lean times

Coney Island-bound.

It’s hard to believe it was just over a year ago that we returned to Brooklyn. So much has happened over the last 12 months, it often feels like we’ve been back here much longer. We’ve been settling in to our new neighborhood, slowly reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. There have been new professional opportunities to pursue, and on a personal level, we’ve had the joy of watching our little guy learn to walk and run and talk a blue streak. And before we know it, that little guy is going to be a big brother, and we’ll welcome a new little one into our family, into this big, shiny place we call home.

view from the B train

Looking at where we are now, how far we’ve come and what we have to look forward to in the year ahead, kind of takes my breath away.


We’ve been so lucky – we’ve had a whole lot of good come our way in the last year, and more still to come, but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve worked more hours in the last 12 months than I probably ever have before in my career, and that hasn’t left me a lot of time to spend with my guys, let alone to keep up with this blog. And we’re still recovering, in a lot of ways, from our big move. We spent everything we had and then some to get back here, and as anyone who has spent time here knows, New York is expensive. We’ve had to really simplify, and one way I’ve done so is by relying more heavily on our favorite pantry staples when planning meals for the week.

I came up with this dish a year ago, when we were still sleeping on air mattresses in our brand new Brooklyn apartment, living out of suitcases and a couple of Rubbermaid bins, trying to stretch the pantry items we were able to move with us from Providence and the few fresh foods we could afford until my first paycheck arrived. We liked it so well I’ve made it numerous times since then, sometimes adding peas or short lengths of asparagus, a little something fresh and green from the farmers’ market. Even at it’s simplest, it has always satisfied.

Pasta with Salmon in Creamy Lemon Sauce

Pasta with Salmon in Creamy Lemon Sauce

1 lb short, chunky dry pasta (I usually use farfalle, but any shape will do)
3 T unsalted butter
3 T unbleached all-purpose flour
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 6 oz. can salmon, drained, skin and bones removed
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
snipped scallions or chives, about ½ cup
(Optional: 1 cup peas or short lengths of blanched asparagus)

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to the boil for your pasta.

While the water heats, melt the butter in a wide, shallow pan over low-to-medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk it in to combine, letting it cook briefly but being careful not to brown it. Whisk in the lemon juice – it will probably seize up, but don’t panic! Whisk in the milk until the mixture smoothes out, then add the heavy cream. Heat for a minute, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon zest and the salmon, breaking it up as you go. (If you’re adding peas or asparagus, add them at this point.)

Once your pasta water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, with a bit of the cooking liquid still clinging to it. Scatter the scallions or chives over the pasta and sauce in the pan, leaving a few aside for garnish, and stir until the pasta is coated with the sauce and the sauce is slightly reduced. Add more scallions or chives and another grinding of pepper, and serve.

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.

No-sweat Cooking, Day 15


31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via rachaelraymag.com, welcome!

We enjoyed these tasty little bites before our gazpacho dinner Monday night, and while I couldn’t really wrap the cheese in the lox thanks to some rather tiny, odd-shaped slices in my package of wild Alaskan smoked salmon (as you can probably tell by the rogue dill fronds on most of them), my improvisation worked just fine. These are a little light to make up a whole meal for us, but they’re perfect as a snack or a first course. I’d love to make them again when we’ve got some of our own home-cured salmon, perhaps even using a mix of herbs to echo the ones in our cure mix.

Lox ’n’ Goat Cheese Crostini

Get the recipe: Lox ’n’ Goat Cheese Crostini

Thank the Goddess

The days are growing longer, little green things are springing up all around, and though there’s still a chill in the air, I’m moving ever-so-gradually toward lighter meal preparations. Take this salmon. It’s MSC Certified Wild Alaskan Sockeye, so richly flavored, that it really needed little adornment to make it shine.


But I did want to do something more than just salmon, green beans and carrots, so I put together a sauce. It was inspired by the classic Green Goddess dressing, but since I lacked a few of the primary components of the standard version, I’d call this more of an anchovy and herb sauce. I combined a mixture of anchovy filets, garlic cloves, capers, lots of flat-leaf parsley, chervil, dill and young sorrel leaves in the small bowl of my food processor, added a pinch of salt and the juice of a Meyer lemon, and processed it to a slightly chunky paste. In a separate bowl, I whisked together a couple of ounces of creme fraiche with a heaping tablespoon of mayo, then I added the herb paste and stirred it until combined.

I placed the sauce in the fridge to chill briefly while I sauteed the salmon, rubbed with a small amount of olive oil, searing it on all sides and taking it off the heat while it was still just a bit underdone in the center.

Dinner:  March 17, 2009

I scattered some young leaves from Baby Greens on our plates, placed the salmon on top, and topped each piece with a drizzle of the sauce. Some sweet young carrots from Ledge Ends Produce, along with the last of the haricots verts I froze last summer, went alongside. In essence, this was a simple meal of fish and vegetables, but the easy, flavorful sauce added a nice bit of elegance and flair.

Fall back

I’m still not feeling great and the weather has taken a turn for the craptastic, but it’s times like these when I’m happy to fall back on some old favorites, like Mike’s pork belly confit, our dinner Wednesday night:

Dinner:  September 24, 2008

I made the salsa verde, but the rest was all him. And it was delicious.

Wild salmon filets are another favorite, quick and easy to prepare for a weeknight meal.

Dinner:  September 25, 2008

Thursday night, I seared these in a bit of olive oil until the skin was crispy and the fish just cooked through, then topped them with a little grainy Riggwelter mustard. I served the filets over a mixture of brown and wild rice, wilted spinach and chopped walnuts.

We had originally planned to order a pizza for dinner on Friday night to eat while watching the Presidential debate, but I got a massive craving for mac and cheese midmorning, and since we had everything I needed to make it, there was no reason not to go with it.

Dinner:  September 26, 2008

Last night’s version had Narragansett Creamery’s Divine Providence, Grafton cheddar, Three Sisters Serena, Morbier and Crystal Brook goat cheese whisked into my standard base, along with Colman’s mustard, a couple shakes of Worcestershire and Tabasco. I added the cooked pasta right to the cheese sauce in our cast iron skillet, topped it with Panko, dried summer savory and a bit more Serena grated on top, and baked it until bubbly and browned. A salad of peppery arugula on the side provided a bit of punch to counteract the richness of the dish.

In the can

Dinner:  March 25, 2008

Project Pantry Cull took another small step forward last night, as I pulled out a long-neglected can of Wild Alaskan pink salmon and turned it into surprisingly tasty salmon “burgers.” I feel a bit silly referring to them as burgers because they were really more like croquettes, but I served them on little wheat rolls with a lemon-caper mayo and sweet potato oven fries on the side, so the spirit of the burger was there.

These were extremely simple to prepare: I drained off the liquid from the salmon, placed it into a big mixing bowl and removed as much of the skin and little bones as I could. I added one finely minced large shallot, salt, pepper, a beaten egg and some plain dry breadcrumbs, then formed the mixture into patties (I ended up with 3) and placed them in the fridge for about half an hour to firm up. They got a quick fry in a bit of olive oil in a hot cast iron skillet for about 3 minutes per side, then a quick blot on paper towels before I placed them on the rolls and dressed them.

This was really the first time I have cooked with canned salmon, but I was impressed by the flavor, and you can’t beat the price – I think our whole meal easily came in at under $10 – so I’ll definitely want to keep it on hand as a pantry staple. I went a little light on the seasonings for my burgers, but I think there’s definitely room to play around there as well – some fresh herbs, spicy mustard or zingy Asian seasonings would all be great additions to future versions of this recipe. If you have any favorite ways to prepare canned salmon, I’d love to hear about them.