Serve with a Side of Friends

Sides Party

The Turkey Party filled with Sides

For close to a decade, my dear friends Toph and Josslynne Welch open their home every November and host a pre-Thanksgiving potluck. The premise is simple: the hosts cook the turkey (plus some appetizers, a few sides, a couple desserts…) and the guests bring everything else. Josslynne says, “New York is a transient city, we created this party almost 10 years ago when we realized all of our friends scattered for the holidays; it is a wonderful opportunity to gather around a table to share the food and the people we love before the holiday crunch.”

This annual event, affectionately known as The Turkey Party, occupies a most-revered spot on my social calendar. It is a chance for friends to come together, celebrate the advent of the holidays and, best of all, feed each other delicious food.

In the early years, we stuck pretty closely to standard Thanksgiving fare and family recipes, impressing each other (and ourselves) with our burgeoning dinner party skills. Now that we’re older, wiser and much more comfortable in the kitchen, the Turkey Party has become a great excuse to try a new recipe or reinvent a family classic. Our hosts generously encourage us to try new things, “We want the flavors of each dish to be reminiscent of something mom made, but nothing you’ll find at her table three weeks later when the real deal rolls around.”…

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A Trip to Altobelli Family Farms

Altobelli Corn

John shows us some of his family's corn crop.

Fresh corn is, to me, the ultimate summertime treat. Nothing quite captures the season like biting into a hot ear of just-cooked sweet corn, dressed with a little butter and a sprinkle of salt. So when I was asked to visit Altobelli Family Farms, our main supplier of local corn, I was all ears…

The produce team and I traveled up the Hudson Valley, into the Berkshires and ended up in Kinderhook, NY where the Altobelli family welcomed us into their home and onto their fields. We spent a lovely afternoon snacking on fresh-picked corn (naturally), wandering down rows of lovely vegetables and flowers, and chatting with John Altobelli about farming.

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Step Away from the Stove! No-Cook Quickies

It’s officially hot — which means I need to officially avoid turning on my stove-top or oven to get dinner on the table.

Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil Platter

Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil Platter

For some reason, I’ve been clinging to the idea that I can handle cooking in my small-ish Brooklyn kitchen when it’s 80° outside — but the only things coming out of that kitchen right now are rushed, mediocre dinners and a very grumpy, sweaty me.

Well, I say “no more.”

I liberate myself from the need to personally poach, boil or broil the goodies that go on my dinner plate. I give myself the go-ahead to splurge on items that have been sautéed and roasted for me. I embrace the cold, the chilled and the room temperature. I love NOT cooking dinner! …

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Six Quick Ideas for Peak-Season Berries

Having grown up in Oregon, a state famous for its prodigious berry selection, I learned early on that the best thing you can do with a berry is to (drum roll) just. eat. it. However, that would make this blog post rather uninspiring, so…

Fresh Strawberries

Fresh Strawberries

Most folks showcase berries’ goodness in muffins, cobbler and pie, but I’ll be honest with you — I don’t really do a whole lot of baking with fresh summer berries. Peak-season berries are pretty much perfection as they are and, honestly, the last thing I’m thinking about doing on an 80°-plus day is turning on my oven.

Besides, baking is just NOT my strong point (you could do serious damage with good aim and one of my cakes), so I’m always interested in tips that don’t require careful measurement and a gentle touch….

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Two Perfect Picnic Dips

Yes, I’m still talking about bean dips… I can’t help it.

White Bean & Caramelized Onion Dip

White Bean & Caramelized Onion Dip

Picnic season is upon us and bean dips make an excellent addition to the blanket — they’re easy to make, are best served at room temperature and can be taken pretty much anywhere since they don’t rely on mayonnaise for a rich, creamy texture.

Even better? These two tasty dips easily double as spreads for al fresco sandwich-making. The white bean dip is fantastic on crusty sourdough with marinated artichokes and roasted peppers; the green pea dip is divine with ham on pumpernickel….

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Exploring the Mysteries of Mushrooms

Modern Farms Mushrooms

Modern Farms Mushrooms

Mushrooms are one of those vegetables that are always available, but you rarely get to see them growing. It’s not like you’re ever going to pass by rolling mushroom fields or ranches on your way to the Catskills.

I recently had the opportunity to see for myself where the magic happens. Alongside our Produce team, I visited two of the biggest mushroom farms in the Tri-State area: Phillips Mushroom Farms and Modern Farms Mushrooms.

I left with a head full of fun facts, a bag full of delicious mushroom treats and a real understanding of how mushrooms go from the earth to my kitchen.

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How I Fell in Love with Fennel

I can still remember my first taste of raw fennel.

Fennel

Fennel

I had yet to reach the age of happily consuming vegetables (and broccoli only served to amuse me with its tree-like appearance), but here was a crunchy vegetable that looked a little like celery and… TASTED A LOT LIKE CANDY! One crisp, licorice-scented bite and I was hooked.

Once I started cooking on regular basis, my childhood appreciation of fennel’s sweet flavor developed into a deep, abiding love.

It might seem silly to declare my devotion to foeniculum vulgare, but I find fennel to be such an engaging ingredient. This singular vegetable develops a variety of characteristics based on different preparations, and it brings its distinct flavor to whatever I’m preparing.

Since fennel offers a hint of spring before most of the real spring vegetables arrive, now’s a great time to experiment with a few tasty ideas… both raw and cooked. …

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Go Mad for Bean Dips

‘Tis the season to enjoy March Madness, and there’s nothing more satisfying on game day than settling into a comfy spot on the sofa with a good bean dip.

Fully Loaded Hummus Recipe

Fully Loaded Hummus

I’ve created two delicious — and extremely simple — dip recipes that make a nice break from all the heavy food that typically goes hand-in-hand with watching sports. …

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14 Ways to Love Citrus

I’ve always been struck by the perfect timing of the peak citrus season.

Red Grapefruit

Click for grapefruit and more

Just when the bitter cold winter months are this close to getting me down, FreshDirect gets shipments of zesty oranges, tangerines and grapefruit.

As I break open a citrus peel and revel in the bright floral, almost piney scent, I am virtually transported to a sunny locale (insert mindless hula humming here).

These dazzling fruit can (and should) be enjoyed just as they are, but there plenty of other ways to use citrus’ unmistakable flavors and aromas in baking or cooking. Here are 14 of my favorite fast uses. …

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