Start of the season always lends itself to minor extravagances. And so after a half-hearted forage for ramps, I found myself at the market overpaying for a soft shell crab and a bunch of the elusive ramps.
Wanting something bright and stringent to cut through the meaty soft shell crab, I quick pickled the ramps using my old standby recipe.
In the way that I rarely want an oyster that isn’t on the half-shell, or a broiled or stuffed lobster, I generally don’t pickle foods that are already delicious and special on their own.
And yet, in the days that followed, I ate these slimy strings of ramps over piles of arugula, buried in avocado sandwiches, sharing forks with rosemary panko pork and, too often, straight from the jar until my skin breathed garlic and vinegar.
There will be a sunny Saturday in April when you know you should stop craving shoyu ramen and meatballs and warm baguettes with Irish butter and saucisson sec.
On this day, you’ll think about making a righteous kale salad. And yet.
You’ll lay a fire in the stove, run an afternoon bath and camp under the duvet with your dog and a well-worn copy of The Secret History, waiting for this hearty strata to finish baking in the oven.
I have a husband who eats cookies indiscriminately. It’s a nice trait, this ability to derive the same amount of pleasure from a noisy bag of Tates as from a sleeve of chalky Chips Ahoy.
But though it may be quaint, I also happen to think it’s very wrong.
In an effort to rehabilitate the problem, I made this mini batch of toaster oven cookies.
Perfect for late nite cravings, the recipe yields just three cookies and is fast and simple.
The Cantonese wonton soup at our local takeaway is one of my favorite lazy dinners. Two bucks is all it takes for a handful of bobbing wontons, a sprinkling of wilting scallions, and a bowl of clear broth made streaky with a side of chili oil.
Cantonese wontons resemble nothing of the thick skinned glob of dense meat found in a traditional wonton. To start, the skins are thin, wrapping around a tiny nugget of shrimp, pork and scallion. The filling so small, the excess skin boils to a dense and doughy tail, best bitten first, before the wonton itself.
I got to this recipe, not because I was craving wontons, but because I had a baguette burning a hole in my proverbial pocket. Bread so good it dictated a meal. And it demanded something saucy.
So I blended shrimp and ground turkey. Added more than a healthy dose of ginger and garlic and curry. Mixed, boiled, sauced and dipped.
It’s been a month’s worth of too little sleep, shamefully tight waistbands and meals eaten deskside, typing with one hand. Daily dense toasty bagels for lunch, late nite dinners of French fries and rosé and snacks of bodega sushi have taken their toll.
But this weekend I had some time. I got lost in a book. And knit my first hat. And practiced my French. And listened, really listened, to my favorite songs.
I also took the time to make something not only delicious, but wholesome and healthy. The antidote to the last few week’s convenience food, this pot of chili cooks slowly, in the most welcome way. Serve over a bed of arugula, skipping the chips, if you dare.
Not everything I make is edible.
2 balls Blue Sky Alpaca bulky
1 set 16” circular #11 US needles
1. Cast on 40 stitches. Join.
2. Knit 2, P2 in the round for 3”
3. Knit around for 6.5” (hat will measure 9.5” from cast on edge).
4. Slip 1 as if to knit, K2tog, pass slipped stitch over, K1. Repeat until round is finished.
5. Knit 3 rounds. Cut tail, pull taught to close up center top circle. Weave ends on wrong side.
Bonnie Prince / Tortoise
In the perfect kitchens of our perfect lives, the shell of a hard-boiled egg slips off, yielding a white so jiggly it seems there is no possibility of a cooked yolk inside. And yet.
But the perfectly hard-boiled egg is easier than you think. See here.
1) Place eggs in saucepan.
2) Add enough water to cover eggs. Bring to boil over high heat.
3) Cover. Kill heat. Let sit for 10 minutes.
The best sandwich [Above]: Deli meat sliced thin from the mold of a cartoon-shaped “turkey”, a smear of processed Swiss cheese, and arugula from a plastic box all sandwiched between two pillowy slices of Light Whole Wheat bread.
Not everything we eat involves a trip to the farmers market, a box of CSA produce or even a certified stamp of “organic.” Sometimes, when we get too busy or too lazy or too cheap for garden-fresh herbs, home-jarred pickles, and poured-over coffee, we make food from boxes, from cans, and yes, even pouches.
Sometimes the best food is the most humble food.
Last nite, our first NYC NYE in years, we indulged in:
+ A birthday party
+ A masquerade party
+ Last minute mask crafting involving exacto knives, cardboard bunny ears, Elmers glue and loads of pink glitter still stuck to the living room floor
+ Mother-in-law’s fur stole
+ Pre-game snacking at Ramen Yebisu (who is now (hurrah!) serving pork buns)
Because we weren’t up in the country for the eve, the first morning of the year included no groggy padding into the kitchen to grind coffee beans, no house warmed by the smell of bacon baking, no empty bottle reminders of why a houseful of six people is still as silent at 8am as it was at dawn.
Instead, January 1 was marked by a leisurely dog walk around the neighborhood, egg and cheese sandwiches (ok, and a tamale) from the Mexican deli, and The Royal Tenenbaums on repeat.
But before New Year’s Eve, there was Christmas. And we made eggnog. The Times titled this recipe “Eggnog, the Hard Way.” Although it is more involved than opening a carton of mix, it’s not particularly difficult. Below is the final with my minor tweaks.
Paté is one of those items I rarely order at restaurants because it is so bad for you. Not only is the chicken liver high in fat and cholesterol, it’s also made with decadent amounts of lard or butter.
Even worse, restaurant paté is not always worth it. Sometimes it’s a miniature loaf - like a soft deli meat, meant for slicing - not spreading. Sometimes it’s spreadable, but so rich and heavy - a kind of meat flavored butter. I like paté, not for its decadence and density, but for its earthy, very slightly sour flavor.
I used sliced red onions for these quick pickles. Onions, because they pickle quickly. Red, because they’re naturally sweeter and prettier than other varieties.
Since we still had jalapeños in our garden, I chopped up a few and dropped them in. Feel free to add any other items to the brine. Just keep in mind that the more dense and thick skinned your addition, the less quick of a pickle you’ll achieve.
These pickles are perfect with salads, burgers, burritos, hummus.
Not perfect with real pickles, yogurt or non-boiled eggs.
Karin, Andy and Baby H at the house last weekend. We gorged on grilled steak, heart-shaped boar sausage, three-ingredient artichoke dip, and heaps and heaps of mac and cheese.
Though many mac recipes will tell you differently, this is not the time for fancy cave-aged gouda. Go for the cheap, processed block cheddar that’s in the non-organic milk aisle. And if you’re feeling spicy, buy one block of sharp and one of habanero.
Spicy Mac & Cheese
We were out of town and needed something quick to bring by a drop-in at friends’ family. Kristina had a rosemary bush (literally, a bush that any East Coaster would smuggle in her suitcase in November when all garden fresh herbs are dying), so did a quick mix of nuts, heat, herb and oil. Cooks up in a fast 20.
Made these funny little cookies this week. Surprisingly nutty (without nuts), these salty, crunchy cookies resemble mini caramel popcorn balls pre-baking and Cracker Jacks pre-balling.
A Dutch baby is a cross between a giant popover and a crepe. The wrinkly, crispy and flaky edges give way to an eggy and nearly moist center. A sort of amped up crepe.
Dutch babies are delicious topped with berries or syrup, but my preference is plain, straight from the oven, and as quickly as possible.