One Last Bite


I never imagined when I started this blog nearly five years ago that someday my dishes would appear in a cookbook, but if there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that life throws you the most wonderful curveballs sometimes. I’m thrilled that four (!!!!) of my recipes appear in the new Food52 Cookbook, I’m humbled to share the pages of that book with so many talented home cooks, and I’m delighted that I can call a good number of them friends.


On that high note, I’m saying goodbye to this space, at least for now. I can’t imagine a happier place to be in life than where we are right now, and I can’t thank you all enough for sharing the highs and lows, losses and celebrations with us here for the last five years. My priority right now is feeding Julian, and these days that doesn’t leave me time for much else, but I want you to know that you’ll always have a place at our (real or virtual) table.

Be well, savor life, and again, thank you.

Life’s Changes

letters to Sproggy

I’ve had a post, or several, swirling around in my head for weeks now, but finding the space and time and heart to write here has been a challenge.

Recent world events have left me shaken and deeply sad. The enormity of the devastation and suffering that is happening abroad is overwhelming.

Closer to home, too, there is suffering, news of losses and personal tragedies spreading via Twitter and elsewhere, friends of friends in pain, dealing with grief, yet clinging to hope.

signs of spring

My words feel very small, compared to all that.

And yet, life moves forward. Our life looks much the same on the surface, but we’re moving steadily toward the biggest change we’ve ever known.

rattle and yum

I have so much to say, but I find myself struggling with how to write it all down.

Last Night’s Dinner has grown into more than just a food blog to me. It’s really about our lives, less about recipes than it is our history, framed by the meals we share. And for the last four years, it has been fairly easy to talk about food, about myself and Mike and the cats, about people and places, about life and its changes and our place in it all, chronic over-sharer that I am. But now there’s this new little person coming into the mix, and I find myself really struggling with just how much I want to put out there, how much I should put out there.

speckled reflection

I’ll admit that for weeks on end I thought about just letting the site fade away, about changing my Twitter bio from “I don’t bake” (which is not entirely accurate anymore) to “Retired Food Blogger.”

I have been more exhausted than I ever imagined possible, barely able to eat dinner some nights, let alone cook, after coming home from a long day of work and commuting – and just forget about taking photos or writing blog posts.

Mike did a fabulous job of making sure we were well fed for most of January and February when I was really down for the count, and he has continued to do much of the heavy lifting well into March while I have tried to rest as much as possible and focus on the important work of building our baby. And even though I have returned to the kitchen, I’ve felt flat and out of sync, not quite sure how to get my groove back.

I can count on one hand the times I’ve made it to the farmers’ market this year. I’ve all but lost count of how many times I’ve started the week with a list and a meal plan, only to be derailed by a craving, a long workday, or just being too darned tired to follow through. And I’ll be perfectly honest, there’s very little in the way of seasonal, locally-grown produce in my kitchen right now. This kid is demanding berries and avocados, slabs of hydroponic tomato from Maine with lots of pepper and coarse grey salt, just-ripe bananas and wheels of mouth-puckering pineapple. Not very locavore of me, but I’m indulging, no apologies.

To be honest, though, I feel like I should apologize, or justify, or explain what I’m eating and why, and that has been a big part of what has kept me from writing here. If there’s one thing I’ve really noticed of late, it’s that people love to give advice to a pregnant woman. Everybody’s got a story, a suggestion, an opinion on what and how much you should or shouldn’t eat, and people will criticize in a heartbeat, especially people who are protected by the cloak of anonymity the internet provides.

Do I really want to put my choices out there for all to pass judgment on? Aren’t these choices really between me and my health care providers? It’s pretty hard to write a food blog and not talk about food. Should I even bother trying to go on here as before, when everything is so different now?

skillet pie

Right now, I don’t have an answer.

My heart swells when I think about the friends Mike and I have made, the opportunities that have come our way, the community of kindred spirits we’ve been welcomed into because of this blog. Our lives are richer for it. I’m very hesitant to give it up. But I’m not quite sure how to get started again.



I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it. We’re not yet done with January and we’ve had more than our yearly average snowfall. My commute has been awful – if the trains aren’t delayed by snow and ice, then switches are breaking, signals malfunctioning, rail cars creeping ever so slowly from station to station. I’ve missed my bus home from the train station every night this week, and tonight looks to be no exception, with more snow expected to begin this afternoon, continuing overnight.

Dinner: January 25, 2011

We’ve been on a steady diet of comfort food – a hearty pot roast Sunday night, an almost-meatless soup on Monday, loaded with creamy beans, pasta, and bits of pancetta (not yet our own, but we’re oh-so-close). Last night, I threw together this simple pasta dish, a combination of grated beets cooked down in butter with a healthy splash of white balsamic, the pasta par-cooked then added to the beets with some pasta water to finish, becoming infused with beet flavor and that lovely rich hue. There are similar pastas out there that include poppy seeds and mint, but Mike and I both wanted goat cheese, so I crumbled a bit of Vermont Butter & Cheese chevre on our plates, along with some chopped pistachios for a visual and textural pop. The vibrant colors and bright flavors chased my winter blues away, at least for a little while.

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere, you’ve probably already seen me proudly cheering on my cool friends Cathy and Kim, who are featured in the Washington Post today. If you haven’t, check it out. I’m there, too, on page two, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Cause for Celebration

I had no idea, as we planned our meals for this week, that last night’s dinner would turn into such a big fun celebration. We’ve spent most of our time planning for and looking forward to today, our fifth wedding anniversary, and the meal we’ll share tonight, as well as making plans to continue the celebration over the weekend. We’ll have other things to celebrate then, too – my parents‘ 40th (!) anniversary, and my niece‘s second birthday, so much joy packed into a few short days.

But boy did I get a surprise yesterday thanks to the folks at food52 – they chose my Hunters’-Style Chicken as a Wildcard winner, to appear in the second food52 cookbook alongside Amy‘s amazing Short Rib Ragu and countless other mouthwatering dishes. It’s always a rush to have a recipe chosen as a finalist or an Editor’s Pick in a competition, but to have my dish deemed worthy of inclusion in the book just on its own is really something special. I’m incredibly humbled, and so thankful, and it was such a fun coincidence that I had already planned to make this dish last night.

I’m sure we’ll be raising many a glass over the next few days, and you can be sure that as we toast to all of the things we’re grateful for in our lives, we’ll be thinking of all of you and this incredible community we’ve become a part of.

Charcutepalooza: Duck Prosciutto


Mike and I have had a copy of Charcuterie in our collection of food and cookery books for almost as long as we’ve been together. This sort of “project cooking” hasn’t traditionally been my thing (although I did make our first batch of house-cured salmon from the book before someone decided to take over), but Mike loves it, and has taken on many curing projects over the years, among them making bacon and a steady supply of duck confit.

making meat, day 6

Of course, the last several months have found us taking on all sorts of cooking projects together that I never imagined we would: we got bit hard by the canning bug, and we’re even beginning to experiment with lactofermentation, making saurkraut and soon, I hope, kimchi at home. So when our friends Cathy and Kim launched what would turn into this incredible sensation, this celebration of cured meats called Charcutepalooza, we were immediately on board.

duck prosciutto

Mike did the bulk of the heavy lifting for this first challenge, and can I just say wow, his breasts are not only gorgeous, but they are delicious (fnar, fnar). As for me, aside from tying the buggers up in their cheesecloth to hang at the beginning of the challenge, I’ve had little to do with those duck breasts but to slice, eat, and enjoy. Oh, and to come up with some fun ways to use this lovely prosciutto.

duck prosciutto with shaved fennel and radish salad

I typically think simple preparations are best when you want to highlight something made with so much care, so for our first dish, I took inspiration from the shaved fennel salad I like to serve with bresaola. I shaved fennel bulb very thin using a mandolin, and shaved thin slices of radish as well, then combined the two and tossed them with a zippy Meyer lemon vinaigrette – just fresh Meyer lemon juice, our best olive oil, sea salt, and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper. I mounded it in the middle of a plate and placed thin slices of the prosciutto around the edges. We ate with our fingers, wrapping bites of the crisp salad up with the prosciutto slices, a delicious combination.

duck prosciutto

For several days thereafter, the prosciutto sat (mostly) untouched, as we were “on a cleanse”, but this morning I awoke with an idea I couldn’t get out of my head: Duck. Duck. Goose.

foie gras

We had a nub of foie gras in the freezer, left over from our Christmas Day wellingtons. We had the duck prosciutto, of course. And though we typically have Mike’s own duck confit in the fridge, we were fresh out, so we picked up a leg at Persimmon Provisions and when we got home from our food and drink-procuring rounds, I got to work.

balls, formed

I pulled the confit meat from the bone, mincing it fine, then added shallot, fresh savory, a beaten egg and a small amount of dry breadcrumbs to the mix. I formed the mixture into cocktail-sized meatballs, each one stuffed with a nugget of foie. I melted duck fat in our iron skillet, gently browning the meatballs on all sides, then drained them on paper towels while I prepared a glaze – fig jam and white balsamic, mustard seeds and fresh ground pepper, sticky, tangy and fruity but not too sweet.


The meatballs went in until they were nicely coated, then I removed them and wrapped each one in a sheet of the duck prosciutto, threading a toothpick through to secure them. After a minute or three under the broiler they were ready to eat, the foie having melted into the rich ducky meatballs, the prosciutto having been rendered crisp and brown at the edges.

Duck Duck Goose

Little bites of heaven (now with recipe!).

The Charcutepalooza February Challenge is up, and I’ve got a five pound slab of Pat’s Pastured pork belly in the fridge. I’m taking the lead on this one, and I couldn’t be more excited (but we just might have a little something extra up our sleeves – stay tuned).

Welcome, 2011

It’s so full of promise, isn’t it? A chance to start fresh, a whole year stretched out before you, filled with possibilities and hope.

I used to make grand lists of all the things I’d like to accomplish in a year, but this year my list is far smaller, and more meaningful. As far as food and cooking resolutions go, we’ll make meat. We’ll keep canning. Once our holiday leftovers are gone, we’ll work on some version of that cleanse everyone is talking about. I want to make tortillas from scratch, and tamales, too, just like grandma used to make. I want to cook for my family, not just Mike, but the family we’ve been away from for far too long. This year will be about living more simply, and moving toward the next phase of our lives, surrounded by family and friends, sharing meals and more every chance we get. I can’t wait to get started in earnest.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and fulfilling 2011.