Monthly Archives: June 2012

Orzo Summer Salad

Today I put a bottle of “Lite Pancake Syrup” in my grocery shopping cart.

First I woke up in the arms of someone special. Then I drove to pick up cat food from a vet (I do not have a cat). Then I picked up the boss’ mail and watered a large plant. Then I drove halfway down Long Island to Costco. Then I drove the other half of Long Island, unloaded groceries, planned my weekend menus and went to East Hampton for smoked salmon. Then I put a bottle of “Lite Pancake Syrup” in my grocery cart with a shudder, tweeted my disgust, and returned to the house to make dinner (which did not contain aforementioned syrup, and was well received and complimented on, which I’m always thankful for).

It was a full day.

Another un-dusty-like occurence: this salad.

Yes, orzo is not gluten free. But neither is the family I work for. And this is a tasty salad – quick to make, pumped with some happy-healthy little nibs, and great to leave in the fridge for them to grab on your days off. The dressing is a sweet vinegar with no oil, so it’s low in fat and healthy alternative to the summer pasta salads that bulk up and make you sweat.

Orzo Summer Salad

Serves 4

1 cup dry orzo pasta, cooked as per package directions and cooled completely
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped small
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1 small bunch green onions (about 6), chopped thin 1 inch up the greens
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar or (preferably) light, floral honey
1/4 cup pistachio nuts
Olive oil as needed

Combine orzo, red bell pepper, peas and green onions in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk vinegar and sugar/honey until the sugar/honey is completely dissolved. Pour over pasta and stir to combine.

Toast pistachio nuts in a saucepan on low heat until fragrant and slightly brown, and toss into salad.

Chill before serving.

Summer of Salads – Beet, Parsnip and Mint Salad

Sweet beets and parsnips combine with spiced walnuts, fresh mint and smooth goat cheese.

I credit my momma for my love of vegetables; for some reason I’ve always preferred veggies over meat, and she (and her parents) were abundant in their love and attention to them as well. I learned the sweet pleasure of beets early on, and other root vegetables followed soon thereafter. While beets and parsnips may not seem like warm-weather foods, served at room temperature or chilled with bright herbs and sitting atop crisp, sharp greens, they make a hearty and colorful contrast to summer’s zucchini and cucumber abundance.

This was one of last week’s starter salads on my menu, and one that I stole a teeny tiny bowl of to keep myself fortified after a long day of cooking on my feet. It’s sweet, bright, fresh and the perfect start to an end-of-day meal.

Beet, Parsnip and Mint Salad

Serves 4 as a starter


  • 3 large beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 large parsnips, peels and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp chopped mint leaves, plus more for garnishing
  • Kosher salt or fleur de sel (or your favorite rockin salt)
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • Awesome, nutty olive oil
  • 6 cups mixed greens or arugula
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 2 tsp mild honey
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup soft goat cheese

Heat oven to 400°. Place beets and parsnips separately on one large or two small baking sheets. Drizzle with oil to just coat, and toss on salt. Bake for 40 minutes until very roasted and slightly shriveled. Cool completely. Combine in a large bowl and toss with mint.

Meanwhile, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add walnuts and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 5 minutes (watch the stove so they don’t burn!) Add honey and cinnamon, stir to coat quickly. Spread walnuts on cutting board to cool, then roughly chop into smaller pieces.

To serve, divide greens on four serving plates, making a well in the center. Divide beet/parsnips between, piling in the center.

Crumble goat cheese equally around each pile. Sprinkle with walnuts and remaining mint. Grind pepper straight on top. If desired, drizzle balsamic vinegar and a touch of oil around sides onto greens before serving.

Thai Basil Daiquiri from Dave Arnold of Booker and Dax

This is Dave Arnold of NYC’s Booker and Dax, a Momofuku creation on 2nd Ave. I interviewed Dave for my We Chat With… column on Serious Eats, NY. As he whipped this baby up – perfectly chilled and bright with Thai basil – he told me how we could recreate it quite similarly at home. Within a week, my photographer Brent was slugging them down and I was still thirsty for another one. A week later at the mess of the Great Googa Mooga festival, Booker and Dax mixologist Tristan Willey pour liquid nitrogen on the ground and passed a plastic container with the bright green concoction the small crowd in their VIP tent; after fighting for food and finagling profile and plate shots out of busy chefs, it was liquid perfection.

Head to Serious Drinks for Dave and Tristan’s recipe.

And if you’re in NYC, I’ll most likely be stopping in at Booker and Dax tomorrow night.


Birthday Layer Cake for Milk Bar Mondays!

Happy Birthday Tuesday!

This is Tuesday:

Technically, today is Monday.

But today is all about a pup named Tuesday, a 10th birthday, and a Milk Bar Monday Birthday Layer Cake.

This gluten-free adaptation from Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar Cookbook is incredibly rich and buttery, shocking sweet and incredibly festive. She strove to encapsulate the joy of funfetti box cake (the Confetti Cookies from the same family were possibly my favorite of the bunch that the Milk Bar Mondays ladies have baked up). This one doesn’t quite take the prize in my mind, but as I sit here noshing on a slice with a scoop of dairy-free honey ice cream (look for it in my feature in next month’s Easy Eats magazine), I still can’t help but shake my head in “oh my dog” mode.

A layer of incredibly dense, buttery cake flecked with sprinkles
(not hard to find gluten-free).

A wash of milk and vanilla (almond milk, in this case).

A layer of frosting that truly tastes like you got it out of a tub, only a million times better.

A sprinkle of Birthday Cake Crumb.
The whole “crumb” aspect of Tosi’s work is quite genius.

Then two more layers of that combo. Continue reading

Summer of Soups – Shrimp, Corn and Crab Chowder

I’m now officially out east cooking for a family for the summer, tapping my fingers away on an iPad and hoping this post comes out alright. In the few weeks since I’ve joined the private chef field I’ve had moments both of panic / anxiety and major food triumph – my cooking skills are back to where they were before going more fully into pastry, if not better.

The family loves a rich or bright soup as their first course. So after frantically packing up their apartment, heading east, unpacking, marketing and running out repeatedly for odds and ends, I threw together this soup – start to finish – in about forty minutes. Longer simmering or letting it sit overnight would have made it even better, but it was pretty darned delicious, and a great start to cooking by the water for the summer.

Happy Friday,

Shrimp, Corn and Crab Chowder

Serves 4


2 cans crab meat (I used one fine lump and one regular)
16 large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
3 ears of corn
3 cups fish stock plus more as needed
4 Tbsp unsealed butter
1/4 cup olive oil plus more as needed
1 large red bell pepper, diced small
1 large red onion, diced small
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin with 1/2 inch of greens
5 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped fine
6 small fingerling potatoes, peeled and diced small
Salt and pepper to taste (kosher or large-flake salt and freshly cracked pepper are best)


In a soup pot, bring oil up to a low/medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add red pepper and sauté until just softening. Add crab meat and toss to combine. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Add diced potatoes and stock, bring up to a low boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are just softening.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a small sauce or fry pan. Cook shrimp in batches on medium/high heat, about 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove to a cutting board and cut in two or three pieces each.

Remove corn kernels from cobs, reserving cobs. In remaining butter, sauté corn on high heat in batches, cooking until crispy and slightly golden. Remove with melted butter to a boil.

When potatoes are softened but not yet mushy, add corn to soup. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When ready to serve, use the sharp edge of a knife to scrape any extra raw corn kernel remains from the cobs directly into pot,then fold in shrimp and bring up to heat for a few minutes.

* Note, that scallop was leftover from what I seared for them, and therefore the little treat that topped my tiny bowl of the chowder.

I Chat With: Chef Alain Ducasse

Chef Alain Ducasse – photo Brent Herrig Photography

Um, there’s something about being in Chef Alain Ducasse’s presence, if only for a few seconds (which is pretty much all I had). It’s like seeing Jacques Pepin or Julia Child – they look pretty much exactly like you expect them to – a perfect cut-out of the icon you’ve seen on TV or book jackets. I don’t have  chef crushes. I don’t get starstruck. I do, however, extremely appreciate what some unique individuals have offered to the world.

I literally spoke to Chef Ducasse for a polite few seconds in a lush back room at Adour after Brent had gotten his shots. Our interview was done remotely, as Chef Ducasse is constantly shuttled from one event, class, restaurant, book tour or shoot to another. But I’m still wowed by the results of the interview, out on Serious Eats New York today.

Bon Appetite.

Summer of Salads: Shaved Fennel and Arugula

As a child, summer means lazy days of wandering, camp, sprinklers, playgrounds and park.

As a parent, summer means road trips, wet bathing suits, even less time alone and daydreams of September.

As a New Yorker, summer means steaming sidewalks, escaping to chilly movie theaters, constantly humming window air-conditioners, and hair that refuses to lay flat.

As a private chef in the Hamptons, summer means whipping up a quick meal or two and then stealing some time by the pink-canopied pool.


If I have one more person give me a variation of, “lucky girl, a summer in the Hamptons on the beach”, I might throw a pie in their face. Which would be satisfying but a horrible waste of pie.

I experienced the long weekend in Amangansett recently, and it gave me a taste of what my summer is to look like: waking at 7, at the market by 7:30, breakfast constantly in the works as people rise anywhere between 8 and noon, some hungry for lunch at 1 while some are barely finishing coffee, four frantic market runs a day, cooking three separate meals for dinner, eating cuttings of things throughout the day and only sitting to eat for real after the kitchen is clean at 10pm.

I’m definitely not complaining. I don’t have the chops to work in a restaurant kitchen, and despite the panic of being the sole person responsible for whether 13 people like their meals or not (which gives me a rather constant furrowed brow), I’m loving adapting to this job and what it’s already doing to broaden my kitchen skills.


I’m going to attempt to keep up a few series of summer recipes here while I’m cooking away. While my trusty, dusty DSLR will be with me, I doubt I’ll have the time, organization or brain capacity to use it much. Rather, Instagram will be my friend as I try to snap some somewhat-edible-looking images of the amazing things coming out of the kitchen. Oh, the kitchen with this view in the misty morning:

Not bad, huh? I’m preparing to utilize certain moments as self-centering: this view when the house is quiet and all are asleep, the sunshine on the top deck, a shot of tequila while I wait at a certain fish counter and the proprietor asks in a heavy brogue how things are going and how I’d like my fish cleaned (this man might be a saving angel for the next few weeks) in the middle of the long day.

I’ll be making tons of luncheon salads, bright soups and rich marinades to keep some variety and va-va-voom on the table. And {hopefully} getting to write about them on my days off.

This salad was narrated to my predecessor before he left, without specification. I let it evolve naturally, and it’s both refreshingly simple and rich in flavor – a bit of bite from the fennel bulb but sweetened and softened with good orange juice. I was psyched to hear a really positive response to it – as with any new job, tiny amounts of praise help tamper anything you’ve messed up in ignorance or over-thought.

Happy beginning of summer.

Let’s do this thing.

Fennel and Arugula Salad

Serves 4


  • 1 large fennel bulb (sometimes written as Anise)
  • 1 bag of pre-washed arugula
  • orange juice (splurge on fresh-squeezed or as close as you can get it)
  • lemon juice (doesn’t have to be fresh, but why not?)
  • Parmesan cheese (brick, not grated)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • a large flake salt (kosher works)
  • freshly cracked pepper

Remove fronds and tough outer leaves of fennel bulb. Thinly slice the remains, slicing width-wise if needed before finely slicing into ribbons. Place in a (preferably) metal bowl. Fill with orange juice almost up to the top. Add at least 2 Tbsp of lemon juice. Taste. You should get mostly orange flavor but with a tart bite of lemon. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (the fennel will set well for a few hours).

Meanwhile, bring a small fry/saute pan to a medium heat. Add pine nuts, and toast (flipping now and then) until the oil just starts to come out and the pine nuts brown. Add 1 tsp olive oil and a nice pinch of flaky salt. Toast, constantly flipping, until pine nuts smell fragrant and are slightly crisp. Set aside to cool.

To assemble: divide arugula on four plates. Drain the juice from the fennel*. Pile equally on top of arugula. With a vegetable peeling, grate large pieces of Parmesan over each salad. Top with pine nuts and a healthy twist of black pepper.

*If you want to make a quick vinaigrette from the orange/lemon mixture, whisk it with some tart vinegar (like apple cider), good olive oil and any combination of basil, oregano, black pepper, fennel and salt. Drizzle on top. The salad also works with just a drizzle of balsamic and oil or a sweet vinaigrette.

I Chat With… Some Really Awesome Chefs

In case I haven’t barreled you over the head about it enough, one of my favorite gigs is interviewing NYC-based chefs for Serious Eats NY. From the lauded and prestigious Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park to the oh-so-New-York Daniel Holzman of the Meatball Shops to the super-sweet pastry chef Stephen Collucci at Colicchio and Sons, I find so much inspiration and fun in these discussions!

So here are the past few weeks of interviews. You can also check out the whole series on my Words… page. If you have a few leisurely minutes of computer reading time ahead, I hope you enjoy seeing how we get food done in good ol’ NYC. Click on the images to be directed to the interviews.

Kenny Callagan of Blue Smoke, and this week’s Big Apple Barbecue Block Party (photo Joshua Bousel)

Alex Stupak, owner of Empellon Cocina and Empellon Taqueria (photo Brent Herrig)

Harold Dieterle, Owner of Perilla and Kin Shop (photo Brent Herrig)

Grasshopper Pie for Milk Bar Mondays!

The Baker Chick’s Grasshopper Pie

It’s a rainy day in NYC, and I’m in a melancholy mood. Last night I helped one of my favorite people in the entire world – the man who lives(d) upstairs from me, who I’ve spent several days a week with making good food and drinking excellent wine until far too late in the morning, whose chef position I’ve now taken over and whose shoes I’m frantically trying to fill – do the final cleaning on his now-empty apartment. I hugged and kissed him goodbye as he got into a truck to drive to Denver. We’ll see each other in August, but the  summer of working 14 hours a day in the Hamptons and then drinking wine on the beach beside his empty chair is going to make it feel like a long one.

I’ve got Nina singing “my man is gone now… ain’t no use in listenin’ for his tired footsteps, comin’ down the stairs”.

Despite housing 8 million people, New York City can be lonely when you’ve got a heavy heart. This man pulled so many good people into his home simply with generosity, a huge heart, and a love of good food and drink. Last night one of our makeshift family said, “it’s the end of an era”. So many of us have gathered at his apartment multiple times a week, and seemingly at random – we’ve woven in and out of each other’s lives, and know that our weekly meetings will now, most likely, be yearly ones. There were four apartments of friends in my building. Now there are three. In such a big city situations like ours, where you have keys to each other’s apartments, walk each other’s dogs, bring someone dinner while they work at their desk, and can paddle from an empty apartment to a full one in bare feet and sweatpants, is rare. Forging those connections without having known each other prior to moving into that building… exceptionally rare.

Sorry, it’s a rainy day, I’m waxing on and on.

Point being, I’m missing another incredible Milk Bar Mondays swap because a bunch of things got me to the point where I was grocery shopping like mad too last minute, and couldn’t find the gluten and dairy-free ingredients to adapt this week’s recipe. Which stinks, because it looks amazing. I’ve spent the past two weeks trying to fill my buddy’s big chef’s crocs, and spending as much time by his side watching how he cooks, clinking glasses and staying up far too late, not wanting to leave. I haven’t blogged my own recipe on this site in almost a month, and am barely keeping up with Easy Eats and my Serious Eats interviews! Life is insane, and lovely, and full of goodness. I just have to figure out how to juggle it all.

So, until I do please check out Nicole’s recipe and links at Sweet Peony. And revel in the beauteousness of this Milk Bar Monday recipe.

Soon, I’ll be back in dusty baking style. Soon.


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