Category Archives: In Season

Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas from ‘Heather Cooks!’

Let’s face it, there’s nothing more romantic than a home cooked meal and nothing more unromantic than eating over-priced pre-fixe menus in crowded restaurants. Here are some of my favorite things to make for my sweetie on Valentine’s Day (or any day.)

Creamy Spaghetti Carbonara:

Seared Scallops with Sage Brown Butter:

Butternut Squash Risotto:

Roasted Chicken with Herbs:

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Filed under Dinner, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Pasta, Uncategorized, Winter

More Cheese Please: Vermont Cheddar and Leek Soup

Vermont Cheddar and Leek Soup. Photo: Heather Platt

Vermont Cheddar and Leek Soup. Photo: Heather Platt

“Isn’t it funny how we all remember Vermont?” Said Nana into the land line phone in her nursing home apartment.

I’d called  her to tell her that her famous Limpa Bread recipe and the guidance she’d given me over the phone the day before had lead to the most perfect batch yet. So perfect that two entire loaves of the crusty, soft, brown goodness seemed to have already disappeared from our countertop. Mysterious, I know.

Nana was pleased. “Mmmm.” She said, imagining she could taste it too. “It’s the best warm, with butter…” she specified trailing off in thought into the fantasy of Limpa deliciousness.  And then it occurred to me. That’s where this came from. This utter obsession with achieving maximum deliciousness, the utmost joy from watching someone happily devour the food you made. I got that from Nana.

“Oh no, I never bothered with any recipes at the restrunt.” She answered after I inquired about the menu items at her and my late-grandfather’s Vermont eatery.

“How did you make everything?” I was blown away. The woman owned, managed and cooked, from scratch with apparently no guidance, everything on the menu at “Bischoff’s Restaurant.” In the 1940s and 50s, hungry skiers  and locals alike piled into cozy wooden benches to enjoy her cooking.

“I just made it and tasted as I went along.” She said matter-of-factly. “Have you ever made my split pea soup? I wrote it down for you somewhere.” I will get that recipe as soon as possible. But until then, this Vermont Cheddar soup will have to do. And it does.

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Filed under Appetizer, Dinner, Fall, Heather Platt, Lunch, Soup/Stew, Uncategorized, Winter

Cooking with an Idiot: Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Daniel is a genius. It’s also a bit of a miracle that we’re still friends considering after arriving at NYU from Vermont in the fall of 2000, I thought it was okay to wear my brown corduroy overalls to orientation. Daniel, who isn’t shy about his opinions, later admitted to having “judged me harshly” for the poor fashion choice. I’ve had classmates express vague recollections of what they remember as ‘a bear costume’ when they first met me.  I cringe realizing that it was actually those beloved overalls. Thankfully Daniel isn’t shallow and his first impression quickly subsided and fourteen years of friendship continues.

Some of the many stories I want to tell about Daniel include: his unlikely and very brave day on September 11, 2001, his hilarious experience as a rebellious second grader in Santiago, Chile and his stranger-than-fiction roommate in Madrid. But these are long, precious to me (and probably him), and beside the point. So I thought we could sum it all up with a couple of lists.

Things Daniel is good at:

1. Being a best friend. I had my heart broken for the first time during my Freshman year of college. As a result, I cried while in rest pose during yoga class (If you’re in drama school at NYU, you take yoga for credit, naturally.) While the tears streamed down my face onto my mat, arms stretched down my sides in proper Savasana, I felt a hand tap the top of mine, comfortingly.  Daniel on the mat next to me remained still but had reached out his arm just enough to tell me it was all going to be okay. And it was.

2. Writing stories.

3. Making me laugh so hard I can’t breath.

4. Planning trips to the beach. One time on a drive to Malibu, Daniel seemed so unnaturally euphoric  that I became sincerely suspicious and  had to ask if he had taken something.  “No! I just LOVE the beach.”

Things Daniel isn’t good at:

1. Math. Considering his genius in all other areas, this caught me off guard once in a New York City taxi cab. When I exited the yellow vehicle and realized Daniel hadn’t gotten out, I peeked back in to see him with one hand flexed, pushing down on the top of his head in utter confusion as if the pressure on his skull would somehow work as a calculator for computing taxi cab tip amounts.

2. Cooking.  “Is there enough for a hungry Dan?” He used to ask when I offered him whatever cafeteria-alternative I had cooked up in my dorm for my roommates.  “Mmm…it’s a revelation.” He has said with wide eyes while chomping down on corn on the cob with miso butter at my house. “I’m savoring every bite.” He has explained while my husband and I notice that we’re eating embarrassingly faster than him. The compliments certainly make me love cooking for Daniel. But when it comes to his own skills…He has a thing or two to learn. So we made this video.

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Filed under Gluten-free, Heather Platt, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Summer, Videos

The End-of-Summer Blues: Classic Blueberry Muffins

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One of my all-time favorite summer activities is berry picking. And my favorite of berries are blueberries.  In August in Vermont, they are plumb and sweet. They are also the most fun to pick because they fall off of the shrubs into your hands in large clusters. My cousins and I, with the help of several enthusiastic teenagers, managed to pick eight pints of blueberries at Knoll Farm in Waitsfield, Vermont in thirty minutes. Which probably means we picked sixteen if you count the ones we popped in our mouths while picking. They are just so irresistible.

By the time we put the giant box of berries in the car, we realized that we had picked more than we would ever be able to eat. We spent the entire car ride home rattling off appetizing blueberry-centric recipe ideas.  Blueberry cheesecake, blue berry jam, blueberry buckle, blueberry cobbler were all in the running to be made that night. But at the end of the day, the classic, simple blueberry muffin won the contest. Sometimes it’s the easiest, simplest of foods that just sound the best. I baked two dozen muffins in the late afternoon and to my delight, half of them had already disappeared before dinner was ready.   “Heather! These muffins taste like fortune cookies and they’re delicious!” My fifteen-year-old cousin Will yelled from the kitchen. I smiled, entirely self-satisfied as I watched the sunset over the green mountains. I love cooking for teenagers.

Enjoy!

Heather

blueberry muffins

 

Even teenagers like to go blueberry picking!

Even teenagers like to go blueberry picking!

 

Molly with Blueberries

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Knoll farm

Knoll farm 2

 

Blueberries. Photo Credit:  Heather Platt

Blueberries. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

blueberries

 

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Filed under Breakfast, Brunch, Heather Platt, In Season, Summer

Winner Winner Lobster Dinner: Steamed Maine Lobster 101

Steamed Lobster. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Steamed Lobster. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Despite growing up in a land-locked state, I have had the great fortune of having extended family who dwell along the seacoast in southern Maine.  Every childhood visit there involved a trip to the lobster pound to buy a dozen of the live little crustaceans followed by a casual family feast of the delicious delicacies. We sat around a table, excited with white plastic bibs tied around our necks and claw-crackers in hand. The Vermonters at the table would always ask the Mainers to show them how to efficiently extract the meat from the tail, claws, legs and torso. My cousin Ty would explain that her Aunt Wendy always ate the “green stuff” and as kids we would squeal with disgust and fascination. Now, like the legendary Aunt Wendy, I too eat the “green stuff.” This internal part of the lobster, called Tomalley, is actually the liver and pancreas of the animal. So that explains why I find it so flavorful, which it is, FYI. Aunt Wendy is a smart woman. A big bucket in the center of the table served as a sort of basket ball hoop for shells to be tossed after the precious meat had been consumed.

These lobster dinners, which were served with a 1/4 cup of drawn butter for dipping, toasted English muffins, corn on the cob and a fresh garden salad were all I ever knew of eating lobster. For many years I rolled my eyes at over-priced lobster on restaurant menus. In truth because I just couldn’t bear to eat it outside of this nostalgic familial context. And thanks to a recent tutorial from one of my favorite Mainers, I finally learned how to make it.

Enjoy!

Heather

live lobsters. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Live Lobsters. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Classic Steamed Maine Lobster Dinner

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Filed under Dinner, Fall, Fish, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Spring, Summer, Winter

Dinner Party for One: Lonely Girl Chicken with Quick Almond-Cherry Couscous and Parsley Garlic Sauce

 lonelygirl chicken 14Cooking is easy. I believe that anyone can make a delicious meal. Like anything in life, it’s a matter of desire. Clearly, I have no problem committing an entire day to ingredient sourcing, chopping, mincing, searing and slicing. It’s fun for me. I understand that it’s not for everyone. And even I have days when I really wish that a home cooked meal would magically appear on my plate. But even though we all differ in our cooking desires and abilities, one common thread remains; we all need to eat. And as far as I know, we would all prefer what we eat to be delicious.

 

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But why does cooking have to be so polarizing? It seems that people are defined as those who cook and those who don’t. There must be some happy medium, some comfortable place halfway in between slaving over David Chang’s braised pork butt and simply running to the neighborhood ramen restaurant for takeout. My column Perfect Pantry was created to tackle this problem. How to cook when you don’t feel like going to the store. But along with ingredients, we need recipes.

The most challenging of these I-don’t-feel-like-cooking times are the nights alone. We’ve all been there. You are in your kitchen, hungry glancing back and forth from your phone to your fridge. The only thing in your freezer is gin. Because if you’re like me, you’re not a frozen-dinner kind-of-person. Is it worth making a mess if it’s just for me? Is there anything here to make? A steamed pork bun just sounds so good right now…Okay, maybe that’s just me. But recently I was in this position. My husband, a musician, has been on tour for most of the summer. So when my favorite person to cook for is away, I can’t help but feel uninspired.

But then I got to thinking about how this whole cooking obsession began in the first place. And I see a single twenty-something girl in her East Village apartment, blasting Belle and Sebastian songs on her stereo and cracking open a bottle of Pinot Noir while she comes up with a purpose for the treasures she rounded up at the Union Square Farmer’s market that day. A girl who cured her own loneliness by regularly throwing herself a one-woman dinner party and in the process, learned how to cook. So eight years later, I decided to channel that inner single girl. And on a hot summer night in Los Angeles, made myself a Bee’s Knees cocktail with the aforementioned gin and started cooking.

Enjoy,

Heather

 

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Lonely Girl Chicken with Quick Almond-Cherry Couscous and Parsley Garlic Sauce
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Filed under Dinner, Fall, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Poultry, Spring, Summer, Winter

Summer Cocktails: Elena’s Spicy Gin Gimlet

ginlet 3I love cocktails.  I covet them.  And despite my obsession with attempting to master the art of cooking everything, for many years I simply couldn’t figure out how to make a drinkable one.  I knew from watching the talented bartenders at my place of work, that they involved alcohol,  juice and something sweet.  But every time I tried to squeeze limes, boil sugar and water into a syrup and mix it all together with whatever poison was in my freezer, it always came out terribly tart, sickly sweet, or disturbingly boozy.

“Cocktails are the next frontier for me.” I announced to my  boss Matt one day in the office. “I’m going to learn how to make delicious cocktails.” It was kind of an embarrassing thing to announce. After all, I had been watching our famous bar chef Christiaan Rollich create masterpieces for years. I knew what was in them and I knew how they tasted.

“It’s very simple.” He explained. “You should think of a cocktail as four parts.” A person with normal patience probably would have just ignored my stupidity and continued with their work. But Matt turned to me at his desk and explained in great detail the science of making a cocktail. “Take the classic gin and tonic, for example. It’s two parts gin and two parts tonic.” I hung on his every word. “A gimlet is two parts gin, one part lime juice and one part simple syrup. However, you have to be aware of  the concentration of your simple syrup.”  As he spoke I imagined myself in a mid-century modern living room, mingling with friends, laughing while sipping perfect gimlets out of vintage coupe glasses. It had finally clicked. Thanks to the most patient and knowledgeable restaurant general manager on the planet, I would finally be able to put the lovely silver bar set I had received as a wedding gift to good use.

So when my dear friend Elena came over for a Himalayan salt block pork chop dinner last week, I couldn’t wait to offer her a classic gimlet upon arrival. We sipped them as I cooked Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad.  But when we sat down to eat I noticed green bits floating in her drink.

“Did you add jalapeño and cilantro to your gimlet?” I asked, confused. “It’s not guacamole.” I reminded her.

“Yeah.” She said. “It’s so good.”

I had finally mastered the classic beverage and Elena added a hint of her heritage, making it even better.

Enjoy!

Heather

 

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