Category Archives: Entrees

Pistachio O o O

I’m back in France! And eating unpasturized dairy! But until next Friday rolls around, you’ll have to read posts about what I did in the United States.

Just like the “every country has its fried dough” theory, most cultures have their chosen nut products. America has peanuts and pecans, a lot of African countries use ground nuts in soups and stews, and much of Europe fills everything with hazelnuts. In Turkey your chocolate comes with pistachios, Greeks lean on walnuts heavily for their pastries, and when  I think of pine nuts, I think of Italy.

But I’ve only ever consumed peanut and almond butters in the salty spread category. Pistachio butter’s time had come.

Caution, guys.

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Late Summer Tomato and Chevre Galette

This post is a lie. Yes this is more of a tart than a galette, but must importantly… it’s not the end of summer. I REFUSE TO SUCCUMB! Even though the leaves on the maples along the trail and starting to show red around their edges, the crickets are the only sound in the late summer morning air, and the tomatoes are fat and fire-truck red, I insist that this season can last forever.

But just in case, I’m gonna cook lots of things with tomatoes and corn.

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Kimchi Adventures


The massive grocery store a half a mile from my parents’ house has had a rough life. It’s been a Giant, a Fresh World, and an All Green. Recently, it reopened as “FoodValu,” which is the third incarnation of “huge Asian and Mexican superstore with only half the store dedicated to regular American processed stuff.” Continue reading

Cooking for the Week: Chicken Tagine with Apricots

Never again.

Just over two months off my flight back to the States from France, and I’m well entrenched into the 50-hour a week American work schedule. On a good, full day up by 5:15 to run, out the door at 7 a.m., walk back in the door at 7 p.m. But I refuse, REFUSE, to sit down at lunch with a lunchmeat, sandwich bread and chips meal.

Niçoise salad Sunday

That means Sunday is a busy day, as well as Monday nights and basically any other moment where I have free time. Sunday is the only time that I have a full day to dedicate to playing in the kitchen, so I often make at least two dinners, and a side or some kind of breakfast. Korean cucumber and edamame salad, asparagus and shrimp salad, or southwest bulgar salad. I also search for modern crock pot recipes, like black bean soup or this infinitely tasty tagine. My biggest crock pot rule is that I do not pre-cook anything but onions and garlic. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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Squash Season! Zucchini Lasagna

This summer is brutal. Every afternoon this week I baked like a hamburger patty on the sidewalk. When the rain finally poured down Thursday night and dropped the mercury, I was able to turn on the oven to use some of the zucchini overflowing on our counter.

I am not a huge fan of Americano lasagna. Too much beef, too much cheese, too much pasta–I generally feel like I have a gigantic brick in my stomach if I eat any of it. This recipe takes out the pasta and a lot of the cheese, so it won’t taste anything like “lasagna,” but it was so tasty that I didn’t even have time to take a cross-section picture… because it was gone before I got home!

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An Education in Meat

This is not a story about how I made Hoppin’ John on Saturday. This is not a story about good luck and cornbread and spreading the American gospel. This is not a story about watching people set off fireworks out of wine bottles of the stroke of midnight, 2012.

All this trouble for one ham hock.

This is a story about how my cooking education apparently has a HUGE hole in it, and that hole is called “meat.” I blame all my vegan and veg friends.

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Stovetop Cooking

“But what can you cook without an oven? Pasta and rice? I can’t fry EVERYTHING!”

Chili in the works in the mini kitchen.

Ever since I arrived in France, I keep hearing the same complaint from the other teaching assistants. They have no idea how to cook anything with a stovetop alone. Color me bemused! Yes, it takes a lot more effort to make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but there are so many delicious meals you can make with just a couple of pots and pans. Italian sausage and peppers! Chana Masala! Sharp Stovetop Mac-N-Cheese! And much, much more.

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Fromage Friday (belated): Gruyere and Emmenthaler Fondue

If you pack eight people into a one-bedroom apartment, along with about five bags of groceries, a kilogram of cheese (2.2 pounds, Americanos), a kilogram of chocolate, and a lot of wine, you’ll have some happy people.

Cheese in the making.

Thursday night we had a fondue soirée, including a cheese fondue made with emmenthal and gruyère (served with potatoes, broccoli, peppers, baguettes, sausage, chips, and more), and mixed-chocolate (served with apples, bananas, pretzels, waffles, and speculoos cookies. SPECULOOS!) So yes, by the end of the night I felt approximately like a human blimp, and had very sticky fingers. If you want to give the cheese recipe a shot, it’s here. Please know that fondue, contrary to some opinions, is nothing like nacho cheese. You’ll need dry white wine, brandy or kirsch, and a few other things as well.

  • 1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kirsch (optional)
  • 1/2 pound Emmental cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)
  • 1/2 pound Gruyère, coarsely grated (2 cups)
The one problem is that, with a lot of hungry people to feed, I didn’t buy the world’s highest quality gruyère. And that is a goal for another, soon to come, day.

Chocolate frenzy will make people look kind of... scary.

Ham City

Last night we had a conversation over dinner about France being the classic, revered old-world haute cuisine, but no longer the top of the heap. The new giant, in my (Spanish) host’s opinion, is Spain. Clearly there’s some bias there, but I have to say that I am wowed, and am learning a lot in a very short time.

Last night’s dinner was at home, and simple. Rioja, salad, sliced bread, cheeses and dried meats. This was referred to as “cold cuts,” though I’ve never seen anything less like a cold cut in my life. And they key ingredient is the ham.

I’m in Salamanca, the Castille region, which is known for producing the very best ham in a ham country. In the market of about 20 booths, 12 to 15 sell dried meats, and all of those sell the iconic jamón ibérico legs that look about like a caveman club, and can cost up to 300 euros. The reason for the price? First of all, it lasts for months. Second of all, these black pigs are carefully raised, fed almost exclusively the acorns that grow in the region, and they run around happily in a field until killing time. The jam is then dried and cured for months or years.

It’s amazing. Not salty, not honey ham or slimy, not dry like sausage or chewy like jerky. It’s tender and has a robust flavor, and would pair as well with a fancy tapas dish as it did with our coffee table picnic. I don’t even EAT ham in the United States. This ham is so good that you can sign up for classes to learn how to cut it properly, but you’ll have to shell out 400 euros to do it.

Sadly, I cannot transport this magical treat to all my friends in the States. What I DO suggest is having a ham party worth spending $200 to ship some ham for a bunch of people. Or if you’re in New York, you can buy it at shops like Murray’s Real Salami and try it at the table at tapas joints like Pata Negra, another name for jamon iberico. Full rumor list here.

Mark Bittman: Genius

I don’t own any Mark Bittman cookbooks, but every time I’ve used someone else’s, I am always confused by how easy the recipes are. Put salmon in a pan with butter and spices? Sounds too simple; turns out to be totally delicious.

I’d been running out of ideas and energy for veggies and salads when I came across an old Bittman article: Recipes for 101 Simple Salads for the Season.


Tonight I will give this bad boy a shot:

27. Cook whole, unpeeled eggplant in a dry, hot skillet or on a grill, turning occasionally, until completely collapsed and soft. Chop and toss with toasted pita, toasted pine nuts, cooked white beans and halved cherry tomatoes. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice and lots of black pepper. Or a (non-vegan) yogurt dressing is good, especially one laced with tahini.

Other salads I bookmarked for later:

Fall Favorites
16. Slice fennel and crisp apple about the same thickness (your choice). Combine, then dress with mustardy vinaigrette and chopped parsley. Come fall, this will be even better.

81. Soak sliced prune plums or figs in balsamic vinegar for a few minutes, then add olive oil, chopped celery and red onion, shreds of roasted or grilled chicken, chopped fresh marjoram or oregano and chopped almonds. Serve on top of or toss with greens. So good.

Combinations I Never Considered
92. Simmer a cup of bulgur and some roughly chopped cauliflower florets until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Toss with chopped tarragon, roughly chopped hazelnuts, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice.

I Love Avocado
21. Dice cucumbers (if they’re fat and old, peel and seed them first) and toss with cubes of avocado, a little mirin (or honey), rice vinegar and soy sauce. (You could mix in a little lump crab meat, even rice, and call it a California roll salad.)

44. Make a crisp grilled cheese sandwich, with good bread and not too much good cheese. Let it cool, then cut into croutons. Put them on anything, but especially tomato and basil salad. This you will do forever.