10 Meals to Stretch the Meat

Posted by on Thursday May 29th, 2014

Meat-lite is my mantra. I don’t eat steak at every meal, and chicken graces our pot no more than once every 10 days. I’m hardly a vegetarian though, and my favorite cooking quiz show (in my head) is to see how little meat I can get away with in what’s otherwise a non-vegetarian meal. Buying meat in smaller quantity keeps your wallet full, while adding a bit of bacon, sausage, or brisket to your healthful, inexpensive meal helps the vegetables go down.

1. Quinoa, Avocado & Apple Salad with Crispy Bacon & Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette. Bacon is the cherry on top of an otherwise virtuous, vegan salad.

2. Chicken Soba Soup with Miso & Spinach.A skimpy piece of chicken to feed two or more? Unheard of, til you bulk out the poultry with vegetables, broth, and noodles.

3. Homemade Baked Beans on Toast. The Brits figured out how to make a meal of beans taste amazing: add bacon!

Falafel Are Not Hard to Make at Home!

Posted by on Monday Apr 14th, 2014

As it turns out, falafel sandwiches are not beyond the realm of the home cook, not at all. Yes, they involve deep frying–an activity I engage in twice a year and no more. But making a falafel ball is so, so easy. I’m talking a couple of ingredients and a couple of steps. That kind of easy. Ease aside, homemade falafel turn out to be tastier than 95% percent of the falafel out there.

Einat Admony, owner of the falafel joint Taïm–where you can get one of the good 5% of falafel–walked me through making falafel, explaining why simplicity is key, where creativity comes in, and that real falafel can never, ever be baked. Find all the know how over on First We Feast.

Have you ever hosted a dinner party filled with friends whose sheer diversity of eating habits puts biodiversity to shame? What’s a host to do–besides serve gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free stone soup?

Well, she could choose one of these menus, for dinners at which one or more guests has got some special eating needs. They’ll accommodate the special person, but they’ll also delight everyone else. (Though if you want to please some serious carnivore with a veg menu, you could always just sear a couple steaks to your vegan spread. But that’s not really the point.)

Do you have any tried-and-true dinners that please the dietarily restricted and unrestricted alike?

**11 Dietarily Restricted Dinner Parties**

Totally Vegan
Chickpea & Vegetable Pot Pie (made with vegan puff pastry as crust)| Lemony Kale Salad | Chocolate Cranberry Cake

Vegan + Gluten-Free
Old Bay PeanutsNew York Corn Chowder | Shakin’ Hash Browns
Chocolate Bark made with Toasted Pecans & Dried Cherries

Curried Lentil Soup | Muhammara Grilled Cheese | Peach Crisp

Vegetarian + Gluten-Free
Creamy Habanero & Tomato SoupCheesy Butternut Squash Enchiladas | Strawberry Mousse

The Bloody Marys of New York City

Posted by on Monday Mar 24th, 2014

Good morning. First thing Monday may seem like a strange moment to talk about our favorite hair-of-the-dog order, the Bloody Mary. Or, maybe not. Goodbye, weekend. Hello, week. Cheers!

All this winter, in its #SearchforMary, Stoli vodka has been toasting to that very same Bloody Mary, in all its regional variations–the drink can differ so much from bar to bar, not to mention from city to city. So, I set out to find what we’ve got on offer, Bloody Mary-wise, here in New York.

The Bloody Mary is an exquisitely American drink, less a cocktail and more like a culinary event, each drink creation an original moment to to invent the Bloody anew. With unexpected combinations of salty, briny, and rich, the tomato juice, celery, horseradish, and vodka manifest in tons of different delicious drinks, and I’m known to order them frequently–and to make them myself.

In my mind, there are a few ways a Bloody Mary can stand out. One, the garnish. Some of my favorite Bloody Marys keep it really simple in the drink itself, then pile on the  pickles, celery stalks, and lobster claws (!) for a meal-like topping. Two, the booze. Tequila and gin can both create great Bloodys, though nothing holds a candle to the original vodka, which just works. Then three, there’s the balance. With all the strong flavors, you can wind up with too much of one thing: tomato, celery, even ice, but the best of the best balance all these proportionately with the flavor of the booze.

So that you don’t have to traipse all over New York City in your search for a brilliant Bloody, I’ve enlisted my tastebuds, Stoli’s ambassadors, and the collective local knowledge of New York City’s Bloody drinkers to bring you a short round-up of standout Bloody Marys. As with the drink everywhere, there are so many tweaks and variations that at first it’s hard to see what makes each of these particularly New York-y. But take a step back and you’ll see. In New York, creativity’s token city, there’s truly no limit to what our bartenders have done with the famous Bloody Mary, and this round-up highlights a vast array of tweaks.

Read on for a few recipes and check back Wednesday for my take on the New York City Bloody Mary. If I’ve missed your favorite NYC Bloody Mary, please let me know in the comments!

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.