Spring Vegetable Tartines with Charred Scallion Mayonnaise + Hard-Cooked Egg

It’s been an odd week. On Sunday, I woke up with a sore throat that petered out by Wednesday, but then flared into a brief fever. Since, I’ve nursed a persistent stomachache that I can’t seem to shake. I’m a kaleidoscope of maladies over here. I seldom get sick, and rarely do I get so sick that I can’t work. As a result, I’ve found myself with a surplus of down time to just sit and think.

My 10-year high school reunion was a couple weekends ago. I attended with a clutch of dear friends and when I really think about that, it astonishes me–I’ve counted these women as friends and confidantes for almost half a lifetime. And although we’ve been largely separated by time and distance, we remain closely bonded by those invisible threads of shared experience and deep affection. At this point, conversations rarely need prelude–we know each other on a level that I think only happens with time.

It was wonderful to be back on campus (even if our class was relegated to the freshman boys’ dorm), to see old classmates, and visit with old teachers. Walking around campus was a minefield of half forgotten memories–names and events I’d tucked away until I returned to the physical place, until we were all together. High school was not all sunshine and roses for me; I suspect this is true for most people, but I can’t deny it was sometimes very sweet, and certainly formative. Being back, it was easy to remember the good (sledding in the dead of night) and the bad (slipping on black ice on my way back from swim practice and flashing probably the whole indoor track team).

spring vegetables

Both nights we stayed up too late and drank a little too much, but that’s what was required. I made us a strawberry tart, a fancier version of the dessert we used to buy for birthdays from the local A&P and eat with our hands in a huddle on the dorm room floor. We followed tradition and devoured it in the most uncivilized manner possible.

On Sunday, my friend and I walked down to the dorm where we served as prefects our senior year. I didn’t expect to be as moved as I was. A current dorm parent let us into our old room–the room that is still gargantuan in my memory. There’s a picture of us at seventeen, dressed up for halloween, in the common room. (I’d forgotten that the whole dorm dressed as characters from Peter Pan that year.) A photograph I took in class, developed (underexposed) in the darkroom still hangs in the hallway.

If you had told me then that, in ten years, I would be performing maid of honor duties for her October wedding, and she mine the following May, I would have had a million questions. What would I tell my eighteen year-old self? It’s been an eventful decade. I am grateful for the milestone, and for the opportunity to celebrate the start of important, buoying friendships in the best possible way, with strawberry tart and plenty of wine. Read more »

Raspberry + Italian Plum Walnut Crisp

“You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.

So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

walnutsvanilla powder

Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your regular phone, for that matter. Keep still. Be present.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.

Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted.

It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the pale new growth on an evergreen, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kids’ eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live. Unless you know there is a clock ticking.

frozen raspberries and Italian plums

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Marinated Fennel + Chickpea Salad Tartines with Whipped Feta

On Sunday, I left all my responsibilities in states of semi-completeness on my desk. We drove away from the city in search of oysters, dodging potholes and listening to bad pop music on the radio. The day was bright and brisk, downright cold really.

I wanted to write about the romance of driving across Long Island in search of oysters with someone you love. But the trees are still completely bare, the landscape a dull green-brown. Snow banks have lost their luster, half melted and speckled with grime.

I do not know what to say, lately. Or maybe, I do not know how to say it. The state of things seems marred by banal stretches dappled with small disappointments. The Frenchman’s finger is not healing the way it should and there is absolutely nothing I can do about this. I suggest oysters.

thinly sliced fennel Marinated Fennel + Chickpea Salad

And how to talk about Florida, where we business tripped for a week–the bleached sun that took my light-starved body several days to adjust to, as if I were a bear stumbling out of hibernation. After all of the grays of this New York winter, Florida was blinding–checkers of matte pearl replaced by an open expanse of bombastic blue. And the sameness of that blue and tan, blue and tan; sky the color of water, low flat buildings the color of sand. I think it took me a week to get warm, finally, to notice the soft and carrying wind, to start scratching down recipes again; and then we flew home.

Marinated Fennel + Chickpea Salad Tartines with Whipped Feta

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Softest, Slow-Cooked Scrambled Eggs

Lately, I am paralyzed by recipes. I think this is connected to the relentless cold and darkness of the current inexhaustible winter. Recipes come banging into my head–bœuf bourguignon, swordfish in lemon-butter sauce with white beans and radicchio, banana cream pie–and I am immediately exhausted. The kitchen table is cluttered, I am choosing junky television over books. My attempts at productivity feel shallow, murky.

I had lofty, multi-course ambitions to share with you for Valentine’s Day. But the more I thought about it, and the more recipe notes I jotted down, the more overwhelmed I felt. In the end, the Frenchman got a(n under-salted) pot of bœuf bourguignon a week before Valentine’s Day; a Chocolate, Blood Orange, and Candied Brioche ice cream (which I did not make myself, but traded for this cake) on the day; and just the promise of Chanterelle Mushroom Soup at, um, some unspecified point in the future. Read more »

Everything Carrot Cake + Swiss Cream Cheese-Mascarpone Frosting

Inspiration

I am tired of the tundra of the mind,
where a few shabby thoughts hunker
around a shabby fire. All day from my window
I watch girls and boys hanging out
in the dark arcades of desire.

Tonight, everything is strict with cold,
the houses closed, the ice botched by skaters.
I am tired of saying things about the world,
and yet, sometimes, these streets are so
slick and bold they remind me of the wet

zinc bar at the Café Marseilles, and suddenly the sea
is green and lust is everywhere in a red cravat, Read more »

Baked Caramelized Apple + Pear French Toast

The expired weeks since Christmas have stretched long–a barrage of travel and too many nights that lasted until morning. I will unravel the contents of those weeks some time, but not yet. For now, I just want to remember the holiday we spent in France, with family that will soon officially be my family.

The details of so many fêted meals blur together now, but I can tell you that there was foie gras d’oie, served alongside heady-sweet, wine-poached figs. It was an especially good year for figs in the garden. Comme d’habitude, the whole roast goose traveled no farther than the farm down the road, its rearer a family friend. Read more »

Grown-Up Hot Chocolate

When the weather dips below freezing and the sun sets in the afternoon, I make hot chocolate. It seems only fair. A warm mugful of rich, dark dessert fortifies against such conditions. My version is a compromise between the chocolate I used to dip churros into at three in the morning when I lived in Madrid–that is to say, a melted chocolate bar–and the insipid powder I knew growing up. (True fact: there is such a thing as diet powdered hot chocolate. I do not recommend it.)

It was the Frenchman who first introduced me to proper hot chocolate, made with milk and bar chocolate. Before I met him, I had no notion that hot chocolate could be anything more than the disappointing combination of sugary chocolate powder + water. But one icy weekend afternoon, when were were still living in Paris and the sun failed by four o’clock, he walked into the kitchen and clanked a pot onto the range. “I am going to make some hot chocolate,” he said. “Would you like a cup?” Read more »

Tipsy Apple-Parsnip Cake with Sultanas and Cider Glaze + A Food Rant

I oscillated hour to hour on whether or not to post this essay here–it is not the kind of writing I normally share in this space. Regular readers will know how much I care about whole foods, and that the farmers market is an essential facet of my cooking life, but I do not usually bring policy into the conversation.

Ultimately, I am posting this because I think the issues at hand are more important than my fears you won’t like what I have to say.

I recently spent a few days with a group of people who could not think more differently than me when it comes to food. After that experience, I needed a way to vent my frustrations, collect my thoughts, and clarify my views. If you already agree with what I write below, excellent. If you agree and are looking for a way to broach the subject with the people in your life who disagree or simply don’t know, I hope this essay aids that conversation. If you think I am totally full of cow manure, well, we are just going to have to agree to disagree. Either way, if you would rather simply read about a happy-go-lucky, apple-parsnip cake laced with rummy raisins and warming spices, click here to jump ahead. Read more »