Mocha Torte (and Chocolate Sauce)

I was raised on Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake—that is, a frozen cake base covered in smoothed-out ice cream, then decorated with completely extraneous, rock-hard icing. I thought it was delicious, even if it always left a trail of broken plastic utensils in its wake.

It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I learned people here have an entirely different conception of ice cream cake—that it’s not necessarily cake topped with a layer of ice cream, as the name would imply, but simply layers of ice cream in the shape of a cake (or maybe in the shape of a whale), separated by nubby little crunchy thingies that resembled nothing more than chocolate-flavored dirt. But like, good dirt. Continue reading

Banana Fritters and Vanilla Sauce

I don’t have an emotional attachment to sufganiyot, the Israeli jelly doughnuts that are traditionally served on Hanukkah. Maybe that’s why I’ve never attempted to make jelly doughnuts myself—or maybe it’s more that I’ve always had a fear of frying. Remember, the miracle of Hanukkah is all about burning-hot fuel—and I’m accident-prone enough even when there’s no 370-degree oil in the vicinity.

Continue reading

Apple-Honey Crisp

There will come a time, not too many months from now, when I will be convinced I’d rather voluntarily watch football than eat another apple. (As I write this, the man I married is watching one football game on mute while listening to the play-by-play of a different football game. No jury would convict me, right?) Currently, farmer’s markets are bursting with end-of-summer produce as well as the first Honeycrisps and Macouns of the season. But before long, the tomatoes and eggplants and berries will fade into memory, and the only decent produce around will be the sort of stuff I associate with my shtetl-bound ancestors: potatoes, cabbage, and, yes, pile upon pile of apples, the only fruit around these parts that makes it through the winter intact.

So yeah, I know I’m going to get sick of apples at some point. But my friends, that day is not yet here. Continue reading

Hot Fudge and Strawberry Sauce

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I dare you to name a Passover dessert that isn’t terrible. Cakes made with matzo meal? They’re inevitably dry and powdery. Macaroons from a canister? Grossly sticky and sickeningly sweet. Those disgusting jellied candy fruit slicesGet the hell away from me and never return.

Faced with options like these, you might as well stick to the sad bowl of grapes and sliced cantaloupe lurking at the end of your seder’s buffet.

There is, of course, a solution to the terrible Passover dessert conundrum. Continue reading

Nut Sticks (a.k.a. Mandel Bread) (a.k.a. Mandelbrot)

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I’m an Ashkenazi Jew. My fiancé is Italian-American. Our ancestral food cultures — meat-and-potatoes kosher vs. Mediterranean Traif City — have just about nothing in common beyond, like, the fact that both of our people eat bread and drink wine. (His people’s is better.)

But there is one dish that turns the circles of our respective backgrounds into a Venn diagram — a dry, almond-speckled cookie that old ladies of both the Catholic and the Jewish persuasion have been pushing on reluctant kids for billions of years (rough estimation). Continue reading

Strawberries Bavarian and Creme Fraiche

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It finally happened: I crossed the gelatin rubicon.

You know how Julie Powell (of Julie and Julia fame) flipped out when faced with cooking Julia Child’s aspic, a.k.a. meat jello (shudder)? That’s sort of how I felt when I first saw that there’s a whole section of gelatin-based dishes in Nonnie’s cookbook.

Almost all of them are desserts — save a truly horrific-sounding shrimp mold, which I intend to avoid for as long as possible — but that still didn’t quite ease my worries. I know that gelatin is a perfectly cromulent ingredient; I know that modern gastronomic types even champion it as the secret to everything from juicier meatballs to soft-serve.

And yet… gelatin is gross, guys. Continue reading

Chocolate Mousse and Rice Pudding


My older sister loved long hair and eye makeup and ratty, stained, hole-riddled sweatshirts that were two, three, four sizes too large. She loved drawing and straight As and gossip, cigarettes and true crime and a freshly made bed. She loved Gone With the Wind and Lolita and Gossip Girl and the Baby-Sitters Little Sister books, though she swore the latter was an ironic love. (So did I. It wasn’t.) Continue reading