custardy crème fraîche apple pie

custardy creme fraiche apple pie | two red bowls

What a strange, hard week this has been.  It feels like it has been hard in every sense of the word — difficult, unyielding.  I hope everyone is okay.  This is the first of a number of recipes I’ve had saved up for these first few baby-filled months, and, thankfully, it is so very easy.  I think “easy” was going to be my mantra in the kitchen for the foreseeable future no matter what, now that we have a little person to cuddle and feed and care for, but right now it feels particularly apt to share something that comes together without much effort, without any stress, to be a treat that soothes and indulges.

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date & maple butter tarts

date & maple butter tarts | two red bowls

date & maple butter tarts | two red bowls

date & maple butter tarts | two red bowls

So I think I’m about five years late to this party.  But I am newly, and really, obsessed with dates. They are so good. How are they so good? I don’t know how I was so woefully misinformed, but up until a couple months ago I had this idea that dates were just a vague something to be nibbled on at your grandmother’s house if all the cookies were gone, or maybe used as a convenient vehicle for goat cheese and bacon, or admired from afar as a healthful “substitute-for” things I am generally reluctant to substitute. And then I was gifted a box of really great ones, with fancy things like orange peel and almonds tucked inside, and my world was totally rocked. This is probably news only to me at this point, but it turns out dates are pretty much candy. They have a consistency like caramel and nearly the same buttery taste; they’re sticky and soft and reminiscent of wonderful things like honey, cinnamon and molasses.  B2 was unmoved by my date revolution (although he hasn’t gotten tired of responding to “Want a date?” with “I thought we were already married. Get it?”) but, with or without him, I’m fairly sure I’ve eaten my weight in them since April.

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kabocha & caramelized onion galette

kabocha, goat cheese, & caramelized onion galette | two red bowls

kabocha, goat cheese, & caramelized onion galette | two red bowls

As much as I dread fall (mostly because of the season that-shall-not-be-named that comes after it), I have to admit that I secretly enjoy more things about it than any cold-weather hater should have the right to.  There’s the undeniable coziness of multiple layers and fuzzy slippers, the soothing weight of a heavy comforter at night, the crisp in-between weather that’s cool enough for classy wool coats but not so cold that I’m resigned to rustly Michelin-Man puffer jackets; there’s the never-ending cornucopia of magical fall baking, from warm, spicy poached pears tucked into baked oatmeal and scones brushed with maple syrup to a surplus of pillowy baked bread and my very first challah.  And, maybe best of all, there are magical things like virtual pumpkin parties, thanks to Sara of Cake Over Steak!

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acorn squash & hazelnut frangipane galettes, for #pgminseason with pure green magazine

acorn squash & hazelnut frangipane galettes

Last week I woke up to find that all the leaves outside our window were gone. Now that the trees are mostly bare, we can see a little sliver of the East River from our dining table; it glints blue-green and looks deceptively peaceful on cold, sunny mornings like the ones we had a whole spate of last week. Lately it’s been typical late fall, early winter fare around here — jam-packed schedules and everything hurtling at breakneck speed. Has it been like that for y’all?  We’re staying put this Thanksgiving since we’re travelling for Christmas, and even though we’ll be missing our families, I think we’re both looking forward to a peaceful oasis later this week.  (Plus, we’ve got oodles of Thanksgiving dumplings in our plans and we’re pret-ty pumped about them!)

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maple sweet potato casserole & thyme marshmallows // thanksgiving stuffing dinner rolls

maple-brown butter sweet potato casserole + thyme marshmallows // stuffing-flavored dinner rolls
Pinch dishes from The Fortynine Studio.

We had a mini impromptu Friendsgiving last weekend! Even in miniature, it was my first time putting together anything remotely like a Thanksgiving meal on my own, and it was so much fun. For the main, I braised an abundance of chicken legs using Jamie Oliver’s milk chicken recipe, which was life-changing and totally worth the hype, at least in my opinion (also, one day I will stop being scared and I will roast a whole chicken, I swear). For the salad we had mixed greens with ridiculously ripe Bosc pears and shaved Parmesan, drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil — simple and easy. But my favorite dishes — as it should be with Thanksgiving — were these sides.

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mashed potatoes with sage brown butter

Sage Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

So this may seem odd, given my great and well-documented love for Southern comfort food, but I’m not usually the biggest fan of mashed potatoes.  To me they’re like the vanilla extract of side dishes — potentially delicious, but usually in need of a partner.

When I was a kid, my dad used to drive me to KFC as a treat once in awhile after piano lessons or swim practices. Man, I got all up in that meal. Two piece meal, all legs, Original, mashed potatoes and coleslaw, please, thank you.  But I’m pretty sure I spent half my time (after tearing into those Original chicken legs like a starved shipwreck survivor) trying to figure out how to make those mashed potatoes more palatable.  Leftover fried chicken bits mixed in?  Spread thick on a biscuit?  With … the coleslaw?  (I wish I could say I didn’t try that, but I did.  … And I liked it.)  However you slice it, the mashed potatoes were the one thing on that plate I didn’t devour with single-minded ferocity.

I realize I’m making it sound like I was very into my KFC experience. I was.  I was very into KFC.

Anyway.  I’ve come to realize that making mashed potatoes from scratch does a thing or two or trillion for them.  But a few months ago, I came across these glorious-looking roasted garlic smashed potatoes on The Baker Chick, and that was a real game-changer.

First, this salt potato thing is genius.  Boil the potatoes in well-salted water, pasta-style, and the result is a flavorful skin and a creamier potato.  Smash it all up with butter and milk, leaving the skins because you’re lazy because they’re nutritious and have fiber and such.  Then, add to that a couple of cloves of golden fried garlic.  (That should have been one awesome head of roasted garlic, but I got impatient.)  Finally, throw in one pan of sage leaves crisped up in brown butter?  It turns out mashed potatoes can do the damn thing all on their own after all.

Sage Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes with sage brown butter Sage brown butter mashed potatoes
Sage Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

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roasted brussels sprouts and chips, three ways

Roasted Brussels sprouts, three ways | Two Red Bowls.

It’s almost Thanksgiving! So this week I thought I’d post on what seems to be the Thanksgiving vegetable of the year. If last week was about bucking trends (or being unable to participate), this week is definitely all about falling in line with them. At this point, I think I may be the last blog on the Internet not to have done a post on these toy cabbages. But just in case you’re not already Brussels’ed out, here’s several more ways to roast them — as chips and as hearts, and in three different flavors. (In other words, if you’re not Brussels’ed out, after this you will definitely be.) READ MORE