Last Mother’s Day, my sister gave me a copy of Jenny Rosenstrach’s cookbook/memoir/ode-to-“family dinner” Dinner: A Love Story. Based on her blog of the same name, DALS wrestles through the joys & trials of prioritizing a daily meal together as a family.
The book chronicles Jenny’s journey from the early days of her own family – she & her husband working long hours in NYC publishing, then counter-culturally coming home and still cooking dinner – through the punishing years of toddler pickiness, on to the glory days: what she calls “the years the angels began to sing” (i.e. school aged children). Throughout her tales of working and then baby-ing and, the trickiest, working and baby-ing, there are recipes. Oh, there are recipes!
Ever since receiving it, DALS has been a mainstay of my cooking arsenal. I dole out copies whenever I have occasion to, and sing Jenny’s (or Andy – her husband’s) praises when I sit down to yet another reliably delicious meal.
Dinner: A Love Story is a fabulous gift to give to any mom, any aspiring cook, anyone who likes good writing, anyone who enjoys a good laugh… ANYONE! Pick up a copy at your local bookstore if there is a mom you’d like to treat this week.
Another idea in our meaningful gift guide is to cook your Mom a meal. Here are two recipes from Jenny’s original DALS book that you can make for Mom this weekend.
[I love this recipe because it doesn’t need white wine, as most risottos do, and still tastes amazing. It also seems very impressive but is really quite simple. Make it on its own with sausage & peas or as a side to a steak or a nice piece of fish.]
Aka Back Pocket Risotto (Pg. 76)
Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Add ½ small chopped onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the onion is softened, about 2 minutes.
Add 1 ½ cups Arborio rice to pan and stir until each grain is covered with oil. In a second smaller saucepan or a microwave, heat 2 ½ cups milk (any kind – whole, skim, low fat) with 2 ½ cups chicken broth until warm but not boiling.
Add ½ cup of your hot liquid to the rice, stir, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Keep repeating until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked through but still firm, about 30 minutes. (You don’t have to stir constantly, but I find it’s helpful to never be too far away from the stove when you are making risotto.)
Remove from the heat and stir in ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese and another tablespoon of butter.
Add ½ pound cooked Italian sausage or cooked bacon crumbles and a handful of frozen peas to the pot once the risotto has cooked through.
[When I go the sausage route, I start by cooking the meat in the same pan, then removing the cooked crumbles and beginning the recipe using the leftover fat]
I-Love-You-So-Much-I’m-Going-to-Throw-This-in-the-Oven-and-Mostly-Ignore-it-for-an-Hour-While-We-Drink-Cocktails-Together Sausage & Potatoes
[This recipe is easy, easy, easy. Even if you are not a cook, you can totally impress her with this one…]
Aka Baked Sausage with Apples, Potatoes, and Onions (Pg.109)
Preheat the oven to 425F. Combine 3 cups whole small potatoes and 1 onion (chopped in large chunks) in a large baking dish and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, salt, and pepper.
Place 4 sweet Italian pork sausages on top of vegetable. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, until sausage is brown on top. Using tongs, flip over the sausage and bake for 10 more minutes.
Meanwhile, chop 2 Granny Smith apples (unpeeled) and toss with a little more olive oil, salt, and pepper. Scatter the apples around the sausage, drizzle 2 tablespoons cider vinegar over the whole dish, and bake for 5 more minutes. Serve with dollops of spicy brown or Dijon mustard.