These Recipes Will Save Your Life


No they won’t. That’s ridiculous. But I was finding inspiration in the strangely portentous title of Ruth Reichl’s new cookbook.

We have some catching up to do. I’ve been cooking!


My friend Abra is a chef and writer and teaches me a lot about how to be a better cook. She’s especially good at preserving food. I’ve been following her lead and roasting and then freezing cherry tomatoes to get me through the long tomato-less winter. (Though maybe this winter won’t be as tomato-less as some for Chicagoans). She also makes a mean ratatouille, using those very same roasted tomatoes. I used her recipe to improvise mine, the wine and the paprika are key.



I’ve also been really into this Grilled Eggplant Parmesan recipe that I found on Food & Wine’s site. We’ve eaten a lot of eggplant this summer. In part, I think, because I haven’t been loving the tomatoes I’ve been getting from the market, even from my favorite sources. Cooking the tomatoes improves them and so this recipe is a good use of the late summer/early autumn abundance of both tomatoes and eggplant. The secret is a layer of chopped olives and peppers. I added a few cloves of chopped garlic to that layer. The recipe is really simple and soothing to make.


Like many people, I was excited about the release of the NOPI cookbook. It is a truly beautiful object. I think I will get a lot of inspiration from the book, though to be honest, I am not sure how often I will cook from it. It isn’t really home cooking, as Ottolenghi admits in the introduction. I made a tomato salad with some wasabi mascarpone and quick pickled shallots that was pretty rad. The wasabi mascarpone was a real revelation for me and something I will return to. Basically, mix together some wasabi and mascarpone and season it with salt and pepper. Chives aren’t a bad addition. Spread it on a tomato. Or a bagel. Or eat it off a spoon.


Molly Wizenberg is one of the few food writers I trust. When she tells me to make something, I am usually happy with the results. I learned about this lemon and coconut cake from her and it is pretty dreamy. I think it is best the first day when the topping has a little crunch, but it keeps well on the counter for a few days.


What have you all been cooking? Any recipe I should know about?

28 comments to “These Recipes Will Save Your Life”

  1. Welcome back!
    So great to see a new post, let alone with food as spectacular looking as this.
    You are inspiring me to get back to the kitchen with my kids, so thanks.

  2. Thanks, Scott! Yeah, I’ve missed this space. I work in higher ed, and the end of summer and beginning of fall always get the best of me. But hopefully more regular posts moving forward.

  3. I don’t remember the last time I’ve been on a fence about a book – as I am with the kitchen year one. I’m very turned off by it, somehow. Have I turned into a total grump?

  4. Hi Olga! Yeah, I really like the book as a collection of recipes. But it is super weird and doesnt deserve the title. I don’t think we’re total grumps, though others might argue. I think most stuff is just OKAY and gets more praise than it deserves. It’s normal to be underwhelmed a lot, especially when you look at as many cookbooks as we do. ; )

  5. Well you’ve certainly convinced me!! And I know exactly the recipe I’ll start with – the first one! Those roasted tomatoes are calling my name!

  6. The Almond Cakes with Browned Butter (Financiers) on Page 268 of David Leibovitz’s My Paris Kitchen need to be made immediately (if not sooner). The are morsels of perfection.

    Then you should go to Read It & Eat, the cookbook store in Chicago where my friend Amy works. Say hello.

    Abra – such an awesome name. East of Eden!

  7. Victoria- Thanks for that tip! Will try the financiers. I was just at Read It & Eat yesterday, it’s great. : )

  8. I have an eggplant and am gonna make that eggplant Parm. POSSIBLY tonight. re: RUTH: I really love the book (but I’m not a grump, sooooo) ;) To me, she is such an adventuresome / self-assured cook. I like to imagine her very messy kitchen, as it almost has to be. That said, I also definitely rolled my eyes a bit at the title–especially because she never seems to be struggling too much. At one point, she misses her expense account and at another, she contemplates getting rid of their Manhattan apartment but then she goes to Manhattan and seems to be staying in it / it hasn’t come up again. However, I’m not quite done with the book… maybe she WILL lose her Manhattan apartment and somehow end up homeless and have to start selling her food on the street to survive??

  9. Beautiful looking recipes…nice to see you cooking more…I always look forward to it!

  10. I, too, have been roasting cherry tomatoes and freezing them for the upcoming Chicago winter. Cannot wait to see what you’ll do with them.

  11. I came to this post expecting my life to be saved. Instead I leave with wasabi mascarpone. I’ll allow it, I guess :).

  12. Glad to have you back! That wasabi mascarpone sounds pretty amazing. I finally made it to Mitsuwa (after a harrowing Ikea trip) and have been newly reminded how much I love Japanese ingredients.

    I’ve also been on a Korean kick (or a semi-Korean kick) making a simple fried rice with kimchi and eggs. I’ve also been making this cauliflower, which is one of my all-time favorites.

  13. That Grilled Eggplant Parmesan is so great! Love Grace’s recipes. Recently made and loved this curried cauliflower: Oh, and David Lebovitz’s Caramel Pork Ribs again recently (twice) for family and friends—always a winner!

  14. Glad you’re back. I had to laugh at your roasted tomatoes. I use Marcella Hazan’s recipe and this year my garden yielded a bumper group of San Marzano tomatoes, and another variety I need to figure out what variety they are so I grow them again. Right now there are about 20 lbs. of roasted tomatoes in the freezer. I’m actually a Master Food Preserver for Penn State Extension, so I’ve been teaching some dehydrating and fermenting. And I’ve been enjoying the book “Bar Tartine Techniques and Recipes”.

    I’ve been traveling quite a bit this summer, but cooking every chance I get. One favorite is If you can’t grill, it also works to broil the salmon a couple of minutes and then bake at 350-400 for another 3 or 4 minutes, depending how you like it cooked. We’ve also been enjoying Ottolenghi’s Rice Salad with Nuts and Sour Cherries. I short-cut the recipe with leftover wild rice blend and have been pretty happy with the results.

    I’ve been meaning to write to you to see if you’ve made any tonic lately. I have some going right now as I got inspired a couple of months ago by David Lebovitz. Little did I know that I could source cinchona bark just fifty miles away.

    That wasabi mascarpone sounds great, but it will have to wait a little while. Tonight I’m going to a class to learn to make feta cheese. : )

  15. so nice to see you back with beautiful photos & recipes I know I can trust! making that eggplant situation happen ASAP, and the coconut-lemon cake too.

    I made the NY Times Cooking oven-roasted chicken shawarma & highly recommend–we feasted on it that night, but it also made plenty of leftovers that were great for weeknight pita sandwiches. The key was making a white sauce–yogurt thinned with lemon juice, plus minced garlic, salt & lots of ground pepper. I never buy boneless/skinless chicken thighs, but it was worth it for this recipe & I’d do it again.

  16. Thanks, all, for the great suggestions.
    Nishta- I am making the shawarma asap. Samesy on the trust.
    Louise-I love that rice salad! I haven’t made tonic in a while but I was just talking about making another batch today. Hope your feta was a success.
    Ileana and Mary- Cauliflower! Both look so good.

  17. Hi Tim, happy fall! Over here, it is all winter squash soup with red chile and mint (Vegetable Literacy) and apple desserts: the crostata from Franny’s and Dorie Greenspan’s custardy squares. Have you explored the Violet Bakery cookbook? Curious about it. Also wondering what your picks are from the Huckleberry book. Finally snagged it from the library. I have my eye on the plain brioche and persimmon spice cake. PS. also works just as well to freeze cherry tomatoes raw (remove stem, keep whole) in a freezer bag. In January, dump them on a sheet pan with oil/salt and slow roast to perfection. I currently have ten bags packed with whole, fresh ctoms in my chest freezer.

  18. Hi Tim,

    Here is my suggestion, sticking with the roast tomato theme:

  19. Tim, I also dehydrated 5 lbs of San Marzano tomatoes, which became 5 oz. And 4 lbs of baby zucchini which became 4 oz, as well as a bunch of other stuff. Bar Tartine gave me inspiration. Maybe too much.

  20. JAM- My kingdom for a chest freezer. Boo city life. The Violet Bakery Book is beautiful, but for whatever reason doesn’t inspire me to cook. It kind of just makes me want to go shopping in London.

    Louise- Curious if you have any dehydrator recommendations. ?

  21. So nice to read about Abra in this space! She’s taught me a lot too over the years.

  22. Ditto on the rave review for NYT chicken schwarma! It is A+! I would also suggest a winner from the Food52 Genius book…it’s a roasted carrot salad. Originally from ABC Kitchen in NY. Made it last weekend for friends and it was not only delicious, but gorgeous to boot.

  23. Have you tried Sassy Radish’s Harissa Chicken (a tweak on the Food & Wine original)? It has become a weeknight staple at our house. I roast it hot and fast. When I take the chicken out to rest, I leave the chickpeas in for a little longer to really crisp up. I don’t know what I’d do without that recipe.

  24. Love your blog!!!!! I always come to it when I need some inspiration in my life!!! Thanks for being such a great writer and inspiring always!!!

    – Alex

  25. (…I think Olga and me and you *might* be grumps.) I’ve been cooking savory pies for dinner because we’re in the thick of lots of squash and kale. I make pie crust at the beginning of the week and bake it off in the evenings with roasted veggies. Excited about the wasabi marscapone tip! —S

  26. i’ve been recently taking two books for a spin: Alice Medrich’s Flavor flours, and Samantha Seneviratne’s new sugar and spice. I tagged a lot (!) of recipes from FF (it is gorgeous to look at, and the introduction is fascinating, as she talks about the challenges of GF recipe development), but so far only mixed results: Rice Flour Chiffon cake was a pain to make and turned out very bland and dense, and my husband’s work colleagues did not like the Ultimate Butter Cake, even though I slathered it with copious amounts of the Milk Chocolate Frosting. The Tart dough, however, is heavenly. I can’t wait to try a few other marked gems before i give it its final verdict.

    Sugar and Spice, though, really shined in the two recipes i did try so far: poached cardamom maple quince, and super-yummy (and extremely simple to make) coconut oil chocolate chip cookies.

  27. Pam de Barros says:

    November 5th, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    The eggplant recipe is the best new taste I’ve had for a long time. Can’t wait to serve to my family. Merci!

  28. I’ve been making a lot from Food52’s Baking and Genius Recipes books. The pecan and honey cake is probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever made.

What do you think?