Make the Best Burger Ever

Posted by on Wednesday Mar 19th, 2014

There’s such a victory in making something at home that you always only eat out. For some reason, I’d long relegated the burger to a meal I enjoyed only at restaurants, with favorites around the city, from Shake Shack to Anchored Inn and Five Napkin to our neighborhood’s James. But the classic burger is really easy to make at home–and to make at home really, really well.

With help from burger experts, I put together The Complete Guide to Making Burgers at Home for First We Feast. Find the step-by-step photos and discover what burger principles must be upheld and what elements are yours to play around with over on First We Feast.

After I told you about the absolute easiest meals you could make for dinner, the ones with three ingredients or two minutes of prep or no possible excuse for not making them, I felt a little guilty. Some of us like to cook–we dream all day of the meals we’ll put together as soon as we have a little bit of extra time, bookmarking absorbing kitchen projects that we know will produce delicious results, in part because we made them deliberately. And so, in homage to the fact that doing things slowly can be as appetizing a prospect as whipping up a decent weeknight dinner instead of ordering takeout, here are a handful of excuses to spend a couple hours in the kitchen.

(Lead photo from an upcoming complicated project of my own, which I can’t wait to tell you about!)

**8 Complicated Cooking Projects**

1. Homemade Pizza. There’s a rhythm here: make dough, relax while dough rises, prepare toppings, bake, and eat. If pizza making seems a cinch, try crafting your own sausage as a topping.

2. Giant Layered Cookie Cake. This masterpiece involves shaping cookie dough into five even circles, baking them all (especially complicated if you only have one or two oven racks), cooling them, and then layering them perfectly with cream cheese icing. The result is ridiculously impressive.

There are no excuses right now. The year is new, and if you resolved to cook at home more, you can’t disasppoint yourself just yet. Like you, I sometimes get home at night and don’t want to cook. But I remember, almost always, that dinner doesn’t have to be fancy and that there are myriad meal possibilities that use only a few ingredients and dirty just a pan or two. At those moments, I re-resolve to cook, and in order that you can share in this minor triumph, I put together 11 dinners that take almost no effort, each with a mini summary of what to do so that you don’t really have to read the instructions.

**11 of the Easiest Dinners You Can Possibly Make**

1. Za’atar Roasted Salmon with Greens. Sauté greens and garlic in some olive oil. Turn on the oven, put the salmon on the greens, bake, sprinkle za’atar if you have it and then squeeze on some lemon.

2. Chicken Sausage & Ravioli Soup. Brown sausage, onion, and garlic. Add tomatoes and chicken stock, then simmer away. Cook ravioli and spinach right in the pot. Eat.

3. Grilled Swiss & Roasted Fennel Sandwich. Roast fennel. Pile onto a sandwich with Swiss and Parmesan. Toast in a pan with melted butter.

Make the Best Egg Sandwich Ever

Posted by on Wednesday Jan 8th, 2014

I like any important morning feast to take the shape of an egg sandwich, that crossover high-low specialty with the potential to be assembled well at good diners, neighborhood bagel shops, and home alike.

While it may originally be a makeshift meal—what college kid doesn’t have access to a couple eggs and a stale roll?—the egg sandwich has a second life as something a lot more exciting. The best egg sandwich makers demonstrate mastery of two big pillars of good cooking: the right texture and the right fat amount of fat. See how to make the best egg sandwiches in the world by clicking through this piece I wrote for First We Feast.

My Favorite Recipes of 2013

Posted by on Friday Dec 27th, 2013

I cooked a lot this year.  Look above–there I am, cooking! I made breakfasts for one, dinners for two, and brunches for ten. I didn’t get totally defeated by our CSA pick-ups. I explored Middle Eastern food. I ate a lot of leftovers and not sad desk lunches. This week, I scrolled through the last twelve months of posts and picked out the dishes that were not just good but really, really good.

In January, there was a crossover dessert-breakfast cookie that won a lot of fans:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Breakfast Bars

In the name of eating healthfully in January, I made this green chicken chili with barley and tons of veggies that was just so good.

Healthy Chicken Chili with Barley

In March, I lightened up a mac-and-cheese style treatment of some Israeli couscous with a lot of broccoli:

Broccoli & Parmesan Israeli Couscous

I made this one morning and packed it for lunch:

Sabich Sandwich

All the healthy and healthy-ish stuff went down the drain when I made Martha’s Giant Layered Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake…

How to: Prep Your Party Ahead of Time

Posted by on Thursday Dec 5th, 2013

I love hosting around the holidays almost as much as I love being a guest at friends’ parties. Most of all, I adore when friends come to me for advice about how to plan a menu, prep, and cook for their holiday meals. I love this because it gives me a chance to dole out all the wisdom I have: make sure to have fun at your own party.

Too often, hosts—especially people like me who are improvising parties in tiny kitchens and itsy bitsy apartments—get so involved in the hosting aspect that they forget to be guests at their own events. The best defense against becoming high-strung or worried is tons of preparation. Here’s a rundown of how to get the party rolling long before it starts.

Make punch. A huge bowl of punch has all the allure of a sophisticated mixed cocktail without the necessity of paying individual attention to everyone’s drink. At its most basic, you can do a punch with freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juices, Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon vodka, seltzer, and champagne; add drops of bitter for a more nuanced taste. Serve with plenty of ice.

Do all the little extras ahead of time. By this I mean scrub every countertop, clean every floor, wash every glass, caramelize every onion, assemble every crostini, arrange every cheese plate, and make and plate every dip and crudités platter. The more you can accomplish long before guests arrive, the more your hostess duties can have to do with introducing friends and setting up potential romances and less with basting some silly turkey.

On that note, your entire menu should be made up of foods that can be made ahead of time and taste just as great a few hours later, like these. That means yummy dips, trays of crostini, shrimp cocktail, chicken skewers, big grain salads, savory pies, roasted vegetables, and cheese plates. If you’re serving a sit-down meal, make a stew or a roast that merely needs pulling from the oven. If you need to check on dinner once or twice; fine. If it’s more than that, I guarantee you won’t have a good time.

Have extra booze on hand. My “quarter-life” crew is now approaching thirty, but it’s still self-evident to all of us the the beginning of the end of the party occurs when the booze supply runs dry and a guest has to bolt out for replacements. Have plenty of booze and mixers in your fridge and pantry when you start, and always ask friends to bring more.

Pre-game. Reward yourself with a cocktail about 30 minutes before the first guests arrive. Sip it (and any ones that follow) slowly so you can enjoy and relax!

I wrote this sponsored post in partnership with Smirnoff Sorbet Light and Style Coalition. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that help inspire BGSK’s content! 

As a former vegetarian–vegan, in fact–I remember well how veg-heads have to fend for themselves at Thanksgiving. For it’s not just turkey day. No, it’s chicken-stock-in-the-stuffing day, a meal where there’s bacon in the Brussels sprouts and butter and cream in absolutely everything. Depending on whether you’re hosting or attending, you might not have a ton of control over what’s on the vegetarian buffet, which can an obstacle to the delicious merriment of the holiday.

So if you’re looking to contribute a meat-free dish that you know you can eat, you’ll find inspiration below for dishes you can sneak onto the table beside the meat–or present proudly to a room full of vegetarian feasters, should you be so lucky.

**10 Things to Eat at Thanksgiving If You’re a Vegetarian**

1. Portobello Mushrooms with Parmesan-Herb Stuffing. These mushrooms steal stuffing from the realm of the carnivores and reinvent the fragrant bread mixture as the perfect filling for ‘shrooms.

2. Stuffed Delicata Squash. Curry at Thanksgiving? While the pairing of lentils, rice, and spice might not be altogether traditional, these gorgeous stuffed veggies are filling–a good main course veggie option if there’s room on your table for one.