Melissa Clark's Rustic Shrimp Bisque with Fennel


A little about me —

There is no way I can cook

if the counter isn’t clean.

Some will say

it’s an inherited characteristic, a seemingly

random thing that isn’t

random at all.

Like sweaty hands, a sweet tooth,

or whether one sees the glass as half empty

or half full.

By the time I am home

on the day before giving thanks

my mind is somewhere else —

far from the counter — and the

fennel, leeks, and twin stalks of old celery

float towards me

waiting aptly for my hands to

find the knife.

I clean as I go; an itchy pleasurable pain.

At four o’clock my kitchen catches late day sun

the way I need it to catch sometimes

to remind me of what I have and to stop —

Melissa Clark’s Rustic Shrimp Bisque with Fennel

is the recipe

where the butter pats lose shape

in a piping hot pot with salt, shells, wine, two caps of brandy,

six cups of water, thyme and a bay leaf.

I take stock —

On the ottoman by the window

and wait fifteen minutes to

strain into a bowl,

pressing on shells before discarding them.

There is lint on the kitchen tile

I wouldn’t mind discarding.

I pick it up — I have to —  and immediately feel

better. Not unlike the feeling when

the shrimp turns pink

in two to four minutes like the recipe says

and the vegetables sauté soft

until softer.

All is going according to plan and that

is the Libra in me.

A few days ago I cooked

a perfect baked ziti in a record

ninety minutes.

Left to get Joe, left

the ziti in the oven to keep warm —

Ruined an otherwise perfect baked ziti,

like I said.

This soup though,

as they say,

was everything.

Because Pesto

There’s a bucket of basil leaves sitting in my hallway right now, a hallway that usually smells like sawdust. There’s something so pleasant about basil, its scent so refreshing, its color so grassy, and it really has this magical power to metamorphose mood, to turn that frown upside down, to rouse a few minutes of writing on a sunny day after snipping its leaves with scissors. (Snipping leaves with scissors is also a truly pleasant activity in case you haven’t tried it.)

But remember pesto? I had forgotten about fresh pesto made by hand. And not someone else’s hand because while, yes, Frank Caputo makes a damn good pesto by hand, my hand works, too, and pesto is just too gratifying a pursuit to pass the satisfaction off to somebody else. And as tempting as it is to google a recipe for it, don’t. Basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan, nuts, salt and pepper. Fill your food processor by eyeballing all of it. Taste it. Eyeball it again. Adjust as you go. Pulse, pulse some more. Dip your finger in for a lick. More nuts? Sure. More cheese? Do it. Make a few containers, refrigerate one, freeze the rest, maybe hand deliver one to someone you like a whole lot. Serve it on your favorite pasta. (I’m still deciding between spaghetti or shells for tonight.) Drizzle a tablespoon over scrambled eggs. Add it to a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. Brush it onto bruschetta. Mix it into a summery quinoa salad. Combine it with potatoes. Fold it into scones. Make a freaking pizza. Because pesto.


A Cookie for Paul Flatow Day

I love a good Dad Day celebration as much as the next short, blonde daughter who loves her Dad, but, man, is it getting harder and harder to find him a gift. Flatows love their massage, but I'm tired of slipping a gift certificate into a card each year. He loves to fish, but he's got his poles and lure and hat. He's back into tai chi these days, but I don't think anything special is needed to encourage the practice. He reads, but prefers picking books up off the sidewalk. He's a gardener, but works with plants and flowers all day err'day, he's got the goods. He's a cook and that's why Max bought him a new pan. So that's out.

One year, I baked him his own batch of chocolate chip cookies because Dad also loves sneaking into the kitchen to eat cookies before bed. And when he can't sleep at night. And with his coffee in the morning. Without thinking, I made them the way my mom and I like them, like the cellophane-wrapped plastic container of Tate's: thin, buttery, and crispy. Apparently, Dad does not enjoy this type of chocolate chip cookie. He'll eat them, but he won't love them. So this year, because it was only fair, I decided to gift Dad with his kind of cookie: soft, super chocolaty, and in a category of cookie all by itself. Much like Dad. 

The first time I tried this cookie was back in February. Michael and I were upstairs in our friends' apartment watching the tail end of the Superbowl, slouched on the couch from too much chili, when all of a sudden, a plate of hot cookies appeared before us on the coffee table. Surprise! You can't leave yet. We still have cookies. They were big. Bigger than CDs. Cracked and wrinkled with gooey shards of chocolate poking through; they were the color of a good porter or stout. "Wh-wh-what are these?" I sputtered, taking a bite, closing my eyes, losing all consciousness. "How, how, how did you make these?" 

It's the Jacques Torres cookie. Anybody familiar? I certainly wasn't. These are the cookies you make when you love someone a ridiculous amount because only they can bring you to drop $20 of fancy chocolate into a batch of cookies, the volume of chocolate surpassing the volume of cookie dough. The cookies that say, "Sorry for that time I made you a Mom's Day cookie for Dad's Day."

Jaques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies for Paul Flatow

Makes 26 cookies | For a richer taste, make the dough up to 24-72 hours ahead, which is what I did. 


  • 4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups pastry flour
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 lbs 60% cocoa dark chocolate (disks or cut into small pieces) 
  • Sea salt


Sift together the pastry and bread flour, baking powder, soda, and salt into a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle, cream together butter and sugars until light and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla. Slow down the mixer and add the flour mixture slowly until just moistened. When thoroughly combined, fold in chocolate. Press plastic wrap against dough, making sure it's completely covered, and refrigerate for 24-36 hours. When you're ready to bake, bring the dough to room temperature (leave out for approximately 2 hours) and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and scoop the dough using an ice cream scooper (or scoop about 3 tbs worth for fairly large cookies). Don't press the dough down; let it stay the way it is. Sprinkle the cookies with a bit of sea salt. Bake 10-12 minutes for smaller cookies and 18-20 for bigger ones. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on your baking sheet, then move them to another surface to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to three days, or freeze for up to two months.   

An important element of the Jacques Torres recipe is that the dough be made ahead of time and refrigerated to help loosen up the gluten. The dough you see here was made Thursday morning as the sun was coming up. I used to go for runs before work, but now I'm thinking of replacing that with early morning baking. 

Beauty Issues

I’ve got a cupboard of excuses for why I haven’t been recipe journaling much lately, and I can either delve into them or not delve into them, but the fact would remain the same: I have not been recipe journaling much lately. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking, I have! There is a brand new six-burner cooktop that sometimes I take selfies with when I am alone, bright white counters that get scrubbed incessantly when Michael is both looking and not looking, and a fridge I have to struggle with to not fill entirely with cheese. I am also crazier than ever. Max leaned casually against the fridge one night as he watched me put elbow grease into a crusty tomato sauce splatter. “Wow,” he said. “You’re Mom.”

So, yes, I’ve been cooking, but not recipe journaling because when I’m not being a lunatic about cleaning the kitchen, I’ve been trying to enjoy the normalcy of cooking just to cook. You know, cooking like a normal person. I find that when I’m not photographing the disarray of a chopped vegetable atop my cutting board, I get to think luxuriously about other things, the first three of them being: don’t slice your finger, don’t slice your finger, don’t slice your finger. (I am very careful when it comes to my fingers.) How nice it has been to tend to a bowl of marinated chicken thighs and not think to myself: Shit, I forgot to shoot the marinade. I tend to exhaust myself for no good reason when it comes to documenting the process. And I never want to take pictures at night anymore because the light is so much better during the day. There’s a hashtag on Instagram called #postitfortheaesthetic, a collective space of creatives and wannabe creatives who are posting pictures just for the prettiness of it. They’ll post their legs on a bed amidst crumpled bedsheets drinking coffee next to a stack of magazines. They’ll post someone else's pretty hands delicately holding a bag, a book, a pear. They’ll post a pair of scissors, some ribbon, flower petals that look like they’re blowing away, so far away across a wooden table. 

Life has always been beautiful, but now there are so many of us noticing it together, in public, and so, so, so often. I'm overwhelmed. Am I the only one?

Sometimes I just miss the simplicity of seeing something or doing something and no one but myself (or myself and Michael) being around to take it in.

Like that time I went to Rome and sat in a big ass window wearing one of my favorite dresses.

Like that time I went to Rome and sat in a big ass window wearing one of my favorite dresses.

Bad Soup

It started out innocently with me just wanting to cook some soup. It was the last day of September and it felt wrong not to usher my favorite month in with fall-y flavors. In front of me were blameless ingredients. Beef broth, black beans, pumpkin puree, a can of San Marzano tomatoes, an onion, a shallot, half a bulb of garlic, and some chopped ham. The scene looked great. No one was home. My in-laws have a bright, open kitchen with windows facing their garden and my plan was to rock a chef’s knife back and forth while smiling and watching a bird. I’m generally a slow cook (I see my future kids falling asleep at the table while my foot goes down on needing whatever it is to marinate properly), except this time I was motivated to race the sunset -- a telling sign since what I did to this poor soup was clearly due to impetuousness and rash decision-making, not two of my better traits. I did beat the sunset but that warm and tingly feeling of having just made something wasn’t filling me up. And since no one was home to congratulate me on my win, I turned more attention to the soup. This soup came together too quickly. There are times I like that and times I don’t. I know the pleasure of throwing together a fast and easy meal, but sometimes to feel productive, I need to feel like it took many steps to get there. I anticipate the pains. So I wasn’t concerned with eating the soup anymore. I was concerned with flittering about in the kitchen and taking more steps. 

Again, it started out innocently. 

Salt. Pepper. Stir. 

Where’s the cumin? No cumin? 

They have paprika, I’ll use paprika. 

It’s not spicy. Maybe some of that hot sauce over there. Shake, splat.

Too hot? We can sweeten it. A squeeze of honey. Squirt. 

Not bad. What else? 

I want it heartier. 

It all goes downhill when I open the fridge and the plastic containers of my aunt’s leftover Rosh Hashanah foods are front and center. Spiced cauliflower. Herbed mushrooms. Eggplant salad. Spicy, Israeli tomato sauce. I took her food home for a reason and it’s because all of it is delicious. Full of flavor. The perfect toppings to pair with crusty bread. Instead I treat each container like a different spice. Plop, plop, plop, and plop. The wooden spoon can barely make a full swirl without soup spilling over, the spits upsetting the flame. I taste it and have no reaction. There is so much going on here. 

I back away slowly but I keep my eye on it even though someone should clearly be home right now keeping an eye on me. I turn the flame off. I cover the pot with a lid. I retreat to the living room to watch dvr’d episodes of Jacques Pepin. I fall asleep on the couch without my dinner. 

In the morning, half-asleep, before he leaves for work, I tell Michael to take some soup with him for lunch. There’s so much of it, I think. And it’s so bad. 

“How was the soup?” I ask him later in the day.

His response is perfect. 

“Well, at first it tasted like vomit, but then I ate all of it.”

I'll spare you the recipe. 

Malloreddus with Kale and Hot Sausage

I miss Michael when he goes away and it's because I love him. You miss the ones you love, that's just how the love stories go. When he's away, I lose the warm legs to slip cold feet between, the hands to hand me water bottles, and without a television I still don't know how we get those new episodes of Louie to watch online, so I guess I'll have to wait. (Perhaps why it is kept secret.) All that and yet my love story goes something like this: Michael tells me he's going away for a few days and I practically race, tripping over feet, to open my Google calendar because oh man those days can't come fast enough. Yes, I will miss him when he goes away but there are thrilling liberties that come with his departure and they are these lovely, miniature birthday gifts I am burning to tear apart with teeth. I've had this conversation numerous times with friends and it is agreed: there is nothing like the rabid anticipation of that first full day and night of not having your husband anywhere near you. You decide what. You decide when. You decide where. You decide why. When Michael goes away, I am in sweatpants faster than a speeding bullet, lighting candles and swaying ever so sexily to the closing campfire music I have compiled for a Spotify playlist I like to call "Not Your Boyfriend's Music." (This playlist has been around a while.) While the pings of Michael's texts can be heard throughout Joan Baez's version of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," really what I'm more concerned with is the type of pasta I am going to cook on this inaugural night left alone to my own devices. They are the best of nights.


(Serves 1 with leftovers)

  • 1 cup or so of small pasta
  • 1 hot sausage, chopped 
  • 3 big handfuls of kale, chopped 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • white wine, a splash
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • crushed red pepper, a dash
  • dried basil, a dash
  • 1/4 fresh lemon, a squeeze
  • grated pecorino, a sprinkling
  • salt and pepper to taste


Get a pot of salted water boiling. 

Prep and get the sausage, garlic, and kale chopped. Olive oil into the pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage. Cook until brown. Make room and throw in the kale. Next up, garlic. Stir over low heat. Add a splash of white wine and let it cook down.

When the pasta's ready, run it under some cold water then toss it into the pan. Mix it up and add basil, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. A lemon squeeze to bring out the flavors. Sprinkle with pecorino.


Matzo Balls

I don’t feel bad posting a recipe for matzo balls mid-Passover week because if you’re anything like me, you crave them year round. And since I failed to make enough to hit that sweet ratio of broth to ball in my mom’s pot of chicken soup last night, I’m now tempted to hit the drawing board again this weekend. While matzo balls are rarely tampered with, because let’s face it, they’re old-world and perfect, there is one recipe I know of from an Orthodox Jewish kosher cookbook writer named Susie Fishbein who dabbles with a tricolor version – a green matzo ball made with pureed spinach, a yellow one made with turmeric, and a red one made with tomato paste – and really I just hope I’m never at the Seder where this soup gets ladled. I know it must be temping to fiddle with the matzo ball as the ingredients are bland and few, and so many of us enjoy the search to reinvent traditions, but I do feel strongly on leaving the matzo ball alone. A good matzo ball has everything to do with a good broth, so maybe fiddle with that instead? 


(Makes around 15 balls)

  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp. any kind of fat
  • 4 tbsp. seltzer
  • a good shake of salt and pepper


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil. 
  4. Wet your hands & start rolling balls, but don't handle them too much. 
  5. Drop them in one at a time. 
  6. Cook them covered for 30 or so minutes.
  7. Plop them into your favorite broth-y soup. 

Item B on the Shared Google Doc: Bruschetta

A couple of weekends ago, I packed a bag and some cough drops and escaped New York for Denver, a state that looked to be one week ahead in terms of sunshine, the warm kind. You could say it was a perfectly timed trip in that it was the absolute right instant to ditch everything here -- the cherry raw winds, the fluctuations of mood, the inhuman squeeze onto trains – but it’s not like I went out there and hiked the Rockies with a CamelBak. No, the weekend visit to a favorite faraway friend took a turn for bad health (and this time it had nothing to do with smoke). My New York cough had spiraled into a legit sick and so thank god for my friends’ wide couch and world’s softest blankets because that is where I spent most of my time and within a weak arm’s reach of the tissue box and mugs of hot.

But there were a few things I couldn’t let slide, no matter what, and they were: talk time in the backyard and/or front porch (a shared Google doc of “things to remember to discuss” had been purposefully typed up days prior), the preparation of some sort of homemade food (between the number of links to recipes we email each other, it’d be a shame not to put one to use), and the unleashing of 70-degree dry heat all up in my face (and all the while New York was getting rained on, even better).

So, wrapped in a blanket and wearing sunglasses, I followed my friend, who carried with her a cutting board, out into the backyard sunshine. In alphabetical order, she plopped down the basil, garlic, olive oil, pepper, salt, tomatoes, and vinegar.

“Bruschetta,” she said. “It’s all I eat.”

If there’s one person I feel like I’ve grown as a home cook alongside, it’s this particular friend of mine. The one halving tomatoes and mincing garlic effortlessly while listening to, understanding, and making sense of item A on the shared Google doc.

About seven years ago, the two of us read our first Real Simple magazines before boarding a flight to Santa Barbara. We were visiting a guy friend, one who lived with his own guy friends amid their very guy-like things (video games, bathroom Maxims, forgotten bottle caps, hot sauce and salsas) and while we’d prepared ourselves for the onslaught of many grilled meals, we knew we would have to come bearing ideas for greens (and not the ones that go up in smoke). At the back of the magazine, Real Simple had a salad recipe that mixed tuna, white beans, pickles, and red onion together. Whew, OK, we had this. In the boys’ California kitchen, we cobbled these ingredients together, together, step-by-step, recipe direction by recipe direction, exact tablespoon of olive oil by exact tablespoon of olive oil, until we knew we’d found ourselves a new leisurely pursuit. Look, Ma! We’re cooking! In California!

I watched my friend cut and slice, chop and mince, and measure without measurement. Maybe it was the sick talking, but suddenly I felt so proud of her. Of me. Of us! We’d come such a long way from Real Simple recipe tear outs, and I’d literally come such a long way. It didn’t matter how physically awful I was feeling all the way out in Denver, I was just happy for it to be a cutting board, and nothing else, separating me from an old cooking buddy. 


(Makes enough to keep for the week.)

•    15 basil leaves, rolled up and sliced lengthwise
•    6 cloves garlic, minced 
•    2 tbsp. olive oil
•    Pepper, sprinkled
•    Salt, sprinkled
•    1 ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
•    1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar 


Combine the ingredients in a bowl, except for the garlic. Sauté the garlic in an olive-oil pan over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, not burnt. Pour it over the combined ingredients. Refrigerate. Later on, eat with goat cheese and crostini. 

For the Purpose of Transformation: Pickled Onions

The last few weeks stormed in like an unwanted anyone. Michael and I were running on different schedules, our chances of collision slim, so I was simultaneously missing him and resenting his ship for passing mine in the night. I was going at everything angrily because I knew no other way to go at it. Work people were getting sick; I could taste my cough just around the corner. The weather was playing games like a teasing idiot with one day feeling almost nice (see: me running in the park) to the next being down right freezing (see: me running hands under warm water). My shoulders felt stuck in a constant state of hunched.   

In my head I’d been whimpering over this one pair of socks I used to have. Navy blue socks that reached my knees, that I was convinced if in my possession, I would feel better. “Bring me my socks!I said to no one. I knew they were packed away in storage, which is why I refused to buy a new pair, but I was straight up angry for not having my socks.

Then I posted a status update on Facebook one day offering up a free ticket to a Brooklyn Historical Society lecture on the Gowanus Canal and not one person wanted to go. Not one person. And then I went to a mac n cheese tasting competition (as a taster) and did not taste one good mac n cheese. Not one good mac n cheese. These are not things to get angry about, and yet I felt like throwing fastballs at walls like a crazy.

Everything was making me mad. The only signs of Michael coming home at night were the empty yogurt and hummus containers he’d leave in the sink (see: me with a grimace). It was hard not to take any of it personally.

Did I mention I was reading Gone Girl in the midst of it? Slowly at first. A chapter here, a chapter there. And not because it was slow going but because it was too good to finish too fast. (I eat the way I read.) So to top it all off I had these two appalling people ruining each other’s lives in the very back of my psyche.


Something had to change. I needed a quick fix. I needed something to work and for it to work properly. I said out-loud: “I think I have to pickle something.” I’d never pickled anything in my life and yet all of a sudden I had this severe desire to get it done. I knew there’d be a pleasure to pickling, taking just three normal, everyday ingredients - salt, sugar, and vinegar - and using them for the purpose of transformation.

Who says change has to start with yourself? I say let it start with an onion.


  • 2 small red onions
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar (the only sugar I had in the cupboard)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt


  1. Slice the onions.
  2. Whisk together everything but the onions in a small bowl.
  3. In a mason jar, pour the mixture over the onions.
  4. Let them sit at room temperature for 10 minutes if you want to eat them soon. Otherwise, wait a day and enjoy them then.  

The Highs and Lows of Hamantaschen

While my days of coolly sauntering into the crepe papered community room of Kane Street Synagogue dressed as Esther are over, my undying enthusiasm for Purim pastry does remain. If you haven’t noticed, Jews go crazy for their hamantaschen. Going out on a limb here to say that it has nothing to do with the taste and everything to do with our ownership over it. (Gasp!) Yes, the same people who defend the taste (or no taste) of matzo (“It’s good,” we uphold, “just put some [fill-in-the-blank] on it”) are the same people waiting to spin a mean, metal grogger in your face if you so much as try to come between them and their three-cornered Haman hat. We’ve got poppy lovers; we’ve got prune lovers. We’ve got folders; we’ve got pinchers. For me, the filling and aesthetic matters zero as long as that hat strikes the balance between soft and crisp, and with just the right ratio of filling to flour. If I’m being honest, the community room never pulled this traditional cookie off. Too much dough, or too much filling, too cakey or just slightly burnt. I don’t know if they were homemade by congregants or if too massive an order from Lassen and Hennigs was placed, but I do know we ate them regardless of how so-so they always were. It wasn’t until this past weekend, preparing and baking them for the very first time with my mother and Amy F. that I realized: Adonai, this is a difficult dessert. Between my mother’s insistence that we fold the three corners and Amy’s negation that we pinch, the fact remained that our prunes and apricots were continuing to oven erupt, and our overall uncertainty over baking time wasn’t helping the matter. And yet, when my father coolly sauntered into the room (dressed as Paul Flatow) for the first of his many tastes, he had nothing but good things to say, defending the ooze, defending the burnt corners, defending it all. As expected. 


(Makes about 35 hats)

Adapted from Shiksa in the Kitchen


  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • the zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • your favorite jam(s)


In one bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, zest, and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly spoon the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring continuously until you've got some dough on your hands. Knead until smooth and slightly sticky. Then wrap it tightly in saran wrap and refrigerate for about an hour. 


Preheat the oven to 350.

On a lightly floured surface, use a (lightly floured) rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter or a 3-inch rim of a water glass (what we did) to cut circles out of the dough. Don't let your dough scraps go to waste! Roll those out and keep cutting circles. 

Place a teaspoon of your favorite jam, or filling, into the center of each circle. (We used apricot and prune.) It's so important to go easy on the filling, otherwise you're looking at some pretty messy eruptions. 

To fold: Carefully take the left side of the circle and fold it towards the middle. Do the same with the right side, creating a triangular tip at the circle's top that overlaps the upper left flap. You'll have created a triangular tip at the top. Take the bottom flap and fold it up towards the middle, tucking the left side beneath the left flap and the right side over the right flap. Pinch the corners to secure the hat. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the hats on it evenly spaced. Bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, just until the corners are slightly browned. 

Advice: Don't eat them hot. Wait a few hours for them to soften up. 


Nothing Fancy, Just a Damn Good Meat Sauce

The beets were in season at Blue Hill last weekend. Plain as day. First, beet sliders the size of quarters. Next, beet bolognese over polenta. Last, beet tartare. All of it perfect, all of it memorable. The wordplay? Adorable. Returned to Brooklyn only wanting the real thing. Yes, very cute those beets, but now I’d like some beef.

After five months of living with my parents, we’re finally living in our new place. And by new place I mean in our friend Nick’s apartment. Not with Nick, of course, but amongst Nick’s things, such as the triceratops piñata that sits atop a television speaker in the living room. I’m enjoying all the things that come with settling into new settings, such as new windows I can spy through on my walks to and from the train and acclimating to a different shade of morning light when waking up in a new direction. Above all, though, and what I’ve truly missed, is settling into a kitchen – a kitchen I can have all to myself. And with a Whole Foods I can see just past the canal.

The weather is still cold. Soon, the weather won’t be cold though and it won’t be one-pot meals I think about at the tail end of my workday. It’ll be peaches and margaritas, mint and lime. But until then, how does one warm up a space that’s not her own? And with a triceratops piñata giving me the evil eye? Homemade meat sauce. 



(Serves 2 with leftovers)

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 packages baby portobellos
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp. basil
  • 1/2 tbsp. parsley
  • 1/2 tbsp. rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • dark brown sugar, small handful
  • 1/2 lb. your favorite pasta. (I used cavatappi.)
  • olive oil, couple glugs
  • butter, couple cuts


In a skillet over medium heat, cook the mushrooms in a combination of butter and olive oil. Don't move them much; cook them slowly until they release their moisture. After about ten minutes, add the sliced onion. Stir together, then just let them be. You want them soft and brown.

Chop up the meat and throw it into a heavy pot with some olive oil. Add the garlic. Cook together for a few minutes over medium heat. Add the crushed tomatoes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook, stir, and taste for the next hour or so. 

Spoon it over your favorite pasta and enjoy.