by Marisa McClellan in Entertaining, Recipes, April 18th, 2014
by Marisa McClellan in Holidays, Recipes, April 11th, 2014
I am so grateful that spring is finally here. I live in Philadelphia, which is in that part of the country that was viciously walloped by this winter’s polar vortex, and so I was starting to wonder if the cold weather was here to stay. Fortunately in the last couple weeks, the weather has warmed, there’s a bit more sunlight each day, and I can feel hopefulness radiating off of everyone I pass.
To my mind, there’s no better way to celebrate the return of this more-hopeful weather than with a homemade treat. If you feel the same way, let me suggest Trisha Yearwood’s Chocolate Pound Cake. It’s indulgent, but the texture is lighter than you find with other pound cakes, which makes it both celebratory and perfect for this time of year.
Whether you’re baking for an Easter celebration or just in need of something sweet with which to welcome the warmer weather, this cake is an ideal Weekender project.
by Marisa McClellan in Recipes, April 4th, 2014
When I was growing up, Passover wasn’t a holiday we celebrated with any regularity. My mom was Jewish, but she had grown up in a very secular branch of the family. Occasionally we would attend a Seder at our Unitarian church (they were very into the world religions back in the 1980s), but it was not an annual thing.
Once I moved to Philadelphia, however, I found myself surrounded by family that, while still pretty New Age and multicultural, was far more observant when it came to the Jewish holidays.
And so Passover has become a staple holiday on my yearly calendar, second only to Thanksgiving in terms of eating. The meal is coordinated by my mom’s first cousin Amy, and she distributes dish assignments at least a month prior to the meal (so that people can practice and get things just right).
by Marisa McClellan in Recipes, March 28th, 2014
When 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.
by Marisa McClellan in Recipes, March 21st, 2014
Before 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.
by Marisa McClellan in Entertaining, Recipes, March 14th, 2014
During 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.
by Marisa McClellan in Recipes, March 7th, 2014
Meatballs 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.
by Marisa McClellan in Recipes, February 28th, 2014
Eggs 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.
by Marisa McClellan in Recipes, February 21st, 2014
I 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).
by Marisa McClellan in Holidays, February 14th, 2014
During 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.
When 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.