Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ONE PLATE. EIGHT SALADS.

(SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS ABOUT ALL EIGHT SALADS)

Have you ever looked your eight-year-old son in the eye and said: Dude, I'm hungry, please pass the salade composée? Me neither. But we've been making them all month. It just means arranged. As in less rambunctious than a tossed salad. More controlled. Layered. At least that's what I've been telling myself.

Some cool things about structuring salads this way:

1. They're hella pretty.
2. You can layer your greens with the fruit or nuts or cheese and then set the plate aside for 30 minutes or so (in the fridge if it's hot). There's no rush to serve it because the greens won't get soggy. Right before putting it on the table, sprinkle everything with coarse salt and chopped herbs. You can splash the dressing on the salad. Or you can pass the dressing on the side. 
3. Since you're not tossing, all the layers will stay intact and beautiful. You can fill grilled peaches with goat cheese, nestle in broiled dates wrapped in bacon, add any kind of crumbly or delicate cheese.
4. You see more of the salad. Nothing gets lost in the bottom of the bowl.
5. A large version of any of these salads can be a main course for dinner. Especially good on a hot summer night.

Like most recipes I develop, these are templates. Mix and match any which way you like. I've given approximate measurements for each salad dressing. Start with a kick ass powerful base like garlic or anchovy or lemon zest (or all three). Then whisk together (or shake in a jar) 2 parts extra-virgin olive oil to 1 part acid (lemon, lime, or vinegar). Use Dijon mustard, crème fraîche, heavy cream, mayonnaise or an egg to emulsify. Or not. Shaking the shit out of most dressings will bring them together eventually (give this job to a kid). The most important step is to taste your dressing. Don't trust my measurements. Don't trust anyone. Trust yourself. I always adjust the balance several times. I usually add my coarse salt (fleur de sel or grey or pink Hawaiian) at the end to the prepared salad, but feel free to incorporate it into the dressing (it bashes nicely with a clove of garlic). There are many paths.

CABBAGE, KALE, APPLE, AND PECAN SALAD WITH CREAMY CITRUS VINAIGRETTE
Layers: Thinly sliced Napa cabbage, massaged kale, julienned apples, toasted pecans, chopped parsley, coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: With a mortar and pestle, make a paste out of 2 cloves of garlic and 2 boquerones. Add a raw (or coddled) egg and whisk until smooth. Whisk in juice/zest of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 tablespoon creamy whole milk yogurt or crème fraîche.

ARUGULA, PIAVE, AND PEACH SALAD WITH THICK BALSAMIC, LEMON, AND GARLIC OIL

Layers: Arugula, Piave cheese (alternates: parmesan, manchego, asiago), peeled/halved/pitted/sliced peaches, coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: In a jar, shake together 3 tablespoons garlic oil (let a bashed clove of garlic sit in some olive oil overnight), juice/zest of 1/2 lemon, and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard. Finish with a generous drizzle of thick balsamic (I buy inexpensive balsamic and reduce it down a bit more than halfway).

AVOCADO AND HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD WITH SHALLOT HERB VINAIGRETTE

Layers: Avocado slices, tomato slices, coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: With a mortar and pestle, bash 2 cloves garlic with 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt until it makes a paste. Whisk in 2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Add 2 tablespoons finely diced shallots and let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in 1 tablespoon Grey Poupon mustard. Slowly whisk in 4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Add 3 tablespoons chopped herbs (any combination of parsley, mint, and cilantro).

ROMAINE, ROASTED BABY TOMATOES, AND HUMBOLDT FOG SALAD WITH PESTO DRESSING

Layers: Romaine, massaged kale, roasted cherry tomatoes (halved and cooked with olive oil/balsamic/salt/thyme at 350°F for 30 minutes), cold Humboldt Fog goat cheese (crumbled with rind removed), coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: 2 tablespoons of any kind of pesto whisked with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Thin it out with more olive oil if you need to. Or a few splashes of white wine vinegar.

RADISH, HERB, AND FETA SALAD WITH CITRUS DRESSING 
Layers: Thinly sliced radishes, toasted pine nuts, crumbled feta, mint, basil, opal basil, coarse salt.
Dressing: In a jar, combine and leave for a few hours or overnight: 1 cup olive oil, a few lemon wedges, 2 cloves bashed garlic, a few sprigs of thyme. The next day, pour off 6 tablespoons olive oil into another jar and shake it with 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and 2 teaspoons Grey Poupon mustard. Add more olive oil to the remaining garlic and lemon oil and save it for up to a few days in the fridge. adding more oil as needed.

ENDIVE, PICKLED RADISH, PARSLEY, ALEPPO BREAD CRUMBS, AND PARMESAN SALAD WITH LIME DRESSING
Layers: Endive, pickled radishes, parmesan wisps (I use my potato peeler), whole parsley leaves, Aleppo brown butter bread crumbs (melt a few anchovies into a teaspoon of butter, toss in bread crumbs with a pinch of Aleppo pepper, stir/toast for one minute, cool), pepper, coarse salt.
Dressing: In a jar, shake the heck out of 6 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 2 teaspoons Grey Poupon mustard. 

ROMAINE, MOZZARELLA, BACON, BROWN BUTTER CORN, GARLIC CRISPS, AND MOZZARELLA SALAD WITH PICKLED FRESNO CHILES AND GARLIC LIME VINAIGRETTE
LayersHearts of romaine, sliced buffalo mozzarella, crispy bacon, buttery corn (cut off cob and sautéed for one minute in brown butter with a large pinch of salt), pickled Fresno chiles (to make a jarful: slice 6 chiles in half, remove seeds, dice, boil for 1 minute in mixture of 1 cup white vinegar/1 teaspoon kosher salt/2 teaspoons sugar), garlic crisps (fry four thinly sliced garlic cloves in 4 tablespoons hot olive oil for about a minute and then reserve the oil for the dressing), chiffonade of basil leaves, pepper, coarse salt.
Dressing: Shake in a jar: reserved garlic oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 2 teaspoons Grey Poupon mustard. 
Drink: Hendrick's martini straight up with olives

BUTTER LETTUCE, GOAT CHEESE-FILLED PEACHES, AVOCADO, ALMOND SALAD WITH SHERRY WINE VINEGAR DRESSING

Layers: Butter lettuce, grilled peaches filled with goat cheese (or broiled), avocado, toasted almond slivers, chopped parsley and chives.
Dressing: Combine 1 tablespoon finely diced shallots with 3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar. Set aside for 10 minutes. Whisk in your favorite grainy Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in 4-6 tablespoons olive oil. If it needs a little extra help emulsifying, shake it in a jar.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A FEW RULES

Wear clothes in the kitchen
Always wash your hands
Keep your face away from the flame
Always wear an apron
Nope. We don't always follow the rules around here. But it's nice to have some guidelines. 

In case you missed them, here are two pieces I wrote for Sunset Magazine's blog about raising adventurous eaters. 

Part 1: At the Table

So many of you have emailed me your stories. Thank you! If you feel like it, please share more stories in the comments below about cooking with your own kids or grandkids or friends' kids. I know other people would love to read them. 

Or ask questions. I love questions. I plan to write quite a bit more about this topic in the next year.

Here are a few more images of my kids in the kitchen from the past 10 years.

Back next week with an explosion of summer salads.

xoxo
Phyllis

Monday, May 4, 2015

ICYMI: BROWN BUTTER BANANA BREAD WITH PEANUT STREUSEL

(I'm working on some new recipes and stories for May. Meanwhile, here is last month's post from Cooking What I Want, my Food52 column. I'm about a month behind with everything so spring break and the Easter Bunny make an appearance! I tested this recipe so intensely that I have many half-eaten loaves hiding in my freezer. A few days ago, I took one out at midnight, left it on the counter, and the next morning had myself a kick ass breakfast of toasted gooey banana bread with butter AND cream cheese. You need both. Trust me.)
YOU ONLY HAVE TWO HOURS until your son rushes back into the house from school and begins eleven days of spring break.
Two hours to organize eleven years' worth of your kids’ art.
Two hours to try on and reject all of your bathing suits.
Two hours to figure out the book you want to write.
Instead, you move the food processor to the right side of the kitchen and plug it in.
Two hours to master the mandoline.
Two hours to track down the electrician to figure out why none of the outlets work on the left side of your kitchen.
You brown the butter until it smells just right.
Two hours to make skin cancer screening, mammogram, oil change appointments.
Two hours to clean up the mess the Easter bunny made when she dumped the contents of the toy bin outside to make room for the baskets, thinking it would never ever rain again in California.
You gather roasted peanuts and two very sad bananas.
Two hours to dissect the ins and outs of the Iran Nuclear Deal and Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
You think about the drought and the melting polar ice caps and how much waste there is in your kitchen: half-eaten apples, salami and cheese sandwiches smushed in bottoms of lunch boxes, a back porch strewn with Ziploc bags and vinegar and baking soda from a weekend of baggie bomb wars.
Two hours to sharpen your knives.
You pour your son's leftover breakfast into the food processor: one bowl of plain yogurt, half a glass of orange juice.
Two hours to find the popover recipe you developed over the course of three months and then lost somewhere in the kids’ paper trail.
You smack an egg on the counter. Again. And again. It’s hard-boiled. The Easter bunny needs to organize her fridge.
Two hours to meditate.
You sift the dries and pulse the wets. As you mix them together, you look for pockets of flour, remembering how your mom taught you to fold: cut down the middle, flip the spatula, quarter turn the bowl. 
Two hours to clean up the kitchen mess before you need to start cooking the next meal.
You press in the peanut streusel.
Two hours to crawl into bed and give up.
Your son dashes in. Ready for 264 hours of spring break. Ready for a piece of banana bread with butter. Ready for you. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

(My nomination for Best Writing in the Saveur Food Blog Awards has brought so many people my way. So for those of you who are new to my blog, here is one final story from the archives. Voting ends April 30th. Back in a week or so with new content. Doritos might be involved. Just warning you now! xoxo)

STAY
You whisk the eggs and then slowly pour in the milk. A squeeze of fresh orange juice, vanilla extract, some salt. You whisk so vigorously you create an inch of foam. You're sweating but your left bicep feels strong.

You pour the batter over the three-day-old bread. You crank some music.

You ask the kids to take the dog to the backyard. They pound down the stairs with the reluctant dog and leave the front door open. You throw a chunk of butter onto the griddle and let it go too long because you love the smell of brown butter.

You close your right eye so that you can't see the pile of dishes from yesterday's oatmeal, last night's chicken, the food photography experiments, the wins, the losses.

You want to run away.

You turn up the song. You move your hips, your rib cage, your arms, twirling your hands like they contain castanets, spatula corkscrewing up to the ceiling.

You lift up the custard-soaked bread pieces and deliver them to the griddle, dripping the egg mixture across the counter. You think, what's a little more mess? The sizzling makes you think you would make a really good short order cook and that it would be much easier than managing this house.

You remember that last night you slammed the bedroom door so fucking hard it cracked like one of those earthquake faults. San Andreas? Hayward? You can't remember which big one lies beneath the house. You sip your coffee and everything goes away. You put your mug down and it all comes back.

The pieces of French toast are lined up in two straight lines like Madeline's friends, steaming on the interior, craggy lines forming on the exterior.

The house is quiet.

You flip each piece. Splat. Splat. Splat. Butter flies onto your apron. You recently started buying aprons, because all your black clothes were stained with grease, but you swear you will never walk out of the house wearing one. No one will see this costume. You empty a bottle of maple syrup into a pot and turn on the heat.

You place the cooked slices onto a warm plate. Powdered sugar, lemon, jam, napkins, plates, and forks all to the table.

You step out of your clogs and bust out a pirouette. You can still do four in a row on the left side but you know better than to try the right side. You slide your shoes back on and you are almost 6 feet tall again. You like feeling tall.

You rise up on your toes, as if you're wearing toe shoes, and lengthen your spine up over the dirty dishes. You peek out of the kitchen window. The kids are not in the garden.

You run down the stairs, out the open door, and call out. Dash! Bella! Dash!

Your hands fly to your face. You feel your chest turn red and your heart start to race. You yell out to no one in particular. Oh my god! Where are they?

You are wearing red plaid pajamas, no bra, silver clogs, and a black and white striped apron. You are the crazy lady.

You continue screaming your kids' names as you run down the block. Around the corner. And then around another. And then there they are.

Mama, I thought you'd be proud. We decided to walk Wylie around the block.

You grab Bella too hard around her upper arms and repeat over and over again that Dash is four. Four. Bella. Don't you know that he is four.

Yeah, Bella. I'm four.

You sit down on the ground and pull them both into your lap, the dog manages to tangle you all up in the leash like you're tied to the railroad tracks in one of those old movies with a fast-paced plinking piano soundtrack.

Bella caresses Dash's check. And then your cheek. I'm sorry, mama. But you know, I really can take care of him.

But you don't want her to have that much responsibility yet.

Dash was almost run over by a car. Twice. And then there were the hospital stays. The mushroom he ate. The Staphylococcus scare. And the spinal tap at seven weeks. And every second of every day for the first few years of his life when you couldn't turn your back on him for more than five seconds. The days when your heart was in your throat and your chest ached from too many shallow breaths.

It's okay, mama. Dash is fine. Don't worry so much. How's the french toast?

Shit.

The maple syrup.

You run as fast as you can all the way home, followed by Dash in his Crocs, Bella in her Uggs, tugging on the dog's leash. All those impractical shoes and no one trips.

Up the stairs, down the hall, into the kitchen. The thick maple foam is hovering right at the pot's edge. You pour the syrup into a pitcher. Dash reaches for it. You grab his wrist. Hardcore scary hot, you say. Don't touch. Please.

You pick him up and squeeze and spin and spin and squeeze.

You sit down and eat French toast with extra thick maple syrup. It turns to candy as it hits the cold plates.

Mama. It's even better than regular maple syrup. We should do things like this every time from now on.

Okay. Bella. I will try. I will try. I will try.


FRENCH TOAST WITH MAPLE SYRUP GLAZE
printable recipe
serves 4
You can add fewer eggs. Or more eggs. You can add Grand Marnier, nutmeg, cinnamon, heavy cream, or half and half. It's pretty much impossible to mess up French toast. You can even replace the milk with eggnog. Some kinds of bread soak up more of the custard than other kinds. You can just whisk up a bit more of the custard if needed.

Alternatively, you can soak the bread overnight in the custard. The next morning, sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake at 350°F until cooked through, 25 minutes or so. Broil the top until golden brown. Or try my recipe for baked baguette French toast.

ingredients:
10-12 slices stale white bread (challah or sourdough boules are particularly good)
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out
pinch kosher salt
butter for grilling and serving
1 cup maple syrup

directions:
Place bread one layer thick on a sheet pan or in a large baking dish. Set aside.

Whisk eggs. Whisk in milk. Add orange juice/zest, vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, and salt. Whisk the heck out of it. Or just put it all in the blender. Pour over the bread. Let the bread soak up the custard. Flip the slices after a few minutes.

While the bread is soaking up the custard, pour maple syrup into a big pot. Bring it to a boil on the back of the stove. Turn down to medium and boil for at least 5 minutes. Pour into a pitcher to cool a little.

Crank up your griddle or pan to medium heat. Add some butter. Once melted, place custard-soaked bread on the griddle. Don't turn to high heat or they will burn on the outside before cooking on the inside. Flip when golden brown. Eat right away with butter and piping hot maple syrup. Or with powdered sugar and lemon juice. Or cook lots of it. Cool. Then freeze in Ziploc bags. When you want a piece, thaw it in the toaster.

P.S. I make a variation of this French toast recipe almost once a week. And a few days ago, I added a crunchy cornflake crust. Recipe for that crunchy goodness coming soon.

Monday, April 20, 2015

GOOD MORNING

My daughter slowly scoops out her vanilla yogurt, crowning the surface with raspberries, scattering it all with granola, stepping back, enjoying her stellar plating. With his own breakfast bowl, my son follows her every decorative move. They are moving so slowly I could scream. 
It is 7:45 A.M. We need to leave the house by 8 A.M. Do the toothbrushing, library-book-finding, math. It’s an impossible situation.
Add this to the fifteen minute mix: 
One towering pile of dishes from the previous night’s garlicky pasta dinner.
One missing lunch box.
One broken toilet.
Two rotten cucumbers.
One questionable red pepper.
One daughter helplessly cramming the definitions of avuncular, taut, and assailant into her brain.
One son yelling you never stop micromanaging, mom, and it stresses me out.
One broken water glass.
One chunk of glass in now crying (still yelling) son’s foot, requiring tweezers, vodka (we’re out of rubbing alcohol), Band-Aid.
One bounce bounce splash of the milk carton.
One epic freezer adventure—searching for anything resembling breakfast, lunch, coffee—yielding every kind of gluten you can imagine: whole wheat bread, gooey cinnamon swirl challah, chocolate croissants, cheese-packed danishes, sticky buns, orange cranberry scones, bread sticks, bagels, tortillas.
But no coffee.
I don’t know how to do any of this without coffee.
I perform the open-the-fridge-and-stare move. The thing that elicits from me, on a daily basis, the Are you kidding me, Dash? Close the fridge door. You’re wasting electricity. What is wrong with you?
In my under-caffeinated state, I start to understand the little dude who lives with me. Maybe the cool air helps him wake up. Sometimes it takes a minute to find your center. You see everything. And you see nothing. It’s meditative. And then I know why I’m here. The blueberry sauce. I made it over the weekend when we had nowhere to go, nothing to do, only the potential for hours of Stratego and Laura Ingalls Wilder and sock sorting.
We were running low on maple syrup, so I covered the berries in a snowpile of sugar. I added a pinch of salt, a splash of water, some lemon zest. It all simmered for half an hour, popping, thickening, intensifying in color and flavor. We poured the steaming hot neon reduction over our buttery buttermilk waffles.
By Monday morning, the cold purple compote has thickened into a spreadable jam.
The kids add it to their bowls of yogurt. I use it for PB&Js. I dream about blueberry cheesecake. Then, I sit down and take a big sticky bite of the summery blueberry mess, bringing some Saturday morning bliss to our Monday morning shitstorm.Recipe for my Quick Blueberry Jam can be found in my Food52 column.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

(I'm loving all of the new readers heading my way thanks to the Saveur Food Blog Awards. Since I'm nominated for Best Writing, I am reposting some of my favorite stories from the past few years. 

Strawberries are in season. Taylor is still on the radio. My sacrum is still cranky. So nothing has changed over the past two years. Except I'm now 45. Have a great weekend!)

THIS MORNING I YELLED
at my son for refusing to put on his shoes, at my clean unfolded laundry for covering the couch, at the rats for reproducing and forcing me to kill their babies, at my daughter for taking 30 minutes to choose a pair of earrings, at the black mold in my bathroom, at my kids in the carpool drop-off line to hurry up and don't forget your lunch please say thank you to the woman opening the door Bella don't hit Dash even though he's annoying. I thought I was done yelling. And then that new Taylor Swift song came on. So I yelled at Taylor as I drove to the grocery store.

No, Taylor, I really don't feel 22. I have a cranky sacrum because something shifted down there during my second pregnancy. If I jump up too quickly to prevent my son from stepping out in front of a moving car, my right knee snaps like a rubber band, but I run through the pain because trust me, that's just what you do. My brain is a bit shaky lately as in I never stop saying where are my glasses, where are my fucking keys, where's that camp form, who stole my sunglasses. But here's the good news, Taylor. I've started reading entire books again for the first time in 10 years, slurping up hundreds of pages just like I used to inhale the Esprit Catalog. Let's talk about my breasts, Taylor. I think they would scare you. Last week my husband stared at them lovingly in the light of day and started singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot. I didn't punch him, Taylor. I kissed him. Hard. Because he's funny. And as he taught me, comedy ain't pretty. I used to cry over episodes of ER. Now I cry while spying out the attic window on the all-grown-up tuxedoed neighbor boy, piling with his buddies into daddy's minivan, smoothing down his hair, gearing up for the big prom night. Without missing a beat, I can answer questions like do people eat cow brains, what is a MILF, when is our dog dying, can we go to Disneyland this weekend. I actually say things like do as I say not as I do, don't run with scissors, use your inside voice, if you have nothing nice to say then don't say anything at all. I have this uncontrollable urge to watch my children sleep. I kiss kiss kiss them until they're awake enough to say I love you back. On a daily basis I hear how much I'm hated, how I never say yes, how I'm the meanest person on the planet. I haven't breastfed in almost five years but an expression of love, via a kid's hand on my heart, or a word uttered at just the right moment, or a glance smile sigh, will make my milk let down. My weekends are no longer mine. I will never ever sleep through the night again. But if people are telling me the truth, this phase will be over in a flash and I will be left with that quiet house I currently crave so much and an obsessive lifelong desire for my kids to come home please come home as often as you want please come home. So when I need a break or a breath or a boost or a shift, I make some ice cream. The great neutralizer. I think you might like my strawberry ice cream, Taylor. I would love to serve you some on my back porch. And then we can listen to The Cure and dance around the kitchen with hairbrushes as microphones and be hella carefree. Much to my kids' horror, I do this on a regular basis. I don't know about you, Taylor, but I feel 43.

STRAWBERRY VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM

printable recipe
This recipe works very well with early season strawberries, ones that aren't very sweet and might not be red all the way through. Macerating them all day results in a beautiful red juice. The strawberry slices stay quite firm which adds a nice texture to the ice cream. The leftover strawberry sauce is delicious over greek yoghurt or on buttered toast. The strawberry sauce and ice cream base should be made ahead of time and chilled overnight. This recipe makes a pretty big batch. Depending on the size of your machine, you might need to churn it in 2 batches.

ingredients:
1 pint of strawberries (a bit more than a cup once sliced)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise. seeds scraped out
1  1/2  cups half and half
2/3 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1  1/2  cups heavy cream

directions (strawberry sauce):
Stem and thinly slice strawberries. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Add vanilla bean pod and seeds. Stir. Set aside for most of the day. Stir every hour or so. Once the berries have spewed out their vibrant red juice, refrigerate  for a few days (careful, it will mold fast due to minimal sugar) or freeze it for a few months.

directions (ice cream custard):
Set up an ice bath for the ice cream base. Add a few cups of ice to a large bowl. Put a smaller bowl in the larger bowl. Place a fine strainer on top of the small bowl. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together half and half, sugar, yolks, and salt. Set aside.

Place heavy cream in a medium-sized saucepan. Turn to medium heat. Bring to just under the boil. Turn off heat. Slowly whisk hot cream into half and half/yolk/sugar mixture. Pour  mixture back in pot and place on low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon. Do not leave the custard even for a moment. Stir the whole time or you will have some scrambled eggs on the bottom. It will slowly thicken. It's done when you drag a finger across the back of the spoon and it leaves a lingering trail that doesn't close in on itself.

Pour custard through the strainer and into the smaller bowl. Add water to the ice until it rises to the level of the custard. When custard is cool, cover and place in the fridge overnight. 

Place a serving container for the ice cream in the freezer. Mix together cold custard with one cup of cold strawberry sauce (juice and chunks; vanilla pod removed). Churn in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions. Freeze for a few hours before serving. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

(Thanks to the Saveur Food Blog Awards, I have a lot of new people checking out my blog. I'm nominated for Best Writing so I thought I'd flash back to some of my favorite stories. Here's a post from 3 years ago. I will be revisiting older posts over the next few weeks. So come back if you want to read more from the archives. Thanks so much!)

FIVE DAYS INTO ONE

3 a.m.

Dash is horizontal in my bed, dreaming, his feet walking up my face.

And I am brain-churning, teeth-grinding, eyes-wide-open awake.

I press Dash's toes to my lips and imagine, one by one, losing everyone that I love. A car crash, a murder, several kidnappings.

I shake my head from side to side to expel the tragedy fantasies and slide into a more typical middle-of-the-night worry list.

Did I place the battery back into the smoke detector? What's causing the dead animal smell in the attic? Warm cabbage salad with almonds, anchovy vinaigrette, and navel orange? Or bacon and pine nuts? Why did I have that third glass of wine? Did I lock the front door? Who the fuck am I?

6:45 a.m.

Bella hovers. Sighs. Stomps. Shakes my shoulders. Pulls back the comforter. She shrieks, "We're going to be late for school and I hate being late."

"Bella. Please. CHILL. Just five more minutes."

Dash yells from the kitchen, "Mama, don't be mean to Bella. I love her."

Crash. Breaking glass.

Now I'm up.

Bella watches as I pull on yesterday's jeggings, white t-shirt, grey cardigan, and boots.

"Mama. You wore that yesterday. And your pants are so tight."

Dash enters the bedroom. "Mama. Why are you wearing your bathrobe?"

"Dash. This is a sweater. Can't you see that?"

"You need your coffee. It makes you stronger and nicer."

Bella yanks my t-shirt down to cover my belly and then takes a brush to my hair. "You would look so pretty with your hair in a high ponytail."

"I don't like to feel like a cheerleader."

Two sips of coffee.

And I fly.

Zit covered. Dog walked. Sharing toy found. Pork thrown into slow cooker. Field trip waiver signed. Six and seven "times tables" practiced.

8 a.m.

No time to sweep up the broken glass. Milk is left out. Compost never makes it to the curb. Teeth aren't brushed.

We speed to school, avoiding small children and dogs, blasting music, chewing mint gum.

"Daddy comes home Saturday."

Smiles.

"Dash. Bella. I'm so sick of Adele."

"Me too," says Dash. "I prefer Mozart. And Handel is nice too."

Bella looks disgusted and pushes her face further into her book.

"What? Dash? HANDEL? Where did you come from?

"From you, mama. I came out from behind your legs."

Bella would jump out of the car if we weren't moving so fast.

"Okay, lovelies. What's for dinner tonight?"

We decide on spaghetti carbonara with bacon (for Bella), Marcona almonds (for Dash), parsley, garlic, thick balsamic (for me), and three different cheeses.

6:45 p.m.

Broken glass swept up. Maya Angelou poem recited. French dictation practiced. Anchovies pestled. Nuts bashed. Garlic and shallots softened. Wine poured. Pitcher of pasta water reserved. Parsley chopped. Dog tranquilized. Another glass broken.

Pasta tossed, topped, drizzled.

Eat. Clean. Read. Snuggle. One kid down. Threaten to take away all playdates and sleepovers for the next year. Another kid down. 

10 p.m. 

Pour third glass of wine. Write. Fall asleep in bath. Drag ass to bed. Wish for my husband's hand, to encompass the crown of my head, to gently press me into sleep. 

Repeat.

MARCONA ALMOND CARBONARA
printable recipe
Serves 3
This is a very forgiving recipe. Play. Cream or no cream. Or half and half. Or chicken stock. Skip the egg. Replace parsley with chives. Skip bacon. Use any hard cheese. Whatever.

ingredients:
6 slices bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped or microplaned
1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
4 anchovy fillets
1/2 cup Marcona almonds
1 egg
juice/zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup chopped flat parsley
1/2 cup heavy cream
1.5 cups grated cheese (any combination of parmesan, pecorino, romano, piave)
salt
pepper
salt for pasta water
1 pound dry pasta
for toppings: olive oil, balsamic (thick if you have it), salt, pepper, chopped parsley

directions:
Put on a big pot of water to boil pasta.

In a medium-sized cast iron or nonstick pan, fry up the bacon to your liking. Remove cooked bacon and place on paper towel. Pour out most of the bacon fat and reserve for other uses. Turn pan to medium heat. Add olive oil. Add shallots and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add vinegar and cook for 30 seconds. Turn off heat and set aside.

Bash anchovies with a mortar and pestle. Add almonds and bash until almost a paste but not quite.

In a large bowl (in which you will serve the pasta) add almond/anchovy mixture, egg. lemon juice/zest, parsley, cream, 1 cup of the cheese, salt, pepper, and cooked shallots/garlic. Whisk together.

Once the pasta water is boiling. add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add pasta. Before pouring pasta into a colander, scoop out and reserve at least 1 cup of pasta water. Cook pasta until al dente.

Add cooked and drained pasta to almond, anchovy, lemon juice/zest, parsley, cream, shallots, garlic mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup pasta water. Use tongs to combine. Taste. Add more pasta water, cheese, salt, and pepper as needed. Taste again.

Serve with toppings on the table: crumbled bacon, pasta water, parsley, parmesan, salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.