January, 2007 Archive

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

the week of cooking averagely


The thing with having such a delightful run of flawless dishes is that you forget about the ever-present likelihood of hitting a dud, or perhaps three. I seem to have lost my kitchen kavorka this week, but in an effort to move past these fiascos, I hope you don’t mind if I air them out, in no particular order.

  • Dried White Beans from Garden of Eden — Shame on you, otherwise charming and reliable grocery store! I thought they looked a little flaky-skinned when I soaked them, a typical sign of being past their prime, but figuring I had nothing to lose, forged ahead. The truth is that simmering them for what became over three hours, going back frequently to taste them and still finding them hard and sand-like before finally calling it quits and throwing them in the trash was exhausting in the end, utterly disappointing, and that is something lost. Though our apartment did smell beany and wonderful for a while, my daydream of a white bean, cubed black bread, green onion and torn radicchio salad will have to wait for my patience to recover, as well a less shameful bean supply to cross my path.
  • Continued after the jump »

Monday, January 29, 2007

asparagus, artichoke and shiitake risotto

asparagus, artichoke and shiitake risotto

Though it’s still and gusting the kind of evil, icy winds outside that make you grunt as they hit your face and sometimes (er like last night when I accidentally left the window open and spent most of the night under sixteen blankets cursing these landlords who were being cheap! with our heat! Ok, Einstein.) I swear, I will never get warm again, when I began to make a shopping list for yet another thick, hearty, rib-sticking meal on Sunday (Julia Child’s beef bourguignon, if you must know), I just couldn’t do it. Winter has really just begun and I began to feel like I’m caving without even trying to cope. This hibernation, it must stop.

So I threw seasonal eating to the wind and never-minded the ridiculousness of buying asparagus in January (which was perfect, eerily enough) last night, and cooked us the kind of risotto better associated with longer days. Somehow, just saying “See? We’re ready for you,” made me feel like we were luring springtime closer, fighting the good fight, keeping our chins up and horrifying you with clichés, I know, but there was some seriously warmer weather for dinner last night and it’s got me carried away… enough that after a glass (two) of bright white wine, I tried to breathe some fresh air into our place before we went to bed. Ah, well. If you’re like us and your next warm vacation feels like an eternity from now, I highly encourage you to fake yourselves out as we did. Just remember to close the window before you bed, lest winter come back and bite you in the arse.

Continued after the jump »

Sunday, January 28, 2007

icebox cake

icebox cake

My husband will tell you that his favorite dessert my chocolate caramel cheesecake, the orange-chocolate bundt cake, Mom’s chocolate chip sour cream coffee cake or the bourbon-pumpkin cheesecake but don’t believe him — he lies. Alex’s favorite cake looks comes from either Billy’s or Magnolia bakery, looks to him like “opened Oreos” and is called an icebox cake.

It is also, I am so sorry to say, a bit of a sham. Like the 1-2-3-4 cake recipe (1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour and 4 eggs) as well as the back-of-the-box shortcut buttercream frosting that they bakeries combined to form a “cupcake trend,” they have neither invented the icebox cake nor made it any better than the American home cooks that first concocted these simple desserts — they’ve just got better marketing.

icebox cake, overview

Continued after the jump »

Friday, January 26, 2007

paula wolfert’s hummus


In the introduction to The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten admits that from deserts in Indian restaurants, kimchi and dill to seas urchins, chutney and falafel, his list of foods that he wouldn’t eat even if starving on a desert island was so vast, he had considered himself wholly unfit to be appointed the Vogue food critic in 1989. (His list of foods he might eat if he were starving on a desert island but only if the refrigerator were filled with nothing but chutney, sea urchins, and falafel, including Greek food, clams, yogurt and any food that is blue, as it is not a color found in nature, makes me laugh equally hard.)

soaking the chickpeas

While less nobly or eloquently worded, the truth is that when I trimmed my list of food dramatics down to six bullet points last week, I had wished for nothing more than to be liberated from them. I mean, chicken cutlets? Tuna fish? French’s mustard? Oh, grow up, Deb! Yet, I just don’t think I’m going to become a beet-lover in this lifetime, though believe me, my Russian in-laws have tried, cilantro simply tastes like dirt to some people and not to others and I eagerly await the frivolous medical study that will prove this, and a lot of California wines are loud, heavy and sweet, most especially those in my price range.

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, January 25, 2007

a tatin, auditioned

tomato tarte tatin, attempt

Just a few days after returning from our honeymoon, Alex and I celebrated our two-year dating anniversary — which just seems now the most precious thing, celebrating ever teensy weensy moment that passes; oh, how married we’ve become — by going to DB Bistro for dinner. Though I never thought we could have a bad time anywhere, we really, really did not enjoy the meal; the waiter rushed us, I could have sworn one made a face when I opted for two appetizers and a side instead of an entrée, we were squeezed in like sardines next to possibly the most annoying female half of a couple, ever, and oh, a plate was whisked away from me before I was done. Meh! A few days later, I did something I had not done before or since, and wielded my mighty pen, drafting off a full-paged To Whom It May Concern, expressing as diplomatically as I could that I think we are the least fussy diners, ever, but were still sorely disappointed. Two days later, the manager called me, personally apologizing and inviting us back for a free champagne cocktail or some such; a few days after that, a signed letter from Mr. Boulud arrived backing up this offer. Very gracious, indeed, though I can’t say we’ve ever taken them up on this.

Onwards! I’d completely forgotten about this meal until browsing Eat and then Lobstersquad a couple days ago, both of whom had made tomato tarte tatins, something I’d ordered and absolutely loved at DB that night, and had sworn I’d try my hand at one day. Ignoring the fact that it is presently the opposite of tomato season and also that I’ve never made a classic tarte tatin before (though I will, very soon), I decided to follow my intuition (always a scary thing) and make what I approximated to be a similar version of it. Charmed by both the stellar quality of the canned, whole and utterly flawless San Marzano tomatoes we’ve had the luck to bring home lately, as well as the roasting-toasting step in the tomato soup I made a while back to bring out their flavor, I opted for the canned variety. Discarding their innards as gently as I could, I cooked them on the stove for a good 20 minutes in a big pat of butter with a pinch of sugar and a much larger one of salt, cooking off a lot of their liquid, then covered them with sliced coins of chèvre and a round of puffed pastry. Following Molly’s wonderful tatin instructions, I baked it for about 45 minutes until puffy and golden, inverting it a few minutes later on a plate.

Continued after the jump »