Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook simply for the sake and pleasure of it. That is, after all, what this whole blog is about – learning to enjoy cooking and treating yourself to healthy and delicious meals. But sometimes I like to cook to impress the pants off people. And it works out really well when the food you make to impress people is deceptively, almost shockingly easy to make.
That’s how I feel about gougères, which is the fancy French name for what are essentially puffy, cheesy little dough balls. They look so elegant and taste so light and refined that I always feel like a super fancy chef when I make them. The reality is that these guys are pretty basic and easy to make once you get the hang of it, but we won’t tell your friends that, ok? OK.
Before making gougères I started making cream puffs for my dad and me (that was actually my very first post on this blog!), which are filled with a rosewater cream that he and I both adore. When I moved to France, I discovered the savory version of cream puffs, which has the same “choux pastry” base and which are often served as little “amuse-bouches” at bistros and restaurants in Paris.
I wonder if you feel the same way I do about eggs: since I was a kid, I’ve loved eating any kind of egg with a runny center, whether it’s poached, overeasy, or softboiled, purely for the pleasure of dipping my bread in the oozing yolk that’s been sprinkled generously with salt.
By the time I got around to making my own eggs and experimenting with poached eggs on meals, I encountered a problem almost immediately: poached eggs were a lot harder to make than I ever imagined. I always assumed that eggs were the easiest thing to master, but I slowly realized they’re actually one of the hardest. When I was taking classes at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, one of the chefs joked that the hardest dish for a chef to master is scrambled eggs. Now I get it.
I have a good new year’s resolution but it comes with a story so I hope you will read through it (if you don’t want to, the recipe’s at the bottom, highlighted in yellow as usual!)
Have you ever met someone and felt instantly affected by their presence and inexplicable connection with you? I don’t mean this in a romantic or sexual way, because that’s a different feeling and story altogether. Sometimes people come into our lives and it feels as though without any effort they have looked into your soul and understand the very depths of you. Different cultures have names for these kinds of meetings, and I believe that during these moments we need to keep our eyes open because the universe is trying to tell us something important.
Do you like the red bowl I used as seasonal embellishment? Ok ok, it’s actually a popcorn bowl
This is the salad I make when I don’t want to think about what to make. I first made a similar version of this about 5 years ago, based on a recipe from Boston chef Michael Schlow’s cookbook It’s About Time. My mom and sister liked it a lot too, so we’ve kept it around, even though we’ve altered a bit over the years.
They can be crazy fun with your friends, nuts because of the holidays, or intense because it’s New York and I think this city is a madhouse. My weekend was crazy for all of the above reasons, but also because of how much meat I ended up eating. I don’t know if you ever feel that way, but sometimes weekends become unavoidably protein-packed.
Don’t get me wrong, I had an awesome Sunday: 1pm dim sum feast with my friend Joanna at Jing Fong (if you live in New York, please try this amazing, inexpensive restaurant – the food is unreal and the decor will undoubtedly entertain you), followed by a nice little Sunday chicken roast while watching Anne Hathaway’s One Day (so girly, I know, but so necessary). Add to that mix a great steak from Saturday night, and I’m officially meated out. So now it’s Monday, and I want healthy, and I want vegetarian.
I love this rice dish because it’s the perfect type of meal to make in 2 or more portions. Make it for dinner one night, and save the rest for lunch the next day, or for dinner another night later in the week. My favorite wild rice brand is Lundberg, which costs about $2.99 for a 1-pound bag.
I have to thank my friend Kelly for introducing me to this amazingly easy yet flavorful recipe. Last Saturday night we were celebrating a friend’s birthday (the big 2-6 what what), and Kelly mentioned that she’s starting to cook more for herself at home- yay, one more for the good guys!
She told me that she came across a great recipe by the Barefoot Contessa , a simply delightful human whom I believe every one adores. Ina’s recipe was a little more straightforward than mine, however, because I couldn’t resist slathering the salmon in Dijon mustard and coating it with ground pistachios and breadcrumbs. If you’re looking to keep this recipe simple, check out Martha Stewart’s version, which only needs 4 ingredients!
Perhaps I should remind you now of my love for breadcrumbs. They are cheap, easy to store for a long time, and they pack flavor into anything they touch. Mix them with some mustard (also a kitchen staple of mine) and pistachios, and I think we’re all going to have a great dinner boys and girls. Now let’s hold hands!
Perhaps you feel the same way I do when you look at anything with the term “for one” – you immediately tag it as depressing. I feel this way often, and it is still a big concern of mine with the title and purpose this blog. The thought of shopping for yourself, coming home and preparing food alone, just to sit down with….yourself for dinner is far from enticing or appealing.
I would like to say that I feel lonely or sad when I eat alone, but I always derive pleasure out of it, and the fact is a lot of people find themselves eating for one at some point or another, for a number of reasons. I live alone in New York City, and four of my closest friends do too. A lot of other friends and acquaintances live with roommates, and find themselves needing to fly solo at last two or three days a week. I have gotten quite a few emails as well from widows, married people who travel often, and bachelors with roommates who want to make healthy and simple meals. And for any single cooks out there, you can use your newly acquired cooking skills to invite over another adorable person and seduce him/her with your amazing culinary skills!
So I write these posts not from a need to deprecate myself and throw every one into a state of depression at the thought of eating solo, but to remind you that making food for yourself is a fantastic indulgence and that it is also quite rewarding once you get the hang of it. True, you don’t get the pleasure and satisfaction of making a meal for someone else (which is something I love to do), but there are some major advantages to cooking for yourself. You can eat whatever you want, and even if it’s weird, strange-looking, or just plain gross, no one is there to judge you. So dig in!
I got the idea to make this recipe from my sister Yasmin who isn’t a big fan of using breadcrumbs. Fortunately for me, she bought a great quality bag from Eataly to use for her chicken parmigiana recipe, and she happily gave me what was leftover (which was most of the bag). I think breadcrumbs are a fantastic thing to have on hand for anyone looking to pull a quick and easy meal together.
Breadcrumbs add loads of flavor to anything they coat, and they are delightfully simple to work with. Just toss whatever you’re eating – porckhops, chicken thighs, fish fillets – with a little bit of egg or oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, coat with breadcrumbs and cook in an oiled skillet until done. Breadcrumbs go particularly well with lemon juice. For another suggestion on how to use them check out my recipe for breaded hake with peppery lemons.
This recipe was an automatic winner for me also because it includes one of my favorite foods to cook in the winter, the sweet potato. Can I just say, my sweet potato only cost .69 cents from the expensive “gourmet” grocery store down the street, which kind of makes me feel like I’m cheating someone when I eat it. Inexpensive, packed with flavor, AND really good for you? Impossible!
I think I could have eaten about five of them, but somehow, thanks to willpower that came out of nowhere, I managed to eat only one. Yay!
This warm sandwich is also incredibly easy to put together. Below is my “deconstructed tuna melt sandwich” photo, to show you that just this handful of ingredients can put together a delicious meal.
There is, however, one other component not shown in the photo and which, in my humble opinion, is also the most important element. What do you think I’m speaking of? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s just the best, most typically Parisian bistro dressing – a mix of dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and canola oil. This lovely sauce gets tossed with the tuna before getting stuffed into our lovely whole wheat pita (which, incidentally, can be substituted by the whole wheat bread slices you see above).
I tried to take a pretty photo so you wouldn’t gasp in horror, because if you’re thinking it, just know you’re not the first: this dish has a tinge that can make you think of something you’d rather forget while you’re eating. It’s been a longstanding joke in Iranian culture, which is where this recipe comes from. But it’s just so delicious that I promise you’ll forget all about its color after one bite!
Once you’ve gotten over this fact hopefully you will start making it. And fortunately for everyone it is a cinch to make! We start by grinding our walnuts in a food processor. I swear this isn’t a plug but I’m so ridiculously happy that I have a Cuisinart CSB-77 SmartStick Hand Blender. Basically, it’s everything you could ever need in one: an immersion blender, an electric whisk, and a food processor. It even comes with a nice measuring cup! So anyway, put your walnuts in a processor: