There are buckwheat noodles, and there are buckwheat noodles, and if you follow a gluten-free diet, you know what I mean. Some brands contain wheat flour as well as buckwheat; some contain yam or sweet potato; several brands are 100 percent buckwheat. I think they all taste so similar that, unless you have celiac disease, you can cook with them interchangeably. Read the labels when you shop at Asian markets; by law, ingredients must be listed in English on packaged foods sold in the United States. Soba noodles make a perfect backdrop for sauces with citrus, and here it's lime that provides the tart balance to the earthy buckwheat. My friend Sarah gave me a gorgeous yellow cucumber, as well as mint from her community... Read more →

One of my all-time favorite Chinese restaurant take-out recipes, shrimp lo mein finally gets the photo update it deserves. I first shared this recipe in 2008, in an ingredient post about oyster sauce, and I updated the post in 2010 with photos that made this dish look anything but appetizing. I hope these new photos will give you an idea of how much you'll love these salty, slurpy noodles, and how easy it is to make great lo mein at home. The basic sauce, what I call the Cantonese 3-2-1 Trinity, relies on staples from the pantry: three parts reduced-sodium soy sauce, two parts oyster sauce (also called oyster-flavor sauce), and one part sesame oil. You can use this mixture to season all types of... Read more →

Why do the words pasta salad strike fear in the hearts of eaters everywhere? I know why. Pasta salad is hard to get right. It can be too watery, or too dry, or too chewy, or too bland. I'll bet everyone has experienced at least one of these less-than-wonderful pasta salads, especially the versions that sit for far too long on buffet tables. Don't worry: you can make much better pasta salad at home. There are a couple of secrets to good pasta salad. One, make sure the pasta is fully cooked; there's nothing trendy about biting into an al dente piece of cold pasta. Two, make sure the pasta is minimally dressed. If you end up with too much dressing at the bottom of... Read more →

Soon after we moved to the log house, my husband Ted and I, with help from our friends Candy and Dave, planted a large herb garden right outside the front door. Over the years, the garden grew and grew, and we expanded our basil patch from three plants to a dozen. Two or three times each summer, we harvested our basil. We would pile the stalks on the kitchen table, and patiently strip the leaves. And then I would turn those leaves into pesto, some to use right away, the rest to go into the freezer for winter. That was then, and this is now. We live in the city, with no garden, and no easy access to the abundant and flavorful basil we used... Read more →

My five-year-old granddaughter, who doesn't like anything, polished off a plate of this slow cooker lasagna, and asked for seconds. Her older brothers, and, well... all of us, loved it, too. As the family meal organizer, I loved it more than anyone, because with the sauce made ahead, the assembly job took minutes, and the lasagna sat in the slow cooker for the afternoon while we went out and did other things. I love that there's no chance of it burning in the slow cooker, as there is in the oven. And when the voila moment comes, and you take the top off the cooker to reveal the lasagna, you'll love the ooohs and aaahs, all for the few minutes of actual work you put... Read more →

Along with new family memories, stories, and a few extra pounds, I always seem to pick up a holiday cold on Thanksgiving weekend. It's a good thing that I'm in the habit of making stock from the turkey carcass (or any rotisserie chicken carcasses I've stashed in the freezer, or all of those carcasses together). With a rich stock, some vegetables (fresh or leftover), and the noodles I always keep in the pantry, I can make a pot of this feed-a-cold turkey noodle soup and get myself on the road to recovery. Of course, the soup is pretty darned good even if you're healthy, so don't let that stop you from making it. And if you're lucky enough to have any leftover stuffing muffins, toss... Read more →

My husband Ted and I maintain a Little Free Library on the front stoop of our Boston home. Little Free Libraries, more than 32,000 of them around the world, are free community book exchanges where anyone can take a book, and then return it or pass it on, and leave another book for someone else to enjoy. We opened our library in July, and it's become hugely popular, with some neighbors stopping by every day to see if new books have come in, or to leave books in the library for others. One man came almost the first day, and has come often since. At first, he was homeless, living in a local shelter, but he's since found housing nearby. I learned that he used... Read more →