The Morning After Savory Bread Pudding

Last night I hosted seven strangers for dinner in my home as part of a project for the Food and Performance class I am taking this semester. The menu had a distinct New Orleans flavor:


Creole Fromage Fort, Mushroom Pâté, Olives & Cornichons

Asparagus & Ramp Remoulade

Duck, Oyster & Andouille Gumbo over Rice

 Vanilla Gelato Topped with Goat Milk Cajeta & Spicy Pralined Pecans

While it is going to take me a while to piece the evening together, I’m willing to call A Strange Dinner Party a success. The conversation flowed. Food and drink were consumed. Connections were discovered and forged. The highlight may have been after dessert when everyone pitched in to change a lightbulb–a task I don’t do when alone because it requires standing literally on top of the sticker on the ladder that says “Do Not Stand at or above this level. The Sazeracs and stimulating conversation left me so amped up that I managed to plow through nearly all of the dishes before collapsing into bed.

I woke up inexplicably early, having slept a sum total of 10 hours over the past two nights. Sleep deprivation and weekend cocktailing had me feeling a little worse for the wear. I needed a hearty breakfast to fortify me for this afternoon’s New York Abortion Access Fund Bowl-a-Thon. My bleary eyes scanned the kitchen and alit on the now stale bread that my guests had apparently refrained from using to soak up their gumbo.

Stale Bread

The Morning After Savory Bread Pudding

  1. Pour yourself a big glass of water and set the oven to 350.
  2. Grab those stale baguette slices and roughly cut them into 1″ chunks. Spread them on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven to toast until just turning golden.
  3. If you’ve got some leftover cooked veggies on hand, you’re almost home free. If, on the other hand, you polished off the last of the asparagus while doing the dishes last night, heat a cast iron skillet up to medium-low with a little olive oil. Add some sliced garlic (or onions or whatever) and a nice pinch of red pepper flakes. When the garlic starts to turn golden, add a big pile of broccoli rabe (or mushrooms or spinach or whatever vegetable(s) you have on hand). Season with salt and pepper and sauté until cooked through. If you happen to have a bunch of scallions you forgot to serve with last night’s gumbo, throw these in toward the end.
  4. Crack four eggs into a medium mixing bowl. Add a cup or so of milk or cream, salt, pepper and a pinch of two of nutmeg. Now stir in that cheese that you hastily packed up at the end of the night. This is a particularly nice way to recycle your already recycled fromage fort.
  5. Mix your toasted bread cubes in with the sautéed veggies and scoop this into a small baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over the top and pop your bread pudding in the oven.
  6. Cook until the eggs are set and the bread on top is nicely toasted–about 25 minutes, which should be ample time to fix yourself a much-needed cup of coffee. 

Savory Bread Pudding

Matzo Brei Duxelles

New York City is a seductive lover who is bound and determined to make sure you don’t get attached.

On Saturday, I left my house at 11:00am and got back twelve hours later. Temperatures soared into the 70s. Outdoor bunch turned into pedicures turned into a trip to the flea market (where, naturally, I found the perfect dress) turned into a bike ride turned into a delicious home cooked meal and a boatload of rosé with good friends.

Three days later, at the end of a long day of work followed by school, I headed home under a steady rain. The cranky passengers disembarking en masse at Astor Place almost obscured the wads of bloody napkins inexplicably strewn about the wet subway platform. But nothing could mask the sound of the man in yellow leggings and large headphones wailing as he took up an entire row of seats on my car. A strange smell (on which I’d prefer not to dwell) hung in the air. Fifteen minutes and two transfers later, without so much as an announcement, my train went express. Having overshot my stop, I trudged back clutching my heavy bags with fingers that longed for a pair of gloves. I made it upstairs and flicked the radio on just in time to hear the WNYC newscaster blithely announce that we’re under a freeze warning, with lows around 28 overnight. It is April 15th.

There are a raft of tasks that I could–in fact, should–be focusing on tonight. Instead, having failed to score a seder invitation for the second night in a row, I set my sights on converting the matzo left over from last night’s salmon into a fancified version of the ultimate Passover comfort food. In keeping with the woe is me theme of this post, the recipe I present is for one. Scale up as you see fit.

Matzo Brei Duxelle

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 6 large baby bella mushrooms, diced into very small cubes
  • small pinch red pepper flakes (not traditional, but you’ll thank me)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme (also not traditional, but it was in the crisper)
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced parsley (Italian flatleaf would be traditional but, this being Passover, who doesn’t have the curly variety on hand?)
  • 2 sheets matzo
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt and pepper
  1. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté for 4 minutes or so until soft. Add the mushrooms, thyme and red pepper flakes along with a pinch of salt. Continue cooking for about ten minutes, during which time the butter will be absorbed by the mushrooms, the mushrooms will release liquid, and the liquid will simmer off. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley plus a healthy dose of black pepper. Congratulations, you made mushroom duxelles! Now spoon this into a small bowl.
  2. Return the pan to the stove, add 1/4 tablespoon of butter, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Crack the eggs into a small bowl, add some salt and pepper, and blend vigorously with a fork. Break the matzo into pieces approximately 1″ square. Place these in a shallow bowl and run hot water over the top. Stir for 30 seconds or so, scoop them out, and add them to your eggs.
  3. Pour half of your egg and matzo mixture into the pan. Spread your duxelles in a thin even layer and then top with the remaining egg and matzo. Cook until set and browned on the bottom (7 minutes or so). Flip the matzo brei onto a small plate, add your last 1/4 tablespoon of butter to the pan, and then slide the brei back into the pan. Let cook until that side is also golden brown and turn onto a large plate.

Matzo Brei Duxelle

I ate this with a simple salad of arugula dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and topped with a little shaved parmesan. I paired it with a beer, which is decidedly not kosher for Passover, but made me feel better about the sad state of affairs.

Passover Meal for One (or More)

Tonight is the first night of Passover. I had a busy day of work, school, more work, and more school. I wasn’t raised with any religious education and wouldn’t claim to be observant. A dear friend converted to Judaism several years ago. Early in the process, she would call me with questions. I wasn’t much help. I did gift her a copy of Joan Nathan’s The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, which is an excellent resource. The inscription read, “I’ll always eat pork with you.” I get to be a (red-headed, blue-eyed, freckled) Jew (with a Danish last name) because my mom is Jewish.

I told myself that not having a seder to attend was fine. But I have come to realize that I mark the passage of time primarily through food rituals. Somewhere between Bleecker Street in the West Village and Nevins Street in Downtown Brooklyn, I realized that I needed to do something to observe the holiday. As I transferred from the 4 train to the 2 train, I began to catalog the ingredients at the seder table and sort out how I could make them into a quick meal for one. I figured I’d knocked out the lamb last weekend. And my diet includes plenty of eggs. But I did manage to incorporate charoset, matzo, bitter herbs, karpas and wine into my Passover dinner for one.

The resulting dish can be scaled up to feed a crowd but comes together quickly enough that you can justify making it when you still have a few hours of theoretical approaches to cooking shows to read before bed.

Horseradish, Parsley and Matzo-Crusted Salmon

  • 1 six-ounce wild salmon filet
  • 1 sheet matzo, crushed into a mixture of powder and small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced curly parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Rinse and pat the fish dry. Pour a bit of oil into a glass baking dish, place the salmon skin side down and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Using a spoon, mound the matzo mixture on top of your fish.
  3. Cook the salmon approximately 9 minutes until opaque on the outside but still a little jiggly. 

While the oven was preheating, I made a quick version of a Sephardic-style charoset by poaching raisins, dried and quartered figs, and diced red onion in some leftover red wine, honey and lemon juice with a bit of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove and black pepper. I ate this spooned into endive, which made for a great bitter herb, and topped with batons of Adelegger, a very funky raw cow’s milk Alpine cheese (good cheese being my chosen religion).

Horseradish, Parsley and Matzo-Crusted Salmon


Masoor Dal with Kale

Temperatures in New York City soared above 70 today, inducing a collective giddiness. Unfortunately, save for a quick dash outside to pick up lunch and some specialty lightbulbs (good lighting being a bit of an obsession for me), I spent the day at my desk. It is the end of a very long week. By the time 6:00 rolled around, it was all I could do to swing by the health food store for some red lentils and cilantro before heading home. I was craving something spicy that would make use of the kale I picked up last weekend at the Union Square Greenmarket. (It’s tough to use up your vegetables when you get home after 10:00 each night.)

Masoor Dal with Kale

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 knob ginger (about the size of the last joint of your thumb)
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (substitute coconut oil if you’re going for a vegan dish)
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole coriander, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
  • zest of 1 small lime
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro
  • salt
  1. Add your lentils, ginger, turmeric and four cups of water to a medium-sized heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer and place lid on top, leaving open a crack. If you suddenly realize that you need beer, now is the time. Your lentils need to simmer for an hour-plus, so walk those extra five blocks to the good place–and feel free to sample. A growler of Great South Bay Brewery‘s Misfit Toy Black IPA? Don’t mind if I do.
  2. When you get home (about 30 minutes later), give the lentils a stir. (They will have turned to mush; do not be alarmed). By the time you put on some music and pour yourself a beer, it should be time to start the rice. Basmati would be ideal, but I went with Thai Jasmine because that’s what I had on hand. You can follow the instructions on the package, but I’d recommend sautéing the rice in half a tablespoon of ghee or coconut oil for a couple of minutes before adding your water. A good pinch of salt is also key.
  3. Bring a tablespoon of ghee or coconut oil up to medium heat in a small skillet. Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne and cook stirring continuously until the spices are nice and toasty but not burnt (2-3 minutes). Add the onions and the garlic and cook stirring frequently until your onions are crisp and brown at the edges. 
  4. Add the onion and spice mixture to your lentils along with the kale and a couple of healthy pinches of salt and cook for 10 minutes or more, depending on how toothsome your greens are. Taste and adjust your seasoning with additional salt and/or cayenne as needed. Add the lime zest and cilantro off the heat.
  5. Damn, that was easy. But wait, you ask, wouldn’t it be a good idea to remove the giant hunk of ginger before you bite into it? Yes, yes it would.

Masoor Dal with Kale

This dish is best consumed with a second beer, in your underwear, trusty cat by your side, while watching 8 Mile (which you’ve been meaning to see for years).

Mutton Dressed as…Mutton

I was raised a vegetarian. My family introduced meat around the time I started middle school, but it took me a while to truly become a carnivore. Once during my senior year of college my mom brought home fried chicken and had to pick the white meat off of the bone for me.

My budding curiosity was put on hold when I entered college, as cafeteria meat was just too gross to ponder. I started cooking in earnest while studying in Jerusalem during my junior year. Israel was a great place to be a vegetarian. Even on my very limited budget, I was able to eat well and even feed others. For a long time after college I ate (rather pedestrian) meat outside of the house but continued to cook vegetarian dishes at home.

Eventually I became too interested in food not to explore. I found myself frustrated by my own taboos and squeamishness. And so I began to push at my own boundaries. While I might not order it as my entrée, I would taste anything. I moved beyond chicken breasts and ground beef in my own meat cookery. I worked hard at confronting meat that looked like what it was: part of an animal. I delved into braises and barbecuing. I ordered a leg of lamb from an old school pork store and brought it home in the basket of my bike. I bought an untrimmed pork loin and tackled it early one morning in a pre-caffeine haze. The more I worked with meat, the more it became a part of me and my identity.

Today I had the opportunity to attend a daylong intensive workshop on butchering sheep as part of Just Food‘s annual conference. The workshop was led by Adam Danforth, who just published two books on butchering. He talked us through slaughter, animal welfare and what makes meat delicious. After a burrito and margarita break (did I mention how awesome this workshop was?), Adam set to work breaking down a whole sheep and answering our endless questions. A chef was on hand to prepare the various cuts in a simple manner that really highlighted the lamb-y goodness. We rounded out the day with beer, socializing and the chance to pack up a meat cut or two to take home.

Sheep Carcass

I went for the shoulder chop, which Adam had explained was far more flavorful than the more conventional (and expensive) loin or rib chops. Adam is a big proponent of the complex flavor and marbling that come with a muscle that works hard. He also encourages the consumption of older animals and challenges the commonly held notion that they are tough. It turns out that a sheep is classified as lamb up until it reaches a year old. Between one and two years old, it is a hogget. And, after two years, it becomes mutton. This older meat is darker in color and offers the deeper flavor that lamb aficionados seek.

Mutton Shoulder Chops, Raw

I had plans to go out to dinner. On my way to the train, I dropped my friend a text that there was a change in plan and that he should meet me at my apartment for some serious meat. An hour later Justin arrived bearing the ingredients for Hemingway Daiquiris and I set to work preparing our feast.

Hemingway Daquiris

With the winter CSA season behind us and summer still months off, I find that I have to go to great lengths to get my quota of good quality fresh vegetables. Luckily, I had swung through the Union Square Greenmarket on my way to the workshop (which, incidentally, was in a very cool test kitchen behind an unmarked door).

I kept the preparation of the meat and the accompanying dishes simple to highlight the mutton flavor. I stuck a cast iron skillet in the oven while it pre-heated. Meanwhile, I peeled and chopped a celeriac bulb, a couple of parsnips and a large sweet potato. I tossed these root vegetables with some sprigs of fresh thyme, a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and a good dose of salt and pepper directly in the hot skillet and left them to roast, stirring occasionally. I tossed radish sprouts with sunflower seeds and a simple shallot, rice wine and sesame oil vinaigrette.

Radish Sprout Salad

I brought a large skillet up to medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil and seasoned the room temperature chops liberally with salt and pepper before tossing them into the pan. I seared them for about five minutes per side and then set them aside to rest while I made a quick pan sauce. I poured off all but a tablespoon of the fat, placed the pan back over the heat, and added a couple of tablespoons of finely minced shallots and garlic. After a couple of minutes of constant stirring, I deglazed the pan with the dregs of a bottle of white wine. Off the heat, I stirred in two tablespoons of finely minced parsley and the zest of an old lemon that I unearthed from the crisper bin. I drizzled the sauce over the chops and we sat down to some truly delicious mutton.

Mutton Shoulder Chops, Cooked