Feed Yourself

Cook. Something. Delicious.

Pissaladière

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Adapted from Saveur

Fact #1: The South of France is one of my favorite places on earth.

Fact #2: My vegetable crisper was full of onions.

Fact #3: I had two bottles of rosé in my fridge and no plans for the night.

Conclusion: Make pissaladière. 

Pissaladière is an onion pizza from the Southern part of France, and it’s delicious and makes me think of summer and long beach vacations on the Riviera, which is typically how I roll when I’m not spending the summer days adjusting the speed of the fan in my windowless office. 

The recipe takes a while to cook - there’s dough that needs to rise and onions that need to slow cook - so it’s definitely something to make only when you have a lot of time and a bottle of wine (or whatever your drink of choice) on hand. Pissaladière, like anything summertime and beach-related, is not to be rushed. 

I need to point out several ancillary facts about the making of pissaladière relating to the copious amounts of onions used in the dish. 

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Ancillary Fact #1: You will feel extreme pain and discomfort while cutting the onions. Your eyes will burn and sting and tear until your face feels as if it falling off.  Make sure you have clean towels ready and within reach so you can dry your face and maintain good hand-eye contact. Cutting onions requires handling a sharp knife, and whatever misery you might think you are experiencing with the onions pales in comparison to that of a sharp knife cutting through your finger. I speak from experience.

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Ancillary Fact #2: Eating onions - cooked or otherwise - before bed will  give you strange and vivid dreams like you’ve never before experienced. I can’t vouch for the accuracy for this for everyone (although five minutes of internet research seems to lend some validity) but I will say that after I ate a few pieces of pissaladière and went to bed, I had one dream in which my house was being surrounded and robbed by San Francisco hipsters and another in which my nephew and I were kidnapped and taken to a living doll museum where everyone dressed as if they lived in Colonial America. 

Ancillary Fact #3: If, like me, you live in an apartment with subobtimal ventilation, you will wake up to a truly rank smell that will linger for an entire day. You won’t notice the smell while you are actually cooking the onions. In fact, you may, like me, think the smell of slow cooking onions is absolutely fantastic. It is absolutely not fantastic the morning after. 

Consider yourself warned. You should still make this dish.

Pissaladière gets its name from an anchovy paste called pissalat. I don’t eat anchovies, so I went a little renegade and left them out of this recipe. It was still delicious.  I used a small cookie sheet measuring 9” x 13”, but the recipe can easily be doubled, and leftovers freeze well. 

Ingredients (makes nine pieces):

  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 packet dried yeast
  • 1/3 cups, plus 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions and 6 small spring onions, or 6 yellow onions
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbes de provence
  •  12 black olives

Make the pissaladiere:

In a cup, add the yeast to the warm water and sugar. Stir to combine and set aside for a few minutes until the yeast starts to foam. Meanwhile, add   the flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a bowl. Pour in the yeast-sugar mixture and stir until combined. Knead with your hands until you form a ball. Coat with one tablespoon of olive oil, cover, and set aside.

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Slice the onions.

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In a pot, add the 1/3 cup of olive oil and the sliced onions and cook over medium heat for half an hour. Reduce the heat to low and cook for another 45 minutes.

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You don’t want anything to burn, so make sure to stir the onions often, especially the longer they’ve been cooking. The onions will get golden and almost jam-like. Turn off the heat and set the onions aside to cool.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to a small baking sheet and spread to coat evenly. Add the dough to the sheet and press evenly. Spread the onion mixture evenly over the top, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for another hour. 

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Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the olives in half, removing the pits, and place on the top of the pizza.

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Cook for half an hour, until the crust is golden brown. Let cool, and cut into squares.

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Stinging Nettles and Dandelion Pies

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Let’s all just ignore the fact that it’s now the end of July. Instead of summer swelter, let’s take it back to budding trees. To baby birds chirping in their nests. To spring cardigans and lightweight sweaters. Let’s take it back to May, when stinging nettles were in season. Because that’s when I made these pies. 

At the farmer’s market, there was this big sign, with big, bold, red letters. DANGER. STINGING NETTLES. DO NOT TOUCH. The woman at the farmstand told me to handle them them with gloves “because they really do sting, and they will hurt you.” 

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Earlier that week, the batteries on my keyboard at work kept dying. Always at the end of the day, always when everyone else had left the office, and always at that critical moment when I was about to finish some important deadline. I’d charge them overnight, but it didn’t matter. That Low Battery message just kept popping up. 

I called our IT guy, who couldn’t figure out the problem. Then, he saw me picking white stuff off one of the batteries.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Picking this white stuff off of the batteries. It keeps getting on them. It’s on the charger too"

"You should stop doing that. And you should wash your hands."

"Why?"

"Because that white stuff is battery acid. Your batteries have become corrosive."

Did I mention that it was May? And that in May, my allergies are serious? And that I’d been rubbing my watery, itchy eyes like every five seconds since this keyboard incident first started?

Were a bunch of nettles really going to scare me? I’d just spent the week rubbing battery acid into my eyes.

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I didn’t use gloves when handling the nettles, and I’m not going to lie. Those nettles stung. Consider yourself warned.

If you’re not feeling as brave, or if you can’t find nettles because they are no longer in season, any bitter green would do. I added a bunch of dandelion greens because I kind of liked the idea of pies with a filling made of weeds. 

Ingredients (makes four small pies):

  • one bunch of stinging nettles
  • one bunch of dandelion greens
  • 3 - 4 green onions
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 pound of feta 
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • black pepper to taste
  • phyllo dough (about four to six sheets)

Make the pies:

Chop the green onions and crumble the feta, and add them to a bowl along with the beaten egg. Remove the leaves from the nettles (carefully! use gloves!)  and the dandelion greens.

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Cook the greens in a pan over medium heat with the olive oil until wilted, about ten minutes. Set aside to cool. 

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Once the greens are cool enough to handle, wrap them in a towel and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Chop them up and add them to the bowl along with the feta/egg/green onion mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the remaining olive oil into a small bowl.

Remove about eight sheets of phyllo dough from the package and cover with a damp towel.

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Remove one sheet of phyllo dough and brush it with the olive oil. Place a second sheet of phyllo dough on top, and brush it with olive oil as well. Make sure to keep the dough that you aren’t using covered under the damp towel.

Place a quarter of the mixture on one corner of the dough. Fold the dough over to make a triangle, and then continue to repeat, turning the dough over each time, so that you maintain the triangular shape.

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It may take awhile to get the hang of the folding technique. Don’t worry if you end up with an irregular rectangle or some other odd polygon. 

Set the pie aside on a baking sheet, and brush the top with olive oil.

Repeat three more times, so that you have four pies in total.

Bake at 350 degrees for about forty five minutes. The pies should be flaky and golden brown. They freeze really well, so if you undercook them by a few minutes, they’ll be perfect when you reheat.

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Meatballs and Sunday Sauce

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My mother taught me how to make meatballs, just like my grandmother taught my five aunts. However, my father swears that all of our meatballs have a slightly different taste. “Everyone’s hands have a specific chemistry,” he says. “It gets into the meat.”

Chemistry aside, I think I make a pretty good meatball, largely because I’ve stolen everyone’s secrets and tricks.

My mother buys ground pork and ground beef separately and then mixes them together. She says that the veal in pre-made meatball mix makes for a drier, tougher meatball. At least one of my aunts grinds her own meat, but that’s a little too intense for me at this point.

My mother says its very important to crack the egg into a bowl before adding it the meat, in case it comes out rotten. My mother is the most practical person I know, and I try to follow this excellent piece of advice but usually forget.

Meatballs need some kind of bread to bind everything together. When I was a kid, my mother would soak a piece of white bread in milk until it got really soft, and then she’d mix it with the meat. At some point, she switched to regular, store-bought breadcrumbs, and I know this is kind of sacrilege, but I prefer it that way because I think it incorporates better. Also, not to gross you out, but I have clear memories of sitting at the kitchen table picking out bread chunks from my meatballs, because I thought they looked like snot. 

My father’s cousin said the secret to a good meatball is not to over mix the ingredients. Always use with your hands, never a spoon, and only until everything is just combined. It should take less than a minute.

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A family friend said to add a bit of water to the mix if it’s too dry. A bit of milk would work too. 

Someone on some television cooking show said she rubs a little olive oil onto your hands before she starts shaping the meatballs because it  flavors the meat. I know this doesn’t make sense, because you then go and fry them in olive oil, but I do it anyway.

The most important tip comes from my father “Don’t overpack them. Meatballs should be light.”

I don’t think he’s ever made a meatball in his life, but he is nonetheless an expert on the topic. Heavy, overpacked meatballs are no good at all. 

Ingredients for the meatballs (makes about five or six):

  • half a pound of ground meat (I like a combination of beef and pork)
  • one egg, cracked and beaten
  • 1/3 cup of dried, Italian bread crumbs
  • three cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • half a cup of oil (I use a combination of olive and vegetable)

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Ingredients for the sauce:

  • two 28 ounce cans of San Marzano tomatoes
  • three cloves of garlic, smashed with the back of your knife
  • two to three tablespoons of olive oil
  • pinch of red chili flakes, oregano, salt and sugar, to taste

Make the Meatballs:

Combine the first five meatball ingredients together in a large bowl, being careful not to over mix. It it feels dry, add a little bit of water until it’s moist. Form into balls. I like mine a little bit bigger than golf balls.

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Add the oil to a  pan and cook over medium heat. The oil is hot when a drop of water in the pan causes it to sizzle. Carefully add the meatballs to the pan, being careful not to crowd them or burn yourself with a splash of oil. 

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Fry the meatballs for a few minutes on each side, and use a spoon to turn them over in the pan. When the meatballs are fried and brown on all sides, remove from the pan and place on some paper towels to drain off the excess oil. 

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Make the sauce:

Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot along with the remaining cloves of garlic. Fry for a minute or two on medium-low heat, and then add the chili flakes if using. Add the two cans of tomatoes, and crush them down with a wooden spoon. Cook for about ten minutes, and then add the meatballs, a pinch of oregano if using, and the basil. I usually just add the basil leaves whole. 

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The longer this cooks, the better it will taste, so leave it on the stove for at least an hour or two, stirring every once in awhile to make sure nothing sticks and burns to the bottom of the pot. Give the sauce a taste each time you stir to make sure it doesn’t need a little bit more chili flakes or oregano. Sometimes, I add a pinch of salt or sugar, depending on how things are going.

Rutabaga Fries

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You know that recipe for rutabaga chips that I posted last month? In my mind, I had been eating celery root chips until like literally five seconds before I hit the Post Now button.  

But wait, it gets better. I actually gave one to a friend of mine as a present for coming with me to my CSA vegetable pickup that week. I put it right in the back seat of her car and said, “Here, take this celery root.” I’m sure it was one of the best presents she ever got.

It just so happened that I looked up the contents of my CSA share - who even knows why - right before publishing the post and noticed the prominent absence of celery roots from the list. Instead, there were rutabagas. And plenty of them. 

That’s right. Until recently, I didn’t know the difference between a  rutabaga and a celery root.  Hi. I’m Francesca, and I’m a food blogger. Can you even imagine the total, epic embarrassment if I hadn’t checked? 

What’s so strange about all of this is that I’ve definitely eaten a celery root before, and now that I’m thinking about it, the two look completely different, aside from their generally big, bulbous, root vegetable-ness. 

This is a rutabaga:

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And this is a celery root:

Totally different. Now we all know.

Having felt like I had dodged a deadly hot bullet, I posted the rutabaga chip recipe to my Facebook page. Here was a comment from one of my friends:

The compliment was lovely. But more importantly, who knew rutabagas had fans? 

So I decided to get to know them better.  Over this past month, I’ve mashed them, and I’ve roasted them and I’ve made them into these insanely good fries, and now I’m a big fan too.

Ingredients (makes one serving):

  • one large rutabaga
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Make the fries:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the rutabaga and then cut it into sticks that are about half an inch thick. 

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Toss with olive oil and salt, and roast in the oven for about forty minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Eat immediately.

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Speculoos

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Adapted from Epicurious 

It’s the middle of February, so I think it’s safe to start talking about my New Year’s resolution. Not my resolution to wake up early and go running before work every day. Not my resolution to limit my coffee and wine intake to one daily serving each. Not my resolution to get eight hours of sleep. No, those resolutions were crazy and broken in like ten seconds. Today I’m talking about the one resolution I have actually managed to keep. I’m talking about my resolution to break my habit of buying pre-made, store-bought food.

It started with hummus.

To date, I’ve posted three hummus recipes on this blog: roasted yellow peppercarrot and white bean, and edamame, In each post, I go on and on about how easy it is to make and how you’ll never need to buy the store-bought stuff. And yet, know what ends up in my shopping basket every week? That’s right. A large container of hummus.

One day in late December, I went to the supermarket and saw that they had completely run out. I stood in front of the case for a good minute or two with an open mouth and glazed eyes as if witnessing some sort of apocalyptic tragedy. And then it hit me. I was a total fraud. 

At that point, I made a hard and fast decision. Never again. I was done with the store bought hummus. My 2014 resolution was born.

I started with the things I know I can make well: some type of fruit compote and muffins for breakfast, pizza with a delicious topping or two, and obviously, hummus. If I made it once, it’d go on the list of things that I wasn’t going to buy already made in the supermarket. 

Since then, it’s been full on. I started making veggie chips. I stopped buying canned beans and started presoaking the dried ones overnight.  I now bake my own bread every week. 

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A few years ago, I spent New Year’s in Amsterdam. It was the first time I had speculoos, which are thin, crispy spiced cookies, and I’ve been a fiend for them ever since. If I’m passing through that part of the world on vacation, I’d bring back boxes. My lovely friends would text me when they find a store here in New York that carries them. It was no joke.

Last night, I polished off the last cookie in the last box of my stash. Usually, I’d start panicking, but this time, I was totally calm. I’d just made a fresh batch. 

I had to make a few changes to the recipe. Since nobody is here to help me with the four dozen cookies the original makes, I scaled everything down by a half. Speculoos are a lot like gingerbread, and I like mine with a bit of crushed black pepper, so I added some. Instead of the egg, I swapped out ground flax and water, which sounds strange but is actually a great substitute and prevents you from having to waste half an egg. 

I started on these kind of late at night and didn’t want to be bothered with rolling out dough on a messy, floured board, so I stole a tip from a comment in some other recipe that I can no longer find and molded the dough to a form before chilling it so that the cookies could be sliced. (Thank you comment-tip lady, whoever and wherever you are! You are a genius!) I used a coffee mug, and it ended up making a nice log shape. 

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Also, you know how cookie recipes say to wrap dough in plastic and then chill? Well, I had no plastic wrap, so I cut open a plastic bag and used that instead.

Even with all these changes, the cookies were fantastic. And the moment I pulled the pan out of the oven and that spicy cookie smell hit me in the face, I knew I had stuck to the right resolution. 

Ingredients (makes about fifteen to two dozen cookies): 

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground blackpepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon water

Make the speculoos:

Combine the first seven ingredients in a medium bowl.

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In a small bowl, mix the ground flax seed and the water and set aside. 

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Beat the brown sugar and butter in large bowl using an electric mixer. Add the flax-water mixture, and then gradually add the dry ingredients. Beat slowly or mix by hand until everything is combined.

Mold the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and push it into a coffee mug, making sure the ends of the plastic wrap are sticking out from the top of the cup (you can also just roll it into a freeform log). Freeze for about forty minutes.

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Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet. Pull the dough up from the cup (if using) and remove the plastic wrap. Cut the dough into thin slices using a sharp knife.

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Bake ten to twelve minutes at 350 degrees on a lined baking sheet, until the cookies are brown around the edges. Let cool on rack. Whatever you don’t eat immediately can be stored in an airtight container for about a week.

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Soba Noodles with Pickled Watermelon Radishes

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Adapted from David Chang 

The cold, dark nights. The quiet solitude of snow. The bone chilling sounds of Edward Gorey’s damsel in distress (totally the best part of Masterpiece!). Winter is the season for solving mysteries.

Sherlock and Poirot may have their logical reasoning and superior deductive skills, but I have text messaging and a friend who knows about these things.  

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The clues: turnip on the outside, beet on the inside, and foul to the taste.

Intriguing, right? 

Here’s a picture, so you can play along. 

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By now, you must be riveted to the point where you are sitting on the very edge of your seat. Hold on tight, because the response is a shocker.

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Who knew this was even something that existed? Not me. 

And so with one mystery solved, another is revealed. 

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I have never pickled anything because I hate pickles. I also loathe radishes. 

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Which leads us to the final mystery, the be all to end all. What else could I do with them? Because it turns out, I had a lot. My winter CSA had given me tons of amazing root vegetables. Potatoes, carrots, rutabaga.        

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Clearly, stating the obvious.   

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Not feeling like I had much choice…

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It did. The salt-sugar mixture made the radishes taste less radishy without being too pickled, and the soba noodles were a nice balance. Mystery solved, case closed.

Ingredients (makes two servings):

  • 2 medium to large rainbow radishes
  • 2 bundles of soba noodles
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

Pickle the radishes and make the noodles:

Slice the radishes into thin strips. In a bowl, toss with the sugar and the salt, and set aside for at least ten minutes.

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Meanwhile, boil a pot of water. Add two bundles of soba noodles and cook for about three minutes. 

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In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, peanut butter, honey and chili-garlic sauce. Drain the soba noodles and toss with the sauce. Let cool, and then top with the pickled radishes.

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Rutabaga Chips

Like many New Yorkers, I don’t own a dishwasher. Neither do my parents. We all scrub our pots and pans the old-fashioned way. Life in the big city can be so very hard.

My mother on the subject: “If I have to pre-rinse everything before putting it into the dishwasher, then what’s the point? I’d have to give up so much storage space. Plus, I heard they attract roaches.”

And while I see her point completely, and have managed all of these years just fine, I got it into my head that I absolutely had to have one. So I did the logical thing and went to an appliance store.

The appliance store sales associate on the subject: “You can’t just buy a dish washer. We need to send out a contractor.”

Um, ok…

Two weeks later, my appointment was scheduled. I had it all worked out. I’d  replace my microwave and range hood with one of those combo deals, prune the contents of a cabinet or two, and I’d be able to fit the dishwasher into a spot right by the sink without feeling like I’d lost any storage space. I even drew a picture of the whole thing. It was genius.

The contractor on the subject, two minutes after he walked into my kitchen: “The job is going to cost at least $10,000. Honestly, I say save your money. It’s not worth it.”

It turns out, so many New Yorkers don’t own a dishwasher because we live buildings that were built when people washed dishes in a sink. I couldn’t just go ahead and buy a dishwasher. I would have needed all new wiring and plumbing. For starters. 

Obviously, this was really disappointing. So to cheer myself up, I bought a food dehydrator. 

While it won’t solve my dishwashing problems, it does make a mean bunch of rutabaga chips. Other root veggies work just as well. And if you have a working dishwasher and/or don’t have a dehydrator, you can slow bake them in your oven instead.

Ingredients (makes about a two cups):

  • 4 - 5 small rutabaga (or maybe two large ones)
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Make the rutabaga chips:

Peel the rutabaga and slice them very thinly. Use a mandoline if you have one, but do not despair if all you have is a knife. That’s what I used, and it was fine. Just make sure the slices are as thin and uniform as possible. 

Place the slices on the dehydrator trays so that they are spaced evenly apart. My dehydrator has four trays, so I ended up using about one tray per rutabaga.

Turn the dehydrator on to about 135 degrees. After about ten hours, they should be done. 

After you’ve finished dehydrating, toss the chips with the olive oil and salt and bake them at 350 degrees for about two or three minutes. Make sure to preheat the oven, and definitely, absolutely, do not walk away from the oven or get distracted while they are in the oven because keeping them in for just a bit more will cause them to burn.

Take the chips out of the oven and let them cool for a minute or two so they crisp back up before eating.

Cacio e Pepe with Fennel

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I went to Rome about a year and a half ago, and I ate cacio e pepe almost every day. Spaghetti, pecorino, black pepper. and maybe some butter and/or olive oil. So good, so simple, and best accompanied with several glasses of wine.

It’s the kind of dish that just makes you want to sing “I’m in Rome and about to stuff my face with more deliciousness than my ever expanding stomach can handle.” Or maybe quietly hum it as you slowly drift off into a semi-drunken food coma.

This is me on Day 2 of the trip, about to dig in.

I will not be showing you pictures from Day 5 of the trip for obvious reasons. 

If you’re on a New Year-new me, post-holiday, cleanse, detox, let’s all do yoga and meditate kick, then stay away from the cacio e pepe. DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. Consider yourself warned.

If, like me, you need something hearty and cozy on this freezing January night or wish you were sunning yourself on the Spanish steps instead of slogging through wintry frozen sludge, then please, continue.

There’s a little bit of controversy out there as to what makes a proper cacio e pepe. For some people, it’s butter and pecorino. For others, its olive oil instead of butter. Or it’s neither. Some equate adding a vegetable or other accompaniment as an inexcusable, disgraceful travesty. I say, do what makes you happy. Especially if you are the only one eating it.

And happiness for me was using up that starting-to-wilt bulb of fennel I had lying around. 

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For good measure, I also used both butter and olive oil. 

I’ll run it off once the snow melts. 

Ingredients (makes one serving):

  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 2 - 4 ounces of spaghetti (depending on how hungry you are)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 -2 tablespoons of grated pecorino cheese, or to taste
  • crushed black pepper, again to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Make the cacio e pepe:

Add the teaspoon of salt to a pot of water and boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the package. Mine cooked for about 12 minutes.

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Meanwhile, slice the fennel bulb into thin strips and cook with the olive oil in a pan until soft, about ten minutes. Watch it closely, and if the fennel starts to brown, lower the heat.

Add one to two teaspoons of water from the pasta pot and mix with the fennel. Drain the pasta and add to the pan along with the butter. 

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Stir to coat, add the cheese, and stir again. Add the crushed black pepper to taste, along with more cheese if you feel it needs it and give everything one last stir before happily stuffing your face.

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Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

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Adapted from smitten kitchen 

I know it’s already the middle of January, but I have to say that the weeks leading up to Christmas were just Grinch-like, Scrooge-like shitty, and only now am I back fully to being my normal cheery self.

It wasn’t for lack of trying to feel the spirit of the season. I had a chocolate Advent calendar but kept forgetting to open the daily boxes. I bought some branches loaded with those festive red berries, but one dropped on the floor and was eaten immediately by dog, who then threw up for two days straight. (She’s ok.) 

A few days before Christmas, I splurged on this limited edition, imported, hand-crafted, papier-mâché Santa Claus. 

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I think he’s glorious. The people at the shop? Not so much. “Look at this Santa. Who would buy this? Would you, ever?” the sales associate at the register whispered as he wrapped it in tissue. ”Never,” said his colleague. “It’s totally creepy and weird.” Then they both turned around and looked at me with pity and disgust.

And so, having had any last bit of Christmas cheer completely destroyed, I decided to take things back to a happier time. The last time I did any kind of serious cooking. Thanksgiving. 

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Thanksgiving left me with a ton of leftovers, and even weeks after the fact, I still had some pumpkins and cranberries lying around, so I decided it was as good a time as any to make muffins. I ate one on Christmas Eve while surrounded by my half-opened Advent calendar, my poisonous berries, and my creepy Santa, and it was delicious.

I’m really glad the holidays are over. Happy belated New Year everyone!

Ingredients (makes about nine muffins):

  • 1 1/2 cups flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup mashed pumpkin (canned, or from two small pumpkins)
  • 1 cup of whole fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus about a tablespoon for the muffin tins
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup of brown sugar

Make the muffins:

If you are using fresh pumpkins, roast them in the oven on a pan for at least an hour at 350 degrees. Let cool, cut open, scoop out and discard the seeds, and you should have about cup’s worth of pumpkin remaining. Otherwise, you can get it from a can. 

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If you have not already done so, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar. 

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Crack open the eggs and add them to the flour, along with the pumpkin puree and the vegetable oil. 

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Stir to combine, and then fold in the cranberries. 

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Lightly grease a muffin tin with the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil. Scoop about half a cup of batter into each muffin tin. 

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Bake the muffins for about twenty five to thirty minutes at 350 degrees. You will know they are done when you can poke them with a toothpick, and it comes out clean. 

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You can freeze whatever muffins you don’t eat right away. I’ve been eating the leftovers over these past few weeks, and they heat up again in the oven really nicely. 

Thanksgiving

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I don’t play when it comes to Thanksgiving. My mother, my aunt and I usually split up the cooking, and we are quite serious about making sure nobody goes hungry. One year, there were five pies - one for each person sitting at the table. 

I usually settle on a few recipes before I get down to cooking and then end up changing things because I’ve forgotten to buy some key ingredient, or things don’t seem to be turning out quite right, or I get some bright idea along the way. 

This year being no exception, I made:

  • Pumpkin pie with a gluten free pie crust, only I used roasted kabocha  squash for the filling, left out the cardamom and the lemon zest, threw in the rest of the spices without measuring, and added half a cup more flour to the dough recipe. 
  • An apple pie with a double gluten free pie crust (again adding half a cup more of flour to each). For the filling, I chopped enough apples until I filled a large bowl and then tossed them with some flour, sugar and cinnamon. It was completely unscientific. Also, the top crust fell apart when I tried to place it on the pie, so I just smushed it down on top of the apples and then glazed the whole thing over with cream and sugar. I don’t think anyone noticed.
  • Sweet potatoes and apple casserole, only without the pecans. Also, I added some amount of cream to the sweet potatoes before mashing
  • Mashed butternut squash and pears, which really was supposed to be roasted butternut squash but I couldn’t get them quite caramelized and time was running out, so I mashed them up instead. Also, I cooked the pears in butter separately and mixed them into them mash. Also, there were no spices. Instead, I used more cream.
  • Roasted brussels sprouts. No recipe, I just cut them in half and roasted them with olive oil until they were perfect.
  • Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce, but with a fresh pomegranate (I ruined my favorite t-shirt trying to get the seeds), the juice and zest from two clementine oranges, and an apple. 
  • Gluten-free cornbread stuffing, which I cobbled together from maybe five different recipes that I now cannot find. It ended up being ok, but not great. 
  • Quinoa with spaghetti squash, dried cranberries, hazelnuts and feta, which I made at the list minute because one of the pieces of pumpkin I had bought for the pie turned out to be spaghetti squash. Also, I had to use up the leftovers in my refrigerator. I’ll post the recipe later.

Everyone was thankful and happy. Nobody starved. And there are leftovers for at least a week. 

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Hope you had a good one too.