Considering that I was on a two year extended Indian cooking kick before I started this site, I find it odd that I have included but one Indian-spiced recipe in the time since. I’m not sure if others do this, but I tend to go in and out of food crazes — currently, the absolutely only thing I want to eat after the gym is tofu pad thai, which doesn’t sound so horrible until you consider that I hit the gym three times a week, and no doubt reverse its effects just as often. I’ve gone through similar phases with poached eggs (atop anything), dinners of asparagus and roasted tiny red potatoes (only), dumplings, and for two torturous months of Alex’s life, a certain Belgian Endive and Grain Mustard salad of Nigella Lawson’s I fiended for, even first thing in the morning.
February, 2007 Archive
The truth is, I bought my very first vanilla bean only last week when I was making rice pudding. It’s not that I didn’t know how fantastic they are in all of their clarity of flavor and little-goes-a-long way charm, I was just both too cheap to buy them, and too afraid to go down that slippery slope whereby no extract would do ever satisfy me again.
Last week, the stunningly redesigned Delicious Days — seriously, looking at that site brings rolling fields awash in sunlight to mind — paid homage to food blogs and the way they quickly became her favorite place to get recipes; they’re tested, photographed and honestly discussed. I couldn’t agree more, except unlike Delicious Days, I sometimes bookmark recipes others have referenced but then completely forget who first whispered the url in my ear. This is a both wonderful and terrible thing, wonderful because Monday night, I made one of the best tomato sauces I’ve ever eaten, but terrible because I can’t remember who to thank.
In case I haven’t broadcasted this loudly enough in the 114 entries prior to today, I tend to get a little obsessive in the kitchen when trying to find “perfect” recipes. “Perfect” is always some approximation of an ideal that got etched in my tastebuds in some other time and place — there’s salted butter caramel (Paris), bretzel rolls (a Fresh Direct discovery), frisee with poached eggs (Balthazar, 2003) and one day soon, those truffles from La Maison du Chocolat, as my wee Valentine’s Day supply has rapidly diminished. I know better than to try to go back to such a place and expect the same experiences time after time, but it doesn’t mean I can’t have warming fits of nostalgia when I find a lost flavor on my dinner plate.
For months now, my obsession with bread making has snowballed, leaving me eager buy a bread-specific cookbook to further fill our apartment, and my idle hours, with kneaded deliciousness. I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m extraordinarily conservative about the cookbooks I buy. On one hand, it’s a space issue — isn’t it always? — but considering that this hasn’t kept me from buying a pasta-cranker, too many baking pans and, most insanely, six varieties of flours, it’s hard argue that an stuffed apartment is truly a deterrent. More accurately, I find it impossible to make decisions. Berebaum’s Bread Bible? Silverton’s La Brea Bakery? Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice? I always thought I wanted this book, but how can one ever know for sure? Thus, I delay and delay, as if owning two bread cookbooks would be a crime against humanity. (Please, speak up if there is a bread book that makes you swoon.)
It only took us over a year, but Alex and I finally had dinner at Tia Pol, a closet-sized gem of a tapas restaurant on 10th Avenue on Saturday night. We live so close, it’s embarrassing that we hadn’t eaten there yet, but the thing with the proximity is that every time we’ve popped our heads in, taken note of the mob of people crushed against the entryway and the “at least an hour and a half” wait, we’ve rationalized that we’ll go another time — later. Well, six months had passed since our last “later,” when on Saturday, so we decided arriving at the criminally early hour of 6 p.m. would outsmart the crowds. The laugh was still on us but the 45 minutes were well worth the wait, the tight space not claustrophobic but cozy on a freezing night as we snugged into a row of coats while drinking our first then second (mon dieu!) glass of their delicious sangria. At the bar, we couldn’t resist trying one of almost everything — marcona almonds, potatoes with aioli and hot paprika, ham-wrapped artichoke hearts with manchego cheese, deep-fried spicy chickpeas and thick, fork-tender white asparagus stalks again with that blessed aioli.
Ah, right… So where were we? There were tarts best forgotten, fat, squishy pretzels, horribly-named “meatovers” and I’m sorry, but the rest of the week escapes me. However, I can assure you it was nothing interesting until Sunday when my friend Crystal decided that rather than going out for dinner, drinks or any other birthday party standards, this year she would keep the shenanigans as well as inevitable embarrassments within her apartment walls, purchasing a karaoke set, imploring us to bring excesses of sake and starting the party in the middle of the afternoon. Let’s just thank the heavens above that I averted the camera’s glare, didn’t not imbibe myself enough to get to crooning “Midnight Train to Georgia,” (though I may actually regret this — rest assured, nobody else does) or eat so many white chocolate ganache-filled green tea cookies that I began to reconsider my previous anti stance on this empty form of cocoa mass. Except that last part, which happened repeatedly.