≡ Menu

This was the big weekend, the one where home changed locations.

I keep trying to remember the day we moved out of our first apartment in this city, into a slightly larger, slightly quieter one four doors up the block. I can picture the movers — one in particular, who carried a very tall bookshelf on his back around three flights of curved stairs like it was a pocketbook. I remember our first night in the new place, marveling at how much of a difference four doors west could make for the noise level. Everything was so…quiet. But before I picture all of this, my mind skips two steps backward, to the day I moved us into that first apartment, on the corner of a quiet street and a busy one. The apartment with the big bay window, the Formica counters, the incredibly-hip and not-totally-practical lofted bedroom, the wall I insisted on painting pink. Move-in day was just me – D was still in Michigan – and a pile of cheap furniture I’d found on Craigslist. One of the two front doors was stuck shut, so I spent the bulk of the day jamming the legs of various tables in the small front opening, then around and around that three-flight twisted staircase.

That was eight years ago. Since then, we’ve accumulated five more bottles of bitters (current favorites: Fee Brothers black walnut; Jack Rudy aromatic), and a pantry full of last year’s preserves threatening to take away my canner for the season if I don’t use them up soon. And of course, now we’ve got our daughter, too. She comes with her own accumulation: books and toys and tall stacks of hand-me-downs that could last beyond her first birthday. There certainly was more to pack and move this time around, which caused several nights of sleeplessness, 24 hours of mild turmoil, and lingering fatigue. But even more daunting than the actual move is the prospect of trying to hold onto memories from three homes. I don’t want to lose any of it.

Our kitchen has been dark for much of the past month, save for a couple meals over father’s day and a last-hoorah birthday dinner for our friend Jana. But before we shut down operations entirely, I cooked a batch of porridge from Ottolenghi’s newest book, Plenty More, for breakfasts.

In a week full of transitions, that porridge was the perfect thing. Comforting and familiar, like a good bowl of oatmeal. Fresh and intriguing, from fragrant marinated orange segments and a pile of sugary, crunchy sesame seeds. The new and the old, together. That is how we will proceed.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

I love fennel, especially the bright, beautiful bulbs available at my farmer’s market right now. But I do feel a small pang of guilt when I buy whole fennel, because the bulb? It’s so small. And — at least in my case — the stalks are so big. I mean:

So you see what I’m dealing with here.

A quick search for what to do with my piles of fennel stalks turned up some truly dainty advice: “sprinkle the fronds on salad,” and “add a pinch of fronds to simple syrup, then mix with gin for a nice cocktail.” That all sounds lovely, but if I were to “sprinkle” these fronds on my salad, I’d end up with something akin to fennel tabouli. (Which, come to think of it, doesn’t sound half bad. Next time.)

I thought momentarily about trying a few different preparations and seeing what panned out, but quickly abandoned that idea for fear of excessive fussiness. I wanted to give my pile of fronds destination and purpose, and I wanted to do so post haste. So I went long – six cups long — on what, in retrospect, was the most obvious choice: pesto.

[click to continue…]


Vegetarian Bahn Mi Sandwiches

It seems like only a few weeks ago that we finally finished our new kitchen. It’s actually been a couple months, but time flies when you’re parenting a six-month-old (!).

Back to the kitchen: it has a butcher block, which we “reclaimed” (can you do that if it was yours to start with?) from an old shelf and installed atop a long row of gleaming white cabinets; in the small finishes department, we put up a new knife strip, which holds my sharpies in a neat row, flush against the wall. It’s sort of perfect, and it made us both excited to cook and eat in it for months and years to come.

kitchen 2

We unpacked all of our stuff into our new space, set everything up, and figured we were done with the packing and moving for a while. Silly us. What actually happened – with shocking speed – was that we bought a house.

This isn’t the move of five years ago, when we picked up all our belongings and walked four doors down the street. This is a different street in a different neighborhood. It shifts our center of gravity.

We’re not moving until the end of the summer moving in two weeks! Does anything happen gradually anymore? I love our new house, but I really, really love our current home. Between us, I’m not quite ready to leave it.

Finalizing plans to sell a condo, buy a house, pack, move, and unpack all over again — it’s keeping us rather busy. This on top of my busiest season at work means the cooking is sort of on hold. But lurking amid the chaos of our packed calendars and many to-do lists was a day worth setting everything else aside an celebrating: our first Mothers’ Day.

So we did. We shut down Redfin and went to the park to play, with Adi in the swing, my dad doing the pushing, and my mom chatting with other parents in the park like the pro that she is. Then we walked the half-block back to our place, and I whipped up some bahn mi sandwiches for dinner.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Ramps ‘n’ Eggs Biscuit Sandwiches

Ramps have ridden the wave of foodie obsession. In years past, from the moment the green bundles made their season debut in Instagram feeds, fanatics and curious innocents would rush to the market to purchase their share. The next few days would see post after post of ramp-infused everything. I’ll own it: I played the game. I bought my little ramps, priced rather preciously at $5 for a tiny fistful. I folded them into butter, plopped them on pizza, even grilled them whole and served them with romesco sauce, fancy-style. It was all a bit exhausting.

This year, it seems, the craze has died down. Ramps were at the market last week, but if my memory is correct, they were priced slightly cheaper than last year, something that never happens. There also weren’t hoards of people clustering to snatch them all up; in fact, there was barely a peep about them. I ran into a couple of friends, and when I went to purchase a bundle or two, they frowned: why would you buy those?

Fair enough. They’re fancy wild onions, not truffles. Point taken. But here’s what I like about them: they’re like the green part of scallions on steroids. Super grassy, with a distinctly wild bite. A little goes a long way. And because the leaves are so delicate, they don’t need much — if any — cooking before they get added to whatever you’re making. And what you’re making, if you’re with me, is brunch.

[click to continue…]


Asparagus Toasts with Pistachios and Mint

I think I speak for all of us on the east coast when I say, FINALLY. Winter can see its sorry self out the door for another nine months or so. I’m preoccupied by my true loves, the asparagus that have arrived,* and I can’t bring myself to talk about much of anything else.

*As I’m writing this, asparagus season hasn’t really started here in Washington.** Usually I’m a stickler, waiting with embarrassing impatience for local farmers to harvest their crop. But this year, weeks after I ran out of creative uses for beets and kale, the asparagus still hadn’t made their debut at my farmers’ market, and yet there they were on display at the Whole Foods, skinny little bundles of asparagus from California. Are they as good as the ones grown nearby? Not even close. But I figure since all my citrus comes from the west coast anyway, I may as well start spring vegetable season a bit early, too.

[click to continue…]


D’s birthday falls on Passover this year, which means I can’t get away with thrice-a-day matza brei as our only sustenance. For the first time in a long time, I will be cooking a meal on Passover in actual, non-disposable pans, and serving food to actual friends on actual plates. This small feat makes me feel like an actual grown-up. What that says about me, or the holiday, or both, is a conversation for another day. For now, we need to talk about our menus.

Were my birthday on Passover – and seriously, I love food too much for that to be the case, so phew for February birthdays – I’d probably want a big Greek salad, a plate full of avocado in different preparations, and a dessert made with no small quantity of egg yolks, cream, and chocolate. But this is D; not much of a dessert person, undying lover of meat. We’ll be having brisket.

Our brisket is from KOL Foods, a purveyor of sustainable, grass-fed beef that also is kosher. The brisket’s flavor is good enough — and, considering the astronomical cost, rare enough in our house — that I’m taking a minimalist’s approach to cooking it. Instead of my usual pomegranate molasses recipe, I’ve settled on the famed approach of Nach Waxman. It’s deceivingly simple: onions, tomato paste, and one carrot. But in my experience, no recipe celebrates the flavor of brisket more than his.

As for the rest of the meal, I’m planning to slow-roast a mess of red onions until they become sweet and soft. I’ll also make a carrot kugel, because kugel is D’s favorite, and it’s her day.

But the brisket can’t last forever (at least, not this brisket), and chocolate pudding/mousse/ice cream only gets us so far. Many of our other meals are likely to include a heaping scoop of this pâté. It’s pictured here with sourdough. Of course, it’s better on sourdough; everything’s better on sourdough. But if matzah is your cracker (it’s not bread, people), this pâté will make it taste like something, something delicious.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

I’ve been on a bit of a library bender. Did you know you can borrow Kindle books from the library? Like, without leaving the house? I’m working my way through the Goldfinch and My Brilliant Friend. Both highly recommended. And, in case two books isn’t enough to juggle, I’m also casually reading a real-life paperback copy of The Debt to Pleasure, a novel full of foodstuff. It’s glorious. Here, from the instructions for a certain Russian pancake:

“When smoke starts to rise out of the pan add the batter in assured dollops, bearing in mind that each little dollop is to become a blini when it grows up, and that the quantities here are sufficient for six. Turn them over when bubbles appear on top. Serve the pancakes with sour cream and caviar. Sour cream is completely straightforward and if you need any advice or guidance about it then, for you, I feel only pity.”

Further evidence of my many-books-at-a-time habit: I have three cookbooks checked out of the library, and as of last week, they were all piled on my nightstand. One is Jim Lahey’s My Pizza, which I may have owned at one point but no longer do. It’s almost due back at the library, so last weekend we had friends over and I put the cookbook to use at a pizza night. The momentous occasion here is not that I actually cooked from a book before returning it, though that gets honorable mention; what’s really noteworthy is that, after many failures, a couple semi-successes, and much handwringing, I finally mastered white pizza.

[click to continue…]


Chocolate Walnut Marmalade Tart

Guys, tomorrow is Pi Day. Not just any Pi Day, but the Most Exciting Pi Day Ever: 3.14.15. If you eat this pie at 9:26:54 in the evening (or hey, the morning – pie for breakfast!), you are an absolute nerd and I love you for eternity.

1-walnut tart

If you don’t make this in honor of Pi Day, you should make it because it’s amazing. As I hinted in an Instagram post a couple weeks back, I think this is the best tart I’ve ever made. The picture at the top of the post is a glamour shot of the single sliver that remained we gorged ourselves on it all weekend.

[click to continue…]