I think I first discovered pão de queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread, when I was working late nights at a law firm. One of the perks of burning the midnight oil was that we were always fed well. For a spell I craved solid, stick-to-your-ribs food, and the local Brazilian cafe delivered for a reasonable price. This was the first time I ate Brazilian food with any regularity, and I grew well acquainted with their daily offerings. I mostly stuck to American-friendly fare: grilled meats, fried pastries stuffed with chicken…but there were two new foods that I encountered at this cafe that I grew to crave regularly: farofa, a savory powder made out of manioc flour and tasting for all the world like sandy buttered breadcrumbs; and pão de queijo, a cheese puff with an addictively chewy interior and a tender, crusty exterior.
You might be used to a meal at your local Chinese restaurant ending with sweet red bean soup, crinkle-wrapped fortune cookies, and cold sliced oranges. But did you know that red bean soup is also a staple of new mothers’ post-pregnancy diets? Red bean soup–warm, nourishing, sweet, and comforting–is considered a a “warming” food, good for healing the post-partum body.
What a year. I have a delicious new baby boy who zooms around the house like a maniac and tries to test every boundary we set up for him, with varying degrees of success. (We think it’s just a matter of time before he figures out how to unlatch the complex mechanism to the baby gate.) My heart is full, which is why it seems so petty to lament that my holiday cookie trays have been woefully empty this year. With no time to do any sort of detail-focused baking, and the new year just hours away, I think I’ll make more of these Parmesan Shortbread Crackers scented with thyme and rosemary.
I confess that I don’t often need dessert in my life. There are many days when a spoonful of lemon curd, pudding-cold, straight from the jar, is all the sweet I need to round off a meal. If there is a lemon tart on a menu, more often than not I will gravitate towards that choice. The mouth-puckering feeling I get from eating a great lemon tart reminds me of sucking the sour inner layer from Lemonheads candies.
Most of the time, only lemon will do. Which is why I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Key lime tart at Manhattan Beach restaurant Fishing with Dynamite. The cream was tangy and buttery-rich; I could have done away with the crust and then meringue topping and just methodically devoured the filling, spoonful by tart spoonful.
Salted caramels. Chocolate-covered bacon. You might think you’ve explored all there is to explore in the realm of sweet-salty combinations, but what if I told you that a popular confection in Taiwan involves flaky, savory, scallion crackers sandwiching a milky-sweet nougat? This unusual flavor combination is far better than it sounds. Best of all, the nougat cooks up in about five minutes, requires no fussing with candy thermometers, and magically whips up with only three ingredients.
This story is about an egg sandwich that’s so easy and delicious that you can quickly make it for breakfast–even in the middle of, well, childbirth.
On the morning I gave birth to my son, I woke up with a start around 4:30am to find that my water had broken. Impossible. I was only 37 weeks along. The baby wasn’t allowed to come yet! I still had to clean the nursery and do my taxes! I had a zillion household projects to do, not to mention at least three pairs of cute booties to knit! I took about half an hour to absorb the reality of the situation and to accept that, like it or not, my baby was arriving today.
As a teenager, I wasn’t often permitted to go over to friends’ houses after school–but my parents did give me unlimited rides to the library, which was located just down the street from my high school. This made me perfectly happy because I am an introvert, and a pile of cookbooks can fill me with giddy delight. My local library had a sizable and well-curated cookbook selection, and Maida Heatter’s books were some of my constant companions. The recipe that follows, Maida Heatter’s recipe for a sugary orange-glazed cranberry quick bread, is one of my favorites for the current too-short cranberry season.
With each approximately the size of a hardback novel, Maida Heatter’s dessert cookbooks are filled with entertaining anecdotes interspersed with mouthwatering descriptions. The only photos are located on the dust jacket, so it was up to the books’ illustrator to accurately depict how a dish should look through the black-and-white drawings. Think about it: a photo-less cookbook would be unheard of today, with the publishing industry’s focus on lush, colorful cookbooks, some more like superficial coffee-table books than instructional guides to be used in the kitchen. Reading Maida Heatter’s books transport you back to a time where the writer’s stories and descriptions would determine whether a reader would feel inspired to pick up a whisk.
I’ve been looking for a good crispy-chickpea recipe for a long time. You see, I adore salty, crunchy snacks. Where others might crave brownies and ice cream, I prefer to inhale Cheez-Its and spicy rice crackers. (Ok, I crave brownies and ice cream, too, but my true love lies in the savory, not in the sweet.)
I remember the first time I saw a photo of crispy roasted chickpeas and the accompanying recipe–I knew I had to make them right away. I adore the nutty, mild flavor of chickpeas, and these looked so tantalizingly crunchy. But when I made them, I was sorely disappointed. They emerged from the oven slightly soft on the inside and barely crisp around the edges. They had a texture reminiscent of stale popcorn. When I tried to bake them at higher temperatures or for a longer period of time, more often than not the chickpeas would burn, or the spices coating the chickpeas would burn. What could be the problem?
My husband claims that the first fight we ever had was over a pumpkin pie.
It was winter of 2012, the year we started dating. Our regular date-night restaurant, Pizzeria Mozza, was featuring a special on its dessert menu–pumpkin gelato pie. This pie changes with the seasons: sometimes it’s coconut gelato, sometimes it’s banana gelato, and my personal favorite is summer’s Meyer lemon gelato pie. But this was the fall, and pumpkin was the featured gelato pie flavor.
The thing is, it didn’t really taste of pumpkin at all. I enjoyed it, but my husband absolutely hated it. “It tastes like nothing!” he complained. Rolling my eyes at his tirade, I tried another bite. Buttery graham cracker crust, and…vaguely pumpkin pie-like gelato. If you were to close your eyes, you might be eating vanilla or even plain gelato. I could see his point.
This is a story of how crispy prosciutto saved my sanity when I was pregnant.
During my pregnancy, I felt totally normal for the first couple of weeks or so…and then the nausea hit me like a literal punch in the gut. I felt like I had low-grade food poisoning, all.the.time. For the first time in my life, I actively hated the idea of eating. There were days I subsisted on string cheese and toast. One day, I discovered the heaven that was watermelon…before quickly realizing that I was one of the unfortunate souls for whom watermelon triggered acid reflux. No bueno.
After I entered my second trimester, my constant nausea eased a bit and I found myself experiencing cravings. Not the stereotypical pickles-and-ice cream kind of craving, but rather…I wanted something that tasted fresh. Months of eating plain toast, cheese, and grapes had me missing salads. Sushi. And weirdly…deli sandwiches?!