marbled raspberry pound cake

This small, fearless wildling we literally just brought home from the hospital turned three a couple weeks ago, but despite my certainty that we just got her, I won’t lie, this feels like a gazillion years ago because when did she not have hair. Strangers on the street often ask us about her hair, and I get it, I do. She’s small, it is big, and also red and with spiral curls going in every direction and there are three other members of our family and none of us have spiral curls or red hair. This isn’t the only way she’s already her own fierce little person. I was definitely not into dolls or dresses growing up, so I watch with awe as she plays for hours with her very pink baby doll, the doll’s stroller, the doll’s purse, the doll’s crib and high chair; when she comes home after being out all day, she likes to sit quietly with her baby on her lap on the sofa for a while to catch up and it is, objectively (I am known for my objectivity when talking about my kids), one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.

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minimalist barbecue sauce

Every summer, I promise that I’m going to tell you about this shortcut barbecue sauce I use when I don’t have it in me to bring home 11 bottles and jars plus 2 vegetables for what I consider the ultimate, Queen Ina’s. I love that one, regardless. I make it every year or two and I freeze it in 1-cup packages. Sometimes, like last summer, I completely forget to freeze it and find it in the fridge 8 months later and it’s completely and totally fine to eat? It’s pretty magical like that. But it’s not simple. And most of the time, when it’s just weeknight chicken or tofu skewers on the grill or even as a base for what I call Fake Baked Beans (more on this at the end), three ingredients is all you need, plus up to two more to your tastes. Don’t look askance at me; I bet you already have them all.

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bourbon peach smash

Most conversations about shrubs go like this.

“Wait, like the green bushy things that grow in the ground?”
“No, it’s a drink.”
“A leafy drink?”
“No, it’s actually just three ingredients — fruit, sugar, and vinegar…”
“Wait, you drink vinegar? Why would you drink vinegar?”
“Well, we love sour things like lemon and lime in drinks, they complement sweet flavors…”
“So there’s booze in this?”
“… Sometimes. Sometimes it’s just a soda.”
“Well, that sounds nice.”

[Note: They are being polite.]
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corn fritters

We used to fritter on the regular. The earlier archives of this site are filled with favorites that got us through many snacky toddler meals and excesses of vegetables: broccoli-parmesan, zucchini, cauliflower-feta, cabbage and mixed vegetables with an okonomiyaki vibe, mixed vegetables with a pakora-spiced vibe, and of course, potato latkes in every shape and form. According to the date stamps, it’s been over 5 years since we last frittered, and this is unacceptable, especially as we are again deep in the toddler years.

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grilled zucchini ribbons with pesto and white beans

I have never once woken up on a cold January day and longed for pesto or summer squash. It doesn’t even occur to my taste buds in the winter. But like clockwork around this time each summer — usually when it’s only the first week of July but already hot enough that I cannot even remember why I live in NYC, where it currently as stagnant and steamy as a bathroom after a shower with none of the hygienic aromatics, seriously, why do I, I digress — it is all I want to eat.

pretty zucchinithin planksgrilling the zucchini planksgrilledbasil for pesto vinaigrettepesto into white beans

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to give things that are not pasta the pasta treatment. I love and adore pasta. I don’t want to live a life without it. I just think a lot of the things that taste good on pasta taste good elsewhere — see the viral one-pot pasta reimagined on farro, or giant white beans given the baked ziti treatment. Here, something similar happens with smaller white beans. Rolling them around in a pesto vinaigrette and letting ribbons of grilled lemony zucchini wind around them then finishing the whole thing with a blanket of grated parmesan is my current summer fixation. I made it a couple weeks ago because I was craving it. I hadn’t expected anyone else to be into it, but everyone was so enthusiastic, I’ve made it weekly since. I hope you find it equally habit-forming.

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ciambellone, an italian tea cake

A ciambellone is a simple, sunny Italian tea cake with lemon zest and a rich crumb typically baked in a tube pan, which gives it a torus shape, i.e. the appearance of a doughnut, which is, in fact, what Google Translate tells me is the translation of ciambellone. As I can never resist the siren call of either an everyday cake or a doughnut, I am unequivocally here for this.

lemon zest
sift

When someone told me last month the version at Caffe Marchio — which is described as a “rich, Italian-style bundt with a lemon glaze” — is one of her favorite cakes, and even found the recipe on the internet for me (subtle hint, there), my first thought was: but wait I already have a lemon cake that I know and love. Ina Garten’s assertively lemony lemon pound cake is a Top 5-level cake classic; you bring it to housewarmings, as host gifts, to teachers; everyone loves it. So, I broke the recipes out into proportions and found that the Caffe Marchio version uses oil instead of butter, more of it, a bit more sugar too, a combination of mascarpone and yogurt instead of buttermilk, and a lot less lemon. Why should I make a more rich, more sweet, and more mildly flavored cake than one I already like, you might ask? I mean, I did. So, I made them both, fully doubting that there was anything new worth needing to know in the land of citrusy tube cakes, and the ciambellone stopped me in my tracks.

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linguine and clams

It’s only the first day of summer and I’m already weeks deep into our unofficial dish of it, linguine alle vongole, preferably hastily prepared about 10 to 15 minutes before we dive in, eaten outside with a current favorite rosé, caprese salad and a massive bowl of kale caesar (from SKED). It’s infinitely summery. It’s pasta, but I don’t feel like I need a nap after I eat it. And hey, there’s even a t-shirt to go with it (hat tip).

dried pasta is ideal here
a good heap of parsley

You do not need one fancy thing to make it, save the freshest clams you can find. You can pick them up on the way home from the beach or sprinkler park or wherever you’re going to spend your summer day now that cooking will be the easiest part of it. I prefer manila clams, as they’re smaller and, I’m convinced, sweeter, but littleneck or cherrystone are fine as well. From there, a glug of oil, red pepper flakes, a lot of garlic, a cup of wine, a bag of dried pasta, a lump of butter, a squeeze of lemon, and a pile of chopped parsley, and boom, so easy let’s do it again every week.

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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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