three from the files

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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.

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.

But my favorite ones have got to be the three I have cooked in the last week. It started when I was sick and just like the pathological oddball I am, I craved ice cream and not just any ice cream, the recipe I like to tell myself that David Lebovitz posted for me, and me alone. Such a narcissist, this one, eh? But really, when David began talking up his (awesome, amazing and a ton of other a-words) ice cream book on his site, I only wanted to know if there was a recipe for salted caramel ice cream in it. No there was not, he responded, but he did have one that that didn’t make the cut (be still my heart!). This ice cream is, in another a-word, astonishingly good. It is a little complicated to make but your reward is salted caramel ice cream so good, you won’t believe it didn’t come out of a restaurant kitchen.

Next on the agenda were braised leeks, from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques via the Wednesday Chef over two years ago, one of about seventeen recipes I bookmarked while on an archive-reading bender shortly after having discovered her site.

I have this thing about leeks–I adore them, especially when they’re cooked until it seems no walls remain and they taste vaguely like potatoes. Yes, I am aware that was the least tasty sentence ever in the history of food writing, but what can I say? What I lack in heavy breathing I’ll make up for with a promise that if you make this, you will not regret it and if you top it with a poached egg, you might swoon. Aloud. See? Now you can forgive me for the potato comment.

Last is the salad Alex has requested a repeat performance of every single evening since, but as it turns out I am a tease about a Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini I found via Orangette. Seriously, I sometimes think that the world is out of ways to prepare my favorite squash–mashed, pureed, in soup, in a galette, in a curry, in ravioli, risotto, etc.–but there I was, terrifically inspired again. The non-squash elements are like a deconstructed hummus (chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil) and when stirred together with red onions and roasted squash, my my. The best part is that it really doesn’t take that long to cook; I made it after coming home from the gym at 9 p.m. last week, certain it was too late to make anything and less than an hour later, I was so glad I hadn’t listened to myself. It is the perfect winter salad meal.

Of course, now that I’ve whittled my Cook This list down slightly, I am jonesing to build it out again. I mean, who has only 237 items on their to-do list? How depressing! What am I supposed to do with all of this free time?


Update: For those who have asked, I shared my technique for taking apart butternut squash in the comments.

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