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The Unnatural Cook

a chronicle of weekly meal plans from someone who can't just throw a meal together

Category Archives: Uncategorized

There’s a new vegetable in my life: broccoli rabe. In the past I found it too bitter, but twice now, in the part of Brooklyn that is farther from hipsterdom and closer to the ocean, I’ve been to local Italian eateries that serve it so garlicky and tender that I got the idea to try it at home on a sausage sandwich. Let me just say that it tasted as good as it looks. The combination of the slightly bitter, garlicky green with sweet roasted peppers and onions was divine. The recipe from Epicurious worked really well although some stalks remained a bit too woody to eat – not sure if I need to trim better or cook longer. Either way, broccoli rabe and I will definitely be going on a second date .


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Lazarus was dead four whole days until Jesus brought him back. I only made it two.

It’s just that the pine nuts and tomatoes and mozzarella looked so pretty in the bowl I had to take a picture…And then it seemed a shame not to use the picture. And then it occurred to me that when I made up a new recipe I’d want to write it down. And then I though – why not just put it on the blog?

So here it is. Tonight’s dinner was Pasta w/Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, Toasted Pine Nuts, Sauteed Red Onion and Mozzarella. It was actually inspired by an attempt to use up leftovers in the fridge (pesto & red onion) before they went bad. And it was so good I decided that in addition to leaving one night blank on the meal plan to be inspired while shopping, I was going to plan one meal around using up leftovers before I shop. Nifty, huh?

So I don’t know what this means. I’m going to try to avoid any more grand pronouncements since the last one went so poorly. Let’s just say I hope it ends better for me than it did for the guy who brought Lazarus back. Luckily I have a much smaller following.


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So I’ve rebelled against my own blog.

I got a few days behind on the posting and then one night I was cooking and enjoying myself (which came as a surprise to me) and suddenly the thought of stopping to take photos ruined the pleasure (the pleasure I was surprised to be feeling in the first place) of the moment. And it dawned on me – I no longer wanted to prove I could cook, I just wanted to cook.

I’ve never wanted to cook before. My about page says so. And now I do.

I thought I’d keep the blog going for a year – you know, symmetry and order and all those things that make me feel virtuous but which I never quite achieve. Instead I think I’ll keep enjoying cooking – and if I stop enjoying it, maybe I’ll take up the blog again!

In the meantime, thanks to everyone whose followed it, welcome to those of you who just found it – it’s still full of great recipes and tells of the slow and uncertain progress of an unnatural and uncomfortable cook toward a less unnatural and uncomfortable one. It’s an ongoing project which, for the time being, will return to the confines of my kitchen.

Happy (and I mean that non-ironically) cooking to all.

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I finally made the gazpacho and quesadillas which is a good thing, the vegetables were doing their best to hold out for me, but they were straining.

I made the gazpacho during the day which is my favorite time to make dinner. I would have made a great European. I loved living in Italy during my junior year of college where, from 12 to 4 pm, school closed, shops closed everyone went home, ate a proper meal, slept and then went on with their day. I think those four hour blocks of time 8 – 12, 12 – 4, 4 – 8 made for a nice life. You gave the thing you were doing its due. The way we run things around here, run being the operative word, days are like marathons: if you stop you might not make it to the end. I like the Italian way better. Enjoy work for work and school for school and family for family and food for food; one thing at a time.

I try to make life as Florentine as possible here in Brooklyn. Appreciating the thing I’m doing or the people I’m with while I’m doing it or while I’m with them. I think, if, at the end of this year, I can enjoy making dinner as much at 6:00 as I do at 2:00 I will have accomplished something.

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We have made chili nachos, chili tostadas and chili pizza, now I have a new love: chili burritos.  The chili burrito was a favorite of mine when I first moved to New York and ate fairly frequently at Benny’s Burritos. This was pre-kids when restaurants were a regular way of life. I have always wanted to recreate those burritos I loved and never quite pulled it off – this time it really worked. I think it’s because we had a ton of chili in them. The burritos were stuffed with chili, rice, jack cheese, raw onion, avocado & jalapeno. It was a fabulous, gooey, divine mess which I would gladly eat again tomorrow if there were any chili left in the freezer.

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My first apartment in New York (in 1989!) was in the East Village. My father had to co-sign the lease and the landlord assured him I’d be safe “because the drug dealers didn’t want any trouble from the police.” Remarkably, he signed. The East Village was still home then to a fairly large Polish community and I discovered the joy of pierogis and keilbasa.

Up at the Yurt there is store which I have never seen open that seems to sell pools. But behind it, if you look carefully, you will see a door propped open. Inside a Polish woman and her family make divine pierogis and sell them by the dozen. I brought home two dozen: potato and onion and potato and cheese. They are already cooked and need simply to be fried and served with fried onion and sour cream. I have yet to find the equivalent in Brooklyn but I’m sure, somewhere in Greenpoint, there is a door open waiting to be walked through.


Okay, how great is this? Chili Pizza! My kids idea for what to do with leftover chili.

It’s store bought pizza dough, rolled out and topped with chili, jack cheese, a smattering of mozzarella cheese, scallions and jalapeños. I was skeptical of the idea for which there is no accounting. It was so good and it couldn’t have been easier. It’s beginning to look like we’d all be better off if I could just turn the kitchen over to the children.

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