This blog is proof of G-d's infinite humor. If you had told me a couple of years ago that I would be doing a blog on cooking or food, I would have escorted you out the door, laughing all the way. I'm very upfront about this: my mom was allergic to the oven and I grew up on take-out food.
This wasn't all bad. Preparing dinner consisted of deciding which restaurant to dial.
Now that I'm all grown up, neither my waistline nor my wallet can afford to keep eating these ready-made delights. In addition, my life took a few unexpected turns. I had spent ten years building a fast-track career as a TV producer; working for CNN and then HBO. I traveled the world covering award shows and interviewing celebs. Eventually, I embraced traditional Judaism and my repressed home-based values bubbled to the surface. I gave away my stiletto heels, cut down my hectic work schedule, and got married. A quick tally of the results: I now have one hubby, three kids, and a kosher kitchen!
As a new bride married into a large family, I discovered that I was expected to cook meals not only for weekdays but for every Shabbos and holiday, and that we were going to frequently invite our friends and relatives, our friends' relatives and our relatives' friends over to our place to partake in the feast. The irony was that Hubby came from a long line of great cooks, including professional caterers. He had never met anyone who would seriously ask, "What's a spatula?"
I had no choice. I learned how to use that kitchen, much to everyone's shock, including my own. I found out how to turn on the oven (first, take out the sweaters you were storing there), how to shop for kosher food, and how to cook the stuff until it's so delish that you're proud to serve it. What's more, by begging and sweet-talking a lot, I collected hundreds of recipes from real cooks that take fifteen minutes or less to prepare. That's right - I said fifteen or less.
This development was so phenomenal I had to write a book about it. I discovered that most people are as pressed for time as I am, whether a new bride or a great-grandma, novice or experienced home chef. What emerged was Quick & Kosher: Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing. Its sort of a cross between a cookbook, an autobiography, and a cooking manual -- and every word in that book is true.
Now here comes the funny part. I thought I had everything down pat until my three kids got past eating mush out of a little jar. Suddenly, I was back to knowing nothing -- back to the frustration of not knowing what to cook, how to cook it, or how to get them to eat it. Even more horrifying was the realization that unless I get hold of some decent "family" recipes, Hubby and I would have to consume the childrens' default Peanut Butter du Jour dish nightly for the next twenty years. I had graduated from being the Bride Who Knew Nothing to a frazzled mom desperately searching for the perfect combo of recipes we'd all want to eat.
When I decided to write this blog, I figured OK, it's an opportunity not just to talk, but to listen. I don't know how many bloggers write with the direct intention of getting feedback, but that's my goal. I need help. I need friends. And if you share any of my concerns, my hopes, or my problems, if you need quick and easy recipes, if you're interested in ideas for making your home a place full of sunshine, and if you have a few recipes or ideas of your own that you can offer - I think we'll be best buds. Together, we'll cope.
After all, your life is probably somewhat like mine: Every day is a balancing act of kids, careers, and carpools. I don't mind being in the kitchen, but I need to get out and do other things. I consider entertaining company a pleasure, not a burden. I admit to relishing the moment when a guest says, "Mmm, terrific. Did you cook this?" and I can say yes, knowing I did more than just defrost it. I love barbeques, Shabbos and Sheva Brachos. (Hey, last year I threw a Sheva Brachos barbeque. I'm very into consolidating.) If you happen to be an accomplished cook or you're at a different stage of life, I have the feeling we'll still get along: everyone can use kitchen tips and time savers. And who can't use creative ideas for everything from an intimate dinner to brunch for the entire synagogue sisterhood?
To make your life a little easier, I'll be sharing loads of recipes. Today I'm serving up 1 dairy, 1 meat, and 1 parve - giving you maximum flexibility. (We all have our moods.) And 1 Shabbos recipe too.
This week, the perfect Sunday night dairy dinner is Creamy Ziti. (OK, If you serve Shabbos leftovers on Sunday, make this on Monday.) Loaded with ricotta and mozzarella, this recipe will probably top your local restaurant-made ziti. (Honestly, I'm the furthest thing from a snob when it comes to eating restaurant food. When it's delish and someone else has done all the hard work, what could be better? But there are few things that I can't bring myself to eat out and ziti is one of them, because I just love this easy recipe so much!) Serve it with a simple garden salad to round out your meal.
I'll bet that by Tuesday or Wednesday night, your family will be back in the mood for a meat meal. So here's a Latin classic: Arroz Con Pollo. That's Spanish for Rice & Chicken - but doesn't it sound fancier in a foreign language? Turmeric and paprika, spicy Spanish rice with sautéed peppers, onions, and mushrooms will turn your usual boring chicken and rice night into a Latin Fiesta!
And Thursday night is a good time for something light and parve, as we will soon be entering the meat fest of Shabbos. I'm feeling international inspiration, so let me suggest Sesame Crusted Yellowfin Tuna with Wasabi Sauce. It's so quick and so easy! Tuna is one of those neutral fishes that even non-fish eaters are comfortable trying.
Consider me a neighbor who has just dropped in to schmooze in your kitchen. I share my recipes and shortcuts with you, you share yours with me. What I'm saying here, folks, is that I'd love for you to "totally talk to me" or at least, leave a comment!
On that note - what do you think of this recipe and video? I shot it in my friend Beth's kitchen. The original recipe comes straight from my recipe tester Joy's father-in-law, a Philly native like me. It offers an interesting, unexpected flavor, a total twist on Gefilte Fish. I happen to like this dish so much, I put a picture of it on the cover of my book.
Here's the video. Watch and learn how to make this lovely dish.
By now, you should have a good idea of what this blog is all about, and the key to its content is YOU. I'm not one of those people who can dispense wisdom from my castle in the sky. I need to know what types of food and family issues matter to you. No doubt, tackling topics that interest you will help me too. Pretty soon, we'll be able to discuss these things like old friends.
So let me ask you, honestly -- last night my husband made us tuna sandwiches for dinner because I was busy writing this. Though my four-year-old defends me as the "best cooker in the world," Hubby is under the impression that the party is over; he'll be fixing all our dinners from now on. Of course, that's not true! - at least not 100% true. But tell me, when you've got deadlines hanging over you, how does your family handle the juggling? The sooner we come up with answers to that one, the better it will be for all of us.