Yesterday was brutally cold and windy in New York City and although I generally tune out when people complain about being bored, I was. I admit it. Jacob and I take a walk somewhere, anywhere — seriously, I may or may not have used “Let’s go buy mama some bourbon!” as an excuse to leave the apartment one recent day — everyday. Even if it is cold; that’s what the snowsuit and hat and footmuff and knit blanket (“We lost the baby!”) are for, right?
December, 2009 Archive
I really, really like walnuts. They manage to be vaguely sweet but still meaty and they have this slight bitterness that goes with, well, everything. I like the way they round out the sweetness in these amazing walnut tartlets in the archives that I’m certain get overlooked by everyone but me, and contrast the sweet figs in this biscotti.
But I think they get especially awesome in savory applications, and not just as an accent to pasta or a salad. This “pesto” caught my eye — in an article about wine bars moving beyond serving the ubiquitous olives and cheese plates, something I can totally get behind — because it’s not basil pesto with a few walnuts for good measure, it’s not an olive tapenade with crunch, it’s actually a base of coarsely ground walnuts picked up with garlic, sherry vinegar and sundried tomatoes.
I spend an unhealthy amount of time trying to figure out what makes a cracker a cracker, and how to drum up whatever I have most recently concluded at home. Is it a two-ingredient mix of spelt (or other) flour and water with some seeds on top? An olive oil-brushed flatbread with rosemary? A cheese straw rolled thin and flat? Need it be something sturdy and neutral enough that you can spread cheese or tapenade upon it? Is it acceptable if it is too tender, rich and loudly flavored to have anything piled on its belly?
About the only conclusion I have come to is that I don’t want them to come out of a box and that I detest those ubiquitous “table water crackers”. [I feel much better getting that off my chest and I apologize if I have been at a party (that would be “all parties, everywhere”) where you served them and are now offended.]
A year and a half ago, an Op-Ed ruined bananas for me. Everyone knows in a kid’s mind, there are only three fruits: apples, oranges and bananas. Apples grow in the fall. Oranges grow by grandma’s house in Florida. And bananas grow in… corporation-cleared rainforest in Latin America by laborers deprived of worker’s rights, an economic condition reinforced by heavy-handed military tactics? Egads, people, I so didn’t learn that side of the story as a kid.
Look, I didn’t give up bananas that day; they’re still sliced them into my oatmeal, over my cottage cheese and eaten to occasionally convince myself that it’s not a real dessert I’m craving, and I’m not here to nudge you to either. But there has been a whole lot less banana bread in my life since last year, and I’ve missed it. Yet you can imagine my surprise realizing that most of what made banana bread awesome for me had little to do with bananas, something I discovered making pear bread last week.
I have spent the last few months unearthing recipes I’ve had bookmarked for an eternity. A whole lot of them, mostly things I have spared you, did not exactly age like fine wine, as they say; fillings ran, vegetables never caramelized, spiced mixed nuts were grimy and cookies were painfully sweet. The rest of them, however, caused me to become consumed with regret when I think of all of the times we could have already consumed mindblowing butterscotch, caviar-esque creamed mushrooms and speedy, rich biscuits but did not know of them yet. This is one of those times.
As I mentioned yesterday, I’m all about hosting brunch, but only if I can make everything in advance. When it comes to biscuits, bacon, baked French toast and fruit salads, pulling it off is obvious. But I always get lost on the eggs, and for a whole lot of people, it’s not breakfast if it doesn’t involve eggs. This strata — really, a savory bread pudding — is the missing piece because not only can you make it the night before, you are supposed to.