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I know. Just the name of this meal sounds fussy as all get out. But actually, it's simpler than you think. And you know what else it is? Fun. Also, delicious! Despite the multiple steps, I highly recommend it for your next eat-with-your-fingers meal. And it's fast enough that you could make it on a weeknight, especially if you're the kind of person who remembers to make the chicken salad the day before. (I am not this person yet, but I am constantly striving to become this person!)

What the meal consists of are soft, floppy crêpe-style pancakes (flavored with cumin and turmeric, which gives them a Day-Glo hue), filled with coronation chicken salad (which is just boiled chicken mixed with yogurt, curry powder and mango chutney, essentially) and some sautéed spinach. Before eating, you add fresh cilantro, shredded coconut and an essential lime squeeze. Roll it up, eat it, done!

Picky children may react suspiciously to the meal at first. If you let them fill their own pancake, from all the little bowls that you have set out containing the various elements of the filling, they might relent in their resistance somewhat. Maybe. Of course, letting them fill their own pancake means they may only eat the chicken salad and the pancake? But so be it! You will be so happy stuffing yourself that you won't even mind.

(Some of these children may be heartened to know that the chicken salad contains no mayonnaise, only yogurt.

(Maybe don't mention the mango chutney?)

(While we're doing this, I should say that you could, arguably, even leave out the spinach entirely. I tried these with and without spinach and give you full permission to skip it.)

(Good-bye.)

Turmeric Pancakes with Coronation Chicken and Spinach
Adapted from The Guardian
Serves 4

For the pancakes:
300g all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 eggs
Salt
600ml whole milk
Vegetable oil for the pan

For the coronation chicken:
4 cooked chicken breasts, skinned and finely shredded (400g net weight)
200g plain whole-milk yogurt
1½ teaspoon medium curry powder
3 tablespoons mango chutney
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon lime juice

For the spinach:
40g unsalted butter, or ghee
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1.5cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
300g baby spinach

To serve:
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
A handful of fresh cilantro stalks, optional
30g dried shredded coconut, optional
30g store-bought fried onions, optional

1. Start with the pancake batter. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cumin, turmeric, eggs and a teaspoon of salt. Add a little milk and whisk to a smooth, thick paste. Slowly whisk in the rest of the milk, until you have a smooth, fairly thick batter, then refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

2. For the coronation chicken: In a large bowl mix the shredded chicken, yogurt, curry powder, chutney, turmeric, lime juice and a teaspoon of salt, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 8 hours before serving. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving, and stir in the cilantro.

3. For the greens, on a medium-high flame, melt the butter in a large saute pan for which you have a lid. Once it starts bubbling, add the onion and fry for five to six minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, tomato paste and a good pinch of salt, and fry for a minute more. Add the spinach, cover the pan and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until most of the water has evaporated and the spinach has wilted/cooked. Reheat before serving, or leave to cool to room temperature.

4. When you're ready to eat: Drizzle some vegetable or olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan on a medium-high heat. When it's hot, add three to four tablespoons of batter and swirl and shake the pan so the batter spreads out evenly over the base in a round. Fry for a minute or two on each side, until golden brown (if the pan gets too hot, turn down the heat to medium). Place the cooked pancake in a warm oven while you repeat with the remaining batter. You should end up with approximately 12 pancakes.

5. To serve, put the chicken and spinach in separate bowls on the table. Place a pancake on each plate, then add a few spoonfuls of chicken and spinach. Top with some fresh cilantro, dried coconut and fried onions, if using, then squeeze some lime juice over. Roll up the pancake and eat.

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Last week, I took a little break from my everyday life. I packed a tote bag full of old New Yorker issues, some eye drops and a snack, snuck out of the house before anyone was awake, got in a cab and went to the airport. Then I flew to...Milan.

I was in Milan for the Salone del Mobile, the largest furniture trade fair in the entire world, and specifically to visit the EuroCucina - an exhibition hall full of kitchen companies showcasing their latest developments (mostly technological developments, though I couldn't help ogling a lush Dolce & Gabbana run of Smeg refrigerators or a 6-burner turquoise lacquered La Cornue stove situation, you know, for your run-of-the-mill country estate).

My host was Neff, the kitchen company that I've done some work with in the past. At their stand, a cozier, homier one than most of the others, which were outfitted to look far more cutting edge and futuristic, fresh fruits and vegetables were part of the display, as were big sacks of dry goods and gorgeously hued piles of spices and herbs. Sonia Peronaci, an Italian blogger who founded the country's largest cooking website, Giallo Zafferano (which my mom uses on the regular), held down the fort there with a slew of cooking demos.

I had the pleasure of joining Sonia for a demo and we cooked side-by-side, making pork belly and salmon that was then devoured in about 27 seconds flat by the gathering crowd. Before the food was gobbled up, though, it was plated on a series of gorgeous handmade plates by Reiko Kaneko.

Kaneko is a Central Saint Martins trained ceramicist whom Neff commissioned to make a series of plates inspired by the "science of gastrophysics." Kaneko worked together with Professor Charles Spence, an expert in multisensory perception, specifically sensory perception of food, to create the three plates. One is for starters, one for mains and one is a dessert vessel. Their colors, textures and shapes elevate the various flavor profiles of the foods they are meant to showcase.

So, for example, the starter plate, oblong and unevenly ridged, enhances the flavor of salty, savory food, specifically seafood. The plate for mains is slightly more bowl-like, with a lacquered surface and higher sides, is meant to enhance the flavor of spicy foods. The round dessert bowl in soft pink increases the perception of sweetness and fruitiness in desserts, especially those made with berries.




After my demo was complete, I got to have lunch at one of the fair's staff cafeterias, hidden up on the top of the building. Since we were in Italy, the cafeteria food was - no surprise - pretty amazing. Think tiny meatballs in tomato sauce, delicious boiled broccoli (I know!), possibly the best white lasagna I've ever had. Even the tangerine I pilfered from the fruit bowl for later was perfect. Oh, Italy!

I took a nice, long wander of the Salone, marveled at the supreme elegance of the men and women all around me, then made my way back to the airport and, later still, my delicious boys asleep in their beds. What a day!
This post was sponsored by Neff.

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Reader! How are you? How’s the weather where you are? Here in Berlin, spring has sprung. The breezes are warm, the trees are blooming (the creamy magnolias are already on their way out, in fact, sob, but the frothy cherry blossoms are still in full glory), the markets are stuffed with fragrant strawberries and fat white asparagus. I have put away my heavy wool sweaters and warm coats and am swanning around in t-shirts and sockless feet. It is glorious.

My little white baby Bruno even has his very first sunburn on the tops of his deliciously fat feet. I am fully and miserably responsible. I plead ignorance: my skin color has me regularly mistaken for being South Asian so I have a relatively “relaxed” attitude about sunscreen when not on the beach, yet I seem to have given birth to the whitest baby in Germany, poor thing. The other day, we were at the playground in the what felt like not-even-that-hot-for-crying-out-loud sunshine, yadda yadda yadda, before I knew it, Bruno had red feet. Gah. So I am doing penance now by stocking up on baby sunscreen and already looking forward to the pitying looks that he will be getting from the mahogany-skinned Italians on the beach this summer.

As I type, I have a plastic bag filled with strawberries sitting on the chair next to me. These aren’t the best strawberries, yet, but they smell delicious and between Hugo and me, I anticipate them lasting until, oh, tomorrow morning at best. (Bruno, so far, refuses to eat any berry at all. Weirdo. Takes after his father.)

Anyway, I’m telling you this because I feel a little funny about what I’m going to do next. Which is: blog about a wintertime dessert made with roasted apples. But is so wonderful and delicious that you simply must know about it. And since I was in the depths of new-baby-hood when I first discovered it (and made it obsessively for every special meal we were invited to for a couple of months), I didn’t write about it when it was topical and in-season. Instead I’m doing so now when you could probably care less about roasted apples and will immediately close the browser window and tell me to go jump in a lake. That’s fine! I’d do the same! Forgive me!

But for the three of you who don’t feel that way (or for those of you on the other side of the world, or in Boston, where it was still SNOWING yesterday for the love of Pete), this is for you.

Now, imagine:

Whipped cream.

Greek yogurt.

Crushed meringues.

Roasted apples.

Toasted hazelnuts.



All layered together in a beautiful serving dish and spooned out in such a way that each bite contains a bit of creamy, crunchy, roasty, toasty, juicy wonderfulness. The recipe comes from Diana Henry’s reboot of Simple and is, indeed, simple. All you have to actually cook are the roasted apples (does toasting hazelnuts even count as cooking?). The rest is whipping cream and bashing up store-bought meringues and drizzling maple syrup (and, uh, toasting hazelnuts - don’t you even dare to try and skip this step as untoasted hazelnuts are the devil’s work, as everyone knows).

It is, of course, a wintry riff on Eton mess, traditionally made with fresh strawberries in spring and a glorious dessert in its own right. (Though I never really get beyond just stuffing fresh strawberries unadorned into my craw when they're local and sweet and cheap and sold on every street corner.) Somehow, with the meringues and yogurt and apples, it manages to be a pretty light dessert, the kind you're happy to spoon up after a big meal. (I was going to write, "like Christmas" after that, but it turns out that even I, blogger of apple desserts in springtime, can't bring myself to write about the holiday that shall not be named, so you'll just have to infer it.)

And with that, dear reader, I'm off to buy some fresh rhubarb. At the rate I'm going, I'll blog about what I do with it just around Thanksgiving. Ha!

Roast Apple and Maple Eton Mess
Adapted from Simple
Serves 6

1.5 lbs cooking apples, peeled, cored and halved
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup, divided, plus more to serve, optional
3 1/2 tablespoons hazelnuts
1 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
4 1/4 ounces meringues, coarsely broken up

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Place the apples in a roasting pan and toss with the brown sugar. Drizzle 3 tablespoons water over the apples. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the fruit is tender. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup over the apples and let cool.

2. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they smell toasty and delicious. Let cool and coarsely chop.

3. If necessary, lightly crush the apples with a fork - but take care not to make applesauce out of them.

4. Whip the cream until it holds its shape, then fold in the Greek yogurt and remaining maple syrup.

5. Layer the apples, cream, hazelnuts and meringue in individual glass dishes or one larger serving dish. If you like, you can drizzle additional maple syrup as you go (I never do). Finish with a layer of cream and a sprinkling of hazelnuts. Serve immediately (otherwise the meringues soften).

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One of the most underrated cookbooks of the past couple of years is, in my opinion, Aleksandra Crapanzano's The London Cookbook. a wide-ranging collection of recipes from London's best restaurants, pubs, cafés and holes-in-the-wall. I got a copy from my editor (the writer and I share a publisher) and over the past several months have slowly fallen in love with it. (It was published in the fall of 2016, when I had my hands full with my own book launch!)

The premise isn't, at first glance, my kind of thing at all. I'm really pretty uninterested in restaurant recipes. Restaurants have completely different goals, budgets and team numbers than a home cook. While I can appreciate that some home cooks would like to know how a three-star restaurant makes a 15-step duck confit, my sense is that most of us couldn't care less. If we can afford to go to that kind of restaurant, we enjoy that kind of cooking there. If we can't afford it, it remains a thing like a fancy sports car or a luxury vacation - something to view from afar. Or is it just me?

But Aleksandra gets that attitude and while there are of course several multi-step recipes in the book that kind of make my eyes glaze over, there are a surprising number of truly doable, simple gems in every chapter. In the introduction, it turns out, Aleksandra specifically mentions the fact that she wanted to only include recipes that were "easily made at home." If a chef wasn't able to adapt a recipe realistically for a home cook, it wasn't included. If you know restaurant cookbooks, that's pretty remarkable. Even more remarkable is that Aleksandra, clearly a first-rate home cook and the kind of cookbook writer we should all strive to be, managed to hone the recipes to make them truly accurate (and isn't that what we're all looking for in recipes?!). What you end up with is a book full of gorgeous, vibrant, interesting recipes from all kinds of amazing places in London that are also totally doable and approachable for home cooks. It's a slam dunk.

The very first recipe that I tried was this olive oil cake from a café in London called Towpath. (I've never been myself, but I've heard about it from all sorts of discerning food people over the past several years.) And it was...perfect. The recipe was precise and correct (even without metric measurements) and the cake was out-of-this-world delicious, especially considering how simple it is. Everyone from Joanie, my baking North Star, to my father, who'd usually rather eat a plate of kimchi than a piece of cake, was ravished by it. By a simple, orange-scented olive oil cake, you guys!

I think the reason it was such a home run, beyond the fact that it was such a pleasure to follow such a well-written recipe, was a combination of the cake's flavor and its texture. The flavor was sort of delicate and floral, but also satisfyingly creamy and comforting, like a really good yellow cake. The crumb was fine and moist, but not greasy or oily in the least. Sturdy, too, the kind of thing you could almost eat out of hand, but without being dry or tough. It was marvelous. (The only weird thing? No salt in the recipe. The recipe came to Towpath via a Tuscan olive estate, which explains the lack of salt - most Italian dessert recipes (most European ones, actually) eschew salt. Out of habit, I added a pinch. You can go either way.)

When I made this, in mid-February, we still had a few chocolate Santas lying around the house and one of them was a fancy dark chocolate one, so on a whim, I chopped it up and added it to the cake. I think it was a mistake, or rather, an unnecessary fiddling and one I wouldn't recommend. This cake deserves to be left alone, served up proudly in its stark simplicity. No chocolate or whipped cream needed.

The recipe's in my forever files; the book's on my kitchen counter.

Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from The London Cookbook
Makes one 9-inch round cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup good extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup whole milk
1 to 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
Juice of 1 orange
Pinch of salt, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Butter the sides of a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, stir the flour and baking powder together.

3. Place the sugar and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until thick and pale yellow, about 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Add the olive oil, milk, orange zest and juice and beat for another minute or two. Turn off the machine and fold in the flour mixture by hand.

5. Scrape into the prepared baking pan. Back for 45 minutes, until golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack completely before serving.

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I went on a very quick trip to New York three weekends ago. It was freezing cold and beautiful on the first few days, with icy blue skies and blinding sunshine. I've now been in Berlin for almost as long as I lived in New York, which feels very odd indeed, especially because this time I stayed on the Upper West Side, the first neighborhood I lived in when I moved to the city. It has changed so much and yet I still recognized the oddest little things, like the cornices on a particular building, the way Zabar's smells, that one lamp store on 79th Street... But now the old neighborhood also has fancy new condo buildings, a Barneys, for crying out loud, and Citarella sells yogurt for 6 dollars a jar. And I still miss H&H.

Sigh.


Sometimes I really miss New York's fabulousness, like with this amazing older couple's outfit game on this random 6 train ride.

Anyway! I thought I'd do one of those very old-school blog roundups of the best places I went to while I was in town, just in case one of you is planning a trip soon and is wondering where to go. It has gotten difficult to have even one bad meal in New York, which is both thrilling and a little intimidating when planning a trip. My friends and I didn't plan a single meal in advance, so we were a little restricted to the places where we could get reservations at relatively normal dining hours. I didn't end up getting to try as many new places as I'd hoped. (Paowalla, abcv, and Le Coucou come to mind...) Still, it was a pretty delicious weekend. The places that really stood out were:

  1. Irving Farm Coffee Roasters is a city-wide chain in the meantime, but there was one around the corner from where we stayed and it was a very nice place to get a cup of coffee or tea in the early morning, plus they have both cooked breakfasts and good pastries (like croissants from Bien Cuit), and a nice selection of simple but hearty lunch options. Whoever is "curating" their array of baked goods knows her/his stuff. And despite the fact that it has locations all over the city, it felt very local and cozy.

  2. I'm lucky enough to have an agent who takes me to lunch at abc Kitchen every time I'm in town, but if I didn't, I would still make time to have some kind of meal here - it's just such a nice place and the food is great - organic, local, etc, but especially just very well made. It's ground zero for things like roasted butternut squash on toast, roasted beets with yogurt, and carrot and avocado salad. Funnily enough, though the menu is pretty big, I only ever end up ordering some variation on the same five things. This time around, we ordered one crab toast appetizer to share...and then ordered another one about 15 minutes later because it was just so good. Their house-made non-alcoholic drinks are noteworthy and also their general attention to detail. To wit: The host (I think?) must have overheard my agent wishing me a belated birthday when we saw each other, because after our lunch was over, they brought out a mini cupcake for me with a candle in it. Such a little thing, but SO NICE. (The restaurant is located inside the insane and cavernous abc home store, which makes for fun aspirational browsing either before or after lunch.)

  3. Prune. Prune! Need I say anything at all about this place? (Fun trivia fact - it's the subject of my third post on this creaky old thing!) I'm actually kind of surprised that we ended up here, but one of my girlfriends had a hankering for it and we were lucky enough to get a reservation at a normal hour, so that's where we went. It was, unsurprisingly, excellent in every way. There was gorgeous sparkling Cabernet, radishes with delicious cultured butter and crunchy salt, meltingly rich lamb sweetbreads, mussel stew in which every. single. mussel was sweet and perfect. For my vegetarian friend, they made a special off-menu selection of their vegetable sides and some items from the appetizers. And for dessert, though I wasn't even hungry any more!, there was a crème brûlée that should be taught in cooking school. Aces from start to finish.




  4. A craving for dim sum led us to Dim Sum VIP on Mott Street, which was tiny and crowded, but a fantastic find (we were lucky enough to snag a table at peak lunch hour without a wait). It's too small for dim sum carts and they do everything to order, so you just look at the menu, then fill out an order sheet that's on your table. The food comes out fresh and piping hot, in rapid-fire succession - turnip cakes, red oil wontons, bean curd skin rolls (two orders!), shrimp rice rolls and an enormous plate of sautéed gai lan. Still thinking about those gorgeous greens.



  5. Hipster ramen has become almost a cliché (almost?), and if you have never been to Momofuku before, that's where you should have some, but Ippudo is pretty great, too, and much bigger and warmer and more comfortable. We had the nicest server, the cucumber appetizer is icy-cold and crunchy and savory and wonderful, and the spicy karaka ramen sustained us nearly the whole day.

  6. My favorite find of the trip was the Thai restaurant Fish Cheeks on Bond Street. I had read about it in the New Yorker and filed it away in my mind, then we stumbled upon while out walking one day and ending up going in and reserving a table for the next evening. It's a fun, boisterous, colorful place and the food is wonderful. Unlike many Thai restaurants that have enormous menus, this place has a pretty small selection, but it's very well-considered and offers a great balance of family-style dishes. The best appetizers we tried were the fiery zabb wings and the cooling, wonderful yum sum-o salad. We liked the crab curry and the seafood pad cha, but the main dish that ended up truly shining was...the crab fried rice, believe it or not. It looked sort of pale and quiet next to the bombastic other mains, but it was excellent, really beautifully flavored and lovely.
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First off, an apology. Writing about Thanksgiving in February is...well...not great. But I swear I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't have a very good reason and that reason is this recipe for roasted turkey stock, which is worth every single droplet of sweat, blood and tears you expend on Thanksgiving itself to make the feast. Every time I open my freezer and see the remaining turkey stock I made in November, I feel like I have money in the bank. And there's no reason to restrict the recipe below to turkey - it works just as well with a small collection of roast chicken carcasses.

The recipe comes from Suzanne Goin and is a study in the art of how to build flavor. You start out, of course, with a roasted turkey carcass (first layer). This gets returned to the oven the day after Thanksgiving to roast until it sizzles and is fragrant (second layer). Then you roast vegetables and aromatics in the turkey drippings (third layer). You add a pretty large amount of wine to the roasted vegetables and then reduce that wine until it's syrupy (layer four). At that point, it's time to add water and the seasonings and to simmer the stock until it's rich and flavorful (layer five!).

What results is a golden brown liquid that tastes absolutely amazing, both on its own or in things like risotto or other soups. But the very best thing you can do with it (besides freezing it and being delighted by it every single time you open the freezer, if you're like me) is to make turkey pho. Follow this fantastic recipe by Samin Nosrat, which adds even more flavor to your amazing stock by simmering it with charred ginger, onions and star anise - and copious amounts of fish sauce. Not to mention the fresh limes and bean sprouts and jalapeños and mint and cilantro...

Of course you don't have to wait until next Thanksgiving to try this out - the next two times (approximately, if you're using a 4-5 pound chicken) you roast a chicken, throw the carcass in the freezer. The third time, remove the frozen carcasses and add to the fresh carcass, then depart with the recipe below.

Suzanne Goin's Roasted Turkey Stock
Makes about 3 quarts/2.8 liters

1 leftover carcass from a 10- to 15-pound roasted turkey, preferably including neck, wing and leg bones
4 or 5 onions, peeled and quartered
2 large or 3 small carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
4 large or 5 small celery ribs, cut into chunks
2 cups white wine
2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 whole arbol (or another small dried red) chile
Kosher salt

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Using a sturdy knife or your hands, cut or tear turkey carcass into large pieces. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting pan and roast until brown and sizzling, 20 to 25 minutes.

2. Remove from oven and transfer pieces to a stockpot. Add onions, carrots and celery to the empty roasting pan and place over medium heat. Sauté briefly, just to loosen the crusty turkey bits from bottom of pan. Return pan to oven and cook until vegetables are browned around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Remove pan from oven and place it over medium heat. Add white wine and cook, stirring, until wine is reduced to a syrup, about 3 minutes. Add wine-vegetable mixture to stockpot. Add garlic, thyme, bay leaves, black peppercorns and chile. Add 6 quarts water and place over medium-high heat just until mixture comes to a boil.

4. Immediately reduce heat to low, skim any foam floating on top and simmer, skimming as needed, for 3 hours. Add 1 teaspoon salt and taste. If stock tastes watery, keep simmering until stock is flavorful. Taste for salt again and add more if needed.

5. Strain stock through a sieve into a large container or containers. Discard solids. Let stock cool slightly, then refrigerate. Skim off any fat from the top of the stock. Use within 4 days or freeze.

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Last fall, for the first time ever, I hosted Thanksgiving at my place. Max was traveling overseas at the time, so I hosted it solo to boot. Wah! There were 15 of us and although my guests (Joanie and her whole crew) brought plenty of delicious side dishes and some dessert, the big things - turkey! stuffing! gravy! pies! mashed potatoes! green beans! uh, cranberry sauce! - were on me. It wasn't the first time I'd done a full Thanksgiving dinner - I cooked one for 40 people at Soho House a few years ago - but that was in a professional kitchen with two sous chefs to help. Also, perhaps most importantly, I was being paid to do so. It was still one of my most insane days in the kitchen, except for that one time when we had to reshoot 11 of the Classic German Baking photos. In one day. While I had the flu.

In other words, I know from stressful kitchen days. So on Thanksgiving, I outsourced my children to my sainted parents, blasted The War on Drugs (excellent getting-shit-done tunes, among other things), put my head down and just did it. And, wow, is it different to be the Thanksgiving cook in your own home than it is to just show up with a few side dishes and a pie in hand, my usual role.

(A million seasoned home cooks roll their eyes and yawn, while mouthing ya think, genius?)

I learned so much. Like to err on the side of having a too-big turkey, rather than a too-small one (insert chagrined emoji face here). That baking an apple pie for close to two hours really is revelatory. To stay away from, how should I call them, newfangled variations on cranberry sauce. And that you can't have too many mashed potatoes, as long as you know about this way to use them up: Aloo Tikki, also known as Indian Potato Cakes, also known as my favorite kitchen discovery of 2017.

On Thanksgiving, propelled by some hard-to-articulate terror that we wouldn't have enough food, I made - hold tight - almost 9 pounds of mashed potatoes. After our feasting, this is what I was left with:

Woah.

I couldn't figure out where to begin re-purposing what looked like about 5 pounds of leftover mashed potatoes. So I took to Instagram to ask for help, and almost 200 comments rolled in with ideas. I mean, people, the wealth of inspiration! It was incredible. (It's here, but warning: don't click on that if you're hungry and not in possession of an obscene amount of leftover mashed potatoes.)

The thing that most tickled my fancy was the idea of combining fresh, hot Indian flavors with the potatoes. Not only did it sound delicious but I was pretty sure it was going to be the best way to get excited about working through leftovers after that first obligatory meal of Thanksgiving leftovers (you know, pretty great the first time, pretty heinous the fifth). Also, they seemed dead easy and if you know anything about me at this point, you know that I will always, ALWAYS choose the easiest way.

So. Aloo tikki. You take a whole bunch of leftover mashed potatoes. You mix in some chopped red pepper and scallions, some cumin, coriander and turmeric, and an egg and flour for binding. Then you make little cakes out of the mixture. Fry them in oil. Whisk up an yogurt sauce (NON-NEGOTIABLE, DO NOT SKIP, PRACTICALLY THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS WHOLE POST). Serve them together and watch your mashed potatoes disappear faster than the speed of light. Magic!

Now a quick word of caution. I do not know authentic this recipe is. I found it on Genius Kitchen, which is the new home of the old Food.com. Some cursory searches online turned up other recipes for Aloo Tikki that certainly sound even better - with fresh ginger and garam masala and peas (PEAS!). But let me put it like this: this basic recipe already was the greatest thing I made all year, perhaps precisely because it was such a cinch. So don't let it stop you and then make the ones with peas (wherein the journalist calls aloo tikki Pakistan and India's greatest street food I REST MY CASE) and report back. Deal?

Aloo Tikki
Adapted from Genius Kitchen
Serves 3-4

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1/2 large red bell pepper, finely diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/3 cup yogurt (plain or Greek)
1/4 cup minced cilantro, or more to taste
1 jalapeno, minced (with seeds for hotter sauce, without for milder)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt, to taste

1. Place the mashed potatoes in a mixing bowl. Add the red pepper, scallions, egg, flour, and spices. Mix well, then set the mixture aside for 10 minutes.

2. In the meantime, make the yogurt sauce: Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the lime juice, oil, cilantro, jalapeño and salt to taste. Set aside.

3. Put 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet (preferably non-stick) and heat over medium heat. Form as many 2-3 inch patties as you can fit in the skillet and gently put them in the hot skillet. Fry each side until golden-brown, remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining potato mixture (adding more oil to the pan if necessary). You can keep the cakes warm in a 200 F/95 C oven. Serve hot with the yogurt sauce.

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Tap, tap, tap. Clears throat.

Hi! Happy new year! What's new with you?

How's that for sidling back here after 6 months of radio silence? Smooth, right?

So here's where I've been...right here! Trying to get my kid to practice the piano. Making sure Bruno doesn't electrocute himself since he has a predilection for sucking on electrical cables plugged into sockets. Up to my eyeballs in baby life and parental leave - Max took two months off this summer so we hightailed it to my mother in Italy - and schoolkid life, because Hugo started school in September. It's been very busy and satisfying and all-encompassing and wonderful. And Bruno is the sweetest little angel baby, all smiles and soft skin and cuddles. Having him around just feels so good. Next week he turns one and I am totally gutted. Time rolls on and breaks our hearts...

Also practicing the piano!

But you are here for recipes, not for a mother bellyaching about her baby growing up, so let me tell you about this most wondrous discovery I made all the way back in October (but is still going strong in January, locked up in a nice, airtight jar in my pantry): Alison Roman's savory granola, found in the pages of her first cookbook, Dining In (currently, everyone is all in on her chocolate chunk shortbread recipe, which, it being January, just makes me so happy. Piss off, green smoothie cult!).

Try as I might, regular granola, no matter how many seeds or how much olive oil gets thrown in there, just isn't my thing. It's too sweet for breakfast, too rich to start the day. I want to like it and God knows there are enough enticing recipes online to satisfy almost every single person on this planet, and yet it's just...not what I want to eat. Savory granola, though, is a whole other barrel of fish. Salty, spicy and kind of weird, it's kind of brilliant. Alison packs her recipe full of fennel seeds and Aleppo pepper and nigella seeds (kalonji, my favorite word!) and soy sauce and buckwheat groats, for crying out loud. It's nutty and spicy and crunchy, keeps for far longer than the recipe indicates, and tastes fantastic when layered as follows:

Chopped cherry tomatoes and peeled cucumbers, well-salted and generously soaked in really good olive oil; super-creamy plain yogurt (full-fat is the only way to go, folks, but not Greek, at least not for me), then some generous handfuls of savory granola. You want the tomato-cuke juices to pool at the bottom of the bowl with the olive oil, so that each bite is sort of saucy, creamy, and crunchy at the same time. Err on the side of more olive oil in this breakfast bowl, not less.

And for the umpteenth time, let us all give thanks that botanists developed cherry tomatoes to be delicious at all times of the year so that this nice little breakfast can also be enjoyed in the depths of winter. Thank you, science!

The awful thing about not blogging for so long, besides making me feel wracked with guilt and weirdly lazy, is that it makes it extra hard to get back into the saddle again. But I have missed you all very much and I just wanted to say thanks to all those who kept checking in and welcome to all those who found their way here while I was off changing diapers and sleep-training. You're all great. Can't wait to fire this place up again this year.

Alison Roman's Savory Granola
Adapted from Dining In

1½ cups rolled oats
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup buckwheat groats
½ cup flaxseeds
½ cup black or white sesame seeds
¼ cup nigella seed (if unavailable, use more black or white sesame seeds)
3 large egg whites
⅓ cup olive oil, peanut oil, or grapeseed oil
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup caraway or fennel seed
1-2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine the oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, nigella seed, egg whites, oil, maple syrup, caraway seed, Aleppo pepper, soy sauce, and salt in a medium bowl and toss to mix until everything is evenly coated. Season with plenty of black pepper.

3. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and bake, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until everything is golden brown and toasty, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool completely and break any large clumps into smaller pieces before storing in glass jars or ziplock bags. Will keep for at least a month.
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Aaaaaand, it's naptime again, which means it's time for another blog post written on the fly! (Cue lots of cartoon dust clouds and "peee-ow" acceleration noises as your heroine's fingers fly on the keyboard.)

I don't know about you, but my pantry is full of all sorts of things that routinely stump me when I open the door (here's looking at you, wasabi powder). Hidden among the cans of beans and glass jars of flours (and the wasabi powder) are various sweeteners that have made their home way home with me over the years, like brown rice syrup, two half-empty (what gives?) bottles of agave nectar, and various shades of brown sugar. I never really know what to do with them and I confess that the "clean eating" brigade actually put me off alternative sweeteners for years.

Enter Shauna Sever's Real Sweet, a cookbook about recipes made with all kinds of natural sugars, from coconut sugar to brown rice syrup, from muscovado sugar to maple syrup, from piloncillo to agave. Sort of like Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain, Shauna's emphasis is on teaching you about the different flavors, textures and properties that these sweeteners impart to cakes, cookies and other confections. It's not a healthy or "clean" baking book, just so that we're very clear from the start. It's a fantastic collection of really delicious treats, impeccably tested, written with humor and geared towards both child-friendly treats and sophisticated desserts. The book is organized around these treat categories, rather than the sweeteners, but there's a good index in the back that allows you to choose a sweetener and then see all the related recipes grouped there.

Shauna, who is my sweet and hilarious friend, has two young children, and clearly knows a thing or two about developing Grade A playground treats. But she doesn't dumb down any of her recipes and the book is filled with neat little fillips that elevate all of the recipes into Truly Special territory. The raspberry yogurt popsicles, for example, require lemon peel and vanilla bean, which make them deeply delicious for big and small alike. Shauna's also such a baking pro that the book is stuffed with all kinds of informational gems about baking that I've applied to other recipes with outstanding results. There are lots of hidden tips that will make you a better baker and a more confident one, too. Shauna even managed to develop two recipes for meringue (one soft, one crisp) and a recipe for confectioner's sugar without processed white sugar. Amazing.

I don't know about you, but it's very rare that I end up making more than a handful of things out of any particular cookbook. With this book, though, I can't seem to stop baking from it. I've made everything from tart blueberry fruit leather (agave syrup) to a soulful orange-vanilla pound cake (made with demerara, the batter beaten so long it resembled a gorgeously tan cloud by the end) to a buttery brittle topped with mixed seeds (brown rice syrup - and a candy thermometer, don't try this without one!) to those aforementioned raspberry yogurt popsicles (again, agave syrup) and I have several more recipes bookmarked to make this month alone. (If you must know: the Banana Butterscotch Cream Pie with evaporated cane juice, the Sunflower Seed Nuggets with coconut sugar and the Cracklin' Maple Popcorn with maple syrup, turbinado sugar, plus some molasses.)

The recipes were easy to follow, worked just as written and produced great results. I especially loved that nothing was too sweet or cloying. Shauna got the balance of flavors just right in everything. Shauna really understands the different flavors that these alternative sweeteners provide, as well as the textural things they can achieve (or not) and the recipes reflect it. She didn't just plug in brown sugar for white in a standard recipe. She really developed a whole slew of new recipes around the flavor of each sweetener.

Though I loved everything I made from Real Sweet, my very favorite is actually worth the price of the book (it's also the only thing I don't have a photo for; apologies!): Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle. This stuff is...well...insane. You make a thin chocolate chip cookie batter, then spread it out all over a baking sheet. Once it has baked and cooled, it hardens into a thin layer that you break apart into rich, buttery shards that taste like a heavenly mashup between the crisp bits of a chocolate chip cookie and a Skor bar (or any chocolate-covered hard toffee). It's delicious. It's ridiculous. You will not be able to stop eating it. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.

Thanks to Shauna, I no longer have any agave syrup in my pantry at all, but I do plan on never being without turbinado or coconut sugar again. And I love that I now have uses for maple syrup and honey beyond our weekend pancakes or Hugo's breakfast yogurt. Best of all, I'm a better baker because of it. Real Sweet will be on my shelves forever.

Shauna Sever's Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle
Adapted from Real Sweet
Makes about 3 dozen 3-inch pieces

14 tablespoons/200 grams unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup/200 grams turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups/250 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 cup/60 grams finely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup/130 grams chocolate chips (50-70% cacao)

1. Heat the oven to 350F/180C.

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sugar together. Don't let the mixture come to a boil. Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk for 1 minute, until the mixture is thickened and smooth and no longer appears separated. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Stir in the flour until well incorporated. Stir in half the nuts, if using.

3. Scrape the dough out onto an unlined sheet pan and pat it into a very thin, even layer with your hands. It won't look as if you'll be able to fill the entire pan, but you will; just keep patting and spreading the dough all the way to the edges. Use an offset spatula to give the dough a smooth finish. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and remaining nuts, if using, over the the dough and press them lightly into with your hands.

4. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through, until light golden brown and slightly firm to the touch all over. Let cool in the pan for 3 minutes. Line a second sheet pan with parchment paper. Flip the slab of brittle onto the paper and then immediately peel off the parchment and invert it right side up onto a cooling rack. Cool completely. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container for at least 5 days.

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It's taken me about a year to want to bake again. After finishing work on Classic German Baking, I didn't want to even be in the same room as a piece of cake for a very long time. I don't know if it's stress baking (thanks, Trump!) or trying to find an ounce of external productivity in a life that is otherwise totally ruled by a sweet little butterball named Bruno, but I am very grateful to be finding pleasure in baking again, because it's about the only thing I seem capable of doing right now.

Last weekend I made Joanie's birthday cake for her picnic (the Kranzkuchen from CGB). We are feverishly planning Hugo's fifth birthday cake production next week (he gets to take one to daycare and there will be another one for his party and they will of course both be chocolate - but different! - because that is what he loves). I made these scones a few days ago and these cookies are on the docket for later today. I've been baking my way through this book and can't wait to tell you more about it. And last night, after the boys were in bed and with Max away on business, after reading James Comey's statement in advance of his Senate testimony and gnashing my teeth down to nubs, I made the Field Day Poundcake from the New York Times, which is every bit as majestic as Jennifer Steinhauer makes it out to be and a very good distraction from the outside world.

(What I don't understand is why the Times calls it Poundcake, as opposed to Pound Cake. Maybe one of you knows?)

It's gloriously simple, of course, just butter and eggs and sugar and flour, with a good splash of vanilla for flavor, some salt and a tiny bit of cream. Nevertheless, I made a few little tweaks that I'd like to pass on to you. First of all, per Jennifer's recommendation, I added a bit more salt than called for, about 1 1/4 teaspoons. I reduced the sugar by 1/2 cup and it was still plenty sweet. In fact, next time, I might even go down to 2 1/4 cups. This reduction didn't mess with the texture of the cake at all. I didn't use cake flour, just regular flour, and I didn't fold the flour in by hand, as she recommends, because my folding spatula was dirty and I was tired. I just switched the machine on low and beat it in gently. Same with the cream. One more thing, since Jennifer doesn't get specific about mixing times: at the start, make sure you beat the butter and sugar together until they're really light and fluffy, which takes about 5 minutes with a stand mixer. Then make sure that you beat each egg in for a minute. All this beating makes for a wondrous pile of cake batter, and, after baking, a gorgeous, even, velvety crumb. (This is just one of the great baking tips I got out of Shauna Sever's Real Sweet, mentioned above.)

I seem to have misplaced my Bundt cake pan so I used a tube cake pan, which I filled to the brim, but I still had a little leftover batter. So I poured that into muffin cups. (These, of course, bake for far less time than the full cake, just keep an eye on them and do the skewer test after about 25 minutes.) The cake was very tender when it first came out of the oven, but after cooling overnight it firmed up nicely. I plan on serving it this afternoon with sugared strawberries, while we watch the Senate hearing.

The world may be smoldering, but we will have cake.

Jennifer Steinhauer's Field Day Poundcake
Makes one Bundt cake or two loaf cakes

453 grams (2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more to grease the pans
600 grams (3 cups) granulated sugar (I only used 2 1/2 cups)
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
453 grams (3 cups) cake flour (I used all-purpose)
¼ cup heavy cream

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter and flour one 12-cup Bundt pan or two 8.5-inch-by-4.5-inch loaf pans, and set aside.

2. Using a stand mixer, cream together the remaining butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and salt.

3. Gently beat in the flour. Add the cream and stir just until thoroughly combined.

4. Pour the batter into the pan or pans and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack to cool completely.

 

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