"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Posts from the Appetizers Category

Well, it’s that time of year again: a time we love and hate all in the same breath.  As we say goodbye to summer and hello to fall, the days get shorter, the air grows cooler, and we squeeze in as much outdoor fun as we can. Watching the leaves change and soaking in that gorgeous fall sunlight is always more fun with your friends. So we decided to have a few people over to enjoy a warm fire, hot cider, and delicious food. Carving pumpkins, roasting marshmallows, and toasting pumpkin seeds are just a few of the nostalgic activities that took place. Lucky for us, one of our favorite prop stylists, Penelope Bouklas, joined us and turned our gathering into a photo-worthy event.


  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons whole allspice berries
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons whole cardamom pods, crushed with the side of a knife
  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 1 quart apple cider
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cheese cloth

– Toast the spices in a large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Wrap the spices in cheese cloth. Add the orange rind, cider, spices, salt and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes to allow the spices to infuse. Strain the cider and serve with optional garnishes.

Optional Garnishes:

  • Orange rounds
  • Whipped cream with orange zest and freshly ground black pepper

*Can also be enjoyed cold!

A little Jiffy Pop is always fun & super easy!


Serves 6 – 8

  • 1 pound ground beef  (black angus)
  • 2 (35-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can each of butter beans, red beans, and Great Northern beans
  • (or any combination of beans you like)
  • 2 to 3 ears of corn, shucked and removed from the cob, or 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 to 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 red poblano peppers, chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, 1 choopped and seeded, 1 sliced with seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

– Rinse and drain the beans and set aside

– Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium – high heat. Add the meat, salt, and pepper. Cook until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.  Once browned, add the poblanos, jalapeños, onion, garlic, cumin, & chili powder. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, scraping the pot with wooden spoon as needed.

– Crush the tomatoes by hand as you pour them into the pot. Add the beans and corn. Stir together & bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for about 1 hour.

Optional Garnishes:

  • Dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream
  • Chopped scallions
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds


Makes 1 (10-inch) round, serves 4 to 6

  • 1 cup medium-grind yellow cornmeal
  •  1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  •  ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, roasted and chopped
  • Suggested garnishes: butter, honey, cheddar cheese

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F.

– In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the eggs, sour cream, and milk together in a separate bowl. Whisk into the flour mixture. Stir in the corn.

– Heat the oil and butter over medium heat in a 10-inch cast iron skillet until shimmering. Add the scallions and chile and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the scallion-poblano mixture into the batter then into the skillet skillet. Bake until the cornbread is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer skillet to cooling rack and cool at least 10 minutes before serving with suggested garnishes.

– Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container. Reheat in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, cut slices and butter both sides. Cook in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and heated through.


  • Graham Crackers
  • Bar of good dark or milk chocolate  (we used Ghiardelli 60% Cacao)
  • Large marshmallows
  • Sticks for cooking over the fire

– Place a marshmallow on the end of a stick and heat it over the fire, paying careful attention not to burn it. (Unless you like it burnt!)  Meanwhile, warm 2 graham crackers with 1 piece of chocolate on the edge of the fire. Depending on your fire pit, you’ll need to find a good steady spot to get indirect heat. Once your marshmallow is cooked to just right, put your s’more together like a sandwich and enjoy!!

Have you ever been to the supermarket and not found a tomato? Probably not. We live in a seasonless era where produce exists year-round. You can buy peaches in the dead of winter and strawberries in the fall, but they never taste good. The same goes for tomatoes. These sci-fi versions with their lipstick red hue and taut skins are more decor than food.

I’ve become used to perennial produce, just like many, and I buy those out of season fruits (mostly tomatoes, because, I just really, really want one in my sandwich) only to eat them and feel deep disappointment.

It’s now late summer and the proper time to eat tomatoes, finally. There are so many beautiful, sun-ripened, juicy ones available you might have a hard time selecting among them, but they’re only around for a short while so eat as many as you can and store the memory of their proper flavor in your mind and belly until next season.

A favorite way we have of eating them is the most simple: salt and pepper, maybe some olive oil, good bread, and whatever cheese you may have, like mozzarella or goat cheese or sharp cheddar (try a cheddar, tomato, and mayonnaise sandiwich!).

We also love this take on a BLT with pork belly and herbs, and a vegetarian ensemble with green and yellow tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, cucumbers, and basil.


1 1/4 pounds pork belly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons malt vinegar
1 tablespoon sharp mustard
1 cup water

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.

– With a sharp knife, score (gently cut) the top of the pork belly in a cross-hatch pattern. Season with salt, pepper, and the dry mustard.

– Whisk the remaining ingredients together in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Place the pork belly in a small baking dish and pour the sauce over it (it should come up at least halfway up the sides of the belly, otherwise, transfer to a smaller container). Cover with foil and transfer to the oven. Bake 1 hour until tender.

– Cool the belly completely (preferably refrigerated overnight) and slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cook the slices in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. If you like, you can simmer the cooking sauce and use it to glaze the pork.

– For the sandwich, spread toast with mayonnaise or mustard, then top with the pork belly and ripe, salted tomatoes. Add herbs like lemon thyme and basil and serve.

Finally, eggplant and tomatoes in a version of caponata. Caponata is a Sicilian classic, with myriad interpretations, but mostly it starts with eggplant cooked until tender. Other ingredients include the aforementioned tomatoes, onions, and celery, plus carrots, capers, olives, pine nuts, and herbs. The flavor is agrodolce (sweet-sour) and all of these ingredients combine to hit your palate in multiple locations at once.

This edition is a bit loose, having been made quickly from what was on hand. The dish, as you can see in the photo, is meant to look like a thick, fruit-heavy compote. Our caponata starts with eggplant and includes bits and pieces of fresh tomatoes. It’s actually a great way to rescue leftover bits of tomatoes you might have from having made a sandwich or a salad. You can use anchovies, or sardines as this recipe does—don’t worry, they won’t be “fishy” but will impart a heady dose of umami.


Olive oil
2 black-skinned eggplant (2 to 2 1/2 pounds), cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
6 ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives (chopping optional)
1/3 cup capers, rinsed and drained
2 sardines packed in oil
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
2 rosemary sprigs
Lemon juice
Red wine vinegar
– Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the eggplant and onion and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant begins to soften and the onion is translucent, about 20 minutes. It’s ok if the eggplant turns a bit brown, but do lower the heat if any excess charring begins to happen.

– Add the garlic and a pinch of Aleppo pepper and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and any juices and continue cooking, stirring, until the mixture is becoming homogenous and thick. Stir in the olives, capers, sardines, raisins, and rosemary and cook for 10 minutes longer.

– Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and vinegar.

– Cool to room temperature and serve as an appetizer with garlic toast or alongside grilled fish or chicken.

We shared our potato salad with homemade ranch dressing a few weeks ago for 4th of July, but it’s just so good and perfect for holiday gatherings that we decided to give it a little more attention, including variations with summer staples like corn and the thing the defies all seasons and reason: BACON.

A few things about potato salad: Use new or waxy potatoes like red bliss. Have you ever had a potato salad that was one step away from being mashed potatoes? You can bet the potatoes were overcooked, but a starchy potato (like the coarse brown-skinned russet) was probably the main culprit. While russets are fantastic baked — fluffy flesh, ready to absorb copious amounts of butter and sour cream — when cut up in potato salad they soak up too much dressing and they don’t hold their shape. Use what you like, but, we’re sticking to our waxy spuds.

Dicing or slicing? You can do either, just make sure that the cuts are even: as with any food you cut up, the pieces should be of equal size for even cooking. If dicing, make cubes about 1 1/2 inches big, and if slicing, a 1/2 inch thickness will do. Peeling? I like to leave the jackets-just scrub thoroughly.

On cooking: Always start potatoes in cold water. If you dump them into already boiling water, the exteriors will start to cook immediately. While the interior tries to catch up, those outsides will start to get mushy. Bring the water, potatoes, and salt (like with pasta, they need to be seasoned from the start) up to a boil over high heat and immediately reduce the heat to keep the potatoes at a low simmer.

Let’s see…what else? Do pay attention to the 2-step dressing process. In step 1, the potatoes are tossed with oil and vinegar — a very basic vinaigrette – to add base flavor, and then, the real dressing is added.

I like to eat potato salad the day it’s made as when it sits in the fridge it seizes up a bit and isn’t as creamy. If you’re going to make it the day before serving, toss them with the oil and vinegar, then half of the dressing and reserve the remaining half for coating just before serving.

Serves 10

4 pounds new potatoes (such as red bliss), scrubbed and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 bunch dill, chopped (about 1 cup)
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
½ cup parsley leaves, chopped
Worcestershire sauce
Fresh lemon juice

– Place the potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the head to medium and simmer the potatoes until fork-tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle them with the vinegar and oil and gently stir them with a rubber spatula.

– While the potatoes are cooling, whisk the buttermilk and mayonnaise together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the garlic, dill, cilantro, and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Add Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice to taste.

– Pour about half of the dressing over the potatoes and stir gently to combine — while warm, the potatoes will absorb the dressing. Reserve the rest. When the potatoes come to room temperature, transfer them to a large bowl and refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, add the reserved dressing to the potatoes and adjust seasoning, as food tends to lose flavor when cold.


– Cut 10 slices bacon crosswise into thin strips. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until they’re brown and crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat.

– Proceed with the recipe above, replacing the olive oil with the bacon fat. Stir 3/4 of the bacon bits into the salad with the dressing and sprinkle the rest on top.


Serves 10

3 ears of corn, shucked
4 pounds new potatoes (such as red bliss), scrubbed and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, finely minced
6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
½ cup parsley leaves, chopped
2 to 3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (more or less to taste)
Worcestershire sauce
Crumbled cotija cheese (optional)

– If you happen to be grilling, grill the ears of corn until charred on all sides. If you have a gas stove, you can char the corn directly on the range with the flame set to medium. To shave the corn off the cob: set a pie plate or wide shallow bowl on a rubber grip mat or a damp towel to secure it to the surface. Hold the corn with one hand, at the top, the base standing in the plate, and, carefully, cut the kernels, going parallel to the cob with a chef’s knife. If you’re not grilling at all, cook the kernels in 1 teaspoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat until browned. Reserve.

– Place the potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the head to medium and simmer the potatoes until fork-tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle them with the lime juice and oil and gently stir them with a rubber spatula.

– While the potatoes are cooling, whisk the buttermilk and mayonnaise together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the garlic, scallions, cilantro, and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the chipotles Worcestershire sauce.

– Pour about half of the dressing over the potatoes and stir gently to combine — while warm, the potatoes will absorb the dressing. Reserve the rest. When the potatoes come to room temperature, transfer them to a large bowl and refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, add the reserved dressing to the potatoes and adjust seasoning, as food tends to lose flavor when cold. Sprinkle with the cotija cheese before serving. And yes, this also goes well with bacon.

This one of those non-recipes that’s quick and easy to make and pairs so well with any of our potato salads and a crisp green salad. Devein the shrimp, rinse them under cold running water, and pat them thoroughly dry. Season them with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and sauté them in vegetable or olive oil (remember, no extra-virgin for high heat cooking!) about 4 minutes until golden. Add a chopped garlic clove halfway through cooking, sprinkle fresh herbs like parsley and dill over them when you pull the skillet off the heat. Spritz with lime or lemon juice.

Cheeses for Bruschetta


“Bigger is better!” is a creed that in our modern American food lexicon translates into super-sized meals and foods that have morphed into concoctions worthy of sci-fi. Ever curious about culinary innovation  hungry eyes and minds and mouths sometimes mislead us and feed us disastrous concoctions.

We are guilty of eating out a lot: sometimes it’s convenient, other times it’s because we’re running around for work, and most often because restaurants are where we meet with friends, celebrate, and relax. Don’t get us wrong, we love it! We’re so lucky to live in New York where restaurant choices are unlimited, but, after stuffing ourselves to the point of waistband button explosion, we return to our kitchens and scale back to the basics: meals made with local and seasonal items, cooked without much fuss and fanfare.

Ripe tomatoes, plump strawberries, slender asparagus, and herbs from the garden are a good place to start. Douse thick slices of  good bread with peppery olive oil and grill until charred: the exterior will crunch between your teeth, and the sturdy crumb will soak up the berry and tomato juices.

You can top your bruschetta with whatever you like, just remember to mind the basics: Start with the freshest and ripest produce, bread that has a thick crust and a dense crumb, quality extra-virgin olive oil, flaky sea salt, and just-ground black pepper. If adding cheeses, go for full fat and have a variety on hand, like mozzarella, spreadable mascarpone, and crumbly Parmigiano.

Tell us what you top your bruschetta with!



My mother went to university in Buenos Aires, and years later, when I was very young, we visited her friends and a very old relative, Tía Chita, whom I remember looking like a cartoon character—very old, very tall, very thin, and wearing a Victorian era gown in deep lavender.

Other things that I remember from those trips are having submarinos, warm milk in a slender glass with a stainless steel exoskeleton in which you would dip a bar of chocolate, with tiny tongs of course. Bliss! There was also steak and chinchulines —innards and offal that tasted too lovely for me to inquire about their provenance.

My first pair of ballet flats — unfettered from Mary Jane straps! — in red. And, of course, empanadas.


Makes about 12

Fear not! This dough is very, very easy to handle.

For the Dough 
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the counter
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons lard
1 cup warm water, plus more as needed

– Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl.  Cut the lard into small pieces and work it into the flour with your fingertips. Add the water about ¼ cup at a time, incorporating into the flour with a rubber spatula. If the dough is too dry and shaggy, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Once all the water has been added, dust a clean, dry work surface with flour and coat your fingers with flour, too.

– Turn the dough out on the surface and knead it just until it forms a smooth ball.  Cut the dough in 2. Dust the work surface with flour once again, and, with a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a thin circle.  Using a 5 ½ to 6-inch round cutter (if you don’t have cutters, find a bowl or vessel of about the same size in diameter), cut out rounds.  You should get about 12 total from the 2 balls.


For the Filling

I call for cooked pork in this recipe because I tend to make roasted pork loin or braised pork shoulder fairly often—empanadas are a great way to use leftovers. If you don’t have leftovers, make a quick pork (or beef base): heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 1 small onion, finely diced, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 2 garlic cloves, minced, and cook for 1 more minute. Add ¾ pound ground pork or beef, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. A dash of Maggi seasoning or Worcestershire sauce are welcome. Cook, stirring and breaking up the meat, until browned and slightly crisp.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
12 ounces cooked pork, finely diced
Cholula or other hot sauce, to taste
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 waxy potato, cooked and diced
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and diced
½ cup raisins ½ cup pepper-stuffed olives, sliced

– Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, sugar, oregano, and cumin and cook until tomato paste is darkened, about 2 minutes. Add the pork and cook, stirring to combine. Season with hot sauce, and add the broth. Bring it to a simmer, and cook until mostly evaporated: the intention is to make a moist, not soupy, filling.

– Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the potato, egg, raisins, and olives.


For the Assembly 

2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy cream

– Adjust 2 oven racks to the upper middle and lower middle positions and preheat oven to 425°F. Line a2 baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

– Place about 2 tablespoons of pork mixture just off the center of each circle. Dampen your finger around the edges of the dough and fold over to make half moons. Press down on the edges and twist the edges to fully seal.

– Whisk the egg yolks and cream in a small bowl.

– Arrange the empanadas on the prepared baking sheets and brush them with egg wash. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the empanadas on the sheets for about 10 minutes and serve. You can also enjoy them at room temperature.

– Serve with your favorite hot sauce and chimichurri, if desired.



I always have leftover herbs in my fridge, and chimichurri is one of the most delicious ways I can think of to use them. Take a bunch of parsley and cilantro and very finely chop them. If you have fresh oregano on hand, add it as well. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper. Add a teaspoon of dried oregano and 2 finely minced garlic cloves. Stir in about 1/3 cup red wine vinegar and 2/3 cup olive oil. If you can, let it sit at room temperature for a day or two, the flavors grow much more robust.


ThanksgivingOnce a year, we gather and give thanks. We had the chance to do that early, as a warm-up if you will, this year, when we got together to put this Thanksgiving spread together.

The cold had crept in, with rain and gusts of violent wind. Those weather conditions mirrored some of our emotional states as well. But, as we settled into the evening and into the kitchen, all was calm and warm and safe.

Let’s be thankful for the moments, little and big, that bring us together with the people we hold dear, be it a Tuesday night or a calendar holiday.

And, a special thanks to the talented Penelope Bouklas and Jessica O’Brien for making these images come to life.


Serves 4 to 6

I’m a word geek, and “cruciferous” gives me no end of pleasure. I like that it sounds like a description of a tree creature in a Tolkien novel, but also, that it sounds like a biting into something crunchy and spiky and nubby and slightly juicy. It’s perfect, because cruciferous vegetable (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and kohlrabi, to name a few) are just all those things.

Here is one of my favorite crucifers: Romanesco. Pale green and spiraled and spiky like an underwater sea creature, it’s a more robust yet more sophisticated version of cauliflower. And, did you know? The spirals in each funky floret follow the Fibonacci sequence. Look it up: mind-blowing.

This is a pretty and simple recipe that really ups the ante on the basic crudité platter. Romanesco florets get a blanch in boiling water and a shock in cold, while purple cauliflower, another cruciferous beauty, is quickly sautéed for warm, buttery contrast.

Make the dip first:
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup crema or crème fraîche
2 garlic cloves, miced or grated
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

– Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl and store, covered, until ready to serve.

Prep the crudités: 
1 head Romanesco, cut until florets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 head purple cauliflower, cut into florets
2 teaspoons lemon juice

– Line a large baking sheet with 3 layers paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice. Add enough cold water to fill bowl about three-quarters of the way. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in 3 tablespoons salt and Romanesco florets and cook for 1 minute. Drain and immediately add florets to prepared ice bath. When completely cooled, drain florets and spread them on prepared baking sheet.

– Cook butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until bubbling and beginning to brown. Add the cauliflower, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing or stirring , until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice (Surprise! Did you see the color change?!).

– Arrange the Romanesco and cauliflower florets on a platter and serve with garlic dip.


ThanksgivingPUMPKIN SOUP

Makes about 7 cups

Equipment: paring knife, soup spoon or ice cream scoop, baking sheet, cooling rack, large mixing bowl, blender, large skillet, soup pot, slotted spoon, paper towels

There are numerous gourds for sale this time of year, from pie-friendly sugar ones to quick roasting ones like acorn. We opted for this large cheese pumpkin in order to make enough soup for a crowd.

Wipe the exterior of the pumpkin clean with a damp rag, then carve it as you would a jack-o’-lantern (well, don’t carve out a face on it or the soup will ooze out): run a sharp paring knife around the pumpkin, about a quarter of the way below the stem, then remove the “hat” and scoop out the seeds and membrane. I like to use a sharp-edged ice cream scoop to do this. Now you’re ready to make the soup.

For the soup:
1 (6 to 7-pound) cheese or Cinderella pumpkin, prepared as instructed above
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups chicken broth (*low-sodium if not homemade)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Place pumpkin on a large baking sheet. Rub inside of pumpkin with 1 ½ teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, Aleppo pepper, and butter. Rub the exterior of the pumpkin and its hat (place it beside the pumpkin on the sheet) with oil and roast until flesh is easily pierced with a skewer, 45 minutes to an hour.

– Transfer pumpkin on sheet to a cooling rack, and allow to cool about 10 minutes. With a large spoon, scoop out flesh and accumulated juices into a large mixing bowl. Leave about 1-inch of flesh all around the interior of the pumpkin so it doesn’t collapse. Scrape the flesh from the underside of the pumpkin’s hat, too.

– Puree the pumpkin in a blender, in batches, until smooth. Transfer each batch to a Dutch oven or soup pot. Heat the soup over medium heat, stirring, and adjust consistency with chicken broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and lemon juice. When ready to serve, place pumpkin on a large serving tray or platter, and ladle in the soup. Serve with garnish (see below).

For the garnish:
4 slices slab bacon (about 1/2-inch thick slices), cut into ¼-inch thick batons
1 pound mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, hen of the woods/maitake, and cremini, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, if needed
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 bunch sage
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Latin American crema or crème fraîche

– Line a plate with 2 layers paper towels. Place bacon in a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Once bacon starts rendering fat, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until crisp and deep golden brown, about 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to prepared plate.

– Add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Taste mushrooms and season to taste. Transfer to plate with bacon.

– If skillet is dry, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add pumpkin seeds and sage and cook until crisp, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return bacon and mushrooms to skillet and toss to combine. Transfer to serving plate and pass at table along with crema.


Yield: 1 (3-pound) squash yields 4 cups, serving 6 to 8 as a side

Equipment: chef’s knife, mallet and metal bench scraper (if available), cutting board, kitchen towel, soup spoon, baking sheet, foil, fork, large skillet

We’re obviously not going to tell you to skip the mashed potatoes this year, but include this lush side in your menu: think creamy, spicy mac’n’cheese sauce over golden, sweet spaghetti squash.

Lickety split!
We hate splitting spaghetti squash, but, we’ve tried roasting the thing whole and even thought the skin softens, it takes forever it’s a big old mess inside afterwards. Microwave? Sure, but proceed with caution—explosions have been known to happen.

Here’s what we find is an easier approach to cracking that nut-hard skin: Place a damp kitchen towel on a *stabilized cutting board and place the squash on it. Tap a metal bench scraper into the squash with a meat mallet or hammer until it begins to crack. Pry it out, then, use a large knife to finish the job. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come apart in two completely even halves, as they rarely do.

Scoop the seeds and membranes out with a soup spoon or, better yet, with a metal ice cream disher.

Stabilizing cutting boards: Never chop on a board that’s slip-sliding all over your work surface. Set the board on a rubber grip mat, a damp paper towel, or a damp kitchen towel.

Roast the squash:
1 (3-pound) spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easier cleanup).

– Season the cut sides of squash with salt and pepper and sugar, then brush with butter. Roast, cut-sides up, until fork tender, 45 minute to 1 hour.

– Transfer squash on sheet to a cooling rack and, when cool enough to handle, scrape out flesh with a fork. If immediately proceeding with recipe, leave flesh in the shell, cover, and keep warm. Otherwise, refrigerate flesh and shells separately until ready to use. When ready to use, drain any accumulated liquid and reheat flesh in a lightly oiled saucepan over medium heat, or in the microwave.

Sauce it!
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 poblano peppers, stems, ribs, and seeds removed, cut into thin strips
2 jalapeño peppers, stems, ribs, and seeds removed, cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced from pole to pole
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed
1 cups Latin American crema or crème fraîche
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 ounces cotija cheese or feta, crumbled

– Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the poblanos, jalapeños, and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is softened and deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

– Add the flour and stir to coat. Cook 2 minutes to eliminate raw flavor in flour. Add the milk in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly to avoid lumps from forming. Stir in crema and cook until heated through and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and adjust seasoning. If you prefer a soupier sauce, stir in milk as needed.

– Pour sauce over spaghetti squash and sprinkle with cheese. Serve.

MacGyver your leftovers!
Use leftovers to make grilled cheese sandwiches or quesadillas.


Serves 6 to 8

Equipment: Peeler, chef’s knife, baking sheet, cooling rack, large skillet

Whether you’re having roast beast or fowl this Thanksgiving, dressing is a must. Why am I not calling stuffing? Because I’m not putting it into anything other than my mouth, and also, please only stuff your turkey with aromatics like onions, apples, lemons, and herbs. The bread mixture will only act as a sponge, soaking up turkey blood and juice and not really tasting like anything much at the end. The texture is a horror, too.

This dressing is crisp and multi-textured, with nubby bits of hot Italian sausage, good bread, and sweet pieces of butternut squash. Avoid prepackaged stuffing: crumbly bread and to many dry spices that taste like forgotten crouton crumbs at an all-you-can-eat salad bar.

You can roast the squash & toast the bread up to 2 days in advance!
1 large loaf sturdy bread, such as ciabatta, cut into 1-inch cubes to make 6 cups
1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch dice to make 3 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons orange zest plus 1 tablespoon orange juice

And pick it up from here, on the stovetop before serving: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as needed
4 fresh hot Italian sausages, casings removed and crumbled
2 large shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
8 sage leaves, chopped

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange squash in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with zest and juice and use hands to evenly coat. Roast until tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.

– Melt butter over medium-high heat in large skillet. Add the sausage and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

– If the skillet is very dry, add 1 tablespoon butter. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and sage and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

– Add butternut cubes and sausage to the skillet and stir to combine. Taste and season. Add bread and stir to combine. Add broth, and once again stir to combine. Cover and keep warm.

– When ready to serve, adjust oven rack to upper third and heat broiler to high. Transfer dressing to an oven-safe serving dish, or, if going super casual, leave it in the skillet. Run the dish under the broiler until crisp and golden, 1 – 3 minutes. Serve.


Makes 6

Equipment: Dutch oven or 6- to 8-quart pot, slotted spoon or spider, blender, strainer, rolling pin, chef’s knife, baking sheet, parchment paper, cooling rack

A few months ago, I needed a pumpkin for a photo shoot, but they were nowhere near being in season. Enter ayote or zapayo, or what I call “Latin pumpkin” or calabaza. It’s just one more of the gourd family, with the unique exception that you can find it year-round at many grocery stores. I grew up eating ayote en miel: ayote cooked in dark brown sugar syrup until dark and tender. Usually, to offset the sweetness, it, along with other stewed fruits, are served with salty cheese.

We had a piepalooza last year and were reluctant to revisit, but this Pop Tarts-inspired dessert brought together some heritage, a departure from the usual pie, and a great option for sending your guests off with an edible gift. If you’re pressed for time, do use store-bought pie crust, otherwise, visit our 2013 “Pie-Faced” Thanksgiving post for our recipe and method. Prepare the recipe for a double-crust pie and divide the dough into 2 rounds for easier handling. You can make the dough a couple of days in advance.

For the ayote en miel: 
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
3 pounds ayote, zapayo, calabaza, or sugar pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into large chunks
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Peeled zest of 1 orange, plus its juice

– In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot of 6- to 8-quart capacity, toast peppercorns, allspice berries, and cinnamon over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

– Add the pumpkin cubes, sugar, salt, orange zest and juice, and enough water to cover the pumpkin by about ½ inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until completely tender, 1 to 2 hours.

– With a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the pumpkin to a bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature, then, purée in a blender until smooth. Strain cooking liquid and use it to sweeten and flavor anything from tea, to mulled wine, warm cider, and simple cocktails.

To assemble: 
All-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch salt

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

– Dust a clean, dry work surface with all-purpose flour and roll each dough circle out to about 12- by 13-inches. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons pumpkin purée on the lower half of the dough, leaving a “frame” of about 1 inch around each mound of filling. Fold the top half of the dough over, with a chef’s knife cut into 3 hand pies (each will be roughly 4- by 5-inches), and use a fork to crimp and seal the tarts.

– Whisk together the yolk and cream and brush evenly on each hand pie. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and serve warm or at room temperature.



Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

2014. Here it begins with trying to tidy up and pack up the old year, looking back to reflect, and making resolutions, of course… New projects, fresh ideas, daydreams, decisions.

And celebrations. This is our first, with our dear friend and talented chef, Jessica O’Brien. These recipes are delicious and lovely to look at, as well. Gather your friends, toast the new year, and tie on that apron.

About our charming guest…

Occupation: Private chef

Culinary background: The Spotted Pig, Le Cirque, Tasting Table to name a few

Residence: West Village, NY

Most humiliating moment in the kitchen: When Chef April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig threw a bowl of salad across the kitchen room because she said it was over-dressed.

Most rewarding moment in the kitchen: When I got promoted to the Grill Station at the Pig. It meant you’d made it to the top.

Favorite food to cook at home: In the fall and winter I cook a lot of soups and stews for their heartiness and comfort. In the spring and summer I like to cook fish or shellfish for their simplicity and lightness.

Favorite takeout: Chinese, for sure. I order almost everything off the menu.

Favorite thing to cook for company: Surf & Turf. Best of both worlds.

Tip for entertaining at home: Shop and prep as much as possible in advance.

About these recipes: A menu that is simple, delicious, and elegant. Perfect for any occasion. And can prepare so many of the steps in advance.

Favorite drink: Jameson. Straight and to the point.

Music at your parties:  Pop or dance music. It has to be fun and upbeat. It’s a party after all.

New year traditions:  Spending the first day of the New Year with my husband.

Resolutions:  I like to set myself up for success, and resolutions usually end up being a disappointment so I don’t make any.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien


2 pounds boneless pork loin
Kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper
Olive oil, as needed
¼ cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped, plus 1 whole sprig
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Dried red chili flakes, to taste
1 pound assorted small potatoes, such as fingerling, Peruvian, and Yukon Gold
½ pound baby carrots
1 baby fennel (about ¼ pound), or 1 regular fennel, cut into 6 wedges
¼ pound small Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed and exterior leaves removed
½ cup dry white wine
1 pound thinly sliced pancetta (about 20 slices)

– Remove pork from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

– Pat pork dry with a paper towel and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 tablespoon oil (enough to coat) a large skillet over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Sear the pork on all sides until deep golden brown, then transfer to a plate and allow to cool.

– In small bowl, stir together chopped rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon zest, and chili flakes. Stir in 6 tablespoons oil. Rub half of the herb mixture all over the pork and once again, season with salt and pepper.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

– Cut kitchen twine into four 2-foot-long pieces and two 3-foot-long pieces.  Lay the 4 pieces horizontally, a few inches apart from each other, then the 2 longer pieces crosswise.  Arrange 12 slices of pancetta on top of twine, overlapping them slightly in a rectangular shape about 3 inches wider than the pork on all sides (since you want the pork to be completely wrapped).

– Place pork loin in center of pancetta slices and roll pancetta slices over it using the parchment paper as a guide. Place remaining pancetta on top of pork to fully cover, then, lay rosemary sprig on top. Tie shorter, horizontal twine pieces first, then tie longer ones. Transfer pork to a roasting pan.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

– In large bowl, toss vegetables with remaining herb mixture and season with salt and pepper. Arrange vegetables around the pork and pour wine over them.

– Roast, basting occasionally with wine and pan juices until an instant read thermometer registers 138°F, 40 to 50 minutes. Allow pork to rest 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien


2 pounds (10 to 12 medium), plum tomatoes halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped, plus additional leaves for garnish
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions
All-purpose flour, for work surface
½ cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reddiano cheese, plus ¼ cup (.5 ounce) shaved for garnish
Aged balsamic vinegar, as needed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed backing sheet with parchment paper.

– In large bowl, toss the tomatoes, oil, 2 teaspoons of the chopped thyme, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and toss once again to combine. Arrange tomatoes in single layer, cut-side up, on prepared baking sheet.

– Roast 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 325°F and continue to cook until the edges of the tomatoes are slightly browned, about 1 ½ hours.

– While the tomatoes are roasting, prepare puff pastry. Lightly dust a clean, dry work surface with flour, unfold pastry, and cut crosswise into 3 rectangular pieces (the creases will be your natural guide to where you should cut).  Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll each rectangle pieces into 11- by 4.5-inch rectangles.

– With a sharp pairing knife, score around the edges to create a ¼-inch border. Using a fork, prick wholes inside the border (to release steam while cooking). Repeat with remaining 2 pieces pastry.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

– Whisk egg and water together in small bowl and brush all over pastry. Sprinkle the center of pastries with grated cheese and remaining chopped thyme. Carefully transfer to parchment paper-lined trays and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

– When tomatoes finish roasting, return oven temperature back up to 400°F. Bake pastry until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Top each tart shell with shaved cheese while still warm, then top with roasted tomatoes, cut sides down. Sprinkle more cheese to taste and thyme leaves, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Cut into pieces and serve.

Guest Chef Jessica O'Brien

Makes about 3 cups

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

– Pat the chickpeas dry with paper towels and transfer them to a medium bowl. Toss them with the oil, rosemary, garlic, cayenne, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour chickpeas onto prepared baking sheet, spreading out into single layer. Bake until crisp, 45 to 50 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure even baking.

– Transfer baking sheet to a cooling rack and cool completely. Serve, or store them in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


For the Zucchini Latkes
1 ½ pounds russet potatoes
1 ½ pounds zucchini
1 medium Vidalia onion
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup fine plain breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch ground cumin
Generous pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Schmaltz, bacon drippings, or canola oil, as needed

For the Apple-Beet Compote
2 pounds firm apples, such as Granny Smith, Gala, or Pink Lady, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound red beets, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt

For Serving
Crème fraîche (optional)

– For the Zucchini Latkes: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325°F.  Set a cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.

– In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all the ingredients.

– Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop the vegetable mixture in 1-tablespoon-sized spoonfuls  into the skillet and lightly flatten with a spatula, being careful to not overcrowd the skillet.
Cook the latkes until light golden brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer the finished latkes to the prepared cooling rack and baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm and crisp.

– Repeat cooking procedure with additional oil and remaining batter.

– For the Apple-Beet Compote: Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and arrange on platter. Dollop latkes with compote and (optional) crème fraîche.





I will never turn town a potato chip or a French fry, the starch, the grease-slicked fingers, the lips split by the salt as if they had enjoyed a long night of kissing…but a fried plantain can be a scene-stealer. Fried until crisp in long, thin strips until the color of marigolds, they look like sleek surfboards. Cut into chips, they become edible coins from a slot machine, completely addicting. And of course, the double-dip method in which the plantain is fried twice is a favorite preparation.

Tostones begin by being cut into thick pieces, fried in vegetable oil, then flattened with a tostonera (see image) or the back of a small skillet, and returned to the frying pan. When finished, tostones resemble an exploding gold bloom. Seasoned with salt and served as an accompaniment to many meals, tostones can also be served as a “boca” or “botana” (appetizer) with crumbly or creamy Latin American cheeses like cotija and quesillo, refried beans, and vinegary cabbage slaws.

This is a basic method for making tostones. On average, each plantain will yield about 10 tostones; make as many or as few as you’d like. I’d recommend making more because the crunchy exterior and starchy, satisfying bite of the interior of the tostón calls for gluttony.


Fun fact: plantains in Mexico are called “plátanos machos”!

Green plantains
Vegetable oil

– Cut off and discard the ends of each plantain. Cut the plantain crosswise into 4 pieces. With a paring knife, score the skin, cutting just enough to reach the flesh of the plantain. Use the knife to pry off the skin. Cut each plantain quarter crosswise into 1- to 1 ½-inch pieces.

– Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering and reaches 350°F. The oil should be about ½-inch deep in the skillet.

– Fry a batch of the plantain pieces (don’t overcrowd the skillet) until golden, turning once halfway through frying, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer pieces to prepared baking sheet and repeat procedure with remaining plantain pieces.

– Using a tostonera or a small skillet, press down on the plantain pieces until they are flat. Fry the tostones once more, until crisp and golden, turning once halfway through frying, about 3 minutes per side.

– Transfer tostones to prepared baking sheet and immediately season with salt. Serve immediately.

And, for ongoing food pics, follow us on Instagram!  Tara: tstriano and Maria sacasastylist

If you don’t have Instagram, try and


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 13,168 other followers