zucchini butter spaghetti

I am a little bit obsessed with this spaghetti. If we’ve spoken recently, I didn’t let you not asking me about it keep me from going on about its simple summer dinner bliss. I have been fixating on the idea of this spaghetti for tw…

I am a little bit obsessed with this spaghetti. If we’ve spoken recently, I didn’t let you not asking me about it keep me from going on about its simple summer dinner bliss. I have been fixating on the idea of this spaghetti for two delicious summers and I am almost sad that the recipe is done, as it now transfers into the category of Things I Already Know How To Make, which always gets bumped when there are so many Recipes That Aren’t Done Yet for a little manuscript due at the end of this summer.

what you'll need

It started with a zucchini butter recipe I once spied on Food52, but was traced back to Julia Child’s Grated Zucchini Sautéed in Butter and Shallots. Over rounds of tweaking, I eliminated several things, not because they weren’t good, but because they didn’t suit my needs here: the shallots (added too much sweetness), the partial addition of olive oil (I was promised butter, after all), salting, draining, and wringing the zucchini (so much work, all for a shriveled pile of zucchini that dragged in the pan), adding a little more butter (it helps when stretching it across a big bowl spaghetti), and a not insignificant amount of garlic, pepper flakes, basil, and parmesan and I realize that this now relates to Julia Child’s zucchini butter about as much as I relate to being a morning person, but this paragraph is about about what set the idea off, and this next one is about where I hope it goes:

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soy-glazed chicken

It’s a gorgeous spring week in New York City, the windows are wide open, and before I find it impossible to resist the siren call of a full shift to picnic–summer-beach-fresh-everything mode (with some ice cream/pie/cookie breaks, …

It’s a gorgeous spring week in New York City, the windows are wide open, and before I find it impossible to resist the siren call of a full shift to picnicsummer-beach-fresh-everything mode (with some ice cream/pie/cookie breaks, naturally) I wanted to tell you about one last easy weeknight pandemic-era favorite: a soy sauce-basted chicken that my family would be happy if I made once a week forever.

I first made this in the early months, when all the restaurants were closed and we missed takeout*. I’ve made it almost monthly since then because it’s the fastest, easiest non-grilling way for me to turn a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts into a meal that everyone actually finishes. Browning the chicken well gives it a slightly crisp edge, and reducing a mixture of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and brown sugar around it while the chicken finishes cooking gives it a lacquered effect.

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crispiest chicken cutlets

Whether you call them milanese, schnitzel or “they’re just big chicken tenders and you like chicken tenders, please try them!”, I absolutely love perfectly seasoned, craggy bread-crumbed, deeply golden, crispy chicken cutlets…

Whether you call them milanese, schnitzel or “they’re just big chicken tenders and you like chicken tenders, please try them!”, I absolutely love perfectly seasoned, craggy bread-crumbed, deeply golden, crispy chicken cutlets but I absolutely hate making them. Which, as you can imagine, leads to a bit of an impasse. We’ve bought them at our local grocery store, but I disagree with the store on seasoning, in that I believe in it and they do not. Maybe it’s just that my kitchen counter is small, or maybe I’m just kind of lazy, but I find the whole process interminable: pounding the cutlets if you want them thin, dredging them in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, then frying them, then draining them on endless paper towels or paper bags, then trying to either reuse or dispose of the oil properly, and somehow, after all of this, dinner isn’t made. We still need salad and/or another vegetable. That is me, throwing my hands in the air, 370 days into a global pandemic, wondering why anyone bothers cooking at home.

old bread = best crumbsdip in eggroll in crumbsready to go

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rigatoni alla vodka

If you ever need evidence that I do not shy away from embarrassing myself here, look no further than one of the earliest posts on this site, where I tell the story of inviting a guy I’d recently begun dating over for dinner. I’d wa…

If you ever need evidence that I do not shy away from embarrassing myself here, look no further than one of the earliest posts on this site, where I tell the story of inviting a guy I’d recently begun dating over for dinner. I’d watched Rachel Ray’s 30-Minute Meals that morning, equally hungered by her making one of my favorite pastas, penne alla vodka, and horrified by the fact that she renamed it the “You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Pasta.” I decided to make it, you know, tongue-in-cheek, sarcastically, sure Deb, except it “worked” — we are 15 years married (although everyone agrees the last year counts as two) which works out to about 17 years of repeating this awkwardness as part of our “how it started in the kitchen” story.

But when I look back at that recipe, do you know — after the name — what makes me cringe the most? Rachel Ray told me to put chicken broth in my vodka sauce! I shudder for me, and you. In the years since, she’s moved forward and so have I. I now know that well-seasoned pasta water is the only “broth” your sauce needs. I’ve made a few other changes to the way I make, too:

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parmesan oven risotto

I’ve always struggled with risotto, the classic Northern Italian rice dish that gets creamy from slow cooking in broth. Even when I’ve accepted the work involved — most recipes tell you to separately have a pot of warm broth …

I’ve always struggled with risotto, the classic Northern Italian rice dish that gets creamy from slow cooking in broth. Even when I’ve accepted the work involved — most recipes tell you to separately have a pot of warm broth and to ladle it in, stirring, for the better part of an hour — the flavor, which often tastes odd to me when I used non-homemade broth, or the texture, which seems perfect for about 5 minutes and then often too gloppy, throws me. And yet it’s one of the coziest things to make in the winter, and can even be used to distract children who believe that pasta is the only acceptable carb. The last year, as I’ve spent much time looking around my kitchen for simpler approaches to our favorite foods as we’ve been home for almost all of our meals [see: these tacos, this bolognese, this roast chicken, these cookies, this galette], I’ve realized that almost everything I believed was mandatory about risotto is not, and you can make this golden, cozy, rich bowl ignoring every “rule.” Lucky us.

what you'll needshort-grain riceonion and garlicadd the rice

Without further ado, here are four moderately controversial opinions about risotto:
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brussels sprout and bacon frittata

As a Content Creator (appended with a saracastic ™), I can tell you that December is a weird time. All we want are buttery cookies, heavily spiced cakes, and luxe cocktails and if sparkly string lights were edible, probably that too. Who can b…

As a Content Creator (appended with a saracastic ™), I can tell you that December is a weird time. All we want are buttery cookies, heavily spiced cakes, and luxe cocktails and if sparkly string lights were edible, probably that too. Who can blame us? This year — as we try, against what sometimes feels like stacked odds, to find cheer and festivity wherever we can concoct it — the singular devotion to December decadence seems even stronger. I can put the whole internet to sleep merely by saying, “So, how about some salad?”

all preppeda not-small amount of baconadd shallotsthen brussels

But what about dinner? It’s still happening, right? [I didn’t say breakfast. That will be a jelly doughnut with a latke chaser, obviously.] Much as I try to ignore it some days, 5pm arrives and with it the “Wait, we don’t have a dinner plan?” conversation as we go through the list of things we have and try to find those in the very narrow Venn diagram of what most of us want to eat or want to cook, 5pm becomes 6pm and the Small and Hangry are demanding treats.

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skillet turkey chili

Right around the time quarantine cookies and tacos became a habit this spring, I also realized that that none of my existing chili recipes exactly fit the bill of what I wanted for dinner — namely, to focus on ground turkey, have a minim…

Right around the time quarantine cookies and tacos became a habit this spring, I also realized that that none of my existing chili recipes exactly fit the bill of what I wanted for dinner — namely, to focus on ground turkey, have a minimized ingredient list, and not take terribly long because it turns out that even with all day, every day at home, I just don’t have enough time to plan ahead for dinner and please don’t try to use reason or psychology to suggest there are other forces at play, okay?

what you'll need (cornbread optional, but not for us)

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simple cauliflower tacos

Last week I told you about our favorite quarantine cookies. This is our quarantine taco, another simple discovery from our early Inside Days this spring that ticked a miraculous number of boxes at once. Like, “How do we turn this massiv…

Last week I told you about our favorite quarantine cookies. This is our quarantine taco, another simple discovery from our early Inside Days this spring that ticked a miraculous number of boxes at once. Like, “How do we turn this massive head of cauliflower into dinner because it’s too big for our overstuffed fridge?” and “without having to go to the store and buy anything extra?” It used so many ingredients that had become staples — canned beans, cotija (great fridge shelf life), red onions, tortillas, and a small luxury of an avocado delivery service we discovered right when we needed it most. Plus, it managed to work for the whole family, including our pickiest, who we discovered liked roasted cauliflower and also pickled onions, we suspect because they’re pink.

what you'll need
roasted until almost charred

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roast chicken with schmaltzy cabbage

I didn’t know I needed a new roast chicken in my life when Helen Rosner, the New Yorker’s roving food correspondent and all-around fascinating person, posted on her Instagram a few weekends ago that she didn’t have her usual …

I didn’t know I needed a new roast chicken in my life when Helen Rosner, the New Yorker’s roving food correspondent and all-around fascinating person, posted on her Instagram a few weekends ago that she didn’t have her usual vegetables to put under her roast chicken so she was using cabbage instead. Yet the very next evening, so was I, plus twice since then, and likely one more time before this week is out and I have a hunch I will not be alone. Rosner won a James Beard award for an essay I still routinely quote from to my kids (“but chicken tenders have no terroir!” because we live in opposite land where they don’t like them but I do — but that’s a whole other blog entry) because it delights me so much. A year ago she nearly broke the internet when she said she likes to use a hairdryer to get the crispiest chicken skin. All I’m saying is that when Rosner talks about chicken, I find good reason to tune in.

all you need (plus some butter)cut into thick quartersa cabbage jigsawbaste with butter

Look, I really like cabbage. I was never tormented with it as a kid, so I love it with the abandon of someone who chooses it. I like it in salads. I like it pickled. I love it roasted. But even if you’re not me, even if you’re cabbage-hesitant, I think you will find cabbage cooked slowly in salty buttery chicken drippings until charred at the edges and caramelized throughout — the cause of fighting at dinner over who got the best pieces of cabbage (!) — to be best thing to eat with roast chicken since potatoes.

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chicken, leek, and rice soup

I hope nobody you know is sick right now. I hope it’s, at worst, a common cold, common boredom bred by self-quarantine, or a stubbed toe because you tried some ridiculous workout video you found online. Or, if you’re me, last week,…

I hope nobody you know is sick right now. I hope it’s, at worst, a common cold, common boredom bred by self-quarantine, or a stubbed toe because you tried some ridiculous workout video you found online. Or, if you’re me, last week, after yet another thing fell out of my chaotic freezer onto my foot (I don’t even get to blame “fitness”) I decided to, what’s that word, it feels so unnatural to type… organize? Right, that. I decided to sift through the freezer and see what was taking up so much space and I realized that Deb Of A Few Months (let’s be honest: probably longer) Ago did a very cool thing and made an excess of chicken stock and froze it in one-quart bags which meant that “wohoo! dinner is sorted!”

what you'll needthinly sliced, never enoughleeks, garlicadd good broth

I’ve published a few chicken noodle soups recipes to date. I’ve got a quite rushed one and a leisurely one for when you want absolute perfection; there’s a grandma-style cozy on in Smitten Kitchen Every Day, my second cookbook, but one thing I’ve not yet covered is the simplest: a chicken soup you make with already-made stock.*

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