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Preview: The Yellow House

The Yellow House





Updated: 2017-04-19T15:26:31Z

 



Savory bread pudding with mushrooms & bacon

2017-04-19T15:26:31Z

The commuter train comes in all the way from West Virginia. Some of the people who ride it spend three hours, each way, commuting. That’s more time spent with your fellow train riders during the week than with your significant other or family. DC is a crazy commuting city, with long-suffering government servants slogging in […]The commuter train comes in all the way from West Virginia. Some of the people who ride it spend three hours, each way, commuting. That’s more time spent with your fellow train riders during the week than with your significant other or family. DC is a crazy commuting city, with long-suffering government servants slogging in and out for 25 years so they’re eligible for their federal pensions. In the mornings, people count down the days until they retire, and sometimes, you’ll hear the pop of a champagne cork: friends celebrating someone’s last schlep into work. Yes, you’re allowed to drink on the train. The Union Station liquor store does brisk business in the afternoon, tanking people up with mini-Chardonnays, beers, and airplane Dewar’s bottles for the train ride home. Every once in awhile there’s an exposé on the local news about a “party car” on the commuter train, usually an overblown account of some wildness that goes on while people are under the influence. At one stop outside DC, there’s a guy who will take pizza orders and deliver them into the arms of waiting passengers. But I switched jobs, and the new job is in a different part of the District. I take a bus now instead of a train. It’s a quieter, more subdued crowd. They come from the ‘burbs instead of farms, little-ticky-tacky-box types of folks. We do not drink, at least not alcohol, and probably not coffee because everyone is off of caffeine and gluten. We aren’t allowed to eat. I no longer have a cute, cocky young conductor friend who lets me ride for free because I baked him cookies one time. The changed commute reflects a changed schedule: I go into the city less often now; but for much longer days. Dinner is a real chore on those long days; I am usually ravenous and a little blinded by low blood sugar when I get home. . . . Two of my favorite food people on the Internet are Amelia Morris and Tim Mazurek. Amelia interviewed Tim here recently and it was entertaining and thought-provoking, as they both are. But it was a quick little parenthetical that Tim slipped in that I’ve been thinking about a lot: “…am I the only 9-5 food blogger?”, he asked. And he’s probably not, but I think he’s one of the few successful ones. How odd, really, that the people who we trust to help us find ways to eat and cook realistically for our families and friends are those who make their living writing about cooking. It’s probably why I value Tim’s voice so much, because I know that he gets up in the morning and goes to kick ass at his full-time, non-food job and then makes time to share his writing and critical eye on recipes that work. … Food media rewards making really good food look effortless and accessible. I kind of think that really good food is the opposite of effortless and accessible. Like a lot of people, I’ve been digging into the highly anticipated Liz Prueitt‘s Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook, but approached it with some trepidation. Prueitt and her husband, Chad Robertson, are at the helm of the San Francisco cult-Tartine empire, professional cooks who make Cali-cool, naturally leavened bread and café fare. Billed as a “hardworking cookbook that will guide and inspire home cooks”, you have to wonder if it actually will, considering the source. Prueitt’s intro to the book is reassuringly grounded, though. “You see, there’s no way around it: cooking is work. Work in that it requires forethought, a modicum of skill, and time. Work in that you must use your hands, stand on your feet, and wash the dishes. (And, full disclosure: for my hu[...]



What to eat when things aren’t going so well

2016-12-07T02:37:59Z

I. On a Sunday afternoon I am making three lasagnas, one for a family member who was just diagnosed with lymphoma, one for a friend with a brand new baby, and one for my sister. The baby and the cancer happened so quickly, seemingly days apart. Events like these make me broody about mortality and […]I. On a Sunday afternoon I am making three lasagnas, one for a family member who was just diagnosed with lymphoma, one for a friend with a brand new baby, and one for my sister. The baby and the cancer happened so quickly, seemingly days apart. Events like these make me broody about mortality and humans and life. In darker moments, it feels relentless, this onslaught of new babies and people I love falling sick, as if I will never possess arms open enough or heart big enough to welcome them and give them the tenderness they deserve, the protection they need. Three lasagnas: the puniest of offerings. I bring the lasagna to family dinner, and everyone has seconds. Everyone is quiet while they chew. It is not okay. And yet. II. On a Tuesday night, oh wait, now early Wednesday morning, oh god I am not one to wallow, really. I think things can be really, really bad, but not apocalyptic. Modernity is simultaneously more fragile and more resilient than we think. I believe in work. Which is probably why it was a very bad idea to take off a week of work during the election. We are having talks about normalization in our household and in popular media, and I have opinions about it. What I want everyone to know is that it’s human to normalize things, so you shouldn’t feel guilty when you do. Should you fight it? Yes. Set yourself a calendar reminder every morning at 8 am to write to your senator about Aleppo or Bannon or campaign finance reform or immigration. Automate your donations. Use behavioral psychology to help your poor lizard brain keep its focus on important issues of which it will tire. And it will tire. You will want, soon enough, to post a photo of the yuppie naturally leavened bread that you baked. When bad things happen, there’s a bizarre insistence from other conscientious folks that we stop talking about flip things like what’s for dinner, but the fact is that we all still eat, and that the bad things are there, every single day. Similarly, the work never, ever ends. Timeliness of our response is important. Consistency, though, and settling in for the long haul, is paramount. We have to be able to, every single day, keep our brains and hearts open enough to fight injustice where you see it and drive yourself to work and take care of your babies or your health or your girlfriend and sometimes to eat dinner. These things are not of equal importance. But there they are, all contained in the span of the same 24 hours. I’m stirring a pot of soup while calling my senator (How is he doing? I ask the answering machine. Must be weird to be that-guy-who-was-almost-vice-president). Some people’s day jobs are writing about food. Some people’s day jobs are working at a bank. Some people’s day jobs are being Senator-Almost-Vice-President. My day job is working on health systems in poor countries, but for some reason I’ve also been writing a silly blog about food (sort of) for six years. I want us all to keep our day jobs and our silly blogs and keep cooking dinner and keep fighting. These things are not mutually exclusive. I want us to work to keep them not mutually exclusive, not just for ourselves, but for everyone else. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone else could cram fighting and working and also enjoying a meal into their days? This is what I am committed to, the victory of the ordinary-that-is-not-ordinary. It is popular to act like sitting down to a reasonable dinner at the end of the day is a small, humble act. What a joke. It is a big, hard act, and it is a privilege. I have a nurse practitioner friend who says that everyone medicates in some way or another. I drink more wine than I should. III. Early Wednesday morning We have a small[...]



Summer, then

2016-08-02T15:26:06Z

I have an aunt who likes to ask people: “If someone shook you awake in the middle of the night and asked you, Quick! How old are you? What would your response be?” No one ever seems to think this is an odd question, which makes me think that it hits on something important. My […]I have an aunt who likes to ask people: “If someone shook you awake in the middle of the night and asked you, Quick! How old are you? What would your response be?” No one ever seems to think this is an odd question, which makes me think that it hits on something important. My aunt is in her fifties, but I think her answer is 27 (is that right, Colette?). The point of the exercise, I guess, is that hardly anyone believes that when startled awake, they would give the age they actually are. What does that mean? There’s nothing like summer to make me mull over how vague and relative time is. In contrast with the Everglades-heavy air outside, summer time feels fluid, perhaps sluggish in the moment but then, whoops, it’s late July, high summer and the black-eyed Susans are blooming. I measure time in bumper crops (first, zucchini; then, berries; now, tomatoes). Summer brings vacations, if we’re lucky, which have their own odd way of messing with time. Ben and I went on a mini-escape to Seattle as part of a work trip, which was mainly an excuse for me to eat as many bivalves as I could get my hands on. Molly and I hung out for a couple hours at Dino’s. (We had a lot of Campari, which, if you read Molly’s stuff at all, you’ll know is the way to hang out with Molly). Ben and I also carved out a little brunch with Tara at the famous Orchard House. Seriously, though: mostly I just ate oysters washed down with white wine and Puget Sound views, and tried to get my mind off of accumulating work emails (seeking strategies for how to deal with this stress of “unplugging”.) (Seriously.) My little sister had a baby in June, which was a wonderful, monumental, crazy thing itself that I am still processing. We traveled together to Colorado with the baby to meet my mom’s family. On one particularly fussy day, the baby ate constantly and then crash-slept for 8 hours. When Louise picked her up in the morning, we were stunned: was this the same baby? Did she actually just grow a full inch and gain three chubby thigh-folds? Can you be five weeks old but look different overnight? (Do babies have a startle-you-awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night age?) Back in Virginia (and back to work), it is very, very hot, and accordingly, appetites are not robust. Last night for dinner I had a beer, a handful of cherry tomatoes, and some sour cream and onion potato chips. When I have been cooking, it’s in response to all the aforementioned zucchini and berries and tomatoes. I haven’t been grocery shopping in a long time. I thought I might round up some of the ways I’ve been using up all of the good summer stuff, which is a bit of a cop-out laundry list, but it’s all I can muster in this humid haze. I hope there’s a cold one to crack open wherever you are. SUMMER SQUASH I grew a fancy Italian heirloom zucchini this year, and maybe because of that have been cooking zucchini recipes almost exclusively from Rome-based Rachel Roddy, which is not a bad way to be cooking. Simplest: Zucchini slowly cooked in garlic scented olive oil. Drape over toast or eggs. Slightly more involved: Pasta cooked with a carbonara-style creamy egg sauce and ribbons of zucchini. Because of some ridiculous oversized, overblown zucchinis that I grew, I also dredged up this baked zucchini fritter recipe from the olden days of this blog, which remains delicious and not too difficult, although I would now brown then a bit more. TOMATOES Someone recently reminded me that you have a good guide (from three years ago now) to the ways I mostly deal with summer tomatoes, here: Tomatoes at the Yellow House. I still make that tomato jam every year, [...]



May + a gingery, seed-y collard green salad

2016-05-23T19:56:45Z

I did my first, real-deal season-extending gardening this year. This means that as opposed to planting things in the spring, I actually planted them in October and protected them as they slowly grew through the winter. By the time spring rolled around, we had mature lettuce and leafy greens earlier in the year than we’ve […]I did my first, real-deal season-extending gardening this year. This means that as opposed to planting things in the spring, I actually planted them in October and protected them as they slowly grew through the winter. By the time spring rolled around, we had mature lettuce and leafy greens earlier in the year than we’ve ever had them before, which is great, in some ways, but has also started to weird me out a little. We tend to think of leafy things as tender, young, springy food, but the lettuce I am harvesting is eight months old. Kind of crazy, right? It has been the wettest, coolest, cloudiest spring in memory, and while reasonably happy for the water, all of our growing plants are a little slower on the uptake than normal—so, weirdness aside, I’m happy for the early glut of greens. (I am also posting not-relevant photos of one of the rare sunny afternoons we’ve had to remind myself what the sunshine looks like.) I’ve been writing about growing collard greens and eating them for almost as long as this site has existed, but always in cooked form. This raw collard salad takes its cue from the raw kale salads that have dominated public consciousness in the past few kale-crazy years: thick, hearty greens, sliced thinly or torn into small pieces, dressed aggressively with assertive flavors, and then massaged or left to break down a little. Just like when I first tried those raw kale salads, I was a skeptic about this collard version; just like when I first tried those raw kale salads, I was wrong. Unlike the kale, however, collards have a smoother leaf, resulting in a mouthful that’s a little less textured and is a little less shout-y about the fact that you’re eating such a hearty, cabbage-family plant raw. Raw collards are a bit peppery and make a nice change-up from your normal greens, falling somewhere between a true slaw and a tender, young salad. After being dressed and tossed with a gingery, nutty vinaigrette, the ribbons of collards transform from waxy and stiff into a glossy, relaxed tangle. The original Bon Appétit recipe that I adapted this from called for making a seed brittle out of sesame and pepitas; you should definitely try that if you have the time. But toasted sesame seeds alone, thrown on top, are good enough for a quicker version, sticking pleasantly to the dressed leaves and crunching nicely in contrast with the slick collards. Gingery, seedy raw collard greens salad Adapted from Bon Appetit You’ll need 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 1½ teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or a pinch crushed red pepper flakes 1 teaspoon honey 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil Kosher salt 3/4 to 1 pound collard greens, center stems removed, leaves thinly sliced Optional: Toasted sesame seeds For seed brittle, if making: 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or pinch crushed red pepper flakes 2 teaspoons honey 2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds 1 tablespoon raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas) 1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds Directions In a bowl, whisk (or shake in a jar, or for a more emulsified dressing, blend with an immersion blender) the vinegar, ginger, Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon honey, and olive and sesame oils. Taste and season for salt, making it a bit saltier than you might otherwise like. If making seed brittle, combine the rest of the Aleppo pepper, honey, and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Toast the seeds in a skillet heated over medium heat until they are aromatic and becoming golden (do not allow them to burn), 2-3 minutes. Add the honey mixture and cook, stirr[...]



Sympathy for the devil

2016-04-20T10:19:24Z

The first thing you need to know about deviled eggs is that when you bring them to a party, everyone will coo over how “retro” or “Junior League” they are. Then they will eat them all, quickly. A little research reveals that the “retro” label is accurate, but in reference to a time period a […]The first thing you need to know about deviled eggs is that when you bring them to a party, everyone will coo over how “retro” or “Junior League” they are. Then they will eat them all, quickly. A little research reveals that the “retro” label is accurate, but in reference to a time period a bit further back than the mid-20th century cocktail nibble you might imagine. People have been taking the innards out of eggs and stuffing them back in since ancient Roman times. I guess nothing says “party” like a fancy, hard-cooked egg. This makes sense, I suppose. A plain hard-boiled egg, while delicious, is definitely a snack or meal for one. Portable, serviceable, and a bit too sulfurous to be festive, they are not glamorous. We peel plain hard-boiled eggs for ourselves, not worrying about presentation (you’re likely smashing it up or chopping it for salad). En masse, hard boiled eggs are the stuff of continental breakfast buffets. But the deviled egg, on the other hand! A platter of deviled eggs is for sharing, and making it takes a little time and care. I feel strongly about deviled eggs because I make them a lot. Any household with an abundance of fresh eggs, as I am lucky enough to live in, needs an arsenal of recipes in which to use them up. In deviled eggs, I have perennially available appetizer: eggs plus the mayonnaise and mustard that are nearly always on hand. Deviled eggs are made out of pedestrian ingredients. Making good deviled eggs, however, is all about technique. First, you must boil the eggs. If underboiled, your egg yolks will be too custardy or goopy for smashing into a deviled filling; if overboiled, the sphere of hardcooked yolk will be surrounded by an unappealing, smudgy, grey-green halo, and the brimstone odor will be amplified. The Internet abounds with ways for cooking eggs to the right consistency and color. I find that methods calling for first bringing water to a full boil and then adding the eggs are imprecise and difficult to get right, especially when using ungraded eggs (in other words: eggs of varying sizes) from farms and backyards. Instead, I prefer the egg boiling method first brought to my attention by Molly Wizenberg: place eggs in a pot of water covered by about an inch of water. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Then, remove the pot from the heat, clap a lid on the top, and allow the eggs to continue cooking in the hot water. After 12 minutes, transfer the eggs to an ice water bath to halt their cooking. This produces the perfect egg for deviling: hard-cooked through but not overcooked, with a firm yolk that smashes down densely and not-too-crumbly. But before we get into smashing yolks, we have to talk about peeling the eggs once boiled. Peeling hardboiled eggs easily, and, in the case of deviled eggs, keeping them relatively nice-looking for presentation, is surprisingly consternating. If I were more Harold McGee– or Kenji Lopez-Alt-ish—and I’m not—there’s something to be said here about the relative alkalinity of an egg, the way its pH gets higher as it sits in the fridge, as well as about the porousness of the eggshell and the air that intrudes over time as it sits on the shelf. But this is not the Food Lab! I will leave you with the three things that, in practice, make the most difference to me when I peel eggs. First: do not use the freshest eggs. Elizabeth David once wrote “few people will quarrel with the rule that an egg more than three days old had better be cooked some other way” than boiled. Elizabeth David was smart about many things, but had perhap[...]