Next Up on My To-Cook List…

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…is the salmon salsa verde actress Tracy Pollan made for her family’s dinner for ELLE’s October Living feature. (I got to try it, and it was literally the best fish I’ve ever had.) Tracy sources her fish from Dorian’s Seafood Market on the Upper East Side, which just so happens to ship nationwide.

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In talking with Tracy and her brother, Michael Pollan — did you know they’re brother and sister? — about the cookbook Tracy wrote with their mother and sisters, The Pollan Family Table (out October 28), I heard a lot about their family traditions. My favorite tidbit was that their mother, former New York magazine editor Corky Pollan, used to let them plan their own birthday meals.

Tracy’s birthday menu: duck á l’orange, French onion soup, and gateau St.Honoré

Michael’s birthday menu: chicken Kiev and flourless chocolate cake

Click here for the salmon salsa verde recipe and to read the full feature.

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A Haunting Debut

It’s no secret: I love a good ghost story. But Katy Simpson Smith’s incantatory debut novel, The Story of Land and Sea, which I reviewed for ELLE’s September issue, replaces the usual gothic bluster with narration that is plainspoken and even puritanical. That’s not to say Smith skimps on the shivers — in rendering a historically faithful portrait of colonial life, she evokes ghosts of many women who died on the North Carolina coast in such detail that the chilly salt air seems to emanate from the page. The world she paints, though populated by pirates and soldiers, is one where harsh reality, not romance, reigns. (After all, these are men who enclose their deceased children in barrels of rum rather than in coffins, for practicality’s sake.) It is stark and beautiful, and a promising start for a novelist whose next tale I can’t wait to read. For now, you can read more of my take on Smith’s first novel here.Screen shot 2014-09-04 at 2.42.32 PM.

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Both Sides of the Battle

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Journalist Helen Thorpe’s new book, Soldier Girls, investigates three women National Guard members who signed up for the stateside benefits–some had never traveled outside Indiana–and found themselves in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thorpe tells the full story of how unexpected wartime deployments affected every aspects of their lives: from school and health to family to romance. It’s an entertaining, eye-opening, and vital read.

I reviewed Soldier Girls for ELLE’s August issue, out now, and also had the chance to talk with Helen in more depth for an ELLE.com Q&A bonus feature.

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DIY Everything

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From skin care to relationships to home decoration to chasing down a literary legend, ELLE’s July issue for me was all about the DIY spirit. I learned a couple of important things–click  through (or pick up a copy on newsstands) to read more:

1) Manuka honey just might be able to solve all your problems.

2) Harper Lee really had a way with swear words.

3) I want to visit PELLE Designs in Red Hook this summer, thanks to meeting this lovely lady.

4) Applying the improv motto “Yes, and…” to your love life leads to good stories–not good dates.

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City Babes, Summer Hair

For ELLE’s June issue, I interviewed Rachel Blumenthal, fashion maven and founder of chic parenting site Cricket’s Circle, and summer-hair guru Ward Stegerhoek, for their advice on summer dressing and hair styling. Click through for more from Rachel and from Ward.

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Only Dreaming?

Ever wonder whether lucid dreaming and meditation can help redirect your waking life? I checked out an artsy exploration of the idea at NYC’s Rubin Museum this spring — called a “Dream-Over” — and wrote about it for ELLE.com. Read more here.

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Ghostly Happenings

I loved Rivka Galchen’s debut story collection, American Innovations, out soon, for two reasons: (1) Many of the stories in it are set in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, so I could picture everything perfectly, and (2) she populates it with subtly paranormal, absurd occurrences–my favorite kind of plot. For more, check out ELLE’s May issue or click here.

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