pico de gallo

feeding a family

tomatoes at market

It seems like just yesterday that we were bleary-eyed parents of a newborn, struggling to figure out how to keep this tiny little dependent creature fed and clean and happy, while taking care of ourselves, too. We didn’t have family nearby, and we had a very limited amount of freezer space, so we ate a lot of sandwiches from the deli down the street, and a lot of what I call “stuff on toast” – sardines and avocado, ricotta and jam, pretty much anything we could prepare quickly and eat one-handed.

peppers, pickled

We’ll be in that situation again soon, this time with a hungry toddler to feed as well, and you’d better believe Mike and I are already talking strategy, testing out new one-dish meals, and planning a rotation of things we can have around to keep us all nourished and happy. Some local friends of ours, whose son is one of Julian’s buddies, are in the same boat, having just welcomed a new baby girl to the world. Some of the other neighborhood moms had the wonderful idea to organize a sort of “meal train”, with everyone signing up for a night and taking over a meal to the family, and of course we were happy to contribute.

pico de gallo

My original thought was to send over a roast chicken dinner, which is great hot or cold and is so versatile – but with temperatures on our selected day still in the 90s, something a bit fresher and brighter seemed more appropriate. And since our friends said they were pretty much game for anything, I thought a taco dinner would be fun.

whole lotta brisket

I picked up a 5 lb. slab of brisket and braised it low and slow in the oven for the better part of a day in a mix of mild chiles, smoky spices, and a splash of coffee, then I carved the super-tender meat into shreds and chunks. I reduced the braising liquid by about half on the stovetop, returning the meat to the sauce and finishing it with a good hit of fresh lime juice.


I made a big pot of Borrachos with some Cayuga Farm pinto beans and home-pickled jalapenos, and a big pot of Mexican rice as well. We had a ton of juicy, ping pong ball-sized tomatoes from the farmers’ market that made a terrific pico de gallo, and a wee head of red cabbage that I shredded for a cilantro and lime-spiked slaw.

care package

I packaged everything up and packed it into a tote with some soft tortillas, fresh lime wedges, and some beer for the grown-ups.

brisket tacos

I set aside a little of everything for us, too. Quality control is important.


Mike and Julian took our care package over early the next day, and Mike reports the food (and beer) were very much appreciated. I’m just happy we could make one of those early, bleary-eyed days with a new baby a little easier for our friends.

braised escarole white beans olives

bouncing back


We are finally… finally beginning to emerge from nearly two weeks of fierce battle against The Crud. Despite our best efforts at staying healthy, trying to strengthen our immunity by frequent hand-washing, liberal doses of homemade chicken stock, and, for two of the three of us anyway, getting flu shots, we were stricken, and hit hard. I suspect our recent trip to DC had something to do with it – it seems whenever we’ve traveled anywhere in the winter months, we always come down with something afterward.

cousins at play

As sick as we’ve been since, that trip was so worth it. We got to spend some long-overdue time with my parents, as well as my brother, his lovely wife, and their two adorable little ones. This was the first time Julian got to meet his cousins, and they got along famously.

escarole, wilted

On our first night in town, the entire clan ate dinner at a little Italian restaurant near our hotel, a mostly unremarkable place with checkered vinyl tablecloths and an encyclopedic menu. But one dish we ordered stood out in my memory – a side of white beans and escarole which we actually ordered for Julian, but which we adults ended up polishing off.

Dinner: January 23, 2013

White beans and escarole is a pretty classic combination, probably most familiar served in soup form, but this take was different: the escarole was braised with a bit of tomato, and the whole thing was studded with plump little black olives. They were an unexpected addition, and we loved how their brininess mellowed in the cooking, rendering them lush and fruity, a wonderful complement to the bitter greens and creamy beans.


As soon as my appetite started coming back post-Crud, I began to crave this dish, and last night, I tried my hand at recreating it at home. With some toasted, crusty bread and a hearty red wine, this was a simple but satisfying meal I suspect we’ll come back to again and again.


Braised Escarole with White Beans and Olives

one large head of escarole
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for serving
Kosher or sea salt
one cup basic tomato sauce
two large cloves garlic
1.5 cups of cooked white beans
1/2 cup pitted black olives
a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Trim the escarole, removing the stem end and any wilted outer leaves. Rinse it well and set aside. Add a glug of olive oil to a wide, shallow pan, and warm it over medium heat. Add the escarole and a big pinch of salt (it’s fine if a bit of water is still clinging to its leaves), and turn to coat with the oil. Cover the pan and let cook over medium heat until the escarole is mostly wilted and a bit browned in spots, about 15 minutes. Add the tomato and garlic, stir through, lower the heat, and continue cooking partially covered for another 10-15 minutes, until the liquid in the pan has reduced and thickened and the escarole is very soft. Stir in the beans and olives, add the red pepper flakes if using, and cook an additional 10 minutes or so, until everything is warmed through. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon into shallow bowls, with a generous drizzle of olive oil on top, and toasted bread alongside.

feed a fever

Dinner: January 6, 2013

I’ve always been pretty proud of my ability to think on my feet. It’s a skill that has served me well at my day job, but it has proven to be invaluable since I became a mom. You just never know what the day will bring.

We’ve been lucky – Julian has been extremely healthy and robust, but yesterday he just wasn’t feeling like himself. He had had some immunizations at his 15-month checkup late last month, and his doctor warned us he might show some delayed symptoms about a week after; right on schedule, he was cranky and fussy and spiked his very first fever Sunday morning. We tried time and again to put him down for a nap in his crib, but he wasn’t having it, so I nestled him close to me in the big bed, and read while he drifted off, staying with him for nearly three hours.


He slept deeply and well, his fever broke, and he woke with a smile on his face, but I had to shelve my original plan for dinner. Something brothy and comforting seemed like just what we all needed, so I put a small pot of beans on the stove and got to chopping while Mike took over tending to our boy.


I was inspired by a beautiful pot of minestrone I saw on Pinterest, so I cobbled together my own version, rich with alliums and fennel, carrots and parsnips, cabbage and kale, good canned tomatoes, fresh rosemary, thyme, and bay. I added a dash of Worcestershire for savoriness and a splash of Sherry vinegar for brightness, the cooked beans and their broth for heft, and a parmesan rind for the wonderful richness it imparts. I didn’t have any soup pasta around, but I did have a bag of par-cooked whole wheat spirals in the freezer left over from a previous meal, so I thawed them and stirred them gently into the soup until they were just warmed through.

celery leaves and garlic

I also had a bunch of leafy celery in the crisper, so I pulled off a big handful of the leaves to make a quick gremolata of sorts, chopping them fine and combining them with garlic and lemon zest and coarse pink salt, plus a little bit of olive oil to make a chunky paste, which I swirled on top of our soup bowls.

last-minute minestrone

We settled in at the table, passing a tray of cheese-dusted, garlicky toasts for dunking, and even Julian ate with gusto. I guess a good pot of soup really is the cure for what’s ailing you.

Snow and Pho

3:58 pm

We’re up to our elbows in snow, and a good four days into our 10-day adaptation of the Food Lovers’ Cleanse. The biggest problem I’ve had (as I suspected would be the case) is that it has been really difficult to make the plan’s suggested breakfasts and lunches work with my weekday schedule, but I’ve also found that the recipes in general have been really hit or miss.

Dinner:  January 9, 2011

I was almost ready to give up entirely after our first dinner, the disastrous Ultimate Winter Couscous, which smelled so lovely in the oven but tasted like a whole lot of unpleasantly-textured nothing on the plate (and I’m still at a loss as to why those vegetables needed four whole tablespoons of olive oil). Mike tried and really liked Heidi’s cinnamon quinoa, the edamame hummus (both of which I look forward to trying), and the tuna with celery root and apple salad, but I couldn’t even smell that salad without gagging (and I love celery root). I ended up eating dry tuna with even drier Wasa crackers.

Dinner: January 10, 2011

On a positive note, we truly loved the salmon in Bengali mustard sauce and the black-eyed pea curry (for which I used yellow-eye beans from Freedom Bean Farm in Maine), both of which we’d happily put into regular rotation.


Perhaps my favorite recipe so far, though, is one that does not appear in the original BA Food Lovers’ Cleanse, but one I decided to swap in for the OMG-are-you-serious? on-a-weeknight? Successively Simmered Koya-Dofu and Vegetables, the incredibly aromatic, delicious, satisfying, and – wait for it – easy enough for a weeknight (or any darned time) Vegetarian Pho by our friend Winnie Abramson.

snow day lunch

You toast coriander seeds, cloves, star anise, and a cinnamon stick in a dry skillet until fragrant, add them to some warm vegetable broth with an onion and some peeled and smashed ginger, plus an Indonesian soy sauce (which I couldn’t find, so I used her suggested substitution of brown sugar and tamari). You bring it to a boil, simmer, strain out the solids, chop the softened onion and ginger, then add them back to the pot along with edamame and chopped bok choy. Cook a little longer, add your rice noodles (I even used whole grain rice noodles! Healthy!), and finish with a big hit of fresh lime juice, Sriracha, cilantro and fresh scallions. Easy. Peasy. Delicious. And so nice we ate it twice.

Worth the Wait

short rib chili

We love a good pot of chili, and our kitchen has turned out dozens of variations over the years. Mike is partial to a meaty, Alton Brown-style version, while I tend to favor a chili with lots of beans and sometimes no meat at all. With the weather turning colder I decided to make chili my next project, and set out on Sunday to come up with a version that would satisfy both of us.

fully loaded

For the meat, I used Aquidneck Farm beef short ribs, boned out, trimmed, and cut into chunks. I made a puree of chiles and spices, added fire-roasted tomatoes and some rich dark beer, and let everything cook low and slow for the better part of the day. I added some crushed tortilla chips for texture and a hint of toasty corn flavor, and a hit of fresh lime juice at the end for brightness and balance. And after my pot of chili had cooked for the better part of the day, I cooled it down and let it sit overnight. We ate it on Monday with a bevy of garnishes, and I have to tell you, it was so worth the wait. You can get my recipe at food52.

In The Soup


I won’t go into the multitude of things that have been keeping me away from this blog, but I did want to stop in and let you know that despite the lack of posts here and my nearly four day twitter blackout (what on earth did we do before twitter? thank goodness my account came back last night), I haven’t actually dropped off the face of the planet. However, life has gotten even crazier than it was a week ago, and it likely won’t slow down any time soon.

Dinner: October 25, 2010

On top of all that, we have a dear friend coming to visit for a few days and we’re looking forward to eating and drinking our way around town, but with my usual great timing, I seem to be coming down with a cold. I made this soup a few nights ago, and Mike packed some for my lunch today. I used fresh cranberry beans instead of cooked dried beans, and since we were fresh out of potatoes I added a little extra pasta to the mix. I’m hoping the one-two punch of the leeks and garlic confit will chase any bugs away.

You can get my recipe at food52.

From the Heart

those beans

One of the very best things I did this week, one of the best moments of my life, was to call my beloved Grandma on Wednesday evening. I called to tell her that her name, and my recipe that was inspired by a dish that she has made countless times over the course of her 89 years, a humble pot of beans, no less, was featured in the New York Times. Those beans, those beans that I *had* to figure out how to make for myself years ago, those beans that she makes as effortlessly as breathing, no measuring, like all of her beloved dishes, they just come together, perfectly, every single time. My spin on my Grandma’s borrachos, with her name-checked as inspiration, is in the New. York. Times.

singing to Chela

When I ask my Marina in person (way, WAY not often enough), or on the phone (also not often enough), how she makes X, or Y, or Z, there are never measurements. It’s just How We Cook. Handfuls and pinches, and “a leetle beet” – “everybody’s hands are different,” she always, always says. She is WHY I cook, she is my star, she is my heart, and if you could have heard how this amazing 89 year old woman giggled when I gave her the news that these beans, OUR beans, hit the big time, it would have made your heart grow about three sizes. And then melt. It did mine.

So check out this awesome interactive feature which highlights not just our beans, but 19 other amazing potluck-friendly recipes curated by (food52 Team Awesome) Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. And if you live in Providence, don’t be surprised if you can’t find a copy of the Sunday NYT – Amanda’s got an incredible piece in the Magazine about her new book, and WOW, I’m in that piece too, and Mike and I will be up bright and early tomorrow to buy up copies of the paper to send to our people back home. Most importantly, to my Grandma Marina, mi Abuela, my heart, my biggest inspiration.