan, put on pumpernickel toast, top with a fried egg OMG SO GOOD
three years ago: soy-dashi simmered kabocha squash
four years ago: tomatillo peach salsa 

Apple Cake

from my lovely cousin (in-law?) Heidi. Sorry for messing up something beautiful!

6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ( a mix of varieties is nice)
5 tablespoons + 2 cups sugar
5 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral oil
4 eggs
½ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour (I used spray and IT DID NOT WORK!) a bundt pan. Use a non-decorative bundt pan, for gods sake. Or a tube pan, which I’ve never used, but I think would be perfect for this. Don’t skimp!!

In a big bowl, mix together apple slices, 5 tablespoons sugar, and the cinnamon. Set aside.

In another big bowl, mix together the flour, remaining 2 cups sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the middle and add the oil, eggs, OJ, and vanilla. Mix everything until well blended. A wooden spoon worked great for this task. 

Spoon ⅓ of the batter into your prepared pan. Add half the apples. Then another layer of batter, the rest of the apples, and finish with batter. (I couldn’t fit all the apples!)

Bake for an hour and a half. Cake should be brown but not dark. Let cool in pan for at least half an hour before removing from pan. Good luck. 

 
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