A Trooper

If I ever have to spend some time at a hospital, as a patient I mean, I'd like for you to bring me a milkshake. Milkshakes are an appropriate gift any time, of course, but I think being a patient at a hospital, especially, calls for a black and white or, at least, a coffee milkshake.

Grandma seems to like them. Grandma's in the hospital, recovering from some pretty major cardiac surgery. Without going into all the aortic details, I’ll just say that it was scary stuff, and dammit all to hell if all those tubes and wires and nurses and drips and drugs wouldn't just make me lose my mind. But, not Grandma.

She has her good days and bad, but Grams is what we like to call a trooper. Like, with a capital T. She ignores all the wires, the needles, the web of plastic tubes. She got agitated in the Intensive Care Unit, not because she was, well, in the ICU, but because she found out that the Yankees had lost their two-game lead in the AL East. Hooked up to multiple beeping screens and monitors, she smiles at the nurses who come in to prick her already purple fingers (under the guise of "checking sugar levels," load of finger-bruising hogwash, if you ask me), jokes with the physical therapists who make her walk the halls until she's breathless, refuses to flinch while throwing back her daily 12-pill cocktail and, through the entire ordeal, somehow emerges with absolutely flawless hair.

As beautifully as she’s handling the whole thing, it’s not been easy. It’s hard to watch someone you love in pain, being uncomfortably poked and prodded and pushed to exhaustion, and handle the fact that you can do, oh, nothing about it.

Except, of course, bring food. Forget the fact that all of the meds leave Grandma with virtually no appetite – I don’t really care. A milkshake, some applesauce, freshly baked biscotti, home made egg salad – these are things I can control and, well, I’m bringing them. Never mind that it’s usually Gram’s many visitors, and not Gram herself, doing most of the snacking. It makes me feel better to be rolling and cutting biscotti, chopping veggies, to be armed with a milkshake as I roam the stark hospital corridors.

I’m not sure when Grandma will be out of the hospital – hopefully pretty soon – but one thing is for certain – pricked and bruised and wired and tubed she may be, but she’ll definitely never be hungry.

Grandma’s Roast Chicken with Onions and Potatoes

It’s hard having a Grandma in the hospital, but it’s equally hard having a mother whose mother is in the hospital. Mom’s been driving herself into the ground trying to stay on top of her already stressful job and keep an eagle eye on Gram’s care, so I made this chicken to have in the house, where it’d be waiting as an easy and comforting dinner after long days spent shuttling from the office to the hospital and back again.


  • 2-3 medium onions, sliced into half-rings
  • ¾ pound baby yellow or Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced in half
  • olive oil
  • 1 whole chicken (bone-in & skin-on), cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • salt
  • pepper


Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Toss the onion slices and potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper, and arrange on the bottom of a large glass baking dish.

Rub the chicken pieces with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken, skin-side up, on top of the onion/potato bed.

Slice the lemon in half, and squeeze the juice from ½ the lemon over the chicken, onions and potatoes. Cut a few thin slices of lemon and arrange on top of the dish. Squeeze the juice of the remaining piece of lemon onto the casserole.

Sprinkle a generous amount of thyme leaves, and a few whole thyme stems, on top of the chicken, onions and potatoes.

Bake the chicken at 400ºF for about an hour, until the skin gets dark and crispy and the meat’s juices run clear. Serve with a bit of rice and a crisp arugula salad.

Note: this dish can easily be made ahead of time – just let the chicken cool before storing it in the fridge or freezer, and, when you’re ready to eat, cover the dish with foil and reheat in a 350º oven for about ½ hour.

Serves 4-6.


Just Fine By Me

So... that happened.

Summer? Over. Private chef duties? Done like dishes.

vanilla cream cheese frosting covers carrot cake with walnuts

shrimp salad in zucchini ribbons

chocolate chip meringue cookies

vanilla flower cupcakes

tomato artichoke salad cups

chocolate chip pecan blondies

A few days ago, Labor Day came and went, oblivious to its surroundings, including a fake hurricane on Long Island (Earl who?), an accepted proposal (congrats, Laura and Peter!), a subsequent celebratory family dance party (work it, Aunt Lissie) and, finally, the end of my employment in the Hamptons (yes! Not that I didn't like it. I'm just, you know, glad it's over).

To be honest, as jobs go, this one wasn't all bad; I got to cook everyday, and I got paid to do it. I learned how best to accommodate a family with different preferences and tastes, and how to cook for a crowd on short notice. I got to experiment with menu ideas and recipes, and discovered that I make damn good biscotti. And scones. And coconut cake.

Living and working in someone else's house in a town miles from anyone you know and love, though, can feel pretty isolating. And by "pretty isolating," I mean "real effing lonely." So when Labor Day finally rolled around, I left my post in Bridgehampton and scooted as quickly as possible to Gramma's house in Montauk, to soak up the last days of summer with some good food, a hammock, and, best of all, my family.

seared sea scallops & quinoa

fresh cut watermelon

I think I've made it pretty clear how much I love my family, but, if you'll indulge me, I think it bears repeating. My family is big (and getting bigger - welcome, Jeannie and Peter!), loud, and wonderful. We celebrate with gusto. We joke, we eat, we dance around a beer bottle. We watch the sun set on the beach and then sit on Gramma's deck, under the stars, our heads back, watching shooting stars paint the open sky.

Aaron, Katie, Molly, Peter

Ben & Katie

Laura & Peter. He put a ring on it.

Uncle Brad

Aunt Marie, Dana, Aunt Lissie

Matt & Patty

Ben & Aaron

I guess Peter's funny

Laura, Julie & Jeannie

rum & tonic

some cousins

So, as far as summers go? I'd say this one was just fine by me.

Laura and Peter's Engagement Fluke
(see what I did there? Eh? Ehh? Zing.)

  • 2 lbs jumbo fluke fillet (or any other white fish, such as halibut), skin removed
  • 3 medium sweet onions
  • 1 large bulb fennel and a handful of chopped fennel fronds
  • olive oil
  • 1.5 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1.5 tsp dried thyme
  • salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup white wine or triple sec

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Peel the onions, and cut each one in half. Then, slice the onion halves thinly, into 1/4- or 1/8-inch slices. Set aside. Cut off the fennel fronds and chop a handful of fronds for later. Slice the bulb in half. Use a knife to cut out the tough fennel core, then slice the fennel like the onion, into thin slices. Mix the fennel slices with the onions, and then put a layer of onion/fennel slices at the bottom of a large glass, aluminum or metal baking dish. Drizzle the layer with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the fluke fillet(s) on top of the fennel/onion bed, and drizzle again with olive oil. Season the fish with some salt, pepper, tarragon and thyme. Cover the fish with the remaining fennel and onion, and repeat the olive oil drizzling & salt/pepper seasoning process. Pour the wine or triple sec around the fish fillet, and sprinkle the fennel fronds on top of it all.

Place the baking dish in the preheated oven, and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through and the fennel/onions are crisp at the edges.

Serve with sautéed zucchini, grilled corn, and a diamond ring, if at all possible.

Serves 4.