Mozzarella Marinara

You probably can’t hit a target from 50 meters while lying flat on your stomach in the snow, or execute a perfect Biellmann spin, or pull off a wicked backside triple cork 1440. If you’re like me, chances are you don’t even know how to ice-skate backwards without posing a danger to yourself and others.

I can, however, tell you about a simple culinary trick that’ll make you feel like an Olympian. Because even if you’re incapable of conquering Black Diamonds, you can make mozzarella sticks. Yes, you!

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Liptauer Spread

I learned to cook in the summer of 2010, partially out of necessity—I didn’t want to eat takeout every night, especially since I was earning a whopping $8.25 an hour at my impressive-sounding, mind-numbingly-boring internship—and largely out of loneliness. (I was living in D.C., a four-hour bus ride away from basically all of my friends, and because I was fairly certain I’d be returning to New York once the internship was over, I didn’t try very hard to make new ones.)

There were two people who made me feel a little less lonely as I stumbled my way from ratatouille to zucchini bread to spaghetti carbonara, the first dish I made that felt like real culinary alchemy: Mark Bittman, who taught me the basics of how to cook everything in his aptly-named beginner’s classic, and Deb Perelman, who won me over with her chatty prose long before I learned that nearly everything she cooked at Smitten Kitchen was both picture-perfect and delicious. (I’m saying “nearly” only because I was afraid of cooking meat until I made her Thai-style chicken legs… and then they turned out so inedibly salty that I avoided making chicken myself again for like, a year.)  Continue reading

Cheesecake

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Yes, you’re not seeing things: this is a cheesecake being sliced on top of a paper bag, which is itself perched on top of a blanket, on top of some grass, on top of some dirt, and so on. Because when you think “late-summer afternoon picnic,” you obviously think “dairy-based dessert that must be refrigerated for hours before being served,” right?

You know what, though? Having brought a cheesecake to a picnic (my version of bringing a gun to a knife-fight, I guess), I can say now that the decision really wasn’t that weird—eating it at the park was sort of like eating ice cream, but, you know, ice cream made of cream cheese and bordered by crumbled graham crackers that can only be consumed using a fork or your own dirty fingers. Continue reading

Camembert Jack Cheese Ball

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Throughout the nearly 12 months (!) I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve crafted a duo of tuna casseroles, a full chicken with a can of pineapple dumped on top, and a jello mold that wasn’t really a jello mold.

Yet the glorious creation you see before you (the very first recipe that appears in Nonnie’s cookbook, in fact) might be the most proudly retro thing I’ve made so far—a onetime party platter staple that’s largely gone the way of crinoline and bomb shelters. Unless you’re someone who gets her recipes directly from Kraft’s website, maybe, or the sort of person who will eat what’s essentially a cheese ball if and only if it has a fancy French name and does not come in the shape of a ball. Continue reading

Cheese Sauce

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Like most of us, I grew up believing that pretty much all cruciferous vegetables—broccoli, cauliflower, and especially brussels sprouts, the patron saint of Stock Yucks—were disgusting. The only—and I mean only—exception I ever made was for Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, which was basically a bowl of melted cheese studded with teensy weensy green flecks (you know, the broccoli).

These days, of course, I am a very sophisticated lady. I no longer subsist primarily on Frappucinnos and Fruit by the Foot. I understand that a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with cheese soup is not a healthy meal. And I don’t only consume vegetables for the good of my organs—I actually enjoy eating them. I promise! I swear! Don’t revoke my “grown-up” license, please! Continue reading