My husband and I have different packing personalities. First, I need a clean apartment, you know, before I wreck sections of it at a time. Then I need to go through every single thing we own before any of it gets packed and determine whether it should stay or does it need to go. I cannot stand the thought of moving, well, useless baggage to a new and supposedly clean slate of an apartment. Then each box has to have a separate topic; if desk stuff gets in with book stuff, I get itchy and start pacing the floor. How does Alex pack? Oh, he puts stuff in boxes until everything’s packed. I probably don’t need to tell you who is better at getting the job done.
I have a new, colossal Food Network crush on Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and the first time I saw the show, I completely forgot every food personal crush that had come before. “Ina Garten who?” “Michael Chiarello? I never heard of him.” Because seriously, Anne Burell trumps all that came before. She’s got the kind of real cooking and fresh ideas you’d hope for from a television show, but too rarely get. I immediately want to make everything she does.
And if I saw chicken milanese on a restaurant menu, I wouldn’t order it. If you told me you were breading and frying chicken cutlets for dinner, I’d feign excitement but inwardly groan. Because if there are two foods in the world that will never hold my interest, they’d be chicken cutlets and anything that has been dredged in breadcrumbs and fried. I find the former bland and the latter makes everything taste the same, not that I need to learn how to form an opinion or anything. Yet, when Ms. Burell made it, I counted down the days until I could find an excuse to make it, which brings us to Tuesday night’s inauguration dinner party (where the caramel sauce was homemade, ahem, but that story for a different day).
Almost two years ago, Alex and I met friends for dinner at Al Di La, an always-packed, funky mom-and-pop Italian restaurant in Park Slope that not only doesn’t take reservations, it has no room for you to stand around while you wait for one (unless you go to the adjacent wine bar). It helps to know someone who works there.
Before we went, Alex dug up their menu online (does anyone remember life back when you actually had to arrive at a restaurant to find out what they served? Probably less tripe and rabbits feet on the menu, eh?) and decided at that very moment that we must order the torta di pere, a bittersweet chocolate and pear cake. “Fruit and chocolate together?” I said, “Why is this necessary?” as I had always insisted that they were better apart.
Lest you think my running of at the mouth about the evils of dieting meant that I was going to spend this month in the pursuit of only earnest foods, let me set that straight right now: all weekend, I craved a cookie and by Sunday, I’d had enough. No, I wasn’t going to break out the piping bags or the heavy cream ganaches, but when I need something sweet, I have learned that it’s better to have one and move on than to snack on twent-five other odd ends instead, oh, and still crave a cookie.
As far as my cookie demands went, biscotti seemed a perfect compromise. A little less rich, sweet and heavy than most cookies, they go better with tea, coffee or your morning yogurt (guilty as charged) than they do wtih a platter of even more indulgent desserts. I’d had this recipe from Gina DePalma, pastry chef at Babbo, bookmarked for years, and seeing as I am still wading through pounds of nuts and had some sorry-looking figs in the pantry, it seemed like perfect timing.
[Guest photography by Elizabeth Bick] A few weeks ago, over a couple
bottles glasses of wine, my friend Liz, a photographer, and I got to discussing the photography in the smittenkitchen, and she said she was dying to come in and take some pictures of me at “work” one day. We started fantasizing about doing a 1950s Mad Men-style shoot, rollers in the hair, a frilly but perfectly tailored apron and classic home cooking. In reality, the rollers and the silly apron didn’t quite happen, but Liz came over earlier this week (and then our other friends, a couple hours later for dinner) and we had a blast. So please welcome here today our very first smittenkitchen guest photographer, Elizabeth Bick. I suspect you’ll be as wowed by her photos as I am. [Oh, and in case you're wondering, I do cook everyday in full lip gloss and an apron coordinated with my potholders. I can't believe you even had to ask!]
Living in New York City, a place where you barely have to walk 10 blocks to find shaved black truffles over artisanal french fries or a fois-stuffed date by a chef with their name on that door, the one a few doors down and several products in the frozen food aisle, I couldn’t honestly give a damn about making futsy food like that at home. By the time I climb my 51 stairs to my apartment in two-inch heels with three heavy bags and, a dripping umbrella and a box of books our house guest has forwarded here, all I am thinking about is the kind of meal that will cancel it all out, and that meal involves not a single ingredient cooked sous-vide.