February, 2008 Archive

Saturday, February 16, 2008

pasta puttanesca, broken artichoke hearts salad

pasta puttanesca

Last Valentine’s Day, Alex and I had dinner at Prune. Alex wore my favorite suit of his and brought a giant bouquet of roses and a gift, because he’s spoil-me-rotten like that. We had the most decadent meal, but I couldn’t help but go home with the nagging feeling that I had ordered from the wrong side of the menu. You see, chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s menus are an editorial delight, and on Valentine’s Day she went to town with an especially charmingly bipolar one.

artichoke love

The Lovers’ Menu from which we ordered had all sorts of rich and spectacular foods, including homemade chocolate kisses (with tissue paper messages) dolloped out by a friend of mine who was working there as a pastry chef at the time. But the other side, the Cynics’ menu–with its Broken Vinaigrette, Whore’s (Puttanesca) Pasta, Cold Shoulder of Pork and Coffee and Cigarettes, oh and at half the price–well, it was evident that the bitter folks were having more fun. Really, it’s not the first time. Because my Valentine and I have a sense of humor (and also due to my inherent dislike of Special Romantical Menus in general) I couldn’t resist my own recreation of a Not Really Cynic’s Menu Thursday night: Pasta Puttanesca and a Bitter Salad with Broken Artichoke Hearts.


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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

best chocolate pudding

best chocolate pudding

All I wanted to give you for Valentine’s Day was some chocolate pudding. My logic was simple: decadent meals and rich desserts are dreamy things but, in my mind, not inherently romantic. More often than not, after such an evening I find myself too full for even a nightcap, quite tired and, while we are being honest, like I need to spend an hour on the treadmill. And I hate the treadmill.

ladling chocolate pudding

But chocolate pudding is none of these things. The perfect recipe–the one I sifted through dozens and dozens to find–would be chocolaty but not overly heavy, indulgent but not too rich. In short, the kind of thing you’d want to eat with the love of your life without the risk of shortening the length of it. As a bonus, it would be a reasonable recipe to tackle on a weekday night.

making pudding

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

three from the files

peeled butternut squash

Last month, when I was cleaning off my hard drive, I wasn’t just forced to confront pictures of recipes I’d forgotten to mention, but the 250-plus recipe bookmarks I had hoped to get to “one day.” Some people have cookbooks, others have recipe binders and while I have both, they’re never where I am when I’m trying to figure out what to cook for dinner.

making salted butter caramelsalted butter caramel ice cream

Unable to part with them, I created what I affectionately call my “cook this” list, neatly organized into subcategories of sweets, salads and sides, light meals and “mm, cocktails” because we always save the best for last, and swore that I would make every attempt to look there first for inspiration. (Alex too. For my fellow geeks out there, I have this on a shared Google document with Alex so he, too, can help me make very difficult choices like Which Daube Should I Try Next.) Amazing no one more than myself, it is working like a charm. Nearly every recipe I have made since the beginning of January has been a satisfying marking off of a to cook list item.

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

seven-yolk pasta dough

seven-yolk pasta dough

Last month, I was cleaning photos off on my old hard drive and discovered a glaring oversight on my food blogging part: I had never told you about one of my proudest kitchen triumphs to date, mastering the pasta nest!

By “pasta nest” I mean the method of creating a well inside a mound of flour, placing several egg yolks in the center and creating pasta dough with your fingertips alone. Why is this process so intimidating? Don’t countless cooks all over Italy do precisely this every single day without fail? Clearly, they have never read Jeffrey Steingarten, who I alone blame for my fear of The Nest.

“… I ran into a problem,” Steingarten writes in The Man Who Ate Everything.

As I began to incorporate flour from the crater’s inner wall, a wavelet of egg slashed over the top, causing a serious erosion problem, and when I nimble scooped up a handful of flour and from the stable side of the mound and used it to stanch the flow, the crate collapsed. A torrent of egg yolks, now thick with flour and cornmeal, surged across the table, carried a pile of chopped garlic, and like molten lava rolling over a Hawaiin housing development, leaving death and destruction in its wake, headed toward my handwritten notes. As I snatched away the notebook, the flood plunged on, lifting two rosemary branches as though they were matchsticks and cascading over the edge of the table and into an open silverware drawer…

seven yolk pasta dough

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

dulce de leche cheesecake squares

dulce de leche cheesecake squares

Dulce de leche, where have you been my whole life? Oh, sure, I knew what you were and I understood implicitly that you were a good thing. I knew that you were practically the national dish of Argentina and I knew I wanted to be the national dish of, well, anywhere, one day but I hadn’t yet taken you into my arms and my belly. I hadn’t yet really tasted you. I am sooo going to have to make up for lost time.

dulce de leche cheesecake squares

The thing is, and I know this sounds a little funny, but I love dairy products–like milk and cream, especially when they’re full fat and super-fresh and hormone free. I love the little smell that wafts off freshly steamed milk. I can absolutely taste the difference between skim and two percent, and simply cannot abide the former and only occasionally the latter. And I would rather have one tablespoon of cream over anything–baked apples, swirled into oatmeal–than 14 of something so-called good for me. And yes, I have digressed, but I just wanted to set this up:

Dulce de leche is the embodiment of everything I love about dairy products and everything everyone loves about caramel together. Like one or the other weren’t good enough, let’s just mash this up and die happy. Minus the dying part.

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