I’m one of the few weirdos who thinks that British pub food is a cuisine to be sought out and cherished. That’s partially because a good portion of the menu takes a bath in a deep fryer before ending up in front of you. But my love can also be blamed on the peas.
Mushy peas as a national delicacy could use a little rebranding. It sounds like something you’d find in a prison cafeteria. And most of the time, due to the quest for mushiness, it ends up looking like something you’d find there as well. But even in it’s most unappealing overcooked form, mushy peas are delicious.
I don’t think I ever ate mushy peas as a child, but eating them now makes me feel like one. You don’t need molars in order to enjoy them, but due to the texture (or lack there of) I prefer using the peas as a condiment to slather on fish and chips. So toast, another childhood standby, seemed as good an option as any to carry a mound of green, mushy goodness.
Pub peas are best when fluffed up with a bit of butter. But since this dish came out of my kitchen I kept it healthier with some oil and very little else. When you buy good organic sweet peas (even frozen ones will do), you don’t need many embellishments. And if you cook them just right, they stay that vibrant green even after you mush them. Continue reading
I can’t believe that I successfully made it though my 30 day detox. I hit a really dark patch on the third weekend, as I sat around the dinner table and watched my friends drink a nice decanted Vacqueyras while eating gluten-free chocolate cake. But other than that, the month kind of flew by.
The process of retox-ing this weekend with wine, chocolate, and green tea was almost as interesting as the elimination experiment itself. People talk a lot about mindful eating. But as I was faced with my first glass of grape juice in a month, I think I learned what mindful drinking feels and tastes like. It’s my goal to keep that kind of integrity in my alcoholism and transition from being an equal-opportunity drinker to more of a high minded dandy.
Perhaps I was already on my way to earning my fancy pants. A few months ago I ridiculed my girlfriend Lydia for bringing over a bottle of Cavit to a dinner party at my apartment. It’s the bottle I usually cook with. But more importantly, it represents the larger scale industrial vineyards that I’m no longer interested in investing my taste buds and liver cells in. She was appalled that I would scoff at a $12 bottle of wine, because a few years ago, anything over $10 would have been seen as an occasion to break out the fine Ikea stemware. But I feel one of the milestones of late-twenties adulthood these days is graduating to the $15 to $30 wine bracket. For lack of more concrete accomplishments like, say, owning a home or being able to keep a plant alive for longer than 3 weeks, this is something we can take pride in.
I went on a little tangent there. But one of the things I’ve noticed in my detox is the amazing halo effect all these limitations have had on my cooking. It’s really forced me to live my message. I’ve cooked for pleasure and eaten more meals at home this month than ever before. Sure, part of this is that not drinking and the fact that it’s been cold and gloomy most of March has turned me into a little bit of a hermit. But in the process, I’ve gotten back to making simple one pot meals that last the whole week, so they’re always something delicious, healthy and homemade in the fridge. And so that I never have to leave the house. Continue reading
Part of the fun of these Wellness Wednesday chats has been exploring areas of healthy living that I am definitively not an expert in. This week’s hangout is the first time cooking is really entering the conversation. But the topic at hand is going to be all about family eating habits at home.
I obviously don’t have experience cooking for my own children, even if some of the people I feed tend to act like them after a few martinis. But I was lucky enough to have a childhood full of home cooked meals. And if my life path is any indication, all those bowls of quinoa I begrudgingly ate left quite an impression, even if I didn’t let on at the time.
I may have rebelled against the woman who put fruit leather from the health food store in my lunchbox by going over to friends’ houses and inhaling the corn syrup laden contents of their pantries. But eventually (like, by age 24) I proved that I knew better. And snack food not withstanding, I always felt that home cooking was the best way to feed and be fed.
All this is to say that I’m really pumped about this week’s Wellness Wednesday topic and couldn’t be happier about the two amazing women who’ll be joining me for the conversation.
In addition to being an inspiring author and activist, Laurie David is a fierce tennis player. I’ve gotten to know her personally over the past few summers on Martha’s Vineyard, and in addition to lovely afternoons in her garden, our time together has included getting my butt handed to me like a perfectly roasted skewer on the court. Always a gracious and generous winner, Laurie also invited me to be part of a photo shoot for her first book The Family Dinner and later asked me to write a little blurb on the 20-something family meal for it. Continue reading
Back in the fall I did some recipe development and video shoots for Roland Foods. It was a great experience working for a big brand with such a diverse range of products – especially one whose sriracha plant is still alive and well. In the aftermath of my recipe testing, I had to clean out an entire section of my storage space to create room for a second pantry.
I’ve been slowly working my way through all the amazing cans and jars of specialty ingredients they sent me. One recipe that’s killed multiple edible birds with stones, and has been a nice go-to for last minute entertaining, is this easy artichoke hummus recipe.
Since I’m lazy, I often resort to canned or jarred artichoke hearts for my recipes, and this one was no exception. Artichokes are in season this time of year, but I know very few martyrs who would be willing to breakdown and cook a whole head just so it could be pureed to smithereens.
The artichoke in this hummus recipe gives the dense chickpeas a nice light body. And the tanginess of the canned hearts cuts the richness of the tahini in a way that feels rather fresh and springy, even if that illusion can be created year round. When I was testing this recipe for Roland I served it to a group of girlfriends and no one could quite put their finger on what was different about the hummus recipe. Just that it was so much better than usual.
Even if you don’t hoard 5 rows of canned goods in a cabinet next to your sweaters, these ingredients are cheap enough to pick up and keep around for the season (or beyond). So if you’re looking for an easy appetizer for Easter or just something to celebrate the rising temperature with a group of friends, this hummus recipe is for you. Continue reading
I shudder when I think about my early days of “professional” cooking. Everyone has to start somewhere. But without having gone to cooking school or gotten any real world restaurant experience, I was particularly clueless and ill equipped for my first few private chef gigs.
Shortly after I quit my day job to blog and work on my cookbook full-time, one of my family friends in a gesture of good will hired me to cook for a dinner party. Not only did I have no idea what to charge him, I wasn’t even an experienced enough host to know the right kind of thing to serve a group of adults that was creative, easy to execute and didn’t feel like I was trying too hard. I was 23, so it’s arguable whether I could have even been considered an adult myself.
I ended up making these ginger salmon burgers, which had been a good one-off dinner experiment I tried on my parents. Though they were always polite and encouraging about whatever I was trying out on a given evening, you could tell that on this occasion, they actually didn’t have to fake it. And that was a good enough endorsement for me.
Salmon burgers are an easy option for a weeknight dinner for 3, but searing off 10 patties before dinner service proved to be slightly more pressure than my limited skill set could handle. Especially since I’d already burnt my arm on the oven and was running an hour behind schedule and desperately trying not to cry. Also, no matter how big and beautiful the kitchen, in a New York City salmon cooked stove-top has the tendency to leave everyone who enters the apartment smelling just a little bit fishy.
Lou Reed was one of the dinner guests, which only intensified my panic attack as funky smoke wafted out from the open kitchen into the dining area. Luckily, the food all tasted pretty good and the guests were equally skilled in positive encouragement as my parents, even if the presentation deserved little praise. And Lou ate two salmon burgers, so I counted the whole experience as a win. Continue reading
I’m just as prone as most people to the lure of seamless web. Sure, convenience is 50 percent of the battle. But the other half is simply craving-related. I love me some Pad Thai and Fried Rice—they just aren’t things that are usually at the top of my from-scratch cooking list since the alternative can arrive so quickly via bike messenger.
But the biggest incentive to making some of your favorite takeout dishes at home is the health factor. I usually dial back the sugar and add some leafy greens to make the contents of my favorite to-go containers MSG-free and full of nutrients. Here are a few of my best healthy ethnic dishes that only take slightly more time to make than it does to read through an entire Chinese takeout menu.
1. Scallop Pad Thai | 2. Quinoa Fried Rice | 3. Smoked Tofu Summer Rolls | 4. Mushroom Hot and Sour Soup | 5. Brown Rice Peanut Noodles | 6. Sesame Chicken | 7. Lentil and Spinach Masala