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Assisted Cooking

Humblebrag warning: When Bertrand and I were featured on bon app’s website (, we professed that we are not above asking for help when it comes to kitchen tasks. So, when The Purple Carrot ( reached out to me through my day job, offering a few of their prepared meals to try out, I said yes.

The Purple Carrot is like a vegetarian Blue Apron (full disclosure: I make this comparison without ever having tried Blue Apron–sorry, Susan…) and they’ve recently signed Marc Bittman, of the New York Times’ Bittmans, as their chief innovation officer. The ingredients for three different recipes–Broccoli pasta with crisp butter beans; Brazilian black beans and beets with coconut rice and tropical salsa; and  Pa Jun with quick kimchi–were delivered to our apartment in one large box. Inside was a huge mylar bag, which is I became a bit obsessed with, for some reason.

The silver bag held three slightly less large resealable bags, labeled with each recipe. Final Matryoshka doll moment: Inside each bag were all of the tidy packets, pouches and small bottles of labeled ingredients. 90% of these will be re-used around here, one way or another.

I chose the Pa Jun, while Bertrand nabbed the pasta. We danced around each other, maneuvering our way from cutting board to mixing bowl to frying pan, chopping and mixing through each step, marveling at how fresh the ingredients had remained, despite their four-day layover from fridge to plate.

Bertrand was done first. “Full disclosure,” he said, handing me my bowl. “I added olive oil.” I looked at his lovely arrangementof broccoli, beans and pasta. “Did the cheese come with it?” I asked. “Well, no.” As in, isn’t this step a given by now?

I took a bite. “Not bad!” I mused, taking in the flavors. Truth is, I’m not a big bean person, so I focused on the broccoli, which was delicious (as was the cheese). Bertrand sort of agreed, admitting that he wasn’t sure he’d make it again, and yet he wouldn’t let me throw mine out. “Maybe I’ll bring it to work.”

My dish had more steps than his: Cook the kimchi, make the Pa Jun pancake batter, cook–and bake- said Pa Jun, and stir up a dipping sauce. When I poured the batter into the frying pan, I realized that using peeled carrot instead of grated might make the Pa Jun tricker to stay together. It did, at least on the first try. The batter makes two pancakes, and a bit more oil in the pan along with a wider spatula, kept #2 solid.

The kimchi goes on top of a slice of Pa Jun, which you then dip it into the tamari and rice vinegar sauce. “Would we serve this to our friends?” Bertrand asked as we made various yummy sounds. Totally.

Such altruism! Or was it insecurity? As in, Would our friends be impressed? I’ll stick with the former, because, to impress or not, when you cook for your friends, you want what you’re serving to taste good. Do they need to know that Purple Carrot helped? That call is not ours to make…

IMG_7532The thing is, we like the action of shopping. Dividing the list when we enter Whole Foods or Guido’s is our little version of Supermarket Sweeps. I even think we relish the tiniest bit of schadenfreude when the spouse who forgot that vital ingredient wasn’t me, or him. And when that does happen, we relish the challenge of figuring out how to substitute said forgotten item. Grapeseed oil for Canola; yogurt for sour cream; almond flour for whole wheat flour; tonic water for club soda (we’re not always successful). That being said, anything that points people in the direction of cooking healthy and fresh dishes rocks. Moreover, turning users on to dishes they’d never considered before, rocks even more. As if the idea of making Korean pancakes had ever crossed our minds. It certainly will going forward.





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Jane was executive beauty director at W Magazine for 16 years. When she is not writing beauty articles, she's likely either hiking with her husband and dog, Remy, or in her kitchen, frauding (new verb) her way around a fancy recipe, a home decoration or a highbrow dinner party conversation of which she knows nothing about. In other words, she nods a lot and googles a lot later.

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