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The Txting Chf: Quick Garlic Bread for Tweens

Recently, the following text appeared on my phone:

“Garlic bread. Should I just make garlic butter and spread it on the bread and then bake it? If so, how do I make the garlic butter? :D

While I’m used to getting weird food questions and recipe requests from friends this was a new country heard from–my brother, WonderTwin1, who generally doesn’t know enough about cooking to muster a reasonable question in the first place. Interesting.

Of course, about a week before this particular text, WonderTwin1 started his new job manny-ing for a family on New York’s Upper West Side: three tween boys to corral, and on some occasions, feed. This is amusing on several fronts, but most immediately because WonderTwin1, unlike his brother WonderTwinA, can’t really cook. Garlic bread question notwithstanding, though, I’ve gotten far fewer frantic calls than I expected to…

But it’s early yet, and I’m hoping that WT1 will be able to give me a little bit more notice next time he needs to know the best way to reheat sliced flank steak (quickly, with some sort of sauce, and hope that your tweens are hungry and have good teeth) or easy garlic bread directions. I’ll spare you the txt version of the recipe I came up with on the fly, but here’s a slightly more formalized one in case you have a bunch of hungry boys fresh from soccer practice and are looking for some garlic bread.

Basically, we’re making a quick beurre composé, aka compound butter, aka butter with flavorful things smooshed into it. Here, garlic and herbs take the day, but the sky’s the limit. If you don’t want to make a full loaf of garlic bread, still go ahead and do the full batch of butter. It’s something that you’ll find any number of uses for… saute some spinach with it, or take a pat and rest it atop a hot steak… or even some of that sad leftover flank steak. Garlic butter will make ANYTHING better.
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Eat, Memory: Mex-Acadian Sausage Cornbread

So, yes, cornbread with tasty things mixed into it… how novel, I know. This particular savory cornbread, however, is my version of a traditional, if somewhat bizarre, family recipe. The original was a treat courtesy of the French-Canadian couple who looked after my mother and uncle when they were very small. When my grandparents would go out–to some fabulously Mad Men dinner party no doubt–my mother and uncle would climb the stairs to Lilian and Abelard’s apartment at the top of the house on Ridgeway Terrace and they’d have this for their supper. The original version was suitably cloaked in northwoods maple syrup rather than gussied up with spicy chiles.
Unsurprisingly, the next generation enjoyed the salty-sweet combo too, especially at dinner–the Wondertwins were particularly taken with the idea of putting maple syrup on MEAT… and at NIGHT no less. Oh, the excitement.

Mr. T, however, has always been rawther skeptical of sweet-savory combinations and this was no exception. (I blame his Englishness… one actual taste is already a bit of a challenge, two is simply beyond the pale!) So, in order to work out my cornbread and sausage jones, accomodations had to be made. And my version, while different, is just as good–perfect for a quick meal with some greens alongside and it makes for a great breakfast the next morning.

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Friday Night Lights: Quick Lemon Blackberry Trifles

Because I am slightly dumb, and nothing if not ambitious, I recently elected to invite people over for dinner the night before I left for a conference. That would be the slightly dumb part. Of course, I could not merely suggest that we go out; that would be the ambitious bit. After years of painfully-earned experience, however, I have learned that reality tends to intervene–the nerve! So, I had to come up with a tasty menu that I could shop for, prep, and get on the table between leaving the office and the arrival of my delightful guests. (Did I mention that I had elected to go out for drinks and then watch two hours of Futurama on Thursday night? Dumb, dumb, dumb.)

It was also hot hot hot (as Nanny would say), so I turned to my trusty Salade Niçoise to provide a bright and savory–yet cooling–entree. I also picked up some nice cheese and nuts to create a snacking buffer so no one would starve whilst I banged out the salad’s components. It’s merely a matter of keeping a pot of water on the boil for the eggs, potatoes and beans, and then cutting everything else up, though, so dinner was in the bag. Dessert, however, still necessitated some attention… and ambition.

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Pasta for a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Some days are just a bit more than one is prepared to deal with. Thursday, for example. Nasty headcold, late to work, late AT work, stood up for happy hour and–when I finally got home–all the bread in the house was spotty with mold. *sigh* At this point, Mr. T. (who was out at a work party) and most normal people would pop off down the hill to find dinner, or at least just order a pizza. I have a phobia about placing take-out orders, though, and dining out for dinner when I’m already at home is an affront to my delicate sensibilities. Far better, for me at least, to rally to my knives and bang out a meal for myself at home than to admit defeat and end up at Busboys & Poets or something.

Rummaging around in the refrigerator, I found some smoked salmon–that would have been lovely on that bagel that had sadly turned green–some miraculously fresh parsley, and a few zucchini. Tossed with broad noodles; brightened with shallot, caper, and lemon; and glued together with pasta water and a bit of soft cheese and the resulting dish feels lush and rewarding after a day that was tiresome, tiresome, tiresome (as Nanny would say). I omitted the cheese since the last thing I want to do after a crappy day is spend the night bent over the porcelain throne yakking my face off. But, for those who aren’t dairy intolerant, a knob of goat cheese would really improve the dish. Even sans fromage, however, I found it quite the restorative little meal while watching Jacques and Julia duke it out over Beef Bourguignon PBS.

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