Category: food

Orange rind & apple brandy cranberry sauce, and a remembrance of things past.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

When I think of past Thanksgivings, there’s a blur in my mind. Particularly the childhood ones. I do remember some very clearly- like the year I was probably around 7, and I was making paper dolls on the living room floor after watching the parade. Or the year directly after that when I was creating some kind of model of Plimoth Plantation (purchased the previous summer while on vacation at Plimoth, obviously). Or the year I was about 14 and after dinner, we left the plates on the table & my father drove us in to see the Christmas windows in Manhattan. I even remember the knit hat and the vintage Levi’s I wore. And the year that I was maybe 18 or 19 and we had dinner at my aunt & uncle’s house, and there’s a picture of me floating around somewhere, an actual tangible photograph, of me wearing a lace apron & blue Doc Martens. And of course I remember last year at my in-laws house, when Jay and I cooked everything for both families all by ourselves. And the year before that, and the year before. But other years, they just blur together to create one large Thanksgiving. One large dinner. One pan of lasagna. One turkey. One memory comprised of all the memories.

And I cannot say I remember any one dish, really. I don’t remember any specific stand-out side dishes, except for the one year I made broccoli and cauliflower au gratin (and I’ve been craving it ever since). However this… this is a stand-out side dish if ever there was one.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

Okay. So, Thanksgiving. If there is one thing I can convince you of concerning Thanksgiving, let it be that you DO NOT NEED TO BUY CRANBERRY SAUCE. I know I say a lot of things about how my recipes are “easy” and how you should be making your own pickles or what have you (and that is all 100% true) but cranberry sauce is THE EASIEST THING EVER. I am not lying to you. There is no need to buy stuff chock full of high fructose corn syrup and additives when it’s so easy to make your own. Plus, this time of year cranberries are everywhere, and they’re usually on sale. Stock up and make some homemade cranberry sauce now, enjoy it later.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

It doesn’t have to be “canned” or processed either, I just prefer to do so because I make a couple of half-pints (or pints) and I would rather keep them in a cupboard than in the fridge, open. That way, throughout the entire season I have fresh cranberry sauce. From Thanksgiving to Christmas and throughout the winter. For all those roast chicken Sunday dinners, I can pop open a new jar. Cranberries cook themselves, really. And they have so much natural pectin that they just gel together like a dream. It’s a beginners dream sauce!

I used Black Dirt “Apple Jack” apple brandy in mine, because brandy reminds me of my Nana and apple brandy is the only kind I had on hand. But you could use a regular brandy too. Or bourbon, or whiskey. Or you can leave it out completely.

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Fresh garden salsa (that you can enjoy in February).

Weighing tomatoes before making fresh garden salsa (canned!)

I got a new kitchen scale, dudes.

This is exciting for me. It took a long time to find one that was what I wanted. I didn’t want digital. I wanted an old-school analog one- vintage styled. Jay and I really wanted an actual vintage one, but we were worried about the calibration of a true vintage scale. We didn’t want to buy one then find out it needed to be overhauled. So then we got some gift cards for Williams-Sonoma (for either our wedding or a late-housewarming gift) and we found this one by Salter for Williams-Sonoma. SCORE!

So we ordered it and it came and it’s lovely. Just what I had in mind. Vintage look, but brand new.

Weighing tomatoes for some fresh garden salsa.

And I’ve got lots of tomatoes, all fresh from my backyard. Yep, the garden is still kickin’! Indigo Apples, Cosmonaut Volkov’s, Globe’s, Amish Paste’s and Super Sweet 100’s. They’ve all gotta be used, and one can only eat so many fresh. Or in a salad. So… naturally, everything I make preserve with tomatoes; i.e. tomato jam or sauce or salsa, I need to weigh them first. Conveniently.

And that leads me to our recipe today:

Canned fresh garden salsa- enjoy your garden in the middle of the winter!

I looooooove salsa. Oh man. I could eat salsa all day, every day. Green, red, I don’t care. Hot salsa, medium salsa, salsa with black beans and corn. I love it all. The only ones I will not eat are peach salsas or mango salsas. I’m a purist, see. Tomatoes & peppers only for me. With loads of cilantro. LOADS. I love it tossed into a fresh salad topped with tortilla strips, shredded cheese and sometimes grilled chicken. I also love it on chips, with guacamole. And who doesn’t love it on burritos?

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Oven roasted tomato deliciousness.

Oven roasted tomatoes with basil, oregano & garlic

Happy September, everyone. Wow, can you believe it’s September already? Where did the time go? Summer really flew by. I’ve had a pretty stressful summer- and I didn’t get to the beach once. Also, my cat of 13 years, Arwyn, had to be put to sleep a few days ago, so this summer has been officially marked as shit. She might have lived with my mom and become my “mother’s” cat, but she was my baby. I see Halloween stuff and back-to-school things in stores and I wanna cry, and I LOVE Halloween. How did the summer go by so fast… and why? It’s still a zillion degrees out, I’m not fully ready to plunge into 100% fall treats yet. Besides- IT’S NOT EVEN LABOR DAY. LEMME KEEP MY TOMATOES AND MY SHORTS AND MY SANDALS AND MY ICED TEA, PLZ. KTHX.

Oh, tomatoes. Tomatoes, you beautiful summer-long-into-September-and-maybe-October delectable morsels of life.

Fresh tomatoes!

I know we just spoke about tomatoes a few days ago, but come on. LOOK AT THESE THINGS. How do you not want to take pictures of them and eat them and cuddle them?

Okay, maybe not that.

In case you’re not a regular reader, we’ve been growing tomatoes in our raised garden beds. I had container gardens for years, and last summer we upgraded to raised beds that Jay built. This year we expanded them, and grew 5 varieties of tomatoes: Indigo Apple, Globe, Amish Paste, Cosmonaut Volkov and Supersweet 100. We also grew three kinds of basil (Cinnamon, Purple Ruffles and regular ol’ Genovese) and two types of oregano (regular and “hot & spicy”).

Tomatoes ready to be oven roasted!

I love tomato season. Unf.

So, I had a few tomatoes that fell off the vine before they were ripe, and I decided to pick a vine of Supersweet 100’s and toss ’em all together in the oven. Of course, what are tomatoes without garlic, basil and oregano?

So I washed and dried the shermaters, cut up the Indigo Apple’s to a smaller size, and grabbed some hot & spicy oregano, a bunch of basil leaves and some regular oregano. I added those to the ‘maters. It already smelled like heaven. Or a pizzeria. Same thing.

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Q & A time: why aren’t my pickles crisp? … and more!

Why aren't my pickles crisp? And other burning questions- answered!

You probably thought you were so smart. You looked everything up, or bought a book. You sterilized your jars, you made sure to boil your brine, and you washed all your produce thoroughly. You used your canning rack & processed them, and proudly went to open a jar a few months (or days) later and…

Limp pickles. Gross, limp, soft pickles.

I feel your pain, and I’m here to help.

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Recipe redux: three cheese stovetop mac!

Quick and easy stovetop three cheese macaroni.

It’s warm, it’s sticky, and you don’t want to cook. It’s that time of year when you just don’t feel like it. You’re not in the mood to turn on the stove- nor are you prepared to grill anything & it’s far too hot to have the oven on. We’ve  spent all freakin’ winter cooking! ENOUGH! Or maybe it’s late; no time to defrost anything or go to the store. But you’ve still got mouths to feed (or you’re starving yourself!) & they won’t take no for an answer.

Well I have the solution: three cheese stovetop macaroni.

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Summertime… and the livin’s easy.

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”
-Sylvia Plath



Summer has pretty much all but flown by, hasn’t it? Seems like yesterday I posted a little group of pictures of the start of summer… & now all the Back-to-School stuff has infiltrated the stores & it seems as though summer is breathing its last breaths. Not only that, but we’ve been really getting pounded with rain, and when it’s a cool day combined with rain it seems far more like fall than summer. As far as I’m concerned, there’s plenty of summer left. But I don’t think many other people agree with me. Which sucks, actually, because I feel like I’m being forced to buy sweaters and trench coats and rain boots and I AM NOT READY FOR THAT. I’m still playing in the garden, enjoying the sunshine, wearing tank tops, cutoffs & flip flops. I won’t automatically shift into “fall mode” in late August and you can’t make me. It’s been raining a lot here lately, actually, and quite heavily. But despite the rain, it’s still warm, and I’m getting a little tired of emptying the water out of my fire pit and trying to keep my plants alive and standing. Oh, August rain. You can tell, though, that there’s a change in the air. The breeze is different, the sun patterns are different. Fall is coming.

However… those days when it’s still over 85° degrees with insane humidity and the sun is beating down on me brutally, I’m reminded that yes, it is indeed still summer. So I’m relishing it. Still having picnics & cook-outs on my insect plates!


But at this time of year I feel like a kid- you know how it is when you’re young, and when it’s still summer, and you’re inhaling the scent of chlorine off your skin, catching bugs in jars, staying up late & peeling the sunburned skin off your back… but everyone else (read: adults) seems to be talking about what textbooks you need, who ended up in Mrs. So-and-So’s class, why you need five 3-subject notebooks for Science and whether or not you read your summer reading books (I always did). There’s something to be said for the excitement of shopping for school supplies. The way you feel when you open that notebook and the first page is clean, unruffled and stark white, and it’s similar to the school year itself; right now, it’s a clean slate, anything can happen. It’s filled with promise and the first few weeks (and pages) are nice and smooth. Then it all goes to shit. By the end of the year, the notebook is dog-eared, frayed and probably has no cover left on it, not to mention is stained with almost every lunch you’ve eaten since at least November. Wait, I’m getting off track here. Anyway while there is something to be said for all that newness & excitement… let’s not forget though that the end of summer is officially September 21st, which means fall is technically a little less than one full month away.

There’s still a ton of summer left, true. Lots of beach days (although with no lifeguards), barbecues, warm nights sitting outside until it’s way late, enjoying the nice weather. But the date on the calendar means school starts very soon if it hasn’t already, & those last minute vacations are coming to an end. And most people mark the end of summer as Labor Day, so as summer itself “winds to a close,” it’s time to squeeze in all those summery recipes I didn’t make yet. I said this summer would be the summer of me making stuff I never made before… and that really didn’t go as planned. The summer switched rapidly between being swelteringly hot and torrentially rainy; like some kind of bizarre New York rainforest. So most of the time it was just too hot to cook, even when it rained. I wanted to make Miemo’s mama’s egg rolls, but it was too hot to fry anything! But this is definitely something I never made before that it wasn’t too hot to make: pickled shrimp.

Briny, faintly spicy pickled shrimp are a staple of Southern cuisine. In this Georgia-inspired version from from Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South (Clarkson Potter, 2011), frozen raw shrimp are a fine substitute for fresh. As Hugh notes in his comment below, if the shrimp remain covered with oil, they’ll last for “a good week in the fridge. The longer they sit in their pickle liquid, the picklier they get.”

This recipe first appeared in our October 2011 issue along with Wendell Brock’s book review “Sweet and Tart: A Southerly Course and A New Turn in the South.”


Old Bay Seasoning is something every household should have, at all times. It’s excellent on seafood, yes, but it’s also great for tons of other things: popcorn, french fries, hard-boiled eggs, corn-on-the-cob, etc. If you’ve never had it- get it. I guarantee you you’ll love it. It’s just a simple mix: paprika, mustard, celery seed, ground bay leaf, both black and red pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, salt, mace and ginger. But it’s so good. And the little can is so vintage looking!


PICKLED SHRIMP (directly from Saveur/Hugh Acheson, with my notes in Italics)


  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 lb. (26–30 count) medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I left the tails on)
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds (I didn’t crush them)
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice berries (I omitted them)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped (I used a lot less, but mine was dried parsley)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise (I used a white onion)


  1. Bring Old Bay and 8 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan; add shrimp, reduce heat to low, and cook until shrimp are pink, about 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to bowl of ice water to chill; drain again.
  2. Finely grind celery seeds and allspice in a spice grinder (I didn’t do this!); transfer to a bowl and stir in oil, juice, parsley, salt, chile flakes, garlic, and bay leaves. In a 1-qt. glass jar, layer shrimp and onions; pour over oil mixture. Cover with lid; chill overnight before serving.


I hope that you don’t get turned off or stick your nose up at the idea of these. If you like shrimp, and you like a mildy tangy, briny flavor that pickled foods have, then you’ll love these. Plus… anything in olive oil is awesome, am I right? It’s actually the same principle as Ceviche de Camarones, the popular Latin version of a shrimp cocktail. They’re excellent as a side dish to grilled steak, grilled chicken, or even grilled fish. A perfect addition to your Labor Day festivities this weekend. And the oil can be used as a vinaigrette, not to mention if you let the jar come to room temperature & put some of the shrimp & oil over hot pasta, it’s kinda like a cheater’s version of shrimp scampi. You could use them in a kind of Southern taco, too. Roll up some flour tortillas and put some of these bad boys in there with some of the onions and a little lettuce. They’re relatively easy to make, and… they last for a week in the fridge! Just make sure they’re totally submerged & covered with oil at all times. And as with everything, when in doubt- throw it out! If it smells funkadelic or looks weird, toss it. But mine was in the fridge for about 9 days, and on the ninth day it was finally finished and nobody died. Yet. (I kid, I kid)

And yes, like it says above, you can use frozen shrimp. I did! I also left the tails on, obviously. Interactive food, guys, interactive food. Make people work for it. Side note: the oil might coagulate in the refrigerator. Mine actually didn’t fully coagulate for a couple of days, I suspect because of the addition of the lemon juice. But anyway, if you manage to keep them for longer than an evening and they coagulate, all you do is take the jar out a little ahead of time. This way it’ll come to room temperature, liquify & be fine to eat within 15-20 minutes.

Everybody loves a picnic!

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
-James Henry



I love picnics. I don’t have them often, of course, but I’ve had a few over the course of my life & they’ve always been fun. When I was a kid, my mom used to have “backyard picnics” where we just set up a simple little picnic on the grass in the yard. It wasn’t anything crazy, usually a few sandwiches with the crusts cut off (mine was always either peanut butter or potato chip; yes I ate potato chip sandwiches) and some soda or sparkling water and some snacks. Once or twice on a rainy day we even had an indoor picnic on the floor and had pizza or Chinese food. It was so much fun.

And then you grow up and your sense of fun changes. You forget to do little fun things every now and then, “just because.”;

Taking a cue from that, I decided to have one now. As a “grown-up.” I have these two vintage picnic baskets sitting around that I never used. Plus I’ve been working really hard, on a variety of things (like the new Recipe Index!). I figured, why do I have to actually go somewhere to have a picnic when I can have one right here?! You can have a picnic anywhere- even inside, like I said. Martha Stewart recently did a segment on the Today show about how to prepare a picnic entirely in jars! There are tons of ways to do a picnic, from traditional to un-traditional. Bring cold foods, hot foods, room-temperature foods, salads, wine & cheese. Whatever you like.

The first usage of the word ‘picnic’ is traced to the 1692 edition of Tony Willis, Origines de la Langue Française, which mentions pique-nique as being of recent origin; it marks the first appearance of the word in print. The term was used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The concept of a picnic long retained the connotation of a meal to which everyone contributed something. Whether picnic is actually based on the verb piquer which means ‘pick’ or ‘peck’ with the rhyming nique meaning “thing of little importance” is doubted; the Oxford English Dictionary says it is of unknown provenance. The word predates lynching in the United States; claims that it is derived from a shortening of ‘pick a n—-r’ are untrue.[2]

The word ‘picnic’ first appeared in English in a letter of the Gallicized Lord Chesterfield in 1748 (OED), who associates it with card-playing, drinking and conversation, and may have entered the English language from this French word.[3] The practice of an elegant meal eaten out-of-doors, rather than a harvester worker’s dinner in the harvest field, was connected with respite from hunting from the Middle Ages; the excuse for the pleasurable outing of 1723 in François Lemoyne‘s painting Hunt Picnic is still offered in the context of a hunt.

After the French Revolution in 1789, royal parks became open to the public for the first time. Picnicking in the parks became a popular activity amongst the newly enfranchised citizens.

Early in the 19th century, a fashionable group of Londoners (including Edwin Young) formed the ‘Picnic Society‘. Members met in the Pantheon on Oxford Street. Each member was expected to provide a share of the entertainment and of the refreshments with no one particular host. Interest in the society waned in the 1850s as the founders died.[4]

From the 1830s, Romantic American landscape painting of spectacular scenery often included a group of picnickers in the foreground. An early American illustration of the picnic is Thomas Cole‘s The Pic-Nic of 1846 (Brooklyn Museum of Art).[5] In it, a guitarist serenades the genteel social group in the Hudson River Valley with the Catskills visible in the distance. Cole’s well-dressed young picnickers having finished their repast, served from splint baskets on blue-and-white china, stroll about in the woodland and boat on the lake.

The image of picnics as a peaceful social activity can be utilised for political protest, too. In this context, a picnic functions as a temporary occupation of significant public territory. A famous example of this is the Pan-European Picnic held on both sides of the Hungarian/Austrian border on the 19 August 1989 as part of the struggle towards German reunification.

In 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast in France to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. In the United States, likewise, the 4 July celebration of American independence is a popular day for a picnic. In Italy, the favorite picnic day is Easter Monday.


I decided to try my hand at a new recipe for a healthier macaroni salad to serve at my little picnic. It’s got basically 3/4 the calories of regular macaroni salad, and it’s got something like 1/3 the fat. Not that these things bother me particularly, because I don’t eat macaroni salad & don’t really count calories anyway, but you can’t have a picnic without some kind of mayo-based or carb-based salad, and I thought it’d be an interesting thing to try. Everyone is looking to cut down on fat nowadays. Not me. I like fat.


Eh. Let’s just call this a new twist on macaroni salad. From what I hear it’s too delicious to be considered “low fat” or anything. And about my “I like fat” comment above; I really do like it. But that doesn’t mean you have to. I’m just being an asshole. Obviously, if you have dietary restrictions or health issues, lower fat diets are important. It’s just that I don’t. So I like fat. And I can’t really apologize for that.

‘Kay, now that that’s settled.. on to the salad!



  • 1 pound macaroni (I used small shells)
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 hard-boiled large eggs, whites roughly chopped, yolks left whole
  • 2 dill pickle spears, chopped
  • 1/2 a medium red onion, chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons chives for topping (optional)


  1. Cook pasta according to the package directions in salted boiling water. Drain and return to the pot it was cooked in.
  2. Meanwhile, mash the two egg yolks in a large bowl with a fork. Add the yogurt, mayonnaise, and the lemon juice; stir together until creamy & smooth.
  3. Add pasta to mayonnaise mixture, and using a silicone spatula, flip and stir the pasta until evenly coated in the mayo mix. Add the egg whites, red onions and chopped pickles and mix well.
  4. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chives just before serving.

This salad can be stored in the fridge an airtight container for up to three days. If it’s too dry after taking it out of the fridge, you can add a tablespoon more yogurt (or mayo, whatever). Just do yourself a favor and don’t accidentally buy vanilla yogurt. You’ll gross yourself out big time if you use that…


The cool thing about macaroni salads (& potato salads) is that you can add pretty much anything you like, within reason. You can add radishes, celery, sliced Bell peppers, dill, slivered carrots, exchange the lemon juice for vinegar, etc. Take out stuff you don’t like, add stuff you do. This other macaroni salad I made is a great example of that. You can personalize it 100% and yet it’s always guaranteed to be delicious.

As far as a picnic goes- it’s easy. You don’t even need anything crazy. Some bread (mine was a French baguette), cheese (I had some provolone & goat’s milk brie), macaroni or potato salad, fried chicken if you’re really ambitious, maybe some cold cuts or cold leftover chicken, some fresh fruit (& whipped cream if you like- I had strawberries, cherries, oranges & nectarines), maybe some warm-weather friendly cupcakes, a jar or two of pickles (I brought red wine vinegar/red onion pickles & dilly beans), maybe some sliced cucumbers & yogurt, baby carrots & ranch dressing, a refreshing drink or two (maybe even some wine- not pictured) and some cutlery and napkins… that’s it. You’re ready to go! Lucky for you, I took some photos of my little picnic before digging in.


Today might be a rainy/thunderstorm-y day here in New York & a bunch of other places on the East Coast, but when are you having your summer picnic?