After an abstemious period of trying to cut back on my cookbook buying, I went on a real tear in the last year and a half-ish. All told, I think we’ve added ten new friends to our already not exactly small cookbook library. Baking books and chef-y books and pasta books and books that Instagram made me have to have and at least two books to magically make weeknight dinners easier. I’ve loved looking at absolutely every one of these, but have only really cooked from one: Julia Turshen’s Small Victories.
My sister recently asked me for my current fave shrimp recipe, and I had an instant answer for her: Melissa Clark’s shrimp scampi, found on The New York Times website. Joie was hunting for shrimp dishes because, as she said, they were only recently back in her life and she kept forgetting that they were once again an option. Having moved from Sweden to California in the fall, she’s still getting used to having non-mini shrimp at every grocery store. I’m not sure if she took this particular Melissa Clark advice–she was a smidge more interested in trying yet another Melissa Clark shrimp hit–but just suggesting it to her was enough to make me need to make this dish again my self. It’s fast as a weeknight dinner can be, delicious, and oh so easy. This makes three MC shrimp recipes I’ve loved enough to blog about, and the third time is just as charmed as the first two.
“Is that the money salad?!” Ed asked last week as I served up a platter of broccoli, grapes, cheddar, onions, and walnuts coated in a warm bacon vinaigrette. “Yes, yes it is,” I said. I hadn’t forgotten how much Ed loved this salad (as did everyone else who tasted it), but I didn’t know he’d nicknamed it. That’s a pretty high honor for a salad built on broccoli.
The first time I made these cookies, Joy the Baker’s chocolate brownie cookies with white chocolate and roasted macadamia nuts, I couldn’t taste them. I was into third week of a month of Whole 30, and taking it so seriously that when I almost absentmindedly licked some chocolate batter off of my finger I squealed and jumped backwards. Despite not being able to take a tester bite, I had a hunch these cookies were the business. For starters, Joy the Baker really knows her way around a delicious sweet. Secondly, the star ingredients–two kinds of chocolate and salted roasted macadamia nuts–are pretty hard to argue with. And finally, there was the smell. Holy heck, did sniffing these cookies while they were baking test every bit of my Whole 30 resolve. I decided right then to make them as soon as I could eat sweets again.
Having a birthday right smack between Christmas and New Years (December 28th, if you’re curious) can feel like a mixed bag, especially as a little kid. On the one and less fun hand, Christmas will of course always overshadow a birthday, and the window for bday excitement is pretty small. But on the other hand and particularly if you have a Christmas elf for a mother who is happy to keep the joyful vibe of the holiday going, you get the fun of getting your birthday presents under the tree. And if you’re very lucky, when you sneak down in the morning to inspect your presents (because yes, my sweet mother put them out overnight just like she did at Christmas) you’ll find an especially special cookie waiting in the oven, having set up and “cooked” overnight: chocolate chip meringues.
Around the holidays, I like to have cake on hand at all times. Cookies are great, too, but it’s cake that really feels festive to me. I like admiring a pretty cake under a dome and I like serving slices of sweetness on Santa Claus plates. As much as I love sinking hours into an elaborate cake project like a Bûche de Noël, the cakes I enjoy most this time of year are the simplest ones. This cranberry torte has been a favorite of mine for a couple of years. It’s a breeze to make, it’s decked out with merry pops of red, and it’s a balanced, sweet-tart treat that feels appropriate at any time of day.
The first time that Hal met most of my New York friends was at a Christmas party I hosted in my first Brooklyn apartment. It felt giddily celebratory for a lot of reasons–I finally had an apartment suited to having a party, I was living in Brooklyn and so much closer to so many of my lovely friends, and I was dating a guy I was really excited about. And, of course, it was a chance to make my favorite treats for some of my favorite people, something absolutely love to do. Hal and I moved in together the following September, and since then we’ve hosted three Christmas parties together (plus a house warming, a baby shower, a rehearsal dinner, and a birthday fete here and there), the last just yesterday. And I still love making my favorite treats for my favorite people. So much so that I’ve developed a pretty set menu for our snacky desserty parties.