The Morning After: Banana Cornmeal Pancakes

Whether or not you had an inadvertent overnight guest, take a few minutes and flap some jacks this morning. Pancakes aren't complicated, and if you make them a semi-regular part of your morning routine (say, perhaps, a weekend tradition) you'll find you know the formula by heart in no time. I threw some bananas into the mix, but if you don't have any on hand, skip 'em. Pancakes ahoy!

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The Morning After: Casting Call

Did you wake up with one less pillow? Is there another body sharing your bed? Well, now you've got two choices: 1) kick the straggler out before you've even brewed coffee, or 2) acknowledge your adult sleepover by making breakfast.

If you choose option 2, let me help you. This week we'll draft a quick and easy menu for the morning after. Impress your guest while you're still in pi's with pancakes and bacon. 

Practice Date: Red Wine Brownies

Though I'd love to take credit for these brownies, I must bow my head to the inimitable David Lebovitz. He published this recipe for brownies in 2011 and I've been making them ever since. The batter is drop-dead simple with one caveat: you must beat it for at least a minute (as he states). The structural alchemy that occurs during your fervent whisking is what makes these brownies irresistible. They normally emerge from the oven with a crisp top but this time I've taken them for a ride with red wine and raspberry jam, baking a sticky-sweet layer on top of the bitter chocolate. 

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Practice Date: Roasted Lamb Ribs

Eating well doesn’t have to break the bank, monetary salvation lies in knowledge. So, arm yourself with information and get to know your butcher. I’m a lover of lamb, but buying the rack every time will rob your wallet of its health. Lamb spare ribs, however, are often overlooked and if you can get your butcher to save some for you, the price will likely surprise you. Unpopular meat is cheap, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t scrumptious.

Practice Date: Caraway Smashed Potatoes

This date night meal needed some heft (I intend to put my dear friend into a food coma) and what adds more power to a meal than the humble potato? Boiled, smashed, and pan fried, this potato has everything: a tender center, a crisp skin, salt, garlic. It was only missing one thing: intrigue. Enter caraway. You think of it as the flavor of rye bread, and it's the perfect compliment to a smashed potato.

Practice Date: Red Cabbage and Cider

In an effort to serve foods with a natural blush for my practice date I picked up a head of red cabbage at the market. Cabbage has a bad rap for being smelly, cheap, and mushy, and the fault for such a reputation sits heavily on the shoulders of mid-century cooks. Cabbage is a riot of color and texture, the tender leaves contrast mightily with the crunchy veins. I toss mine with apple cider vinegar and miso for a punch of acidity and flavor. No mush over here.

Practice Date: Spiced Nuts

I could ruin an entire meal by nibbling snacks before dinner, and these nuts only contribute to my mealtime treason. Roasted nuts are easy to make ahead of time in large batches. They keep well in the freezer so you'll always have something on hand to feed those precocious guests arriving before you've finished in the kitchen.

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Practice Date: Casting Call

February is a time for Hallmark love and Presidential remembrance (according to our national calendar). While the thought of planning a dinner party around Washington's favorite foods is enticing, I decided to go with the more obvious choice and build this month's menu around a lovely little date night. 

While living in Vegas I started a tradition with a dear friend of going out on practice dates. Neither of us had significant others, but we wanted to be ready should we meet those special someones in the near future. So, Tango and I watched insulting romantic comedies, ate dinner at absurd Vegas restaurants, and attended dreary company events as a fake couple. Now that we both live in NYC, it's time to invite her over for a more refined practice date. This time, I'm cooking. Stay tuned for the menu!

Chinese New Year Recipe: Fu Gwa with Shitake

Do yourself a favor and scour Chinatown for veggies. You'll see things you never knew existed. Like this, Fu Gwa. It's known as Bitter Melon in America and the name is no joke. Be prepared for an intriguing taste at your table. The texture is close to zucchini, but firmer. Chop it up, stir fry it with some shitake mushrooms and put it on the table. It'll be gone in no time.

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Chinese New Year Recipe: Black Bean Braised Bass

If my family is going out for dinner, the odds are high that we're having Chinese food. With Linda at the table we're never stuck ordering American standbys (General Tsao's is just fried chicken, you know that, right?) and my favorite dish is the whole braised fish. To celebrate the new year I decided to serve a few of my friends whole striped bass. Best part? No one fought me for the cheeks.

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