Breakfast Risotto


Is there any dish with more rules attached to it than risotto? Watch any episode of Top Chef where someone tries to make it, and you’re bound to see someone packing their knives and going home. There are rules about the kind of rice you use (Arborio vs. Carnaroli), what kind of stock you use (dark stock, light stock) and the consistency it should have when it’s done (toothsome? pliant? mushy?). These rules matter if you’re cooking on television, but at home these rules go out the window: I’m here to tell you that risotto is a cinch to make–you can even make it with water! (something I learned watching Lidia Bastianich)–and, best of all, you can make a really good one, with bacon and egg and cheese, for breakfast.

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Cold-Killing Chicken Soup with Ginger, Chili Paste and Soy Sauce


The first time that I made a really good chicken soup (documented here), it felt like I’d translated an ancient Jewish text–the Dead Soup Scrolls–and that the resulting soup was irrefutable, everlasting, not-to-be-tampered with. Then, over time, I began to realize that the recipe, which is really just a formula for a very concentrated chicken stock, flavored with root vegetables, and freshened up with more vegetables and dill at the end, was really just that: a formula. A guideline. You could play around and the Jewish police wouldn’t arrest you. So, a few weeks ago, when I had the start of a pretty nasty cold, I decided to integrate some of the flavors that make ramen so curative when colds start to hit hard. And the results were tremendous indeed.

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Olive Oil Omelet with Celery Caesar


File this under recipes to make Martha Stewart scoff. But on Saturday morning–this was last week–I looked deep into my fridge and deep into my soul and came up with the breakfast you see here. I’m actually pretty proud of it, mostly because it used up lots of ingredients I had lying around: garlic, parsley, anchovies, Parmesan, celery, eggs and olive oil. I wanted the omelet to reflect the flavors in the celery; I also liked the idea of the textural differences between those two things. So here’s how this all went down.

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The Ultimate Weeknight Dinner: Braised Chicken Thighs and Cauliflower with Olives and Capers


You’re not going to believe me, but I’m telling you the truth: the dinner you see above? It’s cheap and easy.

Don’t balk! I kid you not. Last Monday, I made this dinner for less than $20 and it was one of the best things that I’ve made in a long time. I didn’t even use a recipe, I just whipped it up based on an idea I had. The idea went something like this: what if I buy chicken thighs and braise them in white wine vinegar with onions, garlic, olives, capers, and cherry tomatoes and serve it all on plain couscous? It seemed like a foolproof plan for deliciousness.

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Rustic Vegetable Ragu


Cooking without a recipe. How do you do it?

You start with ingredients. My favorite way to do that is to open my refrigerator to see what’s there: on Friday night (when Craig was working late and his parents were flying in from Seattle) I saw carrots, I saw celery, I saw onions. I decided to cut them all up into big chunky pieces.

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Heirloom Tomatoes for Dinner


There’s salad. There’s pasta sauce. Those are things you can do with heirloom tomatoes in the summertime to make dinner.

But try this: get a loaf of really good bread. Slice the bread thickly and set it aside. Now take an eggplant (preferably purchased from the farmer’s market) and cut it into rings; cut a red heirloom tomato into rings too. Place those rings on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper…

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Bacon Bolognese


Italians, please look away.

Everyone else, here’s something that I made up last week that was so good, I think you should make it too. I used leftover ingredients from the Haddock chowder I’d made the day before and, in using them, I did what Tom Colicchio’s always talking about on “Top Chef”–I developed lots of flavor through careful cooking. Let me show you what I mean.

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What’s Up With These Black Chickpeas?


At Cookbook, the delightful store in Echo Park where I bought my first bag of Rancho Gordo beans, I came upon a bag of black chickpeas. “What’s up with these black chickpeas?” I asked the nice people there.

“They’re just like regular chickpeas,” said Robert, one of those nice people. “Except…well…they’re black.” With a sales pitch like that, how could I not buy a bag? So I bought one and brought it home.

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