Beef Ribs and Cole Slaw

Ribs 5

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

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Sweet and Sour Cabbage 7

You know how last week’s recipe was all about making icky vegetables palatable by smothering them with cheese? Well, let’s call this week’s dish a variation on that theme— as you may or may not be able to tell from the glistening, buttery glop in the photo above. 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

Baked-Stuffed Potatoes

moo and nonnie

I would not be the food snob I am today without the influence of these two great ladies: my mother and Nonnie, pictured here looking impossibly glamorous at my Uncle Bobby’s groovy ’70s bar mitzvah. (He had a three-tiered cake shaped like a Jewish star. It was breathtaking.)

Nonnie taught my mom — who, in turn, taught me — always to prize homemade over store-bought, fresh over processed. Not that either of their food was fussy; both have/had a knack for finding the elegance in simplicity,  the kind of dishes that Tom Colicchio always praises most highly on Top Chef. (“It’s just simple ingredients, cooked well.” Shit, if that’s all it takes, why aren’t I the Top Chef?) Continue reading

Stuffed Cabbage

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I won’t sugar-coat this: Stuffed cabbage is just about the unsexiest thing in the history of unsexy things. It’s not colorful. It’s not texturally interesting. And it’s made of cabbage (duh), a vegetable whose very name connotes drab listlessness and smelly farts. (I’m not going to say that the word itself always makes me think of Austin Powers… but I’m also not not going to say that.)

But if you think about it, you might just realize that stuffed cabbage has all the makings of a trendy farm-to-table mainstay. It’s a classic comfort food; it’s appealingly old-school and fairly labor-intensive; it features a cruciferous vegetable, albeit one much less fashionable than brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, or the almighty kale.

Also, I think it might technically be Paleo — although I refuse to confirm that by actually looking up what things count as Paleo. Continue reading

Norwegian Salad

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This salad is almost certainly not Norwegian. And frankly, it’s barely a salad.

Well, maybe I’m being too harsh. “Salad” is a term so broad that it’s basically lost all meaning; this, this, this and this all technically qualify, even though they’ve got nothing in common beyond the fact that a) they don’t require a knife to eat, b) they’re served cold or at room temperature, and c) they’ve all got some kind of dressing. Continue reading

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parm 15

So as I’ve written before, the first thing I ever really cooked for myself — beyond scrambled eggs — was Nonnie’s ratatouille.

But the first fancy thing I ever cooked — something that required preparing separate ingredients in different ways, making a sauce, carefully assembling a final dish that was not only tasty but also pretty — was  Gourmet magazine’s intricate inside-out eggplant parmigiana, an artistically deconstructed take on the fat kid classic. (You know, the kind of thing a Top Chef contestant would call “my play on eggplant parmesan.”) Continue reading

Latkes and Applesauce

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It’s still Hanukkah, which means it’s still acceptable – encouraged, even – to painstakingly grate a mess of potatoes into long, ropy strands, plunge them into ice-cold water, squeeze the living daylights out of them, bind them together just barely with eggs and flour, fry them in copious amounts of oil, slather them with sour cream and applesauce, and call it dinner.

Acceptable and encouraged, maybe — but nobody would blame you if you’re exhausted just from reading the previous paragraph. Continue reading

Carrot Pudding

Carrot Pudding 3

Sweet potatoes don’t make an appearance at my family’s Thanksgiving table — and haven’t for as far back as I can remember. (Although the one year my mom hosted, they were present — and topped with mini marshmallows to boot.)

Instead, the buffet’s “orange food” requirement is filled by my Aunt Maureen’s specialty, which is called either carrot pudding or carrot soufflé depending on who’s speaking. It’s soft and rich and decadent, unabashedly sweet but still substantial enough to fit in on a plate filled with turkey and stuffing. It’s certainly not an everyday food, unless you’re cultivating gout — but for the biggest eating day of the year, it works perfectly.

This… is not that carrot pudding. Continue reading