Some of you may know that my husband Craig is a director. Last week he went back to work, directing four episodes of our friend Ryan O’Connell’s Emmy-nominated Netflix show Special. The protocols on set are intense, as they should be during Covid. Craig gets tested almost every morning, he wears an N95 mask all day, and when he gets home after a thirteen hour day he’s super tired because of all the extra rigamarole Covid’s causing.
That’s where I enter the picture. I remember one of the first cookbooks that I ever bought was Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess and, even though I have my own work to do during the day (I have a few projects in the works!), at night I’ve blossomed as a true domestic diva. Here are the five dinners that I made last week each night that Craig came home from work. They certainly made our week better, maybe they’ll help with yours.
We’re all obsessed with instant things, these days– Instant Pots, Instagram — that the idea of doing anything NOT instant can be pretty unappealing. Which is why I’m here to tell you that pesto — which, for many, seems like a tedious, labor-intensive process — can be made instantly and deliciously if you have a food processor, a bag of arugula, and a few pantry staples.
In fact, I single-handedly guarantee that you — yes YOU — can have bright green, intensely flavorful pesto on the table in FIVE MINUTES. That’s right FIVE MINUTES.
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.
When I went to college at Emory 3,000 years ago, there used to be a spot in Emory Village called Cedar Tree that sold “pitzas.” It was basically a piece of toasted pita bread topped with pizza-like toppings and the surprising thing was that it was really, really good. A dinner at Cedar Tree was always a treat and when I listen to the Indigo Girls–who, incidentally or maybe not so incidentally went to Emory–their song “Cedar Tree” always makes me think about how good a piece of toasted pita bread with pizza-like toppings can be. Yet, weirdly I’d never attempted it at home until I hit upon a technique that makes so much sense for transforming plain-old-pita bread into something that resembles a pizza crust.
Today’s my blog’s 11th birthday. I was going to do a post about that, but there’s really not much to say that I didn’t already say last year (see: Ten Years a Food Blogger). So instead of a navel-gazing post, here’s a produce-maximizing post. It’s a post that came about through necessity.
See, my CSA came this weekend, and after I unpacked it, I was a little angry. Look at the photo above: there were 4 or 5 dinky carrots attached to a huge mound of carrot greens. And a fine bulb of fennel attached to so many wisps of fennel fronds, it looked like Rapunzel. What was a responsible food blogger to do?
[One of my oldest friends, Alex Dickson, bravely agreed to tackle one of the hardest Sauce Week challenges: pesto by hand. By hand! Here’s her account of how it all went down. Take it away, Alex!]
The ingredients for a basil pesto sauce are simple but Adam challenged me to do this pesto old school Italian style, so the process was what made me nervous.
Nervous about making pesto? Wow, Alex, that sounds like something that’s really worth getting anxious about. Your life must be challenging. Stop judging me, Reader! I wanted this pesto to be good because I was making it for my parents, and cooking something for my father that he really likes is one of my favorite things.
[My friend Dara Bratt–an award-winning filmmaker and unabashed bon vivant–positively pounced when I mentioned “Sauce Week” and here’s her delightful contribution. Take it away, Dara!]
Recently, I had a girls’ night at a fairly new restaurant in Brooklyn called “Rucola”. The conversation was great, and the food equally impressive, the standout dish being the pasta, which my friend ordered; “Garganelli – Tomatoes – almond pesto, cherry tomatoes, zucchini.”
It was so light that the impact of flavor was shockingly impressive. A pesto with almonds at the core instead of pine nuts?! Cheaper? Healthier? Sold!
On May 1st, Zhenya wrote me an e-mail: “I just picked a ton of very young stinging nettles and would be happy to give you at least half a ton…. Let me know if you’re interested.” Stinging nettles? Interested? I would have to seriously think about this.