Monday, August 14, 2017

A Pair of Watermelon Salads

The world is exploding, and I am popping in to say: WATERMELON. Forgive me. This is the bifurcated world we seem to be living in, that on the one hand there are white supremacists showing doing violence that our president refuses to condemn. On the other hand, crisp and juicy-fleshed watermelon, which is suddenly the only thing I want to eat. 

So, the watermelon itself is delicious enough. But I'm also mildly obsessed with two different salads, and, since I can't pick--I mean, I will start to make one, and then think, No, no, and make the other--I'm telling you about both of them. These are less exact portraits of ingredients than they are rough sketches. They are both exquisitely refreshing, complicated, and perfectly simple.

Watermelon Caprese
This is, yes, a version of Caprese salad with watermelon in it. To make this one, dice up a quarter of a seedless watermelon, 4 large tomatoes, and a pound of fresh mozzarella (I love the kind from Trader Joe's). Add a large handful of slivered basil leaves, a couple bloops of olive oil, a small splash of balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt.
Stir gently, and eat as soon as possible, because the salt will draw the water out of the melon. (You should drink this from the bowl, though. I'm just saying.)

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint 
Dice half of a seedless watermelon and add about 6 ounces crumbled feta (a cup or two), the juice and grated zest of 1 or 2 large, juicy limes, a large handful of slivered mint leaves, and a pinch of aleppo pepper flakes (or something similarly spicy/flavorful). Stir gently and taste for lime, feta, mint, heat. I don't add salt or oil to this one.

Stay safe, keep each other safe, and resist, my darlings. xo

Friday, July 28, 2017

Green Greens Rice Casserole (+ more summer)

Today, this glorious mild and cloud-blue day, we have thwarted the skinny repeal bill, thank god, because it sounded like the lamest-ever milkshake flavor, and one that was going to have serious and terrible health consequences. So huzzah for us! Now if we can just keep them from going after our beloved queers. To that end, I wrote this, over at the anti-hate news project 500 Pens. Sigh.

Meanwhile, how is summer half over? Oh, maybe I know. 

Plus full-on gaming. And reading, reading, reading. (Also, read this, if you haven’t yet. It’s crazily good.) For car trips (especially ones to Cape Cod), try listening to this, assuming nobody in your family has a "problem" with, spoiler alert, cannibalism. We found it incredibly diverting.

I've also been busy not cooking

I dressed very thinly sliced raw summer squash with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and slivered cilantro. Calling it "Zucchini Ceviche" didn't really entice anybody else into loving it, but I couldn't believe how sweet and wonderful it was. 
and cooking. It’s been a little cooler lately, so we’ve been making a humble old favorite of ours (minus Ben, for whom this is something of an edible chore), which is this very cheesy and comforting brown-rice casserole. It’s one of my favorite ways to use a vast assortment of greens and odds and ends of good cheese (or even mediocre cheese). Plus, you can add whatever else you like to it! I just made one where I added diced zucchini and two ears’ worth of corn kernels, which I sautéed together before stirring them into the rice. I loved the bursts of sweetness from the corn, and the tender earnestness of the squash. I also confess to having used about 2 cups of cheese, including blue cheese crumbles and the wonderful Unexpected Cheddar from Trader Joe’s. Yum.

I hope you are thriving, my darlings, and enjoying everything you could possible be enjoying right now. xo

Green Greens Rice Casserole
Serves 6

This is an incredibly versatile recipe. You can add diced, sautéed corn and summer squash, if you like, or beets and their greens, or whatever else seems like it would be good. Also, there is no magic to this particular assortment of dairy! I just made it with sour cream instead of cottage cheese, and it was delicious. Plus, you can skip the cream cheese and it’s still good—maybe just add another egg to keep it all nice and moist! I didn’t write the recipe this way, but often (because I’m lazy and I like the greens to be chopped fine, but I don’t like chopping them fine), I will sauté the onions and greens, and then put it in the blender with the rest of the ingredients (not the rice and cheese and extra diced veggies, if using) and blend, then stir this into the rice with the cheese and other veggies.

6 cups freshly cooked short-grain brown rice (made from 3 cups raw)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large bunch of greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.), washed, thick ribs removed, and chopped
4-ounces of cream cheese (a whole small packet, or half of a regular one)
3 eggs
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 (or more) packed cup(s) grated cheese (Monterey Jack and/or cheddar is perfect for this, but adding some blue cheese and/or parmesan makes it all the cheesier…)
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon-1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, mint, basil, or cilantro

Heat the oven to 350 and cook the rice. While the rice is cooking, heat the olive oil in a wide pan over medium-low heat and sauté the onion with the salt until it's soft, translucent, and starting to brown (around 10 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté for another minute until it's fragrant, then add the greens and cook, stirring, until the greens are wilted and tender, anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes, depending on the greens (if the mixture threatens to dry out, add a couple tablespoons of water and let it steam, covered, for a few minutes).

Turn the heat off, and stir in the cream cheese, cut into chunks, until it is mostly melted. Now stir in the rice (if your pan isn't huge, you may need to move the whole thing to a large mixing bowl), and then the eggs, which you've beaten with the cottage cheese, and, finally, the grated cheese. (See headnote for another way to do this.) Add a few squeezes of lemon juice, and the herbs, if you're using them. Now put a spoonful of the mixture on a plate and microwave for a few seconds, then taste: add more salt, lemon, and/or herbs if it doesn't seem fully flavored. (I taste it raw, but this is not a recommended practice).

Bake the rice mixture in a greased casserole dish, covered with a lid or foil, for 25 minutes, and then uncovered for another 10 until it is nice and gold on top. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Summer 2017: The Beginning (in pictures)

To say my kids were ready for summer would be like saying the Titanic nicked itself on an iceberg. They were crawling through the desert of school on their hands and knees, and summer was the oasis that was maybe just a mirage until it wasn't, and it came, and they drank and drank and are still drinking. They have been sleeping until 10, 11, 12, the poor, exhausted ducks.

They rouse themselves to eat and play Mine Craft. It was a difficult and tiring school year, and it makes me so happy to see them refueling.

Other Mine Craft compatriots come and go. They've only been on vacation for 5 seconds, these kids, so their binging goes unchecked for now.

Birdy takes gaming breaks to read a little bit. Michael and I took her to see the touring company of Fun Home, and I think it was the best thing we ever saw on stage. I got goosebumps no fewer than a dozen times. Birdy is now loving the book. (FYI, my Survivor column about teenagers and reading should go up tomorrow.)

If you're not already, try making cold-brew ice coffee: shake together 1/3 cup of any medium-roast grounds with 1 1/2 cups of water, and leave it at room temperature overnight. In the morning I pour it through my porcelain pour-over cone, but you could totally line a sieve with a basket filter, and use that instead. It makes about 2 cups of coffee, and it is caramel-sweet, with a striking absence of bitterness, burntness, or sourness. Keep extras in the fridge.
My current everyday, anytime meal: Put an egg in a small pot of cold water. Bring it to a boil, shut off the heat, and leave it for 7 minutes. Run under cold water, peel, halve, and top the yolk with a tiny pat of butter, a sprinkle of salt, and a shake of hot sauce. Perfection. 
But a person cannot live on eggs alone. So there are popsicles! These are from a recipe for Sour Cherry, only I used bing cherries and added lemon juice. There is also almond extract. They are possible the best popsicles ever.
I actually wrote the People's Pops people to remind them how wonderful their cookbook is. I mean, I know I've written about it before, but we use it at least twice a week, all summer long, and every recipe is delicious and perfectly crafted. It always makes exactly enough to fill our mold--no more, no less. Amazing. If you know anyone with a summer birthday, the book along with the mold makes a great gift.
Juxtabo is a very good summer game: the tiles are these gorgeous, sherbetty colors, and it's a perfect quickish but interesting on-the-carpet-by-the-fan sort of game. Plus, we can take it camping because the pieces are wonderfully heavy and won't blow away. What is it, though? It's like a cross between Othello and Blokus and Colorku, but not exactly. Sorry.
The kitten is under the impression that under = cooler. 
Maybe he is right!
A couple other things, re SUMMER:
  • Another great summer game is this.
  •  If you are resisiting Kan Jam because you don't want to spend $40 on two pieces of plastic and a shitty frisbee, I hear you. But we actually play every single day
  • They no longer make the old sunscreen I recommended all the time, but we are really liking this one
  • If you've got animal-loving kids, they will love my friend Cammie's latest book.
  • If you want to be harrowed in a good way, read this. If you want to be harrowed in a bad way, read this. If you don't want to be harrowed at all, read this.
  • Speaking of harrowing, the S-town podcast really is great. My whole family loved it, but there are very mature themes in it, just so you know. I would say 14-and-up, but would really depend on the kid. 
  • Maybe pre-order this

Please share your best summer game, book, audiobook, recipe, and whatever else ideas! Please!

Monday, June 05, 2017

Marzipan Blondies (+ links)

I am wild for almondy baked goods. Not so much the kind with real actual almonds, which I can take or leave, but the kind that has marzipan or almond paste, with its intoxicating scent of almonds wafting out. I will choose the almond croissant at the café, the almond macaroon at the Italian bakery, the chocolate-covered marzipan at the candy shop. I love, love, love that flavor, as do my kids, and I love to bake with almond paste. This recipe, for example, which is wonderful (and gf to boot).

You will swear these have almond paste in them! Which is crazy, because you're the one who made them.
But often I don’t have almond paste. (Because I used it already and it is expensive and I am too cheap to buy it again.) So I have been forever looking for a recipe that communicates all the pleasure of almond paste, without the actual almond paste, and this is it. I only found it because a friend’s son baked it, and she posted about it on Facebook, and I could just tell from looking at it that it was going to be exactly perfect: crunchy-edged and with a soft, sticky middle, exactly like an almond macaroon.

It turned out to be a Marion Cunningham recipe, called simply “Almond Butter Cake,” and it has more almond extract in it than seems wholesome, and I wouldn’t do it any other way. I’m calling it blondies and baking it in a square pan because I think it lends itself better to bars—and to the idea that it’s texturally way more like brownies than like cake. Sticky, chewy, and like brownies, leavened only with eggs.

Wake us when it's not cake.
The original recipe calls for a topping made of sugar and sliced almonds, but I’m a weird purist about my almond-flavored things, and find it more distracting than enhancing. Feel free to add it back in: after the batter is in the pan, sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of sugar and then ¾ cup sliced almonds. If I were eating this all by myself, I might sprinkle the batter with pignolis, à la my favorite Italian almond macaroons. But that is not a popular idea around here.

p.s. I have written some things! This, over at Full Grown People (with my favorite tags ever: "anger, Catherine Newman, men, misogyny, rage, sexism, woman's anger, work"), and this over at Motherwell. Also, my (and Ben and Birdy's) parenting-teens column continues over at SheKnows. Please send me questions if you think to! 

p.p.s. This book, The Bright Hour? It will wreck you, and you'll be so glad you read it. It changed me.

Marzipan Blondies, baked as a cake, makes a perfectly acceptable Yay, It's Wednesday Cake! cake.
Marzipan Blondies
This is the kind of cake where the batter is ready to bake long before your oven is preheated. So, so easy.

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter (I use salted)
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour

Heat the oven to 350. Butter and flour or cooking-spray a baking pan that is either an 8-inch square or a 9-inch circle. (I used geometry *and* algebra to figure out the equivalent! [pats self on back])

Melt the butter in a small pot and then transfer it to a large bowl. Or, because you’re lazy and don’t want to wash the pot, melt it right in the large bowl either in the microwave (not a metal bowl) or over a pot of simmering water (a metal bowl).

Stir in the sugar until smooth (I use a sturdy rubber spatula for the whole recipe), then add the eggs and stir until the batter is blended—kinda creamy, kinda gritty. Add the extracts and the flour and stir “briskly” (that’s Marion Cunningham right there) until smooth.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and bake until just set, and toothpick emerges with sticky crumbs on it, 30-35 minutes.

Cool in the pan at least 30 minutes, then cut into bars. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Smoky, Spicy Restaurant-Style Mussels (+ a winner!)

Sarah Dunlap, you won Lou's book! Please email me your address and I will pop it right in the mail! And thank you all for playing. And for hating bananas in a smoothie. And for being your game and marvelous selves.

I bought, like, a 1-dollar bottle of wine for the mussels, because I don't go by the "only cook with what you'd drink" rule. Except that I drank the rest of the 1-dollar bottle, so I guess I do go by that rule after all!
So. Mussels. What I love about mussels, besides that they're incredible cheap and incredibly easy, is that they completely satisfy my (near-constant) desire to eat out. Which is a good thing for many rea$on$, if you know what I'm $aying. A loaf of fresh bread and a salad, plus 5 or 6 bucks worth of mussels, and Michael, Ben, and I eat like kings.
Some people prefer not to eat anything that could technically be called an animal, even if it's just an eyeball-less bivalve. Those people, and there was only one of them, got a cheese board with honey and marmalade, and were very happy.
Those same people were so beautiful at Pride that they I might have cried a little bit.
If there's a down-side to mussels, it's that every once in a while you get one and it's bad. It's not just bad. It's a shell full of death and mayhem, and you swear you will never eat another mussel again so long as you live. But eventually the memory fades, the horror wears off, and you creep back in towards the eating of the mussels. Honestly, though, if you buy the farmed ones from Whole Foods, they're almost always perfect.

Other people have grown up and turned into mussel eaters.

These are the same people who were so beautiful at their prom that I might have cried a little bit.
 So, aside from the issue of the potential forensic specimen that will taste like it was severed from a rotten corpse, this is a fool-proof recipe. It's garlicky, shallot-y, a little bit smoky and spicy, and the luscious broth must be sopped up with bread or simply drunk from the bowl. You will be so happy.

Kind of Classic Mussels
You don’t really need to scrub mussels anymore, since they're farmed. If there’s a little grit at the bottom of the pot while you’re pouring the juice, just leave it there. I cook mussels longer than some people do, because I like them more rather than less cooked (the opposite of how I am about salmon).

4 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
A pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes (or something else spicy, if you like spicy things)
½ cup white wine
2 - 3 pounds mussels
Good, crusty bread

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, then sauté the shallot and garlic until the shallot is translucent but not browning, around 5 minutes. Add the spices and sauté for just a few seconds—until they’re very fragrant, which will be almost immediately. Add the wine and the mussels, cover the pot, turn the heat to high, and set a timer for 10 minutes. Shake the pot every few minutes, if you think to.

They’re done! Throw out any that don’t open. Garnish with something green, if you want to: a sprinkle of parsley or chives. I added a handful of baby arugula to my bowl last night, and it was delicious. Be sure to mop up the sauce with lots of crusty bread.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Healthy Chocolate-Mint Milkshake (and a give-away!)

I'm going to get to the milkshake in one second, I swear. But first! I have to gush about another book. And yes, suspiciously as always, this is the memoir of a friend of mine, a person whom I love who also happens to drive my kids to school three times a week. Also, I went to college with his editor at Flatiron. And you're like, "Why do I want to read Catherine's carpool-friend Lou's book?" And I'll tell you: because it is incredible. I knew it would be because the story is so good--it's about the year Lou was thirteen, and his parents' Playgirl-centerfold best friend came to live with them in Salem, MA, while everyone was (spoiler alert) swinging and also (spoiler) splitting up and (yes) smoking pot and cigarettes and feeling each other up out on the roof. I knew it would be zany and hilarious and brilliant, like Lou. But I hadn't realize that the writing was going to break my heart and blow me away. Which it did. I read it in one night.

Whose Rime-on-the-Ancient-Mariner reading glasses are those? Is it the same guy with the grizzled beard? It is.
And now Michael is reading it and loving it, and Michael is not so much a, how shall I put this, reading kind of person. He keeps reading passages out loud to me, and even though I just read the book myself, I'm still happy, because it is so good to hear it again. Anyhoo, buy this book immediately. Or comment below by Friday noon if you want to win it, because I've got one copy to give away!

Speaking of books given away, Roost Books sent me a copy of a new cookbook called Feeding a Family by Sarah Waldman, and it's just lovely. I haven't actually made anything from it except this one bastardized recipe I'm about to put down here, but I have a really good feeling about the book because it's kind of mostly vegetarian, which is how we eat, and everything is seasonal and appealing and tasty looking. Anyhoo, the Chocolate-Mint Milkshakes recipe spoke to me because our backyard is turning into a giant mint patch, and it's so lovely and fresh in the spring, before it gets all dried-out and hairy and worm-eaten.
No actual ice cream!
Plus, I'm kind of on one of my periodic no-refined-sugar kicks, because I'm tired of having headaches and acne and nonspecific crankiness and also my jeans are tight. 

"Mama said, No, Snapper! and put me on the floor, where I am sad and lonely for a milk shake."
This is the kind of recipe that hits all the right notes for me: it is frosty and thick and super-creamy (please use whole milk) and the chocolate flavor is deep and the mint flavor is fresh, and the shake is sweet from the dates but also bitter-edged from the cocoa. I've adapted it from 4 servings to 1, and also I don't use the banana that original recipe calls for because banana is such a fucking alpha-dog of a smoothie ingredient, pardon my French. But I bet it's sweeter and creamier with the banana, so feel free to add back half a frozen banana here.

Sorry, did you need an actual +food+ recipe? I made this recently, and it was divine. I used pinto beans and a mix of collards and kale, and swapped in some chipotle puree and liquid smoke so I could skip the bacon and keep it vegetarian. Truly extraordinarily simple and good. 
Healthy Chocolate-Mint Milkshake
Serves 1

Adapted from Feeding a Family by Sarah Waldman. If your blender is not very powerful and you're worried that the mint leaves are going to be more leafy than aromatic, swap in a few drops of mint extract or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.

3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup ice cubes
2 pitted dates
1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder (or cacao pwodre)
The leaves from 2 healthy sprigs of mint

Blend everything in a blender until it's thick and frothy and has stopped making the ice-and-dates-banging-around noises that signal that there are still chunks. Serve right away.