A Feels Good/Tastes Good Dessert

By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

Mouthfeel is as important to me as taste when it comes to food. If I’m worried about the way a dish I’ve never tried before is going to feel once I bite into it, I’m kind of scared to try it. Textural trepidation — is that a thing?

So let's talk about pudding, because pudding is right up my alley. It’s smooth and creamy, like ice cream, but it’s not as cold and doesn’t melt and change texture as easily. I am a major fan of pudding…

Panisses (Chickpea Fries)

By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press

Leave it to me to be cutting back on alcohol just when I tried my first panisse. They say these creamy batons of fried chickpea flour go hand in glove with a glass of rosé on the streets of Marseille, and for me, a crisp, dry French rosé is pure heaven. I stayed firm to commitment, though, and paired mine with an Arnold Palmer (lemonade/iced tea). Well, hey, that works, too.

Panisses were new to me, but then, that’s not too unusual. Various foods I’ve never tried and what I don’t know…

Couscous Confetti Salad with Tuna Recipe

I am crossing a line. Into salad country.

It’s not that I don’t like main course salads — especially a good niçoise (without olives, of course), a bean salad of any kind, or a tasty chicken curry salad. I will definitely eat a salad as an entree, but when I have options I’ll seldom choose one over a hot meal. And the salads I like best are those that don’t feature leafy greens as a main ingredient.

I assumed a preference for warm food is a natural urge, but is it? Cue Google. Why, yes, it is. …

Simple, Versatile, and Oh So Good

Photo by the author

I thought I was being very fancy the first time I made rice salad instead of potato salad to bring to a barbecue. I was just out of college, and my palate and knowledge of food were both so limited, I thought this was a real maverick move.

I continue to make rice salad, and to bring it to parties now and then, but I do this because it’s good and versatile, not because I’m trying to be exotic. And just as there are so very many versions of potato salad, riffs on rice salad are endless. …

Dill and Cardamom Chicken Recipe

Once I became what we could arguably call a grownup and started cooking for myself, I made chicken breast regularly. Most of the time I would poach it in balsamic vinegar mixed with water. No other ingredients — I don’t think I even seasoned with salt in advance. The result would be fine, but, how do you say, kind of bland.

I can’t remember how I got that recipe, and in hindsight I’m guessing the original included some other ingredients, maybe things that (undoubtedly in error) I judged unimportant or thought I wouldn’t like. That would not be surprising, in…

Make it or Buy it?

photo by the author

Should you make your own salsa? After all, it’s not hard to get a good commercial version — for about what it would cost to make your own — that would take no effort. Why bother?

Three reasons. First, are tomatoes are in season? If you have ripe fresh local tomatoes, then the resulting deliciousness of however you prepare them will significantly top store-bought any day.

Second, as good as store-bought can be, you can’t beat pure, fresh ingredients. Homemade, when it’s well made, has the edge. …


Photo by the author

Celebrations call for cake. You don’t have birthday pie. Wedding brownies. Graduation tart. No. You have cake.

And not just any cake. For me, a celebratory cake is a layer cake. There’s something in the scale of it, the impact of tier upon tier, that excites anticipation. Sheet cake feels like a letdown to me. Fake cake.

Though I love layer cakes, I don’t usually bake them. They feel outsized for the intimate parties I host. If I want to bake a cake I go for cupcakes or whoopie pies, or maybe a loaf cake. Not…


photo by the author

After college, I backpacked across Europe for a few months. I traveled from country to country, staying for the most part in youth hostels. My mother was very impressed with my adventurous spirit. “She’s going to all of these different places and staying in those brothels,” she would tell people, until one of my sisters reluctantly corrected her.

Since I was but a poor tourist who was indeed not working her way across the continent, I traveled very frugally and seldom experienced anything even remotely like fine dining. …


On the first day of spring this year I went to a barbecue. I brought homemade potato salad.

Normally, something like that is nothing to write about (posts on a good many social media feeds notwithstanding). But in New York City, where I live, these times of Covid are anything but normal.

This barbecue was only the third in-person social engagement I’ve had this year. It was just the second time I have been to anyone’s home since last fall. …

My Return to an Old Favorite

photo by the author

It’s the starter food of Indian cuisine.

Chicken Tikka Masala, bites of chicken in a creamy tomato curry, is served in restaurants around the globe. It’s what my friends ordered for me when they introduced me to Indian food at a small place on Curry Row in Manhattan’s East Village — my first taste of ethnic food beyond a beef taco in a hard shell or Fettuccini Alfredo.

That meal launched my openness to new tastes when dining out, but in my home cooking? Not so much. It took a long time for me…

Dara O'Brien

Dara O’Brien is the Creative Director of Lake Isle Press. When she isn’t cooking or writing about cookbooks, she writes plays and sometimes acts in them.

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