Tuesday, August 25, 2015

SOLANACEAE

Loving our sons is easy.

I get there ten minutes early to secure seats. It has to work.

They spend the day stumbling on sidewalk cracks and bubbling with goofy unconditional love.

There is always a reason we can’t get together.

We can almost see them growing in their sleep.

A dying father, sick kids, a deadline.

But our daughters just want to quietly close their bedroom doors, moving away from any sense of family, escaping into devices and daydreams and vlogs.
A forgotten email thread, fatigue, an inability to be social. 
So we hold them too tight.
And then finally we are all sitting on barstools with drinks in our hands.

We talk about how if one of our kids died, we would curl up in a fetal position and go to bed forever.

Our stories are interchangeable.

How quickly we get all situation critical about marriage: Once we get to the word divorce, it’s so easy to pick it up again and throw it like a ninja star.

How if someone had given us spreadsheets when we were young, outlining the ups and downs of marriage, we might never have dreamed of finding the one.

We give strong hugs and go home.

How as things get harder with parenting and marriage, the more determined we are to make something meaningful.

I am home. I am hungry. For the first time in as long as I can remember, food hasn’t been on my mind for an entire evening.

Like the novel in the drawer, the book proposal, the new job opportunity.

I pull one square of tart out of the freezer and throw it in the oven until the tomato is bubbling away. 

The Kickstarter we are scared to get out there, the new family business.

I cut into the collapsed and shrivelled tomato. Its insides spill out all the things I love: anchovies, herbs, capers, lemon zest, garlic, Parmesan cheese. I scoop everything up with crispy prosciutto.

The final cut of the documentary film.

I crawl into bed and wrap a hand around my husband’s sleeping arm. I hear a happy sigh.

The book we have to finish.

I say to the dark room: There is no plan. Just a slow rhythmic squeezing of his shoulder and a gentle tracing of his left calf with my right toe.
---------
If you want to learn more about my Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese, Quark, Prosciutto, and Gremolata, you can find the recipe on Food52.

If this tart seems crazy high maintenance, just stuff the tomatoes with gremolata, wrap them in some kind of bacon fat, bake them on high heat in a cast iron pan, and throw on some mozzarella at the last minute. Scoop mouthfuls out of the pan with garlicky grilled bread.

Or improvise. I write about a few places to start in my Cooking What I Want column on Food52Let me know what you're making!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

REMOVED

Full beard and strapping body aside, the bartender is young enough to be my son.
Hendrick's martini, please. Straight up with olives.
Hey. I like your style.
My entire body smiles back.
Thank you.
I want to ask what he sees. Does he know I'm a mom? 
Instead, I gather all of the candles from one end of the bar, vow to get my eyes checked soon, and tuck my head into a book.
The air is warm, the martini is cold, the music is loud. The room smells like chicken and potatoes and the late eighties: like my first years in New York City, all full of bigness and potential and the scariness of it all. 
I need food.
My eyes glide down the menu and get stuck on two of my favorite words: romaine and anchovies. 
I wave to my bartender son.
This salad looks exciting.
That salad is exciting.
Two seats down is a body dripping with tattoos, motorcycle leather, fatigue. He is old enough to be my husband.
He picks up his burger. I pick up my grilled romaine. He dips his fries in ketchup. I scoop up the creamy, smoky, fishy salad dressing with my bread. I moan yum. He sighs. He doesn't look to the right. I don't look to the left. We eat together. I feel safe.
I pay, pick up my martini, and head for the hotel elevator. I don't look back.
I climb up on the coffee table with my martini and watch the flashing lights of Manhattan through the floor-to-ceiling Brooklyn windows. I start to relive the thirteen years of pining and dreaming and never ever sleeping that I crammed into that little island. What did I do with all of that kid-free time? I didn’t even like anchovies back then.
I step down.
I lower the shades, wash the martini glass, and tuck myself into the soft and clean king-sized bed. No morning light, no buzzing phones, no barfing kids, no nothing will wake me up until I am ready.
You can find the recipe for Grilled Romaine Salad with Corn and Creamy Anchovy Garlic Vinaigrette in my column over at Food52.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ONE PLATE. EIGHT SALADS.

(SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS ABOUT ALL EIGHT SALADS)

Have you ever looked your eight-year-old son in the eye and said: Dude, I'm hungry, please pass the salade composée? Me neither. But we've been making them all month. It just means arranged. As in less rambunctious than a tossed salad. More controlled. Layered. At least that's what I've been telling myself.

Some cool things about structuring salads this way:

1. They're hella pretty.
2. You can layer your greens with the fruit or nuts or cheese and then set the plate aside for 30 minutes or so (in the fridge if it's hot). There's no rush to serve it because the greens won't get soggy. Right before putting it on the table, sprinkle everything with coarse salt and chopped herbs. You can splash the dressing on the salad. Or you can pass the dressing on the side. 
3. Since you're not tossing, all the layers will stay intact and beautiful. You can fill grilled peaches with goat cheese, nestle in broiled dates wrapped in bacon, add any kind of crumbly or delicate cheese.
4. You see more of the salad. Nothing gets lost in the bottom of the bowl.
5. A large version of any of these salads can be a main course for dinner. Especially good on a hot summer night.

Like most recipes I develop, these are templates. Mix and match any which way you like. I've given approximate measurements for each salad dressing. Start with a kick ass powerful base like garlic or anchovy or lemon zest (or all three). Then whisk together (or shake in a jar) 2 parts extra-virgin olive oil to 1 part acid (lemon, lime, or vinegar). Use Dijon mustard, crème fraîche, heavy cream, mayonnaise or an egg to emulsify. Or not. Shaking the shit out of most dressings will bring them together eventually (give this job to a kid). The most important step is to taste your dressing. Don't trust my measurements. Don't trust anyone. Trust yourself. I always adjust the balance several times. I usually add my coarse salt (fleur de sel or grey or pink Hawaiian) at the end to the prepared salad, but feel free to incorporate it into the dressing (it bashes nicely with a clove of garlic). There are many paths.

CABBAGE, KALE, APPLE, AND PECAN SALAD WITH CREAMY CITRUS VINAIGRETTE
Layers: Thinly sliced Napa cabbage, massaged kale, julienned apples, toasted pecans, chopped parsley, coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: With a mortar and pestle, make a paste out of 2 cloves of garlic and 2 boquerones. Add a raw (or coddled) egg and whisk until smooth. Whisk in juice/zest of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 tablespoon creamy whole milk yogurt or crème fraîche.

ARUGULA, PIAVE, AND PEACH SALAD WITH THICK BALSAMIC, LEMON, AND GARLIC OIL

Layers: Arugula, Piave cheese (alternates: parmesan, manchego, asiago), peeled/halved/pitted/sliced peaches, coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: In a jar, shake together 3 tablespoons garlic oil (let a bashed clove of garlic sit in some olive oil overnight), juice/zest of 1/2 lemon, and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard. Finish with a generous drizzle of thick balsamic (I buy inexpensive balsamic and reduce it down a bit more than halfway).

AVOCADO AND HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD WITH SHALLOT HERB VINAIGRETTE

Layers: Avocado slices, tomato slices, coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: With a mortar and pestle, bash 2 cloves garlic with 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt until it makes a paste. Whisk in 2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Add 2 tablespoons finely diced shallots and let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in 1 tablespoon Grey Poupon mustard. Slowly whisk in 4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Add 3 tablespoons chopped herbs (any combination of parsley, mint, and cilantro).

ROMAINE, ROASTED BABY TOMATOES, AND HUMBOLDT FOG SALAD WITH PESTO DRESSING

Layers: Romaine, massaged kale, roasted cherry tomatoes (halved and cooked with olive oil/balsamic/salt/thyme at 350°F for 30 minutes), cold Humboldt Fog goat cheese (crumbled with rind removed), coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: 2 tablespoons of any kind of pesto whisked with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Thin it out with more olive oil if you need to. Or a few splashes of white wine vinegar.

RADISH, HERB, AND FETA SALAD WITH CITRUS DRESSING 
Layers: Thinly sliced radishes, toasted pine nuts, crumbled feta, mint, basil, opal basil, coarse salt.
Dressing: In a jar, combine and leave for a few hours or overnight: 1 cup olive oil, a few lemon wedges, 2 cloves bashed garlic, a few sprigs of thyme. The next day, pour off 6 tablespoons olive oil into another jar and shake it with 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and 2 teaspoons Grey Poupon mustard. Add more olive oil to the remaining garlic and lemon oil and save it for up to a few days in the fridge. adding more oil as needed.

ENDIVE, PICKLED RADISH, PARSLEY, ALEPPO BREAD CRUMBS, AND PARMESAN SALAD WITH LIME DRESSING
Layers: Endive, pickled radishes, parmesan wisps (I use my potato peeler), whole parsley leaves, Aleppo brown butter bread crumbs (melt a few anchovies into a teaspoon of butter, toss in bread crumbs with a pinch of Aleppo pepper, stir/toast for one minute, cool), pepper, coarse salt.
Dressing: In a jar, shake the heck out of 6 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 2 teaspoons Grey Poupon mustard. 

ROMAINE, MOZZARELLA, BACON, BROWN BUTTER CORN, GARLIC CRISPS, AND MOZZARELLA SALAD WITH PICKLED FRESNO CHILES AND GARLIC LIME VINAIGRETTE
LayersHearts of romaine, sliced buffalo mozzarella, crispy bacon, buttery corn (cut off cob and sautéed for one minute in brown butter with a large pinch of salt), pickled Fresno chiles (to make a jarful: slice 6 chiles in half, remove seeds, dice, boil for 1 minute in mixture of 1 cup white vinegar/1 teaspoon kosher salt/2 teaspoons sugar), garlic crisps (fry four thinly sliced garlic cloves in 4 tablespoons hot olive oil for about a minute and then reserve the oil for the dressing), chiffonade of basil leaves, pepper, coarse salt.
Dressing: Shake in a jar: reserved garlic oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 2 teaspoons Grey Poupon mustard. 
Drink: Hendrick's martini straight up with olives

BUTTER LETTUCE, GOAT CHEESE-FILLED PEACHES, AVOCADO, ALMOND SALAD WITH SHERRY WINE VINEGAR DRESSING

Layers: Butter lettuce, grilled peaches filled with goat cheese (or broiled), avocado, toasted almond slivers, chopped parsley and chives.
Dressing: Combine 1 tablespoon finely diced shallots with 3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar. Set aside for 10 minutes. Whisk in your favorite grainy Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in 4-6 tablespoons olive oil. If it needs a little extra help emulsifying, shake it in a jar.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A FEW RULES

Wear clothes in the kitchen
Always wash your hands
Keep your face away from the flame
Always wear an apron
Nope. We don't always follow the rules around here. But it's nice to have some guidelines. 

In case you missed them, here are two pieces I wrote for Sunset Magazine's blog about raising adventurous eaters. 

Part 1: At the Table

So many of you have emailed me your stories. Thank you! If you feel like it, please share more stories in the comments below about cooking with your own kids or grandkids or friends' kids. I know other people would love to read them. 

Or ask questions. I love questions. I plan to write quite a bit more about this topic in the next year.

Here are a few more images of my kids in the kitchen from the past 10 years.

Back next week with an explosion of summer salads.

xoxo
Phyllis

Monday, May 4, 2015

ICYMI: BROWN BUTTER BANANA BREAD WITH PEANUT STREUSEL

(I'm working on some new recipes and stories for May. Meanwhile, here is last month's post from Cooking What I Want, my Food52 column. I'm about a month behind with everything so spring break and the Easter Bunny make an appearance! I tested this recipe so intensely that I have many half-eaten loaves hiding in my freezer. A few days ago, I took one out at midnight, left it on the counter, and the next morning had myself a kick ass breakfast of toasted gooey banana bread with butter AND cream cheese. You need both. Trust me.)
YOU ONLY HAVE TWO HOURS until your son rushes back into the house from school and begins eleven days of spring break.
Two hours to organize eleven years' worth of your kids’ art.
Two hours to try on and reject all of your bathing suits.
Two hours to figure out the book you want to write.
Instead, you move the food processor to the right side of the kitchen and plug it in.
Two hours to master the mandoline.
Two hours to track down the electrician to figure out why none of the outlets work on the left side of your kitchen.
You brown the butter until it smells just right.
Two hours to make skin cancer screening, mammogram, oil change appointments.
Two hours to clean up the mess the Easter bunny made when she dumped the contents of the toy bin outside to make room for the baskets, thinking it would never ever rain again in California.
You gather roasted peanuts and two very sad bananas.
Two hours to dissect the ins and outs of the Iran Nuclear Deal and Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
You think about the drought and the melting polar ice caps and how much waste there is in your kitchen: half-eaten apples, salami and cheese sandwiches smushed in bottoms of lunch boxes, a back porch strewn with Ziploc bags and vinegar and baking soda from a weekend of baggie bomb wars.
Two hours to sharpen your knives.
You pour your son's leftover breakfast into the food processor: one bowl of plain yogurt, half a glass of orange juice.
Two hours to find the popover recipe you developed over the course of three months and then lost somewhere in the kids’ paper trail.
You smack an egg on the counter. Again. And again. It’s hard-boiled. The Easter bunny needs to organize her fridge.
Two hours to meditate.
You sift the dries and pulse the wets. As you mix them together, you look for pockets of flour, remembering how your mom taught you to fold: cut down the middle, flip the spatula, quarter turn the bowl. 
Two hours to clean up the kitchen mess before you need to start cooking the next meal.
You press in the peanut streusel.
Two hours to crawl into bed and give up.
Your son dashes in. Ready for 264 hours of spring break. Ready for a piece of banana bread with butter. Ready for you. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

(My nomination for Best Writing in the Saveur Food Blog Awards has brought so many people my way. So for those of you who are new to my blog, here is one final story from the archives. Voting ends April 30th. Back in a week or so with new content. Doritos might be involved. Just warning you now! xoxo)

STAY
You whisk the eggs and then slowly pour in the milk. A squeeze of fresh orange juice, vanilla extract, some salt. You whisk so vigorously you create an inch of foam. You're sweating but your left bicep feels strong.

You pour the batter over the three-day-old bread. You crank some music.

You ask the kids to take the dog to the backyard. They pound down the stairs with the reluctant dog and leave the front door open. You throw a chunk of butter onto the griddle and let it go too long because you love the smell of brown butter.

You close your right eye so that you can't see the pile of dishes from yesterday's oatmeal, last night's chicken, the food photography experiments, the wins, the losses.

You want to run away.

You turn up the song. You move your hips, your rib cage, your arms, twirling your hands like they contain castanets, spatula corkscrewing up to the ceiling.

You lift up the custard-soaked bread pieces and deliver them to the griddle, dripping the egg mixture across the counter. You think, what's a little more mess? The sizzling makes you think you would make a really good short order cook and that it would be much easier than managing this house.

You remember that last night you slammed the bedroom door so fucking hard it cracked like one of those earthquake faults. San Andreas? Hayward? You can't remember which big one lies beneath the house. You sip your coffee and everything goes away. You put your mug down and it all comes back.

The pieces of French toast are lined up in two straight lines like Madeline's friends, steaming on the interior, craggy lines forming on the exterior.

The house is quiet.

You flip each piece. Splat. Splat. Splat. Butter flies onto your apron. You recently started buying aprons, because all your black clothes were stained with grease, but you swear you will never walk out of the house wearing one. No one will see this costume. You empty a bottle of maple syrup into a pot and turn on the heat.

You place the cooked slices onto a warm plate. Powdered sugar, lemon, jam, napkins, plates, and forks all to the table.

You step out of your clogs and bust out a pirouette. You can still do four in a row on the left side but you know better than to try the right side. You slide your shoes back on and you are almost 6 feet tall again. You like feeling tall.

You rise up on your toes, as if you're wearing toe shoes, and lengthen your spine up over the dirty dishes. You peek out of the kitchen window. The kids are not in the garden.

You run down the stairs, out the open door, and call out. Dash! Bella! Dash!

Your hands fly to your face. You feel your chest turn red and your heart start to race. You yell out to no one in particular. Oh my god! Where are they?

You are wearing red plaid pajamas, no bra, silver clogs, and a black and white striped apron. You are the crazy lady.

You continue screaming your kids' names as you run down the block. Around the corner. And then around another. And then there they are.

Mama, I thought you'd be proud. We decided to walk Wylie around the block.

You grab Bella too hard around her upper arms and repeat over and over again that Dash is four. Four. Bella. Don't you know that he is four.

Yeah, Bella. I'm four.

You sit down on the ground and pull them both into your lap, the dog manages to tangle you all up in the leash like you're tied to the railroad tracks in one of those old movies with a fast-paced plinking piano soundtrack.

Bella caresses Dash's check. And then your cheek. I'm sorry, mama. But you know, I really can take care of him.

But you don't want her to have that much responsibility yet.

Dash was almost run over by a car. Twice. And then there were the hospital stays. The mushroom he ate. The Staphylococcus scare. And the spinal tap at seven weeks. And every second of every day for the first few years of his life when you couldn't turn your back on him for more than five seconds. The days when your heart was in your throat and your chest ached from too many shallow breaths.

It's okay, mama. Dash is fine. Don't worry so much. How's the french toast?

Shit.

The maple syrup.

You run as fast as you can all the way home, followed by Dash in his Crocs, Bella in her Uggs, tugging on the dog's leash. All those impractical shoes and no one trips.

Up the stairs, down the hall, into the kitchen. The thick maple foam is hovering right at the pot's edge. You pour the syrup into a pitcher. Dash reaches for it. You grab his wrist. Hardcore scary hot, you say. Don't touch. Please.

You pick him up and squeeze and spin and spin and squeeze.

You sit down and eat French toast with extra thick maple syrup. It turns to candy as it hits the cold plates.

Mama. It's even better than regular maple syrup. We should do things like this every time from now on.

Okay. Bella. I will try. I will try. I will try.


FRENCH TOAST WITH MAPLE SYRUP GLAZE
printable recipe
serves 4
You can add fewer eggs. Or more eggs. You can add Grand Marnier, nutmeg, cinnamon, heavy cream, or half and half. It's pretty much impossible to mess up French toast. You can even replace the milk with eggnog. Some kinds of bread soak up more of the custard than other kinds. You can just whisk up a bit more of the custard if needed.

Alternatively, you can soak the bread overnight in the custard. The next morning, sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake at 350°F until cooked through, 25 minutes or so. Broil the top until golden brown. Or try my recipe for baked baguette French toast.

ingredients:
10-12 slices stale white bread (challah or sourdough boules are particularly good)
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out
pinch kosher salt
butter for grilling and serving
1 cup maple syrup

directions:
Place bread one layer thick on a sheet pan or in a large baking dish. Set aside.

Whisk eggs. Whisk in milk. Add orange juice/zest, vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, and salt. Whisk the heck out of it. Or just put it all in the blender. Pour over the bread. Let the bread soak up the custard. Flip the slices after a few minutes.

While the bread is soaking up the custard, pour maple syrup into a big pot. Bring it to a boil on the back of the stove. Turn down to medium and boil for at least 5 minutes. Pour into a pitcher to cool a little.

Crank up your griddle or pan to medium heat. Add some butter. Once melted, place custard-soaked bread on the griddle. Don't turn to high heat or they will burn on the outside before cooking on the inside. Flip when golden brown. Eat right away with butter and piping hot maple syrup. Or with powdered sugar and lemon juice. Or cook lots of it. Cool. Then freeze in Ziploc bags. When you want a piece, thaw it in the toaster.

P.S. I make a variation of this French toast recipe almost once a week. And a few days ago, I added a crunchy cornflake crust. Recipe for that crunchy goodness coming soon.

Monday, April 20, 2015

GOOD MORNING

My daughter slowly scoops out her vanilla yogurt, crowning the surface with raspberries, scattering it all with granola, stepping back, enjoying her stellar plating. With his own breakfast bowl, my son follows her every decorative move. They are moving so slowly I could scream. 
It is 7:45 A.M. We need to leave the house by 8 A.M. Do the toothbrushing, library-book-finding, math. It’s an impossible situation.
Add this to the fifteen minute mix: 
One towering pile of dishes from the previous night’s garlicky pasta dinner.
One missing lunch box.
One broken toilet.
Two rotten cucumbers.
One questionable red pepper.
One daughter helplessly cramming the definitions of avuncular, taut, and assailant into her brain.
One son yelling you never stop micromanaging, mom, and it stresses me out.
One broken water glass.
One chunk of glass in now crying (still yelling) son’s foot, requiring tweezers, vodka (we’re out of rubbing alcohol), Band-Aid.
One bounce bounce splash of the milk carton.
One epic freezer adventure—searching for anything resembling breakfast, lunch, coffee—yielding every kind of gluten you can imagine: whole wheat bread, gooey cinnamon swirl challah, chocolate croissants, cheese-packed danishes, sticky buns, orange cranberry scones, bread sticks, bagels, tortillas.
But no coffee.
I don’t know how to do any of this without coffee.
I perform the open-the-fridge-and-stare move. The thing that elicits from me, on a daily basis, the Are you kidding me, Dash? Close the fridge door. You’re wasting electricity. What is wrong with you?
In my under-caffeinated state, I start to understand the little dude who lives with me. Maybe the cool air helps him wake up. Sometimes it takes a minute to find your center. You see everything. And you see nothing. It’s meditative. And then I know why I’m here. The blueberry sauce. I made it over the weekend when we had nowhere to go, nothing to do, only the potential for hours of Stratego and Laura Ingalls Wilder and sock sorting.
We were running low on maple syrup, so I covered the berries in a snowpile of sugar. I added a pinch of salt, a splash of water, some lemon zest. It all simmered for half an hour, popping, thickening, intensifying in color and flavor. We poured the steaming hot neon reduction over our buttery buttermilk waffles.
By Monday morning, the cold purple compote has thickened into a spreadable jam.
The kids add it to their bowls of yogurt. I use it for PB&Js. I dream about blueberry cheesecake. Then, I sit down and take a big sticky bite of the summery blueberry mess, bringing some Saturday morning bliss to our Monday morning shitstorm.Recipe for my Quick Blueberry Jam can be found in my Food52 column.