Last week was not my week in the kitchen, friends. I had great, ambitious designs on a rhubarb meringue tart that would be pink and pretty with a scalloped tart-shell edge and a meringue that looked like piped roses that had toasted petal tips. But as the week went on and as various really non-torments in the greater definition of the word but nonetheless tormenting to me mounted — thin curds, too thick curds, beige (you know, the color of pink rhubarb + multiple yolks) curd, slumped tart shells, wet meringues, useless broilers, blowtorches so close to empty, they emit the useless wisps of sleepy dragons, refill canister AWOL — my enjoyment of the project plummeted. But, because I’d like to teach my kid one day that he should follow through and finish what he started, I did, and lo, it was good, you know? Maybe I’m just not a meringue pie person and I forgot? None of this matters because the finished pie slid off the plate flopping face-down into the open fridge as I tried to put it away and then, as I crouched on the floor in front of the open fridge scooping fistfuls of meringue and curd into a garbage bag and questioning my life choices, my son walked in and asked what I was making for dinner.
This recipe is nothing new. It was first published, as far as I can gather, in 1896 in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer and has since been fussed over and had its virtues extolled by more food writers, newspaper dining sections and food bloggers than it has not been. It’s the equivalent Proust’s Madeleine/Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread/Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie*/Hey, Did I Tell You About The Time I Killed My Own Dinner? of modern food writing.
But even if I’m not going to be making an unprecedented mark on the home cooking conversation today, it would be a glaring omission not to share it here as well because there’s so much that’s very important about it. The first is the book it hails from, the late, awesome Marion Cunningham’s Breakfast Book. Do you know anyone who just got engaged/about to get married/just moved into their own apartment/thinks they want to start cooking/trying to drop a hint to their significant other that certain meal shifts are up for grabs? What better place to start than at the top of the day, and this is the book everyone — yes, girls and boys — needs on their shelves. It covers all bases. It makes people happy. These are respectable cooking goals.
It’s been over six years since I mooned here over a lost dumpling love. Dumplings are kind of a fixation for me; I am unwaveringly convinced that small pockets of food wrapped elegantly in a thin dough are among the universe’s most perfect foods; portable and petite, servings easily scaled, I dare you to find a nutritious food not improved by an adorable doughy package. The vegetable dumplings that I used to get at a chain of otherwise average west side Chinese restaurants were my all-time favorite; before they changed the recipe, I regularly rerouted my day to stop there for an order, and a beer. (Sidebar: Can we talk about how delicious a cold beer in a glass is with potstickers? No, different conversation, huh? Onwards!)
Anyway, I hope you haven’t mistaken my silence since on the matter as a sign I’ve found any peace. I have not. While I still cannot resist vegetable dumplings/wontons/gyoza/potstickers on any take-out menu, hoping to find within their centers the dumplings I once knew and loved, I’ve had enough mystery vegetable mush to accept that if you want spectacular vegetable dumplings, you’ll want to make them at home.
Guys, I just discovered the ultimate weekend brunch treat/decadent dessert that still contains a whiff of moderation/preschooler snack. The ingredient list is so short, and the cooking process is so simple that you’ll have the recipe memorized by the time you make it the second time. And you will make it a second time, maybe even within a week. It looks pretty, tastes luxurious and… well, most of you probably discovered panna cotta a decade ago.
I’m sorry, I’m just slow. For example, this week I started reading this new book that everyone was talking about in September … 2007. And that’s just the beginning. Gallery wall? Skinny jeans? Arrested Development? Quinoa? People, I am on it. True to sluggish form, it’s been a full four years since my friend Nicole gushed to me about the wonders of yogurt panna cotta. I put it on my cooking to-do list, blinked, and that about brings us up to last week when I saw it on my list and thought, “right, wasn’t I going to make that a few days ago?”
It probably goes without saying — but I will say it anyway; this is an internet weblog, after all — that a whole lot of the food I cook at home doesn’t make it onto this site. I like to use this space to talk about aspirational cooking — things that have fascinated me because they were different or better or even easier than I’d expected to make. At the very least, I hope they’ll have a good story to tell or get someone else as excited to cook as I was. The work-a-day cooking (pizza, lazy meatballs, oatmeal) that fills out our weeks is hardly noteworthy stuff.
I also prefer to avoid gushing about ingredients most people don’t have access to. No, I don’t mean truffles or anything so fancy — I’m not secretly flavoring my pasta water with fistfuls of the Himalayan pink salt I eschew elsewhere — I just mean something that especially short-seasoned and regional and it feels little will be gained by crowing about a dish that 95% of people can’t make.