Friday, March 17, 2017

One Mixed-Up Night

You guys! The middle-grade novel I wrote is available for pre-order on Amazon! Jakers! I'm crazily excited about this book. It's a book about friendship--about two best friends whose own favorite book is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, so they end up plotting to spend the night at. . . well, IKEA. The friends are based on Ben and his lifelong Ava, and their big, big love of IKEA. In a pie chart of the way those two have spent the past fourteen years, I would have to say that lying on the couch / in a hammock / on the carpet with the IKEA catalogue is no small slice.

I don't want to give any spoilers, so I will just say that the book is also about a lot of other things. Like cats and recipe-testing and death and doorknobs, and oh, you know, some of my other fave topics.

My friend and neighbor Bestselling author Cammie McGovern says, "The mystery that propels these two wonderful characters onto their escapades is both heart-wrenching and (when we finally learn the whole truth) profoundly moving. A dazzling debut."

And my friend bestselling author Suzy Becker calls the book, "A hilarious, hair-raising page-turner, and an iconic portrayal of best friendship."

It comes out in September, in hardcover and on audio. Please pre-order it, if it sounds like the kind of book someone at your house would like! And/or tell all your (parent / kid / book reviewer / editor / teacher / librarian) friends about it! They're saying grades 3-7, but I think it could go a little older, personally. 

Anyhoo, in other news, I made these cookies after we ate them at the King Arthur cafe in New Hampshire, and they were nothing short of perfection. (I did not have poisonous almond resin or whatever that crazy ingredient is called, so I doubled the extract.) If you like a deeply almondy cookie with a crisp outside and a tooth-sticking center, like an Italian macaroon, this is your recipe.

Have a wonderful weekend. xo

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Double-Chocolate Meringue Fudgies

I feel like every recipe I post should be preceded by a colon and the word menopause. "Menopause: Homemade Chocolate Pudding." "Menopause: Double-Chocolate Meringue Fudgies." The turning and turning again towards chocolate feels a little suspect, no? I suppose there's also Trump, as far as explanatory words go. Sigh. But I'm telling you: eat one of these tender, velvety, black cookies still-warm from the oven, and you will forget that your vagina sweats all night in a really unusual way you've never heard about. At least for a moment.

Double-Chocolate Meringue Fudgies
Makes 2 dozen
Total time: 35 minutes

If you've been searching for a rich, chewy, dark, decadent chocolate cookie that's like a cross between a brownie and a black hole, look no further. These are really profoundly chocolatey, and you can even stir in an extra 1/2 cup of chocolate chips if you like, and if you want to call them Triple-Chocolate Meringue Fudgies! I like the smoothness of them without, though.

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided use
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat the oven to 375, and spray 2 large baking sheets with cooking spray, or line them with parchment. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until they are mostly melted, about 2 minutes. Stir until fully melted, then leave them to cool.

Using electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the whites on high speed until they just form soft peaks. Gradually beat in 1 cup of the sugar, and continue beating until the mixture gets thick and glossy. Whisk together 1 cup of sugar, the cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. On low speed, beat the dry ingredients into the meringue with the vanilla. Now, with a wooden spoon, stir in the lukewarm chocolate. The dough will be batter-like at first and then, as you stir, it will get very stiff.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a bowl. Roll 1 rounded tablespoon of dough into a ball, then roll it in the sugar to coat it thickly. (The dough can be sticky and awkward to work with, but it's not too bad. I use my cookie scoop to dump lumps into the bowl of sugar, then kind of roll and coat them at the same time, if I were to be completely honest.) Place on prepared sheet, and repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the balls 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are puffed and the tops crack, about 10 minutes. Cool on the sheets on a rack 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Chocolate Pudding (for No Whey Mama)

Luckily the children are still humanoid collages of berries and cream, sprinkled with freckles, scented with nectar, and just waiting for you to take a bite out of their little rosy cheeks.

Luckily, they're not made out of planes and angles, arms and legs stretched long and thin, jaws and cheekbones cutting into your palm when you try tenderly to cup a face that is on its way out the door to drive itself somewhere before leaving you forever.

Luckily, even if they were, I would be too busy calling my senators in an outrage, too busy watching our government unravel into a pile of dirty string bits, to notice. (Sob!)

Anyhoo. This pudding is an oldie, a goodie, and here by special request. You can make it with coconut milk, and it will be delicious. Weirdly, before this request even came in, I was in a pudding state of mind, having just stirred up a comforting pot of butterscotch My-T-Fine, since Birdy was sick, and I'd had an emergency three-hour root canal, the world was blanketed in snow, and we were in need of something soft and sweet to suck off of our spoons while we felt cozy and sorry for ourselves and watched Arrested Development, which we are watching again, for the same reason that I am recommending this utterly delightful book to you and also this obsessively delicious recipe, that reason being pure pleasure. Resist, resist, resist, enjoy, resist, resist, resist.

Chocolate Pudding
4 servings
Total time: 20 minutes, plus a couple hours for cooling

This recipe is adapted from the Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook. You will wish there were more, but don't try doubling it, as it tends to set erratically in larger batches. I once tried to multiply the recipe by six--back when Michael and I lived in our vegetarian co-op--and let me just say: first my arm fell off from whisking, and then the bottom of the pudding scorched. In that order.

4 ounces semisweet chocolate (chips are easiest, but we sometimes use a 4-ounce bar of Ghiradelli, broken up)
3 packed tablespoons light brown sugar
2 cups whole milk (or a combination of low-fat milk and either cream and half and half)
a dash of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or a little mint extract, if you want to make chocolate-mint pudding)

In a heavy saucepan, combine the chocolate, sugar, and milk. Heat very gently over low heat, whisking constantly, until all the chocolate is melted, and the mixture is uniform. This will take about 5 minutes, and then it will look like hot chocolate, which is what you're going for. It should feel hot to the touch, but it shouldn't boil.

Combine the salt and cornstarch in a small bowl. Pour about 3/4 cup of the hot mixture into it, and whisk vigorously until the cornstarch is dissolved, then pour this solution back into the pot. Keep whisking and cook the pudding over very low heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until it is thick and glossy. For some reason ours was done in 5 minutes this last time, which is funny because I have a note in my handwriting that says "Up to a half an hour!" next to "8-10 minutes." Cornstarch can be finicky stuff. You may want to switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon as the pudding thickens. Don't imagine it will thicken much as it cools: it will, but it won't thicken if it's not already thick, if you get what I'm saying. Also, once it starts to set, don't mess with it or it will liquefy. Honestly, it's easy though, I swear.

Pour into serving dishes and chill at least one hour before eating. A dollop of whipped cream wouldn't hurt.

Friday, February 03, 2017

That Thing

The original side eye.
What, do I seem like a crank because I'm against chronic traumatic encephalopathy and I begrudge a certain team their support of a white-supremacist regime? So sue me. "Please don't," the kids say, when their father and I enter into conversation about the Patriots, and what properly is the role of a responsible citizen who has the attention and devotion of the entire country focused on him. "Not again."  I'm never, like, in love with the Super Bowl. But this year? With the Muslim ban and Bannon and Sessions and the Dakota pipeline and no Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day and fighting with Australia and with every allegedly American value, like the rule of law, just as a for-instance, hanging in the balance, or not even hanging in the balance as much as tipping, tipping, tipping us all, scrambling, like the Titanic passengers bouncing along the length of the ship on their way to the icy depths? I can't believe they're even following through with the stupid Super Bowl. Luckily Frederick Douglass is still alive. And luckily, the party I'm going to on Sunday has an upstairs group of cheering glazy-eyed concussion lovers, and a downstairs group of board-game-crushing nasty women who will boycott the thing until the Hamilton cast is on, and then our boycott will enjoy a brief hiatus, because we are only human, and we deserve a little pleasure. Also, snacking.

So. In the interest of everyone who's gotta eat, and who might as well eat delicious munching food, I offer you a few old favorites. I love you. xo

The best ribs.
The best chicken wings.
The best nachos.
The best crudites.
Vegetarian chili for a crowd.
People-pleasing enchilada casserole.
Comforting mac and cheese.
Dill pickle popcorn.
Fake, cheap DIY Boursin.
Obsessy edamame.
Crazily good deviled eggs.
Momofuku soy sauce eggs.
Buffalo cauliflower.
Jicama that will get finished before anything else.
Weirdly addictive tortilla pizza.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Creamy Tomato-Fennel Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

So. These are strange days—trying to balance outrage and action and also the joy in resistance, in daily life, without which what even is the point? 

We marched in DC, and it was magic. I can hardly even talk about it. It's like a beloved's photograph in the locket of my heart.

Our congresspeople’s numbers are all in my phone, and I am calling their DC and local offices to express concern about whatever feels most pressing on any given day. I am following the alternative Twitter accounts of our country’s custodians of science. Less nobly, I am hoping that this half an onion in a bag gets more Twitter followers than Trump.

I have never loved Michael more.
Also, we are laughing at every opportunity. We are sleeping with cats. I am putting down my phone to greet the children when they get home from school. We are eating warmly and well. Like this soup, which is extremely delicious. If butterfat troubles you, don’t make it, okay? I mean, if you’re vegan, feel free to swap in alternative products—you could definitely do something great with cashew cream at the end here. But if the fat itself is a worry, make something else, because the fat is necessary. We need to store up fat for the long winter of our coming discontents. This is the plan.

Birdy and I recently ate this soup at Duckfat in Portland, ME, and it blew us away. You can be confident that Duckfat is a wonderful place because, despite the fact that there is almost nothing on the menu our vegetarian girl can eat—there is duck fat in the French fries, in the doughnuts, in the caramel that goes into most of the milkshakes—Birdy always wants to go there. This soup would be reason enough. When we got home, I Googled around, and found the recipe online! I scaled it down a little, but it still makes a lot.

Prettier garnishes. But go with the grilled-cheese croutons, if you can.
Creamy Tomato-Fennel Soup with Grilled-Cheese Croutons
This recipe is adapted from Rob Evans, the chef of Duckfat in Portland, ME. The truth is that I’ve made it with his recommended amount of cream—which, in the scaled-down recipe below, is a full quart—and it’s fantastic that way, if a tad rich. Half that amount of cream is good too, but then the acidity of the tomatoes breaks through a little more, and I’ve found you need to add significantly more sugar to balance it—up to a tablespoon or two or more. Three cups of cream is pretty much the happy medium here. This is not a light soup. But oh, it is so comforting and good. (There are some process shots of soup-making, including quartered and cored fennel, below.)

1 large fennel bulb
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole fennel seed
½ cup white wine
2 (28-ounce cans) peeled whole or crushed tomatoes (I use San Marzano whenever I can)
1 teaspoon (plus) sugar
2-4 cups heavy cream (Try 3 cups. See headnote)
Kosher salt and black pepper
A grilled cheese sandwich, cut into small squares, for garnish

1. Deal with the fennel: trim off the green tops (save some of the feathery fronds for garnish, if you like), then cut the fennel in quarters lengthwise and trim out the core. Now slice the fennel thin (crosswise or lengthwise—it’s all going in the blender later so it doesn’t really matter) by hand, mandolin, or food processor.

2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy soup pot and add the fennel, onion, salt, and fennel seeds. Sauté for a minute our two, then cover the pot and “sweat” the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they have given up a lot of liquid and that liquid has largely cooked off—about 10 minutes.

3. Add the wine and cook, uncovered, until the wine is mostly gone (another few minutes), then stir in the tomatoes and the sugar, bring to a simmer, turn the heat to medium-low, and cover the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

4. Stir in the cream, and simmer another 15 minutes, or until the fennel is very tender. Add a big grinding of pepper.

5. Now puree the soup in a blender, in batches. You know how to do this safely, right? Fill the blender jar only half full, remove the center of the lid and use a dish towel over the hole (this prevents steam building up and blowing the lid off).

6. Strain the soup if you like. This is kind of a fussy step, and it’s not strictly necessary, but it’s quite lovely to have a perfectly smooth puree without little fennely strings and bits of fennel-seed husk.

7. Return the soup to the pot, reheat gently, and taste. You are going to need to add more salt, maybe more sugar, and maybe more cream. You want the soup to taste balanced and delicious. Keep adding and stirring and tasting, even if it feels like it’s taking a long time to get it exactly right.

8. Serve the soup with the grilled-cheese croutons or with a drizzle of cream (or sour cream) and a sprinkle of chopped fennel fronds. 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Raspberry-Cardamom Smoothie! Yay clean eating! Sigh.

I would post fewer dull, earnestclean recipes in January and more luscious, yummy recipes in December, except the December recipes are really just “Put out some wonderful cheese and open a bottle of red wine” or “Get the leftover ham out of the fridge and let everyone saw at it with steak knives” or “Get your son to make you a maple-bourbon old-fashioned, then order a pizza.” Sigh. Those were the days!
Michael is very funny with his leftovers labeling. Thanks, hon! Michael is actually cooking some for himself and the kids, which is another terrific silver lining.
Now it’s all very almond milk and kale and soaked cashews. We went to our favorite taqueria last night, and I heroically ate not one single tortilla chip, even though they were hot and I could see the salt glittering on them, could hear and smell their corny wonderfulness as my family crunched around me. I made everyone congratulate me on my discipline and stoicism. “Tortilla chips!” I said. “My second favorite food after cheese!” They were sympathetic, but also, I think, a little bit like, “So eat some.” Fair enough.

More from the annals of my personal heroism: I made pecan sticky buns for a houseful of teenagers and guess how many I ate? You guessed it. I made everyone describe how good they were, though. It was like a bad creative writing exercise. (This is Smitten's recipe, and it seemed like they came out really great! Sigh.)
But I am eating well, too—I mean, deliciously—and I was just realizing that it’s because, while the content of the meals is abstemious (no alcohol, caffeine, dairy, gluten, meat, sugar), the form is incredibly decadent: I am cooking for myself, my own tastes. And I kind of love the freedom. So I can make my little dish of curried vegetables, and put tons of weird-tasting turmeric in it, which I love, and worry not at all about anyone else’s preferences and pet peeves and general dietary feelings. It’s kind of great.

This style of curry, shown here with Dominion cards and medium-boiled egg, is my new favorite thing to eat: celery, mushrooms (not in the this one), kale, and chickpeas (or other veggies), sauteed in coconut oil, with spices, including curry powder and extra turmeric, coriander, garlic powder, and cumin, added at the end, then a few spoonfuls coconut cream, a dab of tomato paste, and salt. A little hot sauce over the egg. So delicious.
Another favorite thing: I ask the fish folks at Whole Foods to sell me a $3 piece of center-cut salmon (it's about an inch of fish), with the skin cut off. Then I eat it raw, with avocado. Given that you'd pay $15 for this meal at a sushi place, and given that it's my favorite, it feels like an outrageous steal.
This smoothie is a new one for me this year, and I love it’s bright berry flavor backed by the deep and almost incense-y aromatic cardamom. It’s a variation on the Strawberry, Coconut, and Cardamom Smoothie in AnnaJones’s lovely book A Modern Way to Cook, which, if you live here and are waiting for it at the library, I’m sorry about having for so long. She uses strawberries and agave. I use raspberries and dates. I also add vanilla, and I skip her addition of dried coconut because I feel like it adds more grit than flavor. You can do whatever you like! It’s just a smoothie!

Fancy smoothie mise-en-scene
Note: I’ve stopped putting greens in my smoothie because I really like salad and I really like fruit smoothies, so why not just go ahead and keep them separate? Just my thought for the day, given that I’m not, like, in outer space with only the one smoothie to get all my nutrients from. Although I will say that on the very first morning of 2017, I made my first clean meal by opening the fridge, spying a week-old dressed salad in a Tupperware, and putting it in the blender. Thereby setting the bar so low that every meal since has felt like a small triumph.

Real-life smoothie mise-en-scene
I hope your back-to-everything week went okay, and that you are gearing up for the revolution and feeling great about all the money we donated. "Another year that we're not building a mudroom?" Ben asked, watching over my shoulder as I happily donated all the money. Exactly! No peace, no mudroom! I should paint it on the protest sign. That I'm bringing to the MARCH IN WASHINGTON D.C. Join me there if you can! xo

This happened to us! His name is Snapper. More soon.
Raspberry-Cardamom Smoothie
If you’re not trying to make a meal of this, please feel free to skip the almonds.

1 – 1 ½ cups coconut milk (the put-on-your-cereal kind) or another milk of your choosing, such as actual milk
2 tablespoons whole almonds, soaked overnight
½ cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1 teaspoon vanilla
The seeds from 1 green cardamom pod (or a large pinch ground cardamom)
2 small dates or 1 large dates or 1 cup of white sugar (Kidding! Not about the dates!)

Whir everything together until smooth and frothy, adding an ice cube or two if you want it slushier, or if your berries aren’t frozen. Enjoy your own blooming health and energy. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

What We Did, All of Us Here

Happy New Year, my darlings. I hope you have had a lovely holiday season, and are feeling happy and rested. We are going to have our work cut out for us in 2017--or, more likely, we will be cutting it out as we go. I am so proud to share information here about the money we raised and donated to the Environmental Defense Fund, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, and Partners in Health. Thank you for being so game and generous and wonderful. I love you. xo