January 2011


For the past couple of weeks or so, I wasn’t really cooking. I was traveling a lot, and therefore not buying groceries. So pretty much the only thing I ate at home were snacks—and they were great snacks, which I’ll write about soon—and not real food. I like going out to eat, but it does get tiresome when it’s the only option.

It only seems fitting, then, that the first meal I’d cook upon returning to my kitchen would be a takeout staple. And now, I swear to you, I am never ordering takeout beef with broccoli ever again.

No takeout carton in sight.

It turns out that when you make your very own beef with broccoli, you can overcome the chief flaw of the takeout version: that the meat is usually cooked til it’s practically jerky. “Beef with broccoli” where the meat is actually tender is another beast altogether.

I’m still working on perfecting my other takeout staple, hot and sour soup, but in the meantime I think I’ve figured out the awesome crunchy things that restaurants give you to put in your soup. Apparently they’re not noodles, as I always believed, but deep-fried strips of egg roll wrappers. The hot oil turns them from wan, pasty things to golden, bubbly, crunchy goodness. I’m pretty sure this technique must be right, because I couldn’t stop eating them—which is exactly what always happens to me with the restaurant crunchy things.

Yep, that's it.

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With this soup, I once again fell victim to the First Day Soup Fallacy: eating soup right after it’s done, thinking “meh, it’s nothing special,” and reluctantly eating leftovers the next day—only to learn that the soup is actually amazing. This soup is spicy and filling and so delightful that—after I learned the error of my ways—I practically skipped home in the cold in anticipation of the cozy soup waiting for me.

Fallacy Soup

This soup looked gorgeous as written in The Kitchn, but I thought it could use some more greens and less beans (it called for a can of chickpeas and a can of Great Northern beans). And who am I kidding—greens, chickpeas, and chorizo are an unfailingly fabulous combination. The stew I just linked to is one of my favorite recipes, and this soup is basically that in soup form. How could I ever have doubted it?

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Apologies, resolvers: this is my third dessert post in a row—or my fifth, if you consider spiked cider a dessert.  But this dessert is different! It’s made with VEGETABLES. And therefore is nutritionally equivalent to a salad.

salad!

Okay, fine—its closest relative is a carrot cake, not a salad. Everyone who tasted this cake could tell that it wasn’t carrot and yet had no idea what it was actually made of. Somehow we’ve become accustomed to carrots in desserts, but other sweet rooty vegetables in desserts are unsettling. Suddenly you think about how odd it is to have a cake with carrots in it—and how much more odd it is that no one thinks it’s odd at all. Swapping parsnips for carrots makes the familiar strange, and even more delicious.

Or perhaps I’m just obsessed with parsnips these days. If you have extra after making the cake, I recommend pureeing them with olive oil and sage—they turn into a sweeter and more nutritious version of mashed potatoes—or perhaps roasting them with chicken and carrots. But make the cake first.

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Resolution, schmesolution. Here’s how to start the new year off right: with more than a pound of butter and more than two pounds of chocolate. You will, emphatically, not be sorry. Chocolate babka can only be a portent of amazing things in the year ahead.

 

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