In my fantasy life, I always cook to music– probably something French and perfectly casual cool, and usually in a kitchen that closely resembles Ina Garten’s. In real and not quite as elegant life, the TV is almost always on in the background, scrolling through the saved up silliness on our DVR. But this dinner calls for something very different from a previously recorded episode of the Bachelorette, and somethinig very specific. This dinner needs Frank Sinatra. It’s such a lovely long simmering sauce, Italian in sensibility but actually created by a French(ish) family, and it makes me want to slow down, have a glass of wine, and sing along to The Lady is a Tramp while I slice garlic. This is a pasta simple enough for a weeknight, but with a definite relaxed weekend vibe. And oh is it good.
I’m pretty sure it’s frowned upon to describe recipes as “easy” and “delicious.” Critics might say that the terms are overused, vague, and lazy. I guess I sometimes agree with that, but I also think that the terms are perfect for when something takes little effort (verging on foolproof) and the results are “so good,” “tasty,” or any other loose phrase that essentially means “GIVE ME MORE.” These oatmeal-raspberry bars are the epitome of easy and delicious. Prep time clocks in around 15 minutes, the ingredient list is short, and the bars are tart, buttery, crunchy, juicy, rich, and fresh. Plus, as of this week in central Illinois, they’re seasonal, too.
I had my first blondie at Ruby Tuesday. Back in high school I ate at Ruby Tuesday more than any other restaurant. Not that my options were endless, but with a Ruby’s, a TGI Friday, and an Applebee’s all in spitting distance, I still always chose RT. I went with my boyfriend, I went with my sister and her best friend, I went with my girlfriends. Sometimes all in the same week. And if I had room for dessert after a basket of pumpernickel bread sticks with honey butter and a plate of loaded cheese fries, I was getting a blondie. Always. Even the Oreo Tallcake couldn’t sway me away. I’ve had blondies here and there over the last several years, but they haven’t come in my way much since I stopped making frequent Rubys trips. Until I tried Ina Garten’s recipe, and suddenly found myself wanting them almost as often as I did back in high school.
The original title for this recipe was “MMM Chicken,” which is shorthand for Mustard, Mascarpone, Marsala Chicken, but more accurately it should be “MMMM Chicken” because one of its best features is a pound of cremini mushrooms. If you make it on a Monday, as I most recently did, it’s gonna need another M…so “MMMMM Chicken.” Even after five M’s, I couldn’t take my finger off of the M key. This pasta is just that mmm-mmm good. It’s kind of like this:
Fish sauce and I are having a moment. It’s not an ingredient we cooked with growing up, but it’s suddenly finding it’s way into more and more of my meals. It started with Molly telling me how much she and her beau loved it on roasted brussels sprouts. That was such a hit that I added fish sauce to my new favorite cauliflower recipe (which I also roast in the oven, rather than stir-frying on the stovetop. My cast iron skillet and I are also having a moment), making it even more delicious. Then I tried a recipe I can’t wait to share from Hal’s favorite lady chef that showed me how well fish sauce plays with chicken. And in a really fish sauce focused evening, Hal and I took a Vietnamese Street Food cooking class that featured the savor/salty/sweet taste in every single dish (except dessert)–Sugar Cane Shrimp, Caramelized Pork Belly Banh Mi, Banh Hoi, and Che Thai. And dang was it good. But my very favorite way to use my new very favorite ingredient is in Shutterbean’s Thai beef with basil.
After my first visit to Portland, Oregon, I was a starry-eyed amateur: I loved every single bite and there was still so much more to taste. Now that I’ve gorged myself four times in PDX, I understand that being starry-eyed is the way to be: there is an overwhelming amount of delicious food and there will always be more to discover. So how does a person begin to digest all that Portland has to offer? The following list of traveler’s tips are my attempt, after serious contemplation and a few handfuls of Zantac, to give some guidance to my fellow hungry tourists on how best to stuff oneself in the City of Roses.
For a short time when I was a little girl, parfaits struck me as the absolute height of dessert sophistication. I’m not sure if I actually had one out somewhere or just saw them in a cookbook or movie (one of the soda fountain scenes from the Music Man, maybe?), but they struck me as so fancy, and I wanted to make my own. My “recipe” was layers of vanilla ice cream and crushed up Oreos, and I’m here to tell you it was delicious. And gave me just the spiffy feeling I was looking for. Unfortunately, my zealous eating meant spoon scratches on our tallest drinking glasses, so my mom put a stop to my parfaits (don’t be sorry for me–I just moved to a regular old bowl of vanilla topped with crushed Oreos. Joie and I ate an astonishing amount of ice cream back in our youth). I can’t say that I had that back in the day parfait love in mind when I first decided to make these pumpkin mousse treats, but as soon as I dipped my spoon into the layers the memory came back. Luckily, we seem to have scratch proof glasses, so this dessert is staying on the holiday roster.