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.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

SCHOOL

My son hands me a pile of cheesecake recipes.
Where did you get these? 
From the internet thingy, mom.
How did you print them?
I hit the print button. 
A year ago he couldn’t even turn on the device.
Mom, I think we should combine the recipes. Just mix them all up into one. It will be easy.
I’m listening.
What about lemonade cheesecake with Oreo crust? Frozen into squares? Topped with Cool Whip?
I try to remain at least externally open-minded. I propose a scooter ride.
You’ve never scooted in your life, mom.
I just need some time to clear my head, to talk myself back into recipe testing with a seven-year-old, to remember what it feels like to be a beginner.
We go around the block three times, inhaling the early jasmine, taking the corners dangerously. I fall twice. My right hip flexor cramps. My inner thighs start shaking.
We’re ready to make a cheesecake.
Take one has brown butter graham cracker crust. Equal parts cream cheese and goat cheese. Eggs. Minimal sugar. Hella lemon zest. Crème fraîche. A pinch of salt.
He dips his entire hand into the batter, letting the excess drip off like he’s making a five-fingered candle, slowly licking off the creamy, lemony glove.
What’s missing, Dash?
Did you add a packet of lemonade powder?
I pretend I don’t hear his question.
We set all devices in the house for 40 minutes. We wait. We taste.
Mom, it’s a bit like a wet sponge smeared with goat cheese. Have you ever done this before?

Take two gives us hope: Smooth surface. No leaky water bath issues. But as it cools, a cake-wide lightning-shaped crack emerges.

Mom. Don’t worry. It’s going to be okay. We can just push it back together. Maybe we can glue it?
I release the pan’s latch and watch his face fall.

Mom! Why did all of the crust stick to the pan? Why is it caving in? I forgot to butter the pan. I didn’t use parchment paper. I didn’t let it cool properly.

We scoop up mangled scraps of cake with our fingers.
I was in a hurry to make a perfect cake.
Mom, we’re going to have to make like 27 of these to get it right!
We agree on the next steps: ditch the bland graham cracker crust and tone down the lemon goat flavor. We head to the market for reinforcements.
As I pull into a parking place, I find myself staring at a woman with blindingly white teeth and an expertly sculpted ass. The whole package glows like a painted, primped, pimped, pumped, shaved, lacquered North Star. I look down at my stained sweatshirt and linty leggings. I can smell my armpits.
I don’t want to fight that hard. I just want to make cheesecake.
Take three involves lemon cookies and a rocky beginning. I can’t remember how much sugar we used for our first two rounds.
Mom. You have to write things down. You can’t keep it all in your head.  
If he only knew. 
Mom, why wouldn't you just throw all the ingredients in together. Why do you scrape down the sides. What is cheese? You can do whatever you want so why don't you eat dessert all day long? Are you going to keep getting more and more wrinkles or will they just stop?
I answer every single question in full. Until his eyes glaze over. Until he wishes he never asked.
We effortlessly free our creation from the springform pan, slide it onto a cake stand, encircle it with lemon cookies.
Dash. What’s your verdict? Do we have a recipe? 
Yes. But no. I don’t know.

Exactly.

Recipe can be found in my Cooking What I Want column over at FOOD52.

Monday, February 23, 2015

I KNOW A MAMA WHO

knows a mama who had sex last night.

Is feeling the estrogen drop and the testosterone rise. Would give up alcohol and sugar if her son would stay small forever. Wonders if her exhaustion is life threatening. Still doesn’t floss.

I know a mama who stares at the asses of young women and thinks why didn't I love my young body when I had one?

Judges herself by her kids’ daily intake of decent food. Likes things tidy down there. Loves watching her husband sleep. Is trying not to turn into her mother.

I know a mama who wonders why she is staying home instead of flexing her brain in the world.

Falls asleep during sex. Hopes her son is gay so she doesn't have to battle a daughter-in-law. Cannot get over her envy of mamas who don't have to work. Can breathe through anything.

I know a mama who loves her work so much that she sometimes feels like she shouldn’t be a mama.

Had an affair in order to remember that she likes sex. Wonders just how much iPad use will cause her kids’ brains to melt. Can’t stop eating granola when it's in her house. Is getting divorced. Finally feels free.

I know a mama who doesn't believe her husband when he says she is hot.

Still gets zits. Can’t believe she still gets zits. Loves her son so much it makes her skin tingle. Said to the bully next door if you touch my kid again, I'll cut your fingers off.

Spends work meetings assessing the fuckability of all men in the room. Braises meat for comfort. Pees a little every time she coughs, sneezes, or laughs. Drinks her second glass of wine in a mug.

Feels high when she doesn't eat lunch. Is one snippy comment away from throwing anything in reach at her husband. Does handstands in the shower. Swears in front of her children. Wants another baby.

I know a mama who doesn’t know how to help her daughter feel smart, beautiful, feminine, strong, brave.

I know a mama who hugged her son close when his father walked out the door without saying goodbye.

Backed out of the driveway with the car door open. Almost drove away from the gas pump with the nozzle in the car. Gives her 12-year-old daughter coffee to help make hard mornings smoother. Cannot get her kids to school on time. Looks like she has it all together.

I know a mama who feels nothing down there.

Is afraid she will hit one of her children. Is hoping menopause will come soon because the monthly cramps are unbearable. Feels wrinkly and gray, but when she talks at work, people fucking listen. Tries not to look in the mirror.

Likes things bushy down there. Loves giving blow jobs. Fakes orgasms. Has an ulcer. Helps everyone breathe.

I know a mama who knows that sometime in the next 15 years her husband is going to fall in love with another woman and she will have to decide whether or not to forgive him.

I know a mama who feels so dark on her dark days she can’t fathom that she’s only halfway through this slog.

Sleeps underneath an ever-growing pile of clean laundry. Fantasizes about women. Wonders why no one told her when she was young that sex was so complicated. Wishes she had experimented when she had the chance. Is fooling everyone.

I know a mama who woke up with cream cheese icing in her hair, cupcake crumbs between her breasts, red wine staining her lips and teeth and sheets.

Gets Brazilians for her husband. Just discovered a whole new crop of spider veins. Has a lover who lives across the country. Likes her ass for the first time in her life. Has never felt stronger.

I know a mama who feels duped.
Feels lost.
Feels fat.
Feels loved.

Tried to sext with her husband and was rejected. Gets deeply depressed when she masturbates. Sexts with strangers. Needs gin. Has never felt braver.

I know a mama who loves her kids more than her husband.

Needs to feed people. Used to turn heads when she walked into a room. Called her son a little shit to his face. Is still truly madly deeply in love with her husband.

I know a mama who learned how to be a good mama from her own mama.

I know a mama who is stunned by the capacity of her heart.

______________________________


Ten women (myself included) contributed to this post. We wrote back and forth for several weeks. The thread included over 100 emails. I've streamlined our words a bit for overall cohesiveness within the post. I've removed some specifics so that our stories are less recognizable and more universal. But most of what you read above is what came flying into my inbox.

A few days into this very moving exchange, one woman wrote that she couldn't make granola anymore because she would eat it all in one sitting. Granola recipes were exchanged. And then the magic happened. Bags and Mason jars of granola were delivered all over Berkeley and Oakland: placed on front stoops, shoved into mailboxes, tucked behind pots of herbs. Granola was sent to Los Angeles and Long Island. We handed it off at parties and play dates. We called it crack. We called it dinner. We ate so much we got tummy aches.


I had  a little contest over on Instagram and Facebook in which I asked people to help me name my granola (winner receives a big  batch of granola in the mail). Here's how I described it: Sweet and salty clumps of oats, hemp, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and sliced almonds are held together by brown butter, olive oil, coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, and brown sugarOut of over 150 entries, here are some of my favorites:

Seedy Underbelly
Nama-Stay Away From My Granola
#MotherfuckingOm Granola
Salted Seedy Granola Crunch
Crack-ola
Crack Granola
Not Your Mama's Granola
Fairy Crisps
Clumpy Monkey
Seedy Brown Butter Crunch
Dash and Bella Crunch
It's Berkeley, Bitches Granola
Don't-Hate-It-Cuz-It's-Hemp Crunch
Hemp Hemp Hurray
Hemp and Awe
Nutty Maple Brown Butter Crunch
Girasole Granola
Cluster's Last Stand

The winner is Jen Bilik from Venice, California. She came up with Grantola. My last name. My granola. Merged into one. Simple. Kick ass. Perfect. 

Grantola (or Brown Butter Hemp Maple Honey Brown Sugar Oat Sesame Sunflower Seed Nut Crunch)
printable recipe
makes enough to fill two 17 x 20-inch baking sheets.
serves 1 to 20

Thank you to my friend, Samin Nosrat, who told me about using an egg white for clumpier granola. Works brilliantly! It you like looser granola, add 1/2 cup flour to your dry mixture and skip the egg white.

Use this as a template. Make it your own. Delete the nuts. Add less brown sugar. Skip the fucking hemp. Please play. There are no rules.

If you choose to add dried fruit, do so after the granola has baked or your teeth will be hella bummed.

ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark or light brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cup long-cooking oats 
1 cup sesame seeds (black or white or a combination)
2 cup nuts (any combination of chopped walnuts, chopped pecans,  slivered almonds)
1 cup hemp seeds 
1 cup sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 egg white

directions:
Preheat oven to 300°F. Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once it's melted, don't walk away. Swirl it around a few times. It will foam and spatter. After 3 of 4 minutes, it will start to smell nutty. Then is will quiet down and brown bits will drop to the bottom of the pan. At this point, remove it from the heat. Add brown sugar, coconut oil, olive oil, honey, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine and set aside. It won't come together. That's okay.

Place the following in the largest bowl (or pot) you have: oats, sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, salt. Toss together with your hands.

Pour the sweet buttery mixture over the dry contents in the big bowl. Toss together with your hands or a large spoon. Whisk the egg white until frothy and then mix it into the sweet and buttery granola mixture (again, with your hands if you wish).

Divide mixture in half and spread out to about 1/2-inch thickness on the two prepared baking sheets. Press down with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula. Nestle in any stray chunks so they don't overcook.

You will want to cook it between 30 and 40 minutes. Start by baking for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss well. Press back down. Again, tuck in any stray chunks. Bake another 10 minutes. Repeat tossing. Press down. Bake another 10 minutes. At this point, you're at 30 minutes which results in a nicely baked granola. If you like your granola darker, cook up to 10 more minutes more, 40 minutes total.

Remove from the oven. Cool completely on the baking sheets. It should be like a sheet pan-sized fragile granola bar. Break it apart into bite-sized chunks (or bigger if you like). To prevent sogginess, store at room temperature in an airtight container or bag for up to three weeks. Or freeze for up to six months.

Friday, January 23, 2015

IT'S GOING TO BE OKAY

for my grandma phyllis
1921-2015
I open the front door and step onto the porch in all my sick mama glory: plaid pajama bottoms, pink cashmere socks, cooking clogs, a grandpa sweater, a Sriracha t-shirt, two scarves. My nose is so red that it shines through the green papaya enzyme mask I put on my face an hour earlier. My pockets are filled with dirty tissues. My hair is in a tangled top knot. I look left. I look right. All clear.
You got the drugs?
Ten-year-old Jacob gives me the codeine and a spoon. I hand him the cheese ball with strict instructions. Jacob, your mother thinks she's not going to like this so you need to give it the hard sell. Three different cheeses, butter, mayonnaise, cream cheese, garlic, shallots. And then I rolled the whole thing in fig jam, chopped pecans, and dried cranberries. Tell her to scoop it into her mouth with the buttery crackers.
Six-year-old Eli stands back, watching my every move. He looks concerned.
Eli? I'm not going to die. I promise. I just need some drugs. And your mom is my supplier.
The night before, Eli’s neighbor, Marietta, was whisked off on a stretcher. She never came back.
Eli, Marietta was old. 
Just 20 minutes before he was sobbing in his mother's lap, worried that I was going to die too.
Sweetie, I am young.
Eli doesn't look convinced. 
Well, I'm young-ish. 
I tousle his hair. 
And I'm super healthy.
He smooths his hair back down.
Plus, I've been eating a cheese ball for two days straight. I think it's killing my virus.
I was at Eli's birth. There was this terrifying moment during labor when his heart rate dipped. 
I will be here tomorrow. 
They flipped the scary lights on. Doctors and nurses rushed in.
I promise, Eli.
To try to loosen the cord around his neck, they turned his mama onto all fours and had her drop down to her forearms.
Trust me.
I held her until the amplified boom boom boom of his heart filled up the room again.
Okay, Phyllis. See you tomorrow.
I watch the boys carefully walk the cheese ball home to their mom. Within 5 minutes I get a text: 

i take it back
this cheese ball is fucking delicious
I decide my work is done for the day. I get in bed and listen to my kids navigate the mama-free kitchen. A knife is pulled. A glass is broken. Someone squirts someone else with the honey bear. I am dizzy with the flu. And then I overhear the most beautiful words in the world.
Let's tuck mom in.
They pat my pillow, pull the covers up to my chin, give me 100 kisses good night.
I lie in the dark, imagining the ants crawling in the honey and the shards of glass on the floor. I take a teaspoon of codeine. I will be here in the morning to clean up the mess.cheese ball cheese ball Recipe for my Cheese Ball with Pecans and Cranberries is in my Cooking What I Want column over at Food52.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

TWO ENTREES. TWO DESSERTS. FOUR STORIES.

Here are some favorite posts from my Food52 column Cooking What I Want. I was thinking these recipes might work well for a crowd (if you happen to have one in your house this week). Click on the dish name or the food photo for a recipe.

And if you feel like it, let me know in the comments below what kinds of recipes you'd like me to develop this winter. I tend to make the same things over and over again so I would love some inspiration.

Happy winter solstice. And here's to a hella peaceful new year.

xoxo Phyllis
POMEGRANATE FLANK STEAK
http://food52.com/recipes/31870-pomegranate-flank-steak
Dash. Look outside. We fell back.

What?

It's 5:20 in the evening. But what time does it look like?

6:20.

And in the spring when it's 5:20 what will it look like?

4:20.

Here's the best part, Dash. On Monday morning, 7 AM will feel like 8 AM. Total. Score. But I'm bummed the weekend is over.

Me too. It was great because my daddy came home. 
That was my favorite part too. 

We carved pumpkins, we had pancakes, we had Halloween. There was candy. You ate my strawberry Starbursts. And then you made shakshuka.
I did?
No. Wait. Mom. You made baba ganoush. I get all these new words mixed up. And then we had plank steak.
Did you like the plank steak?
It was delicious. Sweet but sour. Juicy. It was awesome.
Dash, do you think that dinner tasted better because daddy was here?
Maybe a little. Because I don't like it when it's just three. I like the whole four.
Yes, my love. It was a perfect weekend.
I don’t tell him that nothing makes me happier than cooking for his daddy.

I don’t tell him his daddy doesn’t like flank steak, that I forgot, that I’ve lost touch.
I don’t tell him about the kiss his daddy gave me when he got home on Friday night, the one behind the bedroom door, against the Transformers poster, amongst the Legos and stuffed cats, right before the first trick or treaters arrived.

I don’t tell him how sometimes I hide in the kitchen and cook so that I don’t have to be fully present as a wife or a parent.

I don’t tell him how this was a record, how his daddy and I made it 36 hours before our first fight.

I don’t tell him about the fight, the same one we always have, the you are so controlling, followed by the you have no patience, ending, as always, with me sobbing on the kitchen floor.
I don’t tell him how blissed out it made me to roll over on Saturday morning to find a warm chest for my head, to interlace fingers with fingers and toes with toes, to feel my entire being enveloped by the steady rhythm of someone else’s breath.

I don’t tell him that it’s possible to love someone just as much now as you did 25 years ago.

I don’t tell him that I ate all of his Snickers bars for lunch.

I tell him only one thing.

Dash. It’s flank. Not plank.

SPICED LAMB PIE
http://food52.com/recipes/32153-spiced-lamb-pie
When I was 10 years old, I wanted world peace, no capital punishment, and an endless supply of Fun Dip Sticks.

At 44, I want my kids’ homework done, the table set without triple requests, and for all of us to sit down to dinner at the same time with napkins in our laps.
I want my son to take a bath at least once a week.

I want a slow, luxurious husband-kiss delivered to the side of my neck while I chop herbs.
I want my fall filled with warm and cinnamony lamb pies.

I want to sit at the kitchen table—red wine in hand, breathing deeply, staring at the wall, thinking about nothing—while my husband does the dishes.


I want to stop yelling at my children.


I want all of the laundry folded and tucked away, the bills organized and paid, the leak under the kitchen sink fixed.


I want us all to feel safe.


Last Wednesday, at 6 PM, I try for these dreams.


But there are some issues.


My husband is out of town.


The red wine gives me a headache. I google perimenopause and red wine. The news is horrifying.
So I become a yelling machine.

No way. Not on a school night. No. I don’t care how nicely you ask. No screentime. No. No! Nooooooooooo.

No. Please, Dash. Don’t sharpen your pencil with a chef knife!

Pick up your lunchbox your Legos your jacket your dirty socks your homework your cheddar bunnies!!!

I turn away from it all to stir a pungent paste of garlic, anchovies, tomato paste, and spices into the ground lamb. My world fills with cinnamon, paprika, cumin. The juices reduce down and thicken. I turn off the heat and reach for the dough.

I hear a jumble of voices: teacher, mama, recipe writer. Don’t move your body, move the dough. Don’t overhandle it. Add flour. Move quickly. Look at the beautiful marbling of butter. Isn’t dough amazing? Want to make a honey pie with the scraps?

I pour the filling into the pie shell, slide as much cheese as possible underneath the top crust, and bust out a scrappy crimp.

I am no longer yelling.

I snap out of my pie trance and remember that kids need to be fed at a reasonable hour on a school night.

And 8:30 PM isn’t reasonable. 

I pull out the frozen pizza. 

http://food52.com/recipes/32350-brown-butter-blondies
Extra chocolate chips. Hella brown sugar. An overflowing tablespoon of vanilla extract.

For my daughter after her pull-ups. For my son as he tries to conjugate the verb dormir. For my husband as he drives away from our Thanksgiving weekend, away from our unit of four, away from our fully-loaded Christmas tree. For my mother because there is nothing better than feeding your mother.

Brown butter with toasted walnuts. No chocolate chips. Less brown sugar.

For me, right before bed, drifting off to sleep with butterscotch on my tongue after defiantly ignoring my toothbrush because I'm 44 and I can do what I want. 
Chocolate stirred in while the dough is still warm. Crinkly on the top, marbley brownie on the inside. 
For my grandmother, accompanied by lukewarm Lipton tea. Eaten with my hand resting on her impossibly fragile arm. In her hospital bed. After she says "I don't like blondies." After I say to the nurse, "did you know that I wanted to be my grandmother when I was little?" Before she actually bites in and smiles and reaches for more.
A heaping teaspoon of salt. Just enough chocolate chips so the butterscotch flavor doesn’t have to compete. Balanced. Nuts optional. 
Brought over by my neighbor: on my birthday or my son’s or just because, at the end of many rough days, after yet another miscarriage. Eaten while sobbing, letting the buttery chocolate squares fill me back up again. Shared with no one.
Versions of all four batches rest in my freezer, cubed and Ziplocked. Up for grabs. For the forgotten second-grade-holiday-party-potluck. For late nights with "The Newsroom" and red wine. For anyone who stops by. For Marianne, Simon, Margi, Sarah, Amy, Yalda, Laurel, Jen, Anya, Anna, my brother, my mom, my dad. I promised you all some blondies. Come over. Let me feed you.  
CARAMEL NUT TART WITH CHOCOLATE
http://food52.com/recipes/32584-caramel-nut-tart-with-chocolate
I sit alone in the car, listening to reports about the upcoming hellastorm, a trail of broken windows from the previous night’s protests, how everyone is bringing booty back. I try to find my morning.   
Gather every lonely nut you can find in your pantry, fridge, freezer.
I squeeze my eyes shut, smack my cheeks, and try to kickstart my brain. I don’t know how I jumped out of bed this morning, how I got these clothes on my body, how I showed up in the kitchen. I have no memory of nuzzling one child and then the other awake. 
Roll out your tart dough. Find your favorite square pan.
My arms must have prepared three breakfasts, two lunches, one cup of very strong coffee. My voice must have guided with variations of take a deep breath, I will help you find your homework, yes your socks are clean and in the bin, no you can't get Snapchat.
Think about all of the tarts that have passed through this pan, this kitchen. Testing, re-testing, learning to let go of being perfect. 
My head drops to the steering wheel. I am feeling the side effects: the slow decline of my sacrum, my teeth, my brain. I need to look up. I need to break some rules. 
Caramelize the sugar. Stir in the cream. Watch it rise up like a volcano.
I re-enter the kitchen and the morning floods back. Every last word, struggle, sprint, geometry problem, glass of spilled milk. I hear myself say: first, make the bed. I see myself tucking, folding, scrubbing.
Add some salt. A bit more salt. Some vanilla. A bit more vanilla. 
I pick my kids up from school. As the helicopters start in for the fifth night in a row, I see my son cover his ears from the noise. I feel myself start a stumbling rant: Things must change and we can help and we must not just let things be and we are all equal and there is so much history filled with violence and oppression and we must march and chant and fight. I want to be the right parent. The clear parent. 
Pour the caramel-drenched walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, almonds into the raw pastry shell. Fuck par-baking. 
Dash, sometimes people have to make some noise. 

Stare at your pretty tart. Melt bitter chocolate. Get a spoon. Drizzle. Mess it up.