The Zingy Yogurt Sauce That Connects Me With My Polish-Midwestern Roots

Everything I know about my family history is a bit fuzzy. Whenever I ask my father questions about how his parents ended up in the Midwest, he only knows so much. “We didn’t talk about things like that,” he explains to me. “Those conversations would ma…

Everything I know about my family history is a bit fuzzy. Whenever I ask my father questions about how his parents ended up in the Midwest, he only knows so much. “We didn’t talk about things like that,” he explains to me. “Those conversations would make us feel less ‘American,’ so we didn’t really have them.” He tells me that his parents were originally from Kraków and Wilno (which is no longer part of Poland), but he doesn’t remember which parent grew up where.

What he does know is that the story goes something like this: They were both being transferred from one camp in German-occupied Poland to another when technical issues blessed them with an opportunity to escape. After fleeing, they immigrated to America, eventually landing in Chicago where a friend was able to host them. From there my father’s family raised him and his brother, fully rooting themselves in the American Midwest.

Read More >>

Marshmallow Crispy Treats, but Darker, Nuttier & Better

The original Rice Krispies Treats recipe is a classic for a reason—but there’s room for improvement. I’ve always found that the standard ratio of one bag of marshmallows to six cups of cereal produces treats that are too dry and overly firm. Sure, they…

The original Rice Krispies Treats recipe is a classic for a reason—but there’s room for improvement. I've always found that the standard ratio of one bag of marshmallows to six cups of cereal produces treats that are too dry and overly firm. Sure, they taste good, but Rice Krispies Treats have so much more potential and the base recipe is yearning to be improved upon. So in an attempt to elevate them to their full potential, I decided to reformulate the classic. To kick off my development and search for inspiration, I turned as ever to the internet.

The first upgrade I came across was from Smitten Kitchen. Her trick? Browning the butter. This added a wonderful nutty flavor and wasn’t all that difficult to do—a few extra seconds was all it took. While this yielded treats that were rich with toasted dairy flavor, I wanted to see just how far I could push it. I doubled the amount of butter her original recipe called for, swapped sweet cream butter for a salted variety (because salt makes everything better), added a heaping tablespoon of vanilla extract, and finished them with a generous glug of bourbon to highlight the complex brown-butter flavor as much as I possibly could. It was no longer just sweetness—it was sweetness with a depth of smoky caramel flavor. I loved where the recipe was going (it was a clear step in the right direction), but I wanted to push it even further.

Read More >>

The Apple Crisp That Made Me Fall in Love With…Beets

I didn’t always love beets. In fact, I used to loathe them. But it wasn’t my fault. My first introduction to the root vegetable was via my father, the culprit for my aversion. He would boil them in unsalted tap water until tender and pawn off the red l…

I didn’t always love beets. In fact, I used to loathe them. But it wasn't my fault. My first introduction to the root vegetable was via my father, the culprit for my aversion. He would boil them in unsalted tap water until tender and pawn off the red liquid as "borscht" for dinner. The soup (a generous term for his creation) tasted like dirt—so for the entire duration of my childhood, I was conned into thinking that beets tasted dirty, bitter, and metallic. And to make matters worse, my only other encounter with them was with a sałatki z burakami that was swimming in harsh white vinegar: a not-so-great rendition of a simple beet salad.

It wasn’t until I experienced beets in a dessert that I truly understood why my father loved them so much.

Read More >>

When I Couldn’t Say It Out Loud, My Burnt Chicken Cutlets Said Everything

He appreciated everything I cooked for him, from the fancy white bean dip I desperately tried to impress him with, to the chicken cutlets he dubbed “the best chicken cutlets he ever had” (even though I had burned them to a crisp). I had cooked for boys…

He appreciated everything I cooked for him, from the fancy white bean dip I desperately tried to impress him with, to the chicken cutlets he dubbed “the best chicken cutlets he ever had” (even though I had burned them to a crisp). I had cooked for boys in the past, using what I was good at in a desperate attempt to woo them. But this felt different. He told me that cooking for him made him feel special. And I wanted nothing more than to do just that, over and over.

Cooking together became one of our go-to dates. Dinner was our way of slowing down after work, opening up to each other over a bottle of wine and getting to know the rhythms of our separate lives. On nights like these, we never had to spell anything out because we had all the time in the world. To talk, to make dinner, to express ourselves through food. I don’t think I was ready to come to terms with those feelings of comfort, but with each meal we shared, there it was.

Read More >>