I know we’re teetering on the edge of eggplant’s departure from the market, but I’ve been tinkering with this recipe for a while, and I wanted to get it right before it landed here.
The non-aubergine portion was lifted from a French-Tunisian family friend, who made it for the Frenchman and me when she came to stay. (She served it with herb-rubbed, falling-off-the-bone chicken thighs. You can too.) It was a luxury to be cooked for, and to be taken care of so well through food. Pine nuts browned sumptuously in butter! The lemon-tinged warmth of sumac and za’atar! Cumin, harissa, and cinnamon, too. It’s actually a perfect inauguration to fall.
I asked for the recipe, and scribbled down the offhand recounting of a cook who has fashioned a dish so often, measurements are not longer consciously considered. I searched google for corroboration of spice quantities, and rice to meat ratios, but quickly realized no consensus: this dish is made, in various forms, across the Levant. Sometimes with lamb, or beef, or chicken. Often it includes peas and carrots, and other spices; almonds too. This rice and meat mixture–helpfully called “mixed rice”–is used judiciously in recipes across the region, frequently to stuff vegetables, wine or cabbage leaves.
What this recipe is not: the quintessential version of Ouzi, which anyway goes by other names and spelling variations. What it is: very tasty. A recipe filtered through this cook’s interpretation of a French-Tunisian-living-in-Cairo’s version of her Palestinian mother-in-law’s cooking, made with ingredients she found in my kitchen, in Jersey City, NJ. That sentence was exhausting, but the point is: make this for someone you care about.
(This dish is equally good, if not better, on the second or third day after cooking.)
Along with Camembert and white beans, boeuf bourguignon ranks high among the Frenchman’s all time favorite foods. I remember making it in culinary school–a two day process–and I’ve made it once a winter since, always from Julia Child’s recipe. It’s a lovely cold weather dish, but the truth is, it’s a pain–fussy and time consuming.
My copy is now a ticker tape parade of must makes–pho, focaccia, smoked salmon–but the recipe I was drawn to first was their modernized (read: less finicky) version of boeuf bourguignon. The process has been trimmed, but the results are just as rich and wonderful. And the recipe feeds a crowd, or a family of two for many meals. (It yields 3 quarts or 6 pints, which I portion and freeze, equating roughly to 10 meals for the Frenchman and me.) This is good news in our (new!) apartment.
This recipe was published with permission from America’s Test Kitchen. They’ve generously offered a copy of the book to give away to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment describing your favorite classic recipe by January 5th.
In the summertime, when the Frenchman and I (sporadically) have access to a grill, we often grill pizza. It’s especially good for feeding a crowd: it’s pleasing to every palate, can be adjusted for special diets, involves just the right amount of group participation, and makes a great breakfast the next morning. All the ingredients (dough and toppings) are prepared ahead of time, which makes it easy to pull off outdoors, or in a kitchen not your own. I usually choose toppings based on what’s in season at the moment.
Two general rules: You can load pizza made on the grill a little more heavily than pizza made in an oven. Also, you’ll want all toppings to be pre-cooked or pre-prepared, since once on the pizza they’ll cook for just a few minutes–basically, only long enough for the cheese to melt.
I live in the city, a fact I’m acutely aware of from the moment I wake up (to the sonorous pounding of multiple high-rise constructions) to my subway hop home (look! a host of sparrows eating….an old piece of pizza?) There are many things I love about my neighborhood of Brooklyn (this, this, and this, to name a few), but the urban reality also means that whole months go by when I forget what silence sounds like. I forget that the sky is really a wild, open, spangled thing, and not always doled out in tetris patches.
This push and pull is noisiest in late summer, when the city’s muggy and farmers’ markets are ripe with peaches. I get restless. By August, weekends become little islands of opportunity. And so for two years now, we reserve the first weekend of August for Kinderhook Farm.
This year we traveled to Ghent, New York with friends, and the most stressful thing I did all weekend was lose a game of Scrabble. Otherwise, we made power-relaxation our raison d’être. I cooked quite a lot: spaghetti with melted tomatoes, corn, and mozzarella I hope to share with you here soon. Grilledpizzasand corn on the cob. Cheeseburgers made with ground beef sourced from the farm. And s’mores, the Frenchman’s first.
It was such a pleasure. Two days of concentrated time with friends is a gift. And nothing makes me happier, absolutely nothing, than cooking with and for those I love. It’s an easy, immediate joy.
I also love the place itself, for its restorative properties. I love how Kinderhook contrasts my everyday life, and the feel of the barn’s wooden planks against my feet, almost warm. I love the fire pit and the technicolor chickens pecking wherever they please. Keys are obsolete. We wander the pastures and lounge in hammocks pitched at the edge of the yard. We buy local beer by the growler. The only noises are nature-made: bleating sheep, violining crickets, the rustle of wind through leaves. If you’re a light sleeper, roosters announce the new day. It’s tonic for the spirit.
It is past four o’clock in the morning and I am still awake, up to nothing in particular except listening to a plunking blanket of rain beat and tinker onto the skylight above our bed, down the mansard roof. The man I love more than yesterday, less than tomorrow, more even than vanilla-peanut butter ice cream sleeps fitfully in the bed beside me, taking up more than his fair share of sheet real estate, but no matter.
We are in Paris, in the attic room of a narrow gray hotel tucked onto an unremarkable street in the 3eme arrondissement. The room is small, comically so, but in return we have a view—a true panorama of Paris’s shabby-chic, sprawling skyline, the expanse of grays, charcoals, and creams, the embarrassment of clay chimneystacks, like so many upturned flowerpots abandoned in a garden row. The Sacre Coeur stands alone, rising ivory on a distant hill, hazy at the edges in the somber light, a neat little postage stamp of a cathedral. We have a small balcony, and I move from the bed to stand outside as the rain softens, following the white lights that lick the wet road, slick as oil after hours of rain. Read more »
You arrive home late. Work was horrendous and so you are a coil primed to spring. The Frenchman is on the couch, waiting to say hello, but right away you would like to know why he has not prepared dinner. Nevermind that you did not technically ask him to make dinner (isn’t he just supposed to know?) and that he has likely had a long day himself (but you left before him and came home after him that day, so you win). He expresses his sympathy over your difficult day, and sits you right down to massage your weary shoulders. But the whole day, when you think about it in hindsight, has primed you for anger. All you needed was this tiny little spark to set you off, and so here you are, sitting at the kitchen table with anger building to a boil. Off you go. You say things. You are at least 39%, but up to 68% right. You hate to feel resentful about cooking for the Frenchman, because you actually love it very much, but in this moment you are just so mad about it all, about everything. Later, you insist upon eating your toaster oven-Amy’s-pizza dinner by yourself. You are not a perfect person, and sometimes it is necessary to act like a child. Read more »
I have recently become infatuated with Bánh Mì sandwiches. They are just so perfectly balanced. I love how the fat round richness of mayonnaise and spiced pork plays against the acidic flash of pickle-y vegetables and a flourish of herbs. The crunch of a toasty baguette tastes all the better when smeared with smooth pork pâté. This sandwich is pleasantly spicy and full of flavor. It has heft and character, but all those herbs and vegetables keep it bright. I think it’s pretty wonderful.
The recipe below is ideal for a small, casual dinner party. Everyone builds their own sandwich, so take those ingredients you like and leave the rest. For a vegetarian friend, I made a chickpea salad to replace the meat: chives, basil, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper, salam oleck, scallions, mirin, sesame oil, rice vine vinegar, and soy sauce. Words that every host loves to hear: You can prepare the whole thing in advance–when my guests arrived, I simply slid the tray of meatballs into the oven and flipped the switch on the toaster oven. Read more »
When the weather turns, and I am required to pull on a sweater and scarf before biking to the market, then I know it is time for chicken again. I will roast one for Sunday lunch. The Frenchman and I, we both like dark meat, so the legs go first. After we’ve eaten our fill, I remove the breasts from the bone, along with any remaining scrappy bits, and wrap them up. During the week, the white meat is turned into sandwiches, soup, tacos, or this salad. The bones go into a plastic bag in the freezer, until I have enough for stock.
I want to share this with you, in as much detail as possible, because it is the best way I know how to roast a chicken. It’s a great “recipe” to keep in your back pocket–absolutely delicious, and endlessly adaptable. You don’t need any fancy equipment to make it, so it can be reproduced in nearly any kitchen. Dress it up for guests. If you live alone, roast a chicken at the top of the week anyway–you will have a week’s worth of dinners in front of you. Read more »