Turkey Bird Salad and Buns

I just woke up from my standard, six-day, post Thanksgiving-binge coma and I’m looking for something to snack on. This recipe is my go to “we need to figure out how we’re going to eat all the leftover turkey because I’m getting tired of eating dry, cold turkey with old mash potatoes.” Growing up, I remember the TLT  sandwiches my mom and I would eat days after Thanksgiving. The juicy sweetness of the tomatoes coupled with the creamy, tangy mayonnaise and crunchy lettuce made for a sandwich that was worth looking forward to almost as much as the Thanksgiving feast itself.  This recipe is not for those sandwiches. I would hope that you could figure out how to spackle together that sandwich without detailed instructions. No, this recipe is for a turkey (or any bird you can catch and roast in an oven) salad that scratches that TLT itch and some sweet buns that you shouldn’t wait till next Thanksgiving to make.

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Thanksgiving Roast Veg

As we get closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas, IMG_0756it’s important to start counting your vegetables. Not only because I’m going to personally inhale two pumpkin pies and half a turkey; but because you don’t want to sit down at a Thanksgiving dinner table without variety nor vegetation. This recipe is the perfect complement to a roast bird, a slice of pie, and/or cold weather. It’s also pretty tasty all by it’s lonesome. With smokey sweet roast vegetables, topped with tangy cream, aromatic herbs, and a near-kaleidoscopic palette of colors, this dish will excite your eye, then warm and gratify your gut.

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I’m not especially inclined to write dessert recipes, especially ones with caramel. IMG_0739For one, caramel is about the worst thing in the world to work with. It took me three tries to not burn the caramel the first time I made this dish, and I’m still learning how to handle molten sugar without burning myself. Also, desserts are finicky when it comes to finding what’s individually palatable. Everyone has their own tastes and preferences; some people could find this dish unbearably sweet, others might call for a bottle of syrup as they munch on sugar cubes. Growing up overseas, one thing you learn at a dinner table is that desserts do no translate well; there are too many textures and flavors to play with and they are all magnified in the name of something saccharine after dinner. That being said, this flan is delicious. It’s fun and fancy (as long as you don’t tell anyone how easy it is to make) and the perfect custard to try if you want to dip a toe in the sea of creamy desserts.

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Lentils and Spaetzle

Alas, a proper recipe for bagels has eluded me for yet another week. For anyone who has been waiting, I have been making batches with bread flour, but I’m still working out some of the kinks with how I prove my dough and ensure good rise. The attempted bagels are coming out delicious – doughy, chewy, just salty enough – but they are going to have to wait a little while longer.

So, this week I bring you Lentils and Spaetzle. img_0664.jpgGrowing up, this dish would land on the dining room table to great applause and much fanfare. A cheesy, hearty, stomach-filling dish made by European Mountain People (Swiss and Germans) to warm themselves from the inside out. The true beauty of this dish (aside from the cheese) is that it’s essentially buttered noodles and stewed beans – something I think even the most picky of us can get behind. As a former Floridian, the temperature drop here in Memphis made me run to the stove to get everything boiling. This is the kind of dish that fills your kitchen and your house with a warm, foggy perfume. This is the kind of dish that you and your favorite couch blanket can curl up with. Yes, it’s October and the temperature sank only into the fifties, but I’m getting chilly, so this is Lentils and Spaetzle.

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An Off Week

This week was supposed to be bagel week. I spent about four hours reading twenty different bagel recipes and hunting every video I could find of the inside of a New York bakery. A learned the difference between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ water and now know that New York’s water supply (fed by precipitation – i.e. rainfall and mountain runoff – in the Hudson River Valley, running hundreds of miles to a 900 million gallon reservoir in the city, dubbed: “The Bathtub”) is one of the ‘softest’ in the country. A former mayor has been quoted calling it “the champagne of tap water.” The city has been quoted saying “there’s probably still a fair number of lead pipes in older buildings.” The information I gathered is this: homemade bagels are not worth the time, effort, or skill required to attempt; homemade bagels will taste better than any bagel you’ve ever had; you should support your local bakery by buying their bagels; bagels originated in Poland and were modeled after a equestrian-inclined King’s stirrups; and, while ‘soft’ water can impact flavor, rise, ph, and yeast development in bagel dough, New York tap water probably doesn’t make that much of a difference. Oh, and you should never, ever make bagels with anything other than bread flour.

So, I made my first batch with all-purpose flour.IMG_0634 Here’s they are. I went with brown sugar cinnamon and everything (poppy and sesame seeds, dried onion and garlic, sea salt; you know, a real breath freshener) flavors; one sweet, one savory. I tried two different methods of mixing yeast in – something I’ll go into more depth when I finish my bagel recipe. All in all, I learned a lot.

I learned that, as fun as it is to roll and shape bagels, it is going to take a bit more practice before I can make them with holes in the center. I learned that when baking at a temperature above 400 degrees, I should probably roll the sugar into the dough, not just rub it over the top. I learned that I shouldn’t have trusted the pudgy New York chef (who looked like the patissier from Ratatouille) when he said “New York bagels should always have a lot of salt.” And I learned that you really, really need to use bread flour if you’re going to make bagels. As I understand it, bread flour (a.k.a. “high-gluten flour”) will make the stronger and more aerated dough I knead (that’s a bun-pun) to get these to work. Flavor-wise, initial reviews are coming back positive, so things are looking good on that front. So, I’m going to go out and buy some bread flour, and I’m going to ask you to wait a week for me to figure these bad boys out.  However, I have two small miniature recipes to tide you over.

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The first time I remember eating samosas was in Botswana. IMG_0587There was this Indian restaurant – “Mogul” – down the street from our house and it seemed like we ate there at least once a week. It can’t have been that often, but the more I try to remember, all I can picture is the six of us crowding around a table covered with greens and reds and yellows; Palak Paneer, Tikka Massala, stewed lentils and chickpeas and eggplant; a variegated assembly of curries, rice, and naans. This was prime sharing food – wrestle a naan in half with the sibling next to you and dip it in the same curry pot as everyone else. The only part I could guarantee was mine was a single triangle of fried dough stuffed with potatoes, peas, and onion, and those moments were when and how I fell in love with samosas. All of us around the table sneaking glances at everyone else’s plates through the steam pouring off the top of half eaten samosas, ensuring they had eaten their one and they weren’t coming after mine. Bring a batch of these to the table, and they’ll disappear before you have a chance to sit down.

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Ropa Vieja Burritos

It means: old clothes, but if my laundry filled the apartment with the same smells as this dish, my washer and dryer would never run. IMG_0581I think the first time I ate Ropa Vieja was in Curacao, probably snagging it out of a Cuban friend’s lunch. It wasn’t an entirely unfamiliar dish, I had had beef slow-stewed in tomato sauce before, but Ropa Vieja is the dish I come back to time and time again. Maybe, it’s just the name. Maybe it’s the way the roast shreds into a crimson pile of aromatic strands of beef that melt on your tongue. Maybe its the sharp, bright, and spicy flavors – the way the tomatoes render into sweet umami paste that coats each bite of beef and blends perfectly with the cumin and the cilantro and the chili peppers. Whatever the case may be, this dish is dead simple and drop-dead delicious. Eat it plain, with rice, beans, and plantains; layer it on top of a ham and cheese sandwich to make a Cubano that’s out of this world; or – my personal favorite – pair it with fresh onions, avocado, and cilantro, then roll it all up in a tortilla.

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