As I’ve written before, I love strawberry desserts. Years of birthday strawberry shortcake in mid-April has made me hard-wired to want berries in early spring. Unfortunately, strawberries aren’t at their best for another few weeks. That leaves me with fierce cravings and nothing but a pint of dull Driscoll’s to fill the void. I learned from my mom that a quick cure for bland strawberries is to toss them in sugar and let them rest. I’ve also had good luck cooking them with sugar to make a compote, and now, thanks to Bon Appétit, I’m also a fan of roasting them with sugar and salt.
When my sister and I were in high school, a trip to the mall almost always meant Tysons Corner. And if we timed it right, a trip to Tysons almost always meant lunch at Slade’s American Grill, known to us as Slade’s. I’m very proud to now be able to call up the name of the long closed restaurant, since it took simultaneous gchatting with Joie, texting with Laura, and some deep googling to find it. With our powers combined we got there: Joie knew it was a short name, Laura remembered America being in there somewhere, and I was pretty sure it started with an S. Considering how often Joie and our mother and I ate there over the years, I’m amazed that we forgot the name at all. What has absolutely stayed with me, though, is their insanely good loaded baked potato soup.
As far as I’m concerned, Smitten Kitchen’s Spinach and Cheese Strata is the ultimate in breakfast casserole perfection. Jessica told me about the recipe a few years ago and after making it once, I put it into permanent brunch rotation. It has never failed to impress and delight: it’s excellent for company because it’s unapologetically cheesy and carby and it’s excellent for the cook because it’s assembled the night before and simply baked the next morning. I love it because of the flavors (creamy, nutty, custardy) and because it tastes like more than just scrambled eggs with fillings—it’s a savory bread pudding. The only problem with the recipe is that I found myself making it too often. How many times can you serve the same guests the same thing without it becoming weird? I decided not to find out.
Laura and I rarely do much in advance blog planning together. Sometimes we’ll shoot each other a quick text about our next post, or it will come up in conversation if we’ve recently cooked something we’re especially excited to share, but frequently our posts are a fun surprise for each other, and a lovely window into what the other has been up to in her kitchen. A lovely window that sometimes shows us that, from states away, we are right on the same page. It’s happened with banana muffins and quick shrimp dinners, and I was so tickled last week to realize that we were on a shared cashew + chicken kick. I love the idea of Laura in her Springfield kitchen cooking with the same ingredients I’m using in my Brooklyn kitchen, especially when the results are dishes we’re both so psyched about: a cashew chicken stir fry for La, and chicken and cashew lettuce cups for me.
On a recent flight, I wasn’t in the mood to read my book and I wasn’t sleepy, so I turned to my phone to pass the time. Without an internet connection, I was left with only the offline options. I took my time sorting through some photos, deleting and cropping and organizing. After a while, I decided to abandon that overwhelming project and I flipped to my other apps. I paused on the “Notes.” I opened it and started reading the surprisingly engaging glimpses of my everyday life. There were plenty of grocery lists, random addresses, and half done to-do lists, but there were a few special entries, too. I found the toast I gave at Jessica and Hal’s wedding, Christmas lists of years gone by, and at the end of my scrolling, I found the very first note I ever wrote. Fittingly, it was a recipe. Making it even more perfect was a connection to Jessica: I’d copied it from a cookbook in her apartment during a visit to New York in May 2009.
Have you seen the news that Ina Garten has a new cookbook coming out, this one framed around her relationship with her husband Jeffrey? I’m not even embarrassed to admit that I gasped out loud when Laura clued me in, and I think most if not all Ina fans probably felt similarly. I also think most if not all Ina fans could make a convincing argument that all of her previous cookbooks have been about her relationship with Jeffrey, but to have one totally truly devoted to it? Be still my heart! There’s a lot to love about this particular marriage, from the gorgeous Hamptons house to the sweet food related gestures to the annual trips to Paris to the props they got on 30 Rock, but what I like best is how genuinely–aspirationally!–delighted by each other they seem after so many years together. I am so looking forward to this new book, especially since I’m confident that it will be full of more genuinely delightful recipes like this one, for baked shrimp scampi.
Three (!) years ago, Jessica and I wrote a post reviewing Bon Appétit’s chicken tikka masala recipe. We concluded that the dish was tasty, but very time-consuming and we were split over whether we’d make it again. Jessica, living in the land of amazing take-out of all varieties, was pretty sure she’d keep ordering in. I figured that I’d lean on the recipe when I moved to Springfield because I assumed that good Indian food would be hard to come by. Jessica was right, I was wrong. As it turns out, Springfield has two terrific Indian places and the one I linked to in my 2013 post has become our go-to Friday night dinner spot. I’ve never cooked the Bon Appétit chicken again.