Samin Nosrat's Olive Oil Refried Beans

Samin Nosrat's Olive Oil Refried Beans

Friends! What a week. It started off okay? Bruno returned to a few hours of Kita on Monday and things should have been looking up. But on Wednesday he had the sniffles and by yesterday morning both boys were feeling sick and we were running around town trying to get them both tested for the coronavirus. To add insult to injury, my phone bit the dust! Thankfully I had backed up most of it to the motherflipping cloud, so it's not quite as catastrophic as the loss of my laptop's files was a few weeks ago, but I definitely feel somewhat, shall we say, PERSECUTED by big tech these days.

I mentioned feeling full of constant rage on Instagram the other day, and it's true. Between the disastrous vaccine rollout in Germany, the fact that we didn't qualify for childcare for Bruno until this week, the insane schedule of driving Hugo back and forth to school for 150 minutes of school each day, everything described in that first paragraph and middle-aged PMS, which in my case has gone from me feeling blue for a few days a month to me feeling homicidal a few days a month, I was practically incandescent all week. 

Today, the mood has lifted, for which I am very grateful. The sun came out and I got to stand in it for a few minutes at the playground. My children, who do not have the coronavirus, are safe to visit my mother this afternoon again so that I can think straight. And I am the proud owner of a new phone. (I also definitely have a few more strands of gray, but that's okay because going gray is A POWER MOVE.) Last night at the kitchen sink, as I felt the mood lift, I realized that my heart was aching like it does after a break-up. I told Max how I felt and his response was a very kind well, duh.

All the more reason we need comfort food right now. Our meals this week were an absolute mess, as I'm sure you can imagine. I was nearly throwing things on the table most nights. No rhyme or reason and nothing that gave me any pleasure while I cooked. Except for these beans, these lovely, cozy, long-cooking beans, which were so delicious and worth every single minute they spent on the flame.

The recipe comes from Samin Nosrat's last column for the New York Times before she moves on to her new television show Waffles & Mochi (!!!!) and although the point of that column was to explain Samin's dislike for the Instant Pot and although I love my Instant Pot so much that I sometimes wish I could have more Instant Pots, I made her beans the old-fashioned soak-and-simmer-in-a-heavy-pot-for-hours way and they were very, very, very, very good. 

We ate them just as Samin instructs, on toasted bread, with a good drizzle of olive oil, with a little tangle of pungent veg alongside. They were rich and velvety and creamy and rib-sticking. (The leftovers I turned into pasta e fagioli, which the children mostly liked.) The bay leaf, chile and garlic were all just right in terms of flavoring and mashing the beans in the frying pan was fun. From start to finish, these beans were the most calming meal of this week from hell and sometimes that is precisely what a recipe needs to be, nothing more, nothing less. Just in case you too might be in need some calm.

Now it's the weekend ("weekend") and there were skinless, boneless chicken thighs (!) at the organic grocery store today and in a little while we're going to make popcorn in the Whirlypop and pile on the couch and watch a movie together and after that my husband is seeing his friends on Zoom so I have the rest of the evening to myself and while I probably should be meditating all that toxic energy out of my poor tired body, I will instead fritter away the evening in front of the television and I have at least progressed this far in my journey through life that I can wholeheartedly say that I deserve it.

Samin Nosrat's Olive Oil Refried Beans
Serves 4-6

For the beans:
2 cups dried beans of any variety
Fine sea salt
A generous pinch of baking soda
4 fresh or dried bay leaves
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small dried chile of any variety
cup extra-virgin olive oil

For serving:
4 thick slices country-style bread, grilled or toasted
1 garlic clove, peeled
Calabrian chile paste, for garnish
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

1. The night before cooking, remove any debris from beans. Rinse them, then place them in a 4-quart Dutch oven or pot of similar size. Add 6 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt and the baking soda. Cover and set aside in a cool place for 8 to 12 hours.

2. To cook, add bay leaves, garlic and chile to the beans and bring the pot, uncovered, to a boil. Taste the cooking water and adjust seasoning as needed; it should taste pleasantly salty. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, partly cover with a lid and cook until beans are completely tender and just beginning to fall apart. Depending on the variety and age of your beans, this can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. Throughout the cooking time, monitor the pot to ensure the beans are always submerged, adding more water as needed. When you suspect the beans might be done, taste five of them. If they are not all creamy through to the center, keep on simmering. 

3. To fry the beans, remove the bay leaves and chile from the bean pot. Discard the bay leaves, and mince the chile. Set a large cast-iron or similar frying pan over high heat, and add about half the oil. Add the minced chile. Use a slotted spoon or sieve to add beans and garlic — but not their cooking liquid — to the pan. Reduce heat to medium, and, with a potato masher or wooden spoon, stir and mash the beans into a silky paste, constantly stirring and scraping to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add about 1/4 cup bean cooking liquid to loosen the mixture, then gradually add remaining oil. If the bean paste is too thick, continue adding cooking liquid as needed, being mindful that it is seasoned with salt. When the mixture is rich and velvety, taste, and adjust seasoning with salt.

4. To serve, lightly rub warm toasts with raw garlic, then slather with a generous amount of bean paste. Garnish with chile paste and, if desired, torn basil and a heap of grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.


Nik Sharma's Ground Beef Pulao

Beef Pulao with Raita

As any close observer of my daily meals or longtime reader of this blog can attest, we don't eat a lot of meat. My husband was traumatized by gristle as a child, and by parents who made him clean his plate, no matter how long it took. In my family, where some form of Italian cooking mostly reigned supreme, vegetables and vegetarian meals were always the stars of the show. Roast chicken was the special occasion dish at my mother's house; brisket was the counterpart at my American grandmother's house. These days, there's the environmental factor to consider, which is huge, and also the cost: good-quality meat in Germany is expensive. We simply can't afford to cook meat that frequently if we insist on buying organic meat or even just sustainably raised local meat. It's just as well that my family would almost always prefer a meatless meal.

These days, the meat that ends up on our table most often is (organic) ground beef. Max will never understand the appeal of a rare steak, but give the man a hamburger or a meatball and he's in seventh heaven. The children love the meat ragù that I make on a weekly basis, but they're hot and cold on burgers and meatballs, which is insane, but these are the same children WHO DON'T LIKE PIZZA I AM SERIOUS SEND HELP. Since I am the only cook in the house and I will die of boredom (or become extremely resentful and grumpy) if I can't try new recipes, I'm always thrilled to have a new way to try and get ground beef into their bellies.

(A brief interjection here to rail against the fact that it is still nearly impossible to find ground poultry in Germany. Butchers consider it a hazardous substance and almost all of them refuse to prepare it—only one that I know in western Berlin will grind it for you on the condition that you buy no less than 5 kilos of it. Recently, the grocery store on the corner has started occasionally selling packages of ground (conventional, not organic) turkey, but it's seasoned and...I....just refuse to buy it. For a while, I thought I'd just be resourceful and make my own. I bought a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer years ago only to have it languish in my cupboards until...I resold it a few months ago. Sigh. So beef, pork and lamb are our only options.)

Beef Pulao

One way, of course, is Fuchsia Dunlop's celestial spicy celery with ground beef, but it is too spicy for the boys at their ages now. (I shake my fist at their northern European taste buds!) Another way is in this one-pot meal that has you cook ground meat with spices and aromatics, then mix that with turmeric-colored rice that you cook in the same pot (don't bother washing it out). Fresh mint and scallions folded in at the end give the dish a little lift, though it's the cool bowl of cucumber raita alongside that really makes this a pleasingly complete meal.

The recipe as written was originally meant for lamb, which is far fattier than ground beef, so Nik Sharma has you cook the lamb first to get the excess fat out before you continue with the spices. I made it as he wrote, but since the ground beef had less fat to give off, I actually think you could move steps around a little to get a more aromatic result. In other words, cook the ginger and garlic first, then add the spices and salt and cook until fragrant, then add the beef and cook until slightly browned. Lime juice on top, scrape out of the pan, proceed with the rice. If you do it this way, then I think you should also add a chopped onion together with the garlic and ginger. My adjustments to the recipe are below.

Either way, when the pulao's finished, be sure to make raita to dollop on top. The one in the photo I made by pouring plain whole-milk yogurt into a smallish bowl and seasoning it with salt and ground cumin to taste, then grating in a small Persian cucumber. I love the cooling feel the raita gives against the piping hot rice and meat, plus, if you've actually made the pulao with red chile powder, you'll be happy for the respite from the heat. (I left out the chile powder because I wanted the children to eat the pulao for lunch. And Bruno obliged happily, a minor miracle. Hugo, on the other hand, was unimpressed and left half behind. As I scraped his portion into the trash at the end of lunch, I thought to myself hey, at least our parenting has progressed so far that we don't make our kids clean their plates anymore, right?)

Serenity now.

Ground Beef Pulao
Serves 4

2 cups basmati rice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds ground beef
4
garlic cloves, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
½ teaspoon red chile powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons lime juice, divided
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 bunch scallions (about 6), trimmed and thinly sliced
¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves

1. Check the rice and discard any debris. Place the rice in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under running water until the water runs clear. Place the rice in a bowl, cover with water by 1 inch, and soak for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 250°F/120°C.

2. As the rice soaks, cook the beef: Place a medium saucepan with a heavy lid or a Dutch oven over medium heat. When the saucepan is hot, add the olive oil, garlic, ginger, and onion and sauté for 1 minute. Add the garam masala, chile powder, black pepper and 1 teaspoon salt and sauté until the spices are fragrant, 1 minute. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through and slightly browned. Add 1 tablespoon lime juice and stir well. Scrape the mixture into an oven-safe bowl or pan and keep warm in the oven.

3. Drain the soaked rice. Add to the same pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Stir in 1 tablespoon lime juice, the turmeric and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then cover, and reduce heat to simmer until the rice absorbs all the water, about 10 minutes. (Do not stir the rice as it cooks, or the grains might break.) Remove the saucepan from heat, and let sit, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

4. Fluff the rice and combine with the cooked meat, then drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice. Fold the scallions and mint into the rice, and serve immediately.
Print this recipe!


Tejal Rao's Khichdi

Tejal Rao's Khichdi

Thank you all very much for the commiseration on the loss of my digital photos and manuscript. I have spent a week licking my wounds and I am starting to feel better. The truth is, I already feel deeply oppressed by the masses of photos that clog every device I own. The sudden loss of thousands when I have so many more to deal with might be kind of a blessing? That's how I've decided I'm going to look at it. As for the manuscript, I had a big realization this fall that I wasn't happy with the existing structure of the book. I decided to change it substantially, but the only way to do that was to start over. So the fact that I lost those few weeks of summer work is annoying (and stupid), but I probably was going to trash those pages anyway. (The fact that I still don't have the kind of childcare that allows me to get started on draft three IS kind of the end of the world, but let's not dwell on that or I'll pull my hair out.)

After two months of lockdown, Hugo returned to in-person instruction this week. It's a very limited kind of school, just 2 1/2 hours daily, fully masked with only half his class. But it is school and it is not in my house and I am exceedingly grateful even just for this. Bruno, however, isn't allowed to return to Kita yet, so I actually have less time than I did before, because as everyone with multiple children knows, the child who only knows life with a sibling, when suddenly left alone without the sibling, is a lot more work. I am doing my best to keep my exasperation at the entire situation at bay, but sometimes, yes, I want to scream into a pillow. Or from the balcony, like a diva being murdered at La Scala.

Lunchtime still rolls around every day like an unwelcome flea-bitten guest. Except now the lunch hour is interrupted by me having to get in the car and drive an hour round-trip to pick Hugo up from school. He doesn't get a school lunch, so he's grumpy as hell at pickup. At home, he either eats leftovers from our lunch or I scramble him some eggs and butter some toast. As much as the daily meal prep drives me up the wall, I feel lucky that the act of cooking still brings me satisfaction. And Bruno is very understanding about lunchtime. While I cook, he comes and keeps me company in the kitchen, drawing pictures or staring into my pots, and it is a fleeting moment of the kind of quiet beauty you used to believe motherhood was full of until you actually became a mother and realized it was mostly a whole lot of everything else.

Anyway.

My kingdom for comforting one-pot meals, like this absolutely delicious khichdi from Tejal Rao. It is a doddle to make—just bang rice and split yellow moong beans and spices into a pot together, then let time and steam do their work—but produces the most fragrant, wonderful and spicy one-pot meal. You complete it with some hot Indian pickle (we're obsessed with my friend Kavita's homemade garlic achar, but any Indian pickle will do) and an extremely necessary pool of cool yogurt. Sometimes, if I'm feeling fancy, I doctor that pool of yogurt with salt and ground cumin and a grated Persian cucumber. Sometimes, I just dollop a spoonful on each plate. Khichdi is the kind of food that bolsters you, makes you feel just a bit more settled than you were before you ate it. Just the thing for these unsettling days.

Tejal Rao's Khichdi
Serves 3 to 4
Note: If you are cooking for small children, leave the chile powder out of the khichdi and just add it to your plate, but be careful, it's easy to overdo.
Print this recipe!

cup long-grain white rice, such as jasmine
cup yellow split moong beans
2 tablespoons ghee
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 small cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
¼ teaspoon red chile powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1.
Combine the rice and beans and rinse several times. Drain and place in a heavy-bottomed pot with 1 3/4 cups water, and set over medium-high heat.

2. In another small saucepan, heat the ghee and mustard seeds. When the seeds start to pop, lower the heat and add the remaining ingredients, swirling them in the pan. Let the spices sizzle for under a minute, then carefully pour into the rice pot, along with the ghee. (Careful: The fat may splatter).

3. When the water comes up to a rolling boil, give it a good stir, scraping at the bottom of the pot, then cover tightly and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the rice rest for 10 minutes before opening the lid. Fluff gently with a spatula. Taste, season with salt to taste and serve.


Samin Nosrat's Kimchi Pancake

Kimchi Pancake

Everything is terrible, but this kimchi pancake, this chewy, spicy, wonderful kimchi pancake was a bright light in this shit basket of a week. I made it on Shrove Tuesday, the same day that I attempted a software update on my laptop without backing it up first. Cardinal sin, I know, I am aware! I have wrapped myself up so tightly in the shroud of my mistake that I am completely numb!

The recipe comes from Samin Nosrat's favorite Korean restaurant, a restaurant in Oakland called Pyeong Chang Tofu House and it is perfect perfect perfect. I followed the recipe almost exactly (substituting a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend for the all-purpose flour), using a 12-inch non-stick skillet so that I could just make one enormous pancake instead of two slightly smaller ones. The kimchi I used comes from Korea and was a particularly pungent batch, almost too pungent for our straight-up consumption. But in this pancake, the other ingredients smoothed out some of the kimchi's aggressive bite and made it delectable.

I made a batch of English pancakes for the boys, whipped the kimchijeon up as they ate their pancakes with applesauce and cinnamon sugar, and then the two of us demolished the kimchi pancake all by ourselves. We loved the crisp edges, the funky flavor, and especially the gorgeous chew punctuated by the crackling sesame seeds in the dipping sauce.

To sum up my week, I have lost six years of photos and the revisions of my manuscript that I worked on this summer, as well as untold other things that I can't allow myself to list here, but I also learned how to make delicious kimchijeon at home, so really, what's there to complain about?

(Sob.)

Kimchi Pancake (Kimchijeon)
Makes one 12-inch pancake
Print this recipe!

For the dipping sauce:
¼ cup citrus ponzu sauce
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
1 scallion, thinly sliced

For the batter:
½ cup potato starch
½ cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
1 heaping cup kimchi (about 10 ounces), plus 1/4 cup kimchi juice
2 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons gochujang
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola

1. Make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, combine ponzu sauce, sesame seeds and scallion. Set aside.

2. Prepare the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together potato starch, flour, garlic powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. Dice kimchi into 1/2-inch pieces. In a medium bowl, stir together kimchi and kimchi juice, scallions, gochujang, sugar, fish sauce and 1/2 cup water. Add kimchi mixture to flour mixture, and stir to combine.

4. Set a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. When the oil shimmers, add the batter and spread it from the center out to the edges of the pan. After a minute or two, when the pancake is setting, shake the pan a little to make sure the pancake isn't sticking. When the bottom of the pancake is brown and the top fades from glossy to matte, after another 30 to 60 seconds, carefully flip the pancake or slide the pancake onto a rimless plate and flip it back into the pan. Continue cooking for another 60 to 90 seconds on second side until set, then carefully slide pancake onto a plate.

5. Cut into wedges, and serve hot with dipping sauce.


Colu Henry's Roasted Broccoli and Scallions with Thai-Style Vinaigrette

Roasted broccoli and scallions

Oof, friends. Just, oof. The pandemic wall has been hit again and again this past week. The despondency sits bone-deep. And it feels so terrible to even mention it, because we are so lucky, we are so fortunate, none of us are sick, we have a roof over our heads, the vaccine is starting to enter the bloodstreams of people we love, hey, the sun even came out today, and yet. And yet. And yet. I feel so tired and sad that I could cry. Oof.

Let me distract you with more frivolous things, yes?

On April 4th, 2019, I left you all hanging with a promise to be back soon with a broccoli recipe so delicious it caused my father, upon first ingestion of it, to say, and I quote, WHAT IS THIS WITCHCRAFT THIS IS THE BEST BROCCOLI I HAVE EVER EATEN. The fact that it took me nearly two years to then follow up with the recipe gives me no pleasure. In fact, I feel like one of those people who get up lazily one night from the dinner table and say, yawning languidly, listen, I'm just going to take one more walk around the block to stretch my legs and then they just never return and 20 years go by before one day they turn up at your wedding with a grizzled face, a stringy ponytail and a sheepish look, asking for your forgiveness.

Too harsh?

In preparation for this post, I made the magical broccoli again. What if it wasn't as good as I remembered? What if I built up your expectations so high that this broccoli couldn't possibly do them justice? I needn't have worried. It really is delicious (phew!). The preparation is nothing especially new: you simply roast broccoli until they're singed and tender, but you add scallions to the roasting pan, which add sweetness and flavor, and then, once the vegetables are finished roasting, you douse them in a sweet-salty, spicy vinaigrette that is redolent with the funk of fish sauce, and shower punchy herbs on top. It gives roasted broccoli a whole new spin and it is addictively good. I could have eaten the entire head of broccoli as my meal, but luckily, I had eaters at my table who saved me from an untimely death by cruciferous vegetable. I might not be so lucky next time.

Thai-style vinaigrette

I think it's important to increase the number of scallions from the original, because they're one of the best parts of this salad (can we call it a salad? I'm not quite sure I'm comfortable with that). The original recipe also says to only serve this fresh from the oven, "otherwise, the vegetables get soggy." Turns out I quite like soggy vegetables? Or maybe I wouldn't call them that to begin with? Yes, this is delectable when the broccoli is still hot and crisp, but it's really still very wonderful after it has cooled to room temperature. So proceed as you like.

And if you have any leftover vinaigrette sloshing at the bottom of the bowl, save it and pour it over some plain rice for your supper. (You could, of course, do what my husband does and simply tip the bowl against your lips and drink the dressing straight, but I'm going to assume you are more refined than he is.)

So there you have it! The miraculous broccoli is yours. May it bring a little sparkle to your day.

Roasted broccoli and scallions with Thai-style vinaigrette

Roasted Broccoli and Scallions with Thai-Style Vinaigrette
Serves 4 as a side dish
Print this recipe!

For the broccoli and scallions:
1 ½
pounds/680 grams broccoli (about 2 good-sized crowns and their stems), cut into florets
8 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette:
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 to 2 limes)
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons light brown sugar
1 small fresh red chile, minced, or ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint

1. Heat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Place the broccoli and scallions in a large roasting or sheet pan and drizzle with the olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper and toss. Roast until crisp and browned, about 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway through to ensure even cooking.

2. While the vegetables roast, make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients until the brown sugar is dissolved. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

3. Place the broccoli and scallions in a serving bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Serve immediately or at room temperature.


Meera Sodha's Caramelized Onion Ramen

Caramelized Onion Ramen

It is 4:24 pm and by some small miracle, I currently find myself alone in our apartment. Max and Bruno left a little while ago to trudge through the snow to the pharmacy and drugstore. Hugo is in the courtyard playing in the snow. He can't stay away from it, he's bewitched by it. It's dystopian to think about how novel a truly cold winter is for our little Berliner, when the very cold winters of our childhoods in Berlin were practically a defining feature of the experience of growing up here. But wait, I'm getting away from things. I am home alone.

HOME ALONE.

First I blasted music, just to feel something. Then I drank a cup of scalding hot tea and burned my mouth. Now I'm sitting here by the radiator, trying to write. A child outside is screaming bloody murder at her father for making her play in the snow and although I usually barely register the noise of children who don't belong to me, this one is making me want to howl out the window. We're all losing our minds a little, yes?

Where was I. Home alone. You all. This soup.

Oooh, this soup. It comes from East by Meera Sodha. One of the best cookbooks I own. Every recipe I've tried has been delicious and complex, but also easy and fun and interesting. If you follow me elsewhere, you may be sick of hearing me wax on about it. I'm sort of sick of me going on about it! But it really is an amazing collection. It has taught me so much and broadened my pantry immeasurably. My cooking is better for owning the book, my diet more varied. The recipes are all vegetarian or vegan, Asian-inspired and simple to make.

Meera's recipes are a study in the masterful layering of flavors, and this soup is a perfect example. You start by caramelizing onions (I got impatient and moved on after 20 minutes and my soup was still staggeringly delicious), to which then add stock and cooking wine and soy sauce and miso. Taste the broth and kapow, it'll blow you away. Best of all, your work is now mostly done! All you have to do is cook your noodles, drop them into the deep brown soup along with some greens (I used Napa cabbage) and a jammy egg (she recommends a soy egg, which requires a little advance planning), and sit down to eat.

You'll feel like you're eating restaurant food, which is the highest praise I can give food right now, because I am so sick of my own cooking and my dinner staples and if I could, I would just order in dinner from a different restaurant every day, but I can't, so instead I depend on cookbooks to give me a glimmer of the outside world.

Which cookbooks are you leaning on to give you that sense that the world is still out there, awaiting us? I love a good cookbook chat, so have at it.

Note: This post includes an affiliate link and I may earn a commission if you purchase through it, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Caramelized Onion Ramen
Serves 4
Print this recipe!

Vegetable oil
3 large onions, peeled and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
½ tsp salt
1 bird's eye chile, finely sliced
6 cups/1½ liters vegetable stock
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1½ tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown rice miso
Salt and black pepper
7 ounces/200 grams ramen noodles (I used gluten-free buckwheat noodles)
7 ounces/200g leafy greens like gai lan or choi sum, or Napa cabbage, cut into 6cm pieces
Chile crisp, to serve
4 7-minute eggs or soy eggs

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm 5 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and salt to the pan, stir to coat in the oil, then cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every five minutes. The onions will gradually start to caramelize and color. Eventually they'll start breaking down into a soft, sweet, caramel-colored paste.

2. Add the chile, if using, and stock to the pan, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and add the rice wine, soy and miso, stirring well to combine. Taste, adjust the seasoning, then turn off the heat.

3. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, then drain, refresh under cold water and stir in a little oil to keep them from sticking together.

4. Cook the greens just before serving. Bring the broth up to a boil, drop in the greens and cook for a minute or two, until just tender.

5. Divide the noodles between four bowls and ladle the broth over the top, making sure to share out the greens evenly. Halve the eggs, if using, and place two halves on each serving. Drizzle over the chile oil, if using, and serve.


Elise Bauer's Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Ever since Hugo was born, I've been trying to find my pancake recipe. You know, the kind of pancake you can make every week and never tire of, the one that turns out consistently every time, the one that pleases everyone at your table? I've cooked my way through countless recipes, from blogs and books and newspaper clippings, and found a few gems along the way, sure, but they were never quite right as an evergreen.

I also discovered a few things about myself. For example, I am not, nor will I ever be, the kind of person who will willingly separate and beat egg whites for pancakes on a Sunday morning! Turns out light-as-air pancakes aren't as important to me as being able to mix a batter quickly, while there are still cobwebs in my eyes, and my hangry children are banging their forks against the table. As long as the pancakes turn out tender and fluffy, that's plenty good for me.

Also, apparently buckwheat is a non-negotiable factor in my pancakes! I've tried whole wheat, cornmeal, oat flour and ground nuts in my batter. And you know what, they're all fine. But to me, nothing beats the hearty, old-fashioned flavor of a buckwheat pancake. (To be accurate, I actually use a blend of buckwheat and all-purpose flour - or gluten-free all-purpose - because the children like it best, but who knows, some day, when they're older, I'll try to slide a 100% buckwheat pancake past them. I'll let you know how it goes.)

Mix-ins? For me, nothing beats a blueberry. Frozen or fresh, it doesn't matter, though I love the marbled swirls that frozen berries give the batter.

Finally, while we're all bullied into thinking that buttermilk is best for pancakes, it turns out that in these pancakes, a mixture of three quarters yogurt and a quarter milk makes for the thickest, most tender pancakes.

Now. Pancakes, like all food, are personal! These are the conditions of my favorite pancake, but yours may look different. If that is the case, ignore this post and peace be with you! But if you are still on the hunt for your favorite weekly pancake, may I humbly suggest you try this one? I first found the recipe on Simply Recipes a long time ago, fiddled with the recipe until it produced the pancakes I liked best, and then committed it to the side of my fridge, where it still lives today.

We make these nearly every week. They're nicely balanced and tender, not too sweet, so they don't give you that slightly sweaty, sick feeling that other pancakes can, and delicious in a little pool of maple syrup. I fork them hot from the pan onto everyone's plates and keep cooking while the others dig in. The children love them, as do we.

Maybe you will too.

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes (optionally gluten-free)
Serves 4 (about 14 pancakes)
Print this recipe!

3 tablespoons (43 grams) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (100 grams) buckwheat flour
3/4 cup (100 grams) all-purpose flour or all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 1/2 cups (350 grams) whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup (150 grams) whole milk
Generous handful frozen blueberries (fresh, if you have them)
Vegetable oil for coating the pan
Butter, for serving (optional)
Maple syrup for serving

1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly.

2. In one bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, milk and melted butter.

3. Whisk the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not overbeat. Gently fold in the blueberries.

4. Place a nonstick skillet over a medium-high flame. Put a drizzle of oil on the pan and spread it around evenly with a paper towel. Ladle the batter into the hot skillet to create about 3 5-inch pancakes. Reduce the heat slightly. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until air bubbles appear on the surface on the pancake. Flip and cook the other side until done, another 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with more oil, if needed, and the remaining batter.

5. Serve the pancakes as they come off the pan, or keep them warm in the oven until ready to serve, topped with butter (if desired) and maple syrup.


Erin Jeanne McDowell's Gluten-Free Apple Butter Loaf Cake

Gluten-Free Apple Butter Loaf Cake

I know that there is nothing more tedious than reading about other people's special diets, but I'm going to be posting about gluten-free baking more frequently here and I would like to explain the shift. I'll try to keep things brief, but obviously, if you have questions about any of it, please feel free to ask away below.

I recently stopped eating gluten for good. It was a long time coming. Several years ago, after the fog of my second pregnancy lifted, I noticed lots of persistent and painful digestive symptoms. On my doctor's advice, I tried eliminating various foods out of my diet. The most noticeable difference happened when I stopped eating gluten, but, I mean, I love gluten. I LOVE IT. I love eating it and baking with it, bread and pies and pasta and toast and cakes and cookies and and and...I really just didn't want it to be true. Plus, some pesky and particularly worrying symptoms remained regardless of what I ate or didn't eat.

I ended up having a colonoscopy, during which a pretty large precancerous polyp was discovered and removed. It was a scary experience. The handsome gastroenterologist, who'd been a little scornful about why I was showing up for a colonoscopy at the age of 40, turned white as a sheet after the procedure and told me that my GP, who had insisted on the colonoscopy despite my young age, had saved my life. Uh, yay? Around the same time, I was diagnosed with stress-related gastritis. During the endoscopy for that, I was tested for celiac disease, which turned out to be negative, thankfully.

I took a course of antibiotics for the gastritis and tried to reduce my stress (ha ha haaaa) and things slowly calmed down. Still, even when all the scary stuff was out of the way, I still dealt regularly with pain and bloating and other unpleasant things. I tried the FODMAP diet for a while, which sort of helped. I tried replacing all regular bread with sourdough, which also sort of helped. But eventually, I cut gluten out entirely, and it has made a world of difference. In fact, it made me realize for just how long I'd been dealing with digestive pain, anxiety and distress. It long predates having children, that's for sure.

So that's that. I don't have celiac, but I do have gluten intolerance. I've stopped eating gluten, but luckily, I don't have to worry too much about cross-contamination. For example, when we have pasta for dinner, I make regular pasta for my family and gluten-free pasta for me, but when I have to test the pasta, I know that half a wheat noodle isn't going to hurt me. But I recently ate a piece of regular birthday cake at Bruno's birthday (how bad could it be to have just one piece?) and I was in so much pain and discomfort the next day that I really regretted it (damn, it was a good piece of cake, though).

Going gluten-free without celiac disease isn't a terrible hardship. Good-quality gluten-free pasta and bread isn't that hard to find anymore (and I'm lucky enough to live sort of close to the most amazing gluten-free sourdough bakery called Aera) and I have loved the challenge of discovering the huge variety of Asian noodles that are naturally gluten-free, as well as cooking more with rice and other gluten-free grains. But gluten-free baking really is a whole other ball of wax.

As I wrote on Instagram the other day, after a lifetime of home baking, it's been humbling, to say the least, to dip my toes into the waters of gluten-free baking. So much trial and error. So many failed experiments. What I have realized is that my only goal, really, is to learn to make gluten-free things that are delicious in their own right and that people will want to eat even if they aren't gluten-intolerant.

Gluten-Free Apple Butter Sweet Bread

Which means that now I can finally get to the thing I really wanted to tell you about! This cake!

The recipe originally comes from the self-titled baking fairy godmother herself, Erin Jeanne McDowell, and isn't gluten-free to start with, but I fiddled with the ingredients a little bit (after an ill-fated experiment with a different applesauce cake that was so sandy as to be rather repulsive) and ended up with a cake so tender and lovely that we couldn't stop eating it. It was my tea break cake and Hugo's breakfast cake for nearly a week! It's the kind of cake that you want living on your counter permanently, with a velvety crumb, a wonderfully chewy-crunchy top and a whole lot of cozy flavor.

You'll need apple butter, which I make every fall after we go apple picking, using this brilliant recipe. This year I made the apple butter in the Instant Pot, which made things go so much quicker, so I very much recommend that little shortcut. You'll also need an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. I use one from Schär, because it's what I can get at my local grocery store here. Two things I've learned from kind commenters and some reading is that adding a little bit of oat flour to a gluten-free cake or cookie can help provide a better, less gritty crumb and that it's essential to let gluten-free cake batter (and other baking mixtures, I assume) sit a bit to hydrate the flours properly. I reduced the amount of sugar from the original and I think it's the perfect amount of sweet.

Below you'll find the recipe as I made it (the original is here). I hope you like it as much as we did. Next time, I'll try folding in a handful of walnuts and the time after that, a handful of fresh cranberries. (If you stick to the original recipe, I still think you can leave out the brown sugar entirely.)

And if you have any tips or tricks or favorite gluten-free recipes or sites or books to recommend, have at it in the comments! I'd be so grateful.

Gluten-Free Apple Butter Loaf Cake
Makes one 9-inch loaf cake
Print the recipe!

1 cup/130 grams all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
½ cup/60 grams oat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup/120 milliliters vegetable oil
½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup/180 milliliters apple butter
¼ cup/60 milliliters plain yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, or to taste

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 Celsius) and line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, oat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt to combine. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the oil and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk well after each addition to incorporate. Whisk in the vanilla extract.

3. Add the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Add the apple butter and yogurt and mix well to incorporate. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Set aside to rest for 8-10 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the surface of the loaf generously with turbinado sugar. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then, using the parchment paper as a sling, pull the cake out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. The cake, loosely wrapped with plastic wrap, will last at room temperature for five days.


Lidia Bastianich's Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan

Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan

I just have one question for you today. ARE YOU SAVING THE RINDS OF YOUR PARMESAN CHEESE?

Sorry if that's a little loud, but I just really need to make sure that all of you have gotten the Parmesan rind memo, okay?

I'll try and calm down now. Alright.

Now, have I told you about my freezer? (Okay, fine, two questions.) There are many, many things that I love about living in Europe. But I'll tell you one something: European freezers are not one of them. They are A LOT to get used to and by A LOT I mean not much at all. I have shoe boxes larger than my freezer. Not even kidding!

Anyway!

My freezer. It is the home of a few forlorn Chinese dumplings, some tortillas purchased in Boston in 2019 (sob), a couple of boxes of frozen veg, my KitchenAid ice cream attachment (wheee! It was one of my birthday presents in December and it is brilliant) and about 15 foil-wrapped Parmesan rinds. We go through a lot of Parmesan cheese in this house, as it must top almost every plate of spaghetti (not Hugo's, though, who loathes melted cheese in all forms yes I'm talking grilled cheese and gratins and lasagne and nachos and PIZZA why God whyyyyyyyyyy) and because it is the only cheese that the boys will eat thin slivers of, after dinner, like sophisticated little creatures destined for a life of pleasure and harmony.

Every time we get to the end of a wedge of cheese (and I mean the very end, we're talking just a few millimeters), I wrap them up in a piece of aluminum foil and throw them into the freezer. This way, the next time I make soup, I know I have a little umami flavor bomb just waiting to be pulled into active duty. Straight from the freezer, I unwrap the rind, plop it into the pot of broth and let it do its magic.

As it simmers away in that pot of soup, the rind miraculously continues giving up huge amounts of flavor, enough to scent the house and make your soup taste very, very good. Then there is the added bonus that the rind is entirely edible. As it cooks, it softens and mellows. Upon serving the soup, you can fish out the rind and, depending on the size, either share it with your fellow diners or eat it all yourself, a very well-earned cook's snack.

My mother and I love the rind and always share it. My husband and children do not (it's a textural thing, as it's a little rubbery, which is pleasing to some and not to all), so I get to eat it all myself.

Now, on to this particular soup. It comes from the way back, dusty depths of this very blog, having first been published in November of 2005, when baby Wednesday Chef was just a few months old. A wee bairn! It comes from Lidia Bastianich, grande dame of New York Italian cooking, and it features the absolutely wonderful pairing of potatoes and rice, which will strike some of you as too much starch! and others as just enough. I am firmly in the there is no such thing as too much starch camp and so this soup is one of my very favorites.

It is nourishing and a balm, to make and to eat, and you can, as with Rachel's squash and rice soup, play with the amount of liquid you use to make a looser or stewier soup. If you err on the side of stewy, and there are leftovers, they will cool into risotto, which will please (no, let's be real, may please) the children in your home. The parsley, I feel, is essential because it brings a bit of brightness and the faintest touch of acidity to the soup, balancing out the flavors nicely. If your children are the kind to fall over in a dead faint at the sight of something green in their soup COUGH COUGH, leave it out of the pot and just sprinkle it on your own portion.

One of the oddities of a life in food blogging is the fact that you have the pleasure of eating so many delicious meals that rarely get made again, because there are so many other recipes to get to. This is hardly a hardship, though Max has been known to beg me to remember certain dishes while he's eating them. I'm happy to say that this recipe is one of those rare ones that comes around again and again, lamination-worthy, as I have been known to say. These beloved favorites now have their very own category over there in the sidebar on the right.

Eagle-eyed readers may notice that the categories in general have been cleaned up and clarified a bit, so that now you can quickly navigate your way to quick weeknight dinners, vegetarian main dishes or gluten-free recipes. I hope this helps you navigate all the good food available here. In fact, in the coming weeks, I'll be featuring other favorites that I first wrote about long ago, but that I feel deserve some fresh sunlight and a little love.

Note: This post includes an affiliate link and I may earn a commission if you purchase through it, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan
Serves 6
Print this recipe!

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 to 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup long-grain or arborio rice
8 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock, plus more if desired
2 2-inch-squares Parmesan rind
1 fresh or dried bay leaf 
A handful chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. In a deep, heavy 4- to 5-quart pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and stir well to coat the vegetables. 

2. Add the rice, broth, cheese rinds and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, stirring well, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 18-20 minutes. Check the seasoning. If you'd like a looser soup, add a little more broth. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Remove the rinds, cut into pieces and distribute among the serving plates. Ladle the soup on top and serve.


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.