Broccoli. So much broccoli. I know I shouldn’t complain but broccoli is just about the only vegetable the girls will reliably eat. And when I say eat I mainly mean the “leaves” of the “broccoli trees.” The trunks? Nooooo, they won’t touch that part. This means there are an awful lot of stalks left over when we buy a bunch of broccoli. So, if Beyonce can make Lemonade out of lemons, Ima make some broccoli soup.
There have got to be more than a million recipes for meatballs and spaghetti, but this one is near-and-dear to our hearts. Willa and Phoebe’s grandmother, their Nona, grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn; her father was off-the-boat from Italy as a young boy. Nona has passed this family recipe down to my wife and her sister, which we now follow as faithfully as possible every time we’re in the mood for the truest comfort food we know. This sauce is a good-old Brooklyn-style gravy, as they like to call it on our current neighborhood. My wife’s family just calls it “red gold.”
Aside from this dish being a sure-fire way to fill up Willa and Phoebe’s bellies (they know it as “ring pasta” and it often ties as a favorite along with Bucatini all’Amatriciana) , it also stirs up some strong memories for me. As a latchkey kid growing up on Long Island, I would try to help out by cooking dinner every once in a while. Before this sounds like a significant tooting of horn, let me clarify: I boiled some frozen tortellini. The exact recipe was cooking the tortellini in four cups of water with four chicken bouillon cubes. Mmmmm, salt.
Every fall the “boys” in the family, plus a few more, gather from all along the east coast and head to Lake George in upstate New York for a long weekend of golf, poker, and good times. My communal duty for the trip is to cook a special dinner on Friday, and each year I try to cook something new. The meal needs to satisfy a hungry crowd after a long, hard day on the golf course (queue violins), but simple enough to get on the table early in order to avoid interfering with the evening’s poker tourney. This year’s meal was such a winner that I cooked it again as soon as I got home to give it the Willa and Phoebe test!
Something about the end of summer makes me think of frying foods a little more often. Maybe I need a fix for the fried clams and french fries we eat during those trips to the beach (sadly, very under-represented these past few months). Maybe it’s some sort of reflexive reaction to the impending fall and winter, when eating lighter than beef or pork still requires a little something extra to stick to your ribs.
I spied this recipe for Spaghetti alla Nerano on Food52 a couple of weeks ago and was immediately intrigued. Once or twice a week we try to get the girls to try a new food. We’re also not above a little assistance to make that happen, and pretty much any dish that involves pasta gets us halfway home. Since like most parents we’re generally obsessed with getting them to eat green veggies, our goal for this meal was simple: eat the zucchini.
This is a companion post to Grilled Lemon-Garlic Pork Chops with Mint-Parsley Salsa Verde.
Summertime! The sprinklers in the parks are back on, Willa and Phoebe’s knees are all skinned and scabbed, and it’s time for rosé and BBQs. Unlike many renters in Brooklyn who are forced to drag their grills to Prospect Park to light one up, we’re extremely lucky to have backyard access. Granted it’s down two flights of stairs and a trek through a dungeon-like basement. And the yard itself is nothing to take pictures of, filled with weeds and mosquitos. But none of that really matters once the taste of grilled meat hits your tongue.
My favorite Thai restaurant recently got a new delivery guy, and I apparently did something very, very wrong to him in a previous life. Whenever I place a lunch order, 30 minutes later there is always a phone call: “I forgot my ID” [to get into the building], or “I’m downstairs” [when he is still five city blocks away]. And he’s just generally mean. Did you ever see Better Off Dead? He is the newspaper boy reincarnated as a Thai restaurant delivery man, except worse because I’ve prepaid his tip via Seamless.
I’m still mostly proud of the fact that my first food service industry job was at Taco Bell. I loooooooved Taco Bell in high school, so much that I got a part-time job there my senior year and still went there a few times a week during lunch period. I became convinced TB was the healthiest fast food option, not so much because of what you ate but rather how they prepared it—that is to say remotely and with no grubby hands all over the food. Everything came in a bag already prepared: chopped lettuce, chopped tomatoes, even the beef came in a bag that you boiled to bring up to temperature before slicing it open and sliding it into a steam table. And using something exactly like a caulking gun to shoot guacamole and sour cream on those tacos and burritos is just plain fun.