The Pesky Mushroom Cookies I Bake for Betsy, My Late Mother-in-Law

It’s mid-December somewhere on the near northwest side of Chicago. The kitchen is heady with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and fresh citrus zest, which earlier my husband and I warmed with honey and butter into a gorgeous syrup. The counter is laden with …

It’s mid-December somewhere on the near northwest side of Chicago. The kitchen is heady with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and fresh citrus zest, which earlier my husband and I warmed with honey and butter into a gorgeous syrup. The counter is laden with spice jars, measuring cups, bowls, and sheet pans—creating a disorderly frame around four brown dough mounds.

A 3-by-5-inch note card, titled “Mushroom Cookies (Lithuanian Grybai),” presides over the whole chaotic affair, handwritten in slanted blue cursive and stained from decades of use. We’ve reached the card’s second side, when the script gets smaller and more crammed as it guides us through the shaping, baking, icing, and assembly of these time-consuming little monsters.

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I Can’t Sleep Much These Days—So I Make Insomniac Granola

Since the pandemic, I’ve gotten into the annoying habit of waking up in the middle of the night—usually somewhere between 2:30 and 4:45 a.m. Anytime before 4, the only sensible thing to do is open Pride and Prejudice and hope the pleasing, Victorian-er…

Since the pandemic, I’ve gotten into the annoying habit of waking up in the middle of the night—usually somewhere between 2:30 and 4:45 a.m. Anytime before 4, the only sensible thing to do is open Pride and Prejudice and hope the pleasing, Victorian-era repartee lulls me back to sleep until a more reasonable wakeup hour.

Once the clock hits 4:30, however, I can’t risk the inevitable snoozing-till-9 that will render me a zombie for the entire day. Instead I’ve started dragging myself out of bed every so often to bake...and of all things, I always choose granola. Granola is just quick and easy enough for a tired, distracted person to cobble together; plus, I almost always have rolled oats around.

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My Time-Traveling Bowl of Spaghetti & Meat Sauce

It always starts the same. I slick the bottom of my biggest enameled cast iron pot with a glug of olive oil then, thwap! I plop in a brick of fatty ground beef or pork, reveling in the crackling applause as its edges start to caramelize. I sprinkle the…

It always starts the same. I slick the bottom of my biggest enameled cast iron pot with a glug of olive oil then, thwap! I plop in a brick of fatty ground beef or pork, reveling in the crackling applause as its edges start to caramelize. I sprinkle the browned meat with salt before scooping it out and tipping in a heap of diced onions, their familiar sizzle and aroma wrapping me in a warm embrace.

From there, the meat sauce I’ve cooked faithfully throughout my adulthood can take up a hundred tiny variations before I toss it with pasta and shove comforting heaps of it in my face. Most often, it involves plenty of chopped garlic, pureed tomatoes, a handful of torn herbs, and maybe a splash of last night’s red wine.

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The American Ingredient Dorie Greenspan Brought to Paris for 13 Years

In 1998, baking guru Dorie Greenspan was working with famed French pastry chef Pierre Hermé on his first cookbook to be published in English, Desserts by Pierre Hermé. Among the oh-so-French lemony crepes and pear-chocolate tarts, Hermé penned a recipe…

In 1998, baking guru Dorie Greenspan was working with famed French pastry chef Pierre Hermé on his first cookbook to be published in English, Desserts by Pierre Hermé. Among the oh-so-French lemony crepes and pear-chocolate tarts, Hermé penned a recipe for a chewy, streusel-topped almond cake with cherries and mousse featuring a tangy, decidedly American ingredient: cream cheese. He called it “Philadelphia almond cake,” because—for most French people to this day—cream cheese is synonymous with the well-known Kraft brand name.

“He knew about American cream cheese having traveled here, so he wanted to make something with it for the book,” Greenspan recalls to me in a recent interview.

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