Daylight Savings

I may be one of those "light sensitive" people because I begin to shudder at the eclipsing of the sun, day by day, then minute by minute -- until such time, at the end of December -- when day (as defined by the presence of light) -- ends at 4:20 p.m., or earlier! I feel bad for kids whose joy is diminished from playing outside, for older folks who "don't drive at night," and for myself who turns a bit inward when darkness arrives prematurely. The solution? Turn up the lights and the music and...start cooking! Since my husband is away on a business trip (he is creating five restaurants for a new hotel in northern India, but is headed for Singapore where the design firm is located) I will make a radically simple recipe I learned in Asia, accompanied by jasmine rice and stir-fried cabbage (made from yesterday's enormous head of leftover cabbage). My daughter and I (and any unexpected guests!) will finish with a dessert guaranteed to restore the sunshine zapped by today's encroaching darkness. How about a wobbly, tropical, bright yellow, pineapple flan, fashioned from only three ingredients? It will make you smile.

Asian Chicken with Scallions There are few more interesting or radically delicious ways to prepare chicken. You can use large bone-in chicken breasts halves with skin, about 10-ounces each, or large bone-in chicken thighs. You may marinate the chicken for up to 24 hours but I will marinate mine this morning and it will be ready for dinner tonight at 7:30 p.m. (about 8 hours of marinating.) And ssshhh...don't tell anyone that the secret ingredient is Thai fish sauce! In summer you may do this on the grill, but it is perfect cooked in a very hot oven.

4 large, bone-in chicken breast halves, with skin, about 10 ounces each 1/4 cup Thai fish sauce 4 large scallions 1 large clove garlic

Cut each chicken breast in half crosswise. Place in a bowl and pour the fish sauce over. Discard the top 2 inches of the scallions. Cut the remainder into 1/4-inch pieces. Add to the chicken with the garlic, pushed through a press. Toss and cover and refrigerate 8 to 24 hours. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Lift the chicken from the fish sauce, allowing some of the scallions to remain. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 12 minutes, until just cooked through. Turn the oven to broil and broil the chicken 2 minutes, until golden. Serves 4

Amazing Pineapple Flan Here, just three ingredients--eggs, sugar and pineapple juice -- form a luscious, creamy (but creamless) custard bathed in caramel.

1 cup sugar 4 extra-large eggs, plus 4 extra-large egg yolks 1 cups unsweetened pineapple juice fresh mint sprigs or edible flowers for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 375. Melt 1/2 cup sugar in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes, until a clear amber caramel forms. Carefully divide among 5 (5-ounce) custard cups. Place the cups in a deep baking dish. Using an electric mixer, beat the whole eggs and yolks. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat 1 minute; beat in the pineapple juice. Divide mixture among the custard cups. Add 2 inches boiling water to the baking dish. Bake 40 to 45 minutes until firm. Remove the cups from the pan and let cool. Cover and refrigerate until very cold. Unmold onto plates and garnish. Serves 5


Ultimate Comfort

My 14-year old daughter loves "cabbage and noodles" as much as I did as a child.  She insists she wants to eat it every day of the year. Cabbage!  But Shayna is merely following in the footsteps of an ancient history -- the one that connects generations through food and recipes. For more than 50 years my mother and I expressed our deep connection by cooking special things for each other all the time.  We used to derive the greatest pleasure by surprising the other with her favorite dish.  In my case, my mother made me cabbage and noodles -- a homey Hungarian standard that she, too, ate in her childhood.  It was our ultimate comfort food and I never knew exactly when a steamy, buttery bowl would make an appearance on her dining room table.  Until the day she died, I delighted in its random offering and in the joy she showed in preparing it.  My mother would always say, "It's not as good as the last time," but it always was. I have learned that some recipes, even more than photographs, provide the most intimate transfer of information from mother to daughter. As victims of a horrendous time in history, most of our Hungarian relatives never made it through World War II.  This simple dish is a witness to our past.  It is a poignant conduit of things unspoken.

Sometime in 1930, somewhere in Astoria, Queens, my maternal grandfather and great-grandmother (whose wedding ring I wear) opened a Hungarian restaurant that featured...cabbage and noodles.  Naturally. Sometime in the mid-90's I had an epiphany:  It was the moment I realized that this complex-tasting, deeply satisfying dish was made with only three ingredients.

Marion Gold's Cabbage and Noodles My mother was gorgeous, inside and out.  More Zsa Zsa than Julia in the kitchen, she cooked her heart out and still managed to look glamorous. The goal in making her special dish is to squeeze the water from shredded cabbage after it is salted and left to wilt and then to "melt" it in sweet butter until it is transformed into dark golden strands.  It can be served as a first course or as a felicitous side dish with pot roast or roast chicken; or it can be eaten all by itself on wistful days.

3-pound compact head of green cabbage 1 stick unsalted butter 12 ounces wide egg noodles

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core.  With a sharp knife, shred the cabbage into 1/8-inch thick slices.  Place cabbage in a large colander and sprinkle with 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt.  Toss well.  Cover with a plate and put a heavy object on it (a filled tea kettle) to weight it down.  Put the colander in a pan to collect any liquid or set it in the sink.  Let sit 4 to 6 hours.  Press down hard and squeeze the cabbage with your hands to extract as much water as possible.  Melt the butter in a very large skillet and add the cabbage.  Cook over medium-high heat for almost 1 hour, until the cabbage is very soft and dark brown.  Cover from time to time to help soften it. Add salt at this point, if needed.  Cook the noodles in a large pot of salted rapidly boiling water.  Cook until tender and drain very well.  Add cooked noodles to the cabbage and heat gently.  Add freshly ground black pepper.  Serves 4