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April 2015

Spare the Bagel, Save the Springtime Smoked Salmon-Cream Cheese Omelet

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Springtime has arrived, finally, and nature is up to its old tricks. The days are getting longer. Trees are starting to blossom. Asparagus is in season. The daffodils arrive, then the tulips. It’s great fun to throw off one’s jacket and run through the sunshine. Everything old seems new. 

I like to learn from nature, so when the fine folks at Kraft asked me to do a post this month, I came up with a new take on an old favorite—the brunch bagel.

I did away with the bagel, and made a omelet that’s ripe for the season, full of my favorite fixings—smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onions, tomatoes, and capers. The result is a fresh, delicious, and creamy omelet, with the smooth tartness of the cream cheese setting of the sharpness of the smoked salmon and the red onions. The tomatoes add a bit of sweetness and the capers a savory touch. All together, it’s a springtime delight. The recipe can be found here.


Have You Taught Your Kids the ABCs of the Kitchen?

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We all want to teach our kids the ABCs, but when I step into the kitchen the ABCs take on a different meaning: Always Be Cleaning. Nina, my eldest one, reminded me this morning that it’s one of the first things I taught her about cooking. When we chop vegetables, we clean the counter right away. As soon as we measure out a spice, we return the jar to the cabinet. When we’re done with one pan, we wash it. And so on. In reality, this system often breaks down before the meal is finished, but what it means is that clean up is manageable at the end of the meal, and sometimes there’s nothing more to do than put a few things in the dishwasher.

We were talking about cleaning because Swiffer recently sent me a big green box of supplies, handily outfitted with its Wet Jet cleaning tool. The Wet Jet is a power mop that “traps and locks dirt so it doesn’t get pushed around.” I’m all for not getting pushed around, and the Wet Jet speeds up cleaning up by having a disposable pad. No need to worry about where the mop is drying out. That might sound like an absurd concern, but if you’ve ever tried living in a New York City apartment, you’ll understand.

Swiffer also supplied me with some handy statistics about dads today:

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They also wanted me to share a video with Anthony Anderson and other dads talking about their experience cleaning. Pay attention to the dad at around the 58-second mark, who observes that everyone talks about a relationship being 50/50 but it’s more like 100/100. Truer words have never been spoken. Check out the video here. And here:

  

And thanks to Swiffer for sponsoring this post.


Niman Ranch Spicy Sausage Broccoli Pasta, the Staff of Modern Life

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Last Sunday night, we returned late to the city after a stay at the Mohonk Mountain House. It was an unprecedented vacation for the Stay at Stove Dad family, and it was most welcome. The Mohonk House is a Victorian monument of long hallways, crenelated cornices, and plush duvets situated on a skinny lake in the Shawagunk Mountains of upstate New York. It’s an all-inclusive resort, with an ice skating rink, a swimming pool, game room, miles of hiking trails, and—most importantly—a dining room where the amount of work you do is in inverse proportion to the quantity of food they serve. It's like a cruise ship that's been marooned at the edge of the Catskill Mountains, or a high-end Las Vegas all-you-can-eat buffet lodged in the wilderness.

After three days of nothing but leisure, we found ourselves back home at dinnertime, with bags to unpack and school and work to prepare for. It was time for me get my toque back on. And so I did. I made a variation of a classic pasta standby, that one with broccoli that's always easy to make. I added a bit of kick by chopping up some Niman Ranch Spicy Italian sausage, and between the rich flavor of the sausage and the healthy base of the broccoli, it was the perfect way to reenter life after such a fine time away.

Niman Ranch Spicy Sausage Broccoli Pasta

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 head broccoli, washed and cut into florets
  • 1-2 links of Niman Ranch Spicy Italian Uncured Sausage sausage, diced into small pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1/2 cup or more of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Spaghetti or past of choice

Put water on to boil for the pasta.
Cook the pasta to within about a minute of being finished (a little white inside is perfect) reserving the cooking liquid.
Steam the broccoli until it is tender but firm; set aside.
In a bit of olive oil in a large pan sauté the onions until they are translucent, at least ten minutes. Remove and set aside when they are done.
In the same pan, saute the sausage pieces until crisp.
Once the sausage is crisp, add the garlic and the onions to the same pan.
Once the garlic is soft, add the broccoli, and a bit of the pasta water.
Add the pasta and continue to cook until the pasta is finished, about a minute longer (add more water if it starts to stick).
Turn the heat off and finish with the cheese. There should only be a bit of liquid, and the strands of pasta and the broccoli and the sausage should all be coated with it nicely.


Family Paella: A Guest Post by Thomas Rayfiel

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I have been fortunate to get to know, slightly, the writer Thomas Rayfiel, who, as it turns out, has long been the chief cook in his household. My good fortune was recently multiplied when he agreed to share a bit of his culinary experience—and a recipe—with me for this blog. Before I get to that, though, let me more properly introduce him. Or rather, I’ll leave the honor to The New Yorker’s Mark Singer, who wrote a charming Talk of the Town story about him three years ago, when his novel “In Pinelight” came out: 

Thomas Rayfiel [is] a quietly industrious Park Sloper who describes his imaginative methodology as ”getting as far away from what I know as possible.” The narrator of “Colony Girl,” Rayfiel’s second and best-known book, is a fifteen-year-old aching to escape from a religious cult in rural Iowa. “In Pinelight” presents the monologue of an elderly retired deliveryman in upstate New York, a soul-shriving stream of consciousness that flows the length of a book punctuated by periods, question marks, and line breaks but not a single comma.

Rayfiel is a singular talent. I encourage you to read his books. He’s currently at work on his seventh novel, “Genius,” which he says is “the story of a philosophy prodigy whose studies at Columbia are derailed when she is diagnosed with cancer and must return to live with her mother and brother in the small town of Witch's Falls, Arkansas.” It’s due in the spring of 2016. 

In the meantime, he had the following bit of wisdom to share about cooking for his family. I like it because it reinforces my thinking that every hungry family is alike—and all well-fed families are well-fed in their own way. Enjoy:

Your blog made me reflect on my own experiences cooking for the family, though I more often felt like Man Who Got Panned, as I zigged and zagged my way through the minefield of two children's evolving, often irrational preferences. I finally realized that a dish from which they themselves could make choices, a medley of main courses, sides, and rice, all heaped together on one central platter, would give them the illusion of free will, allowing them to craft individual helpings and transform the usual chorus of complaint to, "This is great, Dad!" 

After much trial and error, I came up with what we now call Family Paella, though people who have actually been to Spain (everyone but myself, apparently) assure me it bears only a distant relation to the real thing. It is more a sort of pilaf, I suppose. But it does the trick, and now that we are all older comes with an additional flavor, that most haunting of all spices: culinary nostalgia. 

Rayfiel Family Paella

  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. Italian or chorizo sausage
  • 4 cups fish stock or clam juice
  • 1 dozen Little Neck clams
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 colored pepper (I like orange) sliced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ¾ tsp. saffron
  • ¼ tsp. dried crushed red pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. capers
  • handful of fresh or frozen peas
  • ¼ cup Manzanilla olives
  • ½ lb. shrimp (peeled)
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, cut in half (crinkle cut, if you're feeling artistic)

In a heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat half of the olive oil (2T) over medium heat. Prick sausage and brown on all sides (about five minutes).

Remove sausage, let cool, slice.

Warm fish stock.

Rinse clams (soak first, if you like) and put in a smaller pot along with ¼ cup white wine.

Heat remaining olive oil (2T) in the large pot used for the sausage, over medium-high heat.

Add onions, garlic, pepper, and sausage, sauté about seven minutes.

Add rice and spices, stir two minutes more.

Pour in the remaining white wine. Boil until wine evaporates.

Add the capers, olives, and peas, followed by the stock or clam juice, bring to boil, cover, and let cook until rice is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

Towards the end of the cooking time, turn heat under clams and wine to high and cover.

After a few minutes, wine will boil and clams will begin to open.

(By now the rice should be done.)

As each clam opens, remove it with slotted spoon and put in with the rice mixture. (Removing the clams immediately prevents overcooking.) Cover the clam pot each time to maintain pressure.

When all the clams have opened, pour remaining clam juice and wine over the rice mixture. Add shrimp and stir. The heat of the paella should turn them pink and cook them in a minute or so.

Turn paella out onto a large platter.

Spread evenly and stud the surface with hard boiled egg halves.

Put in the center of the table with large serving spoons and have each family member create his or her own portion.

Pour yourself a drink. You've earned it.