Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Winner! and other stuff

And the winner is: Tracey, who wanted to "forget to return" the copy she checked out from the library. Tracey, email me your address, and I will get Dinner: The Playbook right in the mail. Thank you, everybody, for playing! We will be doing some more contests soon, so please stay tuned.

While I'm here, a couple other things.

I have to tell you that, since this album came out, we have listened to nothing else. Just go over and click the little clips over there and tell me you aren't dying to hear the whole thing. Seriously. So, okay, yes, Small Parade is two friends of mine, one of whom is Nicole, of Improv Sewing and Carr's Ciderhouse fame. She is also, for long-time readers, the mother of Ben's dearest friend Ava. But I would listen to this record and love it even if they were strangers. Plus, Ava did the cover art!
This is Ben and a banjo. Not a doorknob.
Did I ever tell you about this essay, over at Brain, Child, about Ben and the doorknobs? Herewith I am. Telling you.

What about the fact that I have a little game-night cameo essay in the new Unbored book? Unbored Games. It's here, it's queer, get used to it. Okay, maybe it's not queer so much as just totally awesome, because those guys are the greatest. You can only imagine my great honor at being invited to contribute! Plus the illustrator did an excellent job with my imaginary dream family of three kids and a hirsute man friend. See a great preview of the book over here. And if you don't already have the original Unbored, please be sure to get it.

Note to locals: Josh Glenn and I are doing a little Unbored Games event in South Hadley, MA on November 1st. Details here.

I also have a strange little essay in the spanking-new (spanking!) anthology, Full Grown People's Greatest Hits Volume I. Because it is edited by the brilliant Jennifer Niesslein, I can promise you it's going to be a can't-put-it-down situation. I don't actually have it in my hands yet, but I can't wait.

Next up: This stunning picture book, The Mitten String.

Yes, Jennifer Rosner is one of my dearest friends, and yes, I have known her beautiful children since they were babies, but that's not what makes this book such a treasure, I swear. I mean, just look at it, for one thing. And for another, the story is so deeply sweet and uniquely lovely that you just have to get it and see. There is wool in it! And sheep! And a deaf mother and her child connected with a piece of yarn. It is magical, and you can preorder it now and get it in just one week! Read a sample page here, if you like.

Okay, my darling friends. Thank you for your pateince. Recipes are coming soon. xo

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sweet and Spicy Tofu Bowl PLUS Dinner: The Playbook give-away!

Chopsticks whittled by Birdy.
Jenny Rosenstrach’s Dinner: A Love Story blog is that rare mix of real-life, inspiring, and aspirational that actually makes me want to buy some actual food for once so that my family can eat an actual real meal like chicken, and not just a rotating pantry assemblage of grains and cheese and chickpeas and non-perishable vegetables and cabbage. I love her. I loved her first book, with its wonderfully adaptable strategies and entertaining stories and excellent recipes, and because she’s the kind of person who calls pork ragu “an instant party.” And now I love her second book, which is, again and perfectly, just about dinner—about getting appealing, delicious evening meals on the table to feed a family that has kids in it. Plus, it’s little and, adorably, styled to look like a Little Golden Book.


I’m giving you a sneak preview here, with this tofu recipe that rescued my family from the doldrums of The Same Tofu We Always Eat. Everybody loves it loves it loves it. It’s sweet and sticky and spicy and totally craveably umami. Plus: miso and Sriracha and lime! The trifecta of yum.
This is not Jenny's cat.
You should buy Dinner: The Playbook because it will probably pay for itself in, like, three days (unless you were planning otherwise to just eat beans every night like some people). Then you should enter the give-away to get a copy for a lucky friend. Just leave a comment and live in the U.S. to enter. (If you live not in the U.S., you can send me a complaining email instead!) I'll announce the winner on Monday.

From the Playbook. Courtesy of Dinner: A Love Story
Sweet and Spicy Tofu Bowl
Confession: I ran out of miso once and made this with only half the miso, and it was STILL GOOD. If people in your family eat a lot of tofu, double the recipe.

1 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu
½ cup sweet white miso, such as Miso Master brand (available in Asian markets and in the refrigerated sections of better supermarkets)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon Sriracha, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce [I used regular!]
Juice of ½ small lime
2 cups cooked sushi rice [I used brown rice!] drizzled with 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar while still warm
1 bunch of spinach, sautéed in olive oil, salted and peppered [I made kale slaw!]

About 30 minutes before you plan to start cooking, slice the tofu into pieces the size of playing cards (about ½ inch thick) [I cut it into 12 pieces], lay them flat on a paper-towel-lined dinner plate, cover with more paper towels, then place something heavy on top, such as a cast iron pan. [I actually put the tofu on paper towels on the foil-lined rimmed baking sheet I was planning to cook it on, then covered with more paper towels and a smaller baking sheet with a full kettle on top.]

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the miso, maple syrup, Sriracha, soy sauce, and lime juice.

Preheat the broiler to high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat lightly with cooking spray. Place the tofu pieces on the baking sheet, brush with [half] the miso mixture, and broil for 5 minutes, or until golden but not burned. Flip over and broil for another 5 minutes, watching it carefully. [Me again. I spooned on the remaining miso mixture after flipping it, but I notice now that the recipe does not call for this step. I still recommend it!]

Serve the tofu over the rice with the spinach and a drizzle of Sriracha, if desired.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake

Even this "perfect" one seems to have some displaced apples.

I just pitched a piece to a women’s magazine about my schizophrenic kale-Cheezits relationship to food and eating. Jolly Ranchers and buckwheat groats; bar-room chicken wings and raw kohlrabi. “Interesting!” the editor wrote back. “But what’s the take-away going to be? We’re not getting such a clear sense of it.” That is a good and important question! What is the take-away going to be?

Maybe it’s this: the fact of our privilege means we have a fridge full of food, which is such a profound luxury. 

I want us to nurture our healthy bodies and to invest in organic practices, in local and sustainable harvests, in a healthier planet with healthier creatures on it. But I also want to not fret over every mouthful, which can feel kind of narcissistic given that so many people are frankly hungry. Also, I’m raising a girl. I really don’t want her to overthink every bite of food, if you know what I mean. I wish for some easiness in her about eating—a sense that, as long as her basic diet is healthy and sound, it’s fine to slurp up a blue raspberry Slurpee every now and again. (Even if she notices, and she does, that it makes her feel kind of cruddy.)
Corn Nut butt
I’m just thinking aloud, by the way. And this may all just be specious justification of the fact that, even though I’ve been generally leaning away from sugar and white flour, I’m posting this cake today. Because it’s apple season, and because I wanted there to be something nice when the kids got home from school.

The cake is so sticky-salty-buttery good that everyone will love it. Even if right after you take it out of the oven your camera strap catches on the corner of the kitchen island such that the camera slingshots out of your hands onto the tile floor where its lens cap flies off with a heart-stopping clatter and by the time you finish Googling "I dropped my camera and it seems alright but is it?" the topping has cooled and stuck, and you have to scrape the entire thing back onto the cake in a messy heap. Even then.

It will still taste delicious! Even if all the dumb apples and dumb cooled caramel had to be spackled onto it and photographed with a not-broken dropped camera that is maybe taking blurry pictures.
Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake
Serves 6 to 8
Active time: 35 minutes; total time 1 hour

This cake is like the autumn cousin of the more familiar pineapple version. It is gooey and gorgeous--and a fantastic way to use some of those apples you might be getting in large quantities right about now. It’s based on the French tarte tatin, so butter, yes, caramel, yes, salt, yes, but NO CINNAMON. If you want to add cinnamon though, you totally should. Because life is short.

Please note: if you need to be sure the cake is going to come out perfect, then butter the skillet and line the bottom with a circle of parchment before you begin melting the butter and caramelizing the apples.

For caramelized apples
2 crisp apples (or 3 if they’re small), peeled
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter (I use salted!)

For cake batter
1 1/2 cups flour (I use—can you guess?—half spelt)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream

Heat the oven to 350.

Core the apples, then quarter them and slice each quarter into thirds. Put the apple slices and sugar in a large bowl and toss to coat the slices with sugar.

Melt the butter in a10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until foaming. Reduce the heat to low and arrange the apples, cut-sides down in the skillet. I do mine in an attractive spiral! Sprinkle any leftover sugar around the apples, and cook over moderately low heat until the sugar begins to caramelize, about 15 minutes. (At first it may look like the sugar is caramelizing right away, but that is likely still the butter toasting. Wait a sec and see.) Remove the skillet from the heat while you make the batter.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg and beat well. Add the flour mixture and sour cream alternately in 3 batches of flour and 2 of sour cream, mixing at low speed after each addition until just combined.

Spoon the (very stiff) batter over the apples in the skillet, blooping out all the batter in stiff little globs and using a butter knife after to spread it as evenly as you can without disturbing the apples; this is sort of stressful and unsatisfying, and the batter will not cover the tops of all the apples. Bake in the middle of the oven until the cake is golden brown and feels firm when you press it, around 25 minutes.

Run a thin knife around edge of the cake and invert a plate over the skillet. Invert the cake onto the plate, keeping the plate and skillet firmly pressed together, then replace any (or all) fruit stuck to the bottom of the skillet if necessary.

Serve cake warm or at room temperature.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014


This baby is five. What?
ZOMG. These are for you, with love. I am so, so happy that you asked. Anything else? xo
Oh, and p.s.: These are recipes I'd published earlier, in a different incarnation as a food writer, and since they've disappeared from the internet, I am republishing them here. In case you're like WTF?

Mexican Chicken Salad with Buttermilk Lime Dressing
Perfect Sauteed Chicken with (or without) Mushrooms
Baked (but gooey) Macaroni and Cheese
Whole-Wheat Pasta with Chickpeas and Lemon
Cozy Noodels with Ham and Peas
Brown-Butter Whole-Wheat Shortbread
Fish with Brown-Butter Sauce
Chile Tortilla Eggbake
Smoky Saucy Chickpeas with Spinach
Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes
Roasted Cauliflower Salad
Classic Pot Roast
Corn Chowder
Dinner Beans
Beef Satay with Peanut Sauce
Fantastic Fearless Five-Minute Bread (no-knead)
Soft and Sticky Gingerbread
Pork Chops with Maple-Cider Cabbage
Pork Roast with Apples and Cider-Cream Gravy
Pink Pink Beet-Walnut Dip
Asian-Style Chicken Salad with Ginger-Miso Dressing
Winter Sunshine Bars
Potato-Leek Soup
Rosemary Caramel Popcorn
Miso Kale Chips
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts
Tart-Cherry Brownies
Whole-Wheat Pasta with Broccoli Pesto and Garlicky Breadcrumbs
Banana Muffins

Edited to add:
Yummy Buttermilk Biscuits
Yeasted (Croissant-Scented) Waffles
Salted Caramel Popcorn
Camping and Eating
Instant Instant Oatmeal
Crunchy Oven Fries
Hummus Among Us
Lemony Broccoli Pasta with Chicken (OMG! I forgot!)
Apple Pie Tutorial

Monday, September 22, 2014

Some old favorites

The stuffed date Birdy made me for a snack. Heart heart heart heart.
My dearest darlings, I am moving recipes here because the old ones don't seem to exist online anymore. Here today are five requests from the last few weeks. It's funny to interact with the old recipes. I mean, these are all dishes I still make regularly, but things are a different now. I tend to use half spelt flour, for example, in most baked and breakfast dishes. My pictures look better to me these days. (Tamale Pie, flash-lit? I mean, with the corn? My God.) And also, I make things veggie that I didn't used to. The Tamale Pie, for instance, I make with tofu, which I crumble and fry and season heavily before proceeding. I'll try to post that variation too, because it's entirely worthwhile. We just eat way more like vegetarians now, even those of us who aren't Birdy. Over the weekend, Ben grilled her about whether or not she'd eat road kill, which produced some interesting and philosophical conversation. She is not sure she wants to validate the sloppiness of drivers, and of human technology, when it comes to animals, even as she would not want their poor dead bodies to go to waste. If I ever make and sell a question jar, that one's going into it.

THIS WEEK ONLY: your recipe requests (for the old recipes) posted within 24 hours. Please, bring them on. It's the only thing that motivates my sorry, lazy ass to deal with this issue. Scan through the recipe index here. (And you do know that you can always click on it up there, in the upper right corner, under "Pages," right?)

And, in the meantime, these. xoxo

Buttermilk pancakes


Walnut-Orange Cake

Tamale Pie

The Soup of 1000 Vegetables

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Red-Cabbage Kimchi (aka Beauty-Prize Kimchi)

“I dreamed that Birdy was sick,” I said to Michael last month, waking, and waking him, in a sweaty fright in the night in our little Wellfleet rental. He murmured something soothingly, sleepingly, and I went back to sleep only to wake again with a start an hour later. Birdy was standing by our bed with the pinky cheeks and the glassy eyes. “I don’t feel so good,” she said. And she had a 101.1 fever, and then a 103.3 fever. There was a visit to the Cape Cod clinic and a strep diagnosis and a not even wanting to eat warm buttered orzo, which is her number-one favorite food on the planet. It was all very sad and strange and, thankfully, brief. She was a lot better by the next day, and a lot more better by the day after that, and then fine. Plus, we had cable TV, and I’d be lying if I said I minded cozying on the couch with her to watch back-to-back-to-back episodes of House Hunters. Beach shmeach.

The daily miracle of wellness.
Oh, but the dream. Michael imagines that there was some tiny butterfly-wing shift in the air that I registered unconsciously: a few stray strep molecules, a nano-degree of raised heat, a way Birdy's skin felt when I touched my good-night kiss to it. Something. It puts me in awe of my own parental psychic process. And of antibiotics, to which I bow humbly down.
For you, amoxicillin, for I know it was never your intention that Birdy barf you out into a bucket.
Speaking of which: I wanted to make something for Birdy that might offer a little pro- to counter the anti-, biotics-wise, and I so I thought of kimchi. But I didn’t have napa cabbage, which is what I’ve always used when I've followed my usual recipe from the Momofuku Cookbook; I had a red cabbage. So I Googled “Red Cabbage Kimchi,” and found a whole new recipe and method that I loved. I used fresh jalapenos instead of the Korean chile powder that I usually use, that I insist on using even though it smells kind of dusty in the package and I’m never sure I like how it tastes. I didn’t use sugar, which I usually add, or fish sauce, which I am fanatical about, even though sometimes the funk is a little funkier than my mood requires. And, most differently, I followed the instructions on Straight into Bed Cakefree and Dried (a new-to-me blog providentially named after my number-one favorite Maurice Sendak line of all time), where Naomi Devlin recommends using two probiotic capsules to get the fermentation started.
Imagine a scallion into this photograph.
I’m telling you. This is the best kimchi I’ve ever tasted, even though what it really is is a cross between kimchi and sauerkraut. It’s gorgeously pink and perfectly tinglingly tart, crisp and aromatic and just so utterly fresh-tasting. It is the brightest thing I’ve ever made, in all ways. Plus, I can’t even begin to imagine how healthsome it is. Red cabbage! Fermented! 
Ah, the lovely, lovely fermented foods. Also, artificially-flavored strawberry milk.
I mean, please. I eat it pretty much every day, either with a groovy frankfurter or on a rice cake that’s been slathered with almond butter. Oh, and Birdy loved it never ended up mustering the courage to try it. It does, I should mention "have a smell." [Catherine makes prissy, judgmental suit-yourself face.]

This is absurdly, tangily, addictively delicious, even though it smells and the hot-dog slices might give you a strange preschooly feeling.
Red-Cabbage Kimchi 
Adapted from this recipe at Straight into Bed Cakefree and Dried. I added the scallions and upped the ginger, garlic, and chile, but feel free to omit/scale back as you prefer. I would describe this as fool-proof, but then next week I’d end up screwing it all up somehow. Still, it’s very easy and intuitive, and if you’re interested, it’s a great starter fermentation project because the probiotic capsules control it all.

1 red cabbage (I used half of a quite large one), cored and finely sliced or shredded (I used this)
2 carrots scrubbed or peeled and grated, shredded, or julienned (I used this)
1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped or grated ginger
1 large scallion, white and some of the green, finely slivered
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
½-1 hot pepper, seeded and slivered (make it however spicy you like)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
The powder from 2 probiotic capsules dissolved in 1 cup of spring/filtered/mineral water (I used water that I’d boiled for tea and left to cool. The issue is that you don’t want the chlorine, which is designed to stop bacterial growth, because you want to grow some bacteria! It boils off after a minute, though.)

(I use these probiotic capsules. I think as long as you get capsules (not tablets) it should be fine. Actually, you could probably dissolve tablets no problem, so that should be fine too! There.)

Put everything into a (strong) ceramic or stainless steel bowl and pound with a meat mallet or pestle or wooden spoon until the juices start to flow. (This is an inexact science. Just make sure to give it a decent bashing or even a good squeezing with your strong fingers and all will be well.)

Now pile the mixture into a very clean 1- or 2-quart jar (or multiple smaller jars—just try to distribute the liquid evenly) and push it down with your clean fingers until the juices rise to the top of the cabbage. Close with a lid. 

Set the jar aside at room temperature for 3-4 days until the pickle tastes good and sour. (Unscrew the lid every day, if you think to, just to make sure no gasses are building up pressure in there.) You’ll see it, though: once the cabbage starts to ferment, it will go from looking purple and white to looking a uniform bright pink, the way it would if you added vinegar to it. Bingo! Once it’s as sour as you like, keep it in the fridge, where it seems to keep well. I mean, it’s already spoiled, so what more could really happen to it? 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Your Famous Tomatillo Salsa

I am preserving my troubles away. What? That’s not the catchiest saying. But, you know: kimchi, wild grape jam, puffball paté, the insanely good oven-roasted tomato sauce. And this tomatillo salsa, which I make every year. I used to make it in a less fussy way: I’d just puree the roasted veggies with everything else, using lime juice but no vinegar, and then pop it in the freezer in pint-sized containers or Ziplocs. But now I’ve taken to properly canning it, and so I follow stricter guidelines re. acid and boiling, so as to not get The Botulism.

I’m sorry to post something so particular for the four of you who have access to tomatillos, because I know what you’re wanting at this time of year is a way to turn one inch of tortilla-chip crumbs and six dirty beets into enough school lunches to last the semester. Alas.  

And by the way, the great Ben Making His Own Lunch experiment is proving strangely tedious. He is wearing me down by so much fretful consulting that it’s all I can do not to shove him away from his despairing slouch in front of the open fridge and just make the fucking lunch myself. But I am holding steady. Or trying to. “There’s ham,” I say, over and over, like a postmodern audio critique of the pork industry. Meanwhile, Birdy has taken to making her own lunch just for fun—and uncomplainingly. Thus becoming my Current Favorite Child.

Exhibit A(ngel)
Exhibit B(en)
Back to the salsa: it is fruity and aromatic, a gorgeous pale green and just enough spicy and sweet to be a total crowd-pleaser. Sometimes I’ll dump a jar in a bowl and then add some corn kernels and diced avocado to fancy everything up for taco night. Or I’ll tip some into a pot of posole or Mexican rice. Or I’ll just put it out with chips. If you start making it and bringing it places, it will become Your Famous Tomatillo Salsa. Mark my words.

P.S. I should mention that what I'm really famous for is tomatillo-corn pizza: pizza dough brushed with oil, then a layer of this salsa, scattered with corn kernels and slivered red onion, topped with shredded Jack cheese. It is just BEYOND. You will be everybody's girlfriend, like it or not.

Your Famous Tomatillo Salsa
Makes 6 pints

This recipe is adapted from the delightful Put ‘em Up by Sherrie Brooks Vinton, although I see that my darling Marisa at Food in Jars has a perfect-looking one as well. You can scale this way, way down and, if you’re not canning it, you really don’t need to be very particular about measurements.

5 pounds tomatillos, rinsed and husks removed
Olive oil (I use olive oil spray for this)
1 pound onions, peeled and sliced into thick rings
5-10 jalapenos, stemmed, halved and, if you like, seeded (it’s spicier with more seeds)
2-3 peeled garlic cloves
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
Finely grated zest of 2 limes
½ cup lime juice (from 3-4 limes)
¾ cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
0-2 tablespoons sugar

Heat the broiler. Arrange the tomatillos smooth side up on a large rimmed baking sheet and broil them until they are blackened in spots and steaming and hissing, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly oil another baking sheet and arrange the onion slices and skin-side-up jalapenos on it. Brush or spritz the tops of the onions with oil and broil the onions and jalapenos until they are charring, 5 minutes or so.

In a blender or food processor, in batches, puree the tomatillos with the onions and jalapenos and the garlic until smooth(ish). As you finish each batch, dump it into a large nonreactive Dutch oven or pot.

Bring the salsa to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened slightly, around 5 minutes. Meanwhile, puree the cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, lime zest, and salt in your dirty old food processor blender jar. Add this mixture to the simmered salsa, and taste it. If the tomatillos are perfectly ripe, it might be perfect as is. If not, consider adding sugar, up to two tablespoons, to balance the tartness. Taste for salt.

Can, freeze, or eat it up! If you can it, consult a proper instructional book or website, and process the cans for at least 15 minutes.