Appetizer Archive

Monday, December 20, 2010

broiled mussels

broiled mussels

Welcome to the single time each calendar year I cook something that began its life in the ocean. I suspect right now that you’re in one of a few camps. You’re either thinking “You know, I never noticed it before but Deb, you really don’t have any fish recipes on the site!” Or you’re thinking, “What kind of person doesn’t eat fish?” or you’re thinking, “Lady, I just arrived here yesterday because I heard there were some cookies around and I couldn’t care less about your food hangups.” Welcome, all of you.

wine-steamed mussels

Yeah, so I have some fish hangups. But I love mussels. It’s probably because they’re usually steamed open in wine or beer, shallots or garlic, butter or, well, even more butter. It doesn’t hurt that they’re usually served with fries, and the juices sopped up with chunks of crusty baguette. Can you imagine a more glorious way to go out? They’re sweet and bite-sized and the shells make the most magnificent low clinking sounds against each other in a bowl, like very full wine glasses. The presence of those is encouraged, too.

ready to be butter-slathered

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

garlic butter roasted mushrooms

mushrooms in garlic caper butter

A repeat offender in the lede-burier category, let me begin with what matters: this is absolutely my new favorite quick and obsessively delicious way to prepare mushrooms.

little browns

And now, a story. Once upon a time, I was a vegetarian who loved going to steakhouses. A friends birthday would approach and out of kindness to me, they’d start talking about gathering friends at a restaurant that had vegetarian options and I’d beg them to go to a steakhouse instead. “It’s your birthday! I know you want a steak! You deserve a big fat juicy slab of steak,” I’d try to coerce. Why was I such a weirdo? Because good steakhouses have even better sides, and no matter how much the waiter sneered when I ordered them without a $50 centerpiece, I knew I’d be getting some flawlessly poached asparagus hollandaise and roasted potatoes like you wouldn’t believe. And mushrooms; I had broiled, buttery and garlicky mushroom caps at Sparks over a decade ago that I haven’t forgotten about since.

garlicked and buttered, ready to roast

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Friday, June 11, 2010

crushed peas with smoky sesame dressing

crushed peas with smoky sesame dressing

I’m not really a pea-eater. 99 percent of pea dishes do absolutely nothing for me, no matter how buttery, minty, creamy or how close they come to winning a Top Chef honor. I enjoy them in Indian food and I won’t leave them on the rim of a bowl of pasta, but you’ll never catch me hoarding a bag of them in the freezer, waiting to meet their end on my stove.

peas in pods and then more pods

But all of this changes when I can find them fresh. Fresh peas, at least for this pea-ambivalent, are a whole different animal: they’re bright and sweet and they have the most wonderful crunch that’s impossible to retrieve from a freezer bag, where they always seem to defrost with a sigh and then a slump. The labor involved in shelling them is virtually nothing — no ends that need to be snipped, as with sugar snaps or slipping from skins, as with favas; they get from field to table with the pop of a pod, sweep of your finger and a quick roll off the counter and onto the floor — d’oh! — because like most cute things, they are also troublemakers.

many peas

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

spinach and chickpeas

spinach and chickpeas, espinacas con garbanzos

First off, this dish is not called “spinach and chickpeas”, it is espinacas con garbanzos. Don’t you agree? “Spinach and chickpeas” is something you eat because you should — it is healthy and you aspire to be. Espinacas con garbanzos is something you eat because it sounds sexy, and doesn’t taste half bad either. It’s hearty and smoky with a little kick, you eat it on little fried bread toasts at a tapas bar in Spain.

chickpeas, from the slow cooker

Or, you know, in New York City on another brutally rainy March night. My friend Ang had a tapas pot-luck last Friday (the baby ditched us for a better party at his grandparents house) and, yes, I brought a Spanish dish to a Spanish party that did not include a single format of pork. Wild! Hey, I figured others would have the chorizos and jamón serranos covered. Me, I wanted some Spanish comfort food. I’d tried a version of this dish a few years ago, thanks to the sweet nudging of Ximena at Lobstersquad and instantly loved it. It sounds like it would be too simple to hold your interest, perhaps something you’d eat because you “ought” to, but it tastes like something you’ll crave again and again.

draining the spinach

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

walnut pesto

walnut pesto

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.

walnuts, garlic, parmesan, thyme...

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.

walnut pesto

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