Lentil Avocado Salad — The Weekender

by in Recipes, April 4th, 2014

Lentil Avocado Salad - The WeekenderWhen I worked at an office, remembering to eat lunch was never a problem. Even if I lost track of time, I could always feel how the energy around me would shift a few minutes before noon. As soon as the clock flipped, my co-workers and I would rise from our seats to meet friends or pick up sandwiches at the cafeteria downstairs.

Once I started working from home, that unconscious knowledge that it was time to eat lunch was one of the first things to go. Instead, I’d sit down to work and enter something of a fugue state. I’d resurface hours later, feeling ravenously hungry and shocked by how much time had gone by.

These days I do two things to combat the work hypnosis. I set an alarm on my computer that reminds me to eat lunch (it’s simple but effective), and I make some big batch of grain or bean salad at the start of each week so that I have something to look forward to.

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Dark Chocolate Pudding — The Weekender

by in Recipes, March 28th, 2014

Dark Chocolate PuddingBefore I met my husband, my go-to desserts were always fruit based. For spring potlucks I would bake up big trays of berry crumble. Late summer meant peach pie with vanilla ice cream. And no Thanksgiving meal was complete without a scoop of apple crisp.

That all changed when Scott and I got together, because fruit just isn’t his thing. While I do still occasionally make my beloved fruit desserts, I find I get more joy from dessert prep if I make something that he’s interested in sharing with me (plus, I really shouldn’t be eating all that dessert on my own).

And so for the last half decade, I’ve been working on expanding my dessert repertoire beyond berries, stone fruit and apples. I’ve made damp tea loaves, coffee cakes, cookies, bars and more. They’ve all been good, but I longed for something that came together a little more quickly and didn’t require the use of the oven.

I found it: homemade pudding. There are two ways to make a batch of pudding from scratch. The first uses cornstarch and makes a quick and perfectly serviceable pudding. When I make pudding-filled pies or want a big batch for a potluck, that’s the version I opt for. But when I want something that can be the star of the dessert course, nothing is better than rich custard-based pudding.

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Parmesan Fennel Gratin — The Weekender

by in Recipes, March 21st, 2014

Parmesan Fennel Gratin - The WeekenderDuring the winter months, when most of the farmers markets in my area are closed, I find that I almost always default to the same five vegetables at the grocery store. We can eat only so much broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale, however, before edible fatigue sets in.

So I’ve been making a point to reach for vegetables outside of the standard five. I picked up a bag of snow peas recently, which made for a nice treat. Beets have made several appearances. And fennel has been hopping into my shopping basket a lot lately.

Fennel is actually a great vegetable to have in the crisper drawer, because it can do a variety of things. You can mince it and saute it into soups and stews in place of celery. You can shave it finely and dress it with a simple vinaigrette. It makes a very nice quick pickle. And as I learned recently, it works beautifully as a gratin.

I used Ina Garten’s recipe for Parmesan Fennel Gratin. She is the queen of simple, lush dishes, and this recipe did not let me down. She has you core the bulbs and cut them into two to four wedges. They get a dose of wine-fortified stock, are dotted with butter and covered with foil. You slide the pan into a hot oven and let them braise until they are entirely tender.

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Potluck Meatballs — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Recipes, March 14th, 2014

Potluck MeatballsMeatballs were not a regular menu item in my childhood home. My mom thought they were overly fussy and opted to make meatloaf or meaty tomato sauce when confronted with a pound of ground beef.

Because meatballs were a rarity for me, of course I longed for them. When I was older and cooking for myself, I added a pair of meatball recipes to my dinnertime rotation.

The first recipe I made was with ground lamb, feta cheese, minced red onion and a splash of red wine vinegar. We eat those meatballs with big green salads topped with roasted peppers and onions.

The second recipe is one my friend Joy invented. It uses ground chicken, ricotta cheese and minced onions, and the resulting meatballs are gloriously tender. I like to eat them over a bed of sauteed kale and topped with buttery marinara sauce.

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Fridge Frittata — The Weekender

by in Recipes, March 7th, 2014

Fridge Frittata - The WeekenderEggs are my comfort food. When I’ve had a rough day, I eat them fried and served over buttered toast cubes. Mornings when I know I’ll need lots of energy, I eat them scrambled with grape tomatoes and avocado. And nights when I can’t imagine cooking anything ambitious, I simmer tomato puree with kale and garlic and poach two eggs per diner in the sauce.

When it comes to eggs for a crowd, I’m very fond of big egg bakes and frittatas. I have a couple favorite versions (spinach, red peppers and goat cheese is one I make a lot), but I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for add-ins and toppings.

Katie Lee’s Fridge Frittata came to my attention recently and I knew immediately that it was a recipe worth trying. She has you saute deli ham, peas and leftover french fries (oven-roasted potatoes or a handful of frozen hash browns would also work) in an oven-safe skillet. You add whisked eggs and then dollop on ricotta cheese and dabs of pesto. It puffs as it bakes and makes a glorious main dish for brunch or supper.

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Teriyaki Chicken with Soba — The Weekender

by in Recipes, February 28th, 2014

Teriyaki Chicken with Soba - The WeekenderI grew up in a family where we ate a home-cooked dinner together nearly every night. The food was a rotation of comforting things like roasted chicken legs, skillet chili and baked salmon, and my parents were always juggling grocery shopping and cooking duties in order to make it happen.

On the rare nights when the grocery and cooking system hit a snag, we’d go down the road to Best Teriyaki. They served an array of grilled and teriyaki-glazed meats alongside steamed rice and piles of sauteed cabbage and broccoli. It was affordable, relatively healthy and entirely delicious. My sister and I loved it.

Thanks to that early conditioning, on nights when I’m weary and want relief from the kitchen, I crave teriyaki chicken. Sadly, Philadelphia does not have the same profusion of teriyaki restaurants that my childhood home in Portland, Ore., did, so to satisfy this yearning, I have to make my own (though I do always wait for a night when the desire to cook has returned).

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Cookie Comfort — Comfort Food Feast

by in Recipes, February 27th, 2014

Cookie ComfortEvery stage of the cookie-baking process — from licking the batter to succumbing to seconds — is therapeutic. Just as soon as you slide them from the pan, any kind of work-, traffic- or weather-induced woe will meet its end. But let’s be realistic; cookie comfort isn’t one-size-fits-all. You may need to bake up some solid recipes for old-school classics, or try your hand at new creations you might not have considered. All that’s left is a non-negotiable glass of cold milk, since cookies are simply better when they’re dunked.

The Classics
A no-fail recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies is vital for any baker. Consider this easy, versatile dough a jumping-off place; whatever you add beyond chocolate chips is up to you. For those who prefer these classics with a crunch, Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies are baked until just brown around the edges.

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Roasted Cauliflower Melt — The Weekender

by in Recipes, February 21st, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower MeltDuring the fall and winter months, cauliflower becomes one of my staple vegetables, and we end up eating it at least once a week (and even more often during the depth of the season). The only trouble with my cauliflower habit is that it always ends up as a side dish and never as the dinnertime star.

That’s not to say that I don’t like the three ways I make it (mashed, roasted or baked in a cheesy sauce). But lately I’ve been seeing lots of ways that people are transforming cauliflower into the main event, and I want in on that action.

There’s this whole roasted cauliflower head that seems mighty intriguing, along with cauliflower steaks and pots of nutty, caramelized cauliflower soup.

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Chocolate-Orange Fondue — The Weekender

by in Holidays, February 14th, 2014

Chocolate-Orange Fondue - The WeekenderWhen I was in my mid-20s, some girlfriends and I started a Valentine’s Day tradition. Being that we were all single at the time, we chose to spend the evening of February 14 together instead of pining over ex-boyfriends and lost loves.

My friend Cindy would be on cocktail duty. Ingrid was in charge of selecting the movie. Una always brought the appetizers. And I took care of making our chosen dinner — fondue.

We’d start with a pot of cheese fondue with bread, steamed broccoli and grilled chicken for dipping. Once we’d had our fill of the savory course, I’d bring out a small pot of chocolate fondue with strawberries, orange segments, pound cake cubes and pretzel sticks. It was such a fun way to celebrate our loving friendships on a day most often reserved for romance.

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Wild Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Farrotto — The Weekender

by in Recipes, February 7th, 2014

Wild Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Farrotto - The WeekenderI discovered risotto when I was 27 years old. Before that, my only experience of anything even remotely risotto-like came from a box or involved a can of cream of mushroom soup. For a time, I made it every week as a way to stretch leftovers.

Lately I’ve been trying to eat more whole grains and fewer things that are blindingly white. I thought this meant that I’d need to give up my risotto habit entirely, but I’ve discovered that white rice isn’t the only grain with which one can make a savory pudding that stretches the end of a roast chicken into a brand-new meal.

I’ve tried it with barley, wheat berries and even oat groats, but the grain that has come out on top is definitely farro. Though some people argue about what farro is exactly, most typically believe it’s the whole-grain version of cereal crops known as einkorn, emmer and spelt.

A risotto made with farro won’t be quite as creamy as one made with rice, but it is worth making nonetheless. I really enjoy the sturdiness and texture of the grain. Unlike traditional risottos, this version reheats beautifully (though sadly, that means there’s no need to make risotto cakes).

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