Comfort Foods and Indulgences
I resisted Facebook for years, but the ease with which I could share and view pictures of a high-school reunion compelled me. So like most people my age, I found myself using the site to reconnect with a past I had previously ignored or forgotten. Then, when my husband passed away suddenly a little more than a year ago, Facebook became a strange lifeline during my first year of grief. Frankly, being on Facebook makes me think about what it must be like to be dead, floating like a ghost into and out of people’s lives, into and out of all the worlds we’ve inhabited. The compression and conflation of time that Facebook provides makes way for the beguiling draw of nostalgia.
Nostalgia, like grief, is essentially homesickness, and we tend to get homesick when we want to restore the parts of ourselves we think we are losing or have lost. Soon enough, I found myself looking up my old summer camps, my old junior high school (that’s what we New Yorkers called middle school), and inevitably I discovered a Facebook page dedicated to Riverdale, the small northwest Bronx neighborhood where I spent my formative years.
I know what you're thinking. Weeknight dinner and the culinary term reduction are two words that do not go together. But I double-dare swear that they do. This recipe is so perfect for any night that is filled with reckless activities caused by our busy and crazy lives. This recipe will take you back to the simple life you crave.
You cannot get this from a box, you cannot get this from an ox. You cannot find this here or there, but you can make this in your underwear...or something like that.
I mean are you tired of your pathetic nightly dinners? Does your family dread the dreaded chicken recipe again? Have you been wanting your inner-chef-dom-tendencies to shine through without much effort? This is your lucky day.
This simplistic, tasty, somewhat-savory, somewhat-sweet dinner is for you. It is by far the most effortless (well, I guess McDonald's would be more effortless) weeknight meal you could possibly throw together. And it's so good, you could even serve it for Sunday night dinner. After making this, no one will believe you've running around like a maniac all day.
From the L.A. Times
Many years ago, when I was younger and even more foolish than today, I took it upon myself to perfect the shortcake. I spent a week going through a dozen or so recipes from my favorite writers, cooking them, plotting the ingredients on a spreadsheet and then testing different combinations until I came up with the shortcake of my dreams.
What's so foolish about that? Absolutely nothing (though a tad obsessive, maybe). But then I had to go and proclaim it in print as "The Ultimate Shortcake." And of course you know what happened then – within a couple of months, I found a shortcake I liked better. "Sic transit gloria pastry" and all that.
The reason I'm bringing this up is that I was recently bitten again by the shortcake bug. I guess that's practically unavoidable at this time of year, when the markets are full of fragrant strawberries just begging for a little lightly whipped cream and a bite of something crunchy.
Prior to blogging, I rarely made muffins. OK, I never made muffins. Now I find it difficult to go a week or more without baking some. There are so many things to love about muffins: They're easy to make. They're endlessly versatile. And, unlike many baked goods, they're portion controlled. (That is, as long as you don't eat two or three per sitting.)
While I enjoy baking traditional muffins like my Mom's Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins, I really love to play around with ingredients and concoct unique muffins such as Fresh Apricot and Kiwi and Coconut.
Up until a few weeks ago, however, I had never made muffins with red grapes. I mean, red grapes in muffins? Is that natural? Oh, it's beyond natural. It's extraordinary. I should know. I have made them three times within the past few weeks, including for a brunch, where they received rave reviews.
I have a weakness for flatbread, all kinds of flatbread. If flatbread is on a menu, it's pretty much a given that I will order it. Years ago I made those Chinese spring onion pancakes, but other than that, I really haven't bothered. Why? Well, making flatbread seemed like it would be a bother, what with the yeast and the kneading, and rising and resting and all I figured it was easier to just order it in restaurants. Until last week.
While in London I spent many hours perusing food magazines and the fantastic cookbook collection at Books for Cooks, one of my favorite book stores in the world. I will share with you my list of purchases at some other point, but suffice it to say one of my purchases was a Donna Hay magazine. Donna Hay is Australian but she is tremendously popular in the UK and for good reason. Her recipes are generally not that complicated but offer maximum impact for a minimum of effort. When I saw her recipe for rosemary flatbread I was intrigued.
My mom says I have expensive taste. You wouldn’t know it by the stores I go to, such as Marshall’s and Loehmann's. Yet, when it comes to eating, I like high quality foods and am more than willing to splurge.
That’s why I didn’t hesitate to buy saffron. Well, that’s not really true. I did hesitate. Not because of the price; because I have an uneasy relationship with saffron. It’s sort of like kissing someone, and the "wow" factor just isn’t there. You know, he’s a nice guy, but there aren’t any fireworks. So, you give him another try, and it’s great. Then the next time it's only so-so. You know what I mean? That’s been my experience with saffron. (Not with guys; Jeff has always been a great kisser).
I’m unequivocal when it comes to food – when I don't like something, I don't usually try it again. Which is why I’m surprised about my willingness to give saffron another chance. When I first tasted it in a great Indian restaurant, I found its floral overtones unpalatable. I thought I would be put off saffron forever after that. However, another delicious Indian restaurant redeemed saffron for me by serving it in a lovely rice and pea dish. Since then, I've had it in Spanish and Middle Eastern dishes and have begun cooking with it (to mixed results). Yet, the recipe I share today is a keeper. And coming from me, that is high praise.
Across the country, the not-so-hot-economy is adding appeal to cooking at home. But, I’m not talking about staying home to make your favorite macaroni and cheese. People who have grown accustomed to dining out still want to eat in style.
The interest of cooking at home has also been heightened by attention given to reality cooking shows and the explosion of celebrity chefs on the television and entertainment scene. With such a hunger for eating and entertaining in our own dining rooms, I feel there is a need for ideas on how to eat better at home for less. In other words, a little, “gastronomy for the economy” is in order.
When I patronize a fancy restaurant, I love to indulge a bit and order steak and lobster. However, making quality steak and lobster at home can be pricey. In order to satisfy my urge for this type of meal, I’ve put together a Surf and Turf Sizzle that is easy to prepare and won’t put a dent in your pocketbook.
A few nights ago, I made a roast chicken, a huge salad, and some baked sweet potatoes. I ate my sweet potato and although Eli loves them, he ignored them. I couldn’t waste them, so I took the skin off, tossed the potato meat into my ricer and threw the puree into the fridge. As I was cleaning out my fridge days later, I remembered the puree.
I turned to my trustee baking bible, Dorie’s, Baking: From My Home to Yours and adapted her pumpkin muffins for my left over sweet potato puree. They were perfectly light, not too dense and deliciously complimented my morning tea. The uneaten muffins went to work with Miguel. The kids were happy, I was happy and hopefully, Miguel’s office will be happy, too.
My girlfriend took one bite of these and said, “this tastes like Mac ‘n Cheese”. Voila, the Mac ‘n Cheese cracker was born.
I had been wanting to make more savory snacks and this was a really great place to start.
What I love most about this recipe is that these can be made in big batches, baked right away or frozen for future use, making last minute entertaining, either in our own home or at others, easy and stress free.