Toss Your Beans in Pesto

There’s a lot of treachery when it comes to substitutions in recipes. “Hide sweet potatoes in the brownies, your kids will never notice!” “These zucchini noodles taste just as good as real noodles but with half the calories!”

Me? I’m all for transparency when it comes to the things that I cook. And that’s why I recommend tossing your green beans in pesto. You’re not pretending that the green beans are anything they’re not — “If you close your eyes, they taste just like French Fries!” — what you see is what you get.

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Everybody Loves Romano Beans

Recently on Twitter, someone named @Bobby Tweeted: “The worst writing online is those quirky 17-paragraph preambles recipe bloggers post before telling you what to put in your fuckin lasagna.”

You might think that a Tweet like this (which has over 12,000 likes and 3,000 RTs) might enrage someone like me who spent over a decade of my life writing quirky seventeen-paragraph preambles before telling people what to put in their f-ing lasagna, but actually, I totally agree with this Tweet. In fact, this Tweet speaks to why I kind of gave up food blogging two years ago. The writing seemed besides the point; I was just becoming a resource for recipes rather than a person whose words mattered. In a screenplay or a script for a TV show, every word matters; in fact, sometimes you get into hour-long discussions with producers or actors about one or two words that you feel strongly about. So when the writing on food blogs started to feel disposable, I lost interest. What’s the point of writing on here if no one really cares about what you’re saying?

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Wham-Bam Cauliflower Gratin

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Nothing sets me off like sanctimoniousness; that holier-than-thou, self-righteous, sermon-on-the-mount style of food writing. Often the sentiments are well-intentioned but everything is done so humorlessly, it’s hard for the average person to connect. And so it goes with vegetables. The general take, these days, seems to be that we should eat less dead bodies and more living green stuff. OK, I can get on board with that, though often the images associated with this new way of life are plates of kale and quinoa and other foods that start with a hard “K” sound. Can’t vegetables be sexy? Decadent? The kind of special dinner you might ask for on your birthday? Well, let’s not get carried away, but here’s a dinner that’s not at all good for you but is good for you in the broader sense because it’s got no dead bodies in it, just vegetables. Actually just one vegetable then lots of butter, flour, whole milk, cheese, and bread crumbs. There’s not a sanctimonious thing about it.

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I Roasted Some Vegetables And They Were Good

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It’s so funny to think about how recipe-obsessed I was when I started cooking. I mean, seriously, if a recipe called for a teaspoon of salt, I’d practically count the granules. Now I rarely cook with a recipe and it’s hard for me to imagine following a recipe to the letter. Which is why getting that box of CSA vegetables every week is so fun; it’s a chance for me to flex my non-recipe following muscles in the kitchen. And so it was that I had an acorn squash (I’m pretty sure it was an acorn squash) and some Brussels sprouts. My plan: to roast ’em like a rock star.

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Sweet Summer Corn with Bacon and Balsamic Onions

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Becoming a good cook is a little bit like becoming a good musician: at a certain point, you can glance at a recipe–the way a pianist might glance at a piece of sheet music–and know what it’s going to taste like, just like the pianist knows what it’s going to sound like. That’s a real skill to have, especially when planning a dinner and searching through cookbooks for something to dazzle. On the morning our story begins, I was flipping through a Food52 Cookbook that I was sent long ago, and this recipe–which is also live on the Food52 site–sang out to me like a Mozart concerto. Turns out, not only did it taste as good as it did in my head; it tasted even better.

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Easy Weeknight String Beans

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The name of the game on a weeknight, as far as I’m concerned, is “big results, minimum effort.” Recipes that meet that criteria are few and far between, but when you hit on one (like the roasted broccoli, for example) you’ll never forget it.

Meet your new string bean side. You won’t need your old recipes anymore, because all you have to do is memorize this one. It’s pretty flawless.

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Lemony Greens on Garlicky Beans

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Trader Joe’s has always been a mystery to me. People love the place, they start to cheer when one opens up in their neighborhood, but I’ve always been stumped by what to buy there. I’ve done well with trail mix (because it tastes more like candy), and it’s nice to get a decent bottle of wine for not a lot of money. But until yesterday, I’d never made a dinner from Trader Joe’s ingredients that I’d be eager to make again. Yet there I was–there’s one downstairs from my gym–and I wanted to make a healthy dinner so I bought a can of white beans (a pretty safe purchase), a bag of cruciferous vegetables (including kale), a lemon and a bottle of white wine. And the dinner that I made was so stupendous, I’ve just gotta tell you about it.

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Diana’s Butter-Roasted Potatoes

Now we all know the concept of the student beating the master and I don’t want to imply that my friend Diana was ever my student or that I was ever her master (though I was her roommate, which is kind of the same thing with me); what I’d like to imply, however, is that Diana–who was a timid cook when I lived with her–is now giving me a run for my money. I remember her not wanting to make a salad in front of me, back then, because she thought I’d be judgmental. Since then, and since moving in with her husband, she’s had a chance to hone her chops and by all accounts her chops are very good. Case in point: check out her potatoes.

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