Tag Archives: easy

Quick Dinner.

Due to an unfortunate case of cooking-related masochism, I tend to forget that not every meal requires hours of preparation and compilation. It took a recent experience to remind me of something that working parents have known for years: Weeknight dinners do not, in fact, need to be served at 10:00 p.m.

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After a particularly demanding day in the trenches, I was in the mood for something indulgent; I didn’t have the budget for anything fancy but wanted comfort food nonetheless. This burger, an umami*-rich combination of Italian sausage (I used half hot and half sweet, with great results), anchovy-spiked spinach, and sharp provolone cheese, couldn’t have been a better fit.

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Family Therapy.

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of my father’s death. Part of me can’t believe it’s been five years; the other part of me can’t believe it’s only been five years: It feels like yesterday, and an eternity ago. When my phone rings on Friday afternoons, I still half-expect him to be on the other end of the line, wishing me a happy Friday — as he did every week, pretty much, from when I left for college until he went into the hospital that final time. When I hung pictures in my apartment a few days ago, I heard his voice telling me to measure twice and hammer once; when I found a note on the back of one of those prints, in his inimitable handwriting, with birthday greetings for a year with “a pure silver lining,” I cried as if I’d lost him all over again. The enormous, overwhelming unfairness of it still just floors me.

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I miss him, every day. Not as brutally as I did those first couple of years, and for that I’m grateful, but the ache is constant. I’m usually alone on his yahrzeit — previously, I’ve marked the occasion with too many martinis and/or Manhattans — but this year, my mother and I spent the weekend together at the beach. I hope it’ll be a new tradition.

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Brown-Bag Blessing.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have gotten the wrong impression. Sure, I’ve done the odd bit of grilling here and there, but with the exception of this salad awhile back, I have been eating horribly unseasonably for most of the summer. I have been to the farmers’ market zero times, I do not have a CSA membership, and my status at the co-op falls somewhere between “not allowed to shop” and “utterly disgraced.”

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After an especially brutal weekend—one filled with ghetto Chinese, pizza, and food poisoning from said pizza—I was perhaps particularly susceptible to the charms of a light, clean dish of unquestionable provenance, but I was still surprised when a friend’s tweet provoked an instantaneous craving for something simple, fresh, and homemade. Clearly, my body was trying to tell me that one cannot live on takeout, Sour Patch Kids and Nutty Bars alone.

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Smitten Solution.

I think you all know me well enough by now to agree that I’m not normally one for quick, decisive action, but these days, I seem to be categorically unable to carry out my preferred method of menu-planning; instead of sifting through back issues of Gourmet and long-neglected cookbooks to come up with a way-too-ambitious grocery list, I find myself flipping through my Evernote recipe collection, discouraged by all the clippings that require days of advanced planning and extensive legwork. I just don’t feel like doing any of it.

Completely uncreatively, I blame the heat. I want to make things that require as little work as possible—with one hand, preferably, so the other is free to reach for that icy-cold glass of lambrusco—so I was in the perfect frame of mind to receive yesterday’s Smitten Kitchen email. Chopped salad with feta, lime and mint. Just reading the name cooled me off a few degrees.

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Homework.

I spent a few days at the Jersey Shore last week, which presented the perfect opportunity to put my my new-found resolution to the test. In keeping with both tradition and the constricts of a sparsely populated pantry, I wanted to cook an easy meal, one that would utilize as many fresh ingredients as possible, in the simplest manner possible. Luckily, my mother had brought her food-magazine hand-me-downs, and flipping through her copy of August’s Cooking Light, I found just the thing.

It’s next to impossible to avoid seafood cravings after putting in time at the beach; combine that with gazpacho, perfectly refreshing after a day in the hot sun, and I didn’t have to think twice—this dish was practically begging to be made.

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Summer Simplicity.

As you may have gathered from my recaps, I tend to go overboard when cooking for a party or a large group. I’m the first to admit that this has always affected the timing of the meal—when running behind schedule (which, let’s face it, is almost always), I’ve roped more guests into chopping, sautéing, and grilling duties than I’d like to admit; I’ve had friends leave hungry because they had other commitments and couldn’t wait until 10:00 for dinner; and I’ve served dessert first because nothing else was ready. This approach may have made the experience a bit more frantic than would be ideal, but it never had much impact on the quality of my food until recently. Let’s go behind the scenes of my current bout of kitchen malaise, shall we?

After severely charring batches of ribs on two separate occasions (one of which would have had borderline-edible results anyway, thanks to a marinade that was too spicy for most of my guests) and making a cabbage salad so salty it required the addition of copious amounts of lime juice to choke it down, I came to the realization that my cooking mojo was seriously compromised. I finally took the hint and decided on an alternative game plan: Simplicity.

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Healthy Beginnings.

Since I’ve been back from the other side of the world, I’ve realized that I’m craving foods that weren’t typically in my culinary lexicon pre-Philippines. Fish, fruit, vegetables. I blame the latter on the impending CSA season (two weeks to go!), but the other two were definitely inspired by the trip.

Some may consider it blasphemy that after an adventure where I learned to eat an entire bone-in fish with ease, my introduction to cooking seafood involves fish in a can. But hey, it’s a start.

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Daydream Believer.

When I’m between jobs, I have nothing but good intentions for my down time. In my daydreams, the apartment sparkles, the giant pile of donations in the hall finally makes its way to the Salvation Army, I go to the farmers’ market at least once a week, and I exercise every day. And, naturally, I find time for the more involved cooking projects on my list.

I’m a world-class procrastinator, though. (If it were an Olympic sport, I’d be a contender for the gold.) While this is an unfortunate state of affairs, it’s also well-mined territory around these parts; you’d think I would’ve learned my lesson by now. Case in point: This recipe went up on Smitten Kitchen just over a year ago, and when I think about how long I could’ve been enjoying the beautiful bread it produced, I want to kick myself.

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Small Steps.

Anniversary celebration notwithstanding, it’s been a rough couple of months here at Casa IF-NY. I mentioned awhile back that the Carnivore’s father was ill; since then, he was moved to a hospital in the Bronx, which, for those of you not familiar with this city, is quite a hike from our humble abode here in Brooklyn. Between the hours spent in transit and at the hospital, there’s been little time left over for cooking; convenient, given that neither of us have had much of an appetite. Last week, his father passed away, and to say that those issues compounded would be an understatement.

Eventually, though, sheer necessity drove me back into the kitchen. I’d exhausted both takeout options and bank account in the intervening days—even though nothing tasted quite right, we had to eat something, and neither of us had the energy for grocery shopping. Cooking was the only choice, but I needed something simple to ease back into it. Something I could make with ingredients sourced from our rather bare cupboards or the bodega across the street, and something that I knew would turn out well.

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