I’ve spent way too much time this summer trying to dream up a pasta salad that wasn’t boring, or predictable, or well, you know, the kind of familiar pasta salad territory you don’t need me to go over for you. Because I love a good pasta salad, I just don’t find them often. Usually, they’re missing the freshness you’d expect from something you eat in the summer, when the markets are bursting at the seams with peak-season produce. Often the dressing is a throw-away, either a too-plain vinaigrette or heaps of mayonnaise, lending itself to more of a mass than a salad. So I knew what I didn’t want, I just hadn’t figured out what I did.
A couple weeks ago, I had a fantastic warm asparagus salad at a nearby restaurant, one I immediately swore I’d make at home. It had segments of white and green asparagus tossed with goat cheese and a tarragon and lemony mint vinaigrette and it was piled on a bed of red endive, my favorite. It was stunning. It was delicious. Alas, this is not it. What a tease I am, right?
I wish I could tell you that the last meal cooked in the first Smitten Kitchen was a triumph, a fitting coda to four-plus years in a sun-drenched Manhattan kitchen with enough space to put everything away (not that I’m pointing fingers or anything, new kitchen) and space enough for two people (and at least one growing midsection) to settle comfortably within it. Alas, that was not the case.
I’ve been somewhat fascinated by the idea of putting potatoes in a pasta dish since I first saw a recipe for it a couple years ago, and my Inner American gasped “All of that starch! How totally unhealthy!” forgetting, as usual, that the people in the world that eat dishes like this are for the most part, 75 percent of the size of your average American.
It’s a tough thing, you know, growing up and realizing you might not be exactly what you once thought you might. I am most certainly not the next Susanna Hoffs, Joan Jett or Mrs. Jon Bon Jovi; I’m not a doctor or astronaut but more fitting for this conversation, I always thought I would be an avid ingester of all sorts of greens and here I am, still quite put off by most of them.
[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!]
Believe it or not, I’ve actually cooked dinner a few times this month. Like, three! Maybe even four. I don’t know, does a corn tortillas chmeared with refried beans, salsa and toasted with some shredded cheese on top count as dinner? Oh it does? Then definitely, most certainly four. We’re all about the refined eatin’ at the smittenkitchen.