You know how grain bowls are all the rage? Forget them. In the dead of winter, you need a soup bowl. What’s a soup bowl, you ask? Good question, since I just made it up. Basically, you take the same concept of a grain bowl, which layers grains with different flavors and textures, but here the base is a thick and creamy (but vegan) sweet potato soup, which gets topped with a mound of rice, frizzled kale, tart green apples and crunchy peanuts. The soup is delicious on its own (that’s how my kids prefer it), but it’s made even better by the toppings.
Imagine a family of vibrant, crunchy shrimp summer rolls wearing warm, snuggly cashmere sweaters… (Is it a problem that I often envision my food as people?). These “winterized” summer rolls are filled with shrimp, carrots, beets, avocado, cilantro and mint, then dipped into a thick and creamy peanut sauce that feels like a mink coat over a bikini. They’re a delicious and refreshing wintertime meal or appetizer, with just enough gusto to keep you satisfied.
You know how sometimes you taste something and it makes you dance? (Or maybe that’s just me?) This is one of those times! This crispy, sweet, giant butternut squash “latke” cake is my new favorite appetizer (or breakfast, lunch or dinner). It’s flavored with ginger and cinnamon, cooked until caramelized, and then cut into wedges. It’s served with a creamy garlic-lime yogurt sauce, spicy watercress and chopped pecans. Cue the dance music!!
My family is waffle obsessed. James is the breakfast maker in our house, and for the past nine months or so, Ella has asked for waffles every single Sunday. Not just any waffles, but the waffles from the Joy of Cooking, which, I’m told, are perfectly buttery and crispy. How would I know? The suckers are gluten-filled, and even though we’ve tried to make them gluten-free, Ella can taste the difference and begs (i.e. whines like hell) for the original. We usually give in, and I’m left pulling something out of the freezer if I’m lucky, or resorting to a bowl of porridge or granola. I will give them breakfast, but there’s no way they’re getting dinner too—I’ve reclaimed my waffle prerogative at supper with these delicious chickpea waffles.
News flash: apparently there is a big football game on TV this Sunday! OK, OK—I do know that the Super Bowl is this week. Just don’t ask me who’s playing. I grew up with two older brothers and a Dad who were/are crazy about football. First downs, touchdowns and field goals were the sounds of our Sundays, even though I inevitably had my nose stuck in a book and didn’t know what any of it meant. While I still can’t distinguish a quarterback from a lineman, I would happily sit through any game as long as I had a bowl of this dip in front of me. The recipe comes from my new cookbook by way of my good friends Kelley and Amanda. They also grew up in Illinois and are die-hard Bears fans.
All I can say is that if spring doesn’t arrive soon, I’m going to start behaving like a feral cat. I’m not sure what that would entail, but I envision lots of screaming and tearing up of furniture. This winter has been harsh. We just had another snowstorm last week, for crying out loud. Throw a new baby into the mix, and I’ve been locked indoors for about 6 weeks too many. I’m in dire need of sunshine and dirt (in lieu of all that snow still blanketing my front yard). Here in the Northeast spring produce is still about two months away, but I can fake the season in the kitchen. These flatbreads are just the meal to make me believe that warm weather is on its way.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we did a collaborative “friendsgiving” this year. From the turkey, to the stuffing and sides, to the pumpkin pie and spiced carrot cake, the meal was incredible. But the dish that still sends me into reveries was an appetizer that my friend Jeff brought. When we were planning the menu (yea, we’re the type of people to schedule menu-planning meetings) he offered, with a twinkle in his eye and a mention of some family recipe, to bring crab cakes. I’ve always enjoyed crab cakes and didn’t think any more about it (after all, a crab cake is a crab cake, right?). That is, until Kelley revealed that Jeff had tested the recipe not once but three times before Thanksgiving to make sure it was just right. I started to get curious. Jeff is a Brooklyn native with a New Yorker’s attitude and a teddy bear’s spirit. He loves food with a tenderness usually reserved for puppies but he doesn’t mince words if he doesn’t like something. These were going to be good.
Ella loves ketchup—I mean, really, really loves the stuff. She’d probably be happy squeezing it into her morning oatmeal and would certainly eat it with a spoon if we let her. I find this abhorrent. I’m not much of a ketchup fan, and I get shivers when I see her slathering a beautifully cooked bite of roasted chicken in the sweet stuff. I gave up on fighting her on this years ago, however, as I’d rather see her actually eat the meat or even those string beans, even if they’re dipped in red, than not eat them at all. But every now and then ketchup gets demanded and the chef inside me dies a little. Take these potato and salmon cakes. They are utterly lovely—crispy on the outside and tender within, laced with scallions, ginger and garlic. A hint of sesame oil and tamari (or soy sauce) give them an Asian flare, which is contrasted by a cool yogurt dill sauce.
I’m a sucker for cakes. Not the sweet kind—I’ve always been a pie kind of girl—but the savory, crispy kind. When Ella was a baby I would make big batches of shredded vegetable cakes bound with egg (butternut squash, sweet potato, zucchini), which were presumably for her, but mostly for me—I’d eat them hot out of the pan with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt and a drizzle of yogurt. We’ve since enjoyed numerous other cake iterations, from curried millet cakes, to white bean and quinoa patties, to not-so-successful pea cakes (don’t ask). Last winter Mark Bittman published an article about quinoa cakes in the New York Times Magazine. The recipe struck me in its simplicity—there was no binder, he simply cooked (overcooked, really) the quinoa until it was starchy and sticky enough to hold together. I have to give it to the man—it’s brilliant. Forget eggs or binders, all you need is quinoa.