valentine [or anytime] vanilla sandwich cookies.

valentine [or anytime] vanilla sandwich cookies.

I still remember how I spent last Valentine’s day. Okay, not really, but I clearly remember what I did leading up to that most sacred *cough gag* of days: throwing a ton of effort into a cake I thought I’d be stoked about, and having it be way less than what I was expecting.

That’s lame.

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feast magazine, february 2015: warm potato salad + ‘nduja vinaigrette.

'nduja for feast magazine, february 2015.

Vegetarians and vegans, avert your eyes: this month’s Feast ingredient is definitely not for you.

A little peek inside the inner workings of this column: I have zero idea what I’m doing. It’s one of precious few areas in my life where I fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t pick these ingredients based on some vast, specialized knowledge of food, no no: I pick them because they look or sound interesting, or totally strange, and I want to know more about them. Continue reading →

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charred bean sprout salad + marinated baked tofu (but you can use chicken, haters).

charred bean sprout salad with marinated baked tofu.

So, you remember when I was all, “New Year YEAH! Totally going to post more often” and you were all “YEAH can’t wait!” and then I was all

(crickets chirping)

(a lone tumbleweed drifts by)

YEAH! That was more than a week ago, people. I rock hard at New Year’s resolutions, do I not? Hopefully you’re doing just as swimmingly with yours. Continue reading →

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mochi cake.

mochi cake.

You guys: 9 people died over the new year in Japan, with 13 more people in serious condition due to mochi cake. Last year? 4 deaths, with 2 deaths the previous year. Seems as though mochi cake is so dense, so chewy, and so delicious that people consume it en masse this time of year, and sometimes too fast, which can lead to accidental choking.

Here’s the thing: I can see how choking could happen, but if you live in Japan and eat it all the time, I don’t know…be careful with your mochi, people, because it’s a dangerous and uncertain world out there. Japanese authorities recommend you chew it a bunch prior to swallowing, cut it into bite-size pieces before giving it to little kids or the elderly, and  – perhaps most importantly – never be alone with your mochi. Continue reading →

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resolutions for 2015 – because, resolutions.

resolutions, 2015.

my ultra-sophisticated office, also known as “the dining room.”

I witnessed a breakdown happen in mid-December, just before the holidays really kicked into gear; it was abrupt, tense, and filled with emotion…and it was on Instagram. I don’t know this food blogger/Instagrammer personally, but it seems she was overwhelmed by the pressure to live a perfect, beautifully-lit, gorgeously photographed “life” on social media. It seems as though she had a big plan to push her brand into the spotlight, but it had somehow fallen apart, dramatically and publicly, and now there’s zero trace of her anywhere – account, deleted – shortly after she posted all of this.

I can’t stop thinking about it. For me, it’s a cautionary tale, and it’s also more than that: If I’m 100% honest with myself and all of you, variations of these thoughts have crossed my mind, and I would bet (and I know) they’ve crossed some of yours – bloggers, Instagrammers, Guardians of the Social Media Galaxy – because pressure in this business? It’s everywhere, on all levels, and from all sides. Mostly, though, the pressure we place on ourselves is what takes us out. I should say here that I’m actually not winding up to have my own breakdown in this post: quite the opposite, in fact. So let’s chat about life. *pats chair* Continue reading →

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feast magazine, january 2015: Opo squash fritters with smoked salmon and watercress herb salad.

opo squash fritters with smoked salmon and watercress herb salad.

Happy New Year!

Is it terrible that by the time the January issue of Feast hit the stands, I had completely forgotten what I had done for the column? I remembered nothing: not the ingredient, not the recipe. It’s the curse of working 2 months ahead combined with all the holiday distractions in recent weeks, I suppose. As it turns out, I did actually write a column for January, and it’s about Opo squash. If you’re longing for that bounty of zucchini we Midwesterners are so lucky to see during the summer, read on. Continue reading →

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italian tricolor [rainbow] cookies.

italian tricolor / rainbow cookies.

Okay, so Tricolor / Rainbow cookies – you knew these had to show up this week, right? It’s the quintessential Italian-American bakery treat: those colors aren’t supposed to denote christmas, people, those colors are to celebrate the Italian flag. And they look a little tricky to make, so obviously…here I am, like a moth to a flame. And I brought charts.

italian tricolor [rainbow] cookies.

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baci di dama (gluten-free chocolate-filled hazelnut cookies.)

baci di dama [chocolate-filled hazelnut cookies].

Baci di Dama: Italian for “disturbingly tedious cookie balls.” Even for me, who relishes a difficult task. And not just part of the process, either: every single step is rife with things which can and will irritate you. Easy to make? Nope. Fun? Not in the slightest; no one is going to throw any Baci di Dama cooking-making parties anytime soon, at least not around here. If you’re interested, hazelphiles (and I know some of you are), this one’s for you. Hopefully my little tutorial will eliminate some aggravation, and you can get right to the best part: popping them in your mouth, one by one, ad nauseum. Continue reading →

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pignoli [pine nut] cookies.

pignoli [pine nut] cookies.

Imagine for a moment that it’s the holiday season, and you have an Italian Nonna in town for a visit.

Now imagine I am that visiting Nonna. Let’s talk cookies.

Blame it on Bravo, or the Real Housewives of New Jersey, but I’ve had an obsession with Italian-American holiday cookies ever since Theresa berated Melissa for bringing sprinkle cookies instead of pignoli cookies to Christmas Eve. I relate to these women for many reasons: there are aspects of my personality which, in another life, would have made me a spectacular Jersey-born Italian-American. I’m emotional and passionate…about everything. I talk with my hands, I’m independent, I have lots of opinions – some founded, some completely crazy – which I will defend to the death, and I relish a healthy argument every now and again. Most importantly, I believe in honoring history and carrying on old school traditions, and I think Italian-Americans in particular do this extremely well. Continue reading →

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feast magazine, december 2014: vietnamese cinnamon + goat cheese individual soufflés with vanilla bean crème anglaise.

feast magazine, december 2014: cinnamon goat cheese souffles with vanilla creme anglaise.

In which I demystify an ingredient that isn’t so mysterious. Vietnamese cinnamon: you probably have it in your spice cabinet. You may be using it right now. It’s not uncommon: Penzey’s sells it by its full name as part of their line of fancy cinnamons (you’ll note that Penzey’s declares the Vietnamese variety “extra fancy,” and I would agree), but it’s available all over, in almost any brand, discreetly named “cinnamon.” Sneaky. Continue reading →

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