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Apple Ricotta Fritters 5

I love homemade doughnuts, but don’t often make them. And when I think about it, when I do make them it’s the small pieces I end up picking at and nibbling – the holes and the scraps, with interesting shapes and lots of craggy edges and crispy bits. Which is why I’ve decided that for the aforementioned reasons, and the fact that the vast majority of the population does not own a doughnut cutter, fritters are the way to go. In fact, fritters are a quick alternative to muffins, quickbreads and all manner of breakfast baking; the batter takes a few minutes to mix up, and there’s no need to preheat the oven – the fritters themselves cook in just a few minutes, not 20 or 30.

Apple Ricotta Fritters 2

I can justify most morning baked (and fried) goods. Making them saves time!

When most of us think of fritters, we default to those sticky, bigger-than-doughnuts apple ones you see at coffee shops, or the corn fritters that come with fried chicken. These ones are small, two bites big, made with ricotta for a smooth, creamy dough, and coarsely grated apples which get more evenly distributed and make for a slightly shaggy fritter. Drop the dough in small spoonfuls – I like to scoop them from the side of the spoon, running up the side of the bowl so that it runs the length of the spoon and makes a slightly long shape that cooks through more quickly. No perfection required here – the wonkier the better.

Apple Ricotta Fritters 3
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Confession: I do not own a fondue pot. And yet there are few things better than a bunch of friends sharing a pot of gooey cheese. When people ask about my favourite food, my answer – not that I could possibly choose one thing – it would depend on the day and my mood/location/appetite and the occasion and season – is inevitably something that contains some form of melted cheese. (Most of the time.) It’s the sort of thing that elicits the most enthusiastic response when presented to a room full of people. And what’s easier to serve with beer and wine? It’s so universally loved, our annual Christmas party has a cheese theme – in no small part because I love having miscellaneous ends to nibble and turn into baked dips and mac and cheese all winter long. It’s a dream, of course, when someone requests that I take some Quebec cheeses for a spin, and ships me a box. We celebrated its arrivalContinue reading

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sesame noodles with pork 1

There are days when all I want is a big plate of noodles – and because I haven’t yet found the takeout joint with the tangle of irresistibly creamy-spicy-peanutty noodles, I make them myself. I made this particular batch a couple weekends ago, and have answered a few DM requests for the recipe since – sorry it has taken so long to share. I’m going to leave it here to keep you well fed while the three of us hop on a plane for London – just to go exploring and eat some fish and chips. (Mike has never been overseas, and so I got a crazy deal last fall and surprised him and W. I’m writing this as we pack. SO EXCITED. I love London.)

sesame noodles with pork 2
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pear carrot loaf 2

How many of you wind up with self-composting pears every. single. time. you buy them?

I’ve been known to make or bake something just for the sake of saving something from being tossed. It’s a bit weird, but it’s also a bit of a game – and most of the time I wind up making something I wouldn’t have otherwise. Like this carrot cake-loaf (let’s call it a loaf because it has less sugar than a typical cake, and is baked in a loaf pan), made with the grated overripe pear pictured below.

ripe pear

It turned out to be perfect timing, because the three of us are hopping on a plane tomorrow and heading to London (!!) for a week. It was my Christmas gift to M + W, who have never been overseas, and I got a steal of a deal last fall. And because the snacking options are generally overpriced snacks at the airport or from the little cart on the plane, we’ll pack our own. This could count as late-night cake or early morning breakfast, depending on the time (real-life and our internal clocks) when we go for a nibble. Individual slices freeze well too, so they’ve been going into lunches all week. Don’t I sound on the ball or something?

pear carrot loaf 3
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Wheat Berry & Chickpea Salad 1

Is it weird that I get more excited about winter salads than the summer ones? I love hardy salads that give my jaw a workout. (At least part of me is working out, right?) Every winter I vow to keep a grainy, beany salad in my fridge to prevent myself from living on bagels and raisin toast (a hazard/benefit of having my office in the spare bedroom), and in fact, these kinds of salads actually improve after a few days in the fridge. Also- feeling virtuous over lunch is enough to keep me feeling more or less on the ball during the afternoon, sometimes propelling me out to do a power walk. Eating healthy things begets eating healthy things (and doing healthy things). I even organized my office this weekend, which was a monumental task. I blame the salads.

Wheat berry & chickpea salad 3

I love adding chopped apples to salads – not only are they always around, they add sweetness, tartness and crunch to just about any salad, from spring mix to slaw, and vinaigrettes keep them from turning brown. And so because it’s apple month, let this serve as a reminder that apples make all salads better. (A few weeks ago I made a wilted spinach salad with bacon, apples and a mustardy cider vinaigrette – and sorry I didn’t share, but go try that combo.) Use any variety you like, but I prefer those with more character – pink ladies, ambrosias, honeycrisps, sunrise if it’s early in the season and you can find them. Most often I default to galas – W’s favourite, always in the fruit bowl because he eats one sliced every night while reading books.
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Falafel is not something I grew up with, but something I grew to love. Like most of us, I fell for it at street stalls and takeout joints – it’s not the sort of thing I thought to make at home, until about five years ago, when I discovered it’s about as easy to make as a batch of hummus. Truly! If you have a food processor, you can make falafel in about five minutes. It requires a can of drained chickpeas (cheap), some garlic, onion, cilantro, salt and spices – go by taste and pulse it all into a mulch, adding a few tablespoons of flour to help bind the mixture together. (Any kind, really.) You can make them perfectly smooth, or leave some texture, which is what I do. A bit of baking powder lightens them up a bit. Shape the soft mixture into little patties – you could do balls, but patties cook through more quickly, and more surface area means moreContinue reading

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Apple Slab Pie 2 (small)

It’s said that there are cooks and there are bakers. I consider myself both, but do tend to dive into dough when I’m happy/sad/stressed or otherwise in need of comfort – or when others are. The thing about baking is that you don’t do it out of necessity (as getting dinner on the table) and for the most part you don’t do it for yourself – baking is always about sharing.

Apple Slab Pie 4

Pies seem to dig even deeper into our collective histories – pies of all sorts are associated with the comforts of home, of casual celebrations and being together. You only make pies for people you really love. I mean to make pies more often than I do, and I say this as someone comfortable with the thought of making pastry from scratch – the prospect of making something like an apple pie from just butter-sugar-flour-apples can be daunting – but you can do this. I always have apples on my countertop, and make a habit of having puff pastry in the freezer. (Bonus: no one expects you to make puff pastry from scratch anyway.) The kind that comes by the sheet thaws quickly, and only needs to be unrolled, filled and folded. Apple pie assembly in ten minutes. Truly.
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Beef Biryani 1

If I had to choose a favourite place to be, most days I’d pick in the kitchen with people. My own kitchen, when friends are packed into the nook rather than spreading out into the rest of the house – or my parents’ when everyone is over and attempting to tag team on dinner or brunch and collectively get the cousins fed. But I really love being invited into someone else’s kitchen, especially a person or family with a history of dishes outside my usual repertoire (not that I really have a usual), who have been making certain dishes for years to feed their families, who cook for people so often they have drawers full of portable Corningware to fill and send out the door, like Dilshad and Rozina. (I try to adopt a lot of my friends’ moms, aunts and grandmas.)

Dishad & Rosina

Dilshad and Rozina – the mom and aunt of a friend and also sisters who live together with their husbands, who are brothers (how cool is that?) – invited me into their kitchen last year and let me watch them make beef biryani. I’d made chicken biryani before, but not beef – they marinated and braised the meat for hours before I arrived, and then let me poke around and ask questions and watch their process as they warmed the spices in oil, simmered the sauce and made two kinds of rice (Rooster and basmati, if I remember correctly, finished with a drizzle of ghee in the oven) in enormous thin metal pots they brought from Tanzania. They used spice blends they ground themselves in a grinder they bought at a garage sale soon after they arrived in 1988.
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Dumplings + potstickers 2

We don’t wait for lunar new year to make dumplings around here – they’re one of W’s favourite foods, and long ago we started filling and pinching them together. It’s not as difficult as it looks, a great way to spend 20 minutes catching up with someone you love, and little fingers are particularly adept at manipulating the soft dough. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you seal them – fold them in half like a peroghy, twist it into a little topknot, pull up the corners and make a tent, add a couple pleats or don’t. As long as they’re sealed, they’ll cook up just fine and taste wonderful. (Kids will come up with tiny packages you’d never have thought of.)

Dumplings + potstickers 8

There are, of course, millions of ways to fill a dumpling – essentially you start with ground meat (pork is very common, but some are made with beef, chicken, turkey, shrimp or veggies) and season it with soy sauce, finely chopped green onion, perhaps some chopped cilantro (if you like it – I use the stems), sesame oil, ginger and garlic, perhaps a splash of rice wine or vinegar, and often a pinch of sugar. Chopped, sautéed mushrooms or bok choy are a delicious addition. You don’t have to worry about the ratio, or the mixture binding together like you might with a meatball – the dumpling wrapper it’s bundled up in will take care of that.

Dumplings 10
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