Monday, March 23, 2015


I am posting this recipe here--an older one--by special request. It is one of my all-time favorites.

In my dream, I arrive at the library just as everyone at the kids' school is sitting down to do an art project with their parents: there is glue and wood, paint brushes and scraps of colorful paper. "Oh, great, an art project!" I say, too loud. "I love art projects!" Only when I sit down in one of the eensy chairs, and see everybody looking quietly at me, do I realize I am naked. "Oh, gosh!" I say, too loud. "Lucky I have some undies in my bag!" Everybody looks at me quietly while I hop around and stick my two legs into one leg hole and fall over forwards with my bottom in the air and fall over backwards with my legs in the air. "Oops!" I say from the floor. "Yikes!" I laugh. "This isn't the least embarrassing moment of my life!" Everybody looks at me quietly.


It's like the kind of question Ben is always posing: Would you rather go to work completely nude or wearing a transparent wetsuit? (Nude.) Would you rather go to town completely nude or wearing an outfit with large holes cut out over all your private places? (Nude.) What about large holes cut out but patched in transparent fabric? (Nude.) At Dream Crafts Project, I would have been way better off naked than with the whole underpants situation.


I love questions like that, and I ask them too, but mine are almost always about food, and I always imagine that we're packing up for a life on a deserted island. What if you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life, but you'd get all your nutrients from it? (Michael picks ice cream, Birdy picks yogurt, Ben picks plum cake, and I pick brown rice.) If you could only use one seasoning for the rest of your life, what would it be? (Salt.) What about besides salt? (Lemon.) What if you could only use one herb? Ben picks mint; Michael picks basil; Birdy can't decide between mint and basil. But me? I pick parsley. I love parsley. It's so green-tasting, so boldy herbal without impersonating any kind of bubble bath; it's the closest you can get to seasoning a dish with the smell of newly mown grass. If it's on my plate as a garnish, I always eat it, and even hours later, I can feel its verdant echo in my mouth, as if my very teeth are photosynthesizing.


And this sauce is all about the parsley; it's a tribute to parsley, really, even though it's more commonly understood as an Argentinean accompaniment to grilled meats. In fact, it's typical to add other herbs to chimichurri--oregano or thyme or cilantro--but I love this parsley-only version, which is based in its simplicity on a recipe I clipped from Gourmet years and years ago. It is basic and fantastic, sharply herbal and mouth-wateringly green, with just enough vinegar to balance out the richness of, say, a perfectly grilled steak. But it is excellent with grilled anything: steak, chicken, fish, tofu. It is also a great condiment for sandwiches, and a little stirred into a pasta or grain salad is fantastic. In sum, it has for years been one of my most indispensable summer recipes. Encourage your kids to try it--by promising that they don't have to actually eat it or by calling it Shrek Sauce or whatever--because they may actually like it, but they won't know unless they etc.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Total time: 10 minutes

I salt steak very heavily before grilling, and so I actually undersalt this sauce a bit!!! I know! Add more to your liking. Also, the sauce can thicken while it sits--almost like it's gelling, strangely--so you may want to stir more oil or vinegar into it as you like. If you can't get out your grill yet, I say a bit about pan-frying steaks here.

1 large bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup really good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup regular old white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
A large pinch of dried red-pepper flakes (optional)

Cut the largest stems off the bunch of parsley, then submerge the leaves (along with all of its smaller stems--I am not picky about this!) in a sinkful of cold water, then spin it dry in a salad spinner.  Combine the parsley with the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whir until pureed. If it resists pureeing (maybe you had an extra-large bunch of parsley!), add more oil and vinegar, proportionately--enough to make a sauce-like consistency, and taste for salt. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Thai-style Squash Salad with Masses of Herbs

You are lovely, you are. How many times have you shored me up? Countless. Truly. Thank you, now and always, for your kindness, your sympathy and empathy, your thoughtful and carefully chosen words. You have said so many things to me that I have turned over in my mind, and that have offered a great depth of comfort. I will tell you a little more about my friend at some point. I will. I'd love to. I wrote the tiniest bit here, about losing her. I hope to write more.

But also, I am eating. Cooking and eating. My friend died, I slept for a thousand hours, and then I returned, hollow and blinking in the light, to the world of the living, where people expect to be fed, and where I like to feed them and to eat.

I've made this particular salad a number of times lately. I like it because it uses the end of the winter storage squash, but then it gestures towards spring with its bright flavors and heaps of herbs (and much as I want to be all asparagus and radishes, all that's growing here right now is mud and puddles). It's based on a Thai salad I love called nam sod, which is usually made with ground pork or chicken, and has this same flavor thing happening: ginger and chiles and raw onions, lime and salt and herbs, peanuts and fish sauce. 
It is so, so good, and I wanted to make a vegetarian version of it for a potluck we were going to, so I made it with squash (I left some out for the vegetarians before adding the fish sauce). 

Some people won't like it. Some people will like it just fine or even a great deal. And some people will become deranged about it, obsessed, and the email they send asking for the recipe will be time-stamped 3:25 AM, because they were up in the night thinking about it in all it's spicy-crunchy-tender-sour-salty-caramelized glory. I will say that Michael, who is generally baffled by winter squash and people's affection for it, likes it quite a lot prepared this way. "I love the mint and cilantro," he just said when I asked him. And then (this isn't saying much, but still), "I would say it's my favorite squash preparation." Recipe follows a brief photo essay. Enjoy!

Thai-style Squash Salad with Masses of Herbs
It doesn’t matter if you have a little more or less squash: just adjust the dressing accordingly. You can also add other vegetables to the squash, such as roasted Brussels sprouts, which are lovely in here. I haven’t tried sautéed mushrooms, but I feel like they would add a nice, chewy textural element; cooked barley might add that too. Another note: don’t be shy about the salt and lime and chili paste. You want the dressing to taste too salty and sour and spicy before it interacts with the robustly mild, oppressively sweet squash.

2 medium butternut squash (or 1 massive one), enough to make about 10 cubs diced squash
¼ cup melted coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
Kosher salt
1/3 cup lime juice (around 2 limes)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-3 tablespoons sambal oolek (Malaysian chili paste) or sriracha (or something else Asian and spicy)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
3 tablespoons very finely slivered ginger
1/2 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, halved and sliced thin
1 bunch cilantro, with stems, roughly chopped
Leaves from one bunch mint, the largest leaves torn in half and the rest left whole

Heat the oven to 450 and line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Peel the squash (a brutal job), then cut it into ¾-inch cubes (another brutal job). Toss the squash with the coconut oil in a large bowl, then spread it out on the baking sheets and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 20 minutes then flip the cubes around, switch the pans top to bottom, and roast for another 10 minutes or until the squash is deeply browned in spots and just tender.

Meanwhile, whisk together the lime juice, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, chili paste, and fish sauce.

Gently toss the squash with about half the dressing and taste: it should be tart, salty, and spicy. Add the ginger, toss again, then leave to cool. Top with the peanuts, onion, and herbs. Toss gently just before serving, then taste again and re-dress as needed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Thank you for your kind condolences. Your words have been so comforting to me. I will be back very soon with food and books and lots to share. In the meantime, I am sending love right back out, right back at you.