Author Archives: Kylie Elliott

watermelon cucumber salad

We’ve decided to spend as much time as humanly possible at the beach this summer, which has led to my other new favorite habit: grabbing a few cookbooks I’ve been meaning to go through and reading them en route. In the fleeting moments when the kids have limited their bickering in the backseat and the traffic isn’t too terrible, when I’ve been away from my laptop and the kitchen for enough hours that I’m ready to absorb new inspiration, I find myself more open-minded and curious to try new recipes than I am, understandably, in the thick of deadlines and or hangry o’clock, approximately 6:15pm when dinner is nowhere near done.

basically all you need

Two weekends ago it was Saladish, a cookbook from Ilene Rosen, who is the chef and co-owner of R&D Foods in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn and previously did a 15-year stint as the savory chef at City Bakery, creating a salad bar with a cult following. This book is a natural progression. “All of the food I really like to eat and make is saladish,” she says in the intro, something I immediately related to. To me, salads are meals and meals can be salads, and only a fraction of them really need leafy greens. Layers of grains or roasted or raw shaved vegetables plus something pickled or punchy and something crunchy and herby and a good vinaigrette; I ate lunch 15 minutes ago and I literally made myself hungry again typing that.

watermelon triangles

I struggled a little as the book continued because I kept running into ingredients I didn’t keep around, pappadum, green garlic, makrut lime leaves, Chinese preserved cabbage, pea greens, and honestly, this is barely the tip of the iceberg. There wasn’t a recipe that didn’t have something that required an extra grocery run (easy for me to get in NYC, but still, I am lazy, and even when I overcome it, I know you guys would appreciate me finding alternatives) but wait, come back. You see, the sun was shining in the windows, little puffs of popcorn clouds dotted a blazingly blue sky, the shore towns were approaching, and I decided to stop being such a curmudgeon and look beyond these sticking points, which in many places are merely accents or extras. And here, at the base of each recipe, I found a dozen things I couldn’t wait to make.

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garlic lime steak and noodle salad

For most of the last decade or two, my dad was on a perennial low-carb diet, eschewing bread and often sugar, save for carefully chosen exceptions. When family would come over for dinner, he’d always tell me I didn’t need to make anything special for him, but I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a menu that would work for everyone. The results became some of my favorite meals to this day. Previously, dinner parties usually had a carb-assault at the center — lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs or mussels and fries — but in these, protein (and a great heap of vegetables) get the spotlight: chicken gyro salad, street cart chicken (one of my favorites in Smitten Kitchen Every Day), piri piri chicken, and many steak salads. As should be clear, these aren’t bread- or carb-free, but they’re set up in an assemble-your-own style that allows the carb-rejecting to eat as they wish, and the carb-demanding (or not) children to get into the meal too. Everybody wins.

lime juice for marinade and dressingthin rice noodlescooked green beanspersian cucumbers
lightly marinated cucumberssome fixings

This is one of the more recent ones. I jokingly called it the Not-Really-Thai Steak Salad because I was craving a flavor profile, not authenticity. [While it’s probably closest to yum neua yang (grilled beef salad), it wouldn’t include noodles or greens beans, just for starters; neua naam tok (waterfall beef) would have even fewer extras, and is often served with rice.] The first time I made it, while it was delicious, I completely overdid it with fixings: chile-lime peanuts, crispy fried shallots, julienned mango, sheesh, almost full-sized salad bar of options. I was craving it again last Friday (when this handsome couple came over) but vowed to keep it simpler, trying to distill it to its most essential parts — it’s the garlic, lime, and fish sauce marinade that I crave most — and landed on this, and it was so good, it’s officially in the summer rotation now.

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ice cream cake roll

Wait, come back! No matter how charming Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood made them look on that early episode of Great British Bake Off, I know how most of us feel actually feel about making rolled cakes, which is that they’re the worst: pesky with separated eggs, fragile, cracking, prone to failure, causing foul language to leave the mouth of the person cooking. (“You owe me a quarter, mom.” “Not if you want cake.” is a conversation that might or might not happen around here on Passover.) But this one is different. With flour and cocoa inside, plus an additional egg, it’s stretchier and softer, and it doesn’t fight you so much when you want to roll, unroll it, and then reroll it. And you want to do all of these things because this is one of the prettiest ice cream cakes I’ve ever made, and much easier and faster than it looks.

getting startedstiff egg whitesbeat egg yolkssift dry ingredients over

This is one of those old-school recipes I’d seen bouncing around for years and studiously avoided due to an inherent and well-earned distrust of rolled cakes. But then it showed up in a new book this spring, The Vintage Baker*, there as a holiday-ready peppermint cake roll, and I couldn’t resist any longer. I love this story behind this book, which is that one day a decade ago, Jessie Sheehan, then a baker at the new Baked bakery in Red Hook, went into an antique/junk shop with her not-exactly-patient toddler in a stroller that didn’t exactly fit in the narrow aisles, something I can relate to just a little bit. She spotted boxes filled with brightly colored antique recipe pamphlets, the kind that were once distributed by brands as a thank you for purchases but really were just brilliant marketing devices, since all the recipes called for that brand’s goods, and in a haste to leave, scooped up as many as she could carry. She ended up going back for more and more, amassing quite a collection, and the resulting baking she did — with flavor and ingredient tweaks for modern tastes — is assembled in this book. Butterscotch pecan curls, pull-apart cinnamon raisin pull-apart flake bread, sand tarts, sour cream jumbles, and cornflake macaroons, I want to make everything in it. But I think I started in the right place.

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pasta salad with roasted carrots and sunflower seed dressing

Almost every year, I attempt to set off the summer with a pasta salad that aspires to be everything the underseasoned, swmming-in-mayo pasta salads many of us grew up dreading were not. That is, unsoggy pasta that still has a bite to it, dressings with crunch and acidity, and vegetables that are there for substance, not just flecks of color. But this is the first year I did it by public polling, and by public I mean, my husband keeps reminding me how much he likes roasted carrots, Sara, who helps out behind the scenes here, reminded me how much she likes the roasted carrots at the Dig Inn chain, and many of you have told me over the years about nut allergies and nut-free schools and workplaces, which means it’s high time to give sunflower seeds their time in the spotlight. (Besides, I’d choose sunflower seed butter over almond or cashew butter any day, wouldn’t you?)

sad from the store but taste fine
ready to roast

Look, I don’t know anything about dating or making fashion choices by algorithm, but I think the results of this new-recipe-by-polling were exceptional. Carrots are out at the markets right now, but have also come a long way at the grocery store, where I bought these rainbow pretties, although monochrome carrots work too. While they’re in the oven for a quick, high-heat blast, you grind sunflowers (but not all the way, no powder here) with garlic, parmesan (if you wish), lemon zest, and some carrot greens, and if yours came without, a few kale leaves. The green is important here (and I should have used more) because the natural color of sunflower seeds is a bit gray/beige, not exactly the summery brightness one hopes “sunflower” would impart. You then stir in olive oil, lemon juice, more salt, and pepper, more than you think you’ll need because carrots are sweet, pasta is neutral, and you’re going to want the seasoning to stretch across all of it.

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ruffled milk pie

I first learned about ruffled milk pie from Vefa’s Kictchen, a substantial Greek cooking volume that first came out in 2009. A type of galatopita (“pie made with milk,” aka a baked custard pie), this is more striking in appearance than most due to wound and rumbled sheets of pastry, which also providing texture and crunch. It’s so pretty and it sounded so simple — there are 7 ingredients and I bet we keep 6 of them around — it was absolutely, unequivocally something I could get into and want to tell you about immediately save one thing: it uses filo. And would rather do almost anything than work with filo. And I have! I’ve had two kids. I’ve written two cookbooks. I’ve moved apartments. I have planted gardens and taken up running and gone on vacations and okay, maybe I didn’t do all of these things just to avoid using filo in one single recipe, but I can tell you that when the top two items on my to-do list sifted out last week as 1. Purge too-small clothes from kids’ overstuffed dressers, and 2. Make ruffled milk pie, I at last found something I hated more than more than I dreaded working with filo. I am pleased to tell you that my kids clothes are still an unmitigated disaster but this pie is fantastic.

first sheetmessily ruffled filostart your rufflesready to bake

“Geez, Deb, what did filo ever do to you?” Fair question and, in short, it stresses me out. It tears and cracks. It likes to dry out before you can blink and it’s unforgiving once this happens. You’re supposed to keep a piece of plastic on the open package of sheets followed by damp towel on it but when I run a towel under faucet and wring it out, it’s always too heavy and wet and manages to glue all of the sheets together at the edges. I’ve opened up boxes that were nothing but shards. I know, I know, way to sell a recipe, Deb. [Don’t worry, I’ll share some tips for the filo-averse below.]

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chilaquiles brunch casserole

I have never met an intersection of tortillas and salsa and cheese and eggs I did not love excessively, or at minimum, could leave a restaurant where it was on the menu without ordering. Things were relatively controlled between the earliest iteration of huevos rancheros on this site, to a still-favorite, almost shakshuka-ish baked eggs in ranchero sauce with beans, a cheesy broiled lid, and strips of fried tortilla chips in my first cookbook. But it was during a brief trip to Mexico City two years ago that my obsession really went off the rails as I realized I’d need a month to get through all the glorious ways to eat eggs/salsa/tortillas, see also: huevos revueltos al gusto, rancheros mexicanos, divorciados, motuleños, al albañil, and ahogados, not to mention chilaquiles.

12 small corn tortillascrisping the tortillasfried tortillascheddar and monterey jackassembly timestart layering like this

Actually, let’s talk about chilaquiles. Fried tortillas are smothered with red or green salsa and simmered, then topped with shredded chicken, refried beans, or eggs, followed by crema and crumbled cheese and it’s quite amazing on any plate, at any time, anywhere, but when my friend made us this casserole-d version for brunch on New Year’s Day, I threatened to never leave. [Also there was champagne, freshly baked cinnamon buns, and not a single person discussing a cleanse or resolution, praise be.]

ready to bakebake for 15 minutes without eggsadd the eggsfinished

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triple coconut cream pie

I would like to tell you that I made coconut cream pie because after 12 years of requests for it, I submerged my doubts over whether it was my “thing” and finally saw the light. Or that apparently this specific coconut cream pie created by Tom Douglas at Dahlia Bakery in Seattle is so well-known and loved, a previous president would ask for it by name. Or that I made it because I was delighted by the history of coconut in America outlined by Stella Parks in her Bravetart cookbook (which we are already way into), where she explains that the earliest packaged coconut you could get in the US, after the Civil War, was dry and chewy, and not very appealing unless you soaked it in something. That thing became cream for custard, because we have very good tastes. Or that in one of those food holidays I’m a bit dubious of but not above mentioning should the stars/cravings align, apparently May 8th is National Coconut Cream Pie Day, and we might as well begin preparing today.

let's make the pie doughall the buttercoconut crustthin crustthis crust is a (delicious) painready to par-bake, no weights

None of these are true. I actually — in a veritable sad trombone after a build-up like the above — made coconut cream pie because I went so overboard buying coconut for a certain wedding cake I made last summer that I had quite a bit left to use up before its okay-let’s-be-honest-I-blinked-and-missed-it expiration date.

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crispy tofu pad thai

Like a lot of people who go way back in the land of food blogs, I learned how to make pad thai from Pim Techamuanvivit. Pim wrote Chez Pim for many years before moving onto make jams (still the best apricot I’ve ever had) and then, homesick for the food she missed from growing up in Bangkok and disappointed by the versions of Thai food she saw in American restaurants (and “the tyranny of peanut sauce”), opened her first restaurant, Kin Khao, in San Francisco in 2014. It received a Michelin star a year after it opened because why do anything mediocre?

what you'll need

But in 2007, she wrote a seminal post called Pad Thai For Beginners that I’ve read and reread so many times over the years, I’ve practically memorized it. As pad thai is one of the most popular street foods in Thailand, she encouraged us to approach it at home the way the street vendors do: the prep is already done, so you can finish it in a flash. First, she wants you to make the sauce in advance because the ingredients are not standardized — fish sauces and tamarind concentrates will vary in intensity between brands — and you’ll want to adjust as needed, not over a screaming hot pan while your noodles get soft. And she wants you to make extra because it keeps well, and then if your dish needs a little more oomph, you won’t have to run back to the fridge to measure more from bottles and jars. Finally, she wants us to never make more than two portions at once, which will lead to “clumps of oily, sticky noodles.” She explains that the textures and flavors of a proper pad thai “derive largely from the way the dish is cooked, that is to say its quick footloose dance in an ultra hot wok. That simply means you can’t do many servings at once.” This doesn’t mean you cannot feed a crowd, you simply prep as much as you’d need, but only cook a portion or two at a time.

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fig newtons

I have grandma tastes. I don’t have a pocketbook full of butterscotch candies or a plastic cover on the sofa or anything, but I’m sitting on it right now and think our elders are probably onto something, especially when you have two kids with an unnatural contempt for napkins. But I will stan [Grandma Deb has Googled this word, feels ready to give it a spin] for thick cardigans, tins of Danish butter cookies, Walkers shortbread, and Fig Newtons.

stand mixer doughfood processor doughoops forgot to chop themeasy peasy

I’ve wanted to make a homemade version of fig newtons since I started this site nearly 12 years ago. In that time, I have bookmarked a dozen versions that claimed to be like the original packaged cookie but all seemed off somehow — too sweet or too wholegrain, to muddled with other flavors, not actually shaped like the original, or just so fussy, if even I couldn’t muster the motivation to make them, it didn’t bode well for talking anyone else into it. I am glad I waited because last fall pastry wizard Stella Park’s BraveTart cookbook came out and if there is anyone that can be trusted to come up with a version as good as the original but with a more appetizing ingredient list, it is her.

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asparagus and egg salad with walnuts and mint

I found my new favorite spring lunch salad while I was hiding from a pot of brisket, which is the kind of thing that happens three days after Passover. Day one (which is actually day two or three after you’ve cooked the brisket, because you know I’d never lead you astray, right?) is lovely: my goodness, why don’t we eat long-cooked, saucy slabs of beef more often? Day two isn’t so bad either, albeit a touch less enthusiastic: yay, brisket. Day three is: my god this isn’t natural, nobody should eat this much brisket, what am I going to do? I cannot waste food. It’s too long into the brisket’s lifespan to freeze it now. And my thoughts turned to the vibrant green asparagus stalks we’d had with it, and that brisket was instantly relegated to a side dish.

well-toasted walnuts
walnuts, parmesan, lemon zest, salt, pepper, pepper flakes

I wasn’t even a little bit surprised that I found inspiration for asparagus in the Six Seasons cookbook. Have you bought it yet? I know this is awfully bossy of me, but I think you should. I think that if you, like me, delight in inventive but not overly complicated vegetable preparations (225 of them, even), things you hadn’t thought of but that you’ll immediately tuck into your repertoire, you’re going to love this book as much as I do. I confess I’ve had it for almost a year. In that year, I’ve been almost overwhelmed with how much I’ve wanted to cook from it — a favorite so far has been the comfortable cabbage and farro soup with parmesan and lemon — almost to the point of paralysis, which is as ridiculous of a first-world problem as having too much brisket to eat, but here we are and at least one impasse helped resolve another.

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