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Reinventing Your Go-To Dish

Reinventing Your Go-To Dish

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It happens to the best of us: we fall in love with a dish, fold its flavor profile into our repertoire, become addicted to it, and make it a staple of our weekly dinner rotation at home. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Except that in this world of "what’s new, what’s fresh, what’s next," that dish, as righteous in its comfort as it may be, can represent a stall in a culinary development of a good dish that could be a great dish. At least that was the premise I set out with when tackling The Daily Meal’s recent recipe challenge: healthy pasta. How to reinvent a staple dish in my personal home menu rotation: a riff on the Greek cucumber, feta, and tomato salad.

Greek Salad "Pasta" Recipe

It’s a great summer dish, one that goes well with every grilled vegetable and protein imaginable. Tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and feta all evenly chopped into chiclet-sized pieces that are tossed with lemon juice, a touch of olive oil, and ground black pepper. It’s refreshing, it’s healthy, it tastes salty and fresh, and the liquid that forms once everything comes together, well, it’s drinkable (and believe me, I drink it).

But as good as it is, I feel guilty after the first four times I make it during the summer because of the repetitiveness, even though it tastes so darn good. So with this week’s pasta theme, I set out to reimagine the flavors with a different format — pasta, faux pasta made of cucumber — a cool, uncooked, light, refreshing summer salad pasta.

Faux "pasta" made from vegetables isn’t a new thing, of course. You’ve probably seen a cooked zucchini "pasta" tossed with sauce on a food blog or restaurant menu somewhere. But I haven’t seen this one before. Thinly sliced cucumber "pasta" would be dressed with a cool "sauce" made with yogurt and feta. The onions from the aforementioned salad here are chopped fine and tossed with tomato. Some lemon juice, a little patience with the mandoline, and hey, it’s pretty easy, it works, it’s a little different, kind of fun, is less than 10 ingredients and a half an hour, and still has the same flavors but provides a little wow factor.

Now, instead of spoonfuls or forkfuls laden with chopped salad, you twirl your fork around thin strips of cool cucumber and look around for a piece of pita (is there a Greek term for scarpetta?). A little grilled chicken, shrimp, lamb, or vegetables, and hey, you’re set. Plus, this recipe finally addresses that question you always ask yourself: What are you supposed to do with that liquid your block of feta cheese comes in? The answer? Use it! In this recipe, it thins out the yogurt-feta "sauce" without diluting its flavor.

By the way, for those looking to never waste anything in the kitchen, cocktail enthusiasts should take advantage of the melon-balled cucumber seeds to use as garnish in summer Pimm’s cup cocktails (freezing them and using them as ice cubes can be pretty cool, too — modernist cuisine touch without the fancy work).

The only "problem"? Given my guests' reaction, this recipe for Greek salad cucumber "pasta" in yogurt-feta sauce may have just entered the regular at-home menu rotation.

Arthur Bovino is The Daily Meal's executive editor. Read more articles by Arthur, reach him by email, or click here to follow Arthur on Twitter.

The 10 Dishes You Need In Your Repertoire to Become a Better Cook

A guide to creating an approachable rotation of recipes to make you a more comfortable, casual cook.

Becoming a great home cook can feel like an overwhelming task. The ability to whip meals up out of nothing, creating a beautiful dish of whatever’s around on a moment’s notice can feel overwhelming𠄺nd keep you ordering takeout for years. But this type of casual cooking is more within reach than you might think–the key lies in finding a few recipes that you go back to over and over, tweaking and adjusting to fit what’s available to you in the moment. Follow this guide to build your repertoire, and you’ll be whipping up meals out of nothing in no time at all.

Reinventing Your Go-To Dish - Recipes

Now & Again

Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers (Meal Planning Cookbook, Easy Recipes Cookbook, Fun Recipe Cookbook)


Named one of the most anticipated cookbooks by Eater, Epicurious, Food & Wine and was selected as a New York Times notable pick

With 125+ delicious and doable recipes and 20 creative menu ideas for cooks of any skill level.

  • With more than 125 delicious and doable recipes including the popular Applesauce Cake with Cream Cheese
  • Impress your guests with 20 inspiring menus for amazing social gatherings, holidays, and more
  • Named one of the 100 Greatest Home Cooks of All Time by Epicurious , Julia Turshen is the bestselling author of the highly acclaimed and award-winning Now & Again , Feed the Resistance , and Small Victories .
  • Helpful "It's Me Again" recipes show how to use leftovers in new and delicious ways
  • Tips on how to be smart and thrifty with food choices
  • Selected as one of the Top 10 Jew-ish Cookbooks by The Forward and nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Cookbooks 2018.
  • Helpful prep and plan timelines for flawlessly throwing a party

Praise For Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers (Meal Planning Cookbook, Easy Recipes Cookbook, Fun Recipe Cookbook)&hellip

"No one is better than Turshen at coming up with unpretentious, delicious, and approachable recipes for home cooks of varying skill levels. An essential purchase for circulating cookbook collections." &mdashStephanie Klose, Library Journal Starred Review

"Julia Turshen's new book is a rich compendium of recipes that are reassuringly do-able, full of inviting flavour, designed to make life easier and bring pleasure to the kitchen as much as to the table. This would be quite enough, but added to this, Turshen elaborates on the recipes, adding advice as to how the various components of a recipe can be tweaked and turned into other dishes and - this is always a joy to the home cook - how leftovers can be refashioned into further meals."&mdashNigella Lawson, author of At My Table

A Washington Post Best cookbook of 2018!

"Julia invites us to broaden our taste buds with her fresh, approachable, never-fussy cooking. Now Again leaves no dish and no one behind: garlicky shrimp with tequila and lime will turn the next day to shrimp and kimchi pancakes cucumbers with sumac and warm pita are a no-brainer for even the most novice of cooks matzo ball soup and Pass­over tradition aren't abandoned and a wife's birthday cake will leave no spouse unsatisfied." -YOTAM OTTOLENGHI

"Now Again is a kitchen essential tool. Julia Turshen shares a definitive plan to help you think differently about leftovers with delicious recipes the first time and second time around." -CARLA HALL

"Let's be honest. If all you're looking for is a recipe, the internet's got you covered. But if like me you read a cookbook to make friends over food with the person who wrote it, then Now Again is perfect. Julia's personal stories, approachable recipes, and conversational tone suggest that you're sitting at her kitchen counter shelling peas or peeling carrots. She makes you feel like you're a part of things. Plus Julia sheds light on two skills I need to hone: reinventing leftovers and delegating." -VIVIAN HOWARD

"I am so excited about this book because Julia is very, very good at throwing unpretentious, cozy meals together and I know this because I've been shamelessly stalking her plates and picnics on social media for years, hoping to glean ideas. This book will save me a lot of snooping in the future and I don't care that it's only August, I'm making the Not-Kosher Jewish Christmas menu first." -DEB PERELMAN

A Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Best Cookbook 2018

Chronicle Books, 9781452164922, 304pp.

Publication Date: September 4, 2018

About the Author

Julia Turshen is the bestselling author of Now & Again , Feed the Resistance , named the Best Cookbook of 2017 by Eater, and Small Victories , named one of the Best Cookbooks of 2016 by the New York Times and NPR. She has coauthored numerous cookbooks and hosted the first two seasons of Radio Cherry Bombe. She has written for the New York Times , the Washington Post , the Wall Street Journal , Vogue , Bon Appétit , Food & Wine , and Saveur . Epicurious has called her one of the 100 Greatest Home Cooks of All Time. She is the founder of Equity At The Table (EATT), an inclusive digital directory of women and non-binary individuals in food. Julia lives in the Hudson Valley with her wife and pets.

Fresh Ginger — Off the Beaten Aisle

People have been eating it for thousands of years, yet still no one can tell me why it should be peeled. So I don’t peel it, and neither should you. “It” being fresh ginger, the gnarly brown root that lives among the grocer’s Asian produce. And the flavor is so much better than dried — you must get to know it.

Most of us think of ginger as the powder in the spice cabinet and use it mostly for baking. In Asia, where ginger originated, it’s more a savory ingredient. That’s because fresh ginger packs tons of warm, pungent, peppery flavor that works so well with meats and vegetables.

Though they can be used interchangeably, the flavor of fresh ginger is more pronounced than dried, sporting heavy citrus, even acidic, notes. In Asia, fresh ginger is an essential part of numerous classic dishes, including stir-fries, soups, sauces and marinades, as well as Indian curries.

When cooking with fresh ginger, keep in mind a couple things. First, cooking mellows the flavor. So if you want to really taste it, add some ginger at the beginning of cooking, and a bit more at the end. Second, the strength of the ginger can vary widely by the piece. So if you’re looking for a serious hit of ginger, taste it before you add it.

Now, about that peeling. Watch cooking shows and read recipes, and you’ll be told again and again to peel your ginger before chopping, slicing or grating it.

I have no idea why. The skin is entirely edible and doesn’t change the flavor. So save yourself the time and effort, and just use your ginger as-is. And the best tool for the job is a wand-style grater, such as a Microplane. These graters quickly reduce ginger root to fine shavings or pulp ideal for cooking.

When shopping for fresh ginger, look for firm, tan roots with no signs of mold or shriveling. It can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks. But I prefer to freeze my fresh ginger — frozen ginger lasts for months and is easier to grate than fresh.

• Ginger pairs wonderfully with bananas (they are distant relatives), so add grated fresh ginger to banana bread or muffins.

• Ginger also likes apples, so add it to applesauce and apple pie. Or combine it with apples and sugar and simmer to make a compote for topping pancakes.

• Substitute grated fresh ginger for some or all of the powdered ginger called for in your favorite gingerbread recipe.

• In Yemen, ginger is added to coffee. Give it a shot, but be sure to have sugar, cream and maybe a shot of cinnamon nearby.

• Make ginger ale by combining freshly grated ginger, simple syrup (or agave syrup) and seltzer water. A shot of lemon juice is nice, too.

• Combine grated ginger with orange juice and honey for basting a roast chicken or turkey.

• Simmer cubed butternut squash, chopped carrots and garlic in chicken broth. Add fresh ginger, salt and pepper, then puree for a delicious soup.

• Combine ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic and sesame oil for a killer marinade for beef (especially thinly sliced steaks).

All is Well

Why not make a holiday resolution to stay upbeat — even in the most frustrating, patience-taxing pandemic lockdown time imaginable — with a healthy foods regimen?

Let go of the traditional gluttony and focus on self-care: Abusing your body isn’t the answer.

Instead, focus on seasonal foods that can boost your mood as you look in the mirror, proudly, with a smile on your face. You are healthy, grateful and rich in spirit and conscientiousness.

Just being mindful is the first step. That could be as simple as stuffing acorn squash — rather than yourself — with spices, cranberries and whole grains.

“There are a lot more kinds of whole grains than most people realize,” said Dr. Stephen Devries, executive director of the Gaples Institute, a non-profit that educates the public, healthcare professionals and medical residents about nutrition’s importance.

“Barley, farro and bulgur can be terrific side dishes with added spices and herbs,” he said. “You can buy them pre-cooked, and many require only 10 minutes of prep time.”

Avoid salt-laden dips, gravy and dressings. Bring or choose hummus instead, especially as a go-to with apple or pumpkin slices.

You can even make traditional favorites with no refined sugars, flours or rice such as chemical-free and additive-free cornbread, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin soup or pumpkin hummus. Put apple slices in your spinach or fresh-lettuce salad.

Mark off your shopping list ham and other processed meats. They’re packed with sodium. Pot roast and fresh turkey free of salt and brine injections are better alternatives.

Even Tofurkey (faux turkey made of vegetarian protein, often from tofu or wheat protein) can be chockful of sodium if it’s manufactured.

Avoid canned vegetables because they’re loaded with sodium and preservatives.

Think of healthy sources of the ‘good’ sugars that our bodies use for energy: fruits, milk and unprocessed yogurt.

Another solution is to swap out meat for healthier entrees, like those centered on fish or beans and whole grains. Entrees such as seared tuna or blackened salmon pummel ham and red meat in “good-for-you” comparisons.

Refocus on these alternatives, too:

• Replace white potatoes with sweet potatoes, whole grains or cauliflower mash.
* Get rid of salt-filled side dishes, and choose instead fresh edamame, tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans and brussels sprouts.

• Start experimenting with salads and appetizers. What about pear slices with peanut butter? Cucumber and tomato slices with avocado or crab meat? Apple slices with small servings of cheese and blackened salmon? Red quinoa with apples? Quinoa, oats and roasted apples with cinnamon? Pickled collard greens with tomato salad? Steel-cut oats with berries and a sprinkling of chocolate-flavored collagen powder?

Let the mirror keep you motivated. Buy an outfit (it doesn’t have to be expensive online retailers are already offering holiday deals) that accentuates your tight waist and muscular arms — the results of your disciplined COVID-lockdown exercise regime. Try it on in front of a mirror and keep your goal reflection in mind when you make and eat meals.

Apple cider gravy (page 70)

From Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers Now & Again by Julia Turshen

Are you sure you want to delete this recipe from your Bookshelf. Doing so will remove all the Bookmarks you have created for this recipe.

  • Categories: Quick / easy Sauces for poultry Cooking ahead Cooking for a crowd Dinner parties/entertaining Fall / autumn Thanksgiving
  • Ingredients: butter yellow onions sage chicken stock apple cider (alcohol-free)
  • Accompaniments:Roasted turkey breast + onions with mustard + sage

Now & Again : Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers

Small Victories, one of the most beloved cookbooks of 2016, introduced us to the lovely Julia Turshen and her mastery of show-stopping home cooking, and her second book, Feed the Resistance, moved a nation, winning Eater Cookbook of the Year in 2017. In Now & Again, the follow-up to what Real Simple called "an inspiring addition to any kitchen bookshelf," more than 125 delicious and doable recipes and 20 creative menu ideas help cooks of any skill level to gather friends and family around the table to share a meal (or many!) together. This cookbook comes to life with Julia's funny and encouraging voice and is brimming with good stuff, including:

• can't-get-enough-of-it recipes
• inspiring menus for social gatherings, holidays and more
• helpful timelines for flawlessly throwing a party
• oh-so-helpful "It's Me Again" recipes, which show how to use leftovers in new and delicious ways
• tips on how to be smartly thrifty with food choices

Now & Again will change the way we gather, eat, and think about leftovers, and, like the name suggests, you'll find yourself reaching for it time and time again.

How to make a family cookbook, filled with recipes from your favorite people

While the term “ambiguous loss” was coined by Pauline Boss in the 1970s, the phenomenon feels ever-present today. So many of us are suffering from the physical absence of loved ones and activities that typically fill our lives with connection. In missing the things that help us feel present, we feel untethered. Making a family cookbook, a collection of recipes by and for loved ones, is one way to combat this feeling. It’s a sure way to feel connected and purposeful.

Anyone anywhere can make a family cookbook for very little, if any, money, whether you’re an adult feeling far away from those you love and you’re looking for some glue, or you’re a young person at home when you would typically be involved in an after-school program or other extracurricular activity. Here’s how to do it:

Make a list of “family.” The most important step is to remember that “family” is yours to define. It could be your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, or it could be your friends from school, or it could be a mix of peers and elders in your community.

Decide your format. Family cookbooks can be printed or digital they can also be a series of videos, almost a documentary of family recipes. You could narrate recipes and record others doing the same and make a family cookbook podcast or think of it as an album, each recipe a song.

For printed versions, you can go as analog as handwritten recipes and stories, and maybe even some illustrations, on paper that you photocopy for family members and then bind (staples, paper clips and binder clips all count, as does spiral-binding or other finishing that’s available at most copy centers). This is how I made my own family cookbook, right when I was out of college and was lining up my first real job working on a published cookbook. There are a handful of “Turshen Family Cookbooks” in existence, and when I look back at my own copy now, I’m delighted to have all of my family recipes in one place in a way that feels homemade, just like the food I most like to cook.

Consider images. You could add black-and-white illustrated outlines of things and make it a family cookbook/coloring book. You could do color copies and include photographs. For a more polished, less handmade printed version, you can do a quick Internet search for one of the myriad templates and services available for you to fill in the blanks, and they will do the printing and binding. The same range is available for digital cookbooks. It can be as simple as a Word document or as detailed as each field filled in a premade template.

Kitchen confidence

Courier Journal food columnist Dana McMahan, right, has been teaching her high school niece how to cook during her senior year in high school. (Photo: Courtesy of Dana McMahan)

The most important thing I hope we’ve instilled is confidence in the kitchen. Yes, we love good food, and have pretty, shall we say, discerning palates. But also, food should be fun, and cooking should be as much about time together as the product on the plate. We’ve tried to show that it’s OK to mess up — the first meal we made together was pizza with a new kind of dough we’d never used and we totally botched it. So we laughed and made calzones instead, and it became part of the story of her time with us.

Most dishes can be rescued and if they can’t, there’s always breakfast for dinner, or, hey, delivery. We tried to encourage experimentation and learning by doing, and I hope that long after she’s graduated and moved on to her own kitchen, those lessons will feed her.

“I was immediately drawn to Pottery by Osa‘s work since it’s earthy and there’s such a sense of her touch—it doesn’t feel manufactured and it feels personal, which is what I try to make my recipes feel like, too. I also love this bowl for these green beans because there’s such a beautiful contrast in color and texture and it’s the perfect size.”

String Beans with Toasted Almonds and Lemon

You will need:

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 pounds string beans, topped and tailed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup unsalted roasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

Step 1: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it generously. Add the beans and cook, stirring, until they’re bright green and just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the beans and set aside.

Step 2: Put the olive oil into the largest skillet you’ve got and set it over medium heat. Add the garlic and almonds and cook, stirring, until the garlic begins to sizzle, about 30 seconds. Add half of the green beans, sprinkle them with a large pinch of salt, and stir to combine with the garlicky olive oil and the almonds. Add the remaining green beans and season them with salt and give everything a good stir (this double seasoning helps to season the beans evenly, as there’s a large amount of food in the pan). Cook just until the beans are warmed through, about 1 minute.

Step 3: Stir in the lemon zest and juice and then transfer the beans to a serving platter. Scrape the almonds, which inevitably fall to the bottom of the skillet, over the top. Give the beans one final sprinkle of salt and serve warm or at room temperature.

Got leftovers?

Julia knows what to do with those, too: “Leftover roast turkey and leftover string beans can be turned into a whole new thing. Discard the skin on the turkey and shred the meat into large pieces. (I prefer the texture of shredded meat over diced here, but the latter is faster, so by all means go for it if you’d like.) Put the shredded turkey into a large bowl with whatever string beans you have left (the almonds are great, too). Make a quick dressing with equal parts soy sauce, lemon juice, and olive oil and add as much peeled and minced or grated fresh ginger as you can handle (I like this to have a lot of bite, so I use quite a bit). Dress the turkey and green beans. If you like cilantro, now is the time to add some. Serve cold next to a platter of sliced cucumbers. Your turkey is now unrecognizable from Thanksgiving, and is bright and crunchy and good.”

Recipes reprinted from Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers. Copyright © 2018 by Julia Turshen. Published by Chronicle Books. Product photo courtesy of Pottery by Osa all other photographs by Julia Turshen.