Tomato Pie + A Proposal

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I remember exactly when Danny and I met: October 1, 2010. We were newspaper interns sharing a breaking news beat and an address, each renting a room in a house with another woman and a cat.

One night, walking on Bayshore Boulevard after dinner, he almost kissed me.

On a trip to Ikea, 500-Days-of-Summer-style, he almost kissed me.

Until finally, one day, he did. We were on the couch, our bellies full of homemade pizza and my lips stained with red wine. By Thanksgiving, we were together.

By February, I said I love you. By spring, we had keys to our first apartment. And by this time next year, we’ll be married.

Two weeks ago on a weekend trip to Charleston, Danny proposed! I said yes, of course.

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How to Host Brunch at Home + a Make-Ahead Menu

How to Host Brunch at HomeBrunch is my favorite meal these days, and I know I’m not alone.

You’re in line with me at opening time, hoping to get a table. One of my favorite spots recently said it would be more than an hour before we saw any eggs or pancakes. The Portlandia episode in which a long line evolves into a brunch village complete with an overlord suddenly doesn’t seem so outlandish. For our next Sunday out, I reserved a table.

Wait, what? Brunch is supposed to be easy. Lazy. Indulgent. We smooshed two words into one for this thing and yet there’s nothing shortened about the meal itself.

I propose a new plan: brunch at home. No reservations.

A make-ahead quiche for brunch

We told our friends to show up at noon and we’d have breakfast: something eggy; bacon; coffee, and a mimosa-ish drink, definitely. At home, the drinks really can be endless, and soon brunch morphed into a dance party. The dance party turned into dinner.

Going out for brunch is still fun and means trying something new, but brunching at home means kicking back and losing track of time and your shoes. And since having people over for brunch isn’t as pricey as a dinner party can be, we could have friends over more often.

So we hosted another. And another. A late summer brunch. A holiday brunch with a twinkling 7-foot Christmas tree and spiced sangria because I learned my cake stand can be inverted to serve as punch bowl. (Yours probably lives a double life, too!)

Our tiny apartment kitchen belies the late-morning feasts it has turned out, including creme brulee French toast and all kinds of quiches. A sort-of French 75 cocktail punch is in heavy rotation. Our dinner table seats four, but we’ve had a dozen people over on Sunday. Friends kept asking about the next brunch, and I realized we’d inadvertently formed a sort-of brunch club.

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Grace Parisi, a James Beard-nominated cookbook author and former senior test kitchen editor at Food & Wine magazine who is now executive food director for publisher Oxmoor House in Birmingham, Ala., said she prefers brunch to dinner when entertaining. It’s more relaxed and nothing has to be fancy if you don’t want it to be. Plus, eating at home when you have kids is easier than hustling for busy tables in Brooklyn only to get what she calls the biggest crime of going out for brunch — mediocre coffee.

“On Sunday morning, do you really want your blood pressure getting that high hoping you get a table?” she said. Continue reading  continue reading

Hazelnut and Cacao Nib Granola (with Coconut and Sesame Seeds)

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I started with the recipe for Megan’s Very Best Oatmeal, of course. You know how roasting nuts brings out their flavor? They are totally enhanced with some heat, especially when we’re talking hazelnuts or walnuts. Megan figured out the same move works for oatmeal. Toast the oats in melted butter until they get a little color and start smelling good. This one move makes a big difference in your everyday oatmeal. She also has a different method for cooking the oats, a sort of steam method requiring less stirring, which makes things easier when I’m running around in the morning trying to get ready.

But when I think of Megan Gordon of A Sweet Spoonful and Marge, I first think of granola. I followed some of her granola tips to get this olive oil granola right, and now she’s led me to a new favorite. Hazelnut and Cacao Nib Granola from her cookbook, Whole-Grain Mornings.

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This recipe drew me in with its use of cacao nibs, but once I read through the ingredient list, I decided to make it as soon as I had the chance. A batch of this granola boasts sesame seeds, hazelnuts, coconut flakes, cardamom, maple syrup, and it finally gave me a reason to open that jar of coconut oil. It never occurred to me to stir sesame seeds into granola, but it’s one of the best things about this recipe. They add an earthiness that plays really well with the cardamom. Every time I bit into a good cluster, it reminded me of those sesame candies my dad loves.

Not that this granola is very sweet. The flavor here dances along that salty-sweet line, which is what I love about Megan’s granola and about making my own granola at home. Most grocery store granola tastes far too sweet and lacks the flavor you’d hope for. This is the most interesting granola I’ve tried, and now it’s my breakfast main squeeze. Continue reading  continue reading