I was incapable of resisting. Despite the fact that the last New York Times recipe that burned such a hole in my monitor that I had to try it ASAP was a caustic disaster, I hold no grudges against the Gray Lady. Not when she, or more specifically Melissa Clark, graces the pages with what she considers the ultimate soda bread, “baked in a heavy iron skillet so that the top and bottom crusts become crunchy and browned while the center stays tender and pale, studded with treacly bits of raisins.”
March, 2007 Archive
I don’t know if the name for this affliction is procrastination–hey, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least, she says, eyeing the sinkful of last night’s dishes–but when I need to get things done, I have this bad habit of doing them either right-that-very-moment or pretty much never. When I return from a vacation, I either get every single thing out of that suitcase and into its proper closet or hamper within twenty minutes, or it sits on the floor of the bedroom for weeks, as it has since we’ve returned from Charleston. I return a garment I’ve changed my mind about the very next day, or it sits in a bag, as has a certain Banana Republic blouse, for six (cough, eight) months, my husband looking pointedly at it and then back at me often enough that I just downright ignore that too. Once something leaves my short-term memory, it may as well be lost for good, but in recipes at least, today I am on a rescue mission.
Bored of tapas? Over at NPR, I have a guided tour of Russian hors d’oeuvres, called zakuski, each as unsubtle, garlicky and brined as you should expect from my husband’s pickled-crazed people. It includes recipes for my mother-in-law’s famous eggplant caviar, Georgian kidney bean salad, salted mushrooms and the most complex, flavorful best black bread I have ever eaten. I hope you love it as much as we do.
Elsewhere: Mighty Russian Morsels
A few weeks ago, in my ninth entry into my bread category, I expressed my desire to take this whole yeast/flour/water/tada! thing a step further, and begged for some cookbook guidance. At the end of it, with almost equal votes for Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible and Peter Reinhart’s Bread Maker’s Apprentice, I was still torn, changing my mind back and forth until the final seconds of my order, eventually settling on the latter. On the day it arrived, I tore into it, certain that something would jump right off the page, and I’d be up to my elbows in flour, once again, that night. Instead, the opposite happened—I froze with terror. Bigas and poolishes and oh my god, all of these steps and seriously, are there any breads you can make in just a few hours and really, it was very humbling. And just like that, my fairy godmother of cookbooks found a way to deposit Berenbaum’s tome on my front step, equally intimidating. I was certain that I was completely over my head, silly to think that taking something one step further wouldn’t be such an involved process. What did I think it would be? One, two, three and then you’re Poilane?
I should apologize for the lewdness of this title—or perhaps you should, for that gutter mind—but I’ve always been endlessly amused by the “put some South in your mouth” logo painted on the wall of the Carolina BBQ joint and frat-boys-living-out-their-glory-days haven, Brother Jimmy’s. Really, it’s just about the only thing I enjoyed about the place the innumerable times a certain ex-boyfriend of mine with a ACC basketball bent dragged me there under duress or pleading. The bar’s menu consists things like fried pickles, green tomatoes and corn fritters and something frightening called a “flaming pig pick,” and while I am not one to argue that these are indeed Southeastern flavors, my associations have always been in sweeter, homier places: berry pies, cobblers and pretty much anything that has known, been adjacent to or looked at a pecan in it’s life.