Ham and Split Pea Soup

There are unphotogenic foods, and there are unphotogenic foods. It’s tough to make a mushy bowl of legumes look appetizing, no matter how delicious it might be off the screen; it’s even tougher when after being cooked, said lentils form an amorphous mass that’s just about the exact color and texture of fresh vomit. And I’m a parent now, so trust me when I say that I know a thing or two about vomit.

Still, let it be known: there’s something undeniably comforting about split pea soup with ham, even to this avowed Jew. I have no fuzzy childhood memories of slurping down a bowl of this rib-sticking soup on a blustery fall day; I only ate the stuff for the first time when I made it myself. When I did, though, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the soup was a lot tastier than it was beautiful—warm and toothsome and pleasingly salty, the kind of dish a food magazine might describe as an “umami bomb.” (Personally, I don’t believe “umami” is a real flavor; I will not be accepting questions at this time.) Continue reading

Vegetable Soup

After an eerie but lovely 24-hour-long warm snap, New York’s been pummeled by a week of dreary, drizzly, altogether bleak weather. Some might respond to this Seattle-esque malaise by  pulling out an oversized flannel shirt and writing a song about heroin. I think it’s probably healthier to fight it with food—specifically, the brothy, soul-warming kind that comes complete with two kinds of carbs and some slow-simmered short ribs. Continue reading

Tamale Pie

Almost a year ago, I proposed that there’s nothing more American than snarfing down monstrous amounts of fat as you criticize the bodies and outfits of people infinitely more athletic than you. Upon further reflection, however, I’ve come up with something that surpasses even that: there is in fact nothing more American than appropriating another nation’s cuisine to make a globular casserole that nixes any authentic seasoning, ups the fat, and treats vegetables as a necessary evil at best—employing only the most basic produce in the most perfunctory way possible. Continue reading

Appetizer Meat Balls

When you’re juggling work, life, and a desperate attempt to watch Twin Peaks before the revival premieres next weekend (the owls are not what they seem!!), some things will naturally fall by the wayside—and for the past mumblemumble weeks, those things, alas, have been 1) my half-hearted DuoLingo regimen and 2) this blog.

But no more! I’m returning today with a vengeance, and an appetizer that I thought was among the weirdest curios to be found in all of Nonnie’s cookbook—until I discovered that it’s got a long, proud history among America’s thriftier moms. In other words: happy Mother’s Day! Here, I got you a pile of jelly-braised meat. Continue reading

Beef Stroganoff

Days after spring allegedly began, it is still blustery and freezing in New York. Though the snowdrifts that still line the streets are no longer stacked toddler-high, they still haven’t entirely melted into murky water; the sky is a stern, White Walker-skin gray; only a certified dummy would dare to venture outside with so much as an ankle exposed (as this dummy personally discovered just hours ago). It is March. The end of March! This is unconscionable and I would like to speak with your manager, sky. Continue reading

Spaghetti Meat Sauce

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I never knew that Italian-Americans had their own language until I started dating one. They use word “macaroni” when referring to any and all non-long-noodle-shaped pasta; they insist upon calling mozzarella just “mozz”—pronounced “mutz.” Somehow, their Mediterranean linguistic witchcraft transforms “capocollo” into “gabagool.” Many—but not all—of them also have the strange habit of dubbing tomato sauce (specifically, tomato sauce spiked with meatballs and sausage) “gravy,” though from this outsider’s perspective, there seems to be no rhyme or reason regarding who calls it what. But hey, I grew up believing that “slippy” was a real word—so who am I to talk? Continue reading

Beef Ribs and Cole Slaw

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See that, up there? That charred, vaguely carcinogenic square of bone and gristle? That is not, I think, what Nonnie had in mind when writing up her recipe for beef ribs. Beef ribs should look like this: caramelized, glistening, Flintstonian. They should yield meat tender enough to fall off the bone; they shouldn’t be shriveled and tough and sad-looking.

You know what, though? It is nigh on impossible to buy beef ribs in this day and age. Really! I tried! I spent a sweaty summer afternoon trudging from fancy Brooklyn butcher to less fancy Brooklyn butcher, on a quixotic quest to track down the kosher-style protein of my dead grandmother’s Semitic dreams. (Maybe if I’d said that to them, the meat-slingers would have been more accommodating.) I went to four—count ’em, if you happen to have a map of Cobble Hill/Brooklyn Heights handy!—places, all told: two told me I was SOL, one was closed, and one said that it would have beef ribs eventually, but not until the fall. Because… that’s when… a cow loses its baby ribs? I don’t know. Continue reading