Has it been a week? King Cake, pasta, salad, Nutmeg

It has just occurred to me that I've not slept through the night since January 19, and even then, I was tired. Politics, the March, our kitchen, Nutmeg, various ailments racing through our house and community...I am so tired that today I watched a hilarious skit featuring Seth Meyers (SNL, The Late Show, and a former college-mate of mine) and Kelly Clarkson day-drinking and immediately wondered if I was drunk without my own knowledge.

I am that tired.

So, I have little for you except some recent kitchen wins and a kitchen update and an enormous spot of gratitude for hot tea and the fact that my in-laws have the boys tonight. Praise whomever for local grandparents being a fact of my life.

It's Mardi Gras season, y'all, and so, King Cake. This one was for Jack's family culture evening at school. Although we will have no kitchen starting Tuesday, I have promised cakes for both boys' classes on Mardi Gras Day. Hmm. As usual, I use Southern Living's Traditional King Cake recipe but I do NOT add the lemon juice to the icing. 


Last night: pasta with Brussels sprouts, speck, and parm. Amen for good carbs on cold nights. Also, it has a distinctly Mardi Gras feel, which I love. 


Lastly, a gorgeous winter salad of shaved fennel, avocado, pomelo, roasted and salted pistachios, shaved manchego, salt, pepper, basil olive oil, and blackberry balsamic. Is this not just glorious? It tasted as good!


The Nut acts as if he were never injured, and mercifully, our kitchen renovation finally commences on Tuesday with demolition day 1. If I could take the first swipe at it all, I would. Maybe I'll ask. I mean, this stupid Nunes memo nonsense has made my blood boil, so perhaps the crew wants a lady eager to crank through some cortisol via sledge hammer?!

Our new range -a stunning charcoal gray beauty from Lacanche via France- arrived last Monday. I have nicknamed her Gal Gadot because she is not only stunning but also strong and charismatic. She will anchor our new kitchen, but many other beautiful treasures will complete the room. I'll keep you posted, but here's a sneak peek of Gal. 

As an aside, why is not all language written in the beautiful scripts of Europe? Just look at those handwritten letters and numbers on the crate. Mon dieu. 

Recipes by rote and riff: jazz in the kitchen

I cannot tell you what a pleasure it is to live in such a neighborly neighborhood. Yesterday, I made blackberry pies for some of the folks who've been incredibly warm in welcoming us. We have more to make and thank, but in the meantime, the boys took it upon themselves last night to shower, comb their hair (bless his heart, Oliver combed so dramatically that he appeared to have the most extreme comb-over possible. I didn't have the heart to tell him that he looked anything but dashing.), and dress in suits so as to look their nicest as we took our tray o' pies around.

I could whip those pies up on a busy afternoon because doing so is second nature now. When you love to cook, come from a pie-making family, married an ardent pie lover, and have one child who requests birthday pie, you get good at making pie.

And an absolute pleasure that is. Did I tell you about the time I made a pie at a friend's house during a playdate? Because the mood struck and I could? Delightful.

My 40 in forty bit of wisdom for today is thus: master a handful of favorite dishes such that you can make them pretty much anywhere, anytime.

Do this, and you won't need a recipe because your hands and heart know just what to do. You've got the appropriate pots, pans, utensils and ingredients because since you make these dishes so often, the basics are on hand.

The great thing about gaining such fluency with a cadre of beloved recipes is that without realizing it, you also gain greater fluency with general cooking. You can start to riff on dishes, tweaking flavors and textures, personalizing and making them your own. 

Any good recipe was inspired by many others and will influence more to come. Isn't that connectivity with both past and future delightful?

If you're baffled by the idea of mastering five recipes and tucking them in your pocket, start with those you've always loved. Childhood favorites? A great place to begin. The pies I made for our neighbors? Nanny's blackberry pie of course. 

The Brussels sprouts I made yet again tonight? They're my rendition of Blue Duck Tavern's crispy Brussels sprouts with pecorino, capers, and lemon. I first experienced those more than two years ago and knew that I could never go without them as a regular guest in my life. Necessity is the mother of invention, n'est-ce pas?

Candied kumquats? A must for ricotta (also a must). I make both as often as possible. Gumbo? Yes, thank you. Plum tart during plum season? Daily. I have plums on my counter now, just waiting until tomorrow which is when I've willed them to be perfectly ripe. 

Not once will I need to look at a recipe, or if I do, to worry about the instructions or whether or not I have the right ingredients. These are such familiar friends to me now; we pick up right where we last left each other: an empty plate and a licked-clean fork.

Salmon and spinach burgers with feta, amazing Brussels sprouts

We are really loving our new house, neighborhood and neighbors. Everyone is so nice and welcoming, and in 90 seconds, we can walk to such an amazing park. 

At the market yesterday, fresh sockeye salmon was on sale, so I bought a bunch with the intention of making my salmon burgers with spinach and feta. They are so, so good. During the move, I rediscovered the grinder attachment for my KitchenAid, and put it to good use last night with the fish. We still had a bit of beautiful baby spinach left from the kind food drop from one new neighbor last weekend, so I wilted and chopped that and added it to the ground salmon.

Then some crumbled feta, salt, and a egg whisked with Dijon mustard. Breadcrumbs and a bit of lemon rounded things out.

Tom grilled them using these fantastic disposable grilling screens we got for Christmas and also made a mustard aioli to slather on the toasted buns. I can't tell you how much we enjoyed these.

I also wanted a good veggie and had some pretty Brussels sprouts waiting in the fridge. Soon enough, my favorite sprouts dish, quick fried with lemon, pecorino and capers, was on the table. And sooner than that, they were all gone.