Tag Archives: bacon

Bacon, Kale & Tomato Frittatas

L1050516A dear old friend visited last week. We had not seen each other in over 15 years.  15 years. It’s pretty astounding that we’ve kept in touch all these years, seeing as that we initially only spent a few months together back in 1997. I studied abroad in Lancaster, England the spring semester of my junior year. I had no idea what a pivotal experience that would turn out to be for me. College is usually a time of growth and self-exploration for a lot of people, but there is something more acute about living in a foreign country by yourself when you are 20 years old. It’s almost like starting all over again, like the first day of college, except you stand out so much more because you’re a “yankee” and you have to learn new words like “snog” and “bollocks”.

My time in England was where my inner-feminist blossomed, and I’m still not completely sure how or why. While there, I met several smart, interesting young women who would have probably defined themselves as feminists, but it wasn’t something that I remember us specifically talking about. Rather, it was in the subtle ways they lived their lives. They made certain assumptions about being a woman that I found very refreshing. Until then, I had always struggled with my female identity – what it meant to be a woman. I remember coming back home after six months and feeling transformed in so many ways.
L1050505Because it was such an intense inner-growth period for me, the friends that I made during that time are still very dear to me. Stephanie is one of those friends. She now lives in Australia and has a beautiful family. They all came to NYC last week for a visit. I was super excited to see my friend after such a long time, but I surprised myself by getting choked up when we hugged. It was like no time had passed at all, and we picked up where we left off all those years ago.

In my never-ending quest to make healthy recipes (I promise there will be gluttonous recipes to come) I found this one recently and thought it sounded both easy and delicious. Weekday breakfasts can get a bit boring; I’ve been trying to eat more eggs for breakfast during the week, but I was getting tired of scrambled eggs every day. Frittatas are a nice way to change it up. You can essentially add anything you want to them. This recipe calls for bacon, but I substituted hot dogs since we had some in the refrigerator. The frittatas even make a quick and healthy lunch!
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Bacon, Kale & Tomato Frittatas
Adapted from Shape

Yield: 6 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped, stemmed kale
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 slices bacon, chopped
4 eggs
4 egg whites
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Over medium heat, pour the olive oil into a medium-size pan. Add bacon and cook for 5 minutes, or until desired level of crispness.
3. Add kale and tomatoes and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.
4. In a large bowl, beat together 4 eggs and 4 egg whites. Add Greek yogurt and mix until fluffy.
5. Add bacon, kale and tomatoes to egg mixture.
6. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
7. Divide among 6 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Harissa-Spiced Cassoulet

L1040015If anyone had told my younger self that I would go through menopause in my late thirties, I probably would have shrugged and went on with my life.   Back then, I thought menopause would merely be a ceasing of menstruation and maybe a year of hot flashes.  However, I’m learning that the experience of menopause is a heck of a lot more than that, and it’s a really difficult transition.  Just the other day I was so frustrated and disheartened that I thought to myself, Why aren’t there menopause support groups the way that there are AA meetings?  The thought kind of made me laugh, but then I soberly wondered if any actually exist.
L1040007It wasn’t until recently that I came to the conclusion that all of my ailments were due to my hormones being out of whack due to menopause.  It’s pretty amazing how much control our hormones have over how our body functions; they control everything!  They’re like the lobbyists of the U.S. political system.  (Ok, I won’t get political…but isn’t that a good analogy?!)

I am trying to remain patient and maintain some sense of normalcy with this transitional phase of my life, but it has been a struggle the last few months as my symptoms become more acute.  Yoga definitely helps.  And I’ve started training for the half-marathon that I will be running in April.  Every little thing helps.  I just hope that I am one of the more fortunate women for whom menopause lasts two years instead of ten.  Gulp.
L1040004This was my first time making a cassoulet.  I came across this recipe in Food & Wine, where a Minneapolis chef was sharing riffs-on-casserole recipes.  If you haven’t ever made one, they are as easy as a casserole, and even more delicious.  And this particular cassoulet is perfect for hunkering down on a cold winter’s night.  It’s almost March, people!
L1040013Harissa-Spiced Cassoulet
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield:  10-12 servings

1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced, plus 2 large carrots, cut into 2 1/2-inch lengths
14 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Four 6-ounce chicken sausages, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
3 turnips, peeled and cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 ounces rustic peasant bread, crusts removed, bread cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered. Add the onion, celery and diced carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning 
to soften, about 8 minutes.  Add the beans and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°. In a small skillet, toast the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer 
to a spice grinder and let cool. Add the smoked paprika and crushed red pepper and grind the harissa blend into a powder.
  3. Wipe out the casserole and heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in it. Add the sausages and cook over moderate heat, until lightly browned all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Do not wipe out the casserole.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, turnips and large carrots to the casserole. Season with salt and black pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 minutes.  Add the harissa spice blend and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the bean mixture and the chicken broth and bring just to a simmer.  Cover and bake the 
cassoulet for about 1 hour, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and uncover the cassoulet.  Mix in the sausages.
  6. Preheat the broiler. In a bowl, toss the bread, parsley, lemon zest and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil; season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle the bread over the cassoulet and broil until golden and crisp. Let the cassoulet stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

Cannellini Beans with Bacon & Spinach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite the fact that we got ourselves a cute little tree, I’ve been listening to Christmas music while getting ready in the morning, and I spent an entire weekend (and then some) making edible holiday gifts, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.  It might be partly due to the fact that it’s been insanely warm for this time of year-–it’s been in the 60’s for weeks now!  Ugh.  My husband finds it humorous that I should complain about this, but I stand by it.  I want a little chill in the air, enough so that a winter coat is mandatory.  I want to walk down the streets of NYC, looking through the windows at the whimsical holiday displays while sipping a hot cocoa.   Is this too much to ask??  The world can be a tough place to stomach sometimes, and I feel like December is the one time of year when we are allowed to live in a fantasyland in our heads––dreaming of sugarplums, reindeer, and snowmen.  I am going to try and make the best of it.  At least we’re not housebound due to a huge snowstorm, eh?

You HAVE to make this dish, and soon.  I’ve made it twice in the past month, and I can’t get enough of it.  Not only is it a perfect, comforting winter meal (even if it is warmer than usual), but it’s super-easy and pretty healthy.   It takes all of 10 minutes, and you can make it in one pan.  Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACannellini Beans with Bacon & Spinach
Adapted from The Splendid Table

Yield:  4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces smoky bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 (28-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put a large (approximately 10-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and let it get hot.
2. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and shallots, and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add the beans and cook for another 2 minutes.
4. Add the spinach and salt, season with pepper, and cook until the spinach wilts, about 4 minutes, adding a tablespoon or two of water, if needed, to help the spinach along. Serve immediately.

Broccoli Coleslaw with Bacon and Raisins

DSC_6074The summer after my freshman year of college, a new friend came home with me for the weekend before flying home to Colorado.  I remember being very anxious about her staying with my mom and I.   At some point during my senior year of high school, my mom had to sell our house, and we subsequently moved into a small apartment above her hair salon.  As uncomfortable as I was about this, I was also a self-consumed teenager who probably spent more time thinking about superficial things.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but my small town didn’t vary a great deal economically:  most people were somewhere between lower middle class and upper middle class.

After I left for college, my family’s economic standing became more apparent to me.  I went to a private liberal arts college, and the majority of kids were from upper middle class and upper class homes.  Although this divide between the kids who came from money and those of us who were there largely due to financial aid was pretty obvious to me, I tried to not let that get in the way of who I became friends with.  The girls on my dorm floor were all great, and we all got along really well for the most part.  However, I was always very aware of the economic differences between us.  Something as simple as, “Who wants to go to McDonalds for dinner tonight?” would make me extremely uncomfortable; I barely had enough money to buy toiletries.  I rarely, if ever, talked about my economic background my first year of college.  I was too ashamed, and too young to know that it did not define me.
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The girl who came home with me that first weekend after our freshman year was a very sweet and sincere person.  She was actually the very first friend I made at college.  I remember walking across the parking lot with her to the freshman orientation and thinking that Colorado was a long ways from Minnesota.  We had gotten to know each other pretty well that first year, and we had had many quintessential college conversations discussing things like our families, our goals, and our fears.  But still, the thought of her seeing where I lived paralyzed me with fear.  I remember spending a lot of time that weekend watching TV with her, simply because I didn’t know what to say and felt like I needed to explain my situation to her, maybe even apologize for not having a more “comfortable” home.  When I look back now, I wish I could tell my 19-year-old self to be proud of where she is from, and that she has nothing to be ashamed of.

I have come to the conclusion that you can add bacon and raisins to any vegetable, and you will have a delicious, and still fairly healthy, meal.  This coleslaw is no exception.  Make it while it’s still warm enough for a cool salad.
DSC_6075Broccoli Coleslaw with Bacon and Raisins
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield:  6 servings

6 slices of bacon (4 oz.)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
Sea salt and pepper
1 large head of broccoli (1 1/4 lbs.), cut into bite-size florets and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Set a rack over a baking sheet.  Arrange the bacon slices on the rack in a single layer.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until browned and crisp.  Drain on paper towels, then coarsely chop.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the vinegar and sugar; season with salt and pepper.
3.  Add the broccoli, raisins, onion and bacon and toss to coat evenly.
4.  Transfer the coleslaw to a serving bowl.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins

DSC_5162In January of 2005, I took a bus from Port Authority to Springfield, Massachusetts for a silent meditation retreat.  My good friend had gone on a retreat the previous year, and she told me it had helped her become more present in her daily life.  The style of meditation is called Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are.  It was taught in India thousands of years ago as a way to deal with everyday ills.

I had had a particularly rough winter:  breaking up with my boyfriend, getting back together, then breaking up again.  I wasn’t happy at my job, and things just seemed pretty bleak overall.  I was counting on this meditation retreat to solve all of my problems.  I would finally become enlightened, gain more self-acceptance, and learn how to be at peace with myself.  I didn’t realize that I was also going through a bout of depression.
DSC_5152The Vipassana style of meditation is very regimented, and looking back, I now know that it wasn’t what I needed at the time.  When you first arrive at the retreat center, the staff conducts a brief orientation where they go over the rules and shortly after that you give them your phone, reading materials, etc. (basically anything other than your clothing).  You are not allowed anything that might distract you from your practice.  Furthermore, you take a vow of silence for the next 10 days, and you are expected to refrain from eye contact as well.  For some reason, this all felt very doable at the time.  I was desperate to feel better.

Throughout the first few days of meditating, we focused on our breathing.  Everything becomes very still and quiet.  By the fourth day, you learn how to notice physical sensations throughout your body without reacting to them.  The objective of this practice is to learn how to go through life in a more mindful way.  Thoughts will come and go, but we are in control of how we react to those thoughts.  Feel your feelings, and know that they will not kill you.  You don’t need to numb out with alcohol, food, drugs, sex, etc.  One of the most important things I learned at this retreat is that when you try to numb the pain with whatever your poison is, you also numb yourself from feeling joy.  Life just becomes something you have to slog through, as opposed to something to celebrate.  I still struggle with this idea sometimes.

By day five, I was ready to leave.  It was cold and dark everyday, and the staff had made announcements that a snowstorm was imminent in the coming days.  I was in the middle of nowhere in Massachusetts and I felt trapped.  I had learned some helpful meditation techniques, but I was dying to talk to another human being.  I was profoundly lonely and depressed, and found myself trying to sneak glances at the other participants at lunch or while walking outside in between meditation sessions. I was beginning to understand that being alone all day with my negative thoughts was not helping me.  It was making things worse.  All I wanted was a smile from another person, something to reassure me that everything was going to be ok.  I felt like I was going a bit crazy not being able to talk to someone.  Years later I was diagnosed with chronic depression and was told that silent meditation retreats can actually be dangerous for depressives because of the isolation factor.  I have since learned healthy ways of managing my depression, and still try to incorporate meditation on a weekly basis.  To this day, I consider that retreat to be one of the toughest mental challenges I’ve ever been through.
DSC_5156This is one of my favorite recipes for the colder months.  I discovered this recipe last winter, and I must have made it at least a dozen times.  I used to hate Brussels sprouts growing up.  My mom would boil them, and they would turn out soggy and bitter.  That hatred has grown into a real fondness.  Brussels sprouts might just be one of my favorite veggies now.  The bacon and raisins are a perfect pairing because of the salty/sweet combo that combines beautifully with the slight bitterness of the sprouts and the sour vinegar.  Warning:  this recipe is addictive.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 tsp. olive oil
4 thick slices bacon
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup raisins
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1.  Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes.
2.  Using tongs, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.  Let cool.  Coarsely crumble.
3.  While bacon cools, add Brussels sprouts to drippings in skillet; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until well browned in spots and beginning to soften, 5-7 minutes.
4.  Reduce heat to low and add raisins, shallot, and butter; cook, stirring often, until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes.
5.  Add broth to skillet; increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until broth has evaporated, 1-2 minutes.
6.  Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Apple, Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad w/ Ginger Vinaigrette

My husband and I just returned from the best vacation we’ve ever taken.  We went up to Cape Cod for 5 days, and then spent another 3 days in Boston.   I love getting away from NYC in the summertime.  There is something about breathing in the smell of fresh cut grass, strolling outside with a hot dog or ice cream cone, and adjusting to the slower rhythms of small town life that makes me nostalgic for childhood summers.

For the first three days of our vacation I walked around with a big, idiot grin on my face.  I kept remarking to Mr. K that something would inevitably go wrong on this trip since everything up to that point had been so perfect.  He would simply respond by shaking his head at me.   Whether slurping down raw oysters, reveling an IPA, or breathing in the smell of salty ocean air, I was in a kind of vacation trance, whereby everything we did seemed to me to be the perfect thing to be doing at that exact moment.

One of the highlights of our trip to Cape Cod was the 3-course breakfast we were served every morning out on the back patio of our Bed and Breakfast.  The owners of the B&B were this extremely gracious older couple, and the husband proudly told us that he made all the meals.  Every morning I would go for a jog, and then my husband and I would proceed downstairs like two kids on Christmas morning, eagerly anticipating that day’s breakfast.  The courses included dishes like baked eggs in prosciutto “cups”, applesauce pancakes with bacon, and fruit parfaits.  Mr. K and I would take our time savoring every bite, and I took added pleasure in being served a home-cooked meal.

After we returned home, one of the first things I did was write down all of the great moments from this trip that I didn’t want to forget.  The next time I have a stressful day or week, I will look at that list to be reminded of life’s pleasures.
DSC_5026Speaking of which, this salad is truly of one of my current pleasures.  I can’t eat it without moaning just a little bit.  I got the idea for it from a local restaurant that makes a similar salad.   If you like bacon at all, you will enjoy this salad.  Oh, and my apologies for only taking one picture this time around.  I was running late and we were starving, so it was the best I could do.  Quick tangent:  when we were in Boston we ducked into a run-of-the-mill pub near Boston Common for lunch one day.  I wasn’t that hungry so I ordered a BLT, thinking I would just eat the 2 or 3 strips of bacon out of the sandwich along with the tomato and lettuce and that would be that.  Well, the sandwich had a PILE of bacon in it.  We’re talking at least 8 strips of bacon.   I ate a pile of bacon for lunch, and I had absolutely no regrets.

Apple, Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad w/ Ginger Vinaigrette

Yield:  4 servings

5 oz. baby spinach
4 oz. goat cheese
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 Fuji apple, quartered and diced
8 strips of applewood-smoked bacon

Ginger Vinaigrette
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
sea salt
black pepper

1.  In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crispy, around 8 minutes.  Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
2.  Meanwhile, place spinach on 4 plates.
3.  Crumble goat cheese and distribute evenly, along with walnuts and apples, over each salad.
3.  Roughly chop cooked bacon and distribute onto salads.
4.  Add olive oil to a medium-sized bowl.  Whisk in lemon juice, ginger, sea salt and black pepper.  Dress salads, toss, and serve.

 

Warm Green Snap Beans in Bacon Vinaigrette

DSC_4641I was feeling very rushed yesterday.  I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning, and by the time I returned home I felt like I was racing against time trying to finish my to-do list before going to work.  I am hosting my monthly book club tonight, so the passion fruit cheesecake(!!) had to be made yesterday.  Even though I love entertaining and hosting, it can easily turn into a nerve-racking situation if I allow it.  It must stem from the part of my ego that needs other people’s approval.  What starts off as excitement about choosing recipes, selecting a playlist, and fantasizing about drinking good wine over stimulating conversation can quickly turn to panic.

The day before hosting, I turn into my own worst enemy creating endless to-do lists and noticing everything that is wrong with our apartment.  We still haven’t hung up that shelf!  Why doesn’t our living room get more light?  I wish we could hire a decorator so I could truly enjoy our home.  However, I caught myself in the midst of these thoughts yesterday.  I allowed myself to sit still (my acupuncturist finds it curious that I usually frame it as, “I forced myself to sit still.”) for a few minutes, took some deep breaths, and tried to quiet the loud voice that was trying to put a negative spin on an experience that brings me a lot of joy.  When I woke up this morning, I told myself I was going to approach the remainder of my to-do list with gratitude:

How fortunate am I that I get to have friends over to discuss a novel that I really enjoyed (we read The Orphan Master’s Son for anyone who is curious)? 

I get to cook and bake delicious food for my friends. 

I am able to drink wine and connect with other women who I respect and appreciate. 

I can buy a beautiful bouquet of flowers to celebrate the arrival of spring.
DSC_4633And I’ll be doing all of the above tonight.  Speaking of spring, I made this salad last week because I needed an easy yet healthy lunch to take to work.  It’s a warm salad, so it’s perfect for this time of year when the days can fluctuate between a balmy 50 degrees during the day and a much chillier evening.  It reminded me of a tangy, rustic French salad with the green beans, tomatoes, and shallots.  I just realized that I’ve been to France twice and both visits were in the spring.  They do seem to compliment each other well.  Isn’t there a classic song called “April in Paris”?  [End of tangent.]  This salad is light yet filling, and very satisfying with the bacon and olive oil so you don’t feel deprived whatsoever. 

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Warm Green Snap Beans in Bacon Vinaigrette
Adapted from Food and Wine 

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

2 lbs. green snap beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces thickly sliced bacon, cut into lardons (1 cup)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped basil
salt and freshly ground pepper

1.  Cook the beans in a large pot of salted boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
2.  Drain the beans and cool them under cold running water.  Drain well and pat dry; transfer the beans to a large bowl.
3.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, 7 to 8 minutes.
4.  Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the vinegar, tomatoes, shallot, garlic and basil.  Scrape the bacon vinaigrette over the beans, season with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat.  Serve warm.

 

Chicken Baked With Lentils

DSC_4134I always kid that I was born with protective chromosomes.  They work hard to prevent me from becoming an alcoholic.  I have Irish ancestry, and while I hate the “drunk Irish” stereotyping, there were a few alcoholics in my extended family growing up.  Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, I avoided alcohol all throughout my high school years.  I drank my first official beer on a class trip to Munich, Germany my senior year of high school.  I can still remember the feeling that coursed through my body as the liquid entered my bloodstream.  How did I hold out for so long?!  All your inhibitions go away and you’re left with unfettered joy??  As enjoyable as that first experience was, I still abstained from alcohol for the most part throughout my college years.  This changed a little bit when I studied abroad in England my junior year.  Still, relatively speaking, I was the uptight girl who never really partied.

One of the defining moments of my life was when I was 11 years old.  I was getting ready for school that morning, and my mom came in and sat me down on my bed.  She said she wanted to tell me something before I went to school.  I was probably going to hear about it from other kids and she wanted me to be prepared.  My uncle had been in a fatal car accident over the weekend.  He left a wedding reception intoxicated and got into his car.  He ended up hitting the bride and groom, who were driving in the opposite direction, and the bride died instantly.  One of the details I remember many people always adding whenever this story was told was that the bride was still in her wedding dress.  It just made the whole situation that much more tragic.
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After hearing this horrendous story, I immediately felt scared and anxious.  Did this mean my uncle was a bad person?  Will the kids at school blame me for being related to him?  Indeed, there were kids at school who for the next several weeks let me know that my uncle “killed someone” and tried to make me feel worse than I already did about it.  A couple of days after the accident, my dad’s family gathered at my grandparent’s house.   My sister and I stayed at my grandparent’s house while the adult’s went to the hospital to visit my uncle.  I found the plastic bag that contained my uncle’s clothes from the accident.  They were torn and bloody, and I felt the weight of what had happened.  I’ve always wondered how that accident shaped the trajectory of my uncle’s life.  I know it hasn’t been an easy one.

More than anything, this experience framed my decision to not drink alcohol growing up.  When I did start to drink socially in my 20’s, I discovered that I was a lightweight.  What’s more, I always felt awful the next day.   And this was after consuming one or two glasses of wine!  It’s taken me over 10 years to seriously consider abstaining from alcohol completely.  Mainly because even with the physical repercussions that are inevitable the next day, having a glass of wine really does help to tame my anxiety.  Over the last several months, I have gotten better at being in social situations and not having a drink.  I know I will from time to time, but as I get older, I feel so much more grateful for those physical ailments that have restrained my ability to drink too much.

I was in the mood to make a stew over the weekend and this recipe sounded perfect.  Now that I know how easy it is, I can’t believe I’ve never baked chicken thighs before.  I almost always cook with chicken breasts, and I usually end up sautéing them.  But the dark meat just adds so much more flavor and juiciness that you can never get from white meat.  I hereby vow to start cooking with more dark meat chicken for the remainder of the year.  Although this isn’t technically a stew, it’s stew-like in its consistency after you pull it out of the oven.  It has a great rich, umami flavor that is helped along by the dark meat.  The original recipe did not specify which kind of lentils to use, so I used red since that is what I had on hand.  I thought the radicchio would add too much bitterness to the dish but the bitterness is hardly detectable after an hour in the oven.  My husband declared this to be one of the best dishes I’ve ever made.  And that’s high praise coming from him.
DSC_4128Chicken Baked With Lentils
Adapted from The New York Times

Yield:  6-8 servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound bacon, diced
3 lbs. chicken thighs, 6 to 8 pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped celery, about 1 rib
4 gloves garlic, sliced
2-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups finely chopped radicchio, about 1/2 head, cored
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
2 cups lentils
3 cups chicken stock, more if needed

1.  Heat oil in a 4-quart ovenproof casserole.  Add bacon and cook on medium until golden.  Remove with slotted spoon.
2.  Pat chicken dry, season with salt and pepper and add, skin side down.  Sear until golden on medium-high heat, working in two shifts if necessary.  Remove from pan.
3.  Heat oven to 300 degrees F.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan.
4.  Add onions, celery and garlic, cook on medium until soft and translucent.  Stir in cumin.  Add radicchio, vinegar and sage; saute briefly.
5.  Add lentils, stock, and cooked bacon.
6.  Return chicken to pan, bring to a simmer, cover and place in oven.  Cook about an hour, until lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, but not all.
7.  Check seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed, then serve.

Peas with Bacon and Thyme

DSC_3809 I had a phone date Sunday night with my dear friend Jo who lives in San Francisco.  We don’t get to see each other much, maybe once a year, so I cherish our phone calls.  We met 8 years ago while working at a non-profit.  I still remember her standing in my office doorway as someone introduced us.  She was a breath of fresh air in an often times stale work environment.  Over the years, she has been someone I look up to and lean on for support.  And oh how she makes me laugh.  She has listened to me speak about my struggles with depression and lack of self-worth.  And even though she herself does not suffer from this affliction, she always conveys a sense of empathy and compassion.  Being able to share my feelings with Jo without her becoming squeamish is a really nice feeling of validation.  It usually takes me a long time of knowing someone before I completely open up and share my inner demons.  It is getting easier to share now that I’m in my late 30’s.  I still care what other people think of me, just not as much as I used to.

DSC_3803 Seeing as that it is like Antarctica in NYC this week (not overly dramatic at all), I wanted to make a warm, comforting dish that was still healthy.  I know, I know.  Many of you are tired of seeing bacon included in almost everything these days.  I do think the line needs to be drawn somewhere.  Perhaps somewhere near bacon cupcakes.  But you know how bacon and brussels sprouts are a fantastic combo?  Well, it turns out bacon and peas are another great combo.  The bacon gives this dish a nice smoky richness, and the aromatic thyme is a perfect complement.

This recipe is inspired by a pizza I had years ago at a restaurant in the Meatpacking District.  It’s strange to think that I once ate in the Meatpacking District.  The neighborhood seems to have an imaginary red velvet rope around it now, allowing only beautiful Millennials into its vicinity.  Ah, youth.  So this pizza: it was hands-down one of the best gourmet pizzas I had ever tasted.  It had bacon, thyme, Gruyére, cipollini onions, and garlic.  I became obsessed with it for an entire year after tasting it.  I started making it anytime I had friends over.  This is a much healthier version of that pizza.  Even with no bread and cheese, it still has the flavor profile of my former obsession.  I’m sure you could swap in any other vegetable if you are not a pea fan.  Cauliflower or brussels sprouts come to mind as an easy alternative.  You could also substitute rosemary, dill or tarragon if you don’t have any thyme in your kitchen. DSC_3807

Peas With Bacon and Thyme
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Serves 4 to 6

6 thick bacon slices, cut in half lengthwise, and again crosswise into ¼-inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
2 (10 oz.) packages frozen peas, not thawed
½ cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.
  2. Spoon off half of bacon fat, then add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add peas, water, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon thyme and cook, covered, stirring occasionally until peas are tender, 5 to 8 minutes.  Stir in butter and remaining tablespoon thyme.