I wanted to write something about failure and trial and error.
What you’re looking at is the results of attempting to fry up a batch of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Falafel. On the left are the pre-shaped, chilled for over an hour, made to the exact specifications of the recipe falafel balls. On the right are the balls just after frying in the correct oil at the correct temperature. I watched in horror as they sort of frothed up and spun around in the oil, unraveling completely into a mess of burnt crumbs. The recipe itself, while specific, was not exactly labor intensive, so it wasn’t as big of a loss as, say, a deflated soufflé. But nobody likes to waste, so I decided to flatten the falafel into little patties and do a pan fry instead.
Well, that resulted in another burnt, green, greasy mess. So what to do? Well, if I was going to fail so fully I may as well take it all the way, right? So I took the remaining falafel, mixed the dough back together and added an egg and about 1/3 cup of flour. Chickpea flour would probably be perfect here, but of course I didn’t have any, so regular flour worked just fine. After a moment or two of hand mixing I plopped spoonfuls of the mixture into a pain with some hot oil and gently pressed them down. Voila! They began to crisp up and hold their shape, resulting in a falafel patty of sorts that still tasted just as vibrant and fresh as the usual shape.
Not all kitchen errors can be righted of course, but the point I mean to make here is that sometimes, even when you measure exactly, use your scale for weights, wait the right amount of time, and even test temperatures, things can literally fall apart. This wasn’t my only failing of the day, either! It was actually my third in less than a day. I also tried to make these caramelized saltine snacks, down to exacts and it failed miserably. Another loss turned rescue was this recipe for homemade pita that I somehow didn’t nail quite right either, despite using the weights suggested. I did all the wait times, kneading, misting with water and still ended up with un-puffed pita. It was still tasty, sure, but it wasn’t quite as light and pillowy as I hoped. So what to do? Pita chips of course.
What I mean to say is that even with cooking being a science, even with exacts and lots and lots of experience, things can go awry easily in the kitchen. I think it’s important to think on your feet and not be afraid to take risks, though! So many of the greatest things in life seem to be happy accidents, an accidental spilling of this into that, unusual applications on the usual things. So I hope if anything, if there’s a recipe out there that’s intimidating you - don’t be afraid to try and fail. You might end up with something even better as a result, and you’ll definitely learn along the way.
Now, for something that did work! This recipe for Smitten Kitchen’s ethereally smooth hummus, the sort that rivals what you get in restaurants and always wonder “how did they make this so smooth?”. Now, it does involve peeling the outer skins off soaked chickpeas (I used canned) and saving the liquid from the soaking or can to help smooth out the hummus, but that’s it! That’s the trick! It’s wild how much more satisfying this homemade version is than anything I could pick up at the grocery store. It’s also funny how the smallest, possibly most obvious tweaks can transform something decent into something decadent. That is, in essence, what I love so much about cooking anyway, isn’t it?
I hope you’ll try that hummus trick and share your versions with me in the future, and if you’ve got any food fails turned successes share them in the comments below! Happy cooking, and happy accidents too.
Choosing the right recipe for a big gathering can be really overwhelming! Here I’ve shared a few of my favorites for the season:
My super lazy way: boil baby potatoes with thin peels until cooked through/soft to the tines of a fork, then mash (skin on) with warm cream, soft butter, and a big handful of chives or scallions, and plenty of salt and pepper. Bonus: throw garlic cloves in the with boiling potatoes and mash into potatoes when done.
My super lazy way: pre-heat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil. Slice sweet potatoes into half inch medallions and toss with olive oil, a drizzle of maple syrup, and plenty of salt and pepper. Add in herbs if you like. Place coated medallions on a baking sheet and roast for 20 mins. Flip the baked sweet potato medallions over and roast again for another 15 to 20 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized. Season more if needed!
Bacon Balsamic Vinaigrette from Epicurious - great on spinach with a tart cheese, apples, and walnuts
My feeling here is you probably already have a favorite, but the round up above is full of great tips and recipes ranging from traditional to the adventurous.
Golden Pull Apart Butter Buns from King Arthur Flour
Squash and Kale Pasta Bake - coming soon!
My Family’s Apple Crisp - easy, satisfying, a good one to make with kids, and quick!
Above you see recipes for the following: Cheeseball, Cornbread Stuffing, Pecan Pie, and Apple Crisp. These are scans of the actual scraps and edited recipes from my mom’s own cookbooks and newspaper clippings. These are just a handful of the recipes we’ve been serving at various holidays ever since I was a kid. I’m excited to share them with, especially since many of them are simple to make and are great crowd pleasers. The cornbread stuffing has won rave reviews at various friendsgivings. I’ve made the cheeseball for holiday parties and it went so fast that the next year I actually made two. The apple crisp recipe is one of the simplest things to make and is absolutely divine with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I have a feeling you could use that same crumble for just about any fruit and get great results. So, I hope you’ll enjoy these little scraps and scans, and if you have any family favorite traditions for your table, feel free to share them with me here!
Here are some things I’ve learned in my time making pasta. With a lot of practice, what was once and intimidating and frustrating process has become something I can make regularly with ease, and even a process I look forward to. If you follow my advice you’ll be serving up a bowl of homemade goodness stress free in no time!
Do not start this process hungry, or even peckish for that matter. There’s a reason the Italians are the masters of antipasto or little snacks. Do. Not. Get. Hangry. During. This. Process. It will ruin it for you, as it has for me many times over. Pasta, while ultimately a simple thing to make, is a process of patience. There’s no rushing it, so don’t let hunger pangs make you feel rushed yourself. Open some wine, set out some snacks. Or better yet, get your prepping done earleir in the day. Pasta dough can rest for —- and be ready in time for the cooresponding fillings and/or sauces.
Mies en place. Make sure you have everything organized and ready! Check for enough eggs, enough flour, enough olive oil. Homemade pasta cooks fast! As James Beard writes, don’t even think about putting your pasta into the cooking water if your sauce and garnishes aren’t already ready to go. That goes for everything else in the meal. Homemade pasta is supposed to be served immediately and fresh, make sure everything else is in order before you cook it or even think about serving it to guests.
Practice makes perfect. This is supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be an evolving experimental thing. You will get the feel of it over time. You can’t help but do so with a ten minute kneading period, right? But relax and feel the dough, pay attention to its springiness and color each time you make it. See how the environment, process, flour, humidity, or whatever else may come your way change the final outcome. Note the difference between a dough with eggs and a dough made with warm water. This is how you’ll develop a good sense of when a dough is right, with or without the guidelines. And finally, remember, it’s just a little bit of flour and water or flour and some eggs. If you don’t get it right the first time, at least you’re not losing a ton of expensive ingredients in the process. Just have fun!
As a bonus, here are some things I think will help you along your journey. The one you absolutely most need is a scale, so let’s start there!
Greater Goods Digital Food Scale - simple, small, has multiple measurement modes, easy to use and store!
Pastry Scraper - I don’t actually own one of these, but a lot of people use them to scrape up all the sticky bits that can get stuck on your wood surface during pasta making.
Pasta Roller - This is the one I own, but there are a lot of options out there. Most should come with about 8 settings for thickness and an attachment that can be used to make linguine noodles. If you have a KitchenAid stand mixer, there are also attachments available for those machines!
Pastry/Ravioli Wheel - This makes cutting stuffed pasta shapes super easy and clean looking!
Here I am sharing two videos from PBS, featuring chef Jason Stoneburner demonstrating two different unique homemade pastas that do not require a pasta rolling machine. Both of these seem really fun, really adaptable, and fairly straightforward to make. Each pasta chef Stoneburner makes are egg free, too! So perfect for the vegans or vegetarians in your life, and even easier to make with the basic pantry ingredients you likely already have at home.
Culurigiones or fat stuffed cousins of ravioli
Lorighittas or Sicilian braided pasta.
I've added a new section to the site, where I'll be posting my takes on recipes I've either made before and changed, or recipes I've repurposed or combined. Up first, a healthier take on nachos for dinner, with a side of queso of course.
It's impossible to know whether Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger anticipated that their photo-sharing app would shape the way we socialize, cook, and even where we eat and drink, when they launched their app back in 2010. But either way, Instagram's impact on society's relationship with food is clear and undeniable. While I'm personally prone to photographing any and every thing that catches my eye, Instagram has a way of stoking that quality in me and getting me to share every little mundane instance I happen to think deserves it (which is a lot!). More often than not, what I share tends to be images of food or drinks, sometimes on my own at bars I adore or sometimes over meals shared with friends in their homes. If you like a restaurant or bar, you want people to know about it so they can try it too, right? There are many reasons to do so, the least of which seems to be the actual promoting, the bigger incentive being 'likes' and giving off the impression that you have a busy and fulfilling life. Below are just a few examples I was able to pull from my own Instagram, shameless as they may be:
(Tacos by my friend Monica, pizza at Di Fara, Negroni and Hot Bird, cheeseburger and my favorite fries and a Nitro cream ale at Sea Witch, Gelato at L'Albero Dei Gelati, arepa at Arepa Lady, Perogis at Veselka, Pizza at Robertas, and the chicken biscuit at Pies N' Thighs! Whew..)
Instagram's popularity measuring contest aside, I felt especially prone to sharing my own cooking adventures at home in my kitchen (big surprise) once Instagram copy-catted Snapchats "stories" feature. At first I scoffed at the blatant appropriation of the feature, but it's quickly grown to be my favorite aspect of Instagram. The stories disappear after 24 hours, so it's easy to swipe once or twice, film something silly or ephemeral, and send it off and into the lives of any interested followers. I'll often reach for this particular feature when I'm making dinner at home, glass of wine in hand and a record on the turntable, just to share what I'm cooking, especially if I'm trying a new recipe. It's fun and easy and occasionally someone actually does make something I've made, and that's really the whole point of this show and site! To share and interact and recreate these experiences of eating and cooking, even when not physically in proximity. So as much as we are addicted to scrolling and tapping 'like' and peering into the lives of friends and celebrities alike, I'd like to say my takeaway is that sharing can be powerful, emboldening, and create bonds you might otherwise have missed out on.
So, for this episode I went deep into my own "screencaps" folder on my phone and dug up recipes shared by other friends, influencers, and cookbook authors I follow out there in insta-land. Some of these recipes have quickly become favorites for me, and they're somehow even more special because many do not have homes on blogs or in cookbooks just yet. They just appeared for a brief moment on a day when one of these (all women) creators or chefs felt like sharing. And thankfully that impulse to share has led me to cook many delicious meals! So here you go, here are my favorites harvested directly from the timeline.
Easy Tuna Salad from A Cozy Kitchen
Blood Orange Pound Cake from A Cozy Kitchen
A little while back I got to be a guest on Everybody Plays The Fool with Shane, in which we talked about songs that detailed recipes, music to cook to, and cookbooks written by musicians. You can hear that episode below:
Shane had the brilliant idea to do a crossover episode, in which we'd try recipes written by musicians and he'd be a guest on Reciprocity Radio so we could discuss our experiences. This week we got to do just that, as well as talk about the various ridiculous musician penned cookbooks and recipes we discovered. There are so many surprising cookbooks out there! It was definitely difficult for both of us to decide whose books to draw from, but I wanted to share some of the more incredible finds Shane and I uncovered in our research.
Hard to believe that this is only a sampling of what we found in our journey to make recipes written by musicians! Ultimately I purchased Pleasures, a cook book by Adrienne Amato and Leslie Feist that details the meals shared by the band during the recording of Feist's 2017 album Pleasures. I also purchased Paul McCartney's Meat Free Monday. The Meat Free Monday campaign is really wonderful, focusing on the environmental impact of consuming less meat. It already suited the way I cook at home typically, mostly vegetarian and simple, so it's a welcome addition to my collection! Pleasures is also a truly wonderful and unique book in how it relates each meal plan to a different song on the album. It's truly intimate to read and I love how simple, hearty, and nourishing each of the recipes are.
I ended up making Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Arugula Pesto from Meat Free Monday and Leslie's Favorite Banana Pancakes from Pleasures. Of course, you can hear our discussion below about cooking these recipes and you can find the recipe Shane used for Patti Labelle's Famous Macaroni and Cheese right here!
The holiday episode of Reciprocity Radio will air tonight live at 5 p.m. on Radio Free Brooklyn! You can expect all sorts of wonderful seasonal recipes and stories from friends and family alike. Below I will share all the links and information mentioned in the episode, so you can follow along and create your own memories with these beautiful recipes. I would like to give a huge thank you to everyone who reached out and shared their cherished recipes and holiday stories with me, you helped immensely to make the show what I've always hoped it could be. Here's looking forward to a new year and new stories for the show, and here's wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season. May all your kitchens be both warm and filled with the company of loved ones.
Featured in the holiday episode:
A beautiful cocktail recipe from renowned illustrator and incredibly talented bartender, David Antonio Perezcassar. This recipe originally appeared on Kitchenette.Jezebel.com.
If that's not quite strong enough for you, you can try your hand at Charles Mingus's infamous egg nog recipe. It's detailed in full, and adapted to match Alton Brown's egg nog recipe, over on the Village Voice: Charles Mingus's Eggnog Will Knock You On Your Ass.
As you'll hear in the episode, I've also detailed a bit about my friend Pierce's take on hot chocolate. He's strongly against the addition of sugar to the mixture, and I'm inclined to agree, though the little package of store bought stuff never really disappointed me either. Here's the recipe as he wrote it:
My hot chocolate recipe is not that complicated. Whisk two large squares of 70% dark chocolate into not-quite-boiling full-fat milk. Our milk is very good here though, so results might vary.
He and Helene also sent a recipe for Orangetten, which is candied orange peel that you can either toss in sugar or, as they prepare this treat, dip in melted dark chocolate. This is their holiday tradition, and it sounds like a really beautiful one! Imagine the glorious citrus scent that would fill your home as the oranges slowly simmer and candy. Also, as a Florida native, I'm definitely ready to find some good local oranges and give this recipe a try! I also shared Helene's beautifully illustrated recipe for Vanilla Kipferl, which is very similar in a way to the Mexican Wedding Cookies I've prepared on the show.
Speaking of Mexican Wedding Cookies, I had the good fortune of getting to make that recipe with my friend Leah before we both headed home for the holidays. It turned out great! Not only that, but she shared with me two recipes that she likes to make for her family at the holidays. Those are: Oreo Balls and Vegan Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies! Thanks Leah!
In addition to those two wonderful recipes, I also received two exciting cookie recipes from my friend Lauren! I'll detail them both as she adapted them below, but I really can't wait to try them!
Vanilla Cherry Double Chocolate Cookies
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup dried cherries
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and a second rack in the lower third then preheat to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, and brown sugar and beat on medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and the vanilla and beat on medium until combined, about 1 minute. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in 3 batches, stirring until just combined. Add the cherries, white and semisweet chocolate chips, and the walnuts and stir until just incorporated.
- Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake, switching the cookies between the upper and lower racks about halfway through baking, until light golden brown and just set, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool the cookies on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Pistachio Cardamom Cookies with White Chocolate Glaze
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup chopped unsalted, shelled raw pistachios
For the chocolate glaze:
- 8 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped unsalted, shelled raw pistachios (about 2 1/4 ounces)
Make the cookies:
- Cook butter and cardamom in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is golden brown and fragrant, 6–8 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes, then strain butter through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Freeze until just firm, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl.
- Transfer butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; add sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until pale and well combined, about 2 minutes. Add egg and beat until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add dry ingredients and pistachios and beat on low speed just until combined.
- Turn out dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half. Place each half on a 9x13" sheet of parchment paper with the long end facing you. Roll dough into 2 logs about 1 1/2" in diameter. Wrap each in parchment paper, making sure to cover ends completely. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
- Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350°F. Let dough stand at room temperature until soft enough to slice, about 15 minutes. Slice logs into 1/4"-thick rounds. Arrange rounds on 2 parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets about 1" apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until bottoms are lightly golden, 12–15 minutes. Transfer sheets to wire racks and let cool.
- Make the glaze and assemble the cookies:
- Combine chocolate and oil in a small heatproof bowl. Heat in 10-second intervals in microwave, stirring, until melted and combined, 30–40 seconds total.
- Dip cookies halfway into melted chocolate and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle chocolate with pistachios. Chill until chocolate is set, about 10 minutes.
Thank you so much for sharing these recipes with me, everyone! I hope to try each of them very soon, and of course if I do I will report back when Reciprocity Radio resumes in the new year.
Finally, I shared with you four recipes for holiday treats, which I'll link to below, though you can listen to me talk through them in the episode as soon as it airs!
Fantasy Fudge - As detailed on All Recipes, this is a treat I ate growing up and am very fond of!
Mexican Wedding Cookies - These are great and look like little snowballs when you bake them!
Bakers One Bowl Brownies - A very easy go to that can can be adapted for any occasion.
Peppermint Bark! (Recipe TBF, but it's detailed in the episode!)
Ok, that's it! May you have a wonderful holiday season, and I'll see you in the new year!
3 ingredient stove top mac and cheese that takes 10 minutes to cook? Get the recipe here!