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.
When I made my version of baked ratatouille back in July, I had intended to follow up with suggestions of other things you could do with leftovers, or leftover ingredients, as I always have leftover components but have not yet found a store that will sell me two-thirds of one zucchini and a half an eggplant. I really hate having a quarter eggplant leftover, because I’m very unlikely to use it and incapable of throwing it away, so what usually happens is I stash it in the fridge where it gets forgotten about, rots, is found a month later as when I scream in horror and throw it away afterall, having flashbacks to that time I lived with three friends and we were cleaning out the fridge and found something completely awful way in the back and Dave said “sorry, that was my kiwi” and I was like, “uh, that’s a lemon.”
My favorite side dish takes five minutes to make. It has only three steps. No garlic or shallots get minced, nothing gets topped with butter, and shockingly, it involves no truffle salt. It has only two ingredients, and the only reason I’ve held out this long telling you about it is because when I see a recipe that swears it will combine two ingredients in an entirely new and innovative way, I roll my eyes.
If any thing could tear me from my at times maniacal devotion to small spaces, walk-up apartments, crowded sidewalks and our crystal rattling at 11:30 p.m. on a Sunday while the stench of hot tar seeps in through our leaky windows because the City decided this would be a good time to repave the avenue below, it would be the suburban pastoral longing for a backyard garden where I could grow tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and herbs.
Tell me I’m not alone in this: You saw Ratatouille, fell in love with Remy (though you still jumped a foot in the air when you saw a significantly less-charming rodent scamper across your path on the way home) and found yourself with a pressing craving, not for the heavy and too-often soggy traditional Provençal ratatouille, but that kaleidoscope of spiraled colors they served to the haughty and (spoiler!) soon-humbled restaurant critic.
Here in the Northeast, where our winters get frigidly cold and our summers are known to snap into the high 90s for days on end, I have a somewhat sinister theory about the weather, and that is that it’s mocking you. It’s waiting for you to snap and when you do, it has a hearty laugh at your expense. Bust out the ski jacket, 20-foot scarf and Gore-Tex accessories the first cold day in October? Snicker, snicker. Sink down in front of the a/c with a bag of ice on your forehead the first 90-degree, 100 percent humidity day in June? Imagine the sun’s Mr. Burns-ian cackle, muttering “excellent.”
Despite the fact that it takes some kind of crazy to cook a separate meal while embedded in preparing a multi-course meal for a dinner party, yet another night of take-out — even from my beloved Kitchen Market — seemed unbearable last night, and seeing as it was the first night of Hanukah, it was only appropriate to make a batch of latkes. But tradition is so boring, isn’t it? Thank goodness for Food & Wine’s deliriously enticing latke-vodka party (this is the second year in a row I am kicking myself for not having one — 2007 Deb, get on that!), pairing them with the wasabi cream topping, the suggested accompaniment for the sweet potato variety. Awesome, awesome. We skipped the caviar and what-not on top as only one of us would have loved that and it was not the person standing over the stove, tra-la-la. It all went perfectly with a lightly-dressed napa cabbage salad and, you betcha, a hefty glass of wine.