Small Eggplants!

To be honest, this post is mostly happening because I can’t stop eating eggplants. It’s totally selfish and entirely about me. This has happened before - August comes, and that means the fun eggplants come out, miniature versions of the monsters available year round, and I fall back in love. I eat them morning to night, in succotash and on their own. These are the eggplants you can’t find in the grocery store. Yes, this means you need to get off the couch and go to the farmers market. If that doesn’t excite you, you need to rethink your summer priorities. Look for the smaller versions of the dark purple, almost black eggplant that is familiar, or do as I do and look for the fairy eggplant, Japanese eggplant, the black magic, the easter egg, or the sweetest of them all: the white eggplant. White eggplants kind of look like big eggs, which only makes me like them more. I usually buy the ones with the softest skin. It works best for what I’m about to suggest, although they’re so cute you’re going to want to buy all of them. 

After four years of eggplant experiments, I’ve found that the way I prefer to eat them, at least in the summer, is on their own. Maybe a little tahini or lemon, but that’s it. Yes, you can slice them, olive oil them, and bake them. But really what you want to do is wrap them up in tinfoil and put them in the hot coals of a grill, or on the direct flame of a stove. In that case, no tinfoil is needed, just know that your stove top might get a tiny bit dirty. But it’s worth it. What you’re gonna get at the end is something smokey and something sweet. For the stove, pick an an eggplant, wash it, and take off the small prickly green parts at the top so that you can really get at the whole thing. No use wasting the top part. Then place it on the stove so that its sticking straight up vertically. Yes, it sounds weird, yes it will get results. Turn the flame on medium - or medium high if you’re like me and ready to eat fifteen minutes before you start making food - and slowly rotate it about every thirty seconds, until the skin starts to char. Let it char slowly. It’s only going to take about five minutes total, so you can let each side go for about forty seconds. After about three minutes, use a towel to lift it up by the top, and feel it. If it’s firm, it needs more time. If it collapses under your touch, it’s ready. Let it cool, and then peel the skin off. It should come off in big chunks and the eggplant flesh underneath should be creamy, white, and yield to a fork. 

If you’re serving for people, serve them whole and let them crack the shell off on their own. Playing with your food is fun. Don’t take that way from people. If you’re on your own, which is a great way to go about this, then make three of them, take the skin off, and let them cool. Eat them standing up, while watching a great bad TV show, and slowly let yourself get totally addicted to the entire process. The best way to take this to the next level is to heat up a thick pita bread in the oven, cut it in half, and slather each half with hummus. Put the eggplant between, and squeeze a little lemon on it. If you’re really looking to get fancy, you can slice a hardboiled egg and add that, and if you’re a hot sauce person, go for it. But if you’re alone, I suggest letting the eggplant go solo, and getting another one started while you let the first ones cool. 

tomato jam and goat cheese toasts

Recipe: NPK Photos: NPK


A few years ago my most wonderful roommate took me to her favorite hometown brunch spot and I never forgot it. I was pretty excited to visit this legend after hearing about it for a few years. We sat on the street-side patio, enjoying the first few rays of spring after sitting in the library for weeks on end studying for finals. 


On the specials menu at Raymond's that day were sausages with tomato jam. It should be no surprise that I never forgot my introduction to tomato jam or the intense feeling that it needed to be replicated. While my memory frequently fails me when studying for exams, with little pain I can recall a meal, snack, or even a flavor I had nine years ago, particularly if it changed my life even in some small way. 


This recipe brings your incredible summer tomatoes to life. It is a complex, savory, and sweet toast all at the same time. Along with a rich goat cheese, a drizzle of honey, and a few sprinkles of sea salt, you will not forget this snack either. It varies slightly from my first heavenly experience with tomato jam, but it brings back a lot of wonderful memories from afternoons in Montclair, NJ.


Adapted from Food Loves Writing

Makes about 1 cup or 4 toasts

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled, and diced

3 cloves of garlic 

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspon finely chopped basil leaves, plus more for garnish

1/3 cup honey, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Dash of black pepper

Loaf of sourdough or french bread

2-4 ounces of fresh goat cheese

1. Bring a medium sized pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, core out the stem of the tomato with a paring knife and make an X on the other end. Place the tomatoes in the water for about 10 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon. Let them cool and then peel the skins off.

2. Combine the diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon juice, basil, honey, and salt in a saucepan. Add a couple dashes of cayenne and black pepper. Once simmering, adjust the heat on the stove to low and allow the mixture to simmer for an hour or two, until the mixture becomes thick. Allow the jam to cool. (It can be kept in the refrigerator for about 3 days, so it is great to make ahead!)

3. Toast or grill a few slices of bread and spread on a layer of goat cheese. Add a few spoonfuls of the tomato jam on top and garnish with a dash of sea salt, honey, and a basil leaf.


Summer Soup, Part 1


I have this thing with gazpacho. As in, I don’t understand it and I don’t like it. This is weird because I’m a soup person. Minestrone, lentil, three bean, I’m good with all of it. Bowls are my favorite food vehicle, and I’ve always preferred small spoons over regular sized forks. Which is why the gazpacho thing is so strange. After years of analyzation, I’ve concluded that it has something to do with the fact that it’s cold (which wrong and unnatural) and that it doesn’t have that deep, thick tomato feeling that pushes me to eat tomato sauce out of the jar. Tomato sauce eaten out of the jar, by the way, is a completely legitimate dinner supplement.  

This brings us to salsa. I love salsa. I love everything about it. I like it chunky and spicy and full of really fresh, full tomatoes. I’ll eat it on anything. I’ve been known to spend an entire day trying to track down a specific salsa creation sold only at the farmer’s market on Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday mornings. I had a deep love affair with Green Mountain Salsa that led me to eat about a half pound a day and resulted in probably hundreds of leftover glass jars. 

So I set out to make a soup that was half salsa, half tomato soup. A hot gazpacho. A salpacho. A bringing together of the roasted tomatoes that I eat all summer long and the fresh salsa flavor that goes with just about anything. A step up from tomato soup. 

First, buy six or seven local grown tomatoes. If you can get heirloom, even better. The better the tomato, the richer the flavor. Cut the stems out. Throw these on a sheet of tinfoil with a little olive oil, some thyme, and some basil. Roast them in the oven at about 400 degrees for anywhere between half an hour and forty five minutes. Take them out when they start to brown and bubble. While they’re cooking, chop three scallions, juice three limes, slice half a zucchini into rough pieces, and mince a handful of cilantro (or parsley, if you’re a cilantro hater). Put it all in a blender. Add some black pepper and a little bit of salt - how much is up to you. You’re gonna taste it, so adjust according to how much you like some salt and pepper with your tomato. Once the tomatoes are done, put them in. Blend it all up but do it by using the pulse feature, or just set it really low and pulse it intermittently and slowly, so it stays piece-y. It should be hot from the tomatoes, straight out of the oven, and if it isn’t then you can stick the entire thing on the stove or in the microwave. 

For the blenderless, it’ll work just as well if you put it all in a large glass jar, and then shake it. If you’re doing it this way, then just make sure you cut everything the way you want it, because that’s what you’ll be eating. 

I like to add toasted quinoa. And not just because I happened to have some left over from the night before. It might sound like it has one too many steps but take it from a seasoned quinoa eater, it’s worth it. Make quinoa as you regularly would (with a two to one water to grain ratio, cooked on the stove for about half an hour, add a little vegetable stock if you want more flavor) and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the quinoa is done, let it cool. Then put it on a sheet lined with tinfoil, spreading it relatively evenly. Leave it in the oven for about half an hour, rotating it every few minutes. When it’s starting to brown and crisp, take it out. 

Put in a bowl. Pour tomato soup on top. Mix it all together and you have a crunchy, hot, veggie filled bowl that feels like the kind of summer soup that will fill you up just enough. 

This is also a really good thing to make if you have leftover veggies and really need to use them, fast. 

grilled corn salad with tomatoes, parmesan, and basil


Recipe: NPK Photos: BPH

This is one of my all time favorite summer recipes. It is fresh, easy, and looks like summer in a bowl. A few months ago I witnessed a pretty spectacular Instagram featuring braided corn. As soon as I saw these braided veggie masterpieces, they needed to be reconstructed.

With a little help from some kitchen friends, I boiled the husks to make them soft and pliable, then pulled them back and made braided them just like hair. Yes, this is not essential for the recipe or flavor of this salad. But isn't it pretty? Nothing like braided veggies.

To create the char on the corn, some urban kitchen methods were utilized. By using the open flame on your stove, you can create your own city style grill, although a backyard grill would be far more appropriate. Be sure to hold the corn with a pot holder of some kind and hold from the end of the cob over the open flame. You are definitely at risk for lighting on fire so be cautious. 

Other than that, this recipe really doesn't require much of a recipe at all. Once the corn is charred, cut it off the cob into a large bowl. Roughly chop tomatoes, basil, and cubes of parmesan cheese. Season with generous amounts of salt and pepper. Olive oil is definitely an option, although my favorite part of this salad is the natural dressing created by the tomatoes and corn.

This salad is awesome by itself but also a great addition to a summer BBQ or served with garlic bread fresh from the oven.

P.S. A pro-tip from my mom, who spent her summers at a corn stand: to remove those pesky hairs from your corn, hold it over the sink or the trash and twist it back and forth like you are wringing out a wet towel. This might keep you from constantly pulling those corn remnants out of your teeth!

I'm Moving to Italy


Photos: NPK Post: NPK

I'm don't know if this happens to every one, but my boyfriend and I most frequently disagree about where we are going to eat for dinner. There are a lot of options, no one wants to make the final call, and things get messy. Usually I suggest a carb-o-load option like pizza or pasta. These last few days have been a dream because there is only one thing to eat- pasta, pizza, bread, gelato, cheese. You get the idea.

Some of these spots were random gems, others were recommendations from friends or from Katie Parla who I randomly discovered thanks to the virtues of Google. She certainly did not lead us astray.

This gelato was special. Real special. 

I don't even want to say too much about it because you will be jealous. On the right was cream with lemon, honey, and ginger along with basil, walnut, and honey. On the left mango and stracciatella. These flavors may need to be part of my every day diet. 

Our first perfect pizza in Italy. Made in a wood-fired stone oven pizza in Florence and eaten with plastic forks and knives. It was cheap, fresh, and some of us even had two. To my significant other's dismay, I could eat this pizza three times a week, at least. 

This restaurant was a recommendation from the best friends. Fresh burrata, mint, honey, fig jam, and grapefruit. Good god, who knows who came up with that combination, but there were nearly tears of joy. The waiter tried to take it away with a few bites left in the bowl and he nearly lost a finger. 

After getting lost and walking in a circle, we found this hole-in-the-wall. There were some hangry men by my side but I appreciated their stamina. These sandwiches were well-worth the uphill battle. Fresh foccacia, which would have been life-changing on its own, thinly sliced prosciutto, truffle-buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, arugula, and mint. All sandwiches are surely not created equal. 

And the carb-o-load ended here with these Neapolitan pizzas. The pizza capital of the world for a reason, I will be dreaming about this crust for years to come until I have enough money to have a backyard and a pizza oven of my own. But, it will never be the same. Not pictured (because we ate it too quickly): calzone with nutella. Equals magic. 

P.S. Thank you to all of those who probably wanted to strangle me as I photographed their food. 





Buvette's Chef Jody Williams


Interview: NPK Photos: NPK

A few weeks ago I had one of those special afternoons that was simultaneously exciting and peaceful. Post a morning of cooking with Beat, I walked over to Buvette, slightly nervous. I had the chance to interview Chef Jody Williams of Buvette in the West Village. Frankly, this was really for my Psychology of Creativity project. But then I thought, wait…this is the perfect thing for the blog. So, it is really serving a dual purpose.

Since my first meal there a few years ago, I have been in love with this little spot. It was one of my first explorations downtown and at that point one of the pricier meals I had purchased. It felt wonderfully decadent. The space is perfectly adorned and absolutely transports you to a place where relaxing, enjoying wine and ignoring your phone is absolutely acceptable, if not demanded. And the food is fantastic - my favorite might be the walnut pesto.

This restaurant is not only a business for Williams, but a holistic reflection of her life and the things she loves. Her consistent use of the word 'we' embodies her focus on people, her employees and customers alike. Buvette is not solely her endeavor, rather an experience cultivated by a group of individuals who are dedicated to their craft and creating a community.

P.S. I really wanted Jody to like me, so she was the lucky recipient of this special treat


N: I’ve read a few of your other interviews that mention you started your career in Italy. What led to the shift to French food and what have you maintained from your Italian roots?

J: Well I don't think of it as a shift. I think of it as another color on the palette so to speak. When you are training yourself to be a chef you go through a lot of technical growth where you learn technique and you learn how to cook and you learn how restaurants are doing food professionally. And on another level you develop your own aesthetic and our own interests and your own pathway. That always continues and you don't ever stop as an artist. 

N: How do you stay fresh and inspired? 

J: I have to get out there and find the source. I want to read recipes in original language. I want to envision how that dish was made fifty or eighty years ago. So, where would I go? I would travel to Genoa and have to eat focaccia or have farinata in Tuscany and find the best, find who is making it and then find recipes and pull it all together.

N: In the face of food trends, do you ever feel compelled to bring certain things to the restaurant or certain ingredients or do you train yourself not to look at those things?

 J: It’s love hate. I value looking within and pulling uniquely from myself. I am seeing the press or magazines and I am being inspired by other people’s work and influenced by that and to some degree it’s great and to some degree I lack confidence. So if I am in the process of opening a new restaurant, I will block our press for months. I will skip the New York Times on a Wednesday because I will start to pollute myself. 

N: You recently opened Buvette in Paris. Did you try to replicate what you have created here? Did you try to change in order for things to be more successful in that location?

 J: My master plan for Buvette has always been to do a gastrothèque, which is really a light restaurant. To do something that is easily replicated in the design and function, but always be open to allowing a little localization and taking from the best. We would be foolish not to take the best of what you get in Paris. But I ship the stools and the tin ceiling. It’s really a lot about people and that is sort of surprising when I am standing in a kitchen for ten or twenty years and I get out here and am running all of these people around me, that’s special. So for me cooking is this verbal education where I am going to tell you and I am going to show you.

 N: Buvette has a culture that encourages sitting and spending an entire afternoon here. Is it difficult to combat the New York City style of take-out food or the demand to eat as quickly as possible?

 J: You have to run a vigorous business but you are not going to do so by badgering people to get up out of their seats and padding checks. You are going to do a vigorous business, in my experience, by letting people create an ambience, picking smart ingredients with people you have in mind who will want to come and letting it be open to everybody. We want to cultivate more of a walk in and do what you want culture. We are your piazza. That’s so hard in New York City.

 N: Do you think you and your partner, who is also a chef, influence each other’s cooking styles? Have you cultivated a style together or are they very different?

 J: Oh man, Rita Sodi. We are completely different. If you just walked into her restaurant, you would see it. We are like black and white. But when we cook, it’s identical. We have the same sensibility, the same language. It’s about ingredients. It’s about seasonal. It’s about something plain and simple, that clean feeling when you are eating, but it’s delicious and you can eat there every day. We do things very thoughtfully.  

 N: Do you think it is easier on your relationship that both of you are chefs?

 J: From my experience, it makes it much richer when we are both sharing the same hobby.

 N: What do you like to eat for breakfast every day?

 J: I have immense pressure to improve my diet. It’s been going on for 10 years without success. I like Kefir if I don’t have a lot of time or cottage cheese and berries, which is high on my list for being healthy. I love fruit, any fruit- berries, strawberries or blueberries. If I am at work, I will have steamed eggs and prosciutto and Parmesan and olive oil- I love everything drenched in olive oil. The breakfast of my dreams would be a waffle sandwich or an egg sandwich in the deli with bacon, egg and cheese. I like those old school diners, except they never use good butter or fresh pepper. Or donuts and pastries. If I am in Paris, forget about it- brioches, all the pastries, hot baguettes and tons of butter. I love it. 

 N: Is there a particular dish you get really excited to make?

 J: If I get really crazy ingredients that you only see twice a year, like Nantucket Bay Scallops in the shell or pig heads from Heritage Farms I am so interested. I’ll call it exotic. So most of my excitement would be ingredient driven and the spontaneity. Sometimes it’s problem solving, sometimes you are just greeted at the door with something really exquisite.

 N: Do you think that cooking is art?

 J: I love this question. I would have to ask, how do you define art? And depending on how you define art then I think we could pick and choose what we consider art and what we consider artful. If we casually offered a definition of what art is, it is communication of the process of life, a symbol of a story or something more abstract. When I am cooking, I am not really communicating with you to that degree. I am creating a menu, a tablescape and to some degree want to communicate my aesthetic, but is it to that degree of fine art? I don’t think it is. One foot is being a carpenter and the other theatrical. 


Thank you so much Jody! It was so wonderful to meet you. 

Donuts: Coffeecake Edition


Recipe: BPH Photos: BPH

My boyfriend is a donut man. Most of the men in my life are donut men, and by that I mean my brother likes them too. Growing up, I fell in love with glazed donuts and Saturday morning trips in our bumpy peeling jeep, leftover sugar from foot long crullers, glaze on fingertips. Breakfast meant to pine air and holding the box carefully on my lap and handing my dad donut holes as he drove on empty seven AM streets. That’s summer island magic right there.

But really it’s the donut loving boyfriend who has brought donuts back into my life. All of a sudden, I’m buying fat maple glazed donuts along with my honey bush tea. I’m dragging myself across town to pick up wobbly, home made passion fruit donuts in the snow. There are few things in the world that feel better than standing in a donut shop right when it’s opened, and its warm and there’s rain slapping itself on the windows outside. There are also few better things to see sitting next to coffee beans than donuts. They just belong. 

Finding a donut recipe is HARD. So before I decided to take a stab at it myself and make one up (next time, people) I went to a recipe that’s already tried and trusted. I’ve found that nothing makes me think about my own recipes more than reading other peoples - whether it be on a menu or in a cookbook. This one, for coffeecake donuts, came from the blog offbeatandinspired, which is a really beautiful place everyone should go (the official link is here I modified it a little bit, mostly because I’m a less responsible baker than I should be. What I did learn was that pastry flour and cake flour are kind of the same thing. Cream and buttermilk? Same deal. These were remarkably easy to make being that they were donuts, which have always seemed to me like some completely unmakeable item. They are, as a matter of fact, makeable and easy to turn out in two hours. An hour and a half if you’re quick and you’ve got a good oven thing going on.

Here’s the modified recipe. Donut tins are really easy to find and just a generally useful thing to have. Also, they’re cool. It is cool to be able to make donut shaped things whenever you want.

You need: some sort of cream (heavy, light - take your pick), light brown sugar, regular sugar, about three sticks of butter, three eggs, cake or pastry flour - pastry flour is way easier to find but if you have cake flour you’re an impressive person, cinnamon, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. A pretty easy roster of ingredients.

they should look like this before they go into the oven - although I recommend leaving a little more space in the molds if you want getting them out to be less crumbly than my experience was 

they should look like this before they go into the oven - although I recommend leaving a little more space in the molds if you want getting them out to be less crumbly than my experience was 

First off, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. This is just going to make your cooking time faster, so if you forget it, this isn’t one of those things that’s going to be a huge problem later on. But just do it.

So, crumb time. Good life motto here: crumb first. Combine 2/3 cup of brown sugar and white sugar, two teaspoons cinnamon, a pinch of salt, two sticks of melted butter, and 2 cups cake flour, 1/2 cup pastry flour in a bowl. Mix it all together until it looks crumbly and crumby and like the top of a crumble. Or until it’s all the same sort of dark brown and there’s no loose flour. Try it and then put it to the side.

Now, the donut part. But 1 1/4 cups pastry flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, pinch of salt, 6 tablespoons of melted butter (basically count up to six on the lines on the side of the butter and then cut it), 1 large egg, 2 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/3 cup of heavy cream - a little bit more if you’re using a light cream. Mix it all together and then spoon it into the donut molds, but only fill them about half way up. Top with the crumble, and stick em in the oven. Leave them in there for about twenty to twenty five minutes. I had to punch some dough of the centers (result of overzealous tin filling) and ended up with the cutest lil donuts in all the land. Seriously these things were adorable and beautiful and perfect.

So what I learned: making donuts should happen all the time. And probably will.


Sweet plantain tacos with homemade corn tortillas


Recipe: NPK Photos: BPH

These pictures are super cute, right? I thought so too. While putting these tacos together, I thought ‘There is no way these won’t taste good.’ Well guess what, they didn’t. The first round of these tortillas were dry and the plantains tasted absolutely nothing like the sweet Cuban style plantains that I adore. All around, pretty disappointing.

Don’t be upset with me, but I kept the photos because they are too pretty. But this week I spent a little more time in the kitchen perfecting the recipe so these little tacos will taste good and maybe you will keep reading our blog. A few lessons were learned along the way.


Lesson #1: To make those delicious sweet plantains, they need to be almost black. Basically they will look like the pavement, mostly dark with very tiny slivers of yellow showing through. Honestly, if there is no yellow, they will work just as well. With the help of the Internet, I discovered that plantains cannot be treated like their cousin the banana. The over ripeness helps to bring out all of those sweet and sugary flavors.

Lesson #2: Cheese makes everything better (yes, I knew this already). While the tortillas were good on their own, I wanted them to be a little softer and more arepa-like. The third time around I incorporated shredded cotija in with the tortilla dough before flattening. Pretty sure I could have just eaten every single tortilla as they came out of the pan. 

Lesson #3: The cheesy (catch the pun? I’m such a nerd) moral of the story is that it was totally ok to fail and sort of fun. Rather than working off one recipe, it is rewarding to scour through a few recipes before creating one that works best.

Give them a try! They are the perfect little appetizer for a spring party and fun for guests to assemble themselves.


Tortillas (makes 16 thin tortillas)

Adapted from Kelsey Brown

-2 cups masa harina

-1 ¼ cup warm water

-Pinch of salt

-1 cup shredded cotija



-5 over ripe plantains

-Vegetable oil

-1 (16 oz.) can of black beans

-½ cup shredded cotija cheese + more for garnish

-Finely chopped cilantro for garnish

-Sour cream (optional)


 1.     Dissolve salt into measured cup of warm water.

2.     Gradually pour water into bowl of masa harina and stir slowly.

3.     Mix until combined, smooth but not sticky.

4.     Knead/press the dough into a ball.

5.     Cover and let rest for 30 minutes to 1.5 hours.

6.     Pinch off golf ball sized chunks of dough and incorporate approximately 1 tablespoon of cotija cheese into each chunk. Roll into smooth ball.

7.     Lay out 2 sheets of parchment paper. Place a ball of dough between the two sheets. Use a baking dish or Pyrex to flatten out the dough. (I chose to make them nearly paper thin for the tacos, although this is definitely up to you.)

8.     Peel the top layer of parchment paper up and use your hands or a spatula to remove tortilla.

9.     In a non-greased pan, cook it for 2 minutes on each side.


 1.     Peel plantains and cut evenly into ½” slices.

2.     Heat vegetable oil on the stove, enough to cover half the plantain slices. Check that the oil is hot enough by splashing a little water into the pan. If it fiercely sizzles you are ready to go.

3.     Fry plantains for 2-3 minutes on each side, until dark brown. When finished, place on a paper towel to soak up the oil.

4.     In the meantime, heat up black beans for a few 3-5 minutes on the stove. When finished mix with shredded cotija cheese. Mash with the back of a large spoon to create a spread.

5.     To assemble the taco, start with a thin layer of black bean spread on the tortilla. Next, place 3-4 plantain pieces in the middle. Top with shredded cheese, sour cream and cilantro or whatever toppings you love.