Corn, Scallion and Cheddar StrataWe had only lived in Beacon for about six minutes before Matt decided he wanted to build a coop and raise chickens. Being a born and raised New York City girl (whose idea of the “country” was the slightly less organized part of Central Park), I thought he was nuts. Well, I know he’s nuts but I that’s pretty much why I married him. I still thought raising chickens would be … unwise for two people who had lived the rural life for all of a millisecond. [Matt says: Speak for yourself, city girl, you know where I grew up, every set of directions included the step, "Turn left at the first cow, and if you reach the second cow, you've gone too far"]

Now I can admit it. I was wrong. Not only have the chickens been awesome, they’re also the easiest of our animals to take care of and they contribute to the household by laying delicious, fresh eggs. In fact, they lay so many damn eggs that using them up is actually the most difficult part of keeping them. [Matt is holding a shovel and a large bag of chicken poo and shaking his head sadly for some reason.]

Nerd alert: I’ve come to realize that chickens are hilarious so let’s have a chicken caption contest. Write in the comments what you think each chicken is thinking.

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Simple and Delicious Fried RiceI might have mentioned that we’ve had a lot of company this summer. Like, a lot. And while we both love entertaining and cooking for a crowd (seriously, we’re so, so nerdy about it), it can be quite draining. So now that summer’s over and we’re back on our own, all we seem to be craving are the simplest, easiest, quickest things we can come up with. I mean quick like a sliced tomato sprinkled with Maldon salt and topped with a basil leaf. Or a slice of bread topped with mango chutney and melted cheddar. That kind of quick.

Though for some unfathomable reason, Matt frowns on my I’m-too-tired-to-even-care dinner, which is frozen peas eaten directly out of the bag. See, it’s genius because they defrost as you chew them. Oddly enough, Matt made that same exact face when he caught me in the… act.

Anyway, for those of you who I haven’t traumatized, I’m going to tell you something shocking. Are you ready? If you have some cold, leftover rice in your fridge, you are seconds away from a delicious, healthy dinner. That’s right. Seconds. Okay, minutes, but making fried rice is still crazy quick.

And once you know the method, this homemade version will be so much better than the greasy, soggy kind that you get free with your Chinese take-out.

Simple and Delicious Fried Rice

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Puy Lentils with SpinachI’ve never been what you would call a lentil “fan”. I mean, they’re fine and everything as far as legumes/pulses go but I certainly don’t wake up thinking about a lentil dish I absolutely can’t wait to make. Until now.

There are a few … I don’t even want to say ‘tricks’ because it’s not like there’s any fanciness or magic going on here. It’s just that there are a couple of ingredients that elevate this humble dish and turn it truly delicious. In fact, it’s so simple that I’m afraid you’re going to roll your eyes and wonder if I’ve finally gone off my rocker. It’s not the huge bunch of baby spinach that gets stirred in or the swirl of Crème fraîche that it’s topped with.

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Roasted Peaches with Honey and ThymeThis recipe is one of those surprises that happens when you find yourself with an abundance of an ingredient (in this case, peaches) and you decide to just wing it, making something up on the spot and it turns out even better than you imagined.

It’s crazy simple but it went so well along with the Crispy Spiced Duck Legs with Thyme, that I wanted to tell you how I did it.

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Crispy Spiced Duck Legs with ThymeLast week we threw a little dinner party. Nothing fancy, mind you. Matt’s lovely sister Hayli and her delightful husband Tristan* were visiting us from France for a couple of weeks and since they are both actors/musicians/carnies we thought they would have a lot in common with our neighbors Andy and Gina, who are also in the arts.

When we came up with this bright idea, we were huddled under a blanket, shivering in the unseasonable cold that seemed to be the defining aspect of “Summer” 2014.

“What would be a good thing to make for a small crowd on a chilly evening?”, I asked Matt, who was trying to warm his toes by rubbing them very quickly on an angry cat’s belly.

“Duck legs.”

“But didn’t we make that las-”

“Duck legs. I want crispy duck legs.”

“Duck legs it is, then. And give me some of that cat belly. My feet are freezing too.”

*Hayli and Tristan live in the Ardèche region of France. Arguably one of the most sophisticated culinary environments in the world so when they came to visit us, we felt we needed to impress them with the refined, subtle American cuisine one can only find at…Cracker Barrel

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Baby Back Ribs With Coffee-Honey Barbecue Sauce

It’s been a bit of a crazy summer here at Nerds Towers. (Note: our house is not actually called “Nerds Towers” – that was a humorous attempt to make our residence sound grander than it really is. We don’t have any towers. We have a shed that may fall down at any moment.) With all the excitement, we clean forgot until the very end of summer to make ribs. We waited until Labor Day, reader. UNTIL LABOR DAY.

We did this last summer too. All season we made burgers and hot dogs and skewers of various things and forgot all about the number one best summer hang-out food of all time. Then, at the very end of the season, we cooked up a big batch of porcine deliciousness and gave ourselves a thorough kicking for all the rib-enjoying opportunities we’d passed up.

Baby Back Ribs With Coffee-Honey Barbecue Sauce

The nice thing about this recipe is that because they are mostly cooked in the oven, you can make them ALL YEAR ROUND. Yes, I said the oven.

Are you okay? Do you need to sit down? You look a little shocked.

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Herbed Potato SaladHere’s a scenario for you:  you invite someone to a barbecue and they get really (really) excited and shout something like, “Nice! There’s going to be potato salad, right?”. You would most likely back up slowly out of the room, trying not to make any sudden movements and assume that “potato salad” was a euphemism for something else. Something a bit more exciting like cocaine or Baby Back Ribs With Coffee-Honey Barbecue Sauce. Because, let’s be honest here, potato salad is usually not something to get all fired up about.

Herbed Potato Salad Read More →

Blackberry-Ginger Fizz

There are times in every person’s life when you have to make the hard decisions. When you find yourself at a crossroad. Do you turn left or right? Recently I was faced with one of those decisions. My own personal King Solomon’s choice, except if the baby was a blackberry. A lovely little blackberry.

Here’s how it began. It was an ordinary Sunday morning, unseasonably a little chilly but nice enough for a stroll. Matt and I headed to the Beacon Farmer’s Market, where we often buy our produce supplies for the week.

We usually get there on the early side, a half an hour or so after they open, but this particular Sunday we dragged our feet a little. We were tired, you see. I won’t bore you with the details but we’re in the process of trying to buy our first house and the stress of it had begun to take its toll. For the last month or so, pretty much every night, one or the other of us (sometimes both) will leap out of bed at 3:30 in the morning, convinced beyond all reason that this whole thing is a HUGE mistake.

Or that house we love? A MONEY PIT!

Or there is NO WAY a bank will actually give us a loan. Do they KNOW how bad our jokes are? [Matt is on the phone with the bank right now - apparently, they do.]

So we were tired and slow and showed up at the market late, after the majority of the stalls had been picked clean. Corn? Sold out by noon. Eggplants?  All gone. Sungold tomatoes? Don’t make me laugh. Read More →

Easy Baked French Toast

Hello gang! Ready for some French toast?

I do like to think of us as a gang, by the way: we, the writers of this madcap screed, and you, our wonderful readers.

Not a particularly effectual gang, I have to admit, not a gang to strike fear in the hearts of our enemies, et cetera, I certainly wouldn’t rob a bank together, no offense, I’m sure many of you have excellent heist skills.

But just as in the best gangs, I have little nicknames for you all. There’s “Lefty”, the stalwart pastry expert we all called “Righty” before her tragic incident with the Microplane. There’s “Twitcher”, who we trust with our lives but who wouldn’t necessarily be the best pick for delicate knife work . There’s Freckles, Charlie Boy, Other Dave. Oh, and we can’t forget JoJo the Dog-Faced Girl. I think you all know who you are.

We may not ever rob a bank, or do a crime, or engage in hijinks, fol-de-rol or devilry – we may never be Ocean’s Eleven – but I do see us all, one of these days, perhaps in ten or twenty years, looking back fondly at these, the early, funny days of “Nerds with Knives”. A reunion meal, if you will, perhaps a celebratory brunch of some kind. I see us downing fine Bloody Marys, Mimosas, or French Blondes, and tucking into plates of thick, delicious french toast.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent several formative years during your childhood camping, tying knots, and fiddling with your woggle – no sniggering, now, Twitchy –  actually, you know, do check out that link, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “woggle” used IN CAPS to such an extent on one website. They have a woggle collection made up from woggles all over the world – right, Freckles, get out, you’re just disrupting the gang, there’s nothing remotely funny about the word “woggle”. Close the door behind you please. All the way. Thank you.

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