Someone recently asked me what the difference was between scalloped potatoes and potatoes au gratin. The best answer is that “scalloped” simply means that the potatoes are thinly sliced, as in discs. And “au gratin” means, roughly translated, “with grated things.” No, those grated things don’t have to be pieces of cheese, necessarily. It could be small, grainy crumbs of bread as well. Many French and Italian gratins don’t feature any cheese, but they are baked with crispy stuff atop … Read More
I love the idea of stuffed mushrooms: savory, bite-sized morsels that you can serve at a party. Love the fact that they spare no parts of mushrooms, since the stems are chopped and sautéed to stuff inside the bowl-shaped undersides. But I rarely love the outcome: bland-tasting, greyish-colored, and lacking in texture.
Aren’t the holidays grand? You get to see your co-workers get drunk on the company tab, eat gingerbread to soak up eggnog, and see strangers dressed as Santa Claus on the subway if you’re in the city like me. Maybe that last part wasn’t a huge bonus of the season. But the point is, you get to party more. Throw off your shoes and–even if you’re not wearing elf socks–enjoy a little whimsy and respite from the weekly dredge more … Read More
Years ago, none of my friends would have pegged me to make green bean casserole for a potluck. I didn’t really know much about casseroles growing up, didn’t see them except for lasagna. But now, three years in a row, I’ve been bringing my own iterations of green bean casserole to my friend’s annual pre-Thanksgiving party. It began when my editor at the environmental site Grist asked me to remake a few Thanksgiving recipes traditionally thrown together from canned food … Read More
What do you do with one whole week’s CSA share for a single meal? My friend Wen-Jay, who runs Local Roots CSA, decided to put me to this challenge to help kick off the winter CSA season. I was up for the challenge, but had another to contend with: what do you do with a big batch of food when you live alone and have no other mouths to feed? I eventually determined it would be a soup, and salad—preferably … Read More
Ruby-red smoked salmon is luscious alone on a good piece of crusty bread—or, if you’re a New Yorker, on a bagel. But a schmear of cream cheese along with it, too, adds richness that gives its strong flavor legs. For a smoked salmon (or lox) dip with cream cheese, I tried to incorporate aspects of my current environment, while nodding to traditions. It turned out that I had—favorably, and rather by chance—just the ingredients to make a total classic rather … Read More
I love making new food discoveries, like making new friends. This late summer-almost fall, I came upon some warbled bean pods that were blushed with red on the bright green outsides. Fresh cowpeas, so the sign for them had read. This wasn’t at the farmers market, where I usually find my rare produce delicacies–but at the bodega down the block from me in Brooklyn, which catered to a mostly Caribbean neighborhood clientele and was run by Korean owners. I have … Read More
It doesn’t take more than a couple fresh ingredients at their prime to make an appetizer that you might spend upwards of $10 for in a restaurant. But in a restaurant, a dish like this–even with so simple a philosophy that I can agree with–nags me a little. It’s just too precious. Too plated. And often, too skimpy.
What do you get when you mix two classic condiments: a creamy roasted eggplant dip and a tangy, fresh tomato-based salsa? A colorful cross. And why not? I always liked the brightness of adding fresh citrus juice to roasted or grilled eggplant. It sort of livens the greyish thing up. I also get frustrated, sometimes, spilling the juice of a fresh tomato salsa while trying to scoop it up with a tortilla chip. Or getting one piece of onion on … Read More
Do you ever edit yourself, after something’s been said and done? After you’ve cleaned off a meal that you enjoyed to its fullest, then start believing that it wasn’t all that it could be? I have this compulsive habit sometimes, and right now I’m really wishing that I’d scattered crisp red onion across this dish, like slivers of orchid petals. And maybe pinched speckles of Maldon sea salt and black pepper on top of those tomatoes and lettuces, and–eh… it … Read More