Oy, Oy! Uncle Mordecai!

So apparently I'm not that great at remembering certain holidays. First Pi Day, now Purim. There was also that time that I forgot my little sister Emily's 9th birthday while we were both at summer camp, but I'm pretty sure she's gotten over that. And technically Purim was before Pi Day, but that is irrelevant because, if you haven't figured it out yet, there's something you should probably know about me: I'm not that great at being Jewish.

To be fair, I'm probably not much worse at Judaism than a normal Reform Jew. ...Fine, maybe a little worse. Organized religion is just not a major force in my life. I do, however, very much like being Jewish. I may not be a particularly religious person, but culturally, I'm very happy to be part of the tribe. Jews have a rich cultural and culinary history, and I love being part of it all... especially the culinary part. Between brisket, matzoh ball soup, chopped chicken liver, blintzes, knishes, latkes, kugel, challah, schmaltz, falafel and, of course, bagels, Jews have cornered the market on delicious. Which brings me to those sweet little triangular symbols of Purim: hamantashen.

The story of Purim centers around a King named Ahasuerus, his Queen, Esther, her good uncle, Mordecai, and a bad man named Haman. Essentially, the evil Haman hatches a plot to wipe out all of the Jews in the ancient Persian empire, but good Mordecai learns of the awful plan and teams up with Queen Esther (herself secretly a Jew) to foil Haman's plans. ...That's the abridged version, anyway. At any rate, all's well that ends well, and today, the festival of Purim celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from Haman's wicked plot to destroy them. Which brings me back to the hamantashen.

Hamantashen (sometimes spelled hamantaschen, or homentashen, or homentaschen... you get the idea) are small triangular cookies, traditionally filled with poppy seed or prune jam, though I've enjoyed them with many different fillings, including cherry and, my favorite, apricot. The cookies are shaped like triangles to reference Haman's three-cornered hat which, though you may not be aware, is famous. It even has a commemorative song that my kindergarten class once took much pride in mastering:

My hat it has three corners,
Three corners has my hat.
And if it not three cornered,
It would not be my hat.

Very simple and to-the-point, but really quite charming. Much like a little plate of hamantashen, actually.

I really should have known better than to mess with years of Jewish culinary tradition, but mess I did. I tried to make my own version of hamantashen, using whole apricot halves instead of apricot jam, and using a shortbread cookie as the base instead of the traditional butter-less (!) cookie dough. Needless to say, it didn't really work out as planned.

I mixed and chilled the shortbread dough, cut it into thin cookie rounds, topped each circle of dough with a dollop of sweetened creme fraiche and half of a sweet peach (I couldn't find any apricots at the store, fresh or jarred),

and then pinched the doughy corners of the circular cookie to form a nice, hat-shaped triangle around the peach half. Success!

...Nope. I don't know if the peach halves were too big, or if the shortbread is just too heavy a dough to be molded like that, but my "hamantashen" just didn't want to be shaped like triangles. "To heck with Haman's hat," they screamed when I pulled them out of the oven, looking delicious but defiantly round and un-hamantashen-y. "Fine!" I yelled back, biting into a warm, golden cookie and sopping up the peach juice running down my chin. I mean really, what did you expect? I told you... I'm not a very good Jew.

"Hamantashen" Cookies with Whole Fruit Halves

Instead of looking like three-cornered hats, these cookies come out of the oven looking exactly like little sunny-side up eggs, which is actually how the recipe that inspired me means for them to come out. You know what they say: if it ain't broke, don't let Molly futz with it. Next time I'll just skip the triangles and call these "sunny-side up cookies," or else I'll re-try the hamantashen with regular pie dough (instead of shortbread) and smaller fruit halves. You could use any stone fruit for these cookies - I bet they would be delicious with poached fresh plums. You could also substitute prepared vanilla pudding or pastry cream for the creme fraiche mixture. Either way, let me know how they turn out, three-cornered or otherwise.


For the dough:
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the filling:
  • 12-14 apricot halves (either from a jar or can or poached fresh apricots)
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • A few Tablespoons of apricot jam


First, make the shortbread dough. Sift the flour and salt together in a medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer (if using), mix together the butter and sugar until just combined. Add the vanilla, and then the flour/salt mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump the dough onto a floured board and shape into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 small or 1 large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the shortbread until it's about 1/4-inch thick, and cut large rounds from the dough using a cookie cutter or the top of a large cup or glass. Place dough rounds onto the cookie sheet(s).

In a small bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche, vanilla, and sugar. Using a small spoon, dollop a spoonful of creme fraiche into the center of each round cookie. Place an apricot half on top of each dollop of creme fraiche. The cookies will now look like little sunny-side up eggs.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the shortbread is lightly browned and the kitchen smells absolutely divine.

Brush the fruit halves with apricot jam for an extra boost of flavor and to help them stay fresh and shiny.

Makes roughly 12-14 sunny-side up cookies, or "hamentashen for mediocre Jews."


Tarts: Like Pies But Snootier

So, let's talk about the elephant in the room. I know you're all wondering why I failed to write a post to commemorate the very important holiday that took place last Saturday, and I'd just like to take this opportunity to apologize for skipping over such an important day in the calendar year. I'm sorry. Never again will I neglect to document the delicious events of Pi Day.

Pi Day! You know, March 14th! March 14th... 3/14. As in, the appropriate number day to celebrate that mathmatical phenomenon we call Pi: 3.1415blahblahnumbersnumbersuntilinfinity. Pi! It's a number that goes on forever. Forever! It's going on right now, actually. This very second. ...Whoa.

My appreciation for Pi Day began in the sixth grade. My teachers held a contest on March 14th to see which student could memorize the most digits in Pi. A kid named Matthew won, after memorizing upwards of some 80-odd digits. I guess that's pretty good, except when you think about the fact that it's only 80 out of infinity. Not great percentage-wise. Of course, I didn't get much past 3.1415, but that's because I was distracted by pie. The dessert, not the number. I mean really, is there much of a contest? There were tables lined with pie to help celebrate Pi Day; there was blueberry, apple, peach, strawberry rhubarb... who cares about numbers when you're staring at a table full of strawberry rhubarb pie?

There was no strawberry rhubarb this year, but there was a delicious Alsatian pizza pie. I suppose pizza is a different approach to Pi Day, but I think it works just as well. This way you don't have to wait for dessert to start celebrating. Now then, the Alsatian pizza. Charlie and I ordered one on Saturday night at Picco, one of my favorite restaurants in Boston. It came out of the kitchen piled with gruyere, lardons (a fancy way of saying bacon) and creme fraiche, and it was speckled with woodsy rosemary spears and flecks of lemony thyme. Simply put, it was superb, and it inspired me to make an adapted version for last night's dinner - a savory Alsatian tart.

Now I know that a tart is not a pie, pizza or otherwise, but I think of tarts and pies as being related. Sort of like cousins, where pie is the hearty, Midwestern, sweet yet rough-around-the-edges gal, and the tart is her sleek, elegant, slightly snooty cousin from France. I often want to hang out with pie and bask in her wholesome simplicity, but occasionally I'm in the mood to spend time with someone a bit more sophisticated. Or at least someone who incorporates more bacon.

Enter, Alsatian tart. With tangy cheese, melty, caramelized onions, and crispy bacon, this (not at all snooty) tart gives strawberry rhubarb pie a run for its money. Happy belated Pi Day!

Alsatian Tart with Caramelized Onions, Bacon, and Creme Fraiche

A word to the wise: you will want to eat more than one piece of this tart. Don't. I mean, you could if you really wanted to, but you may regret it. Between the butteriness of the crust, the saltiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the onions, and the creaminess of both the gruyere and creme fraiche, this is one rich tart. I had two pieces for dinner last night, and my tummy was scolding me all the way to bed. I suggest pairing one slice of Alsatian tart with a crisp salad of baby greens or roasted asparagus for a delicious and well-balanced lunch or dinner. Your tummy will thank you later.

Note: You could easily make this vegetarian friendly by omitting the bacon (though you may want to add more salt to compensate for the lack of salty meat). If you don't have a tart pan, you could use a regular pie dish instead.


For the crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 Tablespoons (1.5 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup ice water
For the filling:
  • 6 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 Tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
  • A few spoonfuls of creme fraiche

First, make the crust. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump the dough onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out the dough on a floured board and press into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill while you make the filling.

To make the filling, first crisp up the bacon over medium high heat in a large saute pan. When the bacon bits are sufficiently crispy, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain them of grease on a plate covered with a paper towel. Cook the sliced onions in the remaining bacon grease over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions are very soft and lightly browned, just beginning to caramelize.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Add the Gruyere, rosemary, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the browned onions and bacon bits with a fork, until well incorporated. Pour the egg mixture into the tart shell, and dollop spoonfuls of creme fraiche on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is set and the tart is beginning to brown.

Makes one 9-inch tart.


The Trouble with Garlic

Can I tell you what I find troubling about cooking with garlic? Yes? Okay here goes:

Nothing. Nothing at all, actually. In fact, I quite enjoy cooking with garlic. Crackling the plump cloves from their papery package, smashing the fat little boats under the side of a knife to remove their stubborn skin, inhaling that rich, spicy smell that intensifies under a flame, the heat bringing out the tender sweetness of the sharp and tangy bulb...

Oh, sorry. What were you going to say? Garlic breath? No big deal. Don't kiss me. Or, if smooch you must, just have some yourself. Maybe you were going to bring up the way it's almost impossible to get the garlicky smell out of your hands? Yeah, I'm not really bothered. I try not to go around smelling my hands that often. I figure garlic hands are a small price to pay for something like, oh I don't know... Uncle Charlie's Garlicky Fennel Seed Pasta with Kalamata Olives. For example.

Speaking of Uncle Charlie's Garlicky Fennel Seed Pasta with Kalamata Olives, I happened to have some for dinner last night. I know! Small world.

There are many things I enjoy about Uncle Charlie, including his affinity for historical sites, good wine, maps, baseball, crossword puzzles, European countries and public transportation, and his aversion to "loud" music and most forms of modern day technology, including automobiles and that crazy newfangled device called the cell phone. I also enjoy when he drops by to visit for the weekend from Chicago, or wherever else his job in the airline industry has taken him - Paris, Hamburg, San Francisco, Berlin. He usually brings me things. Things like wine books, knit hats bearing logos of European soccer teams, old maps, macaron cookies from La Duree in Paris. One time he brought me a ginormous beer mug from Oktoberfest in Berlin. It's huge and ceramic and has a picture of a pretty blond woman in lederhosen painted on the side. I use it as a vase to hold fresh tulips.

Anyway, this weekend happened to be one when Uncle Charlie came to visit. Besides spending time at the bookstore and drinking thick hot chocolate from a place called Burdick in Harvard Square,

Charlie and I made garlicky fennel seed pasta with kalamata olives. It's his specialty. I'm going to tell you about it because it's phenomenal, and I fully expect you to want to vigorously shake my hand as a thank you for sharing the recipe. But, please don't. I'm still a bit under the weather, and hand-shaking encourages germ sharing. Plus my hands smell like garlic.

Uncle Charlie's Garlicky Fennel Seed Pasta with Kalamata Olives

Charlie first made this dish for me roughly ten years ago, when I was in high school, visiting him in his studio apartment in Chicago for a few days over the summer. To be honest, I didn't really appreciate it back then - that was before I wised up and started liking olives. I don't know what I was thinking, really, because Uncle Charlie's Garlicky Fennel Seed Pasta with Kalamata Olives is delicious. It's an explosion of spicy and sweet and salty, which is amazing considering how few ingredients are involved. It's simultaneously chewy and crunchy, and I just love how the pasta is polka dotted with shiny, round, deep purple olives. However, be warned: this dish is possibly addicting. Uncle Charlie claims to have once gotten addicted to it a few years ago, eating it at least three nights a week for weeks on end. Which really would be fine by me.

As I mentioned, there are very few ingredients involved in this dish, so make sure you buy the best quality olives and cheese you can find. You can find fennel seed in the spice section of most supermarkets. If you're vehemently anti-pits, you could use pitted kalamata olives instead of regular whole ones, but I sometimes find the pitted versions a bit mushy and overly salty with brine.


Olive oil
6-7 large cloves of garlic, chopped into thin round slivers
1.5 Tbsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed (with a mortar & pestle or in a food processor)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more, if you want to go for extra spicy)
1-2 cups fresh kalamata olives, rinsed of excess brine
1 pound dry penne pasta
juice from 1/2 lemon
A good hunk of parmigiano-reggiano cheese


Add the penne to a pot of salted boiling water, and let cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice up your garlic and crush your fennel seed. When the pasta is almost done cooking, coat the bottom of a large, deep skillet or dutch oven with olive oil, and place over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic slices and fry gently until the slices start to turn light brown, about a minute or two. If the garlic is browning too quickly, lower the heat accordingly - do not burn the garlic. Add the red pepper flakes and crushed fennel seeds and let cook, stirring, for about a minute. Stir in the olives and splash of lemon juice.

Drain the pasta and add it to the garlic skillet. Stir the mixture so the pasta becomes coated in olive oil, pepper, garlic and fennel seeds. If the mixture seems dry, add a splash more olive oil.

Serve with heaps of parmigiano-reggiano cheese and a glass of fruity wine. (And don't forget an empty bowl for the olive pits).

Serves about 4.


Many Happy Returns

I've heard that "birthdays are nature's way of telling us to eat more cake." I happen to like this idea. However, on this particular day, March 13th, Gramma Lynn's birthday, I think a more appropriate phrase is: birthdays are nature's way of telling us to drink more vodka.

I mean that in the absolut best way possible. (...Sorry, couldn't resist.)

In all honesty, my Gramma Lynn is the coolest, toughest, classiest broad I know. I've known her for about 24.5 years now, and I just think she's the best. When I was a kid, she used to let me play with her tubes of pink lipstick and eat all the Haagen-Dazs I wanted. She grows her own tomatoes and zucchini, and she can tell you the name of pretty much any flower that grows. She and I share a love for fresh Montauk marlin dip, old movies, PopPop, and Hugh Jackman. She reads the New York Times every day and sometimes sends me interesting articles along with notes in the loopiest, slantiest, prettiest handwriting. She's effortlessly beautiful, like one of those 1940's bombshells, and her signature 5pm drink is just plain admirable: vodka on the rocks with a twist, and a separate glass of ice.

I may be biased, but Grams, I think you're dynamite. And today is your birthday! So do it up, girl - you deserve it. I love you!

See? I wasn't kidding. Gorgeous. ("Goh-juss.")

Vodka on the Rocks with a Twist (and a Separate Glass of Ice)

Warning: this drink is not for the faint of heart. It helps if your ancestors came from Russia. Enjoy this bold libation while you listen to Frank Sinatra and watch the Montauk sunset.

  • Ketel One Vodka (make sure to call it "wudka")
  • Splash of club soda
  • One thick orange wedge
  • Lots of ice

Fill a rocks glass until it's brimming with ice. Squeeze the orange wedge over the ice, and drop the wedge into the glass. Fill the glass 3/4 of the way with vodka. Add a quick splash of club soda. Drink slowly, replenishing the ice as necessary.

Disclaimer: I know that this technically isn't vodka with a twist, since it uses a full orange wedge instead of just the peel. It's just the Gramma way. Tomato Tomahto.

Serves 1.

Feed a Cold

I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. After months spent avoiding sneezing coworkers and internally repeating my wintertime stay-healthy mantra (you will not get sick, it’s all mental, you will not get sick, it’s all mental…), I have come down with a cold. Quite a nasty one, in fact. Currently, my nose is running to California, my cough is as dry as the Sahara, and my head feels as though it has detached itself from the rest of me and is just kind of buzzing around near my neck. Attractive, no?

Ahem…no. But you know what they say: feed a cold, starve… something. Whatever, it’s not important. What’s important is the turkey corn chili.

I decided to make turkey chili after talking to Emily about the South Beach diet, which basically involves lots of lean protein and veggies and no sugar or carbs or something. I don’t really know. Lately, my attitude towards dieting is similar to that of Jean Kerr, who once said: “I feel about airplanes the way I feel about diets. It seems to me that they are wonderful things for other people to go on.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on my fair share of weight watching regimens, but I’ve sort of just thrown up my hands with the whole thing. I mean, I like food. A lot. There’s chewy pasta, buttery steak, fresh, juicy oranges, creamy, nutty cheese, crunchy, crumbly bread, and oh! Chocolate. There’s always chocolate. And I figure I should be allowed to eat all of these things, so long as I don’t over-eat them. Sounds fair, right? Apparently it’s some foreign concept called “moderation.” Who knew?

At any rate, talking with Em about lean protein and veggies made me think of turkey corn chili, and I knew I had to make some immediately. So last night I put down the Kleenex and threw together a big pot of the stuff, and let me tell you, proverbial saying or no proverbial saying, my cold is grateful.

My sniffles were tamed as I curled up on the couch with my hot bowl of chili, the tomato-y broth warming my insides and the fiery blend of chili powder, jalapeño and scallion helping me successfully breathe through my nose. Sighing contentedly, I thought about how silly it is, having a cold. The sneezing, the sniffling, the coughing. It really is all mental, you know.

Happily chopped veggies, waiting to join the pot.

Here's where, in my sniffly haze, I went ahead and cut myself on a sharply opened can of kidney beans. Brutal, huh? ...What's that? Oh, no. That's tomato paste. See that little cut on my middle finger? That's the painful flesh wound.

Turkey Corn Chili

I really love making chili because it’s substantial and delicious and it only requires one pot. Which means fewer dirty dishes, which means more time to eat peanut m&ms and watch LOST. Made with ground turkey, this chili is light and healthy, yet hearty and satisfying. I normally don’t use zucchini, but I had one in the fridge and wanted to get rid of it, so I threw it in. I think I’ll use zucchini from now on. Combined with the sweet corn, it really gives this dish a light, fresh, spring-is-just-around-the-corner zest. Plus it’s a pretty color. You could substitute ground beef for the turkey, or use pinto or garbanzo beans instead of the kidney beans, if you prefer. Just be sure to watch LOST, because that show is good.

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 lbs ground turkey
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • ½ Tbsp. ground coriander
  • ½ Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 small red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced into half moons
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped (if you like spicy, go for 2 jalapeños, or use 1 and don't take out the seeds. Or really knock yourself out with a habanero chili. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained
  • 1.5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 10 oz. frozen sweet corn kernels
  • Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, for topping
  • Grated Colby Jack cheese, for topping
  • Sliced scallions, for topping

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and let them sweat, until they turn soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute for a minute or two.

Add the ground meat and break up into small chunks with a wooden spoon. Add the chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika and salt, and let the spices meld over the heat while the meat browns, about 5 minutes.

Add the chopped veggies, diced tomatoes with juice, kidney beans, chicken broth and tomato paste, mixing to combine. Let the liquid heat up for 5 minutes or so, then add the corn. Cover the pot and let the chili simmer 10 – 15 minutes, until fragrant and steaming.

Serve with a healthy scoop of sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt, if you’re South Beaching - in which case, skip the corn, too), a sprinkling of shredded cheese, and a handful of sliced scallions. I was very happy to eat this solo, but it would also be delicious over steamed rice or creamy polenta.

Serves about 6.


What a Waste

Okay people, pop quiz! Don’t panic, this one’s easy. What do you do when you see a big bunch of overripe bananas on your kitchen counter?

Anyone fancy a guess? Hmm? What’s that I hear? Make banana cake? YES! You are the smartest.

Now for the bonus question: What do you NOT do when you see a big bunch of overripe bananas on your kitchen counter?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Okay, I’ll tell you. You do NOT, under any circumstance, no matter what, underbake your banana cake. Just don’t do it. Because I did, and let me tell you, it’s awful. Awful! Just… so sad.

There I was on a Wednesday night, happily baking away in my little apartment kitchen, my ipod set to a playlist full of Marvin Gaye, Etta James and Alicia Keys, my mind thoroughly focused on the new banana cake recipe my coworker, Karthi, had recently shared with me. After a little spooning, measuring and mixing, plus a homemade rendition of “I heard it through the grapevine,” my kitchen began to smell sweet with banana and cinnamon – just how a kitchen ought to smell on a chilly evening in March, if you want to know the truth.

That’s when everything went wrong. I peeked in the oven and saw that it was good and brown, so I took out my cake and let it cool before inverting the thing onto a plate. It looked light and springy, and slipped easily out of the pan. Success! Ahem…false.

Apparently I was working with some pretty crafty banana cake, because despite its deliciously brown, moist and springy disguise, one slice revealed the shattering truth: light and springy this cake was not. It was… (gasp)… raw! Full of wet, gooey, raw batter. Yuck.

I should have seen this coming. I should have done the toothpick test. How could I have skipped the toothpick test?! I spooned, I measured, I mixed! And all it got me was a soggy, messy excuse for a banana cake. I ate a piece, because, what a waste! But I was so disheartened I just threw the whole thing out. Somewhere, Al Gore is frowning at me. I’m sorry, Al! Blame it on the toothpick (or lack thereof).

So, as it stands, the score is currently

Banana Cake: 1 Molly: 0

Whatever, banana cake. I call a rematch. And this time, I will eat you for breakfast.

Crafty Banana Cake Slash Muffins

Adapted from Karthi’s recipe

To be fair, Karthi’s recipe involved muffins. Fully baked ones. Karthi is a smart person, and I suggest you stick with her and leave the bundt pan at home. The batter from this recipe is quite delicate, as it contains no oil or butter, and it’s decidedly better suited for small, light muffins instead of a large cake. Properly baked, this batter becomes light and springy, with pockets of soft banana and chocolaty chips.

  • 6 medium, overripe bananas
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup plain yogurt (whole milk yogurt is best, but use whatever you have)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 3 x 4 muffin pans (or use muffin liners).

Mash up the bananas in a bowl with a fork, and add the egg, yogurt, vanilla and sugar, mixing to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing to combine. Add the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into muffin tins, and place the tins in the oven. Bake for 15-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean. Try not to forget this last step, if you can help it.

Makes 24 muffins.

Note: Though these are wonderful as-is, if you’re looking to doll the little guys up, add some pecans to the batter, and top them with cream cheese frosting, a plain sugar glaze, or a simple dusting of confectioner’s sugar.


Potage Parmentier

I recently finished a book called Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. It was written by a woman named Julie Powell (Amherst graduate, holler) who gave herself one year to make every single recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1. Just so we’re clear, that’s 524 recipes. In 365 days. I won’t ruin the book by telling you exactly what happens to Ms. Powell over the course of the year, but I will say that the result of such an ambitious project involves aspic, sautéed kidneys, bone marrow sauce… and Potage Parmentier.

Having never attempted a Julia Child recipe, I was inspired by reading Julie and Julia and, not being an offal girl myself (though I will admit that liver does have its merits), I decided to give Potage Parmentier a try. All that means is potato soup, by the way. In this case, it means potato leek soup. But, in keeping with my affinity for all things French (toast, fries, kisses, etc.), I prefer to call it Potage Parmentier. If, dear reader, you are of the “freedom fries” sort who finds this sentiment unpatriotic and/or communistic, please feel free to disregard the French name and just call this soup “delicious.”

Because it is. Délicieux! And, most importantly, it’s easy. Julia Child herself called Potage Parmentier “simplicity itself to make.” Amen to that, JC. All it takes is some peeling and chopping, and then everything gets thrown into a big pot (and if you have a roommate like mine who is an expert potato peeler, all the better). We made the Potage on Saturday, before Andy, Alyssa, and Sadie came over for dinner.

At first, peeling and chopping and boiling away, I was excited. So quick! So easy! I even threw a rind of parmesan cheese into the simmering pot to liven up the soup’s flavor. But then, after some immersion blending, I started to doubt myself. The puréed soup looked unappetizing. The color was a light-yellowish-beige, and the whole thing smelled less than slurp-worthy. It just seemed sort of… eh.

I needn’t have worried. My brave dinner guests took hot bowls of soup, topped with a splash of cream, crispy pancetta, and fresh chives, and sat down at the table. After many precautionary announcements detailing the quickness with which I could get pizza delivered, if necessary, we all picked up our spoons.

After that, I don’t really remember. Just a lot of slurping, I think. I do recall hearing the clinking sound of metal on ceramic…sort of like spoons scraping the bottoms of bowls. Actually, between the wine, the creamy, bacony Potage, the sweet strawberries and these cookies,

(which should really be called “death by chocolate cookies,” but that’s a whole other post), I’m surprised I didn’t black out entirely.

In any case, it seems I was able to snap a few blurry photos of the evening. Mostly empty bowls, as it turns out. Well played, Mrs. Childs… well played.

Potage Parmentier
Adapted from Julia Child’s recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1

Though it doesn’t call for many ingredients, this soup is hearty and filling. To cut the richness, you could omit adding the cream at the end (though, really, this wouldn’t be something I endorse). The parmesan rind adds a round nuttiness to the flavor of the soup, which pairs nicely with the topping of crisp, smoky pancetta. If I had a food mill, I’d use it instead of a blender to purée the Potage. The result would be a slightly thicker-textured soup, which I prefer. But, to each her own – purée away, if you’re so inclined (or if your kitchen lacks certain food milling appliances). Either way, reheated leftovers make deliciously satisfying lunches and weeknight dinners. Even without leftover chocolate cookies for dessert.

  • 8-10 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 large leeks, sliced (white and tender green parts only), well cleaned of sand and grit
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • About 2 quarts of chicken broth or water (about two 32-ounce cartons of chicken broth, if using store bought)
  • 1 thick parmesan cheese rind (you can find these sold in the cheese section of most markets - I found mine at Whole Foods)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons salt, plus more to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 small carton of whipping cream
  • 10 slices of pancetta, chopped
  • Fresh chives, chopped


Combine the potatoes, leeks, and onions in a large stock pot. Add chicken stock (or water) to cover the veggies with an extra inch or two of liquid. Add the salt, cover, and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat to bring the mixture to a simmer, and add the parmesan cheese rind. Simmer, covered, for 40-50 minutes.

Remove the parmesan rind from the soup (it will be very soft and melty), and let the mixture cool slightly before puréeing to desired texture (using an immersion blender, regular blender or evasive food mill). Add more salt and some pepper to taste. Reheat over a low flame until ready to serve.

While the soup is reheating, toss the chopped pancetta in a large frying pan and sautée until crispy. Drain over paper towels.

Off the heat and just before serving, stir in cream by spoonfuls (I let my dinner-mates add the cream to their own bowls – it’s fun and doesn’t let you under- or overdo it). Top with some crisp pancetta and chives. Slurps, I mean, serves 6-8.