I did my first round of Thanksgiving shopping yesterday. Navigating the crowded market with my youngest in tow was a little overwhelming. I left my cart unattended for a moment while I grabbed carrots and celery and returned to find someone had taken it and ditched my cranberries in a bin of Brussels sprouts. My young companion went to the bathroom twice. And I forgot at least one ingredient. But I took solace in the fact that, one or two odds and ends aside, the horrors of the grocery store are over. We’ll be picking up the rest of the ingredients for our meal from small, local shops like JM Stock Provisions and MarieBette Bakery. [Read more…]
Before I’m mired in Thanksgiving shopping and to-do lists, I’m taking the time to pause. Thanksgiving at its best is about gratitude and calls for a little reflection. This year, even more than most, I have much to be grateful for. My work on the blog and elsewhere has been going swimmingly, Brian has a new job he loves, and the girls are healthy and happy. There are a few struggles on the horizon for those I love most, but optimism still rules the day. With all this in mind, I’m planning to prioritize gratitude on Thanksgiving by exchanging the stress of an epic feast for something smaller, simpler, and more considered. I’m trading perfection (which I’ve never been great at anyway) for presence. [Read more…]
Sometimes (most of the time), when I write a to-do list, I include something I’ve already done or at least something very easy. Likewise, I include myself in any list of things I need to bring somewhere: “Keys, me, shoes, sweater, bag.” It’s a built-in guarantee of productivity or organization.
In the madness of Thanksgiving prep, this fresh cranberry relish is my to-do list guarantee. It’s the one Thanksgiving dish that can be completed and crossed off the list in minutes flat. If it didn’t have amazing flavor, I’d probably still keep it on the menu. But I’ve never needed to make that call, because it is delicious.
This recipe began on a cold, rainy morning. A scratchy old records and black coffee kind of day. As the rain fell, things inside were cozy and fragrant with the scent of roasting citrus. The rich jewel tones on the plate vibrated against gray skies and the golds and russets of the water-soaked landscape.
I offer a simple premise: the holidays are a heavy time filled with chances to fail, or feel lonely, overwhelmed, or inadequate. When we strive for perfection, we can only lose. After barely making it through Halloween – going through all the motions of making costumes, carving pumpkins, and trick-or-treating – hoping all the while the girls didn’t notice our hearts weren’t in it, Brian and I realized we need to be vigilant for the upcoming holidays. Starting now, we’re protecting ourselves from anything but the most pressing obligations, the pressure of excess, and all the other things that take us away from the actual moments spent with those we love. You should too. [Read more…]
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In the kitchen, my second great love was Indian food. The first was muffins from a box, a love born of the fact that they were something my seven year-old self could make without a grown-up’s help (that it was sweet was a bonus). After the thrill of muffins wore off, I moved on to trying to figure out Italian food and so-called hearty soup recipes dotted with undercooked bits of grain. For a long time after that, it was cans of pinto beans and boxed mac mostly. And then, Indian food.
I have a list of beloved recipes for fall, the holidays, and beyond, and pretty much stick to them, especially when things get busy. Also, I don’t like change. Even so, sometimes an idea or book comes along that changes my ways and pushes me to re-imagine even my very favorite things. Samantha Seneviratne‘s The New Sugar and Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking is just that kind of thing. In it, Sam moves beautifully between engaging family stories and insights into baking, spices, and the history of how such far flung ingredients made their way into our kitchens. It’s also overflowing with perfect recipes. Just enough sugar to be delicious and with an admirable restraint – rather than the typical cinnamon/clove/nutmeg/ground ginger wall of flavor, Sam achieves culinary splendor by thoughtfully highlighting just a few ingredients in each dish. Think of it as the anti-pumpkin pie spice. [Read more…]
Last night, I pulled up my tomato plants. The growing season is winding down as the autumn chill creeps in. That chill coupled with the East Coast deluge a few weeks back mostly put an end to tomato season and peppers will follow shortly. And while greens, squash, and roots are all abundant, for the first time in months, my fridge holds a manageable amount of produce. It’s nice to have a little calm. [Read more…]
Years ago now, there was a fire in our building in Brooklyn. Nothing serious, but even so, the city cut electricity and gas to the building for six weeks and our family (then consisting of me, Brian, a single daughter, and a very cute dog) moved into the Affinia Hotel on 7th Avenue, directly across the street from Madison Square Garden. In February. Save one beautiful snowstorm, our days in that hotel were bleak – walking the dog in Midtown and needing to go blocks to find even a tiny patch of earth, making the long trek to the foreign world of the Madison Square Park playground, cooking for three in the tiny kitchenette, and other catastrophes major and minor. We’d occasionally get back to Brooklyn, and coming out of the subway I’d always be stunned by all the light there. The low-rise buildings that made up the Brooklyn skyline (especially back then) left more room for the sky. Even though it was frigid out, I started to bring my sunglasses. [Read more…]
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There are lots of little ways to reclaim our kitchens, and those I relish most are the daily battles and small victories. One of my favorite kitchen triumphs is the MacGyver dinner. You know that one –– you realize you have nothing to eat for dinner: no plan, no protein, and hardly any time. But then, with a bit of ingenuity, or at least a nicely chopped onion and some olive oil, a good meal is suddenly underway. Home cooks know the braises we’ve planned or the pasta sauce that’s cooked all day will be delicious, but these surprise meals, these takeout near misses, these dinners that make use of all the odds and ends, are always the most gratifying. [Read more…]