For generations, brussels sprouts have gotten an unwarranted bad wrap. If you were force-fed these teeny tiny cabbages as a child, and they came to the table all gray and mushy, odds are you’re still harboring ill will. When they’re prepared correctly though, brussels sprouts are crisp-tender and ready to take on flavors. Over the past few years, brussels sprouts have finally come into their own, appearing on restaurant menus all over the place. They’re often cooked with something porky, like the pancetta in this recipe. There’s a lot of textures going on in this dish – crunchy pine nuts, snappy cranberries, and crisp pancetta against the fork-tender vegetables. It’s pretty to look at, and it’s tasty to eat.
For the past several years, I’ve made pies for Thanksgiving, a task that I secretly love. There’s just something about a homemade pie. If I make my living off of cakes, then I get my kicks out of pies. (Get your mind out of the gutter. This is a family-friendly blog.)
What’s more traditional at Thanksgiving than pumpkin pie? Mess with the original, tweak it into pumpkin cheesecake or pumpkin flan or whatever the hot pumpkin recipe is at that moment, and your newfangled dessert will likely be met with jeers from the purists at your holiday table. Those jerks never want to try anything new. Don’t twist my words though – I love the standard pumpkin pie; cool, silken custard flecked with fragrant cinnamon, cloves and ginger in a crisp buttery crust. With a little (or a lot) of sweetened whipped cream, it’s one thing that I’ll always want to have on Thanksgiving, and if that makes me one of those jerks, then so be it.
Last night I invited Diana and Mike, a couple of newlywed friends, over for curry. Diana finishes grad school next month, so they’re on a tight budget. I thought that they would appreciate a free dinner. A free, fragrant, curry-based dinner. They probably incurred some dry cleaning bills from sitting in the curry-laden air for several hours, but otherwise, the dinner was free. And pretty tasty.
Every time I hear them, the following comments make me chortle:
- “Wow, you must have some amazing meals at home!”
- “Does you guys just, like, cook, like, all the time?”
- “I’ll bet your weeknight dinners regularly consist of hearty slabs of fois gras covered in caviar, you lucky duck! How do you stay so skinny???*”
When a new acquaintance says something along these lines, I flash back over the “meals” I’ve recently eaten at home; leftover congealed mac n cheese of the powdered cheese family, bowls of raisin bran (yes, for dinner), a few slices of lunch meat and a snack sized Snickers bar. Does this sound like what two classically trained chefs would eat at home?
See, I’m making a career for myself in the world of baking and pastry, and Jon, my very handsome live-in boyfriend has been cooking professionally for years. Between the two of us, you’d think we would be able to pull off a better-than-decent meal at home, but that’s something of a rarity. I work a fairly standard Monday through Friday 9-5 job, and he pretty much busts his ass every day of the week on the opposite side of the clock. We barely get 5 minutes to converse with one another, let alone build a dinner together, and on the rare occasions when the stars all align and we do get to eat at home, at the same time? Well, who wants to deal with dirty dishes when we can just lay on the couch and watch Dexter and Bitchin’ Kitchen? I have a pizza joint and a Thai take-away on speed dial, and we order in.
Here’s the thing. I love cooking when I have someone to cook for. Good conversation over a thoughtful meal makes doing dishes by hand worthwhile. A couple of glasses of wine help, too. So, this blog is my personal attempt at reconnecting with my chef’s knife, my stove, and my mixer. Every week I’m inviting a friend or two over for dinner, or brunch, or Sunday tea, or some yet-to-be discovered eating occasion, and afterwards I’ll be writing about the recipes, or what we drank, or what crazy-awesome shoes my friend was wearing. But mostly, I’ll stick to writing about the food.
Let’s make some tasty stuff!
*Every time someone asks me “how I stay so skinny,” I want to punch them in the face. Come on! No one has every described me as a waif. At a size 8, I could be a lot thinner, and if I didn’t work in the Wilton Test Kitchen, baking and sampling cakes all day, I might be. But I love my job and all the eating it entails, so I try to practice moderation and not eat THE ENTIRE CAKE. And since when is it okay to comment on a stranger’s physique anyway? Oh, I also have oatmeal with raisins most mornings for breakfast, and I think that helps. The fiber keeps me full until the first cake is cooled enough to be cut and sampled. And on the days when I have to eat a lot of cake, and maybe also some cookies and brownies? I skip lunch, or maybe just have a little steamed broccoli. You too can employ the policy of eating in moderation! You can eat a bunch of sugar and be a beefy-legged size 8!
Ugh. Shut up about my weight already. Just shove this éclair in your damn mouth and shut up.
But really, I mean it! Let’s make some tasty stuff!