Sunday, December 21, 2014

TWO ENTREES. TWO DESSERTS. FOUR STORIES.

Here are some favorite posts from my Food52 column Cooking What I Want. I was thinking these recipes might work well for a crowd (if you happen to have one in your house this week). Click on the dish name or the food photo for a recipe.

And if you feel like it, let me know in the comments below what kinds of recipes you'd like me to develop this winter. I tend to make the same things over and over again so I would love some inspiration.

Happy winter solstice. And here's to a hella peaceful new year.

xoxo Phyllis
POMEGRANATE FLANK STEAK
http://food52.com/recipes/31870-pomegranate-flank-steak
Dash. Look outside. We fell back.

What?

It's 5:20 in the evening. But what time does it look like?

6:20.

And in the spring when it's 5:20 what will it look like?

4:20.

Here's the best part, Dash. On Monday morning, 7 AM will feel like 8 AM. Total. Score. But I'm bummed the weekend is over.

Me too. It was great because my daddy came home. 
That was my favorite part too. 

We carved pumpkins, we had pancakes, we had Halloween. There was candy. You ate my strawberry Starbursts. And then you made shakshuka.
I did?
No. Wait. Mom. You made baba ganoush. I get all these new words mixed up. And then we had plank steak.
Did you like the plank steak?
It was delicious. Sweet but sour. Juicy. It was awesome.
Dash, do you think that dinner tasted better because daddy was here?
Maybe a little. Because I don't like it when it's just three. I like the whole four.
Yes, my love. It was a perfect weekend.
I don’t tell him that nothing makes me happier than cooking for his daddy.

I don’t tell him his daddy doesn’t like flank steak, that I forgot, that I’ve lost touch.
I don’t tell him about the kiss his daddy gave me when he got home on Friday night, the one behind the bedroom door, against the Transformers poster, amongst the Legos and stuffed cats, right before the first trick or treaters arrived.

I don’t tell him how sometimes I hide in the kitchen and cook so that I don’t have to be fully present as a wife or a parent.

I don’t tell him how this was a record, how his daddy and I made it 36 hours before our first fight.

I don’t tell him about the fight, the same one we always have, the you are so controlling, followed by the you have no patience, ending, as always, with me sobbing on the kitchen floor.
I don’t tell him how blissed out it made me to roll over on Saturday morning to find a warm chest for my head, to interlace fingers with fingers and toes with toes, to feel my entire being enveloped by the steady rhythm of someone else’s breath.

I don’t tell him that it’s possible to love someone just as much now as you did 25 years ago.

I don’t tell him that I ate all of his Snickers bars for lunch.

I tell him only one thing.

Dash. It’s flank. Not plank.

SPICED LAMB PIE
http://food52.com/recipes/32153-spiced-lamb-pie
When I was 10 years old, I wanted world peace, no capital punishment, and an endless supply of Fun Dip Sticks.

At 44, I want my kids’ homework done, the table set without triple requests, and for all of us to sit down to dinner at the same time with napkins in our laps.
I want my son to take a bath at least once a week.

I want a slow, luxurious husband-kiss delivered to the side of my neck while I chop herbs.
I want my fall filled with warm and cinnamony lamb pies.

I want to sit at the kitchen table—red wine in hand, breathing deeply, staring at the wall, thinking about nothing—while my husband does the dishes.


I want to stop yelling at my children.


I want all of the laundry folded and tucked away, the bills organized and paid, the leak under the kitchen sink fixed.


I want us all to feel safe.


Last Wednesday, at 6 PM, I try for these dreams.


But there are some issues.


My husband is out of town.


The red wine gives me a headache. I google perimenopause and red wine. The news is horrifying.
So I become a yelling machine. 

No way. Not on a school night. No. I don’t care how nicely you ask. No screentime. No. No! Nooooooooooo!

No. Please, Dash. Don’t sharpen your pencil with a chef knife!

Pick up your lunchbox your Legos your jacket your dirty socks your homework your cheddar bunnies!!!

I turn away from it all to stir a pungent paste of garlic, anchovies, tomato paste, and spices into the ground lamb. My world fills with cinnamon, paprika, cumin. The juices reduce down and thicken. I turn off the heat and reach for the dough.
I hear a jumble of voices: teacher, mama, recipe writer. Don’t move your body, move the dough. Don’t overhandle it. Add flour. Move quickly. Look at the beautiful marbling of butter. Isn’t dough amazing? Want to make a honey pie with the scraps? 
I pour the filling into the pie shell, slide as much cheese as possible underneath the top crust, and bust out a scrappy crimp.
I am no longer yelling.
I snap out of my pie trance and remember that kids need to be fed at a reasonable hour on a school night.
And 8:30 PM isn’t reasonable. 
I pull out the frozen pizza. 
BROWN BUTTER BLONDIES
http://food52.com/recipes/32350-brown-butter-blondies
Extra chocolate chips. Hella brown sugar. An overflowing tablespoon of vanilla extract.

For my daughter after her pull-ups. For my son as he tries to conjugate the verb dormir. For my husband as he drives away from our Thanksgiving weekend, away from our unit of four, away from our fully-loaded Christmas tree. For my mother because there is nothing better than feeding your mother.

Brown butter with toasted walnuts. No chocolate chips. Less brown sugar.

For me, right before bed, drifting off to sleep with butterscotch on my tongue after defiantly ignoring my toothbrush because I'm 44 and I can do what I want. 
Chocolate stirred in while the dough is still warm. Crinkly on the top, marbley brownie on the inside. 
For my grandmother, accompanied by lukewarm Lipton tea. Eaten with my hand resting on her impossibly fragile arm. In her hospital bed. After she says "I don't like blondies." After I say to the nurse, "did you know that I wanted to be my grandmother when I was little?" Before she actually bites in and smiles and reaches for more.
A heaping teaspoon of salt. Just enough chocolate chips so the butterscotch flavor doesn’t have to compete. Balanced. Nuts optional. 
Brought over by my neighbor: on my birthday or my son’s or just because, at the end of many rough days, after yet another miscarriage. Eaten while sobbing, letting the buttery chocolate squares fill me back up again. Shared with no one.
Versions of all four batches rest in my freezer, cubed and Ziplocked. Up for grabs. For the forgotten second-grade-holiday-party-potluck. For late nights with "The Newsroom" and red wine. For anyone who stops by. For Marianne, Simon, Margi, Sarah, Amy, Yalda, Laurel, Jen, Anya, Anna, my brother, my mom, my dad. I promised you all some blondies. Come over. Let me feed you.  
CARAMEL NUT TART WITH CHOCOLATE
http://food52.com/recipes/32584-caramel-nut-tart-with-chocolate
I sit alone in the car, listening to reports about the upcoming hellastorm, a trail of broken windows from the previous night’s protests, how everyone is bringing booty back. I try to find my morning.   
Gather every lonely nut you can find in your pantry, fridge, freezer.
I squeeze my eyes shut, smack my cheeks, and try to kickstart my brain. I don’t know how I jumped out of bed this morning, how I got these clothes on my body, how I showed up in the kitchen. I have no memory of nuzzling one child and then the other awake. 
Roll out your tart dough. Find your favorite square pan.
My arms must have prepared three breakfasts, two lunches, one cup of very strong coffee. My voice must have guided with variations of take a deep breath, I will help you find your homework, yes your socks are clean and in the bin, no you can't get Snapchat.
Think about all of the tarts that have passed through this pan, this kitchen. Testing, re-testing, learning to let go of being perfect. 
My head drops to the steering wheel. I am feeling the side effects: the slow decline of my sacrum, my teeth, my brain. I need to look up. I need to break some rules. 
Caramelize the sugar. Stir in the cream. Watch it rise up like a volcano.
I re-enter the kitchen and the morning floods back. Every last word, struggle, sprint, geometry problem, glass of spilled milk. I hear myself say: first, make the bed. I see myself tucking, folding, scrubbing.
Add some salt. A bit more salt. Some vanilla. A bit more vanilla. 
I pick my kids up from school. As the helicopters start in for the fifth night in a row, I see my son cover his ears from the noise. I feel myself start a stumbling rant: Things must change and we can help and we must not just let things be and we are all equal and there is so much history filled with violence and oppression and we must march and chant and fight. I want to be the right parent. The clear parent. 
Pour the caramel-drenched walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, almonds into the raw pastry shell. Fuck par-baking. 
Dash, sometimes people have to make some noise. 

Stare at your pretty tart. Melt bitter chocolate. Get a spoon. Drizzle. Mess it up.

Friday, December 19, 2014

SOUNDTRACKS

We hike up the hill towards the track, running shoes on, holding hands, pretending we're forest ninjas. 

Are pumpkins still alive after they're picked? Why have you been drinking so much tea? Who is this King Tut guy? This stick totally looks like a machine gun. I want a robot, don't you? Did I tell you I got a Kangaskhan card and it has 230 life? I don't think there's a God. I want a new dog and I will name him Biscuit. Oh my God, mom, look at that beautiful sky.

Swaths of orange and red blaze across the bay, a sunset so breathtaking that dozens of people sit in the bleachers, reveling, taking photos, leaning in towards one another. It would be so easy to join them.


Don't sit down. Don't sit down. Don't sit down.


Mom, are you talking to yourself again?


Maybe.


We shift. We smile. We feed on each other's hesitations.

Ready, mom?


Ready, Dash.


Set?


Set.


Go.


I don't go. Shit. I don't go.

He is halfway around the track.

I own a different body now. My breasts are three inches lower. My legs are three inches thicker.

He has almost completed a lap.


My abdominals are split open. My pelvic floor is a foreign country.


He swings by for lap number two, slows down, tries to grab me. 


Come on, mom.

He doesn't know that scraped out feeling. Always searching for the on button.


We're here to run.

He wakes up running. I wake up recalibrating.

Mom?


Bound by bound, breath by breath, I match his gait. My legs glide without effort. My arms pump. We move and move and move. Faster and faster and faster. He has me.

Dash. Oh my God. I'm running!

He gives me the I-love-you-even-though-you're-crazy look.

Dude, I didn't think I would make it more than ten steps. The last time I ran was on my wedding day. 

You mean you haven't run since way before I was born?

Nope, Dash. I haven't run for 13 years.

Up and down the attic stairs to fetch laundry, paper towels, dead rats. In circles. From the house to the car to the house to the car. Down the supermarket aisle to catch a tumbling bottle of wine, a jar of pickles, an avalanche of apples. Towards a choking child. Out of the house in anger. Into my husband's arms. Behind a child's teetering bicycle. Towards speeding cars, crashing waves, third story windows.


He stops to process. To catch his breath. To search for the moon. To be seven years old.

Mom, it's dark and I want to go home and I'm so hungry.

Dash, I want shakshuka more than anything.

I want mac and cheese more than anything. 


I chase my little running man down the hill, endorphins dancing around my head, superhero rocket jets still humming. 

I have let my stories get too big. 

What did you say, mom? Why are you smiling?

Dash, please eat shakshuka with me.
(recipe written up by Dash; layout inspired by Pokémon cards)

Shack shooka. Shakshuka. Shakshouka. Chakchouka. Many spellings from around my house. And from around the world. I understand it has Tunisian and Israeli origins. I have never followed a shakshuka recipe but I've been inspired by dozens of photos from all over the web. 

My Berkeley version involves a harissa-spiced tomato and onion sauce, dotted with feta, topped with baked eggs and chopped herbs. 

Scoop it up with grilled bread. Add white beans, grilled sausages, braised lamb, or cooked potatoes.

Add on. Take away. Make it your own.

Here's my shakshuka. Please tell me about yours. 

SHAKSHUKA
printable recipe
serves 4
The only thing you need to make ahead of time is the garlic confit. Or just skip it! 

You can make this a one-dish dinner by cooking the sauce in an ovenproof pan, adding the eggs, and throwing it into the oven. Or, make the sauce a a few days ahead of time and store it in the fridge. Or freeze it. You can make individual shakshukas. Or spoon the sauce into a large baking dish for 4 people. Or double the recipe and make it for 8.

Sometimes, I use my cast iron pan for this but some people swear you should never put acidic tomatoes into cast iron. I've never had a problem. Do this at your own risk. I think it might depend on the depth of buildup on the interior of your pan.

ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, finely diced (yielding 2 to 2.5 cups)
1 heaping teaspoon salt
8 cloves garlic confit, squeezed out of their skins
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
3 anchovy fillets, packed in oil
1 box or can of crushed or diced tomatoes, 26 to 28 ounces (avoid those with too many additional ingredients, salt and basil are fine)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon harissa
1 tablespoon honey
2 sprigs fresh thyme
sherry wine vinegar, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon lemon zest (either stripped with a zester or microplaned)
6 ounces of your favorite feta (any kind is fine but I prefer one with a creamier texture)
4 eggs
1/4 cup garlic oil from garlic confit

directions:
Place medium-sized ovenproof pan on medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. Once butter is melted, add onions and salt.  Stir every few minutes until translucent. Turn the heat to a simmer  Cover. Cook for about an hour. Stir every 10 minutes or so. If it starts to stick, add a splash of water. It's okay if it browns a bit. This will just add flavor. It's done when the texture is creamy and the color is golden. Remove the lid and boil off most of the liquid (if there is any). Keep the heat on low.

With your mortar and pestle, make a paste out of the garlic confit, fresh garlic, and anchovies. Add to cooked onions. Cook for 30 seconds. Stirring constantly. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, harissa, honey, and thyme. Stir. Bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for about an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so. You want it to thicken and sweeten and intensify. Taste. Adjust. 1 tablespoon of harissa can be quite powerful, but add more if the sauce doesn't have enough kick. I usually add some more salt and a splash of sherry wine vinegar. Remove the thyme sprigs. At this point, you can cool the sauce and then refrigerate or freeze until needed.

When you're ready to eat shakshuka, preheat the oven to 450°F. Combine parsley, mint, and lemon zest. Set aside.


Either leave your sauce in your ovenproof pan or spoon the sauce into a baking dish that allows about 1/2-inch of room at the top. Crumble or cube the feta and press it down into the sauce. It's okay if some of the pieces are poking up through the sauce. Place the dish in the oven until the sauce is piping hot, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. With a spoon, make 4 circular holes for the eggs in the tomato sauce. Crack an egg into a bowl and slide it into a hole. Repeat 3 more times. Sprinkle half of the parsley, mint, and lemon zest over the surface. Spoon over some garlic oil.

Bake until eggs are cooked to your liking. It's okay for the top of the sauce to start browning a bit. Sometimes I find that the yolk is set before the white is cooked. In that case, the best thing to do is cover the dish or pan with a lid or tin foil for about 1 minute. Remove from the oven before it looks done because it will keep cooking. You can always throw it back in for a minute or two. Garnish with remaining herb and lemon zest mixture. Serve immediately with grilled bread and extra garlic oil.

Monday, October 20, 2014

FOR ONCE

you are not crying from anger or giving the fuck up. You are not crying from drinking too much red wine. You are not crying from wanting a different child, a different life, a different husband.

You are watching your son race back and forth in the detergent aisle, his sweaty cheeks getting pinker with each sprint, his intensity scaring customers away from their Tide and Bleach Pens, his grace taking your breath away. He rushes up and slams his head into your belly. He doesn't notice your tears.


Dash. What was your one job?


To find the figs.


Right. 


I forgot! Don't worry, mom! I will find them.


He makes it ten steps before crashing to the ground. Up he pops, waving, smiling, yelling out, I'm okay, mom. I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm okay.


For once you are not crying because the car is making a funny noise. You are not crying because you forgot the school meeting. You are not crying because you need more sex.


It is 5pm. You are hungry. You are spacey. You are mumbling your way through the market, looking for recipe inspiration, half-planning a week of meals, trying to steer yourself back to the practical: to the sandwich bread, the apples, the broccoli, the dental floss. But what you really want to do is get lost in the condiment aisle.


Across the football field of produce, your son is nowhere to be found. You flip flop from the oh he's fine mom to the oh my god he has been kidnapped mom. And just when you are about to franticly yell out his name, you find him seated in the toiletry aisle, staring up at the baby products.


Dude. The figs.


Wait. Mom. Look. Here are some baby wipes.


Baby wipes will never ever be a part of my life again.


You never know, mom.


Yes I do.


Your tone is too serious. You don't even know how to begin explaining how hard it was.


You are not crying for the woman who stands on the sidewalk in her bathrobe, glaring up at the sky as if she has lost her way or her family or her mind, swaying in a wind of her own sadness and sobs.You are not crying for the homeless man who power walks through Berkeley all day every day until his shoes are worn down and his feet are bloody.


Mom, you could find another baby inside of you.


Like a sock. Or your car keys.


Unlikely.


Is it a choice?


Yes. It is. 


So, you could choose to have a baby and go to to bed and then wake up with one. Right, mom? Is that how it works?


All of aisle 10 awaits your answer. The teenager looking at the essential oils. The young couple with the baby. The pregnant mama. Their ears wide open. Their breathing on hold.


You pick him up and cradle his 50-plus pounds in your arms.  The screaming bloody blob of a thing that slid out of you seven years ago can now read in French and English, navigate an Xbox, peel a clove of garlic, weigh in on the pros and cons of soda tax.


Today you are crying for what is right. For what works. For this moment. For this boy who took so many years to conceive. For all those miscarriages. For loving him more than you thought possible. For deciding he would be your last one.


You tuck him into the shopping cart, surrounded by chicken, wine, anchovies, pomegranates, grapes, baguette, goat cheese.


You go off to find some figs. Together.

WE DID FIND SOME FIGS. HERE'S WHAT WE DID WITH THEM:
Every Monday in October, I've made chicken with figs and grapes. This makes me sound way more organized than I actually am. But this particular dish has been revelatory for me because, up until a month ago, I had managed to overcook chicken breasts for most of my adult life.

If you're game, here's my new trick: cook it at a very high temperature. Open the oven at minute 15 for a quick little baste. Take it out at minute 25. That's it. No fussing necessary. 


Flavor-wise, this dish is sort of the 
anchovyfied lazy younger sister of Chicken Marbella. (Remember? Silver Palate! 1980s! Right. Some of you weren't born yet.) Many of the same ingredients are included (brown sugar, vinegar, wine, fruit), but it's not nearly as acidic or herbaceous. It's way easier because you don't marinate it overnight. The final dish doesn't produce much sauce but that's because my goal with this recipe is to let chicken be the perfectly cooked star: moist and tender, not dry and bland. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is. 

Be warned, some of you might find this chicken undercooked. I take it to about 160°F. I don't want you to do something that makes you nervous. If you feel more comfortable bringing the internal temperature of the chicken up to 165°F or 170°F or even 180°F, I totally get it. Do it! I've just been stepping away from the thermometer (full disclosure: it's broken) and trying to cook in a more intuitive way. I'm also a big fan of cooking something that can extend into many meals without tasting like overcooked leftovers.


Think of this dish as a template of comfort.A pan of possibilities.

See recipe below for lots of meal ideas.


CHICKEN WITH FIGS AND GRAPES 
printable recipe

There's quite a trend in large chicken breasts these days. The breasts I used were about 10-12 ounces each. As long as they're not pumped full of hormones or antibiotics, I'm down with the size. So ask around. Try to get organic and free-range chicken. And if at all possible, avoid the pre-packaged pieces. Ideally, have them butchered right before your eyes. If the breasts are smaller than 9 ounces, you should check them for doneness after about 20 minutes instead of 25.

The fruit shrivels up a bit from the high heat and absorbs the chicken fat and sweet balsamic garlic anchovy marinade. As my friend Margi says: you can't go wrong when you mix carnage and fruit. If the fruit isn't as soft and jammy as you like, scoop it into a separate dish, paint it with a bit of goop from the bottom of the pan, and throw it back in the very hot oven for a few minutes while the chicken rests.


If you can't find figs, just use red seedless grapes. Or dried fruit like figs or apricots. Even prunes would be delicious (à la Chicken Marbella). If you use dried fruit, soak it first for an hour or so in warm orange juice, wine, or chicken stock. 


ingredients:
4 large chicken breasts, skin on/bone in
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
a few turns of black pepper 
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 anchovy fillets, packed in oil
1 tablespoon balsamic reduction*
2 tablespoons red wine
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
3 cups figs and/or red seedless grapes (or prunes, apricots, peaches, dried figs or apricots)
a few sprigs fresh thyme
1/3-1/2 cups chicken stock

directions:
Preheat oven to 450°F.

Place chicken in a baking dish or cast iron pan (use a pan if you plan to make a sauce). Generously season both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside.


With a mortar and pestle, bash the garlic and anchovies until you have a smooth paste (this takes a few minutes, so be patient). Whisk  in balsamic, red wine, olive oil, brown sugar. Pour 3/4 of the marinade over the chicken. Use your hands or a pastry brush to coat every bit of the chicken. Turn skin up in the dish or pan.


If you're using figs, stem and halve them. Pick through your grapes. If you're using apricots or prunes, make sure they're pitted. Place whatever fruit you're using in a bowl. Toss the fruit with the remaining 1/3 of the marinade. Tuck the fruit in, around, and under the chicken. Crush the thyme sprigs in your hands and tuck them in as well. Place chicken into the preheated oven. After about 15 minutes, baste the chicken with a few splashes of chicken stock. If the pan is dry or the drippings are burning, use a bit more stock to loosen things up. I find that after about 22 minutes, the juices start to flow out of the chicken and the fruit. And by minute 25 the skin is a deep dark caramel color. At this point, remove the dish or pan from the oven. You have many options. You can set it on the counter and move on with your day. You can take the internal temperature and make sure it has reached a number you're comfortable with (at least 160°F for me). You can cut into the deepest part of the largest breast and take a peek. If it's still a bit raw, then throw it back in the oven. If it's just the tiniest bit pink and the juices are running clear, you're golden. 


If your oven doesn't deliver the beautiful color, don't fret. Just place it under the broiler until desired color is reached.


You can eat this right out of the pan as is. Or save it to expand into a bunch of future meals. Here are some ideas:


1. SORT OF A FANCY DINNERChicken With Mashed Potatoes. While the chicken is cooking, make some mashed potatoes. Scoop out the cooked chicken and fruit and place on a warm serving plate (leaving any juices behind). Cover with tin foil. Crank the heat under the chicken pan, add a finely diced shallot, and use a spatula to scrape up the goodies. Add 1/2 cup white wine or chicken stock. Bring to the boil. Reduce by half. Turn off the heat and taste. Adjust seasoning. Pour sauce over the warm chicken and fruit.  Serve immediately with the mashed potatoes and a garnish of chopped parsley. 


2. WHEN YOU HAVE 30 UNINTERRUPTED MINUTES TO SPARE (HA!) AT THE STOVE: Lemon Risotto with Chicken and Herbs. Take out two of the breasts and carefully cut the meat off the bone and then into cubes (the skin can be a bit invasive in a delicate risotto, so you might want to give it to the dog or your son or throw it right in your mouth). Make a classic risotto recipe. When you're adding your cheese at the end, stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, one more splash of warm chicken stock, and the cubed chicken. Cover for five minutes. Uncover and stir. Serve with additional parmesan. 

3. SIMPLE DINNER: Rice and Chicken Bowl: Toss cubed chicken (with the skin on this time) and cooked fruit into a pot of cooked brown or white rice. Garnish with chopped scallions. 

4. EASIEST DINNER EVERCheese Pizza with Chicken and Figs. Add cubed chicken (no skin) and cooked figs (don't use the grapes for this one) to a frozen cheese pizza. Follow baking instructions. Drizzle with balsamic reduction* and olive oil before serving. 

5. SOLO LUNCHRoasted Fruit and Goat Cheese Tartines. Scoop out the fruit (eat the chicken another time), top it with crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, broil until hot and nicely browned, press down onto grilled bread rubbed with garlic. 

6. QUICK HEALTHFUL PASTA: Pasta with Chicken, Sage, and Peas. Brown some butter, toss in a few leaves of chopped sage, turn off heat, and stir in cubed chicken (no skin, no fruit) and frozen peas (or massaged kale). Toss with cooked pasta and a splash of pasta water. Serve with olive oil and parmesan cheese. 

7. SANDWICH:  Chicken Breast, Bacon, Arugula, Avocado, and Garlic Confit Sandwich. Cook a few slices bacon to desired crispiness. Grill two slices of gooey sourdough bread. Spread one slice with mayonnaise and the other with garlic confit. Toss a handful of arugula with anchovy garlic vinaigrette. Layer the sandwich with sliced chicken breast (skin on this time), bacon, avocado slices, and dressed arugula. I highly advise eating this with sea salt and vinegar potato potato chips. For extra crunch and excitement, you might even want to tuck a few potato chips into the sandwich.

*I make balsamic reduction by boiling down inexpensive balsamic vinegar (usually, a 17-ounce bottle yields about 3/4 cup. Just store as you would any vinegar).

Monday, September 29, 2014

HOW

when you cross the street, even when you're alone, you reach back to take a child's hand.

How when you slam on the brakes, your right arm flies up to protect a little front seat passenger. Even when he's sitting in the back. Even when he's not in the car.

How before you pour boiling water through the coffee filter, you look over your shoulder to make sure all creatures are at least six feet back.

How every homeless person is someone's lost child.

How through the mundane movements of every meal, every load of laundry, every trip to the market, a piece of you is drifting back to their births and forward to their deaths.

How parenting feels like a fucking crap shoot.

How you practice looking into each other's eyes, interlacing fingers, squeezing hands together like they're superglued.

How you remind him that he can control his body. He can listen. He can sit still. He can even change.

You can't learn to fly, mom.

How your breath deepens.

You can't learn to vomit every second of every day.

How you start to laugh.

How you will never ever tell him how much you love him because it would feel like too much of a burden.

How, instead, you start yammering about how you left tomatoes to slow-cook in the oven all day.

How he rolls his eyes with indifference.

How his face lights up when he sees them after school, neon and glistening on the sheet pan.

How he tells you you're the best cook in the world.

How you take this with a grain of salt.

How you ask him to repeat it. Again. And again. And again.
I know it's the tail end of the season, but I've asked around and I hear that there are a few tomatoes left out there in the world. Here is something to do with those stragglers.

There is something very gratifying about throwing food into the oven in the morning and retrieving it at the end of the day. But I would be lying if I told you I had a recipe for these slow-cooked tomatoes.

Just do this: Preheat your oven to a very low temperature. Maybe 200°F. Unless your sheet pan is pristine and perfect and nonstick, line it with a Silpat or parchment paper. Halve some cherry tomatoes and place them on the sheet pan. It's okay if they're from the back of your fridge and all sad and smushed. Stem and thickly slice some whole tomatoes (at least 1/2 inch thick or they will melt away). Add to the sheet pan. Pour about a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil into a bowl. With a pastry brush, paint the tomatoes with a light slick of oil. Take a pinch of kosher salt and sprinkle it over the tomatoes, evenly coating, moving your fingers the whole time until the salt is dispersed. Repeat with more salt until all tomatoes have been lightly touched. Do the same with granulated sugar. Flip the tomatoes over. Repeat steps  Slide sheet pan into the oven. Check after 2 hours. If you're leaving the house, turn the oven off and leave the tomatoes to coast until the evening. If you're sticking around, check them every 30 minutes or so. I find that they are best when shriveled up but not dry. Keep tasting. You will know when they are right.

Where to put these goodies: Store in a jar as is. Or, tuck thinly sliced garlic in amongst the tomatoes and drown everything in olive oil. Throughout the week, pull out tomatoes for sandwiches, pastas, and omelets. Bella eats them on her mac and cheese. I eat them in arugula salad with avocado. Throw them in everything. Or freeze in a jar until deep December when you're desperate for some summer brightness.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

LET'S START WITH DESSERT

I've been saving my stories for the book that I'm writing. Most of them, at least. A few have slipped their way over to Food52 (see above).  I've posted one of my early summer favorites below.

Once my manuscript is turned in, I'll be back here with lots to say. Just keep chanting you can do it, you can do it, Phyllis, you can fucking do it.

Thanks. It helps. A lot.

xoxo
P.S. You can find me posting excessively over on Instagram. And sometimes I have a few things to rant about on Twitter or Facebook.

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After a weekend away and some heavy-duty denial about the fact that it’s officially June, I wake up early Monday morning to find the rest of my life sitting on my chest. This unfamiliar weight scares me. 
I make my coffee, paw around in the freezer, pray that there is something I can MacGyver into two school lunches. Frozen peas land on my jet-lagged son's head. Lamb bones fall onto my bare toes. And before I can stop it, an avalanche of unlabeled freeze-burned Ziplocked scraps slides down to the floor.  
I shove it all back into the freezer, heave my body weight against the door, and lock the chaos back in. 
And things don’t improve. 
It is the kind of morning where my son cries because his daddy will miss his Ninjago-themed sleepover birthday party. It is the kind of morning where I drop my husband off at the airport, lean in for a long deep kiss, and say goodbye for the entire summer. My heart aches so much that it is hard to turn my head over my shoulder to change lanes. I find myself driving down the freeway singing along and sobbing away to John Cougar Mellencamp. 
It’s only 11 AM. 
Bird by bird. 
I open the freezer. I face my future. 
Ten years ago, if you were scrounging around in my freezer for a stick of butter, you would have run into a placenta, a dozen bags of breast milk, some very stale pot, and lots of New York Super Fudge Chunk. Period. 
Now you’ll find enough tortillas to open a Mexican restaurant, fancy-ass square ice cubes (small, medium, large), lardo, bacon, bacon, bacon, two uncooked short ribs from this year’s Super Bowl party, fresh horseradish, a smorgasbord of pastries, pesto, egg whites, my neighbor’s homemade lemon curd, mini pissaladièresbrown butter cupcake brownieschocolate chip cookies, pulled pork, garlic confit, slow-cooked tomatoes, soup, pizza, pizza, pizza. And that, my friends, is just the beginning.  
Starting with the short ribs, I begin cooking the next six meals that will go into my kids’ bellies. I sear off the frozen meat in bacon fat, toss in some onions, garlic, and anchovies. I deglaze with wine while the meat is still in the pan. I break all of the rules. And then I add some gooey balsamic and a large frozen block of diced tomatoes. 
I throw the mess into the oven and forget about it until the smell brings me back.
I lift the lid. I shred the meat. I pick out the fatty bits. My heart rate slows down.