Cooking for Others

Pot Roast with Rutabaga & Parsnips

Posted by on Wednesday Apr 9th, 2014

Just popping in quickly today to share a recent variation of my favorite (aka my mother’s) brisket. With Passover approaching, I thought you might like to see a vegetable-rich approach to serving a big hunk of meat. In this recipe, I throw in rutabaga and parsnip for added sustenance–and a little change.

So if it’s the same as a brisket, why do I call this one a pot roast? Well, I actually didn’t use the cut of meat known as brisket for this dish; I ordered a small chuck eye roast  from Fleisher’s, via Good Eggs. Apparently, chuck eye comes in smaller chunks than brisket, so if you’re not feeding a crowd, I recommend the cut.

Most of the time, though, brisket refers to the meat and pot roast to the method of cooking it low and slow in a pot. (You can actually roast the pot roast, but I prefer to do it on the stove.) For me, “brisket” sounds like Passover and Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays, whereas “pot roast” seems more non-denominational. So you can see why the names might have come in and out of fashion over the last hundred years or so.

A few weeks ago, when spring seemed like it would never come, I finally conceded to winter’s vegetables, which I hadn’t cooked with all that often throughout December, January, and February. Perhaps it’s counterintuitive, but to me the diced parsnip and rutabaga, though they should remind me of winter, make the pot roast herald the beginning of spring.

You can see more Passover recipes here.

Lacinato Kale Spanokopita

Posted by on Friday Jan 10th, 2014

After baklava, I think spanokopita–spinach pie–is the most crave-worthy of the Greek phyllo-wrapped specialties. The handheld savory pastries contain well-seasoned bits of chopped spinach, and they’ve always struck me as one of the most perfect light lunches or afternoon snacks in the world.

In my slightly updated recipe, you’ll find, inside layers and layers of olive oil-brushed phyllo, these delicious things: blanched kale, umami-rich parmesan, and a touch of lemon zest. It’s the perfect proportion of indulgent to healthful. Today I’m over at Phyllo.com talking about this classic.

Click over to check out the full post and get the recipe.

I wrote this sponsored post  in partnership with Athens Foods. Thanks for reading!

Phyllo Pigs in a Blanket

Posted by on Monday Dec 16th, 2013

In Great Britain, a pig in a blanket is a mini sausage wrapped up in bacon.

I had no idea! As someone who shuns neither tradition nor bacon, I suddenly felt like a rebel for rolling up what I thought was a completely classic version of pigs in a blanket today, which I thought you might like to add to cocktail menus during this week before Christmas and then New Year’s.

I learned this fact at a cocktail party, just after the waiter had come by with a tray of American pigs in a blanket, offering bites to Brits and Americans alike. As I chewed my mini hot dog covered in dough–with apologies to any Brits reading–my reaction was one of Yankee haughtiness. We Americans may have appeared to get the recipe wrong, but in fact we have perfected it. Buttery dough and salty meat are an ideal cocktail food combination.

I did make one tweak, though. I picked up a package of Athens Fillo Dough from the freezer in my supermarket, defrosted the dough, melted some butter, grabbed a brush, and began layering the sheets with butter.

Last week, I finally sat down with my three-month-old pin loom and started weaving coasters. My mom got me the loom for my birthday so that I would stop giving everyone potholders for Christmas. To make these coasters, you wind one color of yarn around the loom three times, creating both warp and weft. Then you take a second color, thread it on a long weaving needle, and weave until the square is complete. Finishing is the easy part: you pry the whole thing from the loom and the loops settle into a tighter weave, a self-sufficient square.

Why am I telling you this? Because last week, I confided in my coffee date how I didn’t have time for homemade gifts this year, for tying up bags of cookies or giving a meal as a gift or planning a latke party for friends. For a couple of months, it’s felt like I haven’t planted myself in a chair and just sat still there. I haven’t paused to weave, to watch more than a single TV show (Scandal, Nashville) in one session. I haven’t made a meal with more than one dish, let alone an appetizer. And so, weaving has forced a pause. Relaxation. Enjoying the evenings. Making an extra dish or two for dinner.

Like, this hors d’oeuvres, cheesy, gooey, and delicious, which will slowing down dinner, giving time to sit for a bit with drinks and snacks before moving to the main course.

Something cheesy and savory to linger over, then–that’s what I had in mind when I created these as part of a group menu with the other bloggers who’ve been working with Sargento all year. Back in February, we all started covering food trends, everything from food trucks to herbs in dessert to Peruvian cuisine. I took on Middle Eastern food, and I hope you’ve loved the bright flavors, the doses of pomegranate molasses, and all the lentils as much as I have.

Back to my crostini.

There are seared mushroom slices, rich-tasting and bright with herbes de provence. I piled squares of Sargento Swiss cheese onto bite-sized baguette slices beneath the mushrooms, and these mini toasts are just killer. Really killer. Slow down and smell the seared mushrooms. Weave. Hang out. That’s what I’ll be doing.


Keep scrolling to see the recipe and all the other dishes that are part of the menu!

When you are trying to figure out how you feed yourself decent food on a semi-regular basis, at home, without spending tons of money or all your free time soaking beans, and you happen upon someone who seems to have the whole feeding thing down pat, and you ask her, “so, how do you do it?” you’re bound to hear one of a few unhelpful answers.

I say unhelpful because at some level feeding yourself is something you have to do on your own terms, and whether it’s your astronomical takeout bill that gets you on the path or the awareness that everything at the salad bar has started to taste the same or the really good three-ingredient quesadilla you fried up in five minutes yesterday and have realized you could easily make a variation of today, if you want to cook at home, I know you’ll get there.

Anyway, one of the unhelpful things don’t-sweat-it, at-home cooks say is that you can make food on the weekend and eat your pot of stew all week. Though I love leftovers, this is not something I can do. I like to cook, after all; and so reheating chili on Wednesday that was delicious on Sunday kind of bores me, thereby making the chili less delicious.

This is crazy, not only because chili gets better with time.

Baked Brie & Sweet Potato Bites

Posted by on Friday Nov 8th, 2013

At our Thanksgiving, the cocktail napkins are printed in all caps: “Forced Family Fun.” My mom bought them one year on a whim, and they’ve now become a tradition, as much as the turkey or the braided biscuits. My cousins, my sisters, and I like to laugh over them as we nibble at the appetizers and catch up. Note that this little slogan immediately becomes ironic, since we’re family and laughing and therefore having non-required amusement with our kin–exactly the opposite of what the napkins claim.

We don’t put out a huge appetizer spread at Thanksgiving, so as not to fill up before the turkey or the pie, but every few years we come up with an interesting hors d’oeuvres for people to nosh on, and I think I just created a good candidate for this year’s.

Athens Foods’ Mini Fillo Shells are a container for whatever fillings you like–classic or made-up. The sweet flavors that grace a lot of Thanksgivings’ savory foods had me thinking about mini versions of baked brie, but then I spied the bag of sweet potatoes on our counter and decided to use those for sweetness instead of dried or fresh fruit. I grated the potatoes, then sautéed them with olive oil, garlic, spices, and herbs. Sweet, but not too sweet, I piled the starchy shreds in the phyllo cups, on top of little morsels of brie. It was only afterwards that I realized I’d created little potato nests which looked a lot like potato latkes, which made me think of the hybrid holiday that will not be named.

(That’s Thanksgivukkah.)

I know we have a few more weeks of fall to breeze through before we’re having not-forced family fun over a feast that begins with appetizers like these and ends eight days later with latkes. I’m already excited.

Hi and happy new year. This may not look like apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah–a tradition that helps bring about a sweet new year. No, my recipe has been transformed by my research into Middle Eastern cuisine. This, friends, is an Iranian Kuku, a baked omelet made with greens, herbs, and–get this–walnuts and raisins. The latter for a sweet new year. That makes these the greenest, sweetest eggs ever. Intrigued? I was too when I first came upon this recipe in Claudia Roden’s fantastic chapter on egg dishes from the Middle East.

For more traditional Jewish new year recipes, you’ll want to click click over to brisket, my grandma’s plum cake, and kugel (noodle or potato??). But if you’re looking to shake things up a little even as you heed the sweetness mandate, you’ve found an irresistible recipe.

Here’s the deal. Tons of greens–like way more than you would ever dream of tossing with a mere half dozen eggs–become the substance of a baked omelet. In the tradition of Arab omelets, these are cooked until firm and they contain so much more filling than any other omelet, frittata, or savory pancake that I’ve ever cooked. I would dare to say they’re closest to the Spanish tortilla española, if we’re classifying.

Because this particular omelet hails from Persia, it’s called a kuku, which just means omelet. It’s the greens, walnuts, and raisins that make this a new year’s meal there, but you can leave out the nuts and raisins if you’re not worried about sweetness transference from your meal to your year. I found the additions to be surprisingly delicious and a nice counterpoint to all those greens.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that this kuku is really, really healthful. It’s a tasty, satisfying way to ingest a greedy portion of greens and also a good candidate for an eat-all-week lunch, since it’s great cold and room temp. We enjoyed slices in a couple different ways–beside lentil soup and in a sandwich paired with mayo and and a few slices of Sargento mozzarella were two of the best.