fried rice with zucchini, tomatoes and parmesan

Fried rice is a triumph of resourcefulness. It’s budget-friendly, all leftovers are welcome, and there’s no strict formula or ingredient list, jus stir-frying cooked rice with whatever you have around — eggs, scraps of vegetables, seafood, or meat — and seasoning the lot of it with soy sauce and garlic. This single-skillet/wok dinner is ready to be torn into in 10 minutes.

what you'll needchop if bigi don't know the real name for this chop so I call it "teeth"hello pretties

Hailing from East, Southeast and South Asian cuisine, it has absolutely nothing to do with the vague Italian/Mediterranean terroir of these ingredients, but I have for almost as many years as I’ve made Zucchini, Tomato and Rice Gratin (from a 2008 Gourmet Magazine, so: many) wished it could be a kind of wildly inauthentic Italian fried rice too. The original dish is a bit bit fussy as written — two baking sheets, one pot in which to cook the rice, saute pan for the onions and more, followed by a baking dish for the assembled gratin — and while the rewards for this effort are great, the level of effort ensures I make it approximately once every two years, a shame when all of the ingredients are so readily available in August.

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blackberry-blueberry crumb pie

I am completely and utterly failing at having a low-key, lazy summer. In part because, wait, didn’t summer just begin (NYC schools go to essentially the last day of June) and more largely because I seem to be jumping from big project to big project, we’re suddenly approaching the midpoint of August and I’m faintly panicked that this summer will be over before I have taken in sufficient levels of sun, sand, toasted marshmallows, vacation, and hot, sticky laziness that veers into boredom to fortify us for a big exciting fall and an always-too-long and always-too-cold winter. The fix begins now.

let's make pie!gather scraps, chillready to rolleasier to transfer folded

First up: pie. Look, I too enjoy the look of a stunning, woven lattice of a pie lid. Chevron, braided, plaid and twisted ribbon spirals too. I am not immune to the charms of elaborate pate brisee crafts. But I would like to postulate that were we all to eat pie in the dark, only a tiny fraction of those of us who respond to butterfly-leafed lids with heart-eyes emojis (that is, me, me, me) would choose the taste over that of a fluffy, rubbly, cobblestoned crumb lid.

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german chocolate cake + a wedding cake

Many years ago, with absolutely no experience or clue, I made a wedding cake for friends. It was fun and I learned a lot, but in the end declared it “fully out of my system.” Apparently, 9 years is the statute of limitations on such claims, which is how it came to pass that when one of my oldest friends asked me to make his wedding cake, the words “that would be so much fun!” flew out of my mouth before anyone could talk me out of it. Would you like to come along for the ride?

Let’s talk about GCC.

The last time I made a wedding cake, the bride loved vanilla and coconut and lime and mango and the groom loved chocolate above all else. Because the wedding was relatively small (under 100), I decided to make both (the largest tier in chocolate and the smaller two in vanilla) everyone had a taste of each. This time, one groom loves peach and blueberry pie, and the other has a thing for things like chocolate and salted caramel; I could never choose between the two either but with a much larger headcount (180 invited), it had to be done. It was made easier when we were brainstorming one night and they announced they both loved German Chocolate Cake. Crisis, averted. Or, at least this one.

Not that I’ve ever made or tasted a German Chocolate Cake before, and so I began with some research. Did you know that German chocolate cake isn’t German? If written correctly, it’s actually “German’s” chocolate cake, as in, named after a guy (Samuel) with the last name German. He developed the baking chocolate in 1852 that now goes by Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. In 1957, 105 years later, Wikipedia tells us that The Dallas Morning News printed a recipe for German’s Chocolate Cake that was created by Mrs. George Clay, a homemaker, which became wildly popular. General Foods, which owned the Baker’s brand at the time, took notice and distributed the cake recipe to other newspapers in the country. At some point, the possessive (German’s) was dropped, leading to all sorts of confusion.

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hummus heaped with tomatoes and cucumbers

Like clockwork every summer, I decide that the only thing I want to eat, maybe forever because when it’s warm out I completely forget winter is coming (I’m sorry, I had to), are variations on tomato-cucumber salad. We did a world tour of these last year and it might take me another decade of Smitten Kitchen-ing but I will get to them all. Left to our own devices, my husband and I probably would probably eat do exactly this for dinner at least a couple nights a week but when feeding kids, I always feel the need — I mean, what are they, growing rapidly and we’re supposed to fuel them with balanced meals or something? — to provide a little more than a bowl of cucumbers and tomatoes for dinner. You know, protein and stuff.

swirl of hummus with olive oil, za'atar

In the U.S., we generally think of hummus (which simply means “chickpea” in Arabic) as a cold snack, a dip you buy in the fridge case to help distract you from, say, cool ranch potato chip dip or something. But throughout the Middle East, there are hummusiots/hummsias, places that serve hummus warm and freshly made, often a little softer than what we get here, usually heaped with other things. Yes, as a meal; a heavenly one. Toppings might include additional tahini or chickpeas, cooked fava beans (ful), sautéed mushrooms, roasted beets, hard-boiled eggs, falafel, spicy ground beef, chopped tomato-onion-cucumber salads, pickles, and/or green olives plus always a stack of freshly baked puffy pitas. In some areas, hummus is a breakfast food, accompanied with labneh and mint. And it is from daydreaming about all of this — with a reminder from this oh-so-tempting Ina Garten photo from last week — that I realized that the easiest way to turn my tomato-cucumber salad obsession in to a meal was to serve it hummusiot-style.

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confetti party cake

There comes a time in every parent’s life when love must be expressed through buttercream, food dye, and sprinkles; I just didn’t know it would be so soon this time. For my daughter’s second birthday, I planned, as I had as had on her first and her brother’s 7 birthdays to date,* to do my best to heed the siren call of sugar and red dye 40 and then, you know, translate that into something that’s both tasty but not fully plastic. (This is all of parenting, by the way.) My plan had been to make a party-sized Swedish Princess Cake because have you had this buttery cake with custard, jam, whipped cream and a marzipan dome with a single pink rose in the middle? Nothing could be more fitting for our curly-haired wildling. But then Elmo happened.

don't fight itrunny sprinkles
instant partyconfetti within
a not-insignificant amount of buttercreamflat frosting for max sprinkle impact

A little sidebar: If you’ve thus spent most of your time free of toddlers, can I tell you something? It doesn’t matter whether you allow screen time, it doesn’t matter whether your precious clean slate of a human being has ever seen Sesame Street, whether you’ve bought the books or sung the songs, when children turn 18 months old, they all wake up one day obsessed with Elmo. It seems to come out of thin air. My daughter spotted this game of her brother’s out of the corner of her eye and cried EHLMA! EHMLA! until we let her walk around hugging and kissing the box. She sees a red splat of paint on the sidewalk and says “Ehlma?” My mother, witnessing this behavior in the wild, told me my daughter didn’t know or care the first thing about Swedish Princesses, but if I really wanted to put my efforts somewhere heroic, I’d make her an Elmo cake.

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grilled pizza

Before we snuck a grill onto our balcony one glorious day last May, I would regularly show up at friends-with-grills homes with prepared pizza dough and a few toppings in the summer; I love grilled pizza so much that I’d feed a crowd just to get my fix. It was one of the first things I made when we bought our own. The benefits of cooking pizza outside are manifold. With heat circulating all around the pizza and the dough resting on open grates instead of a flat tray, I find that you can get more texture — crisp on the outside but staying stretchy within — and flavor — charred spots that will immediately remind you of your favorite brick-oven pizzeria, without heating up your apartment, pretty much the last thing any of us want to do in the summer. Plus, it’s really quick. Once your dough is purchased or prepared, you could be eating your pizza in 10 minutes; not bad for a homemade dinner after a long day.

white and whole wheat flours, salt, yeastmix itit can help to drain canned tomatoes a littlewhat you'll need

I’ve already discussed at length my favorite homemade margherita — my preference is for mozzarella that is packed dry, not the fancy stuff in water (despite what you see in the early pictures; promise you’ll save the fancy, ultra-tender stuff for serving cold and fresh with appetizers and salads, please) and for “raw” sauces, blended from canned or fresh tomatoes with some liquid poured off and then doctored up and seasoned well, for the best flavor — and I follow the same rules here. In the oven but especially on the grill, you must keep your toppings thin, light, and pre-sautéed or they simply will not cook before the crust is done; it also leads to puddled and wet pizza tops, something I’m sure we’ve all experienced.

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