Sunday, June 19, 2011


For the last five years, I’ve provided childcare for a family whose father is from the Catalan region of Spain. The whole family migrates to Spain for a month each summer, and the kids take for granted many Spanish traditions, including culinary ones. The first fall I worked for them, I was clueless when the kids asked for food. I would ask them what they wanted for breakfast, for example, and 4-year-old Eva would tell me she wanted me to squeeze a tomato onto bread. I kind of got the tomato and the bread, but the squeezing seemed weird. And when I tried to make what she wanted, Eva told me it was all wrong.

So here is the true and right way to make this breakfast (or bread accompaniment, or appetizer), which I always think of as raw bruschetta. Online it’s labeled Pa amb Tomaquet and identified as the “national comfort food” of Catalonia.

Cut or break a baguette, white or whole wheat, into 4-6” sections; then halve them. You can toast them if you want to. Cut a couple of small juicy tomatoes in half and squeeze and spread tomato guts onto each bread. This makes them kind of pink. If you toasted the bread, you can also squash a couple of garlic cloves and smear these across the bread. Pour and spread about a teaspoon of good olive oil across each bread. Finish tops with good ground salt.

Nice summer fare, and it makes you feel so cosmopolitan! It's easy; Eva says, "Just do it!"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

nuts + chocolate = need I say more?

every well-stocked kitchen
should have some...
Yesterday, my boss was out sick and Hanna suggested that we make her cookies as a get well treat. We adapted a thumbprint cookie recipe from our favorite vegan cookie book, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by using Nutella instead of jam. When I took them in to work this afternoon, Elaine declared the experiment a success and suggested that perhaps she should call in sick more often if this would be the result! Since Hanna and I more or less agreed with her, I figured we should share our recipe with the rest of you good folks.

Chocolate-Almond-Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies
adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup almond butter*
1/3 cup chocolate almond milk*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup hazelnuts, ground or finely chopped*
About 1/3 cup Nutella (for filling)

*we've made these cookies with a variety of ground nuts, nut butters, and types of milk (dairy and non-dairy), so feel free to experiment! basically, this is a totally forgiving recipe. what I listed here is what we used last night.

1) Preheat oven to 350 fahrenheit

2) In a medium mixing bowl, mix oil, brown sugar, nut butter, milk and vanilla extract until smooth.

3) Add dry ingredients: flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and ground nuts. Mix until thoroughly incorporated. The dough will be pliable, kind of like homemade playdough.

4) Roll about a tablespoon of dough in your hands to form each cookie. Place on a cookie sheet roughly an inch and a half apart (the cookies won't spread, but you need room to press them down into rounds).

5) Press your thumb into each cookie to create the thumbprint dimple.

6) Bake 15-18 minutes and remove from cookie sheet to a cooling rack.

7) Once the cookies have cooled slightly from just-out-of-the-oven hot (but not cooled entirely), spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of Nutella into the center of each cookie. The Nutella should melt down just enough to fill each center.

8) Eat now or later. Do remember to share.

NOTE: If storing, cookies should not be stacked on top of one another since the Nutella will generally stay soft enough to glue the cookies together. We haven't tried putting them in the fridge, but this might make the centers hard enough for more compact storage.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What's in the Fridge?

Last night, instead of baking zucchini and chicken enchiladas in the 90 degree heat, I rummaged in the refrigerator for something to go with mushroom ravioli. I sauteed some tiny tomatoes (which turned out to be remarkably meaty) with hot turkey italian sausage, added sliced orange bell peppers and last but not least fresh spinach. I sprinkled in a little basil and fennel and cooked the whole thing for as long as I felt like cooking it. Each serving of the vegetable mixture was topped with some ravioli and grated parmesan cheese. Easy breezy and completely delicious - I'm not usually successful at making stuff up so it was a pleasant surprise.

What's your favorite original dish?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


When I was thirteen, my parents sent me to Connecticut to spend a summer month with family friends. I came from a tidy Midwestern household where my mom put away peanut butter before I could make my sandwich, so at first I found it worrisome that this Connecticut household was neither tidy nor predictable. The mother of the family, Annie, was a serious portrait artist, and for starters, they had a large studio on the main floor of their house that was available for anyone who wanted to dabble in art; we could leave out our materials and half-finished projects to come back to later, or never. Their whole house was a scramble of antique, secondhand, and homemade. There were three young children, not that tame, and many household animals. The father, Mac, was besotted with his kids and full of warmth and fun. On the way home from a drive-in movie, he heard music he liked on the car radio and stopped in a parking lot to get out and dance with his young daughters. The balance of worry and delight shifted for me during the month I stayed with them.

Their meals were, like the rest of their lives, free form. One morning, before we had eaten breakfast, Annie announced, “We’re going to make brownies … the more nuts the better!”—a rallying cry that so perfectly reflected the exuberance and generosity of their family. So, that’s where this story is going … brownies.

For me, brownies are linked to my memories of this summer in Connecticut with this lovely, disheveled family, and I like them to be as full of nuts as possible. I also like them cakey, which is anathema to people (including Larry) who like them gooey. And one person in my own family hated nuts, so whenever we made the following recipe, we had to have a “nuts” and a “no-nuts” side in the pan. The recipe is from the original Moosewood Cookbook and has surprisingly little flour in it. Just lots and lots of butter, sugar, chocolate and eggs. And nuts … if you’re me.


Let soften ½ pound butter (don’t melt it).

Melt 5 oz. unsweetened chocolate. Let cool.

Cream the butter with 1 ¾ cups packed light brown sugar and 5 eggs. Add 1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract. Beat in the melted, cooled chocolate and 1 cup flour.

Optional: Stir in TONS OF NUTS.

Spread into a buttered 9 X 13 baking pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until center doesn’t jiggle anymore.