Sicilian Savory Swiss Chard Tart

Swiss chard torta

Hello darlings! We are in Italy, which you probably - if you follow me on Instagram - already know. The boys and I arrived a week ago. It has been filthy hot and we have been doing the usual things: going to the beach, attempting to play badminton in the shade without collapsing from heat stroke, buying our weight in tomatoes and peaches from the market. Yesterday afternoon, while we were visiting a friend's baby rabbits and talking about the fox that stole her rooster a few weeks ago, a cold front finally came in. Last night we were able to sleep under coverlets again and not wake up with damply sweating skin. The air is clear and crisp today and I feel like gulping it in like a puppy dog.

This year, the boys are in day camp for the first time. They ride horses and play Italian games and eat two-course lunches every other day (there are sandwiches and French fries on the alternating days). Max arrives tomorrow and then it will really feel like we are on vacation. After having skipped the annual tradition of coming here last year, I am especially alert to all of the beauty and wonder of this place. Am I really here, I keep thinking. Is this really real?

When we are here, I share cooking responsibilities with my mother. This is lovely. She'll make things like lentil and calamari stew, or baked guinea fowl with peppers and potatoes. I end up relying heavily on the Sicilian cookbook that she mail-ordered from a newspaper once. It may seem improbable, but it is an impeccable source of recipes and I have rarely made a misstep cooking from it.

This torta di bietole (or Swiss chard tart) is something I make every summer. I buy a disc of tart dough at the grocery store (this particular one is gluten-free and perfect - Italians suffer in great numbers from celiac disease and the gluten-free options available at the grocery store are amazing, look at the blistery flake!), and a big bunch of the most tender baby chard. I get a quivering pile of ricotta from a cart at the market in Urbino, plus fresh eggs from our friend with the missing rooster. There's not much to the tart besides cooking the chard (first boil it, then sauté it with oil and garlic to dry it out and flavor it a little more deeply), then mixing it with the ricotta, eggs and some pecorino for more flavor. 

The delicate chard I can get here in summer has thin, tender little stalks. The chard I get back in Berlin (and that you may find wherever you are) has much thicker ribs, but as long you chop them after boiling, it'll be fine in the tart. The original recipe calls for sheep's milk ricotta, which is a rich delight, but not always easy to find out of season or out of Italy's borders. Of course, cow's milk ricotta is fine too. You could also swap out the pecorino for Parmigiano if you had to. (Sicilians rely more heavily on sheep's milk.)

All that's left to do is to fit the tart dough into the pie plate, scrape the savory filling into the pan, fiddle with a lattice crust with the leftover dough scraps and into the oven it goes. The tart is as good eaten fresh from the oven as it is the next day, when it's had a bit of time to settle, making it wonderful picnic fare. You could do the usual and serve this with salad alongside, or, if it's hot as hell where you are, just eat a wedge of it and call it a night. I love how simple it is, easy to whip up with the ancient whisk and plastic bowl in my mother's Italian kitchen, and how it isn't too rich and queasy-making, like quiche can be.

One final note: the metric quantities below are the ones I used when making this. I translated the U.S. quantities using Google and not my own equipment. I think they're all fine, but just wanted to make sure you knew.

Sicilian Savory Swiss Chard Tart
Makes one 9-inch/23-cm torta

550 grams/1.2 pounds Swiss chard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, halved
300 grams/1 1/4 cups ricotta (preferably sheep's milk, but cow's milk will do, too)
4 large eggs
70 grams/3/4 cup grated pecorino
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet/circle store-bought or homemade flaky tart dough (unsweetened)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Boil the Swiss chard in salted water for 5 minutes and drain. Squeeze out the excess moisture and chop the chard roughly (especially if the ribs are wide). Place the olive oil a sauté pan over medium heat and sauté the garlic clove until light golden. Add the chopped Swiss chard, season with salt and pepper to taste, and sauté for a few minutes, until the remaining moisture has evaporated. Discard the garlic clove and set aside the chard.

2. Place the ricotta and eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the grated cheese and salt and pepper and whisk again. Stir in the chopped chard. 

3. Place the tart dough in a 9-inch/23-cm pie plate or cake pan. Trim off any excess dough and set aside for the lattice. Crimp the edges. Scrape the filling into the dough and smooth the top. Top the filling with the excess dough cut into strips. 

4. Put the torta in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the dough is browned and crisp and the filling has puffed and set. Cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Hetty McKinnon's Tomato and Egg Drop Noodle Soup

Hetty McKinnon's Tomato and Egg Drop Noodle Soup

Good morning! The sun came out today. Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. is president. Kamala Devi Harris is vice president. We stayed up late watching the various festivities and the virtual inaugural parade across America, which was far more moving than I expected. Our country, so broken in so many ways, still has so much energy and power, so much beauty and diversity. Don't underestimate what power that holds to the rest of the world. My Max, who grew up idolizing the United States, had his illusions broken over the past four years. His despair over the destruction of the country he had always believed in so much was almost painful to witness. To a child growing up in a divided Germany, Americans were saviors, protectors, benevolent and cool. America was always the land of possibility and enterprise and diversity and energy. Resplendent in its soft power, so often derided and misunderstood by the ill-intentioned or simply ignorant.

To be sure, that disillusionment was also necessary. To realize that the famed American experiment was meant for some but not for all, that its kindness and justice is extended to some but not to all, must be understood, grappled with by all of us. And fixed. Peeling back the layers to reveal the truth is both painful and necessary. It simply must be done.

But last night, as we watched Harris and Biden take their vows in the place so desecrated by violence and ugliness just weeks before, as we watched Amanda Gorman soar with her words, as we saw Majorettes and skateboarders, Native Americans and old ladies with walkers twirl and dance and kick, I could feel some of our trust being restored. It was good to be reminded all day long of just how colorful and beautiful our country can be. I kept breaking into tears and goosebumps.

Today, I feel hungover on nerves, jumpy and slightly frantic. It is so easy to sink into cynicism and dread, despite everything. After all, the road ahead looks hard and bumpy and there is so much to repair. I want to share this poem by Clint Smith that I came across this week that resonates so powerfully today:

When people say, “we have made it through worse before”
— Clint Smith

all I hear is the wind slapping against the gravestones
of those who did not make it, those who did not
survive to see the confetti fall from the sky, those who

did not live to watch the parade roll down the street.
I have grown accustomed to a lifetime of aphorisms
meant to assuage my fears, pithy sayings meant to

convey that everything ends up fine in the end. There is no
solace in rearranging language to make a different word
tell the same lie. Sometimes the moral arc of the universe

does not bend in a direction that will comfort us.
Sometimes it bends in ways we don’t expect & there are
people who fall off in the process. Please, dear reader,

do not say I am hopeless, I believe there is a better future
to fight for, I simply accept the possibility that I may not
live to see it. I have grown weary of telling myself lies

that I might one day begin to believe. We are not all left
standing after the war has ended. Some of us have
become ghosts by the time the dust has settled.

But I also want to revel in the moment. It's important to hold still and remember: This time a good man won over a malevolent one. A Jewish man and a Black man are Georgia's newest senators. We have our first female vice president who is both Black and Asian. Multiculturalism is being represented at the highest level and that matters.

It matters

Hetty McKinnon's Tomato and Egg Drop Noodle Soup Pot

And yes, I have another soup. I didn't plan this, I swear. If it is only just occurring to me now, at the age of 43, that January is a month for soups, then so be it.

A standard in Chinese kitchens, the recipe for this sweet-salty delight comes from Hetty McKinnon. I've tried a few variations on this soup recently, and this one has pleased me the most. You use the holy trinity of onion, garlic and ginger to enrich a simple base made of tomatoes and broth, then pour in beaten eggs to make long silky ribbons (in the photos, my eggs look rather a little curdled, because I mistakenly whisked them in). Sugar flavors the broth as well as soy sauce, and although I reduced the amount of sugar from the original, I wouldn't skip it.  A whorl of silky noodles completes the soup (I used pleasingly slippery rice noodles, though wheat ones are recommended). Then comes the best part, the dotting and drizzling on top of sauces and oils that form into little pools, and a pretty scattering of thinly sliced scallion.

The soup is a joy to eat, slurping with abandon, your mouth gently, sweetly afire. And somehow it feels quite fitting to pair this soup with this new day. It originated elsewhere, but is surely as at home in the United States as it is in Hong Kong.

Tomato and Egg Drop Noodle Soup
Print this recipe!
Serves 4
Note: The original recipe calls for 12 ounces of wheat noodles, which you cook in plenty of salted boiling water and divide among serving bowls, before topping with the finished soup. I used a slightly lesser amount of rice noodles, which I simply soaked in hot water and added to the pot just before serving.

1 small yellow or red onion
2 garlic cloves
1 1-inch piece ginger
1 scallion
8 ounces rice noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
4 large eggs
Salt to taste
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar or granulated sugar
Toasted sesame oil or chili oil
Soy sauce, for serving

  1. If using rice noodles, place them in a large bowl and cover with hot water, then set aside. If using wheat noodles, cook them in plenty of salted boiling water.

  2. While the noodles are soaking or cooking, prep the vegetables. Peel the onion, halve, and thinly slice into half-moons. Smash and peel the garlic cloves, then finely chop. Scrape skin from ginger with a knife or spoon. Thinly slice ginger; stack slices two at a time and cut into matchsticks. Line up matchsticks and cut crosswise into tiny squares. Finely chop the scallion; set aside for serving.

  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add onion and cook, stirring constantly, until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes and broth or water to pot. Reduce heat to medium, cover pot with a lid, and cook broth until flavors have come together, 10–15 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs together with a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of freshly ground white pepper in a large measuring glass or a small bowl with a lip.

  5. Uncover broth and stir in the sugar, then add another pinch of salt salt. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. The broth should be slightly sweet and a little tart.

  6. Increase heat to medium-high and bring broth to a boil. Very slowly trickle beaten eggs into soup (no need to stir). Cook eggs until set, 30–60 seconds from when you start pouring. Remove soup from heat. The egg doesn’t need to be totally cooked through—it will continue to cook in the residual heat of the broth. Place the rice noodles in the pot, stir well and serve immediately. (If using wheat noodles, rinse them under running water to loosen, then divide them among the four plates before topping with the soup.) Top each plate with toasted sesame oil or chili oil and soy sauce to taste, and sprinkle with reserved scallions.

Catherine Newman's Ricotta and Spinach Frittatine


Here's a funny-well-not-really anecdote for you:

Our morning routine is very rushed. Hugo has to be up by 6:10 at the latest to have enough time to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush his teeth and get out the door (with shoes, jacket and scarf on, preferably) by 6:55 to catch the school bus. While the boys have their breakfast, their dad's showering and getting dressed (he has to leave at the same time Hugo does and has a nearly 2-hour commute each way), I'm chatting with them, packing Hugo's snack box and pounding down some kind of hot drink to keep from falling over.

Hugo's favorite weekday breakfast are toasted English muffins with peanut butter and jam. We don't always have English muffins around, and on those days, he's happy enough to settle for whatever bread we do have (it's usually some kind of dark German rye thing), as long as it's spread with PB & J. (Occasionally, he will decide it's butter instead of PB that he wants. That is fine!) Bruno's favorite breakfast is oatmeal with frozen blueberries. That child will plow through an adult portion first thing, then basically refuse to eat more than a bite of this and that at lunch and dinner. Small mercies.

Now, this morning, since there were no English muffins, I decided to make oatmeal for both boys. I do have to grudgingly admit that I sort of had an inkling (oh, ho ho ho) there was going to be some kind of pushback (ha ha haaa), so I pumped up the oatmeal with chopped apples and cinnamon and brown sugar (which I usually never add), added frozen blueberries for good measure, even drizzled the top with maple syrup. All their favorite things! What lucky boys! They were definitely going to gobble this up, weren't they? I ignored my misgivings, dished it up, place the bowls on the table and...then...

Both children contemplated their breakfast. Hugo made a face and asked me where his English muffin was. "There are none. This is your breakfast today!" I grinned in what I hoped was an encouraging way, but I suspect was slightly more maniacal. Who knows; I was still feeling pretty chipper in that moment. You know, pride cometh before a fall and all that. I mean, Hugo used to love oatmeal with blueberries, just like his baby brother! Two years ago, yeah, but still! What could go wrong?

He took a tentative bite, while Bruno dug in briefly. Then Hugo put down his spoon and refused to eat anymore. Bruno watched and followed suit. And then my head exploded. Parenthood! Ain't it a kick in the head?


The reason I'm telling you this is because I feel like the recipe I actually want to share today is exactly the same kind of thing as that lovely oatmeal: on the face of it absolutely harmless and tasty, yet still a total minefield waiting to happen. Nevertheless, I promise you that you will want these little ricotta-spinach frittatine for your back pocket. Even if your crazy children won't eat them, YOU will. And you can bring them to any school buffet, bake sale, book club potluck, WHATEVER, and they'll be the first thing eaten and grown-ups will pester you for the recipe. Ask me how I know.

The recipe comes from my beloved Catherine Newman, who writes a column about low-carb recipes for, which is a website for people with diabetes, which I do not have, but Catherine's recipes are always very good and also family-friendly so I follow her everywhere she goes and cook almost anything she tells me to. Especially these mini cheese-and-vegetable frittatine.

The frittatine are made with eggs, a lot of grated cheese, ricotta and some vegetables and herbs. I've used spinach and broccoli, both to rave reviews. I've used grated Cheddar and grated Gouda, both to rave reviews. What I'm trying to say is that they are very flexible things. They're easy to make, bake up cute in muffin tins and store well in the fridge. I love how portable they are and how much flavor is packed into each little round. I use less ricotta and cheese than Catherine does, but to no ill-effect. These are versatile and easy and I love them, yes, I do.

The first time I made them, they were for a school buffet, but I gave the first two to Hugo and Bruno to see if they liked them. I was pretty sure they would! Spoiler alert: They did not. Fair enough. Luckily, I thought they were scrumptious. And at the school buffet, they were gone in minutes. Vindication! A pathetic one, but still. My sense is that if your children like cheese and scrambled eggs, there's a good chance they'll like them. But they might not. In that case, try to be better than me and just appreciate the fact that you now have a batch of delicious cheesy vegetable egg bites for your breakfast all week.

Off to buy more English muffins, maybe two packages, now.

Catherine Newman's Ricotta and Spinach Frittatine
Makes 12 mini frittatine
Adapted from

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 eggs
250 grams (8.8 ounces) whole-milk ricotta
1 heaping cup grated cheddar, gouda or mozzarella
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
3 cups chopped baby spinach (around 6 ounces) or equal amount of steamed, chopped broccoli or frozen spinach
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (like parsley, chives, basil or a lesser amount of thyme or marjoram)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 350 and grease the 12 wells of a standard muffin tin.

2. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion until soft and browning, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cook another minute, then add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the cheeses and stir. Add the vegetables, the herbs, and the salt and pepper, and stir well.

4. Divide the mixture in the muffin cups and bake 15-20 minutes until puffed, deeply golden, and set. Eat right away or refrigerate.

This, That and The Other Thing

Imagine, if you will, your heroine (may I be so bold?) going on the 10th day of a sinus infection that surely originated in the nether regions of hell. Her husband and young son have decamped to the family seat in the east of the country to allow her to recover in peace. She wanders from room to room in search of a clean tissue, forgetting the ones stuffed into her pyjama pockets and sweater sleeves earlier, and burning her tongue repeatedly on hot herbal tea (for everyone from the doctor to her husband has impressed upon her the importance of the tea being HOT HOT HOT if it is going to do ANYTHING at ALL to relieve her symptoms). Bathing has become, in the parlance of the day, optional. Her mind is a foggy swamp. Her blog, a neglected lot overgrown with kudzu.

However! There are a few things of note.

1. The baking book is coming along swimmingly (more photographic evidence of such available on Instagram), although the author is very happy indeed that plum season in Germany is over because one more Pflaumenkuchen and she was going to throw the damn thing straight out the window.

Marcella Hazan's stuffed eggs

2. If you are in need of a delicious hors d'oeuvres that does not involve bread of some kind (toasted, dipped, spread, etc), Marcella Hazan's "Hard-Boiled Eggs with Green Sauce" (on page 52 of The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, if you own it) are very fine indeed. You boil, cool, shell and halve six eggs, then mash the yolks with an approximated salsa verde (2-3 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tbsp capers, 1 tbsp minced parsley, 3 anchovies fillets, 1/4 tsp chopped garlic, 1/4 tsp mustard and some salt) and spoon this savory, salty, creamy mess back into the halved egg whites. One would not be remiss in renaming these Italian Deviled Eggs, but one should do as one pleases.

Popeye pie

3. Jim Lahey's (he of no-knead fame) pizza topped with an unorthodox mix of spinach, garlic, Gruyère, pecorino and mozzarella cheese, also called the Popeye Pie, is probably the best way to use up that bag of spinach currently rotting in your crisper. It shall be noted that the pizza, reheated, also makes an excellent breakfast in a pinch, even if you are not usually the type to eat pizza for breakfast and in fact find it slightly barbaric.

What else? A jumble of disparate thoughts and anxieties and to-do lists, stacks of cookbooks to work through, invoices to send, a little boy's toys to put away, a rumpled bed calling seductively, ten more gallons of herbal tea to burn a mouth on. For now, though, nothing more than that bed, some silence, a good book and rest.

Deborah Madison's Shaved Fennel Salad with Celery and Egg

Deborah Madison's Fennel and Celery Salad

These are good times to be a vegetable-lover. Not because it's springtime, though that certainly doesn't hurt, but because everywhere you look these days, vegetables are getting all the attention. New cookbooks on vegetables are coming out of every corner, from the River Cottage, from Clotilde's Parisian kitchen, from vegetable goddess Deborah Madison, all the while giving "nose-to-tail" cookbooks the boot.

Deborah Madison's publisher sent me a copy of her latest book, Vegetable Literacy, a few months ago and the reason I'm just posting about it now, honest to goodness, is because I was too busy reading it to cook from it. It's just fascinating. Deborah has structured the book around 12 different groups of vegetable families (the sunflower family, for example, includes artichokes, endives, tarragon and chamomile, just to name a few) and has outdone herself with recipes that feel fresh and new and exciting (beet salad with star anise, sweet potato soup with asafoetida, chard with sesame and yogurt, broccoli paired with tomatoes - though I'm still wrapping my head around that one). And a word of warning: if you, like me, are not in possession of a garden of your own to plant things in, reading this book will give you a bad, bad case of vegetable envy.

(Also, it will make you want to leave olive oil behind forever and become a full-time convert to ghee. How does she do it?!)

The funny thing is, I'm not even all that good with plants. My mother has the greenest thumb of anyone I know, but me, well, I can barely keep alive the hardy old palm that Max left here when he took the job in Kassel. But still, there's little that I enjoy more than reading the Seed Saver's Exchange catalogue (don't know it? Welcome to your new obsession). And Vegetable Literacy is sort of like that catalogue, but with delicious recipes and gorgeous photos and nice stories to boot.

Chopped egg white and parsley

When my friend Dervla started raving about Vegetable Literacy's recipe for braised fennel with saffron and tomatoes, I thought I'd make that from the book first. (I was feeling awfully torn - there are so many things I'd like to make from the book right now.) But when I opened the book to that page, something else caught my eye: a little salad of shaved fennel and celery with a sieved egg on top.

Doesn't the phrase "sieved egg" make your heart sing a little? It does mine. The papery crunch of the thinly sliced vegetables paired with that creamy egg is just lovely. And Deborah has you add a bit of lemon zest and a sprinkle of truffle salt, if you've got it, to the salad for a little special zip, turning what is usually a winter standby in this house into something celebration-worthy.

Much like everything else in the book.

Deborah Madison's Shaved Fennel Salad with Celery and Egg
Serves 4
Adapted from Vegetable Literacy

1 large egg
1 fennel bulb
4 inner celery stalks
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Small handful of finely chopped herbs (fennel fronds, celery leaves and/or parsley)
Fennel pollen or toasted fennel seeds, optional
Truffle salt, optional

1. Boil the egg. Trim the top of the fennel bulb and slice off the thick bottom. If the outer leaf of fennel is bruised, remove it and use it for something else. Using a very sharp knife or mandoline, slice the fennel paper-thin. Do the same with the celery stalks. Toss the vegetables together with the lemon zest, salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Arrange on a serving plate.

2. Peel the egg and finely dice the white. Toss the chopped herbs and white together and scatter over the fennel salad. Rub the egg yolk through a sieve over the top of the salad. If using, sprinkle the fennel pollen or seeds and truffle salt over the top and serve immediately.

Felicity Cloake's Perfect Fried Egg


I love you all so much, I really do. Thank you, thank you, for your fantastic, encouraging comments. I'm feeling all energized and excited. Did you know that would happen? I didn't! Hooray!

Without further ado, let's get to the fried eggs. I don't know about you, but I'm never happy with my fried eggs. Either the bottom browns too quickly while the yolk is still raw (and, folks, I like a runny yolk), or I end up flipping the egg out of impatience and then the yolk is overcooked and the white is rubbery. Every time I would make a fried egg, I got irritated that the platonic ideal - a set, tender white and a runny yolk - eluded me. But, I confess, I didn't think beyond that. And since Max doesn't like fried eggs at all - he prefers scrambled - the easiest thing was simply to acquiesce to his preferences most of the time instead of figuring out what I was doing wrong.

Except, I really like fried eggs for breakfast or, better yet, on top of things like leftover herbed millet or stewed greens or even a plate of spaghetti. I was getting a little sick of all those scrambled eggs. And so when, on Twitter the other day, I clicked on this article by Felicity Cloake, it felt a little bit like kismet. Finally, finally!, someone was going to tell me how to do a fried egg right.

Felicity Cloake very diligently assembled and tested all the different methods for egg frying, from José Andres's to Delia Smith's, Cook's Illustrated's to Jamie Oliver's, Lucinda Scala Quinn's to David Rosengarten's, even Nathan Myrhvold's sort of wacky sous-vide version, before settling on the following method, which - I tested it yesterday for breakfast - really is perfect.

First, you melt a lump of butter in a pan over low heat. Then you slide in a cracked egg (she has you crack the egg into a bowl first, but that seemed too fussy for me). Then, and this is the crucial bit, you cover the pan with a lid (I used the lid of my pasta pot, which was just slightly smaller than my frying pan's circumference), leave the heat on low, set the timer for 3 to 3.5 minutes, depending on whether you like your yolk totally runny or sort of half-runny and when it rings, you remove the lid, slide the egg onto your plate, season it with salt and pepper and EAT it.

Fried egg perfection! The white is set, the edges just ever-so-slightly frilly and crisp, the yolk is still molten, but not raw. Ooh, I gobbled it up so quick, Hugo did a double take. It turns out that all these years, I'd had the heat turned up too high! And I was missing the lid. I'm so thrilled to have finally cracked the code. Here's to many fried eggs in our future. Hugo, for one, can't wait.


(Yes, he has blue eyes!! My child has blue eyes! He turned 5 months old this week.)

In totally unrelated news, I wanted to share the thrilling news that My Berlin Kitchen was chosen as one of's Best Books of 2012 in the Food Lit category! And the Goodreads Choice Awards are now in the semifinal round, so you can vote again, if you like. Thank you.

Here's to a lovely weekend with lots of fried eggs for breakfast for all of us. Here's to you lovely people and your encouragement. And here's to lots of new posts coming up. Wheee! I can't wait.

See you next week!

Andrea Reusing's Cooking in the Moment


I have disliked mayonnaise for as long as I can remember. It's even possible I was born hating it. My whole life I've recoiled from its wobbly texture, its eggy aroma, its mysterious ability to turn the simplest sandwich into a mess of goo. Oooh, just thinking about it is making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Yuck, people. Yuck. I literally just shivered.

As I grew older and got over a lot of the dislikes of my childhood (Brussels sprouts, mustard, parsley and oysters, all of which I adore fiercely now), mayonnaise remained the lone cowboy on the deserted plain of my food phobias. I even found a way to like cilantro, which for so long had reminded me of soap, at best, and rat poison, at worst. But mayonnaise would not budge.

The frustrating thing was that so many people whose taste in food I adore and revere seemed to love the stuff. Layered in tomato sandwiches, dolloped on top of a hard-boiled egg, set out for dragging a piece of cold cooked crab through; why, mayonnaise, when written about like that, did seem like it could be manna from heaven. Why, then, did it repulse me so?


A few years ago, when I was still editing cookbooks at the publishing house I used to work at, we got a proposal in from a woman named Andrea Reusing, the chef and owner of a restaurant called Lantern in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The restaurant specialized in a fusion of Asian cooking with local ingredients and there was a substantial amount of buzz surrounding the project. We were very interested in buying the book, but ultimately lost out to a publisher who bid more money than we did. It's frustrating when it happens, but it's part of the publishing life. I put the book out of my mind and got back to work.

A few months ago, that publisher sent me a copy of the book. As I flipped through the pages, I felt a small stab of disappointment. Despite the stunning photography (by a master, John Kernick) and what looked like good food, the design felt a little soulless to me. All those lower-case chapter and recipe titles and color blocks. (This is the curse of the cookbook editor; it's like being a film editor, you can never again look at another movie without thinking of what's happening just outside the frame.) I thought of all the ways "our" designers would have made the book sing and then I put the book on my coffee table and forgot about it.

But last week, I picked it up again for bedtime reading. I live alone for five days a week now, and the only time someone's around to get me to turn the light off so he can go to bed already is on the weekend. I slid into bed with the book in my hands, turned to the first page and started to read. And before I knew it, an hour had passed.


I read the book from cover to cover that night, falling in love with the world that Andrea writes about. She may be the chef of a high-end restaurant, but this book feels deeply, deeply personal. There are no complicated, cheffy dishes between the covers here. The recipes are easy and approachable, but the flavors that Andrea combines feel wonderfully fresh and new. I know you think you've heard this before, but, here, let me give you a few examples and you'll see what I mean.

She puts soy sauce on asparagus, cardamom on spinach and sorghum on sweet potatoes. She blends dried elderflowers into freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, coats fried chicken in rye breadcrumbs and banishes the tired old carrot-ginger soup once and for all with her carrot soup made with toasted curry and pistachios. There are pickled sour cherries and hot tomato relishes and salt-marinated cucumbers alongside pot roast and grilled mackerel and rice grits. I stopped marking which pages I wanted to cook from because, frankly, there were too many.

But aside from the recipes, the book is a beautifully written ode to the bounty, diversity and history of North Carolina small-scale farmers and Southern foodways. Essays about her favorite fish market in Carrboro, for example, or the man who supplies her restaurant with a wide array of mushrooms from his home garden or the couple who run the Chapel Hill Creamery, making a mozzarella so delicate it "barely holds together until dinner", enrich the book immeasurably and cast a spell on the reader, making you long for a life in a region that is rediscovering its agrarian roots so thoroughly that it's become second-nature for greenmarkets to offer not just heirloom tomatoes (Pruden's Purple, Hillbilly Flame, Arkansas Traveler!) and apples (Dula Beauty, Striped July, Bald Mountain!) but squash (Jumbo Pink Banana, Jarrahdale, Old Timey Pie Pumpkin!), melons (Emerald Gem, Pride of Wisconsin, Sugar Baby!) and sweet potates, too (O'Henry, Beauregard, Covington!).

Reading Cooking in the Moment made me want to start planting my own vegetables, made me mourn how far behind Germany is in all ways to the American local food movement and made me want to get into the kitchen all at once.


And (did you wonder if I was ever going to get back to the mayo?) it made me fall hook, line and sinker for homemade garlic-anchovy mayonnaise, which I whipped up in two minutes and have proceeded to eat every day since.






Case closed.

All you need, says Andrea, is a jar and an immersion blender. Which charms me, lazy bones that I am. You just buzz egg yolks with salt, an anchovy fillet, some minced garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice in the jar with the immersion blender before slowly drizzling in neutral-flavored oil and a bit of olive oil for flavor until you've got a few inches of creamy, palest yellow mayonnaise and your five-year-old self's mind is blown at the prospect that you are about to put this stuff in your mouth and eagerly at that.

Creamy, savory, garlic-anchovy mayonnaise, it turns out, tastes fabulous with cold roast chicken. So fabulous I ate it for lunch two days in a row. Then, when the chicken was gone, I made myself - finally! at 33! - the iconic tomato sandwich with white bread, sliced tomatoes, a healthy sprinkling of salt and more of that mayo. It was, indeed, as delicious as everyone says. The anchovy, in case you're wondering, disappears entirely into the mayo, leaving behind not a trace of fishiness. I promise. Cross my heart.

Now I'm almost down to the bottom of the bowl and I'm frantically trying to come up with reasons why I shouldn't make another batch. So far, they're all terrible.


Cooking in the Moment is incredibly inspiring, not just in terms of cooking but also in terms of its spirit. Andrea's reverence for the people growing the food she serves to her customers and to her family is infectious. It will make you want to mail-order chickens from a Kansas chicken farmer, gather your children around to help churn fresh ice cream out of fresh strawberries, buttermilk and cream (and then watch them eat it directly out of the churn) and then book a flight to Chapel Hill so you, too, can be fed by the woman who makes Indian lime pickle with citrus from Plaquemines Parish and serves it with a chickpea purée.

Andrea is that rare breed of chef whose talent for lyrical writing is as developed as her pitch-perfect taste for food and her ability to seize everyday moments and find the divine within them. Her soulful, richly textured book is a gift, for readers, for cooks and for everyone in between.

Garlic-Anchovy Mayonnaise
Makes about 1/2 cup

1 egg yolk
1 garlic clove, minced
1 anchovy fillet
1/4 lemon
1/3 to 1/2 cup of neutral vegetable oil
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Put the yolk in a wide-mouth jar and pulse for about 30 seconds with an immersion blender. Add a good pinch of salt, as much minced garlic as you'd like (I used about half a clove, which made for a pretty mild mayo), the anchovy and a big squeeze of lemon juice. Pulse again. While pulsing, slowly drizzle in the oil until the mixture is emulsified and creamy. Taste for salt and thin with a little water if necessary.