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sunday dinner: cacio e pepe (with a summer flair).

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The Romans, man. They are a good people. They know how to live. And eat. And drink. They’ve brought us game changing inventions like aqueducts, concrete and newspapers. And, you know, numerals.

But my favorite Roman invention? Cacio e Pepe. Say it with me, CA-CHEE-O EH PEH-PEH. Hands up emoji. The simplest of the simple, ‘cacio e pepe’ literally translates to ‘cheese and pepper’. And that’s really all it is. Pasta blended with butter and cheese and pepper that results in a rich, flavorful, incredibly simple dish that I dare you not to love instantly.

Add a little summertime flair (it’s TOMATO SEASON, y’all) and you’ve got yourself a game changer of a meal. Thanks, Romans. Grazie mille.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Summertime Cacio e Pepe
Serves: 2

6 ounces pasta (I used bucatini, but you could use spaghetti or linguini and achieve the same result)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan Reggiano
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino
1 small container cherry tomatoes
3-4 leaves basil, chopped in a chiffonade

Kitchen Equipment: large heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, large pot, microplane or zester (for grating cheese), TONGS (I heart tongs)

I love this recipe. It’s so goddamn simple and the end product will just blow you away with incredible flavor. Like, how did so few ingredients pack such a wallop of awesome? Who knows? The Romans know, that’s who.

First things first, get your kitchen prepped so you have everything at your disposal when timing matters later. Using your microplane or zester, grate your cheese and set aside. By using this tool instead of a standard cheese grater, you are making it much easier for your cheese to become melty and saucy later, rather than the undesirable clumpy and oily, because you’re basically grating it in the smallest possible way. You’re making whispy cheese fluff, if you will. And I will. You can use a standard cheese grater if you don’t have a microplane (though I highly suggest you pick one up, it’s one of my favorite and most used kitchen tools), but make sure you use the smallest holes possible.

Wash and chop your tomatoes (if they’re small enough you can just cut them in half) and chiffonade the basil.

Next, take your big pot and fill it with about 3 quarts water and a good few shakes of sea salt (the best chefs will always tell you that pasta should be cooked in water that ‘tastes of the sea’…so salt it up, don’t be shy!). Heat on high until you achieve a rolling boil.

Add the pasta and cook about two minutes shy of the suggested cooking time (I would say about two to three minutes total cooking time for fresh pasta, about six minutes for dried). Don’t you fret, the pasta will finish cooking when we add it to the pan sauce later. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, in your large skillet or sauté pan, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the pepper and swirl the pan around for about a minute to toast the pepper. Your butter should brown slightly but not burn.

Next, add the reserved pasta water and swirl the pan again to pick up all the nicely toasted pepper particles. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the liquid is bubbling nicely. Add the pasta and the rest of the butter.

Now. Here’s where the magic happens. Turn the heat down to low and using your tongs, toss your pasta in the pan sauce until evenly coated. Add the grated Grana Padano and toss quickly with the pasta using your tongs until the cheese melts into the pan sauce and starts to coat the pasta. This should take no more than 10-15 seconds.

Remove the pan from heat and add the grated Pecorino, tossing in a similar fashion as the Grana Padano. Really swirl the pasta around the pan to pick up all of the pepper and cheese sauce. If you’ve done it right, you should be left with a gorgeous, shiny cheese sauce that smoothly coats the pasta and is punctuated by lovely bits of toasted pepper.

Serve immediately in large bowls and top with the chopped tomatoes and basil.

The only accompaniment you need to this is a good glass of wine and a friend or loved one. And maybe a nice view and a summer breeze. But shouldn’t those accompany all of your summertime meals?

I think so. And the Romans do too.

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sunday dessert: blueberry basil lemon tart.

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I have a friend. Her name is Jaime. And one of my very favorite things about Jaime is that she can hang with my particular brand of weird. She never judges, she rarely questions, and she’s always willing to go along for the ride – whatever the ride may be.

Like this weekend, when I texted her, “I think I’m going to make a tart tomorrow. Do you want some?”

Any number of people would respond to a text like that with a side-eye emoji and lots of question marks, but Jaime took it in stride. “Tart night?” she said, “Absolutely!”

Thus, Tart Night was born. We roped in her husband, Doug, and her dear friend, Lexy, and made a plan. We took advantage of her glorious rooftop that came complete with killer views, a perfect evening breeze, and an ever-convenient BBQ. Jaime and Lexy ventured to Whole Foods (which is an entirely different, and completely hilarious, blog post) and returned with a bounty of fresh salmon, zucchini, and corn on the cob – and the real ticket, two bottles of rosé. (Whispering Angel, y’all — look into it). Tart Night was going to be GOOD.

So now I actually had to make the tart. Yikes. And since I couldn’t just make it easy on myself, I took approximately 14 different recipes and combined them into one. And then, there was draaaaaaama along the way! At one point, I feared that Tart Night would, in fact, be tart-less! But. I made it through.

And the tart was perfection. Tart Night was perfection. We laughed and drank and stuffed our faces with the deliciousness we had created, and I didn’t even fall off the roof when I stood on a chair precariously close to the railing to shoot a picture of the tart! (See picture below — and thank you to Jaime’s husband, Doug, my impromptu security detail, for watching my back)

It was amazing. It screamed of all of the best parts of summer, and I want to do it all again next weekend. Jaime, you down? Of course you are.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Blueberry Basil Lemon Tart

Serves: 8 (although one could argue that everyone needs their own pie, so maybe this serves one?)

You will need:

Graham Cracker Crust
12 full-size graham crackers
6 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Lemon Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
5 large egg yolks
1/3 plus ¼ cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Juice and zest from one lemon

Blueberry & Basil Topping
2 pints fresh blueberries
1½ teaspoons white sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
6 leaves basil, chiffonaded (I don’t think that’s a word, but let’s go with it for now)

Kitchen equipment: rolling pin, 9” pie dish, lots of mixing bowls, wire whisk, baking sheet

I’m breaking this puppy down into three parts (plus a bonus fourth part). Each part is relatively quick in and of itself, but there’s lots of ‘cooling time’ in between, so it ends up being quite the process. This is advanced level baking folks, so sit down, strap in, and get ready for a long-ish/entertaining/fairly labor-intensive ride. OK.

Part I – Make the Pie Crust

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

If you need a little outlet for your frustrations from the week, making this graham cracker crust is a great exercise for you. First, take your graham crackers and break them up into smaller pieces. If you have one, throw them in a food processor and pulse until you have mostly fine crumbs. If you are lacking in the food processor area, toss the broken pieces in a sealable gallon plastic bag and crush the pieces into crumbs using your trusty rolling pin. Working through your anger with a rolling pin will produce perfectly smashed crumbs.

Once you have properly crushed crumbs, toss them in a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the sugar and cinnamon. Mix until incorporated. Next, add the melted butter and stir to incorporate. You’re going for the texture of wet sand here – you should be able to make small clumps of graham cracker and they should stick. If the mixture is too dry, you can add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until you achieve this consistency.

Once you have your crust mixture, evenly distribute in the bottom of your pie dish to form the crust. Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and ‘dry looking’. Set aside to cool completely.

Part II – Make the Lemon Pastry Cream

OK, this is where things get tricky. I must confess that my first attempt at pastry cream did NOT go well, but thanks to some strategic googling and Mr. Emeril Lagasse (BAM!) it wasn’t a lost cause, so don’t lose faith, my friend. I will see you through the dark times.

The key to making this thing work is to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start the cooking process. Pastry cream requires your full attention, some serious arm strength (SO much whisking), and an extreme sense of urgency. This is not the time to take a loosy-goosy, lackadaisical, ‘I’m just gonna laze about in my caftan’ approach. This is more of a ‘using any shred of military precision I possess’ type of exercise.

First, put your egg yolks and ¼ cup sugar in a medium bowl and COMMENCE THE WHISKING. You want to whisk the eggs and sugar until they are a pale yellow and ‘ribbons’ of batter fall from your whisk when you raise it from the bowl. This will take 2-3 minutes by hand. Once you’ve achieved this state, whisk in the cornstarch until fully incorporated and set aside.

Now to the stove. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, 1/3 cup sugar and the pinch of salt and warm until just bubbling around the edges. Remove from the heat.

Next, you want to combine the milk and the egg mixture, but DO NOT for the love of all that is holy and good just dump one into the other. If you do, you’ll end up with sweetened scrambled eggs floating in warm milk. BLECH.

No, instead, you’re going to temper the egg mixture so your result is a beautiful custard not a beautiful disaster. Starting in tiny increments (like no more than a tablespoon at a time), add the warm milk to the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Once you’ve added about ¼ cup of the milk to the eggs, you can add more at a time in a thin stream, again while whisking constantly. Do this until you’ve added all of the milk to the eggs, then pour the entire thing back into the saucepan.

Put the pan back on the stove over medium heat and whisk whisk whisk until the mixture starts to bubble. Keep on whiskin’ for another one to two minutes until the mixture thickens to the consistency of custard or pudding. Remove from heat and immediately add the vanilla extract, the butter and the lemon juice and zest; all the while continuing to whisk (I told you there’d be a lot of whisking).

Now, at this point, you may have a beautifully composed custard that is smooth and supple and shiny. You may also have a lumpy, separated mess. If you have the latter, DO NOT FRET. That is exactly what I ended up with and it all worked out for me in the end.

Transfer your pastry cream into a mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure to press the plastic wrap down onto the custard itself. This prevents the custard from forming a really gross film on the top that will derail any hopes of a beautiful pie. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely, which should take 2-3 hours.

If you’re lucky enough to have achieved a perfect pastry cream, there are no additional steps for you (here’s your blue ribbon, you first class baker, you). If, however, your pastry cream was less than perfection, you’re not done yet. When the cream has cooled completely, take it out of the fridge and using either your trusty whisk or an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the cream like mad for 3-4 minutes. Somehow, like magic, it will come together beautifully and all will be right in the world. If it doesn’t come together, keep mixing until it does, and if it still doesn’t come together, you can add up to an additional cup of warm milk to the mixture in small increments until it does. If it still doesn’t come together, then I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe have a good cry and start all over.

Part III – Make the Blueberry Topping

You’re nearing the finish line, friend! Now comes the easiest part.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Spread one pint of blueberries on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar evenly over the top. Roast the blueberries for 10-12 minutes, pulling the tray from the oven and giving it a shake once about half way through the cooking time. The juices from the berries should be flowing freely but most of the berries should still be intact.

Remove from the oven and give ‘em a squeeze of lemon juice. Transfer to a small container and place in the refrigerator to cool.

Wash the other pint of blueberries but don’t do anything else to them. They are beautiful little spirits all on their own.

Chiffonade the basil (roll the leaves into a cigar-like fashion and slice them thinly) and set aside.

Part IV – Putting It All Together

You made it! HURRAH. Now let’s finish this bad boy and get to eatin’.

First, pour the pastry cream into the finished pie crust and spread evenly, being careful to not mix any stray crust crumbs into the cream.

Next, spread the roasted blueberry mixture on top of the pastry cream, leaving a slight edge so the pastry cream peeks through near the crust. This is purely for aesthetic reasons, but I like a little pop of yellow against the dark purpl-y blue of the berries.

Finally, spread the fresh blueberries over the roasted blueberries in a single layer, using enough that it’s well-covered but also leaving a few little spots for the roasted blueberries to poke through. Then, top the fresh blueberries with the basil.

Voila! You’ve arrived. If you’re making this for dessert with friends (which I did, highly recommend) do your best not to dive face first into this little ditty right away. If you made this just for you because YOU DESERVE IT, then get in there!

I’m not going to be coy or modest about this one – it’s bonkers good. Singing from the rooftops good. Dancing a jig in your kitchen good. Making bad decisions because you drank too much tequila good.

Did it take the whole afternoon to make? Yes, likely. Was it worth it? Ooooooooh boy, that it was.

Enjoy!

'Behind the Scenes' of Tart Night aka Doug making sure I didn't fall off the roof in an effort to get the perfect shot.

‘Behind the Scenes’ of Tart Night aka Doug making sure I didn’t fall off the roof in an effort to get the perfect shot.

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sunday snack: avocado toast, plain & simple.

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I had a realization today. As realizations go, it wasn’t groundbreaking or particularly unique, but it stuck with me. Popping up every once in awhile in the quieter moments of the day. A day filled with celebration. Watching a friend about to take a big leap with her love, surrounded by family and laughter and joy.

You know what I’m talking about though, right? One of those thoughts that comes straight out of your gut and kind of smacks you across the face. It was the universe telling me, ‘Wake up! Look around! Notice things!’ And that realization? That I am surrounded by truly good people in my life. Good down to their bones — caring and funny and smart and genuine. Complicated and brave and hopeful and doing their best to figure it all out one day at a time.

With all the shit we go through every day of our lives, knowing that I have such good people around me is powerful. Maybe I’m extra sentimental these days due to things happening in my personal life (things I’m not even close to being ready to put pen to paper on), but this was an incredibly comforting thought. It felt good to put it all together. It was uplifting.

What this has to do with avocado toast, who the hell knows. But as I sit here enjoying this simple, delicious snack, I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be surrounded by such goodness. I am thankful for that. I aspire to be just as good for and to the people in my life.

And that’s all I got for this stormy Sunday (oh hello, flash flood warning).

So to all of the people in my life — you know who you are — thank you. Thank. You. You’re making this journey a whole lot easier (and immensely more enjoyable).

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

OG Avocado Toast

You will need:

1 avocado
Whole grain bread
1 lemon
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This is the simplest of the simple. I wouldn’t even call it a recipe — it’s more of a ‘gathering of ingredients’. And it should take approximately four and a half minutes for it to come together.

First things first, drizzle a little olive oil on your bread and hit each slice with a touch of salt and pepper. Turn on the broiler in your oven and toast your bread on a cookie sheet (or directly on the oven rack) for a few minutes, watching closely so it doesn’t burn.

Once you have some nicely browned toast, scoop the avocado out of its shell into a bowl and add a small drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon). If you want your toast to be extra lemony, you can add a squeeze of juice to your avocado/oil mixture, but this will make the consistency more guacamole-like, which I don’t love. Whatever, you do you. This is your toast.

Mix the avocado lightly, then mash onto the toast. Top with a bit more salt and pepper, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and as many pepper flakes as your palate can handle. Enjoy immediately.

If you want to spice things up a bit (and invest a little more time), you can make the above and flourish with any of the following combos:

  • Tomato + Basil + Balsamic Vinegar
  • Poached Egg + Hot Sauce
  • Bacon + Goat Cheese
  • Feta + Black Pepper + Kalamata Olives
  • Cucumber + Pea Sprouts
  • Grilled/Roasted Corn + Queso Fresco + Lime + Smoked Paprika

Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: roast chicken & asparagus with rhubarb butter.

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Confession: I keep a list of my 25 favorite words on my iPhone. And it is one of my very favorite things. Words like superfluous, modernity, flibbertigibbet. Effervescent, ephemera, dusk. They roll off the tongue and just bring me such joy. I have always had a certain love affair with language; it consistently amazes me that there is a perfect word out there to describe nearly every situation. I have another list of words that I don’t love, but that’s another blog post for another day.

And my favorite culinary term, you may ask? It is without a doubt, most assuredly: SPATCHCOCK. Say it with me ‘spatchcock’. S-P-A-T-C-H-C-O-C-K. It’s a truly glorious word (thanks, Ireland). And what sounds like something that is decidedly NSFW is actually just a fancy way of describing the removal of the backbone of a chicken so you can splay it out spread eagle style for cooking. When a chicken is spatchcocked, it cooks more evenly, and it helps the leg/thigh meat cook slightly faster than the rest which prevents the breast meat from drying out. Added bonus? Maximum amounts of crispy, salty skin, which is the primary reason we’re doing this anyway, am I right?

To properly spatchcock your chicken, you can do a little Youtube research and figure it out yourself, but I also highly recommend having your friendly neighborhood grocery store butcher do it for you. Grab a whole chicken of your choosing and toss it in his or her direction, then go about the rest of your shopping. By the time you’re ready to checkout, your chicken will be sans backbone and ready for cookin’ with little to no effort on your part.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Roast Chicken & Asparagus with Rhubarb Butter

You will need:

Roast Chicken
1 3 – 3 1/2 pound chicken, backbone removed
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roast Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved

Rhubarb Butter
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 stalk rhubarb, roughly chopped
Juice of one orange (or 1/4 cup orange juice)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated

Kitchen Equipment: two rimmed baking sheets, small saucepan

With your chicken properly spatchcocked (I just can’t stop saying it), we’re ready to begin, so preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

First, spread out your chicken on a baking sheet skin side up and pat dry with a paper towel or two. A dry chicken is the best chicken and will lead to the crispiest skin; leave any moisture on the bird and the skin will steam in the oven, leaving you with a flabby mess. No one wants a flabby mess, so pat ‘er down good. Set aside to come to room temperature.

Now let’s turn our attention to the rhubarb butter. Chop your rhubarb and combine with the orange juice, honey and ginger in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft, about 7-10 minutes. Drain the rhubarb in a small bowl and reserve the cooking liquid. Cool the cooked rhubarb before combining with the butter (I stuck mine in the freezer for a bit to save time). When properly cool, mix the rhubarb and the butter together until fully incorporated and the butter has a whipped consistency.

Now let’s get down to business. Grab the tray with your chicken and the rhubarb butter, and with clean hands, carefully slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making two little pockets, then use a fingertip to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using a small spoon or your hands, insert some of the butter under the skin in each of the four pockets you’ve created. Use the skin to spread the butter evenly, adding more as necessary. Once the butter is applied, add a few sprigs of thyme into each pocket.

Rub the outside of the chicken with one tablespoon olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Place your seasoned chicken on the middle rack in your preheated oven, and cook until golden brown and crispy, about 40-45 minutes. A thermometer inserted into the thickest section of the thigh should read 165 degrees when the chicken is properly cooked.

Remove from oven and set aside under a tent of aluminum foil to rest.

While your chicken is resting, turn your oven down to 400 degrees.

Toss the asparagus with one tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until bright green and slightly charred, about 10-12 minutes. Remove asparagus from the oven and transfer to a serving dish, squeezing a bit of lemon juice over the top for an added kick.

Serve your chicken table side and use the leftover rhubarb cooking liquid as a delicious jus. This dish is bright and tangy, perfect for a bottle of rosé, a bit of a Spring breeze and some good company. Get a little boozy and giggle mercilessly while shouting ‘spatchcock’ to the heavens. It will soon be one of your favorite words too.

Side note: grab a few extra stalks of rhubarb at the grocery store, make this rhubarb compote, and serve it over vanilla ice cream for dessert. BONKERS good. *immediately runs to the store to buy more rhubarb and vanilla ice cream*

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sunday dinner: roasted carrots with cilantro pesto & sriracha yogurt.

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Sometimes I don’t have much faith in the state of Idaho. It’s not New York, I say. My expectations should be lowered, I say. I’ll never be able to find what I need for this slightly upscale recipe, I say.

And then Idaho gets all up in my face and says, ‘Don’t doubt me, you silly little girl’.

Like when I walked into Safeway this morning and easily located heirloom rainbow carrots, organic greek yogurt and sriracha. OK, Idaho, my bad. I’ll just sit my snooty Brooklyn-based self down now.

And while I’m my state-mandated timeout, I’ll be pulling together this little ditty. I’m a really big fan of roasted carrots — roasting amplifies their sweetness and the ends get all crispy and caramelized. They need just a hint of seasoning, in this case a pinch of cinnamon and salt & pepper, and they go from produce section to oven to table in under an hour. Combined with the one-two punch of pesto and spiced yogurt, this comes together as an incredibly satisfying dish with layers of complex flavor.

Fair warning: this dish features cilantro front and center. I realize this is a rather polarizing herb, which I happen to love, but I know for others it tastes like soap. So, if you’re in the latter group, I’d probably skip the pesto — which, to be honest, the carrots will taste just as good with only the yogurt.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Roasted Carrots with Cilantro Pesto & Sriracha Yogurt

You will need:

Roasted Carrots
2 pounds carrots (I used the rainbow variety because they’re so gosh darn pretty)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cilantro Pesto
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sriracha Yogurt
1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons sriracha

Additional toppings: roasted pumpkin seeds or pepitas
Kitchen equipment: food processor or blender, baking sheet x 2

First things first, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Wash and peel your carrots and trim off the ends. Grab the baking sheet and sprinkle the cinnamon evenly across the sheet. Add the olive oil, and a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper, then toss the carrots in the oil and spices so they are evenly coated.

Roast for about 35 minutes, turning once or twice along the way.

While your carrots are roasting, put together the accompanying sauces. For the cilantro pesto, first mince the garlic clove in your food processor or blender. Next, add the cilantro — leaves, stems and all — plus the olive oil and salt and pepper. Pulse until the mixture is completely incorporated and resembles a pesto-like consistency. Taste to ensure the seasoning is adequate, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.

Prepping the sriracha yogurt is as simple as combining the sriracha and yogurt in a small bowl and stirring until fully incorporated.

When your carrots are properly roasted, remove them from the oven and set aside to cool slightly. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and roast the pumpkin seeds or pepitas for approximately six minutes.

To bring it all together, place your carrots on a serving platter (they’re really pretty so you’ll want a serving dish that allows you to show them off) and drizzle the pesto over the top. Do the same with the yogurt, then sprinkle the finished dish with the roasted pumpkin seeds.

This is great as a hearty side dish (we had ours with grilled lamb chops because we’re FANCY here in Idaho), but it could also function as a light main dish served with a bright, citrusy side salad.

I love how the flavors play off of each other — the sweetness of the carrots, the herbal punch of the pesto, the kick of the sriracha, the creaminess of the yogurt. It’s a flavor combination I haven’t experienced very often, but it’s one that I will make again and again. Especially when Idaho delivers such top notch ingredients.

Enjoy!

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eight quick things.

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Hey there kiddies, I hope you all enjoyed your weekend. Easter was pretty low key over here in my corner of Brooklyn, but it was nice to take some time for reflection and to enjoy the burgeoning, almost, pretty close to, just about Spring weather. Hey, if I don’t have to suit up in my head to toe Winter garb, it’s a win.

I’m headed all the way over to Idaho to see the parents this weekend, so there’ll be lots of cooking and recipes and pretty pictures of good food in the near future, but in the mean time, I thought I’d share a few things that are keeping me entertained these days. Some food-related, some not, but all good things that I want to share with all of you good people. Enjoy and feel free to add to the list!

FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD

1. This food delivery service: yes, this is overly specific to my life of (sometimes) excess in a major metropolitan area, but I. LOVE. MUNCHERY. At it’s core, it’s basically a fancy on-demand food delivery service, but it’s also a great way to try new dishes that you may not want to cook yourself. Everything I’ve ordered has been fantastic, and I dig the business model (and their snazzy packaging). If you live in New York or San Francisco and want to give ‘em a try, use this referral code and both of us will get $20 off!

2. This revolutionary change to grocery shopping: INSTACART! Where have you been all my life. I choose my store (from the likes of Whole Foods, Fairway, and my local favorite, The Green Grape), enter in my list, and someone goes and does the shopping for me, then delivers it to my door at the time of my choosing. Excessive? Most likely. But you talk to me after you’ve lugged too many bags of groceries up and down the stairs of the L train and then tell me if it’s excessive. I’d rather use the term ‘exceedingly convenient’ or perhaps, ‘one of life’s core necessities’.

3. This English Muffin recipe: when my coworker told me about Model Bakery English Muffins, I was a little skeptical. English muffins are already great, how much better could these be? And then I found the recipe online and I thought, why not? Let’s see what’s what. And HOOOOO BOY, are they good. Yes it takes two days to make them, but they are bonkers good and totally worth the elbow grease. They’re also huge. English muffins on really delicious steroids.

4. This cooking vacation in the Loire Valley in France: currently sitting in the #1 position on my bucket list. It sounds simply magical and I will make this happen soon (fingers crossed).

OTHER GLORIOUS THINGS

5. This Instagram account: Commander Scott Kelly is spending a year living on the International Space Station and documenting his time there via his very entertaining Instagram account. I mean, who doesn’t want to see what Australia looks like from space?!

6. This story about a guy, his stolen cell phone, and how he became a minor celebrity in China. Nuff said.

7. This app: Duolingo is SO much fun! Whether you’re a casual language learner or looking to seriously up your game, this is a great way to learn. And it’s free! I’m currently using it to brush up my French for an upcoming business trip to Paris. ‘Il n’y a rien dans ce sac,’ I say (that means ‘there’s nothing in this bag’ and I find it hilarious that, a) I know how to say this very random thing, and b) it’s the thing I remember most clearly so far).

8. This documentary: if you’re even remotely curious about religion (whether you choose to adopt a belief system or not), HBO’s documentary ‘Going Clear’ is a fascinating and unsettling picture of modern Scientology. Like a ‘jaw on the floor, can this actually be real’ picture. Well worth the cost of an HBO subscription. Well worth it (especially with today’s release of HBO Now).

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sunday dinner: baked eggs with kale & pancetta.

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Guys. As much as I would like to say SPRING IS HERE, REJOICE! It’s just not true. The sun may be a-shinin’, but it’s still frightfully cold in the Northeast. I still have to suit up in my big winter coat and my scarf and my fuzzy boots, and the wind still nips in that maddening way.

And while I’d like to be wearing a lighter jacket and skipping off to the farmers’ market to buy asparagus and ramps and green garlic and all of those other lovely spring treats, I am instead staying home under a blanket because it’s 25 degrees and there are ‘flurries in the forecast’.

Ho hum.

So what to eat when you’re deep in the ‘when the F will this Winter be over’ blues? Something homey and comforting, buttery and salty and peppery — something like baked eggs with kale and pancetta. It’s a polished and chic dish that is almost a one pot meal, and it’s a cinch to pull together. You can whip it up, then dive back under the covers and enjoy the fruits of your labor while binge watching Empire. Or Call the Midwife. Or House of Cards (OK, so I’m painfully late to the Season 3 party. Can I live?) Whatever your choice, this dish will help you forget, if even for a moment, that it’s nearly April out of doors but it still feels a whole lot like January.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Baked Eggs with Kale & Pancetta

You will need (all of the increments below are listed per person; if you’re preparing for more than one, adjust accordingly):

2 eggs
½ bunch lacinato kale
1 thick-cut slice pancetta
1 clove garlic
1 pat butter
1 tablespoon half and half
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
parmesan reggiano cheese
hot sauce (optional, I used Texas Pete’s)

Kitchen equipment: cast iron or heavy-bottomed saute pan, oven-safe baking dish

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Wash the kale thoroughly, remove the tough inner stem, and chop roughly into big pieces. Dice the pancetta into bite-sized pieces and mince the clove of garlic.

In a cast iron or heavy-bottomed pan, saute the pancetta over medium heat until browned and slightly crispy, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but about a teaspoon of the fat in the pan, then return to the stove and add the garlic and kale. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring often, until garlic is fragrant and the kale is slightly wilted. Remove from heat and return the pancetta to the pan with the kale. Toss to incorporate.

Add the kale/pancetta mixture to one side of the baking dish, spreading out in an even layer. Crack the eggs into the other half of the dish, being careful not to break the yokes. Place the pat of butter and the half and half on top of the eggs, then season the entire dish with a liberal amount of black pepper.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes for runny yokes, a few minutes more if you like your yokes a bit firmer.

Sprinkle the dish with some freshly grated parmesan reggiano and a few dashes of hot sauce if you like. Serve with crusty bread or toast (I made these English muffins and they are absolutely DYNAMITE) to soak up the delicious, buttery eggs.

Personally I like to make mini open-faced egg/kale/pancetta sandwiches, topped with a few more dashes of hot sauce for an extra kick. However you choose to eat it, you will find it to be rich and fulfilling and cozy. A perfect accompaniment for a winter that just won’t quit.

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sunday dessert: rhubarb upside-down cake.

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‘So what are you doing this weekend?’ ‘Well…um…I’m going on a hunt for rhubarb?’ Insert quizzical coworker face here.

That’s right. I spent much of my weekend scouring the city for one of my favorite Spring ingredients: gorgeous, sweet and tart, brilliant reddish-pink, rhubarb. If Mother Nature was going to refuse to cooperate (hello, late March snowstorm), then I was going to make my own Spring. I was going to put it on a gosh darn plate, I tell ya.

One thing I did not anticipate on my jaunt around the city: a surprising number of New Yorkers had never heard of rhubarb. ‘Did you say radicchio? Rutabaga?’ ‘No, ma’am. Rhubarb. R-H-U-B-A-R-B.’ Insert quizzical grocery store clerk face here. I was beginning to lose hope after it was a no show at the green market (too early) and at Trader Joe’s (too fancy), but then! There it was at Whole Foods, tucked away in a little corner next to stalks of aloe and free trade, organic shiitake mushrooms. Because Whole Foods.

Hooray! I shouted (Not really). Let us get to bakin’.

And while rhubarb is most commonly found in pie form, I’m breaking from tradition and making a rhubarb upside-down cake. Not just for pineapple anymore, folks. This cake is basically a sour cream coffee cake flipped on its head and combined with caramelized rhubarb. It’s rich and bright and not too sweet; the fluffy, light cake pairs well with the syrupy rhubarb, and the crumb topping, which ends up on the bottom, gives it a nice crunch. I could use a thousand words to describe this cake, but all in all, it’s just really, really good.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

You will need:

For the Crumb Topping
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
For the Cake
1 ½ stick unsalted butter, plus more for buttering pan (butter should be room temperature)
1 pound rhubarb, cut into 2” pieces on the diagonal
½ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest (I used meyer lemons)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Kitchen equipment: 1 9” cake or springform pan, mixer, tin foil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter the bottom and sides of your cake or springform pan. If you’re using a springform pan, cover the outside of the pan tightly with tin foil (I used two sheets). This will prevent any juices leaking out during the baking process.

In a medium bowl, toss rhubarb with 1/2 cup sugar. In another bowl, make the crumb topping by combining the melted butter, flour, sugar and salt and mix until crumbly. Set both aside.

Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl (flour, baking powder, salt). In your mixer, beat remaining butter (1 stick) and sugar (1 cup) on medium speed until fluffy. Add in lemon zest and juice and mix to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add dry ingredients in 1/2 cup increments, alternating with the sour cream. Mix until smooth.

In a small saucepan, melt brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter over medium heat until bubbling; this should take about two minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.

Now, to the cake pan! Pour the brown sugar mixture into the buttered pan and spread evenly. Take your rhubarb and toss again lightly in the sugar, then place in the pan. Since this will be the top of your cake, you may want to arrange the rhubarb in a fun pattern — I’m a big believer that food should be delicious and pretty, so here’s your chance.

Once the rhubarb is organized and covers the entire bottom of the pan, pour batter over the top and spread evenly. Finally, sprinkle the crumb topping over the batter.

Bake for approximately one hour (you may need up to one hour, 15 minutes depending on your oven), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then invert the cake onto a wire rack or cake plate to cool completely. You may want to run a knife around the sides of the cake before removing from pan to make this easier. Don’t wait longer than 10-15 minutes to remove cake from pan, as the rhubarb will begin to stick as it cools.

Serve when cool with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

This is a ‘holy shit, you made this?!’ dessert. This is an absolutely gorgeous, invite your friends over and impress the pants off of them dessert. This is a crazy delicious, never had anything better dessert. Is it a labor of love? Sure. Is it worth getting your kitchen a little dirty for? Absolutely.

Enjoy!

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ingredient of the week: cauliflower.

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ingredient of the week

Can we have a serious conversation about cauliflower? Please, sit down, get comfortable, let’s discuss. Tell me your hopes and your dreams. No? OK.

Here’s a lie that people tell themselves: cauliflower is boring. It’s the vanilla ice cream of the vegetable world.

Except that it’s completely not. OK, if you boil it like your Mom used to do (eat your vegetables, young lady!) and plop it onto a plate with little seasoning (and little effort), yes it’s completely boring. But what vegetable isn’t in such circumstances? Just say no to boiling vegetables, people. You’re only hurting yourself and your loved ones.

To make cauliflower really sing, it’s all about HOW you cook it. Cauliflower was born for roasting – no other veg crisps or caramelizes better after a little time in the oven; and since ‘she’s a sturdy girl’, if you will, it holds up well to a variety of cooking methods and makes a great meat substitute (I’m no vegetarian but I do like the idea of a ‘cauliflower steak’).

So where to start then? Any one of these recipes, naturally. All delicious, original ways to prep this unsung hero of the vegetable world that results in a satisfying, not at all boring, meal.

Enjoy!

Recipes pictured above (clockwise from upper left):

Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower (via Bon Appétit)

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Cheddar Beer Sauce (via Joy the Baker)

BBQ Cauliflower & Chickpea Tacos (via She Likes Food)

General Tso’s Cauliflower (via Bakeaholic Mama)

Rigatoni & Cauliflower Al Forno (via NYT Cooking)

Smothered Cauliflower with Eggs (via Food & Wine)

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sunday dinner: ricotta toast with lemon, basil & honey

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Confession: I spent four hours at brunch today. There was champagne and oysters and an over the top fancy Upper East Side location. There were socialites and wannabe socialites and older men with uncomfortably young ‘companions’ and botox as far as the eye could see. Also, André Leon Talley. And it was glorious. And all of this was after a breakfast of bacon and eggs and my breakfast food soulmate, a perfectly toasted english muffin. Go big or go home, am I right?

Needless to say, it was a day of indulgence, so by the time I got around to planning dinner, I just couldn’t commit to a full meal. I couldn’t go entirely without food, that’s just silly; but I didn’t need a meat and potatoes situation.

Enter ricotta toast. It’s light and crunchy and creamy and perfect for when you’re in the mood for snacking. Add in basil and lemon zest for freshness and a little pepper and honey to round it out. Simple and delicious and just filling enough for a day that mostly consisted of eating fancy food surrounded by fancy people.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Ricotta Toast with Lemon, Basil & Honey

sourdough bread (two slices per person)
ricotta cheese
4-6 leaves fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon zest
extra virgin olive oil
honey
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Set your oven on broil and move one rack to the top position. While the oven is warming, brush each slice of bread on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. When the oven is ready, place the slices of bread directly on the oven rack and toast until golden brown, approximately two minutes per side. Watch the bread closely; they can go from nicely browned to burnt in a matter of seconds.

Remove toast from the oven, and when it’s cool enough to handle, spread a liberal amount of ricotta on each slice. Season with salt and pepper, then top with the chopped basil and lemon zest. Just before serving, drizzle with a touch of olive oil and honey.

I paired these little gems with some olives and cornichons (fancy French pickles are the business, no?) and a few slices of prosciutto. These would also go nicely with a bright, citrusy green salad or on their own with a crisp glass of rose.

It’s dinner but not — perfect for a day when you don’t want to commit to a full meal, when grazing is the name of the game. Enjoy!