brussels

I’ve embarked on a new food adventure, which is a challenge to myself to cook 5 recipes in 5 days using one main ingredient. I’m calling it Made Weekly. I’m not sure how many weeks I can keep it up, but it’s just week one so we’ll see. First up? Brussels sprouts!

Check out my first two recipes on my new tumblr:

Stir Fry with Brussels Sprouts and Tofu
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

lentil salad

I highly recommend having cooked beans or lentils on hand whenever possible. Here’s why. I made lentil burgers the other night, and ended up with more lentils than I needed. Those little puppies came in handy today while I was roaming around my apartment, starving, wondering what on earth to eat for lunch. (I do a lot of roaming around now that I work from home, mostly so I don’t become permanently affixed to the couch, a withered shell of myself, fingertips glued to the keyboard).

What resulted was a quite tasty, very healthy salad, composed entirely of “stuff I had lying around,” including but not limited to, carrots, onion, kale, cilantro, pine nuts, and labneh (though greek yogurt would do). I threw some salt, pepper, cayenne and coriander for seasoning, plus a splash of red wine vinegar for some tang. Took about 10 minutes start to finish, and I have no complaints!

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We’ve all had a crush on someone who is objectively, at a minimum, funny-looking. All logic should steer you clear of this individual, yet, through some combination of actual magnetism and hormones running amok, you find him (or her) sexy ugly. Our friends may mock us mercilessly, but we can’t be dissuaded from the notion. After all, imperfection is attractive. And I would apply that notion, above all, to food.

You can definitely go too far with this line of thinking — if it looks like dog food, it’s probably not going to be particularly appetizing. But I’ve never been one to idolize incredibly perfect dishes plated entirely with tweezers. I respect the craft, but wouldn’t choose it for myself. My food is, like me, a bit messy. Even when it’s perfect.

Puff pastry is a favorite vehicle for basically anything, though I rarely use it because it is approximately 1000% butter. But in hunting for some recipe inspiration recently, I decided I would like to make a savory tarte tatin, with caramelized onions instead of apples. And with the remaining scraps of puff pastry, I made a leftovers lunch by topping it with a roasted butternut squash and kale salad I’d made a few days prior. (And goat cheese, for good measure).

Two imperfectly perfect meals, with one buttery crust! Recipes after the jump.

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A note on the title. I felt like this should be billed as some kind of crap Semi-Homemade post in order to be honest, but look, not only is it not realistic to make fresh pasta for ravioli on a regular basis (or ever, if you don’t want to get homicidally angry at a pasta machine), but this cheater version tastes really good. It seems bizarre to employ a prepared food from a completely different cuisine to make ravioli, but somehow it jus works. The secret (or totally non-secret) is wonton wrappers! Or as a friend accidentally texted, wanton wrappers. Just naughty enough.

We had a bit of a ravioli party, all inventing our own frankenstein ravioli shapes and devouring the results. I highly recommend this activity for a fun dinner party or for kids (not that I have them). It’s easy and really satisfying when you’re done!

This time around, beet filling was the choice, but then my mind started racing, thinking about all the delicious fillings one could use instead. Winter squash, pumpkin, a whole egg yolk (zomg), herbed ricotta, NUTELLA, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention sauces, which in this case consisted simply of brown butter with fried sage, but could again run the gamut from pesto to bolognese. What I’m saying is, get creative. You basically can’t fail.

In the photo, I served the ravioli over some purple kale, sauteed with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes.

Instructions after the jump!

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It’s all about apples these days. And fortunately or unfortunately, it will be for some time…at least if you head to a farmer’s market in the Northeast in the next 6 months. If you get sick of just munching on them in their unadulterated form, may I suggest one of these two baked goods? Neither of these recipes requires the quantity of apples that, say, an actual apple pie requires. So if you’ve got a bumper crop or have gone apple picking, you might want to look elsewhere.

But, if you like subtly apple-flavored, perfect-for-fall recipes, look no further. The challah is definitely a bit more involved, but totally worth it. Actually, if you’re working from home like I am these days, you may want to think twice about this bread….I have been tearing off hunks every time I walk by the plate and it’s getting kind of embarrassing how much I’ve eaten in the last day. Therefore, I recommend making these for parties — I made the apple cider donut cake for a potluck and mercifully I did not take any home with me.

The Apple Cider Doughnut Cake recipe can be found here, at Serious Eats. My only modifications were to use 1/2 t. maple extract and 1/2 t. vanilla instead of all vanilla. Maple is just such a perfect complement to the other flavors. But it’s not essential. I also tried doing a glaze instead of the sugar coating and I’d say it was a solid “meh” so follow the recipe on that one. You win some, you lose some.

The Apple Honey Challah is from, where else, Smitten Kitchen. I didn’t modify anything in the recipe, but I think my braids were too fat, resulting in a shape that got a bit funky as it rose in the oven. But it didn’t affect the flavor so I wouldn’t stress about it if I were you.

Fall is here people, and there’s no turning back!

I don’t really know if this is the forum for this, but I found out yesterday that a friend, someone I had worked closely with on many projects at my last job, passed away. At one point in the middle of the night, I was laying awake, thinking about writing this in my mind. Of course it was much more eloquent then than now, but most half-awake thoughts seem that way in retrospect.

Yesterday Cat called again with some freebies from the photo studio — vases full of flowers. As Mark and I were walking back home, arms full, he said, isn’t it so funny that there’s an entire industry built around selling something that is already dead? That will literally rot in your house? And it does seem like a silly thing, to treasure something that lasts so fleetingly. But it’s all relative, isn’t it? Eventually, we all go the way of the flowers.

A clunky metaphor to be sure, but an apt thought for the day. The one thing I wish for the most is to be able to tell Don what a wonderful person and presence he was. Even though he lived in San Francisco and I saw him infrequently, Don was a bright spot during sometimes very stressful moments. He would call, we would chat about work, and then we’d ramble on about something or other for awhile, usually laughing jovially or conspiratorially along the way. He was humble, and self-deprecating, and just one of those people you feel lucky to know.

When I first heard he had passed away, I wanted to write him an email immediately. Isn’t that so odd? I wanted to tell him I was sorry to hear what had happened, and that everyone who worked with him would miss him. Maybe because I don’t know his family, I didn’t know who else to tell.

I’ve been very fortunate not to have dealt with much death in my life. And so it’s that much more surreal and upsetting to lose someone unexpectedly. Someone who may not be family, or part of my inner circle, but who mattered to me and many, many others nonetheless.

 

There’s nothing that motivates me to cook more than throwing a party. There just isn’t the same healthy pressure when cooking for yourself. Even when I am motivated enough to whip something up that’s really good, the reward of cooking for lots of people is definitely greater.

When I have guests over, I actually buck the common wisdom and cook new things fairly frequently. What can I say? I like living on a very, very safe edge. I definitely have a few go-to dishes that I like to make for parties, but in general, I get bored when I make things too many times.

Last night was Mark’s birthday party, and I wanted to make a couple of simple snacks to avoid excessive drunkenness. Dips typically serve that purpose pretty well, especially when you serve them with lots of bread. For this dip, I incorporated a lot of roasted garlic and some caramelized leeks with white beans and other deliciousness.

For the desert, my decision was sort of circumstantial — I have a friend who works in a photo studio and gave me 9 granny smith apples that were left over from a photo shoot (I am not above free apples, people), so I finally made this apple sharlotka from Smitten Kitchen that I’ve had my eye on. I added some nutmeg to the mix, but otherwise followed the recipe faithfully. It is tender, moist, apple-filled, and nice and tart — in other words, highly recommended and quite simple to make. I have a 10″ springform and it was flatter but worked out just fine.

Full recipe for the dip after the jump!

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When I left my job three months ago, I felt like I had all the time in the world, because I sort of did. I went to yoga in the middle of the day, walked around outside, and fit work in around my other pursuits. But the euphoria of freedom quickly gave way to the reality that, to sustain this lifestyle, I had to actually make money. (duh)

Any time I read the advice to “follow your dreams” I roll my eyes a little bit. Not because I don’t believe it’s a great, wonderful, admirable idea. But because your dream job doesn’t necessarily add up to a living wage. Ask any working actor (the occupation my college degree would suggest I have) — you’re probably doing as much catering, bartending, and temping as acting, if not significantly more. And paid acting jobs might just be commercials for crappy products. But you do it so you can land that sweet part in a play downtown, bond with the actors and crew, add another line to your resume. It’s all part of the game. For me, in this more food-focused iteration of my life, I’m trying to find the right balance between doing what I know I do well and can earn a living doing (consulting) and what I love to do the most (cooking).

And to top it all off, I’ve got this blog here. There is something about having a blog that feels akin to having close friends who live far away. Bear with me. When you’re in close contact, regularly, it’s amazing and fun. Of course you talk every day! You love each other! But when busy schedules or missed connections create a small lapse — out of sight, out of mind — it’s easy to just let go of the commitment. And then once you’ve let go, the guilt that you are neglecting something critically important overshadows your desire to reconnect. Returning seems shameful, embarrassing, sad.

I don’t mean to overstate the relationship I have with this blog, but it is, in a weird way, an old friend that I neglect far too often.

Here’s hoping I can get back into the groove. I always find fall to have much more of a “new year” feeling that January — just that residual first-day-of-school reset I guess — so my resolution this fall is to focus on balance, and not lose sight of why I made the changes I’ve made in the past few months.

This is one of those hybrid recipes that had me wondering, why have I never seen this before?

I am a huge fan of both zucchini bread and corn bread. I can eat both in embarrassing quantities. And both are pretty foolproof. The zucchini acts as extra protection from dreaded dry cornbread syndrome, and it keeps well in the fridge for a few days (best toasted with butter). You can tell how anxious I was to start eating this while it was still warm from the oven given that this is the closest I got to a good picture. Oof.

If you’re hitting the end of the summer with a surplus of zucchini (for those of you lucky enough to have space for a garden), or if, like me, you are a sucker for a quick bread, try this one.

The weather has been shockingly pleasant this past week in New York, and it’s feeling like fall is around the corner. It’s just starting to cool down enough at night to warrant a sweater, and the humidity has backed off considerably. So of course, I’m dreaming of fall ingredients. I bet this bread would be delicious with another savory vegetable, like yams, or you could add some spices and a bit more sugar and take it to the sweet side with apples or pears (and pecans!). I have to admit, although I complain virtually without pause about the New York weather, I do appreciate living somewhere that has real seasons. The transitions from one to the next form natural chapters out of life, and I have a feeling it’s going to be an exciting fall.

The recipe can be found on epicurious. I reduced the amount of sugar by about a 1/4 c. but made no other modifications.

And keep an eye out for more Skillshare classes coming up too!

 

College was a very out of character time for me, food-wise. Freshman 15 anyone? The dining hall is not designed for restraint — when you’ve got a limited number of meals, you’re trying to maximize fullness so you don’t have to spend money on food later. There are two things that I specifically remember becoming obsessed with in college, which I had never touched before. Sugary cereal, specifically Lucky Charms (I had a Jerry Seinfeld moment) and cottage cheese with canned peaches in syrup. Whoa.

What amazes me is how much those peaches in syrup taste like peaches that have been baked into things. Somehow they seemed so artificial at the time, like they weren’t really peaches at all but some approximation of peaches, like watermelon-flavored candy (have you ever had a watermelon that tastes like that?). But, yes, they are real peaches. And when you cook peaches, they get silky soft and so, so flavorful. Kind of like the actually good version of those canned peaches.

I also love almond cakes so this recipe was too good to pass up. Word to the wise, though: add a generous pinch of salt. It’s missing from the ingredients list, and it’s necessary! The great thing about this is that I was able to use some over-ripe peaches that probably wouldn’t have been that awesome to eat on their own, and I think it would work with almost any other fruit. I’m thinking pears in the winter, sour cherries, even, call me crazy, grapefruit? OK that last one I can’t make any promises.

Food 52′s Simple Summer Peach Cake

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