The Basic Burger

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My parents used to have a burger shaping device that we used to make our own patties in the summer. It was a patty-sized cylindrical mold with a flat lid used to press a handful of seasoned ground beef so that it’s perfectly even and flat; so it comes out looking like one of the patties you can buy in bulk from the freezer section of the grocery store. I loved using it, putting my entire body weight into flattening the meat into a uniform disc. I ruined countless burgers, turning loosely packed ground meat into a dense circle sure to cook into a tough and chewy hockey puck. It would be years before I learned that a tender and juicy burger is the result of gently handled meat.

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In my vegetarian years I traded over-pressed patties for veggie burgers, most of which had a uniform texture and tough chew reminiscent of what I grew up with. Then a few years ago burgers became a hot menu item. Besides the craze for fast food done slightly better, a la Shake Shack, Five Guys, and In N Out, gourmet versions were everywhere. They came oozing cheese, stuffed with caramelized onions, served with no fewer than five condiments. They were great and Jeff and I ate them until we could eat no more. But they were never really about the burger. In most of those creations the meat could have been removed entirely without any real change in taste to the meal.

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There’s certainly a time for the blue cheese and bacon burger with onion rings and barbecue sauce eclipsing the obligatory lettuce. But if I’m making them at home there’s probably not much going on between the buns; lettuce, tomato, something pickled, mustard, maybe some mayo. I make my own patties without the help of any shaping or mushing tools. It’s just salt, pepper, sometimes Worcestershire sauce but usually not, and a light hand. The only pressing is the little divot in the middle, supposedly to prevent the middle from puffing up as it cooks. There’s not much of a recipe below because there’s not really a lot that goes into making a simple burger. It’s what you leave out that makes all the difference.

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The Basic Burger

Makes 3-4 burgers

1 lb ground beef
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tbs worcestershire sauce (optional)

COMBINE the ground beef with the salt, pepper, and worcestershire (if using) in a large bowl. Loosely toss the mixture together so that the seasoning is evenly distributed. A folding method, similar to incorporating beaten egg whites into a batter, works well here.

DIVIDE the meat into three or four equal portions, depending on how many burgers you’re making.

SHAPE the meat into patties gently, patting it into place with your hands – no need to squeeze. The patties should be a little loose when you’re done and feel like they might fall apart if you’re not careful with them. When you have the shape you want, lightly press a thumb into the center of each patty to create a little divot.

GRILL the patties on a grill set to medium heat – too hot and they will char on the outside before they’re cooked, too low and they won’t get nice caramelized bits. It may take some testing to find how how your grill should be to achieve this. I like to cook mine about 7 minutes on each side, flipping them at the four minute mark so each side gets cooked for a four minute period and a three minute period. If you like your burger closer to medium than rare, add a few extra minutes. You could also cook these in a pan on medium high heat, following the same steps when it comes to timing and flipping. If you don’t use a non-stick pan, grease it a little before cooking. While the burgers will give off some grease as they cook, it won’t be fast enough to lubricate the pan while the first side cooks.

Avocado Lime Dressing

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There are usually a couple of avocados sitting around my kitchen, getting ripe on the counter or tucked into the fridge for eating now. They’re a staple. When did that happen? Do you ever wonder about how much food has changed in the last few decades? It’s my own special brand of reminiscing about the good old days, except in this case the good old days were sans avocado. It’s better now.

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Still, I don’t remember when avocados shifted from occasional treat to everyday purchase, when guacamole became a party staple and salsa was the second best choice. The leathery green fruits somehow insinuated themselves into everyday life. Jeff and I sometimes joke that “California style” on a menu really just means “with avocado” California has more than it’s fair share of avocados year round, but it’s not just a west coast thing. At least, I don’t think it is.

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Avocados find their way into everything, especially in the summer. I slice them on scrambled eggs, mash them on sandwiches, and I’m still not sick of them. It makes me wonder how I lived without them. And also, what I’ll be eating in twenty years.

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Avocado Lime Dressing

1 avocado (make sure it’s very ripe)
Juice of 1-2 limes (about ¼ cup lime juice)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 clove garlic, finely minced
¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)
Up to ¼ cup olive oil

COMBINE avocado, lime, salt, and garlic in a blender, food processor, or a bowl. Blend, process, or mash the ingredients with a fork or use a stick blender. With the fork, the end result will be like a thin guacamole.

SLOWLY ADD the olive oil to the blended avocado mixture while still mixing the ingredients together so that the oil can be fully incorporated.

TASTE and adjust any seasonings to make it to your liking. It’s a thick dressing so make sure to toss the salad well to distribute it. With all the lime juice it will last a week in the fridge without losing it’s color.

Pickled Red Onions

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Sometimes I forgot that the steps in most recipes are suggestions rather than rules. The recipe seems so authoritative that I ignore all the ways the dish could more flavorful, or steps that can be abbreviated. I don’t question the necessity of steps or ingredients that don’t enough to justify the added difficulty. I forget that there must be an easier way to make the same dish on a regular basis, saving the more complex version for special occasions And I end up cheating myself, relegating the dish to the made-it-once category instead of trying to simplify and make the dish easy to repeat.

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I used to follow a complicated recipe for pickled red onions and as a result, I almost never made them. The process was long and messy and had to be repeated three times. It left my kitchen perfumed with the choking smell of vinegar from it simmering on the stove. It wasn’t worth it even though the onions were delicious and good on everything we tried them with to boot. I never even thought to change up the recipe until a friend served a very close fascimile of those same pickles, except they didn’t need any heat or much time at all. I cheated myself out of these pickles for months because I forgot my own first rule of cooking – the recipe is not always right.

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Playing fast and loose with recipes doesn’t always work out as well as these pickles. Sometimes the result of my experimentation isn’t pretty or the cake falls or it ends up mediocre rather than delicious. But often it ends up almost as good as the original and much easier to put together. I learn new things about how ingredients work together or flavors that blend surprisingly well. And sometimes I end up with a new favorite.

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Pickled Red Onions

Makes about two cups

Given the ubiquitous presence of red onions all year round and the fact that these go well with everything, from grilled cheese to burgers to stew, this is a staple recipe you can make all year long.

About 2 cups, packed, thinly sliced red onion (this is about equal to one medium or half of one large red onion)
2 bay leaves
1 tbs whole peppercorns
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar

STUFF the onion slices into a 2-cup container. They should be packed in tightly at this point and maybe stick out a little over the top of the container – they’ll soften and fit better after soaking in the vinegar.

ADD the bay leaves and peppercorns to the container

COMBINE the vinegar with the salt and sugar in a separate container. Stir them around until the salt and sugar dissolve.

POUR the vinegar mixture over the red onions and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. If the onions are still above the vinegar line, poke them down after about 15 minutes so they all fit below the vinegar. After 30 minutes you can serve them or store them in the fridge for several weeks and just grab what you want.

Unfussy: Yogurt Chicken

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The first thing I made when I got back from the weddings was this chicken. I planned it out on the flight home from Boston, right down to the shopping list. It was the first food I’d made in weeks that wasn’t a sandwich or a plate of leftovers. It was the first plated meal I’d had that wasn’t catered or eaten at a restaurant. It was heaven. Not that it’s such an exciting recipe – it’s pretty minimalistic and while it’s a good piece of grilled chicken, it’s also just that: grilled chicken.

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There’s not a whole lot to say about grilled chicken but that’s kind of the point. Food isn’t always exciting or particularly beautiful or noteworthy. I make a lot of everyday food, the kind that magazines list as “quick weeknight meals” rather than guest-worthy dishes. It’s the kind of food I like making the best. The kind that’s uncomplicated and doesn’t leave a lot of room for questions about whether I’m doing it right. The kind where the perfectly cooked version is just about as good as the missed-a-step-but-still-ok version.

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Sometimes, especially when thinking of thing to share here, I get caught up in making “impressive” dishes or ones that are “unique” and use “interesting flavor combinations.” And sometimes that’s fun. But more often I’m in my kitchen making something more intuitive and less exciting, something more everyday. Something more like this chicken. And yes, I’d still proudly serve it to guests.

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Yogurt Chicken

3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 cup yogurt
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp kosher salt
A few spoonfuls of spices (optional, I used a citrus blend in the photos above)

COMBINE yogurt, minced garlic, salt, and spices (if using) in a zip top bag or shallow container. Mix everything around and then add the chicken and make sure it’s fully coated with the yogurt mixture. Let the chicken marinate for about an hour and up to four hours

PREHEAT your oven to 425 F or your grill to medium. If you’re roasting, line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack on it. If you’re grilling, oil the grill using a piece of paper towel dipped in oil and wipe it across the grates while holding it with tongs.

REMOVE chicken from the marinade and let any extra drip off – you want it to still be coated but not soaked. For the oven, place the thighs on the rack and roast for about 40 minutes, flipping the pieces half way through cooking. For the grill, place the thighs on the grates and cook for about 4 minutes a side, flipping halfway. They’ll need to be grilled twice on each side but flipping them often will prevent the skin from burning. If they start to look too charred but the insides aren’t done, turn the heat down on half or all of the grill and let them cook on the cooler side until they reach 160 F inside and/or the juices run clear when you cut them.

SERVE hot, warm, or cold from the fridge. They’ll keep in the fridge for about a week so any leftovers can be turned into chicken salad or just eaten off the bone.

Barbecue Spice Mix

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We did it. After 13 months of planning, we got married! Two coasts. Two weddings. When it comes to wedding advice the most common that I came across was “it goes by so fast.” And it does, whether you get married once or twice. Somehow I thought the second wedding would feel a bit slower, but both days I felt like I had only just gotten my hair done and then suddenly the last song was playing.

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I cried walking down the aisle. Both times. Not the delicate, tears-welling-up kind of crying either. Big fat happy tears rolled down my cheeks as I took my first step and all I could think was that this whole assembled group had come as witnesses, to support us. To celebrate us. We spent two days surrounded by laughter, music, some tears, and good company. We spent two days surrounded by delicious food: Pastrami sandwiches with fresh rye bread. Piles of barbecued meat with coleslaw and collard greens. Cheese. Cake. Pie. We spent two days surrounded by the most overwhelmingly indescribable love. No one warned me about that. It wasn’t part of the advice; how overwhemlingly wonderful it is to be at the center of so much love. It was magical. Both times.

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There isn’t any leftover cake in our freezer. No pie either for that matter. What I have are the recipes. The recipe for the pie, and for the cake, and also the recipe for the jars of spice we handed out to guests in Massachusetts. It’s smoky and a little spicy and a perfect reminder of the wedding, much better than a stale piece of cake.

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Barbecue Spice Mix

Makes about 3/4 cup of mix

1 tbs cumin (8 g)
3 tbs paprika (25 g)
1 tbs smoked paprika (10 g)
2 tsp oregano (1 g)
1 tsp ancho chile powder (3 g)
1 tsp new mexico chile powder (3 g)
1 tsp chipotle chile powder (3 g)
1 tsp garlic powder (4 g)
½ tsp onion powder (2 g)

GRIND the cumin seeds using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle.

COMBINE all the spices in a bowl. Stir to distribute and then store in an air tight container for up to a year (more than that and the spices will lose some of their potency). Use it to season almost anything – meat, fish, vegetables, dips; it’s a whole world of possibilities.

Cherry Pie

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The only part of my wedding I ever planned beforehand was the dessert. When we got engaged last year I didn’t have a lot of ideas of what the wedding would be like. I didn’t have dreams of what it would look like or what I would wear. The only thing I knew I wanted was to make my own wedding cake. And pie, since that’s my obvious preference when it comes to baked desserts. The first thing on my wedding to do list then, was figuring out how to make it happen.

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Look, I’m not totally crazy. I didn’t want to bake my own stacked and tiered wedding cake with sweet decorations and little details piped in with frosting. I didn’t want to deal with full size pies and lattice crusts that refuse to play nicely in the summer. I wanted to make rustic individual cakes and pies, the kind baked in little jars so that they don’t have to be shared. That way I could have pie and Jeffrey could have cake and it could be a compromise of sorts. The best kind of compromise where everyone gets what they want and no one actually has to give in. And since I am Team Pie in this relationship that meant I got to choose the pie flavor. Tart cherry pie, arguably the best pie flavor for early summer.

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But as with most aspects of wedding planning, just saying that I wanted tart cherry pie did not make it happen. Wishing for a perfect recipe and easy access to ingredients does not make it so; I had to work for it. To start with, tart cherries have an incredibly short season and they don’t even grow around Boston where the wedding was planned. I toyed with the idea of sweet cherry pie but dropped it after just one test pie – it was good but not good enough. I spent a few crazy weeks and months sourcing sour cherries (found the perfect ones at Trader Joe’s), testing out recipes, and perfecting the one I hacked together. There’s been a lot of pie around here over the past six months and it’s been glorious. This one in particular is glorious. I can’t wait to have one more at the wedding. And maybe a second one the day after.

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Cherry Pies
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit’s Cherry Hand Pies from January 2011

Makes one 9-inch double crusted pie or 6 indidivual pies baked in 1-cup jars

1 recipe flaky pie crust
1 12-oz jar tart cherries in juice or light syrup, liquid reserved
1 ½ tbs cornstarch
1 cup dried tart cherries
½ cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

PREPARE the pie crust and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours or up to a few days. When it’s rested and chilled, roll half of it out to line the bottom of the pie pan or the jars. Save the other half to use later If using jars I found it easiest to cut out a piece for the bottom of the jar and cut a long wide strip to use for the sides and then pinch the two pieces together at the seam. Once the pie pan(s) is (are) lined with dough, put them back in the fridge to rest for at least an hour.

DRAIN the juice from the cherries and combine 1 ½ tbs juice with cornstarch and set aside.

COMBINE ¾ cup juice, dried cherries, and sugar in a pan over medium heat. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then add cornstarch mixture and boil for another few minutes until thick and glossy. Turn off heat, add salt and vanilla, and let it cool to room temperature.

PREHEAT the oven to 300F. Roll out the remainining pie dough and either cut it into shapes (I used hearts) to cover the top, make a lattice, or just roll out a full piece of dough to lay on top.

SPOON the filling into the chilled pie shell(s) and then cover with the top crust. If using a full piece of dough be sure to cut some slits in the top for steam to escape.

BAKE for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before slicing. The pie is good fresh and can also be refrigerated and served cold, room temperature, or hot for about four days.

Black Forest Cake

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In the nine point five years that Jeff and I have been together we’ve learned a lot about each other. I know that he always chooses dark chocolate over milk and that he prefers savory oatmeal to the sweet variety. I know the answers to his security questions and where his scars came from. Sometimes when we go out to eat I can figure out what he will order before he even decides and even if I’m wrong, my guess is usually at least his second choice. But it was only last year that I discovered his favorite cake.

That’s not to say I didn’t know his favorite dessert but when you’re as interested in food as the two of us are there is room for more categories of favorite than just breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. We were standing in line at a cafe waiting to order and I saw a beautiful black forest cake – decorated with plump cherries and a dusting of grated chocolate. Slices had been cut into it and you could see the stripes of cake, whipped cream, and cherries stacked in each piece. Black forest is my favorite cake and I mentioned it to him as I debated what to order with my cup of tea. Cake isn’t usually my choice when it comes to dessert and he turned to me in surprise when I mentioned it. It took us more than eight years to figure out that we both have the same favorite cake.

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In our defense, black forest cake doesn’t come up very often. It isn’t particularly popular on restaurant dessert menus, although I can’t see why the combination of dark chocolate cake, sour cherry jam, and barely-sweetened whipped cream would be so roundly dismissed. More often it comes as a disappointing slice of slightly stale cake with sugary icing and not enough cherry flavor to make it anything more than an ordinary chocolate cake. I made my own version of it that year for his birthday and spent the last few months refining the recipe. I tweaked the amount of chocolate and cherry, found a vegetarian way to stabilize whipped cream so the cake could be kept in the fridge for a few days, and came up with something particularly special. Which is just as well, since we’ll be serving it at our wedding a few weeks. But you can have some now.

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Black Forest Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Cake

Makes 1 triple layer 8-inch round cake or 18 1-cup jar cakes with room for whipped cream on top

3 cups (600 grams) sugar
2 1/2 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (aprox. 130 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 oz (85 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) hot brewed coffee
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (6 oz) vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon kirsch

PREHEAT the oven to 300 F and grease three 9-inch cake rounds or 18 1-cup glass jars. If using the jars, line a baking sheet with foil and arrange the jars on the sheet.

COMBINE sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir and set aside.

POUR hot coffee over grated chocolate and set aside, stirring occasionally, to let the chocolate melt.

BEAT eggs, in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Then add oil and buttermilk and beat to combine. Add vanilla and kirsch, then chocolate/coffee mixture and beat for a few more minutes. Slowly sift in dry goods and beat until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pans or jars

BAKE at 300 F for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clear. Let cool to room temperature.

For the filling:
1 12-oz jar of sour cherries in water, juice, or light syrup
1 tsp cornstarch
⅓ cup sugar
pinch of salt

MIX 1 tsp of the cherry liquid and combine with 1 tsp cornstarch, stir to combine and set aside.

COMBINE cherries and remaining juice, sugar, and salt in a pot over medium heat and let cook for 30-40 minutes, until concentrated and well broken down. Use an immersion blender to blend into a smooth jam.

ADD cornstarch/juice mix, stir thoroughly, bring to a boil and cook for 5-10 minutes until thick. Let cool until room temperature

For the whipped cream and to assemble:
2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp agar agar
2-4 tbs powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
About 1 ounce of chocolate, grated

SPRINKLE agar over cream and let soften for a few minutes.Then beat to fluffy peaks, adding sugar and vanilla when it is mostly done.

REMOVE cakes from their pans or jars. If making a layer cake, spread some cherry filling on the top of two of the cakes, using half for each, and stack them so there is cherry between each layer. Then spread the whipped cream on the top and down the sides. You can also instead put both cherry and cream between each layer and then put some of both on the top as well. Sprinkle the top with shaved chocolate as well. If you’re making individual cakes, slice them in half and place the bottom half back in the jar. Spoon in a few tablespoons of the cherry filling and then add the top half of the cake. Spread whipped cream on top and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

You can serve these immediately or refrigerate for up to two days. Then bring it back to room temperature before serving.

Manhattan

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It’s June. This might not be a surprise to you, after all, June infallibly follows the 31st of May every year, but for me it’s a bit overwhelming. June is always a big month in this house. Jeff’s birthday is in June, my birthday is in June, and that takes care of about two weeks of celebration. So normally most of the month is taken up by preparing for or coming down from a party. But this year we’ve been planning for June since last May. Because besides the two birthdays, this June we’re getting married. Twice.

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Yes, you read that right. We’re getting married twice. It sounds crazy every time I say it and I’ve been saying it for the better part of a year at this point. The reactions all confirm this idea that we’ve bitten off more than we could chew; most people stare in disbelief and then say something along the lines of “wow”. Well, we’re within a month of both wedding days and the planning that’s left is pretty managable. Over the last few months the idea of getting married (twice! To the same person!) has shifted from sort of terrifying to exciting and just a few weeks ago it reached the tipping point of being more exciting than scary. Oh, and overwhelming. Completely overwhelming.

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Part of me is waiting for this all to just blow up in my face. I keep thinking I must have forgotten to take care of something, that some large piece of the puzzle must be missing. But the checklists (oh the checklists!) make it seem like this is really going to work. We are really going to get married. Twice. And on man, do I need a drink. I need a drink to toast this amazing month. And I need a drink to relax. This one is a classic. I think I’ll keep it nearby this month.

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Manhattan

1 shot bourbon or rye whiskey
1/2 shot sweet vermouth
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 Luxardo cherries (for a garnish) plus a splash of the juice

SHAKE bourbon, vermouth, and bitters together with ice in a shaker or covered container. Also add the splash if cherry juice, is using
STRAIN the liquid into a fresh glass and a single large ice cube or a few smaller ones (no crushed ice)
GARNISH with the cherries and sip.

Perfect Soft-Boiled Eggs

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Chefs say that cooking eggs is a good judge of technical skill in the kitchen. Have you noticed this? In every chef interview that I read (which is a lot of them) if the subject turns to judging cooking skills, the benchmark is almost always eggs. And while I wonder sometimes whether in practice eggs cookery is used to judge new chefs, there’s no doubt that the idea makes sense. Eggs are surprisingly difficult to cook well and there are hundreds of ways to do it – and as a result hundreds of ways to do it wrong. Plus everyone has their preference for how any given egg dish should taste; runny yolks or firm, large or small curds in a scramble, French- or American-style omelettes, and those are just the basics.

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Over the years I’ve slowly learned how to make eggs well. It started with omelettes (French style please), which admittedly Jeff is much more accomplished at making than I am. Years of flipping, dropping eggs on the floor, trying again. Then I moved on to scrambled eggs, trying different methods and styles until I settled on a favorite (medium curds while Jeff prefers smaller curds). And there are always over-easy fried eggs, added to leftovers or morning oatmeal. They were our staple for years, along with the greasy pan that came along with them. But more recently I’ve moved from the fry pan, conquering the perfect soft-boiled egg with the help of the Ivan Ramen cookbook.

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Ramen is the most common place to find a soft-boiled egg and it was in a bowl that I first had one, with the soft yolk melting into the hot soup. The first time we tried to make them at home we ended up with half-cooked whites that wouldn’t peel. They were inedible. But the second time, and every time after that, it’s been perfect. Soft-boiled eggs are an easier version of poached eggs – runny yolk, just barely cooked white, and none of the odd shapes I inevitably end up with when trying to poach an egg. Now if only I could master the hard-boiled egg.

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Perfectly Soft-Boiled Eggs
Adapted from Ivan Orkin’s 6:10 eggs

BOIL a pot of water on medium-high heat, big enough so that when the eggs are placed in it they will be completely covered and water temperature won’t drop below a boil for more than 30 seconds. I use a small pot/two cups of water for 1-2 eggs, a medium pot/one quart of water for 3-4 eggs, and a large pot/half gallon of water or more for 5+ eggs.

ADD eggs gently to the already boiling water. Keep the heat on medium-high so the water continues to boil and set a timer for 6 minutes.

SET UP an ice bath with a bowl of water and a few ice cubes to place the eggs in when they’re done and set it aside.

REMOVE the eggs from the boiling water when the timer goes off and immediately put them in the ice bath for at least a minute. Then peel and eat immediately or you can refrigerate them for a week and reheat them in a bowl of hot (but not boiling) water for a few minutes before eating.

* For those who are curious, the delicious bowl of food under that lovely egg is a riff on this recipe substituting cabbage for bok choy.

Greek Salad

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I was one of those kids with a messy room – clothes strewn on the floor, books and papers piled up on the desk, stuff everywhere. Things got swallowed up in the mess and resurfaced months after they were no longer needed, often broken or with missing pieces. I existed in that state of disarray except for the uncommon times when my mom would insist that it get cleaned up, generally after too many of her things had been borrowed and lost. I’d sit on the bed and stare at the mess, eventually dissolving into tears from the massiveness of the task. No idea what to tackle first. Paralyzed. That feeling where my shoulders are up around my ears, back against the wall, not sure where to start. I’m feeling that again these days.

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Stress creeps in slowly. It starts with just a small thing and then just two small things and then at some point it’s so many that I can’t see how I got so deep in without noticing. I still haven’t quite gotten the hang out of how best to clean up my own messes. I flounder a bit, wade deeper into the mess until I can see it clearly and start to pick my way out. It gets easier every time – if not the actual simplifying than at least easing the stress. I start in the kitchen. Chopping, mixing, soothing myself with the comfortable familiar before trying to dive into the chaos.

Comfort food means different things depending on the season and when the weather is warm all I want greek salad. Thick cubes of cucumber, tomato, and pepper to make the chopping easier, crumbles of rich feta cheese, lots of lemon-and-oregano dressing. It’s quick to make, the cleanup is easy, and if you leave out the greens you can make it ahead and reach for a bowl whenever the to do list gets too long. And if the stress doesn’t magically melt away, at least it’s easier to face with a full belly.

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Greek Salad
Makes two side salads or one hearty meal

About 2 cups roughly chopped cucumber, tomato, and red or yellow bell pepper – choose your own ratios, I like a lot of tomato.
Up to ¼ cup crumbled feta – use as much as you like
2 tbs chopped fresh oregano
Juice of half a lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbs tahini
1 tsp dried oregano (it holds up against the acid better than fresh which turns a bit brown)
Salt to taste

COMBINE lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, oregano, and up to ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and whisk to combine. Set the dressing aside.

TOSS cucumber, tomoto, pepper, feta, and oregano in a large bowl. Add dressing to taste and toss again. Eat now or later or whenever you need a little comfort.