father's day

Since I first viewed it in September, Bon Appetit’s How To Make A Smash Burger At Home video has echoed through my mind as I fall asleep each night. Adam Rapoport’s silver-fox good looks, those lacy edges of that burger, that melty American cheese on a Martin’s potato roll…it is all the stuff of my dreams. I have wanted to make this burger for ages, and I thought Father’s Day was as good a time as any to try it out.

 

The burger is made on a cast-iron skillet (very appealing to me) and not a grill, because as Adam so wisely explains, when you grill a burger, all the good stuff (i.e. fat) drips to the bottom of the grill. This totally explains why I hate all grilled burgers!!! I don’t know how I had never thought of it before.

I started these burgers and it all started relatively smoothly. The skillet was nice and preheated, the burger patties were loosely packed as instructed, but then CAST-IRON CHAOS ENSUED! I am used to the smoke alarm in my apartment going off any time I use my skillet, but it’s very sensitive. Thought my house might be different! But I started making more and more of these burgers, and the skillet got more and more smoky, and the house got more and more smoky, and then every smoke alarm in my house went off. Happy Father’s Day!

I should have had all the cheese slices unwrapped before I started, which was such a rookie mistake. The burgers still turned out great though. I used brioche buns (even though Adam Rapoport advised against that) from the bakery I work at. We don’t have Martin’s buns in Texas, Adam!!! (how does the Austin Shake Shack get them and can they hook me up with their supplier?!?) I also made a delicious sauce of ketchup, mayo, onion powder, pickle juice, and celery salt. I was slurping that up.

I accompanied the burgers with a cole slaw recipe from one of my mom’s best friends. It’s pretty light, especially compared to most slaws. Lots of fresh herbs and really light on the dressing. I also made a simple caprese salad with summer tomatoes which are nearly at their peak! It was good for the burgers to be balanced with something fresher.

My dad’s favorite dessert is a peach cobbler, with Texas peaches that are right in season during his birthday month of June. When I was working at the bakery on Sunday, they brought out this peach crumble pie and I knew he needed to have it for his dad’s day dinner. I bought it on the spot. It was delicious served with a dollop of Blue Bell vanilla.

The house doesn’t even smell like smoke anymore so these yummy burgers are a success in my book.

-Sophie

sausage risotto with spring greens

I have never tried making risotto before- the real, by hand, stir-this-until-your-hand-falls-off kind of risotto. I make that disclaimer because my dad makes Arborio rice in a rice cooker and calls it risotto (sorry for exposing you like this). This is remarkably unphotogenic and looks basically like gruel, but it was delicious.

I made Bon Appetit’s Sausage Risotto with Spring Greens to use up some sausage and chard that we had in the fridge. It turned out really good and I didn’t even mind the stirring that much while listening to Joanna Newsom’s interview on WTF with Marc Maron.

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Lately, my family has been very obsessed with Trader Joe’s sausage of all varieties. My summer at home so far has been seeing all the things I can put sausage in or on. I’ve had worse summers!

-Sophie

birthday dinner party

My home friends have had plenty of exposure to my ~fabulous~ dinner parties but my college friends have had no such luck! It’s harder here- my kitchen at home is stocked with lots of random stuff that I don’t have to go out and purchase, it has my mom who knows what to do with any given culinary problem, it has a large table and plenty of chairs and small votives and table decorations. I have none of that at college. But 3 of the beautiful gals in my friend group are graduating, it was my 21st birthday, and I wanted to do it with and for them before they leave me!

My apartment does not have a table, which was plaguing me the entire week leading up to the party. I ended up having a stroke of brilliance the day of, taking the table our TV rested on, pushing it next to a side table, then covering it with a beach sarong and then a vintage tablecloth my mom just got me for my birthday. It looked like a perfectly normal and lovely table setting! We sat on the couch, our patio furniture, and my roommate and I’s desk chairs. We do what we can, y’all. We do what we can.

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Along with the normal challenges of a college dinner party, I also had some dietary restrictions to work with! My very good friend Taylor has celiac disease, so this party had to be mostly gluten free (something I have trouble with, clearly). Temi doesn’t like cheese and Cherie is picky about so many things I can’t even keep track. No vegetarians though, thankfully (was that rude? sorry). So I went forth bravely, creating this menu.

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I started with a favorite, Ina Garten’s Warm Goat Cheese Salad. I made this for my first ever dinner party (this is a picture from then!) and it is so tasty! This was my only non-gluten free dish, which I only realized the day of the party. I improvised and garnished Taylor’s salad with some pecans so she could have a little bit of interest. Everyone else loved the salad, even my girls who don’t like cheese (?!?!?!). Some people had never even had goat cheese before!

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Next up was the dish I was most excited to both eat and make- dijon and cognac beef stew from Smitten Kitchen. This seemed so rich, comforting, and flavorful, and I couldn’t wait to make it. It didn’t disappoint, and I only wish my stew-loving little sister was there to eat it with us. I served this family style out of my Le Creuset and it was very homey and nice. Everybody loved this! I served it with some baguettes to soak up that lovely sauce. Buying the bottle of cognac was my first legal alcohol purchase at an actual liquor store, and the guy was real confused as to why this was my choice.

Liquor store owner: You like cognac?

Me: I’m actually making a soup.

Liquor store owner: Wow! Gonna be good soup.

Me: Really good soup. 

And it was.

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Dessert was chocolate mousse with homemade whipped cream, with the recipe from Smitten Kitchen as well! Who doesn’t love this? This is one gluten-free dessert where I don’t even find myself missing the gluten. I made this the day before the party to save myself some time. I used some wonderful Lindt bittersweet chocolate in this, and it really makes all the difference.

It was a really lovely night with my friends. I’m glad they got to enjoy a home cooked meal and I’m glad they got to taste my cooking! This is something I really love to do, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday.

-Sophie

P.S. Thank you to Taywad for the pictures!

 

 

mejadra

I’ve wanted to make mejadra from the Jerusalem cookbook for a while now, mainly because I am passionate about onions in all of their many forms, but especially fried. I took a few liberties with the amount and variety of spices involved in this dish because I am NOT rolling in spice money, but it still turned out delicious. Mejadra is a traditional Arab comfort food dish consisting of rice, lentils, spices, and fried onions.

 

I used basmati rice which is always a good call, as well as green lentils. I didn’t quite follow  the instructions and basically cooked all the components separately, then sauteed them together in the skillet. It turned out delicious and saved me a bit of time. I also eyeballed most of the measurements since I am not good at translating a six person recipe to a one person recipe. Anyway. I would recommend this and will make it again. Comfort food from other cultures is healthy, right?!?!

-Sophie

 

mustard milanese with arugula salad

It’s been a while! March was busy, and included a trip to West Texas with some memorable food moments in between. A total of perhaps nine restaurants in Marfa led to some questionable choices, but a fried egg and sauteed onion-graced cheeseburger eaten in a 58-person ghost town was also among the best burgers I have ever had.

With every new Smitten Kitchen recipe I try, my heart grows fonder and fonder of Deb. This mustard milanese, likely the classiest fried chicken dish I’ll have in my life, just rocked my world on this Monday evening. Never in my life would I have thought I would get full from a half of a boneless, skinless chicken breast. But panko bread crumbs combined with lots of oil can do amazing things.

-Sophie

lemony leek meatballs

Sami Tomimi and Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook “Jerusalem” is a smash hit, and rightfully deserved. The book is full of the brightest, most beautiful photographs of the colorful food of Israel. I have a list of dishes I want to make from it, but this was the first one I attempted– primarily, it used ingredients available at Trader Joe’s (no need to drive far and wide looking for a particular spice that would make or break a dish) and secondly, because it sounded delicious.

I first started to love leeks over the summer, when I first tried the leek quiche at the bakery I work at. When my stomach rumbled during my seven hour shift and I couldn’t bring myself to eat another croissant (the only way this sentence is not blasphemous is if you ate the amount of croissants I did), I would stealthily go for the leek quiche. It’s an insanely delicious quiche. But that’s another story.

These meatballs are quite the lengthy production, but they made for a pleasant Saturday project in my kitchen. They are a bright and citrusy version of an old favorite- more leek than meat, actually. I’ve stowed the whole batch in my freezer and will whip it out to make more of these naan meatball subs- garlic naan (thanks Trader Joe’s), plain Greek yogurt, parsley garnish. Yum.

-Sophie

gooey cinnamon squares

I made this dessert mostly as an apology to my sister after I served her gross gnudi for dinner. These cinnamon squares came from Smitten Kitchen, and I’ve been eyeing them for a while. They’re sort of a mix between gooey butter cake and a snickerdoodle.

I baked them towards the longer end of the suggested baking time, so mine came out more cakey. I will definitely make these again but bake them for a little less time so they’re a little more gooey! The cinnamon-sugar crunch on the top just makes it.

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-Sophie

a weird quinoa bowl

I’m not a huge fan of eating healthy. My general eating philosophy is “this isn’t that bad,” having little to no regrets when I actually do eat something that bad, and working out frequently. I just find healthy food incredibly boring and I don’t like most vegetables. But I decided to try something actually healthy tonight, and made a quinoa bowl. In it was avocado, sweet potato, garlic, scallions, and a poached egg, topped with lime juice and lots of pepper and flaky salt. Kind of a strange combo but it was all I had.

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As far as healthy things go, it was pretty good, except for there was just A LOT of it and it made it kind of tedious to keep eating something I wasn’t totally stoked about eating in the first place. This was a half cup of quinoa and cooked into a HUGE amount of quinoa, so I’ll probably halve it next time I make it.

I sound like I’m talking a lot of smack about this quinoa bowl, but it was really quite good. It’s just out of the comfort zone, you know. Until next time, healthy things!

-Sophie

fusilli alla vodka

From the first time I heard about their home-style but refined Italian food, Jon & Vinny’s in Los Angeles has been on my restaurant bucket list. I had eyed this fusilli recipe of theirs featured on Bon Appetit for a while now, but just decided to make it tonight. I don’t make fusilli…like ever. I don’t even think my mom used to make it. We are so set in our pasta ways, I’m telling you. We have got to branch out.

Fusilli is so much fun! Especially when slathered in an insane vodka sauce! Unlike my other favorite vodka sauce, my beloved penne alla vecchia bettola, this came together in under 2 hours- that is, 15 minutes or so. Interestingly enough, its base is tomato paste- not a whole or crushed tomato in sight! It makes for a lovely rich sauce, perfectly sweet and spicy at once. This hit the spot and quenched my thirst for Jon & Vinny’s for the moment…but I’m gonna come for ya one day!

-Sophie

ricotta gnudi

Otherwise known as: They Can’t All Be Winners.

Gnudi, though I wasn’t familiar with it until I searched for a recipe to use up some ricotta we had lying around, is sort of like the inside of gnocchi. A “nude” gnocchi. Much like a dumpling. I was quite excited to tackle this ambitious recipe a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, due to either my skills or the recipe, these were NOT GREAT. I used Bon Appetit’s recipe for the pomodoro sauce as well as the gnudi, and neither were a knockout. The sauce called for what seemed like a TON of olive oil– half a cup– and I ended up having to strain a lot of it off.

It was just a weird dinner. And hard to make. How the hell are you supposed to successfully transfer ricotta footballs to a pot of boiling water?? Thankfully we had a great deal of cheese and bread that day to stave off the hunger. Sorry for trying new things, family!

However, I must soldier on! Nothing is a wasted experience! Everything adds to my life’s treasure chest! Even failed gnudi!

-Sophie

tomato-glazed meatloaves with brown butter mashed potatoes

I think there’s something about meatloaf that just wigs some people out. My guess is that it’s the name meatloaf. A loaf of meat conjures up some gross things in the head. Like Deb of Smitten Kitchen, the author of this recipe, I feel a little weird about meatloaf and was very happy to see her rework it into something more palatable for those picky folks- a large meatball/tiny meatloaf ball! Something even a bit elegant, I daresay! This was so good and felt totally comfort-food-y even when meatloaf was not ever something I grew up eating. The glaze is made of tomato paste, Dijon, honey, and lots of other things. It was like an extremely amplified version of the traditional ketchup on the meatloaf. Yum.

For being such a simple dish, mashed potatoes have been notoriously difficult for me. These were some of my best so far, though not as mashed as I had hoped. I have neither a mixer nor a food mill nor a potato masher. I started mashing with a fork and was failing until I remembered my brand new PASTRY CUTTER, which worked pretty well in a pinch. The brown butter was amazing in these potatoes! It made them smell like pastries HA. I have a happy stomach tonight!

-Sophie

butternut squash and caramelized onion galette

I'll be the first to admit that I’m not the best at eating vegetables. But you know what makes eating vegetables easier? When they’re wrapped in a buttery pastry crust surrounded with cheese! I don’t think I had ever had a butternut squash before, and this galette was a wonderful introduction. The recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, and it was just amazing!! I’m calling it and saying that this is the most impressive thing I’ve made in my apartment kitchen so far.

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I was about to use a storebought puff pastry but went with the homemade dough when my mom surprised me with a pastry cutter. And I am VERY glad I did. This was a delicious dough- flaky, buttery, and very easy to make, requiring nothing more complicated than that pastry cutter.

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I guess I like butternut squash now! Good for me!

-Sophie

garlicky chicken with lemon-anchovy sauce

When I was about ten, I cooked a chicken piccata nearly by myself. My parents praised me for it so I quickly declared it my signature dish. I was Sophie, the Chicken Piccata cookin gal! You remember her, of course, she made that chicken piccata once! I have never cooked it again, but this tangy, lemony, caper-y chicken dish reminded me of an upgraded version of what I cooked all those years ago……..

I got real obsessed with Melissa Clark of the New York Times dining section this week. The other night I watched nearly all of her videos with almost the same intensity that I did when I first started watching Barefoot Contessa. That is, a grand intensity.

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This is Melissa’s recipe (yes, I feel like we’re first-name basis at this point). They’re chicken thighs cooked in a pan sauce of lemon juice, garlic, anchovies, capers, and red pepper flakes. I served it family-style with an arugula salad all on one platter- I think it looks really pretty that way, especially because a few chicken thighs aren’t much to look at by themselves. And of course, a perfect Village Baking Company baguette to soak up those pan juices. I got a new permanent retainer today for the first time since I got my braces off (i.e. a very long time ago) and this baguette may have just screwed that retainer up already! A good baguette should ruin your jaw, and this one does- in a delicious way. Baguette plug over.

I’m talking a lot, but this was a really good chicken dish. And it didn’t help that five chicken thighs cost THREE DOLLARS AND NINETY-SEVEN CENTS. I screamed. Might only be eating chicken thighs from now on. God bless the thigh.

-Sophie

french press foam

The bakery that I work at is equipped with an espresso machine. Though I still sort of dread when someone asks me to make them a beverage for fear of screwing it up, I like that I know how to work one. And when you get to work at 6 am, it’s good to know how to make yourself a fancy, strong espresso drink. The whole thing has made me very fascinated with nice foam, but alas, our handheld milk frother at home broke long before this interest began.

I was devastated, of course–UNTIL TODAY, when I discovered that a French press creates BEAUTIFUL and nearly foolproof foam. You just pop your milk in the microwave for a minute, then pump it with the French press until it’s foamy. I concentrated the pumps near the top of the milk so I would have some warm milk at the bottom of the carafe to pour into my coffee, topped with lovely shiny foam.

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How did it take me so long to discover this? Had everyone else known this all along? I don’t even care, man, I’m excited!!!!! Game changer.

-Sophie

pappardelle pomodoro with meatballs

I am very happy to report that I have found my new favorite homemade pasta sauce recipe! Coming from the one and only Bon Appetit (quick aside to Bon Appetit- please hire me after I graduate! love you lots xoxo). This sauce is dynamite and so easy to make. I tried it for the first time last week on a linguine topped with fresh burrata from Paula Lambert’s Mozzarella Company here in Dallas (it was devoured before I could get a picture).

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I became obsessed with pappardelle after trying the Trader Joe’s version earlier this week. I just love the shape! I want to try as many pastas as I can. There are currently eight boxes of penne in our pantry courtesy of my dad and we HATE IT! There are MANY MORE PASTAS!

Anyway, my mom and I tag teamed this dinner tonight- I made the pasta, she made the meatballs (ground beef + pork sausage). I decided to top mine with a dollop of ricotta to try and recreate that magical burrata-meets-pasta feeling from the other night. Not quite the same, but very delicious.

-Sophie

new year's eve

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This was the New Year’s dinner I cooked last night. Menu: popovers, French onion soup, arugula salad with blue cheese and walnuts, and chocolate silk pie. It was just lil Kobi in town so we ate pretty fine. Look how happy he looks!

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The popovers were a Rebecca Rather recipe, who owned a wonderful bakery and restaurant in Fredericksburg, TX. Her cookbooks are great and she seems like a stand-up gal. I first had popovers last New Year’s Eve and I was excited to try to make them myself. They’re very simple if you have the right pan.

The French onion soup was my standby Ina recipe that I’ve made a few times before. One of these days when I have lots of money that I’m willing to spend on Gruyere, I’m going to really broil it- like cover it in so much cheese that it spills over the edge and all over the top and then broil the hell outta it! Like a restaurant. But today was not that day, sadly. It was still delicious. The salad was Ina’s Warm Fig + Arugula salad minus the fig, and the pie was a Smitten Kitchen recipe, who I just love. I’ve been wanting to make it forever and it was heavenly. No baking required, light and airy but so delightfully chocolatey with not even that much chocolate. I’ll definitely be making this again.

Happy new year! Wahoo!

-Sophie

silver dollar latkes

My only latke-cooking memories (separate from latke-eating memories) involve my mom and her friends standing around a deep fryer outside in the freezing cold at a Hanukkah party and I wasn’t allowed to be near the deep fryer. So not much tender teaching-of-the-latke-cooking was done when I was growing up. There were too many risks of burning the child with hot oil. That being said, this was my first time ever making latkes. And by my LONESOME, at that! My good friend Kobi (hi Kobi!!!!) was cooking up a little Hanukkah dinner and we decided to pit our latkes against one another.

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Latke making is incredibly therapeutic during finals week. You get into such a rhythm squeezing out potato water and shaping little latke disks and hearing sizzling oil…it was honestly lovely. And I tasted one (going to the dinner in about 15 minutes) and they are DELISH! I’m quite proud of myself.

I used a combination of this and this recipe, because my only Jewish grandmother has never cooked a thing in her life and thus, did not pass down a recipe from generations past. I think these turned out pretty great!

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L’chaim,

Sophie

P.S. Shout out to Kira, perhaps the most loyal of the 4 fans of this blog.

 

chicken breasts dijon

Boneless skinless chicken breasts need quite a bit to catch anyone’s eye. But I had some, and I had to use them!!!! I was intrigued by Bon Appetit’s recipe for Chicken Breasts Dijon, mainly because I had most of the ingredients. Which was more than I could say for any other ones. I had to modify a bit of the timing and ingredients since I was only making one serving, not 4.

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It was not the most beautiful dish, but it was very very tasty. The sauce of sauteed onions with Dijon was almost sweet, and I’m sure it would be even better with the leeks and white wine. Very good! And an exciting way to prepare a boring piece of meat. Also shout-out to my mom for visiting me this weekend and bringing me a boatload of fresh herbs. My herb garden died a looong time ago.

-Sophie

Posted 

dijon salmon

I guess I’m just really obsessed with Dijon mustard. Today’s lunch was a garlic, thyme, olive oil, and Dijon salmon (roasted at 450 for 13 minutes) and some couscous. I feel quite successful and in-control when I actually cook actual food for lunch. It’s usually an egg sandwich of some kind.

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My mom saw fancy flaked salt on my Amazon wishlist and (after making fun of me) bought me some this weekend. What a gem of a lady! Good salt is such a game-changer. Only about 6 flakes went on the top of this and it packs in the flavor and gives a very satisfying crunch.

-Sophie

P.S. Everyone watch The Great British Baking Show. Hope I’m not the last on this bandwagon but EVERYONE WATCH IT.

orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage

Dramatic shadows for some delicious pasta! I don’t eat too much orecchiette, but it was delicious in this recipe, and really did an excellent job at scooping up all that yummy tomato sauce and spicy Italian sausage. I made this while I was home this weekend, an Ina variation of one of my parent’s old favorite Jacques Pepin recipes. They liked hers better than his.

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This recipe uses a wonderful mix of sweet and hot sausage. The only thing that I was confused about was why it called for sliced garlic instead of minced? I blindly followed Ina’s recipe but still… I will investigate…

-Sophie