The holidays are here and it truly is a wonderful time of year. There is a cheerful spirit in the air that brings people together. Neighborhoods sparkle with colored lights, friends gather for festive parties filled with spiced drinks and sweet treats, and the cooler temperatures revitalize us, bringing an uplifting and refreshing energy to the new year. And on Christmas day, while many families will be roasting turkeys, baking gingerbread cookies, and sipping eggnog, it is an annual tradition in Ryan’s family to cook an authentic Cuban dinner. The centerpiece is a massive roast pork leg, marinated for a week in garlic and spices, that is usually so big it barely fits in the oven. There is always congri on the table (a savory dish with black beans and rice), two kinds of plantains (both the salty tostones and sweet plátanos maduros), and of course our favorite: yuca con mojo, in which tender cubes of yuca are tossed with an intensely-flavored sauce filled with crushed raw garlic, olive oil, and zesty vinegar. And while yuca is not typically thought of as a Christmas dish, it is perfect for the holidays and other family feasts. Anywhere that mashed potatoes are welcome, yuca is a deliciously bright and tangy alternative.
There are two types of people in the world: those who like nuts in their chocolate chip cookies, and those who do not. For our entire lives we have always preferred them without, until one momentous night a few months ago when our good friend Gabe brought us this exceptional batch that changed our minds forever. And we are not the only ones! Last night we took a platter of these cookies to a holiday singalong party, and witnessed the miraculous conversion of several friends who had never liked nuts in their cookies before. So what is it about them that is changing people’s hearts and minds, especially on such a serious and potentially divisive issue? It could be that they are loaded with big chunks of dark chocolate. Maybe it’s the extra splash of vanilla, or the higher amount of dark brown sugar. Or perhaps the perfect texture: chewy and moist with golden crispy edges and a rugged crunchy top. Whatever the reason, these rich and chocolatey jumbo-sized cookies have made converts out of us, and we have embraced the delicious power of walnuts in baked goods. One bite, and you just might become a believer too…
This past weekend we welcomed December with a truly epic winter holiday drink. Kevin Masse posted a recipe on the feedfeed for a double chocolate bourbon milkshake with peppermint bark, and it turned out to be just as amazing as it sounds. We shared a photo of this festive drink on our Instagram page, so be sure to follow us there so you stay up to date with all our posts! In between sipping these wintry milkshakes, we also managed to fit in some recipe testing to mixed results. We tried making a jambalaya which took over three hours, and a kale risotto, but both turned out to be a lot of work with very little payoff. Thankfully, our third contestant was a clear winner: a delicious pasta, with more flavor than the jambalaya and kale risotto combined, that comes together quickly in under 30 minutes. During this holiday season, amidst all the sweet cakes, cookies, and kugels, this simple and light meal is a breath of fresh air.
On a bookshelf next to our kitchen, you will find a large green binder containing 204 pages of recipes (we recently counted!) which we have been collecting over the past ten years. It is filled with scribbled notes, comments, and detailed descriptions of where they came from. It is meticulously alphabetized and divided into six categories: Main Courses, Sides, Cakes, Cookies, Other Desserts, and Breakfasts. On the thirtieth page of the Sides section, nestled comfortably between a no-mayo potato salad from Rachael Ray and a Puerto Rican pique sauce, lies this glorious sweet baked dish. And at the bottom of the recipe is a handwritten note from December 2010 declaring it the “best kugel we have ever had.” This traditional noodle casserole adapted from Gourmet Magazine stole the show at our Hanukkah party five years ago and we have continued to make it every year since.
There is nothing better than enjoying a hot cup of soup on a cold day. Sometimes you just want to stay home in pajamas, cuddle up under soft blankets and watch old episodes of The Twilight Zone. These grey Monday skies are calling for something warm and comforting as the weather here in Los Angeles is finally changing from summer to a cool, crisp fall. This healthy greek spinach and orzo soup is warm, soothing, and makes a delicious dinner that is tangy and bursting with lemon flavor. It is pleasantly and lightly filling, and ideal after this festive holiday with so many rich dishes, indulgent sweets, and bountiful leftovers. After four days of Thanksgiving stuffing, casseroles, and homemade pies, this hearty bowl of soup will gently calm your soul and satisfy your senses.