So you just had a marvelous four-day break and are feeling a bit insulted by the harsh return to reality?  Here, try some of this:

Baked oatmeal with apple + cranberry sauce

  • 1 large apple, peeled and shredded
  • 1.5 cup rolled oats
  • 3 cups water
  • leftover cranberry sauce
  1. Combine the oats, water, and apple in a baking dish and bake on 400F for 20 minutes.
  2. Add the cranberry sauce to the top and bake for another 5 minutes or so.
  3. Serve with honey.

Yes, I suppose you will still have to go out and brave the world.  But you will be going out with something righteous and warm in your tummy, and that helps a little.  (Oh, and coffee?  That helps a lot.)

Have I mentioned how much I love my slow cooker, but resent the fact that it does just fine without me and actually seems to frown upon my frequent poking and prodding and stirring?  It seems to sternly imply that things were going just fine under its tantalizingly steamy lid until I came along with my big spoon to assault it.  And indeed, the slow cooker does turn the most unlikely ingredients into rather lovely dishes with so little involvement on my part that I can hardly claim any credit–especially if leftovers are involved.  Like in the case of this soup…

Turkey + rice + kale + sweet potato soup

  • turkey leftovers–whatever you have!  (I used just that drumstick in the picture and it was plenty, flavor- and meat-wise; however, a fistful of white meat or dark meat should work just as well, and so should a piece of the good old carcass)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 10 cups water
  • 1.5 cup rice
  • salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste (may I recommend chipotle pepper, cayenne pepper, and some oregano?)
  1. Put everything except the kale into the slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low for 4 hours.
  3. Add the kale and cook for another 30 minutes.

Three-rice pudding

November 28, 2009

Remember how the witch in “Hansel and Gretel” kept Hansel in a cage and fed and fed and fed him to fatten him up?  (Oh wait–is this another one of those stories that has a gentler American version?)  Well, I’ve spent the last week feeling a bit like Hansel.  First there were the four days in New Orleans, each of which typically started with something like this:

and ended with something like this:

with a bit of something like this in between:

And then we returned home to not one but TWO back-to-back Thanksgiving dinners:

Turns out, even a scrawny woman with a pro-wrestler’s appetite needs to rest after a multi-day food marathon like that.  And you know what’s a restful, soothing, straight-back-to childhood dish that really hits the spot at a time like this?…

Three-rice pudding

  • 1.5 cup rice (combination of wild, brown basmati, arborio… or whatever you have)
  • 3.5 cups milk (skim, in our case, since that’s what we had–but how could additional fat here not be tasty?)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • a splash of vanilla
  • a dash of cinnamon
  1. Combine everything and bring to a boil.
  2. Turn the heat down and simmer on low until soft.

(If you’re using a pressure cooker–which is just perfect for this, because you don’t have to worry about the milk boiling over and making a mess all over your stove–wait until you hear the whistle.  Once you’ve turned down the heat, 15 minutes in the pressure cooker should do the trick; it will take more like 25+, and some intermittent stirring, in a regular pot.)

This is a fabulous starting point.  From here, you may decide that you want to add more sugar, or honey, or some powdered chocolate…

Best enjoyed curled up on a sofa with one husband, two cats, and three episodes of Mad Men.

I know how easy it is to lose a home, a city, a country.

What’s that?  Oh, you are here to hear about Brussels sprouts and chestnuts?  You had no intention of walking into some dark navel-gazing introspectiveness?  Tough luck, my friend.  It’s Thanksgiving–my favorite holiday for many reasons, and god-free to boot!–and I’m about to give thanks first.  So, where were we?

I know how easy it is to lose a home, a city, a country.  I know how hard it is to start from scratch.  Yet here I somehow am, in this magical second chance at life that contains:

  • a cast of funny, kind, brilliant people–all healthy!
  • a second hometown that hugs me with the ferocity of a friendly bear;
  • a job that not only pays the bills but tickles my brain on a daily basis, still, all these many years later;
  • a guarantee that I will never, ever run out of books;
  • a home, in which there’s a kitchen, in which there’s joy.

The word “thankful” does not begin to scratch the surface of what I feel.

Ok, now we can get back to business.  Here’s the latest lick of that kitchen joy:

Roasted brussels sprouts with chestnuts

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • ~2 large fistfuls of roasted, peeled chestnuts (you can roast them yourself… or, if you’re like us, you can pick up a jar at Whole Foods if you don’t want to risk repeating the exploding-chestnuts-in-oven episode, the aftermath of which resembled the brain detail scene from Pulp Fiction)
  • a generous glug of olive oil, and a couple of splashes of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce
  1. Cut the sprouts into quarters and put them into an oiled baking dish.  Coat them with olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce.
  2. Roast on 400F for ~10 minutes.  Then, add chestnuts and toss to combine.
  3. Back into the oven it goes for another ~10-15 minutes.  It will be done when you decide the sprouts are tender enough.  And believe me, they will be delicious enough.

Cranberry sauce

November 25, 2009

“Cranberry sauce can be good? Really? Show me how, please!”  That was my plea to Serious Eats this morning.   I mean, sure, cranberries are darn handsome… but are we sure they are edible?  I can understand why the Pilgrims tried them–but now we have Trader Joe’s, and Subarus to take us there!

However, since I suffer from intermittent episodes of open-mindedness, I suddenly felt compelled to figure this out.  Is some south-European gene mutation responsible for my  inability to enjoy the sour cranberry concoction that stares at me from every Thanksgiving plate?  Or, have I been missing something: THE recipe, perhaps, that real Americans are born knowing?

The Serious Eats community came through with an abundance of suggestions.  There was talk of cranberry chutneys and salsas and sorbets, and of sauces involving horseradish and pomegranate seeds.  Sugar and booze frequently appeared in starring roles.  And I felt inspired, and I bravely plunged in.

Cranberry Sauce

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 orange, peeled and roughly torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2-3 drops vanilla
  • 1/2 shot St-Germain liqueur
  • 1 12oz bag cranberries
  1. Melt the sugar in water on low heat to create a syrup.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a gentle boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 10 minutes.

(…Do you suppose that eating a third of this sauce while standing over the stove officially makes me a convert?)

Vegetarian paprikash

November 23, 2009

This is Part II in the Must Empty The Fridge series, starring:

  • 1 large onion
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 5-6 medium potatoes
  • 2 smallish eggplants (or 1 large)
  • 1 bell pepper (composed, in my case, of 1/2 a green one and 1/2 a red one)
  • ~2 cups of liquid (chicken broth, vegetable broth, water, or a combination)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (at least!  …I won’t tell you how much I really used)
  • salt to taste
  1. Saute the onions and garlic for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes, eggplant, paprika, salt, liquid.  Simmer until the vegetables are soft; 15-20 minutes should do the trick.
  3. Add the peppers and let them get warm and happy for another minute or so.
  4. Serve over egg noodles.

Now, paprikash can be one of those comfort foods that transports some of us straight to our grandmother’s house, to a different continent and a different time…  But that’s perhaps only if sweet paprika is used?  I happened to use hot paprika, which gave the dish zero grandmotherly comfort but a whole lot of delicious roars and thunderbolts.

Galatoire’s revisited

November 23, 2009

Dear Galatoire’s

Just hours after we landed in New Orleans and I attended to some Very Important Business, Mr. Onepot and I donned the duds that make us look like a couple of proper young Republicans (yes, your food is good enough to justify even that requirement) and headed straight over.  And there you were, all these years and a hurricane later: still exactly the same, right next to that nudie girl neon sign on the western end of Bourbon St.

Oh, your soft shell crab in its many incarnations: as an appetizer, along some amazing shrimp; on top of a popmano, to make a good thing even better; as an entree, starring as its own lovely self…

Oh, your pumpkin cheesecake! somehow not even remotely related to the tired, predictable version that we typically encounter everywhere  around this time of year…

And then, just as we thought we couldn’t get any happier, you surprised us by combining three of our favorite things: coffee, booze, and fire!  Where has cafe brulot been my whole life?

Many thanks, dear Galatoire’s.  We will keep coming back despite your Republican dress code; we know you don’t mean it.





We’re off to New Orleans later this week.  There shall be muffulettas, and mint juleps, and beignets, and a visit to Galatoire’s.  And there shall surely be heartbreak.  But, first things first: we must empty the fridge to get it ready for our absence, and for the holiday food orgy that will kick in shortly after our return.

So, what have we got?  For starters: a butternut squash, some onions, a few carrots, and a couple of sad pepper halves.  And speaking of sad! you should see the remnants of that kale bunch I raided last week.  Then there are also some potatoes, a single stem of broccoli (where did its siblings go?), and two striped eggplants for which I once had some fancy plans.

It’s a challenge, then: nothing will go to waste, and it will all be delicious.  So, let’s start with this cheesy butternut squash+kale casserole:

  • innards of 1 butternut squash
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 1 8oz can of tomato sauce (or 1/2 of a larger one)
  • 2 tbsp cottage cheese
  • a fistful of shredded cheese (smoked gouda in our case)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinches of a couple of herbs (e.g., oregano, tarragon)
  1. Microwave the butternut squash; let it cool.  Scoop out its innards and place them into a shallow greased dish.  (You can add seasonings some at this point; just smoosh them in.)
  2. Saute the onion for ~5 minutes.  Add a splash of water, salt+pepper+seasonings, and kale leaves torn into bite-sized pieces.  Cover and let steam on low for ~3 minutes.
  3. Pile the kale and onion mixture on the butternut squash.  Cover with tomato sauce and cottage cheese.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese across the top.
  4. Bake for ~35 minutes on 375F.
  5. Eat with that buttermilk bread that you were originally going to take to your sister.

Buttermilk boule

November 17, 2009

Mr. Onepot considers buttermilk unspeakably vile.  You should see how he gags when he walks into the kitchen to see me chugging it straight from the bottle in front of the open fridge!

…Ok, perhaps I should apologize for imprinting that image onto your visual cortex.  Let’s start over.   Obviously, buttermilk is delicious.  But, even if you’re of the school of thought that considers it to be a no-good, very-bad dairy abomination when consumed in its unadulterated form, surely you’ve tried baking with it?  Something like this, perhaps:

  • 1/2 cup warm water (30 seconds in the microwave will do the trick)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 2 cups white flour + 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  1. Combine the honey, water, and yeast; let them get all warm and bubbly for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and knead until it’s all combined.
  3. Let your dough rest for ~45 minutes in a warm place.  Punch it down and return it to its resting spot for another 30 minutes or so.
  4. Shape your loaf into a jolly boule.  Don’t forget to oil/butter the top.
  5. Bake for ~50 minutes on 400F, on wax paper or in a greased baking pan.
  6. Meet pure happiness:

Oh, and you probably shouldn’t tell your sister that you’ll bring her half a loaf of bread the next day… because if she doesn’t know about it, how is she going to miss it?  Just sayin’.

Apple crisp

November 15, 2009


The following were my sources of inspiration for this scrumptious bit of fall in a bowl:

  1. Last Saturday, mid-morningish, my husband staggered into the kitchen– squinting and yawning and scratching his chest–to ask, “What are you cooking?”  “Nothing,” I said; the extent of my culinary prowess up to that point had involved starting a pot of coffee.  And then I got it.  Our home did smell mindbogglingly of apples and vanilla! …but only because I had just plugged in a Method air freshener.  While I was pretty darn pleased that cheating made my home smell like I had just made something delicious, I did feel a little twinge of guilt for shattering Mr. Onepot’s morning enthusiasm, that most fragile of things.
  2. This Saturday morning, this motley crew stared at me woefully as I sipped my coffee, as if to say, “We know you’re going out of town later in the week and there’s no way we’re all going to get eaten by then.”  They know me so well.IMG_4425
  3. Our dustbunnies had morphed into dustbears, and the most solid excuse I could come up with for ignoring them involved apples and oatmeal and cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. Smitten Kitchen offered this idea some weeks back, and I was instantly onboard.  But then, you know, I don’t plan.  While our kitchen is well-stocked, it’s well stocked according to moi (capers! fillo dough! chutney!); that means that there’s no shredded coconut, for instance, at any given point in time.  Almonds?  Ditto.  This also gives you some insight into the main reason why I can’t follow recipes: I typically decide to make something at the very last minute, once it’s dark out and I’ve had a glass of wine and no one is about to go out again.  Or, it’s Saturday morning and I’m squinting and yawning and scratching my chest in my jammies.  So, you know, I wing it.  A lot.

This particular version of winging it goes something like this:

  • 5-6 apples (see picture above to get a rough idea of just how much room for experimentation you have here)
  • juice of a 1/2 small lemon
  • dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 3 tsp honey
  • 1 + 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup flour
  1. Cut up the apples into any kind of slices; coat them with lemon juice, brown sugar, spices.
  2. In a small pan, heat the butter and honey until combined.  (Thanks, Smitten Kitchen!  Turns out it’s honey that my crisps have been missing all this time.)  Add flour and oats; stir to combine.
  3. Spread the apples in a baking dish and cover with the crisp mixture.  Bake on 400F for ~45 minutes; check the crisp around that time to see if the apples are blissfully gooey or need another 5-10 minutes.

Ta-da!  Edible air freshener.