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New Year, New Site!

Friends, the time has come. This trusty old site of mine isn’t so trusty anymore, and for a while now, I’ve been craving a fresh, new space to share recipes with you — a space where I could focus more on the food, and less on the technical parts of the site. After a little staycation and a lot of elbow grease, I’m finally ready to share my new home with you. Come check it out: www.rivkafriedman.net. I hope you like it!



NDP will keep its little spot on the web, but I won’t be updating it anymore. From now on, new posts, pictures, and rants of all kinds will be housed at rivkafriedman.net. Happy cooking!


Maple Walnut Squares

I know it’s almost Christmas, but I’m about one month behind (on everything) and right now, I need to commit a tiny act of Thanksgiving blasphemy. I tell you this: the best dessert I ate on Thanksgiving was not pie.

By 7 pm the evening of the holiday, our house was full of neighbors who had decided to stay local. Our table was overflowing with pies, many of which our friends had brought: a glistening, lattice-topped sour cherry pie; several bourbon/brandy-filled pumpkin pies; a gorgeous rendition of Deb’s chocolate tart with gingersnap crust (a slice of which I carefully set aside for myself, which my unsuspecting and always-cleaning lady accidentally threw away, *sob*) and many more. I tried too many; I loved them all. But I think my favorite bite of all was a slice of these maple walnut squares.

The crust is a shortbread, from which I accidentally left out two tablespoons of the butter, yielding a somewhat crispier, sandier texture. The top is like pecan pie, but – dare I be even more blasphemous? – better. Little bits of walnuts instead of big nutty chunks; maple syrup instead of corn syrup, duh; a different ratio of everything else. Just a better overall texture. Not that I’m knocking pecan pie: I especially love the one we served, from David Lebovitz, which has bourbon in the batter and a whole load of chocolate chips mixed in. Yum.

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How to Give Thanks

Do you also feel like you need a breather from the onslaught of unbearable news? Me too. I cannot stop thinking about the children paralyzed by instability, hunger, and fear. But I doubt you need me to pile on more sadness and anxiety. I’m sure you have plenty of your own.

Here’s my contribution to happier things: a menu for Thursday’s dinner, where we’re hosting 13 people from two sides of our family, spanning four generations. Eldest guest: my bubby, rounding 90. Youngest guest: our one-year-old (!), with an appetite and a belly to rival the grown-ups’.

I tell you, the news from the past several months makes giving thanks seem easier, ever more obvious a thing we must do. We are safe, warm, and well-fed. We worry about small things more than big things. If I overcook the turkey, or forget a dish in the fridge, or break a platter, whatever. What. ever.

So here is our menu, of altogether too much food that no doubt we will all enjoy. I plan to spend time reflecting on our immense luck, thinking about the things that matter. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with loved ones, where you feel safe, sated, and happy.


Oh, hi! Yep, we’re still here, I promise. Just busy. Work is nuts, the kiddo is rounding the corner on her first birthday (!!), and cooking at this stage is….funny. It’s not over, not by any means: if you open my fridge, you’ll see a rather sundry assortment of edibles, including a stuffing that I made because I had the ingredients, some leftover vegetarian chili from an epic batch that fed our family plus three friends who just had babies (!), a few stray hunks of cheese, some concord grapes that I scored at Whole Foods after the local season was over, sue me, plus a little container of my pear sauce mixed with yogurt, for the babe. As they do.

So yes, we’re cooking. (Okay: I’m cooking.) Sometimes I’m just cooking down some pears with cinnamon and pureeing them, but Adi goes to town on my chicken wings like the best of them. Watching her take to food, specifically things I make but really any food, has been one of the best things about this year. (Also: kid is ticklish like you wouldn’t believe. It’s the best thing ever.)

But sometimes, I get an odd hankering for fussing in the kitchen over something fancier and more involve. 1% of those times, I actually go ahead and make it. So it was two weeks ago: I wanted croissants on Friday, and by Sunday brunch, we were eating hot, buttery, flaky croissants that I MADE MYSELF.

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Spicy Creamed Feta Spread

Earlier this summer, we met up with a couple friends and their kids at Right Proper, a not-so-new brewery in Shaw. They’ve got a great selection of beers brewed onsite, plenty of high chairs, and a passable food menu. Still, it’s a perfect spot for Sunday with little ones, whose grabbing and clapping are rivaled, if not bested, by the laughter and occasional shouts from beer-drinkin’ grown-ups.

Strangely, the best thing on the table wasn’t beer: it was a spicy feta spread, which was eaten — okay, the plate licked clean — before our second round of beers had even been ordered. We briefly contemplated ordering a second round of feta spread, too, but we had burgers and grilled cheeses and fried pickles to get through, so we held back. Silly us.

The next weekend, as we sat around contemplating another afternoon of beers and $10 feta spread, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

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It makes no sense to start a post about cauliflower with a public service announcement about plums. That said, I happened to pick up a bag of methly plums at the market a couple weeks ago; they were juicy and wet, sold as seconds because they were…on the verge. They were begging to be mushed with some sugar and made into jam. So I did it. And friends, that jam is so good, so utterly addictive, that I’m rather heartbroken methly plums are now out of season here. With that, the PSA: if methlys are still growing where you are, get a bag. Combine them with some sugar, some lemon juice, and some ground ginger, or better yet, some ground galangal. Cook until bubbly but still runny. Jar. Smear some on toast with a bit of fresh cheese. Summer has never, ever, tasted this good.

The dish I’m actually here to share with you won’t win any awards for the summeriest dish around, but it’s landed on our table four times in the past month, including twice for company. It’s the thing Adi eats the most of right now – she can’t seem to get enough cauliflower in the belly. And three of our guests have asked for the recipe, confirming that this is good enough to last beyond our family cauli kick.

The florets are blasted in a super-hot oven for a surprisingly long time. You’d think they come out total mush, but instead, they come out browned in spots, very crispy, and fully cooked but still with bite.

But the real magic is the sauce: a beautiful, pink-hued yogurt blended with sauteed, caramel-edged red onions. The onions get soft enough to disappear completely into the yogurt, lending a sweet-savory depth that goes ridiculously well with singed cauliflower. Vinegar-soaked raisins and some mint leaves round out the salad. I can’t get enough of it; none of us can, really.
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How to Summer

I know, I’ve disappeared lately. We’ve been summering. I don’t have a full post for you today, because doing summer properly in Washington involves lots of time away from Washington: we spent a weekend up in PA, where I snapped the above photo of the team roaming through a lavender field. This is the right answer.

When we are in town, we spend Sundays in a hot kitchen with jars of tomato on the counter and glasses fogged from the steam. Morning canning projects are followed by languid afternoons on the porch, and evenings comforted by a glass (alright, two) of Amaro Lucano where I almost pick up the camera to snap a photo of the roasted cauliflower before it’s devoured, but then I remember the languid part and I don’t get up, and the cauliflower gets polished off, escaping any photographic proof that it existed. We feel full. And tipsy from the amaro. We go nowhere, we do nothing. We summer.

But I assure you, things are getting made. Bellies are getting filled. Of note:


The tomates farcies from David Tanis via NYT look amazing. I bookmarked them immediately after he published them, intending to make them for the weekend. But the weekend rolled around, and when I lazily googled “tomatoes farcies,” only to be sent to a much meatier recipe from 1981. I didn’t notice that it was the wrong link; I just forged ahead with the new recipe, swapping out pork for cured beef sausage and skipping the cheese. The results were positively divine. Three of us polished off the lot of them one Saturday, after discovering – whoops, summer! – that I’d left them in the oven the previous evening, an entire dish of my Friday night dinner unserved, unmissed, unnecessary. (I am becoming my mother.) Make both.


The tomato bread soup from the Franny’s cookbook continues the streak of A-grade soups from the Franny’s folks. (You can find the recipe here.) I hesitate to slap the word “sludge” on anything I intend to encourage you to make, but heck: it’s a sludge, the best, summeriest sludge ever.


If you can get your hands on methly plums – those small, fragrant dark-ruby plums with equally red centers – try your hand at a conserve with either ground ginger or, even better, galangal. I lucked out on about 5 pounds of second methlys from Toigo, a favorite farmer, last weekend. I followed Cathy’s template for plum jam, and ended up with hands down the best jam I’ve made all summer – maybe ever. GO.


Adi loves nectarines like her mama. We’re not big peach people: fuzz ruins the the experience. But we (sans Adi) did very much enjoy a gin-based cocktail with muddled peaches, basil, and some demerara sugar. Sub mint if that”s your thing.


I’ve always been partial to basil pesto over the parsley variety, but this summer, I’ve found multiple uses for a punched-up pesto with both herbs. I’ve been using a bit of shallot, some green garlic, equal parts parsley and basil, lots of lemon zest, and some very fragrant Turkish chile, pounding everything together in a mortar and pestle with plenty of olive oil.

I’ve twice found myself ten minutes before serving dinner and at a loss for an appetizer. The solution, both times, has been a simple cucumber-avocado soup. There are many recipes for this, but I’ve ridden bareback: 2 small cucumbers (I like the thin-skinned Persian ones), 1 avocado, juice of a lemon or lime, a slice of jalapeno, salt and pepper to taste. Whir that blender and pour into small bowls. This makes four small bowls. You can add cilantro, mint, or chives if you’d like.


Mark my words, I will tell you about that cauliflower. Soon, I hope.

Happy summer, friends.


Mushroom and Kale Breakfast Strata

Turns out, unsettling from the old place was much harder than settling into the new place. Luisa told me that I shouldn’t worry if, for weeks after the move, I still wondered when we’d finally go back home. That’s just what I expected to feel. But those final weeks pre-move were so stressful and sleepless and unsettling that by the time we unpacked everything, the place already had started to feel like ours.

It helps that 24 hours after move-in, we were fully unpacked. That’s my leading lady: she’s extremely efficient, she hates transitions, she wants it donedonedone. So it was.  By Sunday morning, I was back to weighing coffee beans, pouring the slow stream of hot water over my filter, setting my favorite mug on the counter. And exactly one week after that, with both my brother and old friends in town, we managed to host some folks for brunch.

Save for a few old jars and nubbins of past-prime vegetables, the contents of our fridge made the move with us. Among the contents: half a stale baguette, most of a bunch of kale, and the end of a log of goat cheese. This is practically the holy trinity of strata, so strata it was. It’s simple, really: stale bread, some sauteed vegetables. A not-very-large quantity of milk, a not-very-small quantity of heavy cream. Layer; bake. Poof: the house smells like home.

And speaking of recipes that bring us home, I need to tell you about a book. [click to continue…]