Unnecessary Olive Crackers


The holidays had us going non-stop in the happiest way. First, a cross-country flight to spend Christmas week with my family; then, we flew back home (where our cousins were already staying in our house) and had one day to visit with the cousins and cook for our annual New Year’s Day party. After the last of our fifty-plus guests left — carrying goody bags of cookies and candy — we packed for a 2-night stay in Lake Tahoe with three other families. The night after we got back, we hosted old friends for dinner. More

Mom’s Brown and Serve Wheat Germ Rolls

by Caroline

Every Thanksgiving, I think, “Maybe I’ll make a different kind of roll this year. Maybe sweet potato. Or even Parker House. I don’t need so many dozens of rolls.” And every year, I dig up the recipe for my mom’s wheat germ rolls and every year, I am glad that I do. We have no trouble polishing off the whole batch before Thanksgiving weekend ends, one of the boys always helps me stir and knead and shape, and this year, Eli gratified us all by inhaling deeply over the bread basket as we gathered for our feast and sighing, “Oh, these rolls just smell like Thanksgiving.”

I can't imagine where he learned to treat dough like that

dough is fun

this is my favorite kind of time in the kitchen

you'd think with 5-dozen rolls, I might get a picture before they're nearly gone

My Mom’s New Old-School Bean Salad

by Caroline

A staple cookbook of my childhood was Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book. My mom does not at all hate to cook, and I learned how to cook by sous cheffing contentedly at her elbow. But Peg Bracken’s dry wit and realistic take on domestic life — her insistence that a woman (still always a woman) didn’t have to spend her days stuck in the kitchen cooking for her husband and kids — must have been, for women coming of age in the 50s and 60s, like a swipe of vinegar across a cloudy window. Refreshing, sharp, and clarifying.

We learned Crazy Cake from Peg Bracken, we learned Elevator Lady Spice Cookies (which Cassoulet contributor — and my sister — Libby Gruner has written about), and we learned Aunt Bebe’s Bean Bowl, an open-the-cans-and-dump salad with a sweet dressing that was a staple of our church potlucks and picnics. “Don’t be afraid of that three-quarters of a cup of sugar, incidentally, as I was,” Bracken writes. “I thought, ‘This will never work out!’ and I thought, further, “Who is that fond of beans?’ But it did and I was.”

I loved that bean salad, but I cannot bring myself to buy canned green or wax beans these days, and making it without canned beans just seems to defeat the purpose. So here’s my mom to the rescue, with her updated bean salad for today’s kitchens, a whole lot fresher and greener but still just as easy. Don’t be afraid of those raisins, incidentally, as I was; I thought, this will never work out! And, I thought further, who is that fond of beans? But it did, and I am.

Black Bean & Chick Pea Salad

1 cup raisins
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup fresh cilantro or chopped Italian parsley
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and black pepper
15 ounces chick peas
15 ounces black beans

In a small saucepan, combine the raisins, vinegar, oil and sugar and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, toss chickpeas and black beans, cilantro (or parsley), scallions & raisin mixture with cumin, plus salt and pepper to taste.

Serves lots!

Homemade Nutella or, Because it’s there

by Caroline

I guess I feel about recipes the way some people feel about mountains. It’s there in front of you, so why not give it a shot? There is really no pressing need to make nutella (you could push it and say there’s no pressing need to eat nutella, but I won’t go so far), but when you find a recipe that looks so easy, and promises a result so delicious, why not? Besides, it’s summer. And in summer, we say yes.

1 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 10-11 minutes, or until fragrant. Wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub them to remove the skin; use your fingers as they cool and do the best you can — it won’t all come off. Let the nuts cool.

Grind the nuts in the food processor until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and continue blending until smooth and spreadable.

This keeps at room temperature for three days, apparently, or in the fridge for two months, but we wouldn’t know.