dinner

Spaghetti with Garlic and Bread Crumbs

by Lisa

This recipe comes straight out of Lidia’s Italy–I have what seems like and endless stream of recorded programs, which I generally don’t get around to watching. But this weekend I did and on Sunday I made this simple, comforting pasta. It has 5 ingredients and comes together in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta–which means it’s also perfect for a busy weeknight. It’s also made from ingredients:  pasta, garlic, day old bread, olive oil, oregano–that you will very often have on hand. You can watch Lidia cook it for Al Roker here (and add spinach to the basic recipe).  My adaptation is below. It’s faithful to the spirit and the technique of the basic recipe, but it was a rainy Sunday, so I wasn’t about to go out for bucatini, though I would have liked to, and I didn’t have any oregano dried, so I substituted parsley and sage, which may be nontraditional, but was very good. I added a side dish of cauliflower roasted with olive oil, whole garlic cloves, and seasoned bread crumbs, which would have been just as good tossed in the pasta.

Spaghetti with garlic and bread crumbs

adapted from Lidia Bastianich

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 3/4 loaf day old bread, shredded into coarse crumbs (use a box grater or your food processor; you might have to cut off some of the hard crust)
  • lots of thinly sliced garlic (about 6 large cloves, but to your taste)
  • olive oil
  • 4-5 sage leaves, chopped finely
  • 1 T parsely, chopped finely
  • salt
  1. Bring water to a boil. Salt and cook pasta.
  2. While pasta is cooking, pour about 1/4 cup of oil in heavy pan. The oil should coat the bottom of the pan
  3. Cook garlic for a minute or two, until it begins to soften.
  4. Add bread crumbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread crumbs are nicely toasted. You want them nicely browned, so they have some crunch.
  5. Add sage & parsley (or dried oregano), stir.
  6. Turn off heat.
  7. When pasta is finished, drain and add to the pan, tossing to coat.
  8. Serve on a large platter, with grated cheese.

Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup

by Caroline


It’s November in San Francisco, which means that I am facing the annual disconnect between the food my New England-raised body feels like I should eat and the food appropriate for our sunny and warm days. The New Englander in me says “Turn on the oven! Roast vegetables! Make soups!” while the Californian wants a salad.

This week, the New Englander won.

I’ll link to the recipe I followed for pumpkin black bean soup, with a reminder that it is soup, so you can be flexible. I roasted the smallest of our CSA pumpkins and scooped all the flesh into the soup pot, without measuring, but it was probably more like five cups. My cans of black beans are 15 ounces, not 19, so that’s what I used. I didn’t have any canned tomatoes, but did have some of last summer’s frozen roasted balsamic tomatoes (made without the leeks and pureed immediately into a sauce) which looked like about two cups (but I did not measure.) I had about a tablespoon of sherry left in the bottle, so tossed that in with a glug of last week’s Sauvignon Blanc. The soup was delicious, and it’ll never taste quite the same way as it did last night. That, to me, is one of the charms of soup.

Now he is six

by Lisa

As Ella remarked last week,  while I was making meatballs and spaghetti, and red sauce and a chocolate layer cake, which came after the 3 dozen cookies made for his class, and after the schoolday breakfast of pancakes, but before the Wizard Party attended by 23 five-year-old boys and a few girls, “Birthdays are a lot of work for moms.”

She is right. Because Professor Mumblemore was about to leave for his European tour,  we I had two events to put together in 3 days. It was not fun. Harry Finn had a blast, especially when he was impersonating Keith Richards.

Or Harry  Potter.

The food at the wizard party was very basic: hot pretzels and apples for snack upon the 5 pm arrival; pizza; ice cream cake.  The boys and two girls were much more interested in the magic than the food. And honestly, the party was pretty magical, even if it was very hastily thrown together, and I didn’t have quite enough food for all of the parents who stayed to enjoy the festivities. (I found some bottles of wine, some hummus, some pita chips, some salamis….).

The family dinner took more time:  spaghetti and meatballs, red sauce, chard, garlic bread.  My meatballs are slightly different every time I make them, but this time I made them with 1/2 beef and 1/2 fresh sausage, to which I added lots of minced garlic, chopped parsely, bread, milk, an egg, a little salt and pepper. I make them small, bake them until browned, then finish them in the sauce, which this time was a double recipe of Marcella Hazan’s simple red sauce (large can tomatoes + 1 stick butter + 1 onion, halved; simmered together. Remove the onion before serving) made with the tomatoes I roasted and froze at the end of the summer. It was a winning combination. But I was way too exhausted to get a good picture. Below, the boy’s cake for the family party.


There’s something deeply satisfying at seeing your child transported by joy on his birthday. And while this had nothing to do with the food, and almost everything to do with building Hogwarts out of Lego, people needed to be fed, and Finn got to choose the terms, which is a privelege I’m happy to grant him once a year.

Eli’s Elegant Broccoli

by Caroline


I won’t claim to take as much time with presentation as Lisa does, but Eli is either paying more attention than I thought to my small efforts or he is simply reading this blog. The recipe he invented yesterday (with production assistance from Tony) shows he’s as careful with style as substance.

The plan was for our regular rice with tofu and vegetables. I don’t make dinner often under even the best of circumstances; now, after a week locked into a bad head cold, I was just on the sidelines, listening, as Eli chatted about developing a new recipe for the broccoli. His first idea was to serve the cooked spears dipped in beaten egg. Tony balked. Eli cried. I thought about various other nice things into which one can dip one’s vegetables. There was a long conversation on the couch during which Tony successfully distracted Eli from his recipe long enough to return to cooking. We thought the recipe was forgotten, but I should have known my tenacious child would find a way to make his recipe work.

Dinner approached, and then Eli said, “I have another idea for my recipe!” I held my breath.
But in the end, it was OK.

Eli’s Elegant Broccoli

Prepare one head of broccoli by separating the spears and steaming lightly. While it’s cooking, melt a couple tablespoons of butter and let cook until it browns very slightly. Add a sprinkle of brown sugar. Serve in a shallow bowl with the broccoli spears surrounding it.

Now our proud boy wants to write a cookbook; I think we will.

Sausage with Apples and Potatoes

By Lisa

This is one of those fast and comforting foods you can be happy to serve on a busy weeknight or for an early afternoon Sunday dinner. It came about one day last winter when I was staring at what was left in my pantry and freezer. What spoke to me:  apples, potatoes, an onion, a pre-cooked sausage.  Since then, I’ve made the dish with chicken-apple sausage or kielbasa and both are good. It’s fast and needs little tending.  You can increase or–as we do–decrease the amount of meat to your taste, so it’s more of a flavoring/side accent.  My kids love all of it and I love that it’s a one dish meal.


Baked Sausage with Apples and Potatoes

Serves 4+

  • 1 link pre-cooked kielbasa or about 3 links of pre-cooked sweet sausage, about 3/4-1 lb total
  • 2 apples
  • 1 medium to large sweet onion (red or maui work best)
  • about 3 potatoes
  1. Core and slice apples into 6-8 wedges.
  2. Slice potatoes into sizes similar to apples.
  3. Slice onion into 8 pieces.
  4. Put potatoes and onion in oven proof casserole dish. Sprinkle with salt and olive oil. Bake at 350 until potatoes are nearly tender, about 40 minutes.
  5. Add apples and sausage to casserole, placing sausage on top.
  6. Bake until apples are tender/soft and sausages are well-heated through, about 20 minutes.
  7. Serve with your favorite mustard and a green salad with a mustard-based vinaigrette (white balsamic vinegar + mustard+ 1 smashed clove garlic + olive oil)