August, 2006 Archive

Friday, August 11, 2006


Sarah Brown once said she had a theory that for every single person on the planet, there’s a sentence that if it were said to them by the right person or at the right time with the right words, everything in their life would right itself from that point forward. (If I remember correctly, my sentence was “Wow, you don’t dance like a white girl at ALL.”)


But, being the food-obsessed type that I am, I wonder if that sentence could be a taste, or that taste a smell. I believe that there are sensory experiences that get tucked places we forget about, and we wander around looking for things to lure them back into the present. We just want it back — for even a split second — because things in the moments that follow seem to fall more smoothly into place.


Continued after the jump »

Monday, August 7, 2006

homemade barbecue sauce

homemade barbecue sauce

If you have never made your own barbecue sauce before, I’m going to have to insist that you try to at least once. And while I’m loath to ensnare myself in the myriad layers of barbecue conviction across this land — from the don’t-come-near-my-sauce-with-those-tomatoes whole-hoggin’ in Carolina to the don’t-you-dare-come-near-my-mesquite with sauce in Texas (and then the small matter of me being from New Jersey where barbecue just meant cooking your hamburgers and hot dogs outdoors) — I might have to insist that you try this one because it’s sacrilegiously good.

My crush on Ina Garten is almost as strong as my Martha-crush, if not stronger as she’s never once failed me and I believe we share an absorption with making typically unremarkable foods remarkable again. Her lemon cake has got to be one of the top five cakes ever made with her orange chocolate chunk version squarely in the top ten; her coleslaw made me like coleslaw and her barbecue sauce is a spectacular Eastern/Asian/Southern mutt.

chicken with homemade barbecue sauce

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Thursday, August 3, 2006

roasted baby artichoke failure

baby artichokes

Nearly seven years ago, my best friend bought me a subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine as holiday present. Tearing open the wrapping paper, I caught a glimpse of a pyramid stack of rigidly squared off Rice Krispy Treat-style cereal bars on one of those ever-upbeat and brightly lit covers I recognized all too well and protested, “But I don’t read Martha Stewart!”

“Of course you don’t,” she said. “Of course not.”

Martha Stewart was fussy and domestic and a grueling perfectionist who doted on the most inane stuff and I, I, I was all of those things; I just hadn’t come to terms with it yet. I would buy the rag for long train rides and chuck it when I got to my destination; nobody had to know but me. My dirty little magazine-stand secret had dewy, dimly lit pictures of ripe melons all over it, oh yeah, but the authentic kind.

I don’t know when I stopped subscribing (odds are, I haven’t, I just move too damned much) but Martha don’t come round no more, so when we were finally reunited on a New Jersey Transit bus last week, I nearly ate the pages, most pertinently the one with the roasted baby artichokes recipe [link removed as page seems to have disappeared] as I will cook or eat anything in the whole world as long as it involved a single iota of artichoke (“even boogers?” my husband asks and I’ll spare you my answer). I love them that much.

quartered artichokes

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Tuesday, August 1, 2006

chicken tacos + salsa fresca

chicken taco with salsa fresca

I had my first taco when I was about seven, at the home of a down-the-street neighbor who used to watch me after school until my parents got home from work. As she began to arrange fixings for a greatly-anticipated feast they called Taco Night, I baffled the lot by telling them I didn’t know what one was. (I could have baffled them further by explaining the proper way to boil and then eat a whole artichoke thus proving that no I was NOT raised under an epicurean rock but I refrained. I’ve since lost such restraint.).

She assembled one for me with some mess of ground beef and taco seasonings, a pile of shredded cheese, lettuce and tomato in an El Paso shell and then zapping it in the microwave for a minute. I took one bite and it crumbled, dripping orange-ish grease down my shirt and oh, I did not like it AT ALL. Who invented these shells and how come they get to sit on a pile of money while I’m scrubbing taco out from under my fingernails? You cannot bite into a bent shell filled with messy things without it breaking into several pieces, and yet this is supposed to be something you eat while holding it? Not that you have a choice, really, since they won’t stand up on their own. They’re fundamentally flawed and I haven’t had one since, or at least not until a fit of nostalgia and Mark Bittman’s feature in the New York Times Dining Section called The Taco Joint in Your Kitchen, got the better of me Sunday night.

salsa fresca

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