Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Our kitchens were stacked.
          Mine was on the second floor with more dishes than I could ever handle. I would clop clop clop around in my cooking clogs, practicing the art of keeping young children alive.
          Hers was on the first floor with enough jars and tupperware and folded paper bags and cocoa squirreled away for any kind of apocalypse that might happen to come along. When it came to cooking, she knew everything about everything. She had just stopped doing it, her culinary world reduced to tapioca pudding, toast, and tea.
          My grandmother heard my children grow up. Every tumble, every tantrum. She heard me grow up. Ten years of marriage. Four years of trying to conceive a second baby. She heard every thrown plate, every slammed door, every episode of “Battlestar Galactica.”
          I worried she was hearing too much life through her ceiling. So I apologized for it all. She wouldn’t hear of it. She wanted the noise. She wanted us up there.
          I had moved into the upstairs apartment when I was 33, when I had a 9-month old baby girl, when I had heaps of unspoken post-partum sadness. My grandmother would listen to me talk and talk and talk. I would tell my stories about parenting and marriage just to see if she would smile or laugh. She was blind in one eye, so sometimes I would think she wasn’t listening. But months later she would repeat my world back to me. Moment by moment, the details locked into her brain like the words she gobbled up from her never-ending pile of New Yorkers, New York Review of Books, mystery novels.
          We respected each other’s privacy. No knocking. Just carefully penciled in dates. She liked having her dinner alone, or so she said. I think she didn’t want me to feel put out. So it was just tea or drinks. Her lipstick on. My hair brushed. All of the kids’ detritus shoved away in closets. At the carefully chosen time, she would walk out her front door and cross the lawn—pausing for a few deep breaths with her hand on the jacaranda tree—and then around to the other side of the house to my front door.
          I would call her when things went awry.
          I could hear the phone ringing downstairs and then I could feel her warmth slowly shifting out of bed and towards the phone.
          The soup is too thin, grandma. What do I do? (Add a cooked and mashed potato.) The braised meat isn’t softening up. (More time? Some acid?)
          I would call her to be my recipe guinea pig.
          Grandma, can I bring you a little something I’ve been working on?
          As long as it’s not caramel.
          It’s not caramel. I promise.
          Just leave it outside. Thank you.
          I would cover it in plastic wrap, walk it down the stairs, and leave it on the bench outside her front door.
          I would call her just to make sure she was still alive.
          She would get the first cookie, the warmest piece of pie, a corner of the croquembouche debacle, a smear of the ridiculous cheeseball, the first and last attempt at homemade bread, a slice of every single gingerbread I ever made.
          All I wanted to do was feed her. And in return I would get the blunt-ass truth via a phone call. Too sweet. A bit ugly. Absolutely delicious. Fine, fine, fine. Maybe don’t cook it quite so long next time?
          After she died, I went through her kitchen and found dozens of ramekins, plates, silverware from my own kitchen. I can see her, eating the treats in bed. She glides through her apartment, scraping the remains, rinsing the dishes. Then she tucks them away as her own.
My recipe for Gingerbread with Cream Cheese Frosting can be found in my Food52 column.

Monday, November 16, 2015



Quick addition to what's written below: The wonderful Ten Speed Press has generously agreed to donate 3 more cookbooks to my giveaway. Read through and comment below for a chance to win 1 of 2 boxes of books. Happy holidays! 

Books. They are taking over our apartment. Towering piles in every direction. Cookbooks stacked on kitchen chairs. Filmmaking everything. How to feed a baby, raise a daughter, avoid mold, live happily ever after. Plumbing guides next to French anchovy books. Harry Potter this. Coming-of-age memoir that. "Buddhism for Dummies." Heaps of poetry. But we don't know how to get rid of them. We don't want to get rid of them. Once a month, an IKEA shelf drops down from the weight of a double- and sometimes triple-deep row of books. Or while I'm looking for a Chuck Palahniuk novel, "Ulysses Annotated" will crash down on my toes. Escoffier hides behind "Spago's Desserts" and the Cook's Illustrated's "Baking Book" (perched on my favorite stool) has been holding up one side of our kitchen table for longer than I would care to admit. But I love all of the books. I talk to them like I talk to my herbs.

Here's the good news for you and for me: I am giving away three of my books in my first blog giveaway. And considering our pathological love for books around here, it was very moving to be able to tell my daughter that I am in three books this fall and that I would love for her to photograph me holding them. So she did.
Here are some details on the books (and links to buy), but see below for GIVEAWAY DETAILS.

See the book on top? That's BEST FOOD WRITING 2015 (published by Da Capo Press / edited by Holly Hughes). It includes my apple tart story and recipe from my Food52 column. And some of my favorite writers are in this compilation including Emily Thelin, John Birdsall, Elissa Altman, Jeff Gordinier, Tom Junod, Kim Foster, Sarah Henry, John T. Edge, Pete Wells, Ryan Sutton, and some guy I've never heard of named Anthony Bourdain.

The book in the middle of the pile is called HERE SHE COMES NOW: Women in Music Who Have Changed Our Lives (published by Rare Bird Books / edited by Jeff Gordinier and Marc Weingarten). My essay from this book—on Madonna, Miley Cyrus, and my perimenopausal hormones—was re-published over on Check it out and I do hope it inspires you to buy the book and read the other 21 stories. It is a compelling and diverse collection including some badassery from Susan Choi on Stevie Nicks, Kate Christensen on Tina Turner, Charlotte Druckman on Mary J. Blige, Lisa Catherine Harper on Kate Bush, Jennifer Nix on June Carter Cash, Rosie Schaap on Sandy Denny, Ada Limón on Aretha Franklin, Bart Blasengame on Liz Phair, and Ian Daly on PJ Harvey. 

The larger book at the bottom of the pile is FOOD52 BAKING: 60 Sensational Treats You Can Pull Off in a Snap (published by Ten Speed Press). My recipe for Brown Butter Cupcake Brownies is included (my accompanying essay is not in the book but it can be still be found on Food52). This cookbook is elegantly photographed by James Ransom and lovingly styled by some of my favorite people over at Food52. Here are some of the fabulous treats my cupcake recipe is hanging out with: Italian Cornmeal Cookies from Emiko Davies, Savory Galette with Greens and Gruyère from Marian Bull, Black Sesame Cupcakes with Matcha Buttercream from Molly Yeh, Olive Oil Ricotta Cake from Kenzi Wilbur, Cherry Almond Crumb Cake from Yossy Arefi, Skillet Spice Cake with Gooey Caramel Bottom (!!!) from Merrill Stubbs. It's a practical collection. It's a longterm collection. It's a beautiful collection. I'm thrilled to be included.

I've never done a giveaway. Maybe you've never entered one? So let's just make the rules up. Here's how to enter (but please let me know if you have questions):

1. Add a comment below. Maybe post a link to your favorite song. Or tell me a story about cooking or parenting. Or share a kitchen hack. List your favorite books ever. Or tell me what you're going to have for dinner tonight. Ask a question about salad dressing. Describe your marriage. What moves you? What pisses you off? What keeps you going? Give me a list of what parenting has taught you. Tell me the books that are stacked next to your bed. Break down your technique for roasting a chicken. Write a story. Sum up this week in five words. Anything. Just don't post anonymously or I will never find you again.

2. On December 20th, Dash will select a random winner by drawing a name out of my new favorite black hat.

3. On January 1st, 2016, I will send the winner some Meyer lemons, a batch of granola, and a copy of each book I talked about above. Plus, I will throw in a surprise book. A cookbook. That's all I'll say for now.

4. Or just skip the whole giveaway hooha and order them from your local bookstore or Amazon. 

If for some reason you have trouble with the commenting function (it happens! no worries!) or if you wish to post anonymously, feel free to send me an email at and I will enter you into the drawing.

I am really excited to share these books. Thank you so much for being a part of this community. You all keep me writing and cooking and breathing. And  I am so grateful.

(photos by isabel ross)

Thursday, November 5, 2015


I'm not going to tell you how thrilled I am for the comeback of high-waisted jeans.

How many times in the past week I listened to the new Adele song.

That I can do 15 pushups.

I'm not going to tell you how proud I am of my son for talking shit about Trump on the playground.

How gratifying it is to watch my kids load the dishwasher without being asked.

How often I think of my daughter's birth: those first few moments, feeling her heart beating through her neck and fingertips and shins.

I'm not going to tell you how motherhood is the most fulfilling experience ever.

Instead, I'm going to tell you about the gutted feeling that washes over me when I sit in the car, flipping through social media apps on my phone, waiting for soccer practice to end.

How three times over the past month, I have given up on my messy house, my marriage, my book, my everything, driven to the mall, and bought grey sweaters for the California winter we will never have.

How I woke up last Monday to the W.H.O. news story about the possible connection between eating processed meats and cancer and immediately went out for a bacon cheeseburger.

I'm going to tell you how during a recent morning scramble, I yelled at my son with such intensity that he ran away and I thought he was gone forever.

That I cried during the school earthquake drill, imagining the chaos of the big one.

I'm going to tell you how sometimes my body feels completely turned off, done, retired.

I'm going to tell you how often I take a deep breath in order to stay at the table.

How often I bake cookies in order to stay awake.

How, as a parent, you never get to step back or unfurl or move on or detach.

I'm going to tell you about the homeless man I see every Tuesday afternoon next to the I-580 onramp who holds up the I will take anything you can give me sign, his sad drunken eyes boring so deeply into mine that I have to look away and pray for the light to change because I can't bear what I am thinking: he is somebody's child, he is somebody's child, oh fuck, he is somebody's child.
(Stuffed with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups)
(Stuffed with Junior Mints)
I have made these cookies six times in the past ten days. I have handed them out to women in bars, children in cars, friends at dinner parties. They are so fun to make, ridiculously sweet, and way over the top. They make people smile and grab and moan.

Sometimes a bit of candy escapes while they are baking. Don't panic. Just make sure to cool them on the sheet pan.

Don't overcook them or you will be sad. This happened with batch #3 and my daughter and I agreed that life is too short for dry, over-baked Nutella cookies. 

I have just started reading about Nutella and palm oil and deforestation. I wish I could tell you that these cookies work beautifully with other chocolate hazelnut spreads. But I haven't tested out any of them out. Please let me know if you make these cookies with a Nutella alternative. I am learning along with you.

makes 10 big cookies

My daughter found this recipe online last year. We have searched and searched but we can't find it again. I have modified it a bit, but, if it looks familiar, please let me know. I would love to give proper credit to the original recipe writer.

You can stuff these cookies with almost any kind of candy. Or nothing at all. On their own, they are crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. But when you stuff them, they become mystery cookies. Here are a few ideas for the filling: 1/2 Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, 3 Junior Mints, 4 mini marshmallows, 1 Special Dark Hershey's chocolate bar. PLAY!!!

1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), soft
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup Nutella, room temperature
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
candy of your choice (see headnote for some ideas)
1/3 cup white sugar, for rolling cookies

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a standing mixer (or by hand), cream the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar for two minutes on high speed. Scrape down the sides. Add Nutella and beat for another 20 seconds on medium speed. Scrape down the sides. Add the egg. Mix on medium for 5 seconds. Scrape down the sides. Add the vanilla and mix for another 5 seconds on medium speed. Scrape down the sides. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until almost all the flour in incorporated. Scrape down the sides. Add the second 1/3 of the flour mixture. Mix on low until almost all incorporated. Scrape down the sides. Add the final 1/3 of the flour mixture. MIx on low until the final traces of flour just disappear. Don't overmix! Chill the dough for an hour if you have time (not necessary but it will make the assembly a bit easier).

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper or Silpats. Pour white sugar (for rolling) on a plate. Divide the dough into 10 equal-sized pieces (about 2  1/4 ounces each). Tear a ball of dough in half, press candy in the center, cover with other half of the dough, roll in your hands until you can't feel or see the candy filling. Roll the dough ball in the white sugar. Place on the sheet pan. They spread quite a bit so leave several inches between each cookie.

Bake for 7 minutes. They are done the moment the center melts and starts to settle down. Let the cookies cool a bit on the pan and firm up because if you move the cookies when they're too warm, the candy might ooze out the bottom. The cookies are best eaten within a few hours. They are also really good frozen (late at night with red wine).

If you freeze the baked cookies and then thaw them, they will still taste good but they will lose they're glorious crispness. A better option is to freeze the stuffed cookie dough balls after you have rolled them in sugar. Freeze the balls of dough up to 6 months in a Ziploc bag. When you bake off the frozen balls, you should turn the temperature down to 350°F and bake them for a few extra minutes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


and I am so grateful to finally have a quiet September house. At the same time, I am stunned by the relentlessness of the meal prep. I have stopped counting up all of the school lunches I have made. And now that my kids have some sort of activity almost every day after school, I am trying to expand my one-pot-meal repertoire. Recipes coming.

Back in July, I recorded a Burnt Toast podcast with Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, co-founders of Food52. It is 23 minutes of us talking about children and food and cooking along with managing editor Kenzi Wilbur. Our kids even joined in for part of it. I was on top of my desk in Berkeley (no, really, sitting in straddle to reach the mic) and the rest of the crew was in a studio in New York City. Dash joined me on the desk towards the end (he is the one who very clearly states his hatred for anchovies). There was this moment (minute 18:27, in fact) when the kids started talking to each other and it felt like we were all sitting around the dinner table. I swear my heart just exploded.

If you feel like it, let me know in the comments below if you have any stories or tips or triumphs or frustrations relating to kids and cooking. I love the beautiful and the ugly and everything in between. So bring it on.

Click either image below to link to the podcast.

More soon about my book and various other projects. Lots going on. Can't wait to share.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Loving our sons is easy.

I get there ten minutes early to secure seats. It has to work.

They spend the day stumbling on sidewalk cracks and bubbling with goofy unconditional love.

There is always a reason we can’t get together.

We can almost see them growing in their sleep.

A dying father, sick kids, a deadline.

But our daughters just want to quietly close their bedroom doors, moving away from any sense of family, escaping into devices and daydreams and vlogs.
A forgotten email thread, fatigue, an inability to be social. 
So we hold them too tight.
And then finally we are all sitting on barstools with drinks in our hands.

We talk about how if one of our kids died, we would curl up in a fetal position and go to bed forever.

Our stories are interchangeable.

How quickly we get all situation critical about marriage: Once we get to the word divorce, it’s so easy to pick it up again and throw it like a ninja star.

How if someone had given us spreadsheets when we were young, outlining the ups and downs of marriage, we might never have dreamed of finding the one.

We give strong hugs and go home.

How as things get harder with parenting and marriage, the more determined we are to make something meaningful.

I am home. I am hungry. For the first time in as long as I can remember, food hasn’t been on my mind for an entire evening.

Like the novel in the drawer, the book proposal, the new job opportunity.

I pull one square of tart out of the freezer and throw it in the oven until the tomato is bubbling away. 

The Kickstarter we are scared to get out there, the new family business.

I cut into the collapsed and shrivelled tomato. Its insides spill out all the things I love: anchovies, herbs, capers, lemon zest, garlic, Parmesan cheese. I scoop everything up with crispy prosciutto.

The final cut of the documentary film.

I crawl into bed and wrap a hand around my husband’s sleeping arm. I hear a happy sigh.

The book we have to finish.

I say to the dark room: There is no plan. Just a slow rhythmic squeezing of his shoulder and a gentle tracing of his left calf with my right toe.
If you want to learn more about my Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese, Quark, Prosciutto, and Gremolata, you can find the recipe on Food52.

If this tart seems crazy high maintenance, just stuff the tomatoes with gremolata, wrap them in some kind of bacon fat, bake them on high heat in a cast iron pan, and throw on some mozzarella at the last minute. Scoop mouthfuls out of the pan with garlicky grilled bread.

Or improvise. I write about a few places to start in my Cooking What I Want column on Food52Let me know what you're making!

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Full beard and strapping body aside, the bartender is young enough to be my son.
Hendrick's martini, please. Straight up with olives.
Hey. I like your style.
My entire body smiles back.
Thank you.
I want to ask what he sees. Does he know I'm a mom? 
Instead, I gather all of the candles from one end of the bar, vow to get my eyes checked soon, and tuck my head into a book.
The air is warm, the martini is cold, the music is loud. The room smells like chicken and potatoes and the late eighties: like my first years in New York City, all full of bigness and potential and the scariness of it all. 
I need food.
My eyes glide down the menu and get stuck on two of my favorite words: romaine and anchovies. 
I wave to my bartender son.
This salad looks exciting.
That salad is exciting.
Two seats down is a body dripping with tattoos, motorcycle leather, fatigue. He is old enough to be my husband.
He picks up his burger. I pick up my grilled romaine. He dips his fries in ketchup. I scoop up the creamy, smoky, fishy salad dressing with my bread. I moan yum. He sighs. He doesn't look to the right. I don't look to the left. We eat together. I feel safe.
I pay, pick up my martini, and head for the hotel elevator. I don't look back.
I climb up on the coffee table with my martini and watch the flashing lights of Manhattan through the floor-to-ceiling Brooklyn windows. I start to relive the thirteen years of pining and dreaming and never ever sleeping that I crammed into that little island. What did I do with all of that kid-free time? I didn’t even like anchovies back then.
I step down.
I lower the shades, wash the martini glass, and tuck myself into the soft and clean king-sized bed. No morning light, no buzzing phones, no barfing kids, no nothing will wake me up until I am ready.
You can find the recipe for Grilled Romaine Salad with Corn and Creamy Anchovy Garlic Vinaigrette in my column over at Food52.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015



Have you ever looked your eight-year-old son in the eye and said: Dude, I'm hungry, please pass the salade composée? Me neither. But we've been making them all month. It just means arranged. As in less rambunctious than a tossed salad. More controlled. Layered. At least that's what I've been telling myself.

Some cool things about structuring salads this way:

1. They're hella pretty.
2. You can layer your greens with the fruit or nuts or cheese and then set the plate aside for 30 minutes or so (in the fridge if it's hot). There's no rush to serve it because the greens won't get soggy. Right before putting it on the table, sprinkle everything with coarse salt and chopped herbs. You can splash the dressing on the salad. Or you can pass the dressing on the side. 
3. Since you're not tossing, all the layers will stay intact and beautiful. You can fill grilled peaches with goat cheese, nestle in broiled dates wrapped in bacon, add any kind of crumbly or delicate cheese.
4. You see more of the salad. Nothing gets lost in the bottom of the bowl.
5. A large version of any of these salads can be a main course for dinner. Especially good on a hot summer night.

Like most recipes I develop, these are templates. Mix and match any which way you like. I've given approximate measurements for each salad dressing. Start with a kick ass powerful base like garlic or anchovy or lemon zest (or all three). Then whisk together (or shake in a jar) 2 parts extra-virgin olive oil to 1 part acid (lemon, lime, or vinegar). Use Dijon mustard, crème fraîche, heavy cream, mayonnaise or an egg to emulsify. Or not. Shaking the shit out of most dressings will bring them together eventually (give this job to a kid). The most important step is to taste your dressing. Don't trust my measurements. Don't trust anyone. Trust yourself. I always adjust the balance several times. I usually add my coarse salt (fleur de sel or grey or pink Hawaiian) at the end to the prepared salad, but feel free to incorporate it into the dressing (it bashes nicely with a clove of garlic). There are many paths.

Layers: Thinly sliced Napa cabbage, massaged kale, julienned apples, toasted pecans, chopped parsley, coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: With a mortar and pestle, make a paste out of 2 cloves of garlic and 2 boquerones. Add a raw (or coddled) egg and whisk until smooth. Whisk in juice/zest of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 tablespoon creamy whole milk yogurt or crème fraîche.


Layers: Arugula, Piave cheese (alternates: parmesan, manchego, asiago), peeled/halved/pitted/sliced peaches, coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: In a jar, shake together 3 tablespoons garlic oil (let a bashed clove of garlic sit in some olive oil overnight), juice/zest of 1/2 lemon, and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard. Finish with a generous drizzle of thick balsamic (I buy inexpensive balsamic and reduce it down a bit more than halfway).


Layers: Avocado slices, tomato slices, coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: With a mortar and pestle, bash 2 cloves garlic with 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt until it makes a paste. Whisk in 2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Add 2 tablespoons finely diced shallots and let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in 1 tablespoon Grey Poupon mustard. Slowly whisk in 4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Add 3 tablespoons chopped herbs (any combination of parsley, mint, and cilantro).


Layers: Romaine, massaged kale, roasted cherry tomatoes (halved and cooked with olive oil/balsamic/salt/thyme at 350°F for 30 minutes), cold Humboldt Fog goat cheese (crumbled with rind removed), coarse salt, pepper.
Dressing: 2 tablespoons of any kind of pesto whisked with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Thin it out with more olive oil if you need to. Or a few splashes of white wine vinegar.

Layers: Thinly sliced radishes, toasted pine nuts, crumbled feta, mint, basil, opal basil, coarse salt.
Dressing: In a jar, combine and leave for a few hours or overnight: 1 cup olive oil, a few lemon wedges, 2 cloves bashed garlic, a few sprigs of thyme. The next day, pour off 6 tablespoons olive oil into another jar and shake it with 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and 2 teaspoons Grey Poupon mustard. Add more olive oil to the remaining garlic and lemon oil and save it for up to a few days in the fridge. adding more oil as needed.

Layers: Endive, pickled radishes, parmesan wisps (I use my potato peeler), whole parsley leaves, Aleppo brown butter bread crumbs (melt a few anchovies into a teaspoon of butter, toss in bread crumbs with a pinch of Aleppo pepper, stir/toast for one minute, cool), pepper, coarse salt.
Dressing: In a jar, shake the heck out of 6 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 2 teaspoons Grey Poupon mustard. 

LayersHearts of romaine, sliced buffalo mozzarella, crispy bacon, buttery corn (cut off cob and sautéed for one minute in brown butter with a large pinch of salt), pickled Fresno chiles (to make a jarful: slice 6 chiles in half, remove seeds, dice, boil for 1 minute in mixture of 1 cup white vinegar/1 teaspoon kosher salt/2 teaspoons sugar), garlic crisps (fry four thinly sliced garlic cloves in 4 tablespoons hot olive oil for about a minute and then reserve the oil for the dressing), chiffonade of basil leaves, pepper, coarse salt.
Dressing: Shake in a jar: reserved garlic oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, 2 teaspoons Grey Poupon mustard. 
Drink: Hendrick's martini straight up with olives


Layers: Butter lettuce, grilled peaches filled with goat cheese (or broiled), avocado, toasted almond slivers, chopped parsley and chives.
Dressing: Combine 1 tablespoon finely diced shallots with 3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar. Set aside for 10 minutes. Whisk in your favorite grainy Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in 4-6 tablespoons olive oil. If it needs a little extra help emulsifying, shake it in a jar.