Spiced Pork Chops with Delicata Squash and Apple Chutney

Making new friends is always a treat but difficult to do when you’re supposed to avoid social gatherings and remain six feet apart while masked. Luckily, I made two new friends last year when the food writer Ben Mims and his partner J made the same move that we made back in 2011 from New York to L.A.

Ben moved here to write for the L.A. Times (his recipes are top notch; I made his tamarind lamb shanks last night and they were dreamy); we met for dinner at a steakhouse on Hollywood and Vine and he told hilarious stories about growing up in Mississippi, then told even funnier stories on my podcast Lunch Therapy.

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The Fluffiest Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

My friend Ryan O’Connell is a superstar in every sense. Not only does he have his own show on Netflix, he was featured this weekend in a New York Times article about artists as activists. (Coincidentally, the article was written by Mark Harris, a Lunch Therapy alumni, just like Ryan.)

Suffice it to say, I feel very lucky to call Ryan a friend. And knowing that his birthday was coming up, and that he’s part of our quarantine bubble (a very small group of friends that we still see), I asked if he had a menu in mind for his birthday dinner. He didn’t hesitate: “Oooh, can we have Martha’s Mac and Cheese?” (The best of all time, in case you didn’t know that.) “Oh, and maybe a salad with peaches? Peaches are season, right?” (They are.) “And can we do a coconut cake for dessert?” “You got it,” I replied.

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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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Birthday Lasagna

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For Craig’s birthday this year, I didn’t take him to a fancy dinner as I’ve done in years past (see here, here and here). This year his birthday had two components: (1) a dinner at home with his favorite foods; and (2) a weekend trip to Palm Springs. You’ll hear about Palm Springs later this week, but this post concerns that dinner at home. When I asked what he wanted for his entree, Craig, a little like Garfield, had one word in his speech balloon: “Lasagna.”

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Stuffed Cabbage

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At that same Jewish dinner where I made the chopped liver, I decided to try my hand at stuffed cabbage. Over Thanksgiving, my brother’s wife’s sister’s boyfriend’s grandmother (did you follow all that?), a Holocaust survivor named Anka, told me her recipe for stuffed cabbage. “The secret,” she let me know, “is raisins in the tomato sauce.” After that, stuffed cabbage was on my mind and when I started planning this dinner of Judaism I knew it would be my entree.

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JalapeƱo Cheddar Cornbread

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Do people who cook do it for attention?

It’s a surprising question, one I hadn’t really considered until I wrote that sentence. But, I mean, c’mon. You can’t be a fan of this blog and ignore the fact that, well, I’m kind of needy. With all of my videos, comic book posts, and my face always in the banner, you wouldn’t exactly call me a shrinking violet.

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Someone’s In The Kitchen With…Cara Eisenpress & Phoebe Lapine (from “Big Girls, Small Kitchen”)

On this, the third episode of “Someone’s In The Kitchen With…” (though really the second official episode, since episode 1 had major technical issues), I play host to Cara Eisenpress & Phoebe Lapine from “Big Girls, Small Kitchen” who have a new cookbook out called, fittingly enough, “In The Small Kitchen.” Watch as the “girls” teach me how to make and plate sweet pea crostini while we kibbitz about cookbook writing, The Barefoot Contessa (they were on an episode of the show!), catering parties, and how to collaborate on a cookbook without killing your co-author. Also: if you have happen to be in L.A., Cara and Phoebe are hosting a book party this Thursday (June 2nd) at the Thompson Beverly Hills Rooftop from 7 PM to 10 PM. RSVP here. Oh, and don’t miss their recipe for Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce which I blogged about in the post below.

How To Make Authentic Guacamole

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My first experience with guacamole was the one in The Barefoot Contessa book, a flavorful guacamole that has the requisite avocados, red onion and lemon juice, but departs from the norm with fresh garlic and a few hits of Tabasco. Up until last weekend, if I were sent to the store to shop for guacamole ingredients, I probably would’ve stuck to The Barefoot Contessa formula. But then my friend Mark entered the picture.

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