by Marisa McClellan in Recipes, May 30th, 2014
by Marisa McClellan in Holidays, Recipes, May 23rd, 2014
When I was a young reader, one of my favorite series of books was the one by Maud Hart Lovelace. It featured the characters Betsy, Tacy and Tib in the early days of the 20th century. The books started when the girls were just 5 years old and went straight through to the early days of their respective marriages.
In those later books, Tacy tells Betsy that she should have a “company meal” to avoid stress when having friends over for dinner. While much about this series might be seen as charmingly dated, I actually think that the concept of a well-practiced and delicious meal designed for sharing is a good one.
During the winter months, my personal company meal features chicken and ricotta meatballs, braised kale and some cheesy polenta. Either I ask my dinner companions to pick up something for dessert or I bake off some of the cookie dough I keep in my freezer.
by Marisa McClellan in Recipes, May 16th, 2014
Memorial Day weekend is upon us and with it, the unofficial start to the summer season. Pull out the bathing suits, unearth the citronella candles and light the grill, for it is time to celebrate warm weather and long days.
Because grilling is so deeply associated with this time of year, those of us without outdoor space can sometimes end up feeling just a little bit left out of the fun. So as a longtime apartment dweller, I’ve developed a handful of techniques to compensate for my lack of porch, patio or yard. If you’re in similar straits, hopefully these tricks will help you cope.
The first thing to do is get yourself a grill pan. It’s nice on the stovetop (though if you don’t have good ventilation, you might set off your smoke detector), but I find that it’s even better when used in the oven. I will often roast a butterflied chicken on a grill pan in the oven in order to get some nice crosshatched marks on my bird.
by Marisa McClellan in Recipes, May 9th, 2014
I know that by springtime most people think that we should be done with casseroles and one-pot dishes. But even in May there is occasionally a chilly, dreary day where nothing quite fills the bill like a good casserole.
One such dish that I like a lot this time of year is Rachael Ray’s Lemon Chicken and Leek Rice Pilaf. It’s light, bright from the lemon juice, and comforting.
It’s also a handy one to have in your repertoire, because it’s one of those dishes that can be either more or less intensive, depending on how much time and commitment you want to invest. You can either poach a chicken for the meat and broth, or you can pick up a fully cooked grocery-store bird and use a bit of boxed stock. Both ways work and will result in a delicious Weekender.
by Marisa McClellan in Holidays, Recipes, May 2nd, 2014
Mother’s Day is always a touch bittersweet for me because I live a country away from my own mom. I moved to Philadelphia from Portland, Ore., in my early 20s, intending to stay just a couple of years. Instead I made friends, went to grad school and eventually met my husband. As much as I miss the West Coast, Philly has become home.
So these days I celebrate Mother’s Day by packing up a box of goodies, shipping it to my mom and scheduling a Sunday morning Skype date so I can “be” there while she opens it up.
The distance doesn’t stop me from planning an imaginary Mother’s Day meal. (Other people play fantasy sports. I fantasy meal plan.) To start, I’d put out some softened chevre, a few baguette rounds and a jar of rhubarb chutney. The main event would be a roast chicken with lemon, and with it I’d serve Ina Garten’s White Bean and Arugula Salad, good crusty bread from a local bakery and some broiled asparagus.
by Marisa McClellan in Recipes, April 25th, 2014
We have friends who host an annual Cinco de Mayo party. Because of my book tour schedule, we’re not going to be able to make the hour plus drive out for the festivities this year. I’m sad to miss the chance to catch up with them and to dig in to the exceptionally good spread of food they always cook up.
Since we’re missing out on carne asada and the largest bowl of guacamole I’ve ever seen, I’ve been plotting a substitute meal. It won’t be as festive and community-oriented as our gathering of friends, but it will calm the worst of the Tex Mex cravings.
As my starting place, I’m using Ree Drummond’s recipe for Brisket Tostadas. She has you marinate and then braise a large hunk of brisket until it’s tender and shred-able. Once the meat is ready, layer it on toasted corn tortillas with cheese, black beans, salsa and cubed avocado. Perfect for a Cinco de Mayo celebration and your very next Weekender.
by Marisa McClellan in Entertaining, Recipes, April 18th, 2014
At least once a week, I try to make something for dinner that helps me clear all the odd bits out of my produce drawers. During the colder months, I make huge pots of soup that serve as the basis of quick meals all week long. When the weather starts to warm up, however, I turn to salads to use a handful of mushrooms and the last skinny stalks of celery from the very center of the bunch.
No one really needs a recipe for this kind of use-it-up salad, but sometimes it’s nice to see how other people approach their clean-out-the-fridge meal. I can easily fall into a rut, so a little bit of outside inspiration is just plain nice.
This is where Jeff Mauro’s Garbage Salad and Champagne Vinaigrette comes in. It’s not a recipe that’s reinventing the wheel, but it does pull together a nice assortment of complementary flavors that are outside my regular, well-trod paths. The vegetable base is a motley collection of romaine, iceberg, carrots, celery, mushrooms and pepperoncini. The brain wave is that he also includes blue cheese, sliced deli turkey and oil-packed anchovies. That means there’s enough protein in that salad for it to pass for a full-on meal (at least in my house).
It’s good for Sunday afternoons or whenever your Weekender craving may strike.
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.
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.