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Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Now more than ever, I enjoy cooking, especially in the colder months: hearty soups, crumbly scones, buttery scrambled eggs (with endless cups of tea). Last July, though, I moved into a studio apartment during an unusually hot Boston summer. After weeks of takeout, stovetop huevos rancheros and ready meals from Trader Joe’s, I needed some new kitchen inspiration.

Enter Cooking Solo, Klancy Miller’s brilliant, colorful cookbook about not only feeding yourself, but enjoying it. I’ve made her risotto, her lemon pancakes, her spicy coconut-sweet potato soup… the list goes on. But more than her recipes, I love Miller’s approach: she insists, as a longtime single person, that investing the time and effort to feed oneself well is worth it. As a recent divorcée, I need that reminder on the regular.

My success with Miller’s recipes inspired me to flip back through some perennial favorites, like Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. I bake Wizenberg’s Scottish scones at least twice a month, but recently made her ratatouille for the first (and second, and third) time in years. Like Wizenberg, when I am dining alone on something that delicious, “I lick my knife until it sparkles, because there’s no one there to catch me.”

For a broader perspective on solo cooking, I turn to Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, an eclectic essay collection edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler. Inspired by Laurie Colwin’s eponymous essay (which kicks off the anthology), these pieces, some with recipes, recount the delightful, the depressing and the quirkily indulgent aspects of setting a solo table. Many of the contributors recall solitary meals (or seasons) with deep fondness, even nostalgia. Cooking for one can feel like a depressing prospect, but these books help remind me that there’s a wealth of flavor, adventure and–yes–true sustenance to be found at a table for one.

I originally wrote most of this column for Shelf Awareness, where it ran at the end of March. I submitted it before the virus hit, but it’s more applicable in some ways now than ever.  

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carrot ginger soup bowl strawberries table

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, these days. But I am always looking for ways to add a little more joy to the everyday, especially during the winter. So I floated an idea by my husband recently: how about we try 19 new recipes in 2019?

I know myself, and it’s super easy for me to rotate between the same half-dozen meals (or, in the winter, the same few standby soups). And while there’s nothing wrong with huevos on a Monday night after boot camp, a big pot of simmering tomato soup, or tacos (always tacos), I could always use a little meal inspiration – and a few more veggies – in my life.

Nineteen recipes seems doable: an average of one or two per month, a way to interrupt or spice up the usual pattern without hijacking it altogether. There’s usually at least one recipe in each month’s Real Simple that I want to try, and I have a dozen cookbooks I hardly ever use. I’m hoping this goal will push me to do a bit of experimenting – maybe even find a new favorite or two.

We started off with a simple chicken adobo recipe (from Real Simple, naturally), then dipped back into Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (an old favorite) to try sweet potato-and-spinach quesadillas. With guacamole, of course.

The verdict in both cases? So far, so good. I’ll check back later in the year.

How do you find new recipes to try? Any tips?

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bunch of grapes bookstore marthas vineyard ma

We began May with a string of grey, rainy days – which are good reading weather, if nothing else. (We did get some sunshine while visiting the enchanting Bunch of Grapes Bookstore on our Martha’s Vineyard trip.)

Here, the books I have loved lately:

Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld
This much-heralded 21st-century retelling of Pride and Prejudice is a wild ride. Sittenfeld elegantly skewers both the Bennets and 21st-century social mores in biting prose (and on reality TV). Most of the relationships herein are more than a little depressing, but it’s still fun to read. I thought the elder Bennets were particularly well done. Reminiscent of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which I adored.

Wednesdays in the Tower, Jessica Day George
This sequel to Tuesdays at the Castle finds Princess Celie and her siblings dealing with (more) new rooms, a gallery full of mysterious armor, a highly suspect wizard, and a newly hatched griffin. Really fun – though the ending felt quite abrupt. Made me curious to read book 3!

Trouble is a Friend of Mine, Stephanie Tromly
After her parents’ divorce, Zoe Webster is not excited about moving to tiny River Heights, N.Y., with her mom. But then Digby – rude, sarcastic, brilliant and obsessed with crime-solving – shows up on her doorstep. Think Veronica Mars with a male sleuth and a smart female narrator. Snarky and fun, though a few plot threads were left dangling.

Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year, Neil Hayward
After quitting his executive job, Neil Hayward found himself drifting. A longtime avid birder, he began spending copious amounts of time on birding trips, and found himself pursuing a Big Year (a birder’s quest to see as many species as possible in a year). This memoir traces his journey (geographical and personal). Slow at times, but full of lovely descriptions of birds, and insights into Hayward’s struggle with depression. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 7).

Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow, Tara Austen Weaver
I adore Tara’s blog and liked her first book, The Butcher and the Vegetarian. But this memoir is in a whole other league. She writes in gorgeous, sensitive prose about the ramshackle Seattle house and overgrown garden that her mother bought, and how their family brought it back to life together. So many insights on family, growth and community, through the lens of gardening. Beautiful.

Hour of the Bees, Lindsey Eagar
Carol, age 12, isn’t thrilled about spending her summer at her grandpa’s ranch in the middle of the New Mexico desert. But as she listens to Grandpa Serge’s stories, she comes to appreciate the ranch’s wild beauty, and gains some surprising insights into her family and herself. A lovely, bittersweet middle-grade novel about family, imagination and the titular bees.

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, Ruth Reichl
When Gourmet magazine folded unexpectedly, Reichl, its longtime editor, wasn’t quite sure what to do with herself. This memoir-cum-cookbook chronicles the year after Gourmet‘s demise, when Reichl spent hours upon hours in the kitchen, cooking her favorites and trying new things. Beautifully written (with her lyrical, haiku-like tweets sprinkled throughout) and so many tempting recipes. (I’ve already made two and have plans to try more.) Delectable.

A Certain Age, Beatriz Williams
New York, 1922: Mrs. Theresa Marshall’s dissolute brother, Ox, is finally getting married and he wants to employ an old family tradition: having a cavalier, a proxy, present the ring. Theresa enlists her lover, Octavian, as cavalier to the beautiful Sophie, which naturally leads to all sorts of tangled passions. Deliciously scandalous and elegantly written, like all Williams’ novels. (With cameos by members of the sprawling, blue-blooded Schuyler clan.) To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 28).

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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carrot ginger soup bowl strawberries table

We eat a lot of soup around here, especially during the colder months: tomato, black bean, Tuscan sausage, creamy jalapeño. I could seriously live on soup all winter, though the hubs might protest eventually.

These days, we’re mixing a few spring recipes into our menu rotation: a side of sautéed asparagus, a meal of bruschetta on a recent open-window evening. But the nights are still cool enough that I’m making soup frequently. And there’s a spicy carrot-ginger soup – filling but still light and savory – that I’m reaching for on a regular basis.

In case you need a break from your winter soups, but still want something to take the edge off these brisk spring evenings, I thought I’d share it with you.

Curried Carrot Ginger Soup (adapted from Epicurious)
(Major changes: I adjusted the spices, skipped the onions, and swapped in olive oil for peanut oil because my husband is allergic to peanuts. My version is below.)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp curry powder (or more/less to taste)

1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds

5 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Greek yogurt (for garnish)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add coriander, ginger and curry powder; stir 1 minute. Add carrots; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté about 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.

Working in batches (or using an immersion blender), puree soup until smooth. Return soup to pot; season with salt and pepper if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with Greek yogurt and serve. (The cool, creamy tang of the yogurt really brings out the warm, spicy flavors here.)

Enjoy!

What are your favorite soups (or other dishes) to make in the spring?

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bright bowls mugs anthro

I don’t know anyone who loves chicken as much as my husband.

We eat it more than any other meat around here: wrapped in flour tortillas or warm naan bread; stirred into spicy curries with rice and vegetables; baked in the oven with Jenny Rosenstrach’s mustard-herb butter. Sometimes (don’t tell J) I get a little tired of it.

We also eat a lot of soup at our house: tomato, butternut squash, jalapeño, black bean. Chicken enchilada, Tuscan sausage, carrot-ginger, my grandfather’s chili. I love nothing more on a cold night than stirring a warm, spicy pot of something delicious on the stove. I can eat the leftovers for days. The hubs loves soup too, but he gets tired of it faster.

Recently, we discovered a recipe (again via Jenny) that combines my love of soup with my husband’s yen for chicken. And we have made it three times in the last month.

Avgolemono is a Greek soup, which involves not only chicken but chicken broth and also eggs. (There’s a chicken-and-egg joke in there somewhere, but I can’t quite find it.) It is lemony and light, so it tastes springlike to me, and it involves enough chicken to satisfy even my husband. And – hallelujah – it’s almost criminally easy to make. The only downside is that we have never had leftovers, because we lap up the whole pot every time.

Here, in case you’re in need of a new, simple, delicious recipe, are the instructions. (Bonus: the name is fun to say.)

Avgolemono (via Dinner: A Love Story)

4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup uncooked orzo
salt and pepper
3 eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice
shredded chicken (optional)

In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil.

Add the orzo and cook until tender but still al dente, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low. Let simmer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth. Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture, whisking to combine.

Add the mixture back to the simmering saucepan. Stir just until the soup becomes opaque and thickens as the eggs cook, 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and chicken if you have it, and serve.

Jenny’s version calls for dill, but I almost never have it on hand, so we tend to make it with just salt and pepper. (Though I bet rosemary would also be good.)

What are your favorite chicken recipes – or your favorite dishes to make in the spring?

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katie baking apple crisp kitchen

I am usually a by-the-recipe kind of cook.

I learned to bake before I learned to cook, helping Mom mix up brownies or scooping chocolate chip cookie dough onto baking sheets in Neno’s (my grandmother’s) farmhouse kitchen. Baking often requires precise measurements, specific steps, double-checking the recipe to make sure you’ve done everything right. Too much flour, too little butter, and your cake will fall flat, or your cookies will remain gooey lumps.

There are a few discrete kitchen tasks I learned early on: chopping vegetables, peeling potatoes, sprinkling brown sugar on a pink slab of ham. But for years, I checked and double-checked the recipe every time I made a dish. I lacked confidence in my own ability to improvise, faith in the muscle memory of my hands and arms.

During these years, I marveled at a few college girlfriends who could whip up a stir-fry or a soup – sometimes fairly complicated ones – without so much as glancing at a cookbook. (Especially in Oxford, this creativity was often born out of necessity, if we found ourselves low on grocery money or newly back from a weekend jaunt and forced to make a meal out of odds and ends in the cupboards.)

But after more than a decade in my own kitchen, I’ve become more confident, more sure. I still use recipes frequently, but by now, there are a slew of tasks and a few dishes my hands know by heart.

Rachel’s tomato soup, studded with garlic and butter and sprinkled with fresh basil (if I can find it). The creamy jalapeño soup passed on to us by my mom’s friend Connie. My version of guacamole, which is less recipe than assemblage: avocado, lemon juice, green tomatillo salsa, red tomato salsa. Chop, mash, mix, taste. Repeat the last two steps if necessary. I stop when the texture and the taste feel just right – but it’s a knowledge born of practice, not anything written down.

More recently, I’ve memorized Molly’s scones, making a batch almost weekly in my orange mixing bowl, dry ingredients whisked together before I fold in dried cranberries and stir in the liquid. I know exactly how they should look (dry-ish, but not falling apart). I’ve made them so many times that while I can see the printed text of the recipe in my mind, I don’t have to flip the book (A Homemade Life) open any more. Instead, I let my hands take over: whisk and measure, stir and fold. Knead and press and cut into eight wedges.

There’s a deep satisfaction in this simple knowledge, especially for me, since I spend my time (and make my living by) moving words and pixels around on a screen. Sometimes I hold a pen, which is more tactile, but it’s a different kind of productivity to take raw physical ingredients and transform them into something nourishing. It’s even better when I don’t have to fuss over measurements and spices, and can simply get on with the work of making dinner. (Or scones.) I like knowing that this knowledge is stored somewhere in my body, that my senses and sinews know things my conscious mind can only guess at.

What recipes do your hands know by heart?

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pasta salad red bowl book

Spring is (finally) springing here in Boston, and though the farmers’ markets won’t be open yet awhile, I’m feeling the need to bring a little spring into my kitchen.

We’ve been eating hearty soups all winter, and while I love them, I’m mixing in a few lighter recipes these days. I’m on my annual asparagus kick, and last week I whipped up our favorite pasta salad.

I’m not a fan of most pasta salads – cold, slimy things full of suspect ingredients. But this particular one is warm, light and fresh. It involves several of my favorite things: juicy tomatoes, creamy goat cheese, peppery arugula. It’s quick and easy. And it makes me think of my friend Happy.

His real name isn’t Happy, of course – it’s Craig. He’s a tall Californian ex-hippie who’s lived in Texas for many years. Back when he used to blog, “Happy the man” was his blog moniker, and it stuck. His granddaughters, and lots of his friends, still call him Happy.

One spring when we lived in Abilene, J and I spent a weekend in Austin (during South by Southwest) for a college friend’s wedding. Happy and his wife, Laura, were our hosts – treating us to fish tacos at Wahoo’s and taking us to a couple of fabulous concerts. But we spent one rainy afternoon just hanging out at their house. Happy whipped up this dish, and we ate it from white ceramic bowls, curled up on their sectional leather couch with our shoes off. I felt so warm and taken care of and – well – happy.

Every time I make this for dinner, I remember that afternoon, and a little of that glow comes back. (Plus it’s delicious.)

This is more of a guideline than a recipe, but here goes:

  • Boil a pot of salted water and cook pasta (we like fusilli or bow tie) according to package directions.
  • Slice a handful of cherry or cocktail tomatoes; saute briefly in olive oil if you like.
  • Toss pasta with tomatoes, 2-3 cups arugula, and a small log of goat cheese, crumbled.
  • Garnish with a few grinds of black pepper. If you have some fresh basil to toss in, so much the better.
  • Eat warm, in your favorite bowl. Enjoy!

What are your favorite springtime dishes?

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black bean soup book candle dinner

I’ve written before about my soup obsession. In the winter, you can find me stirring a pot of soup on the stove (or making use of my Crock-Pot) at least once a week. Every year, I pull out the old favorites like my grandfather’s chili, my friend Julie’s butternut squash and apple soup and my friend Rachel’s tomato-basil soup.

Recently, I’ve added a newish recipe to the mix, and I thought I’d share it with you, because it’s perfect for these frigid, snowy days.

The recipe came from Epicurious, though it originally appeared in Bon Appetit, according to the website. I usually amp up the jalapeño (using two whole peppers – we like spicy food at our house) and add an extra teaspoon of cumin. (I also toss in more carrots if I have them.)

My husband hates onions, so I skip them, and while the recipe recommends toppings of fresh cilantro, green onions and feta cheese, we prefer grated cheddar or a dollop of Greek yogurt. (You could also use sour cream.) I also like to dip tortilla chips in it.

Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Jalapeño

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin [or more to taste]
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeño with seeds [or more to taste]
  • 2 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, undrained
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Mix in cumin and 1 teaspoon jalapeño. Add beans, tomatoes with juice, and broth; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

Transfer 3 cups of soup to blender and puree until smooth (or use immersion blender). Return puree to pot. Simmer soup until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon jalapeño, if desired.

The week before Christmas, when life was spinning at twice its normal speed, I made a double batch of this and we ate it all week long. Several nights that week, when the hubs was working late, I heated up a mug or bowl of soup and ate it in front of the Christmas tree, staring into the twinkling branches, giving my brain a break and my body some nourishment.

It’s supposed to snow at least a foot and then get wicked cold again here in Boston this week. You can bet I’ll be making this soup at some point.

What are your go-to soup (or other cold-weather) recipes?

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apples massachusetts farmers market

The farmers’ market is still open – but not for long. The sweet stone fruits and berries of summer have given way to piles of squashes and mounds of crisp, tart apples. The nights are drawing in, and we gave in and turned on the furnace this week. So, too, our routines in the kitchen are shifting.

apples cutting board kitchen fall

We adapt a few year-round staples to fit the season. Instead of buying tomatoes or zucchini to add to pasta or risotto, we buy halves of golden butternut squash, or crisp bell peppers. (I love tomatoes, but the fresh ones from the farmers’ market in the summer have nearly spoiled me for their grocery-store counterparts.)

We stir a spoonful of ricotta into the pasta, or sprinkle grated Parmesan on top, or crumble in some creamy goat cheese. We also make burritos regularly, as we do year-round: we are transplanted Texans, and we need our guacamole and our salsa and our spicy chicken.

But I also start turning on the oven to make baked pasta dishes: manicotti stuffed with a mix of cheeses, butternut squash and spinach lasagna, eggplant Parmesan. We love our carbs in this house, but we might love our leftovers even more.

Homemade pizza likewise gets a seasonal makeover. Our recent re-creation of a pizza we tried at Otto (butternut squash, dried cranberries, dollops of ricotta, topped with freshly ground black pepper) was a huge hit. My basil plant is done for the season, but I don’t mind dried basil or rosemary on pizza.

The soup pot is nearly always in use these days. We have already made tomato soup, jalapeno soup and butternut squash and apple soup. (Clearly I am slightly obsessed with butternut squash, which we have taken to calling “squtternut bosh,” á la Ross Geller.) We scoop it up, smooth and steaming, into the colorful bowls I bought at Whittard in Oxford, and eat it at our dining room table with slices of buttered baguette.

I have made fewer apple crisps this year than usual, but the cranberry-orange bread and the ginger molasses cookies are in constant rotation. The former is perfect for breakfast, with a cup of strong, hot tea, and the latter make a perfect denouement to dinner, or a snack when we’re hanging out in the living room, reading or watching TV. (Go Sox!)

My Crock-Pot gathers dust during the summer, but I’ll soon be pulling it out again, to make my grandfather’s chili and a spicy chicken-enchilada-soup concoction. I’m always looking for new recipes to simmer in there all day long, and I find it deeply satisfying to plan out our menu for the week, then write it out on the dry-erase board in our kitchen.

Cooking dinner sometimes feels like a pain or an obligation, but it can also feel like comfort, like pleasure, like providing for my family and friends. My rotation of fall recipes is all about that comfort and warmth. (And the leftovers.)

What are you cooking this fall?

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I wait all year for the weather to warm up and the evenings to lighten, for the fresh tomatoes, zucchini, berries and stone fruits to appear at the grocery stores and the farmer’s markets. I have a deep love for autumn in New England, and spring, once it finally arrives, brings its own delicate, luscious beauty.

But summer is the season of abundance here – utterly bountiful and all too brief. We are luxuriating in it, savoring it, swimming in the golden light pouring through the windows from before breakfast until well after dinner.

summer dinner table

In the winter I make comforting, substantial dishes: enchiladas and manicotti in deep casserole dishes, pots of soup stirred and simmered on the stove. But in the summer, the cooking is easy, quick and light, starring whatever fresh produce I’ve recently brought home.

I eat a handful of berries with my breakfast, tuck a nectarine into my bag for an afternoon snack. We make fruit salad with whatever’s on hand (the only rule: no melons). I alternate between my two favorite summer teas: blackberry sage and ginger peach. They both taste like long-ago mornings at the coffee shop, a hot mug held between my hands on the speckled green counter, the aroma from the day’s first pot of coffee filling the air.

The dinner rotation these days is simple. Some nights I boil a pot of water, throw in some pasta, toss it with tomatoes and zucchini or spinach or bell pepper, grating Parmesan on top or stirring in a swirl of creamy ricotta. We love pasta year-round, but in the summer you barely have to fuss with whatever’s going in it.

pasta dinner patio lemonade summer

On slightly cooler nights we dare to turn on the oven, pulling out the pizza stone J gave me for Christmas, topping a store-bought crust with creamy rounds of mozzarella and bright slices of tomato and vegetables. J opens a package of crumbly goat cheese and dabs it around the edge with his fingers. I grind a bit of pepper on top. We pop it in the oven for 10 minutes, long enough for the mozzarella to melt and the goat cheese to turn slightly crispy.

Some nights, I whip up Jenny Rosenstrach’s yogurt-honey-garlic-lemon marinade, and we stick a few chicken pieces in it overnight. Cooked on the stove and then shredded, it is perfect with warm sheets of naan, topped with sliced baby tomatoes and a generous dollop of hummus. I slice a bell pepper into crisp ribbons and pile them on a plate; we dip them into the hummus too.

And every week, there is some variation on Burrito Night. We make rice in the rice cooker and J chops the chicken, then coats it in chili powder and black pepper. I slice and mash a few avocados with lemon juice and store-bought salsas for guacamole, and then we try not to eat it all while waiting for the chicken and rice to finish.

We carry everything out to the patio, and we drink lemonade and eat chips and burn our mouths with the spiciness. If we are sick of burritos or simply out of chicken, we make zucchini quesadillas, grating the zucchini into a heap and sauteing it with cumin and chili powder.

If we have a bit more time and inclination, we chop chicken and a pile of vegetables to make a curry. Our two favorites: Mango Chicken Curry from Shauna Niequist’s new book Bread and Wine, and an old recipe from Real Simple, featuring jalapenos and peaches. Simple, spicy, still starring fresh produce, and delicious.

What are you cooking this summer?

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