One of the best food books I read last year but rudely never got around to telling you about (in my defense, this time last year was a little nuts) was a 135-page, photo-free and straightforward guide called Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well by the New York Times former restaurant critic and sometimes newsroom editor Sam Sifton. And although I realize there is barely a page on the internet or of printed matter near you right now not currently angling to be the one that gets to walk you through the biggest home cooking holiday of the year next week, I like this one more. Maybe it’s because one of the earliest lines in the book is “You can go your whole life and then wake up one morning and look in the refrigerator at this animal carcass the size of a toddler and think: I have to cook that today. There is no need to worry. Thanksgiving does not have to be a drag,” and continues in that empathetic but not remotely patronizing tone for the remainder of the book, cheering you on through turkey purchases and homemade stock, classic sides and newer ones worthy of consideration, game plans and even tidbits on seating, such as whether it’s okay to separately seat the Republican, Marxist and Free Spirit factions of your extended family (in short: yes, absolutely yes).
Green Beans Archive
I’m pretty sure I had a normal relationship to all things stringy and green when I started this site, but if my archives are any indication, at some point in 2008, something shifted and I became a green bean fiend. It might have even been May of that year, a month that be began with a simple summery salad but by month’s end, I was forcing Alex to endure takeout from a medicore French restaurant up to twice a week, just so I could have their side dish of skinny green beans with a pat of butter, some shallots and tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice. (When he cut me off, I simply went into the kitchen and attempted them myself.) I began remembering which restaurants cooked green beans perfectly each time, like the one on 7th Avenue that served them with roast chicken, buried in jus under a pile mashed potatoes and I literally ate them before the salty, crispy skin. I began judging places harshly if my beans flapped or flopped on a plate. I could speak unhealthily at length about various cooking times and what texture they’d leave the beans.
I wasn’t kidding last week when I said that I have staged an intervention with myself and am trying my hardest to cook more things at home that can be even loosely construed as dinner. I mean, somehow the farmers markets are bursting with beans and greens and peppers and potatoes and peaches and… And I ate (average) pad thai for lunch. It doesn’t even compute.
If you think my slaw affliction is bad, let me introduce you to my potato salad habit. There’s that everything-but-the-kitchen-sink version, with its pickles and onions and vinegar and mayo and mustard and celery and then hard-boiled eggs, as if there were a risk of potato salad monotony. Then there’s the stepped-up dilled version, where you start by making your own cucumber pickles the night before and then finish it with radishes. It’s heaven in a Central European bowl. Oh, and now there’s this pesto too, just perfect for the mayo-phobic out there and look, it has green beans! It must be healthy.
About a month ago, I told you that tomato season is the highlight of my culinary year, or at least the highlight of the parts I can buy at a Greenmarket. And then I went on about slow-roasted tomatoes for a few paragraphs and proceeded to leave you right there. At slow-roasted tomatoes. Because you know what? Once you discover them, you might lose the few weeks that follow.
Nearly a year ago, I told you about my favorite side dish. But what I failed to tell you is that these things change suddenly for no apparent reason. One day I’ll try something I’m certain sounds too uninteresting to be executed well–in that case, zucchini, almonds and a bit of parmesan, barely cooked–and the flavor blows my mind to the point that I must eat it that night, the next one and all the days that follow, then pausing for a couple weeks just to pick it up once more.
As soon as the weather gets sweeter outside, I lose all interest in make any elaborate effort in the kitchen. It’s not that I don’t want to make dinner; a girl cannot live on tapas and cocktails at sidewalk restaurants alone, though lord knows I have tried. In the end, I just don’t want to fuss, and with all of the bright, seasonal produce slowly trickling into the markets, there’s no reason to. That’s the real secret of super-fresh food: you don’t need to do a lot to it to make it grand.