Three Things

Dispatches from the Empty Nest Bar & Grill, a cool shortcut dinner, a family travel hotline

It’s hard to overstate how thrilled I was to hear that The Weekday Vegetarians hit the New York Times bestseller list at #3 last week. (That’s my number one fan up there, my dad, making me sign books for him.) More than anything it’s just so satisfying to know that you’re all cooking these recipes and enjoying them. (Thank you for all the nice notes!) Here are your week’s Three Things.

1. Welcome to The Empty Nest Bar & Grill*

A few weeks ago I listened to an episode of Kelly Corrigan’s podcast featuring the writer Susan Orlean. On the agenda: The Empty Nest! (I know, shocking.) Orlean told the funniest story — how she had assumed she’d get back to “adult things” when her son left the house, but what ended up happening, at least initially, was that she and her husband wound up eating cereal for dinner in front of the TV. She said she hadn’t realized how much of what they did all day as parents was “performative.” That was in my head on the night we flew home late from dropping off Phoebe, and you would have been proud of me — I was thisclose to breaking out the Raisin Bran. Instead, I had a vision of combining Ottolenghi’s charred tomato dish with crispy chickpeas (page 198 of The Weekday Vegetarians) — I just added the chickpeas to the same baking sheet and served everything over yogurt. Next night? We went with Crispy Tofu (a version is on page 135) but swapped out the sauce for a more Vietnamese take, inspired by Andrea Nguyen’s Vietnamese Food Any Day. That’s what you see up there. (Recipe for that sauce: Whisk together 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce, juice from 1/2 small lime, 3 tablespoons neutral oil, i.e. grapeseed or canola). In summation: You don’t have to worry about us in the dinner department just yet.

*”Empty Nest Bar & Grill” coined by the always spot-on Catherine Newman

2. Shortcut City

Jenna Helwig is the food director at Real Simple magazine, and you can tell right away by flipping through the pages of her new book, Bare Minimum Dinners. In addition to offering a fleet of honest-to-goodness easy, crowd-pleasing meals (Crispy Chicken Salad, Apple Cheddar Dutch Baby, Chicken Parm Burgers) you can tell right away she is fond of a shortcut. Take this simple no-brainer meal that capitalizes on the bold and beautifully complementary flavors of two jarred wonders: tuna packed in olive oil (I like Cento brand) and giardiniera, the Italian-style pickled vegetables you can find near the pickles. (I usually pick them up at Italian specialty markets.) Both products when combined, conveniently provide the oil and vinegar dressing. Swap in Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro, and this might win Recipe of the Year for the hurried cook.

Farro and Tuna Salad
From Bare Minimum Dinners Jenna Helwig

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cooking farro
1 cup uncooked farro (2 1/2 cups cooked)
2 cups giardiniera
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 6-7 ounce jar tuna, in olive oil (Jenna calls for draining the oil, but I keep most of it in and decrease the olive oil accordingly)
4 cups loosely packed leafy greens (baby spinach, baby arugula, about 2 ounces)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the farro in well-salted water, according to the package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to help the steam escape.

Stir the giardiniera, olive oil, and salt into the farro. Gently stir in the tuna.

Divid the greens among 4 shallow bowls. Top with the farro mixture and plenty of pepper.

3. An A+ Travel Resource (and a Travel Hotline!)

As we slowly get back to traveling, or at least fantasizing about traveling (how bad to you want to be on that beach up there? It’s Porto Katsiki on the Greek island of Lefkada) I wanted to point you in the direction of Yolanda Edwards, who runs Yolo Journal, a multi-pronged empire of travel resources and inspiration. In addition to a lush, full-color magazine, she writes the coolest newsletter, Yolo Intel and you cannot imagine how much she packs into each dispatch — not just vacation ideas, though there are plenty of those, but food and lifestyle ideas she picks up from around the world, like a simple gruyere and raspberry aperitif she had in the Médoc, or her favorite travel tote, or books to read on the plane. And, harkening back to the golden age of magazines, her writing is never just about her perspective. She has travel writers and locals weighing in with their lists, too. (If you can swing a paying subscription to the newsletter, that would give you access to her Black Book, which features her expertly curated lists of hotels and restaurants. It is maybe the best deal going right now.) Anyway, if you are always wondering where to go next, the woman is just an idea machine. You’ll see!

And ATTN: SUBSCRIBERS! I feel lucky that any time I have a travel question — whether it’s about Madrid or Mystic, CT — I can text Yolanda and she tells me exactly where to stay, what to do, what to eat, and in general, how to have the most authentic experience wherever I go. And now, I’m PSYCHED to tell you that Yolanda will be a guest on our Thursday Q&A comment thread “hotline” — she will be here from 10:00 to 2:00 ET to answer any family travel questions you have. And maybe even others if you ask nicely! I’ll send out another reminder on Thursday, don’t worry. Note: Reminder that Q&A hotlines are for subscribers only. You can subscribe here >>>>

Have a great week everybody.


Locals: Come say hi (and get a book signed) at The Weekday Vegetarians launch party on September 21, at HudCo in Dobbs Ferry, NY. More details here. Would love to meet you!