It is a mad scientist’s power that comes from making something wonderful and brand new. A singular dish that was just a grocery list of disparate ingredients, moments or hours before. The golden, shimmering alchemy of cooking is one of the ways I fill my life with warmth and light. I cook home food; no molecular gastronomics, no loopy swirls on the plate. It is a remarkable thing to be confident in providing for yourself—not just surviving, but creating, often out of very little, a feast, nourishing and magnificent in its rustic simplicity.
Autumn Apple Tart with Herbs and Spices
This isn’t really a recipe as much as it is an invitation—to a harvest-time ritual, a celebration of the earth’s and local farmers’ hard work, a deeply warming, easily made way to show yourself and those around you dearness and affection.
Classic Tart Dough
2 c flour
½ tsp salt
1 ½ sticks ice cold unsalted butter, cubed
½ c ice water for the tart
2-3 lbs apples, sliced quarter-inch thick
Spices, herbs (cinnamon, cloves, ginger, thyme, rosemary, whatever
4 tbsps sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten with a splash of cold water
Cut the butter into the flour and salt mixture with your hands. Just rub the cubes of butter into the flour with your thumbs and index fingers until the mixture is crumbly like sand, leaving a few biggish lumps.
Next, slowly pour about ¾ of the ice water down the sides of the bowl, and rake the mixture with a fork until the dough begins to form large clumps. Pat the clumps into a ball and split it in two. Wrap each half in plastic and let them chill in the fridge for a half hour; you’ll only be using one for this tart.
Meanwhile, core and peel at least five apples. Sierra Beauties, Pippins, Pink Ladies, Cameos, Granny Smith. Maybe a medley. Whatever you want, whatever’s your favorite, whatever you can rustle up. Toss the apples with ground cinnamon and cloves, ginger and lemon, rosemary and thyme. A couple big spoonfuls of sugar help bring out their natural sweetness, but don’t overdo it. Let them souse while you roll out the dough.
Roll dough out on a cool, lightly floured surface with a rolling pin or a clean wine bottle. Start in the center and roll outward. It’s OK if it cracks! Brush the disk with your egg wash before you lay down any apples, that will help the dough stand up to the fruit’s juiciness without getting soggy.
Preheat the oven to 400 and get to it! Arrange the apples in rows or a wreath—again, whatever you like. Just make sure the fruit is overlapping, and covers enough: It will shrink in the oven.
When you’re finished, fold up the edges of the dough over the fruit, and brush with melted butter. Dollop melted butter on the apples, too, and then sprinkle sugar over the crust and fruit. Bake it on the lowest rack in the oven for 45 minutes or so until the apples are baked and steamy, and the bottom of the pastry is golden brown.
That’s it! Eat up. And don’t forget to share.
Georgian Eggplant and Tomato Stew with Soft Herbs
Rather than play a supporting character, herbs really co-star in this traditional Georgian stew called “Ajapsandali.” It’s light yet flavorful, tremendously satisfying and perfect for late-summer, early-fall evenings as the weather begins to turn a bit cool.
1 large eggplant, skinned and diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 oz new potatoes
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 dried bay leaf
1 small bunch fresh spinach
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley
1 small bunch dill
Minced garlic clove
Few glugs olive oil
Salt and pepper
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium and add onions and bay leaf; cook 2-3 minutes until onions begin to soften. Add the eggplant, potatoes, and garlic; cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Stir gently to combine and cook another 5 minutes. The red pepper goes in next. Tthen cover the pot and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the veggies are tender but not mush.
Meanwhile, chop your dill and parsley, and julienne your spinach. When you’re ready to eat (and make sure you have fresh crispy, crunchy soppin’ bread on deck!), remove from heat, and fold in the greens.
Bon appetit! Or maybe I should say, “modit chama.” Either way, it’s good eats in Tiblisi.
Thai Squash and Salmon Curry
I adapted this recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Pumpkin and Seafood Curry—something I’ve long wanted to try but never got around to for some insane reason. It’s totally simple and crazy fast to make, and yet as exotic and exciting as a trip down the Mekong.
1 lb wild caught salmon,
skinned and cubed
3/4 lb butternut squash,
2 tbsps hot red Thai curry paste
1 can coconut milk
3 stalks lemon grass, bruised and split with the flat of your knife
3 kaffir lime leaves, snipped into strips
2 tbsps fish sauce (nam pla)
2 c seafood stock
1 tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 bunch bok choy, julienned
1 bunch cilantro, chopped finely juice of 1-2 limes
Heat a large pot or dutch oven to medium, and whisk together the coconut milk and curry paste until combined. Add the stock, fish sauce, sugar, turmeric, lime leaves, and lemongrass. Bring all this goodness just to a boil; then add the squash. Simmer for about 15 minutes and add the salmon. The fish should only take about 4 or 5 minutes to cook, and when that’s done, gently fold in the shredded bok choy until it’s wilted through.
Take it off the heat and stir in the juice of one lime—sometimes, you need a little extra, in which case add the juice of one more. Sprinkle the cilantro before serving and buckle up! It’s a wild ride down the Mekong.
This isn’t my recipe or idea, but it’s very possibly the most important food breakthrough I’ve made this past year. It’s going to change your burger life, so listen up! Kenji Lopez Alt of Serious Eats Food Lab explains it like this:
“Duh, you’re never supposed to press on your burger, lest you lose all those beautiful, burgery juices. But what if you smash it down as soon as it hits the hot pan or griddle, before it has a chance to plump up and gain juices to lose? This way, you gain exponentially more surface area on which to maximize the best part about a burger: that flavorful, wonderful crust.”
Ingredients (for one burger):
4 ounces grassfed ground beef, split into two 2-oz patties
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 hamburger bun, buttered and toasted
1 or 2 slices melting cheese (American, cheddar, fontina…)
Salt and pepper
I’d keep it classic: lettuce, tomato, and/or onion and that’ssss about it.
Get that pan nice and hot, and pop in those two little patties! With a metal spatula, smash each patty until it’s super thin without breaking up entirely. They should be slightly larger than the bun. Season with salt and pepper as soon as they’re flattened. While they cook, spread dijon on each one. Cook about 1 1/2-2 minutes, until they’re browned. Flip both and cook another 2 minutes while you get your bun and toppings ready on your plate.
Place cheese slices on top of one patty and stack the other on top. Pull them both and place on the bun.
Add toppings, if you want, then cap it all off with the top of that gorgeous toasty bun. That’s it! The best fast-food burger imaginable, and I cannot stress this more. I can’t sing the praises enough! Please, try it. You’ll never look back.