Ok. So maybe I’m not a professional BLT magic maker in the strictest sense of the word professional. A professional BLT magic maker is a good-hearted line cook who sneaks extra bacon into your sandwich. I’m just an enthusiast. A professional enthusiast… can we leave it at that?
Here are my Top Seven Tips to making the best BLT! You think you know… but you have no idea.
• Let’s start with bread! Bread should either be perfect, or perfectly horrible. Let me explain. The best BLTs are made on fresh bakery-baked bakery bread. The more times you mention the word ‘bakery’, the better the bread. I chose a soft loaf of bakery-baked white bread from Willa Jean Bakery in New Orleans.
If you can’t, or don’t want to, get your hands on bakery-baked bakery bread, go with grocery store sliced white bread… I’m taking like, Wonder Bread. It’s so soft and fluffy… I need a pillow made out of Wonder Bread to snack myself to sleep every night. Thanks.
Also, bonus… you can choose whatever bread makes you feel good. You’re grown.
• To toast or not to toast. TOAST! We’re not heathens (well… we are, but we’re still going to toast our bread like civilized people).
You can toast your bread in the toaster oven, to your desired shade of golden brown. (You don’t need me to tell you this.)
You can toast your bread under the oven broiler where you will forget it and find yourself with blackened bread pucks.
You can be like me and rub your sliced bread in lard and sizzle them in a cast iron skillet until mostly browned and a little burnt on both sides. I mean… I just said lard and meant it.
If you were in Nashville Tennessee this Spring, sometime between the months of March and May, you may have noticed a distinct shortage of chicken. That’s because I was in town… eating all of it.
All of the chicken.
Nashville makes the best chicken. Fried. Roasted. Flamed. It’s all good.
One of my favorite bites of chicken came from Hattie B’s, where they fry very very spicy chicken and serve very very refreshing sweet tea. Pickled and white bread, too. Essentials for spice management.
I’ve spent the summer mostly not in Nashville. I’ve missed the chicken.
I miss the chicken so I fried some shrimp. It seemed like the New Orleans thing to do.
These fried shrimp are doused in hot hot hot Hattie B’s inspired sauce. Have some sweet tea, a cold beer, and a fire extinguisher at the ready. We’re talking fire-hot.
I have to be honest… I don’t believe in bad pizza. It doesn’t exist. Where there is bread and melted cheese, sometimes sausage and olive, sometimes pepperoni and pineapple… there is some dang good pizza.
Frozen, warmed-over, school-lunch, cold from the fridge, so hot all the cheese slides off, any which way… it’s pizza and it’s delicious.
I have high standards when it comes to wine and chocolate chip cookies. Low standards when it comes to pizza and reality television.
Let’s do this.
PS. It’s exciting that it’s Hatch Chile Pepper season again. These special peppers from New Mexico are just the right spicy. Last year we made Roasted Tomato and Hatch Chile Salsa. That was juuuust fine.
You mean to tell me that I get to walk into a grocery store these days and choose between soft ripe peaches, juicy strawberries, big-ol raspberries AND fresh corn on the cob!? It’s just too good. Everything is like candy. Candy that I can char over an open flame and smash into savory pancakes.
I might need someone to hold my hand and tell me everything is going to be alright when summer fades and Winter tubers are all we have to get excited about.
Spoiled. Consider me spoiled.
Now let’s make some cakes!
o I have anything in my teeth? Actually, don’t answer that. I know I have corn and cilantro pesto from nose to chin. The real question is, do I have green pesto, feta cheese and random cilantro leaves in my hair
? I think I know the answer. I think the answer is yes.
The only way to go at the deliciously charred corn on the cob is with gusto. Relentless enthusiasm.
Now it’s your turn.
hen I was a kid, you couldn’t pay me to eat parsley.
Actually. That’s not entirely true. You could have paid me in candy bars to eat parsley… but no one was doing that… that would have been a dream come true.
Now. Grown (mostly). And I love parsley. I think it’s bright, hearty, and adds just the right taste of green to summer dishes. It’s an accent, but it doesn’t wilt or shy away. It’s proud and confident, green and healthful. Let’s put parsley with some fruit and call it a salad.
Related. Still happy to be paid in candy bars. That’s an option.
here’s something people don’t tell you about Costa Rica: time slows (almost) all the way dooowwwnn. It’s magic. Like time gets stripped away leaving luxuriously long mornings followed by, luxuriously lazy afternoons, followed by impeccable… truly impeccable sunsets.
It’s like island life. But not an island. It’s beach life. The sun stays high and the air is just mellow. Completely mellow.
I visited Costa Rica last year and still wonder about the paradise-heavy time warp. Why does that happen in Costa Rica and not on any given Wednesday in my New Orleans life?
Here’s hoping the Costa Rican time warp can be a state of mind no matter what my longitude and latitude.
I suppose it starts with breakfast. Shall we?
Ps. When I returned from Costa Rica last year I made this Banana y Leche con Cafe and I don’t regret it one bit.
ure, you could make this irresistible guacamole for a backyard barbecue, or a block party, a brunch party maybe… any event that would take you out of your pajamas, off of your couch, and into the presence of other people (gasp.) OR… you could make a giant bowl of this guacamole, keep your pajamas on and settle in for a good, old-fashioned Netflix binge. I mean. To me, the choice is clear.
Choose your own adventure. I will often choose pajamas and privacy, especially where guacamole is involved.
ea. I definitely stood in the kitchen, staring at this gorgeous summer salad, wondering/hoping/wishing/longing to put all of these ingredients between two slices of bread to make an extra buttery, extra mozzarella-y grilled cheese.
I think watermelon in a sandwich might be out-of-bounds. I think this ultra fresh summer salad belongs on a plate with a knife and fork. I think I just want to turn everything into a grilled cheese sandwich.
Related: Lasagna Grilled Cheese
Summery goodness! And the great news is that tomatoes and watermelon are only going to get better as we get deeper into summer.
Now excuse me while I go daydream more grilled cheese situations.
I have an idea! Spoiler alert: it’s about biscuits.
Actually, I’ll just keep this short and sweet. Let’s make biscuits! Extra savory, baked with greens and stinky cheese, served with generous amounts of soft butter.
Our biscuit game just got tangy and spicy, aaand spinach is definitely a vegetable so these biscuits are dang-near healthy.
here’s a place in Los Angeles where you can drink feisty margaritas made by half-rude actor/bartenders, munch on half-bad chips and salsa, and watch awkward Tinder dates buzz around you. It’s happy hour, half-dark at your table, and there is tequila, so… most anything is tolerable.
The bright spot, the salvation from the meh bartenders and awkward dates around you, the comfort supreme: Beef and Pickle Tacos! Crunchy, salty, and cheesy. Simple flavors and textures combine to make everything right in the world. Well.. not everything, but most things. The wonders a pickle can provide.
See: Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich
Here’s what we’ll need for taco dinner, at home, where it’s cozy.
Ground beef: lean is cool.
A big ol’ boiled Russet Potato: help extend the meat with cheap potato starch.
Sharp cheddar cheese: finely shredded
Kosher dill pickles: sliced and snacked on.
Spices: cumin, garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, and smokey paprika. It’s like making your own taco seasoning. Extra delicious.
Tequila: a sip for us and for good measure.
While you’re at it… maybe make a full jar of taco seasoning for future taco adventures? Yes: Taco Seasoning + Charred Corn Tacos.
omeone in my family (I forget exactly who to blame for these memories), was very fond of adding grated carrots to the bottom of their Jell-o molds for holiday dessert. Come to think of it, there were grated carrots and a can of fruit cocktail at the bottom of the red Jell-o mold dessert. Criminal. At least the Jell-o was red.
There are things better things to do with shredded carrots. Things that are less jiggly, and frankly, less rude. This carrot salad fits the bill. It’s hearty, sweet and spicy, salty and crunchy, durable enough to last a few days in the refrigerator, and just generally polite… not rude at all.
This recipe comes from Sara Forte’s brilliant salad-brain. You know Sprouted Kitchen? Beautiful, whole, and healthy food (and a really cute baby, too). The new Sprouted Kitchen book Bowl + Spoon is a tasty collections of breakfast bowls, salads, and sides that are elevated, healthful, but still totally comforting.
Tracy made Beet + Avocado Poke Bowls from the book. The beets are gorgeous.
have to find clever ways to NOT buy a bag of potato chips at the grocery store. By ‘clever’ I mean I just don’t go down the chip aisle. It’s my danger zone. I know that if I do, I’ll likely eat potato chips for lunch and dinner that day, and repeat that same process for probably three days straight.
I like salt and crunch. I really like potato chips. More than most. More than many.
I have to find creative ways to satiate my salt-tooth (like a sweet-tooth but different), and that means making my own gobble-able snack.
These salty tamari and maple roasted almonds are all the spicy, salt, sweet, and crunch I need. They’re not potato chips but… well, not even close but dang good, healthy and satisfying.
Did I mention that I really like potato chips? Just checking…
t’s starting to look like I moved to New Orleans as an excuse to deep fry my California vegetables, make melty cheese dip, live off Red Beans and Rice,
and plate after plate of fresh beignets. That’s to say nothing of the sazeracs and oysters.
Truth is, I moved to New Orleans for the suffocating humidity alone.
Not true at all. No one has ever ever done that.
We’ve entered into the 12 most beautiful days of the year here in New Orleans. After living here for one year, I’m talking like I know…
These are the 12 days when it’s perfectly warm with pleasantly bearable humidity, long pink sunsets, and almost cool evenings. It’s the perfection before the wrath of summer. It’s… well, it’s what California is like ALL THE TIME.
Let’s not talk about it anymore… let’s just fry these avocados.
Can I tell you a secret about free avocados?
If you’re in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans or Brooklyn you can place an order with the awesome people of Good Eggs and receive a free bag of avocados! Seems like the very best idea.
Photographs by the lovely Gabrielle Geiselman with styling (aka throwing food around) by me. Gabrielle is my friend, neighbor, and fellow avocado fiend.
he days really are warming. There are the prettiest strawberries in the market. It might almost be time to daydream about watermelon wedges. But… I still need soup. The unapologetically comforting kind of soup with soft carrots, big bites of chicken, almost too much thyme, and the fluffiest floating dumplings.
It’s Winter comforts in Spring. Let’s bridge the gap. You know… like wearing a light scarf or shoes with no socks… except this is food and way way delicious.
Boneless and skinless chicken thighs to start. I like chicken thighs because they’re more fatty and flavorful than chicken breast. Always go for flavor!
The meat is seasoned well and browned in hot hot olive oil. This is where the layers of flavor begin.
an you even remember who you were before you knew that we could turn donuts into croissants and croissants into donuts? I can’t remember either. None of that time must have been important. It’s like life before Instagram… can we even call that life?
What if we add cheese to croissant donuts? What kind of maniacs would we be? Like mad scientists with cheese on our lips and honey mustard in our hair.
Well… here’s how!
Golden brown. Melty cheddar. Not a care in the world… well, fewer cares at least.
t’s taken me entirely too long to get to soak my red beans. A year! I’ve lived in New Orleans a year and I’ve never soaked my red beans to make a pot of Red Beans and Rice. Some nerve, really.
Red Beans and Rice is a Monday night New Orleans tradition. I thought Monday nights were reserved for red wine, salty popcorn, and M&M dinner… turns out I was totally mistaken. All the way wrong.
Red Beans and Rice is a Monday tradition because Monday was considered the “wash-day”…. laundry. Red Beans could cook on the stove, mostly unattended, all day while the laundry was done. Also, Red Beans could be made with the precious ham hock reserved from Sunday supper. In other words, everything makes sense. Ham, red beans, Monday laundry. New Orleans is doing it right and I need to get my act (and my laundry) together.
Let’s get this pot on the stove!
Classic Camellia Red Beans, dried but soaked.
Major soup flavors like onion, garlic, celery, pepper, and pancetta.
Parsley and thyme for fresh herb notes. Bay leaf for base flavors. Good chicken stock for roundness.
Lastly, smoked sausage, sliced, for that perfect layer of salty smoky pork.
Rice too! And it’s almost dinner!
I don’t seem to have a brain for meal-prep. I’m guilty of wandering the grocery store aisles picking up cold cereal, crackers, a really expensive bar of soap and… little else. I’m notoriously horrible at actually making myself dinner and, as it turns out, scrambled eggs with hot sauce make a tremendously fine dinner meal.
Understanding my shortcomings, and being entirely tired of scrambled eggs for dinner, I’ve discovered that if I have a big bowl of something in the refrigerator, I’m saved.
Something could be a big bowl of Carrot Jalapeño Soup, a big bowl of Apple and Fennel Salad, or something like this… with hearty roasted cauliflower and sweet earthy beets. Farro makes the salad filling and solid.
A big bowl of something. Good, hearty, real food that isn’t scrambled eggs that you can eat straight from the fridge… if you’re into that sort of thing (and we’re all into that sort of thing).
The old dip-and-fry. It’s like the bait-and switch but much less tricky and much more delicious.
I’ll dip and fry just about anything. Onion rings, dipped and fried. Raised donut dough, fried and dipped (preferably in sugar).
This week Hearts of palm meet the fryer. They’re tender and lightly pickled, made warm and crispy and spicy. Have you ever had Heart of palm? They come in a can, they’re slightly salty and soft… like canned artichoke hearts, but completely different. They make very fine salads and fried bites… and that’s why we’re here.
I also want you to know that I have Mardi Gras King Cake on my mind… I just have to get all of these salty fry things off my mind first. King Cake is in our future.
s I move through the days, the months, the year, the seasons, I’ve noticed that my body always tells me what I need. These days it’s all citrus juices and earth flavors. Don’t get me wrong, I generally move through my days filling my body with coffee and sugar in various forms, paying very little attention to the little voice inside me crying for baby carrots.
These days my cravings have been undeniable. I want big bowl of warm goodness that make me feel like I have my feet on the ground. This earthy and salty risotto is undeniably grounding, comforting, warm, and otherwise perfect.
This is the first time I’ve made risotto on the stovetop. I’ll walk you through my technique and mild panic.
If the stirring is more than you can handle (no judgement, I get it), you can try this Baked Lemon Risotto. One stir and some quality oven time. A dream, really!
And! For sweeter Arborio rice indulgences: Maple Ginger Rice Pudding. In other words, I’m not leaving my house again until I need to go stock up on more rice. Until then, I’ll have the Do Not Disturb sign on my door. Thaaaanks!