What We’re Eating Again: Baked Ziti from the NYT Cooking App

Winters in London can sometimes be a bit depressing: short days, damp, rainy, fog, dreary with VERY occasional snow showers. So the only answer on days like this is to have some comfort food, and if you ask me, you can’t get more comfort than baked ziti.

Having grown up in Northern New Jersey– where people take their Italian food very seriously with an Italian dish of one kind or another featured on every buffet table– I love Italian food (even if I am of Irish-German extraction). In the past, I’ve tried to make baked ziti without a recipe, but didn’t have much success doing so. But when I gave this one from the NYTimes a try, that all changed.

This reminds me so much of the ziti I was raised on– cheesy, tomatoey goodness. When I made it recently on one of the aforementioned December days described above, I added a new feature of smoked bacon lardons. It did not disappoint. It was just the thing this family needed to propel us toward another dreary December day.

If you’d like to give a try, the recipe can be found by clicking through this sentence.

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What We’re Eating Again: Baked Ziti from the NYT Cooking App

Korean style stir fried beef bulgogi from dinner by Melissa Clark

Kirstin: I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have made this recipe during the course of the year. It’s a real showstopper of a recipe. And once you have the initial two Korean ingredients, it’s super easy to make. Also, freezing the beef for 30 minutes as she recommends, makes it super easy to cut the meat. And for vegetarians, I’ve also tried substituting prawns for beef which has totally worked. You can’t wrong with this combination of flavours.

Finally, I have to admit I have cheated here and used a picture from back in June when we ate this outside…which feels like a million worlds away from the cold of winter.

Korean style stir fried beef bulgogi from dinner by Melissa Clark

Roast Chicken from Bon Appetit

Kirstin: Today was a snow day. We don’t have many of them in these parts, so I was particularly pleased to have planned ahead with food so we didn’t have to go out for the whole day. I say that, but Miles was the exception as he had a lovely time frolicking in the snow in our garden while we stayed in and watched The Crown.
I might also have mentioned before how much I like to cook recipes from Bon Appetit between cookbooks. And I have been obsessed with finding The Perfect Roast Chicken Recipe Ever for a while now. Many recipes have tried. Many recipes have failed. But this recipe might actually be The One. It’s not difficult, doesn’t use any mad ingredients and everyone loves the moist chicken at the end. The key to this recipe is planning ahead and taking the chicken out and salting it an hour before you plan to put it in the oven. It makes a huge difference to the moistness of the meat. A perfect end to a perfect wintry Sunday.

Roast Chicken from Bon Appetit

Ground Chicken Larb from Bon Appetit

Kirstin: So I have a confession to make. I’m going to come clean even though it’s not easy for me. But here it is…I often make recipes from Bon Appetit between books. I get their emails and have also subscribed to their magazine which ships all the way over to this side of the pond. I love it; amazing photography, on trend food recommendations, all of it makes me smile big. This particular recipe has been a consistent favourite for all the family during this year. And bonus for me; it’s super easy to prepare. Oh yes. Also Tom says it’s LARB-LY every time I make it, which makes him laugh and me groan. So there’s that too.
Give it a go. And you too can make larb-ly jokes while enjoying all those Asian flavours. It’s a win win.

Ground Chicken Larb from Bon Appetit

COOKBOOK OF THE MONTH 2017: ALL OF OUR FAVOURITES

Kirstin: So we’re trying out something we last did in December 2016.

Maureen: Indeed! We also tried it in July 2014.

Kirstin: Yes!

Maureen: We are cooking all our favourites from cookbooks we have already cooked from on the blog.

Kirstin: Because life just gets a bit chaotic in December.

Maureen: And you don’t want to have to think about new recipes and cookbooks as well as everything else.

Kirstin: Exactly! I plan to keep trying out my new instant cooker too.

Maureen: And I am going to check in on you in 6 weeks time to see if you’re still using it.

Kirstin: We shall see!

Maureen: And I have family coming to stay so I shall be cooking up a storm over Christmas.

Kirstin: I’m feeling all festive already!

COOKBOOK OF THE MONTH 2017: ALL OF OUR FAVOURITES

Our Verdict: At My Table

Maureen: Using one of my favourite British expressions, this was a bit of a damp squid.

Kirstin: I agree. Does that make it damp squid squared? I’m not sure I’d want to eat at her At Her Table every night. That sounds really mean, but it’s true.

Maureen: Nigella is so good and so inspirational it just seems a double disappointment.

Kirstin: I forgive her for that, unlike other people we could mention. {Editor’s note: She’s talking about Jamie and his recent slide into writing not-very-good cookbooks.}

Maureen: When I usually get a Nigella cookbook, it’s filled with post-its of the things I want to make. But not this time. I struggled to find something that I wanted to make.

Kirstin: I’m sure the next book will be a triumph.

Maureen: Her first books were all about getting as many people as you could around the table and enjoying a meal. It’s a philosophy that drives me to this day. But this book didn’t have that. The recipes were not inspiring. And she really didn’t talk about the communal aspect of food and how great that is, and that just made me sad.

[At this point, we lost interest in the cookbook and started talking about the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engagement.]

We know you can do a great one the next time, Nigella.

“At My Table”
Overall Grade (A- F): B- (Kirstin)  C (Maureen)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Lime & Coriander Chicken and Indian Spiced Traybake. Maureen: Roasted tomato salsa.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  B.
Any disasters? Kirstin: No. Maureen: No.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Low-rotation Bookshelf.  Maureen: I might give it to the charity shop because I know there isn’t anything in there that I’ll cook again, but then again, it is Nigella so I might hold on to it for sentimental reasons only.                                   Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: No. If I were to give a Nigella cookbook to a friend, I would give them “Feast.”

 

Our Verdict: At My Table

“Meatballs with Orzo” from “At My Table”

I was very much looking forward to cooking this recipe, as Nigella created a similar dish in “Nigellissima” that is eaten by this family so often that it’s practically in our food canon.

“Fake Risotto” (see the original post here and see the follow up post here) is so beloved that I’ve already taught 18-year-old Andrew how to make it so when he’s at university next year, he’ll be able to make it for himself.

Alas, this recipe had big shoes– or should that be bowls?– to follow, and it didn’t quite fill them.

To be sure, it was delicious. However, given that you make the meatballs and then poach them in the tomato sauce before finally adding the orzo, it takes more than an hour from start to finish. If I wanted to do something that labour intensive, I’d just make our very favourite meatballs and tomato sauce from Polpo.

It was good, I just won’t be making it again. I’ll either make the original fake risotto if I only have 15 minutes, or Polpo’s meatballs and tomato sauce if I’ve got more than an hour.

“Meatballs with Orzo” from “At My Table”