She/Mothers’ Day dinner


is why I
know how to define
love and style.

is why I
wore my hair red,
  tried my heels high,
    straightened my spine.

is why I
know how to dress,
 speak like I write,
   read all I can.

I am
her daughter when I
make out a list,
  clean out a closet,
    fill out a dress.

I am
her daughter when I
cross my t’s,
  dot my i’s,
    and give them a

I am
her daughter
when I wake,
  when I walk,
    when I fall asleep
    with the TV on.

Since I wrote that poem in August 2012, I’ve discovered a lot of other ways that I am my mother’s daughter. Like the way I plan dinners on paper, schedule a recipe to the minute, set a table, and decorate a room.

In fledgling tradition, Jon and I hosted Mothers’ Day dinner again this year. When we hosted last year, it was the first time we had the family over and the first dinner we’d made for seven people—or, any more than two people, really. I remember on that day, our apartment felt light and open for the first time, the first sign of spring in our new home.


After this year’s harsh winter that had us hibernating under blankets for months, I was dying to get that bright airy feeling back in our apartment, so I went floral-crazy, from the wrapping paper to the linens. I also got really nerd-crafty and put up strings of family photos on the wall for my mom and grandma to take home at the end of the night.

My love of decorating and table-setting is definitely something I get from my mother, by both nature and nurture. Growing up with her downright magazine-worthy holiday tables taught me how to do these things, but the giddy passion for it? That’s got to be in our genetic code or something. (True story: Years ago, she and I were having breakfast at a diner, and I told her enthusiastically about the elaborate list I’d made for cleaning and redecorating my bedroom. Rather than calling me crazy and imploring me to act like a real teenager, she opened her purse and produced her own even longer list, which broke down her chores for every room of the house. What’s that they say about the apple falling from the tree?)

The Menu

Along with Jon’s now-ubiquitous hummus (the family can’t get enough!), we started off dinner with oven-roasted spring vegetables—carrots, radishes, red onions, mixed mushrooms, and kale—with goat cheese toasts on the side, a recipe I clipped from a recent Bon Appetit. (It called for raw kale, but I chose to braise it anyway.) Mom made wicked-good deviled eggs and Grandma brought her famous spinach burek (because it’s just not an Armenian dinner without it!).

For the main course, Jon and I debuted our ravioli, handmade with our new pasta roller. Our test run the week before was kind of miserable (albeit exciting—and deeply necessary to the learning process). This time we improved a thousand-fold by rolling the dough much thinner and using a mix of whole-wheat pastry flour and regular A/P instead of regular whole-wheat flour only, which had come out really thick and grainy. We filled the ravioli with a mixture of ricotta, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes and served it with Jon’s homemade tomato sauce with red peppers. Making the pasta took an entire night and I practically doused our whole apartment in flour, but it was well worth it for the occasion. The ravioli on the left in the picture are the ones with spinach while the right had just ricotta with regular marinara for Adrian, my vegephobic brother. As Jon says, “we take care of everybody.” ♥

I also ventured into cooking seafood—also a first!—with another recipe from the same issue of Bon Appetit, a sheet-pan clambake with jumbo shrimp, mussels, littleneck clams, spicy sausage, and potatoes. It was such a success I had to warn my dad not to be shellfish with it. (Har har har.) On the side, we had an arugula salad and some grilled zucchini with basil, parmesan, and roasted hazelnuts, a delicious recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty that was definitely worth setting off my fire alarm late at night. Lesson learned—windows wide open next time I grill anything! (The hazelnuts and cheese were added post-picture–whoops!)


We finished off the meal with more desserts than I think I’ve ever seen on our family table. I made mini crown-shaped chocolate cakes (because my mom’s friends are adorable and nicknamed her Empress Evi) and gave Nigel Slater’s dark chocolate disks another go. Mom made scones and these gorgeous phyllo cups filled with homemade caramel and glazed walnuts. My sister-in-law Marjorie brought an unbelievable strawberry-rhubarb pie that I’ve been inhaling for days. And to highlight, again, just how much we think alike, Mom and I both had fresh whipped cream and berries at the ready—but can you ever really have too much berries and cream?

In the book I’m finishing up right now, Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites, Kate Christensen writes,“My love of food was slow to ignite, but when it did…it exploded into one of the great passions of my life.” My mother and I developed this shared passion ourselves over recent years, bonding over cooking shows and constantly swapping food memoirs. Food has become our language. After all the meals she’s made for me over the last twenty-five years, I feel so fortunate to be able to finally start returning the favor.

Next up at the grown-ups’ table, next Friday night is my first grown-up double-date dinner at home. Jon and I get to cook for our sweetheart Megan and her boyfriend Mark, and of course, we get to indulge in whatever heaven-sent dessert Megan dreams up. My taste buds can’t wait.