Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations.
Mi Niña tortilla chips
My girlfriend and I first spotted these chips in our local grocery store a few months ago, where they showed up out of the blue on an inconspicuous rack. We couldn’t resist the promise of a little sweet heat from the japaleño agave variety, so we picked up a bag and proceeded to devour about 90 percent of it well before we could even finish putting together the salsa we bought them to eat with. They were just that damn good—cut nice and thick and sprinkled with just enough magic flavor dust to give each a kiss of spice and sweetness. Turns out, Mi Niña chips originate from the Boston-area Tortilleria Mi Niña, the brainchild of acclaimed chef Jamie Mammano, who became obsessed with making delicious, authentic tortillas after sampling them in his wife’s hometown of Tijuana and spending years smuggling them back across the border. He opened up his tortilleria in 2011, and it’s been cranking out corn tortillas and chips ever since, eventually getting these bite-sized bits of fried gold distributed around the northeast. [Matt Gerardi]
Popular in Italian cooking, farro is an ancient wheat grain (oh, those so en vogue ancient grains) that’s high in protein and yields a satisfying chewy texture when cooked, not unlike barley. In the summer I make this salad, which involves cooking the farro in apple cider (along with some water) for extra flavor. This winter I’ve already made this tomato and farro dish from Smitten Kitchen four or five times, and will probably make it four or five more times before the ground thaws. This dish is great because, besides coming together in a single pot, it is ridiculously simple to prepare—the aromatics and tomatoes are all sliced as opposed to chopped, which saves more time than you’d think— it cooks almost entirely unattended, and it’s easy to modify. I’ve been adding chopped fresh spinach at the end to get more vegetables in my diet, and if you’re looking for more protein, I’d imagine that a fried or poached egg placed on top would be lovely. (And if you absolutely need a dead animal in there, I’ve heard sautéed sausage is a tasty addition as well.) It has a risotto-like texture without all the cheese and butter, and is especially comforting in cold winter weather. [Laura Adamczyk]
It’s Olivier with a Frenchly silent r, pronounced ah-lee-vyeh in the Moscow dialect, the vyeh a short gust. The name comes from Lucien Olivier, a 19th-century Moscow chef who took the secret recipe for his famous salad dressing with him to his grave. But what tens of millions of people throughout the former Eastern Bloc know as the Olivier is a purely Soviet creation: the people’s salad of shortage-proof ingredients, a staple of holiday (mostly New Year’s Eve) family gatherings. An Olivier is basically a complicated potato-egg salad, but it’s as much of a folk culinary craft as the American backyard grill. Done right, it’s delicious.
Cook a few peeled potatoes and hard-boil at least half a dozen eggs. You will need some processed meat, either bologna (preferably the soft, milky Soviet bologna called doktorskaya kolbasa, which you can find in any Eastern European grocery in the U.S.) or some boiled franks. The proportions of the ingredients are entirely up to taste; an ideal Olivier is eyeballed from start to finish. When they’re done, the potatoes, the meat, and the eggs should be chopped into smallish cubes. Now come the canned peas and the pickles, which should be diced to almost pea size. Mix them all in a salad bowl or pot with plenty of mayo and garnish the mixture with chopped dill. If you want to include carrots, peel them first and boil them in the same pot with the potatoes. Chill in the fridge, preferably overnight so that the flavors soak together. The result will always be an Olivier. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]