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.

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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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The French Blonde

Back when Matt and I lived in Brooklyn (a.k.a. before we moved to Beacon, went insane and thought it would be wise for two freelancers to try and buy a house), we occasionally went to a lovely little restaurant called Buttermilk Channel. If the name sounds familiar, it might be because they inspired our Spiced Pickled Grapes recipe (and I talk about the place constantly to anyone who will listen). It’s not a “fancy” restaurant, but everything is prepared with care and with an eye towards seasonality, including their cocktails. It was through their inventive menu that I began to expand my cocktail palate beyond gin and tonics and margaritas (though I still love both, of course. I’m not a monster).

For me, cocktail perfection is all about balance. I like a little sweetness, but not so much that I feel like I’m sipping dessert. (Matt, an unapologetic prom-drinker, doesn’t always agree with me on that). [Camera swish pans around to reveal Matt drinking Baileys straight from the bottle, a milky dribble glistening on his chin. "You knew what I was when you married me", he says quietly.]

I want to taste a little kick of alcohol but I don’t want to shake my head a like a teenager chugging Southern Comfort out of a paper bag after every sip.

After extensive (ahem…) research, I have come to believe that fresh grapefruit juice is the best mixer of all time.

The French Blonde

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Summer Pasta With Burst Cherry Tomatoes

Is it just me or has this been a weird summer? It has, right? I feel like it took me until late June to even dig through my closet to find a pair of sandals. Then it got really hot for maybe twenty minutes, and now it’s chilly again.

Matt and I were sitting on the deck last night, the sun was setting through the trees, making the leaves shimmer and glow as though lit from inside. Soon the white wood boards on the side of the house turned a deep golden pink. It was incredibly lovely. I was tempted to grab my camera but I decided just to enjoy the moment. Just experience it, you know? So we sat there, drinking a glass of rosé, a sleepy pup* at our feet, just enjoying the quiet. Matt looked at me and I looked at him.

“I’m freezing”, I said.

“Bloody hell, me too. Let’s go inside”, he said.

So we made dinner and watched an episode of  “Utopia“, season 2 (highly recommended).

(*Here’s a picture of Arya looking longingly at a hot dog).

Summer Pasta With Burst Cherry Tomatoes

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