A thing I have learned over the last 10 years (!) here is that people have fairly bifurcated opinions of eggplant. Some find it to be the greatest, especially when it is at its most eggplant-y
, others don’t care what
you do with it, they’re never going to be converted, but even the most eggplant-equivocal agree on one thing: eggplant parmesan is the bee’s knees. I am, however, the one that’s ambivalent about it. To take beautiful coins of eggplant, batter and fry them to a profound and well-seasoned golden crisp just to bury them in texture-killing amounts of sauce and melted cheese feels wrong to me, disrespectful of the labor involved and calories embedded in gloriously deep-fried foods. (I feel the same way about fries smothered in sauces and gravies. Unfollow me now!)
All of these concerns go out the window when making a sub, however, which is what we called hoagies/heroes/grinders in my half of New Jersey growing up. The eggplant parm sub is in a way-too-small category of Great Vegetarian Sandwiches*, and I don’t know when they went out of style, but I don’t see them around very often anymore. The eggplant’s texture is less compromised than it gets in casserole form, and so much extra from a seeded roll (it must be seeded; don’t even ask), I find you can even make compromises with the eggplant itself (baking instead of frying breaded eggplant or roasting coins without breading at all) and not feel like you’re missing a thing.
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Although I will happily eat burrata — that lush mozzarella-on-the-outside, creamy-ricotta-center cheese from Puglia’s Razza Podolica’s cows by way of skilled craftsmen — with a knife and fork, quartered on a plate, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, flaky sea and pepper with or without a few tiny tomatoes all around and sometimes even some basil from this day until the end of days and never want for anything else, two small things about this will forever plague me: this is an expensive undertaking and when I’m done, I will still probably be hungry for dinner.
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Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl, happy and in love. He liked chocolate and cheesecake and peanut butter and coffee and she, rather luckily for him, liked to bake. When they’d been married for one year, she made him a chocolate caramel cheesecake
on his birthday. Year two, another cheesecake, this one with cubes of brownie throughout
. Three, an epic chocolate peanut butter cake
. Four, an espresso chiffon cake with fudge frosting
. And then a month later a baby came along and it appears she next made him a birthday cake five years after that
, and only, from what I can gather, because she was procrastinating and didn’t want to pack for their move. I’m not saying that if you like homemade birthday cake you might consider not having kids (gasp
!) but I’m also not saying it either, you know?
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If you go to Mexico City
and leave without a pressing, relentless craving for melon, or really just about any fruit, sprinkled with tajín
(salsa en polva), a branded seasoning powder comprised of chiles, lime and salt, I think you need to go back because you did it wrong. It feels melodramatic to call this intersection of tangy spice and juicy fruit a national dish, but the spice blend is a staple on tables and at street vendors all over Mexico, and I dare say more popular than ketchup is here. If you go to someone’s home and they have a bottle of tajin in their cabinet, it’s usually right up front and there’s a spare somewhere near because it would be unfathomable to run out. If asked, the person will probably tell you that they had it once over melon, mango, pineapple or cucumbers one time, or maybe in a michelada
and they could never eat it another way again. I hope you consider that a warning.
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When I moved to New York City 16 years ago I am pretty sure that on some level I believed if I went far enough above 14th Street with money I did not have, I’d reenter some gauzy version of New York from the past, you know, stuffy restaurants with tufted leather banquettes, paintings in gilded frames, black and white tiled floors and stories about when Sinatra was a regular. Places where mutton chops, Lobster Newburg, Baked Alaska and things in champagne cream sauce never went off the menu. It’s not entirely clear to me why I thought I was moving to 1950 but needless to say, in the actual New York City I moved to, my first years were filled with the typical stuff, a walkup apartment in an illegal sublet, a terrible job, a lot of wine, virtually no hangovers (because: youth) and a lot of five-dumplings-for-a-dollar and $1.50 slices at 1 a.m.
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Stop what you’re doing. Dinner tonight is the very best kind there is: it has five ingredients including
the ones to make the pizza dough. It’s seasonal, which means you can use it to decimate your CSA pile-up. And it doesn’t care what else you had in mind; recipes like this exist to disrupt the best-laid meal plans and that’s my favorite thing about them. It is, in fact, pretty much the only thing I want out of any dish, for it, at least for a time to be the thing you have to eat next because now nothing else will do.
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For some of us, classic French toast — not particularly French or toasted, to be honest, unless we’re speaking of pain perdu — is sufficient on a weekend morning to make it feel exceptional. For others, it’s casserole-style or bust because baking it in one big pan is vastly more enjoyable than dipping and frying on repeat while people who are not cooking come by and steal slices before you even get to sit down. But I’m going to make the argument that once you have Brit-style bread pudding casserole
, uplifted by the tiniest step that is buttering the bread before fanning in out in a pan, there’s no other way.
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This is not a recipe for eggplant caviar, but caught up in an adoration of July eggplants too lovely to roast just to grind up, it is loosely inspired by it. If you’re unfamiliar with eggplant caviar, well, you need to come over to my in-law’s where it is never not on the table, or basically anywhere else my mother in-law goes, because she’s not allowed to show up without it. Just to confuse you, there’s also caviar on the table and they have nothing to do with each other, although this is a matter of argument. The Joy of Cooking and others liken eggplant caviar to a “poor man’s caviar,” a tasty substitute for those who could not afford the real stuff, but actual Russians will tell you that caviar was affordable in the Soviet Union and everyone was poor
. Read more »
That was close. We almost went half the summer without a new pie recipe. I do solemnly swear to never let that happen. Read more »
Oh, hi, I am ready for summer now. What did I miss?
Because the first half of this summer was so busy — a manuscript due, a redesign set off into the world, a birthday, and a zillion other bits of happy work/life chaos — I’m in this funny position of looking up for the first time mid-July and realizing that no mysterious person has arrived while I was buried in winter recipe testing and font fine-tunings and filled my freezer with popsicles, put a bowl of heirloom tomatoes on the counter, ready for their caprese closeup [realistically, this doesn’t happen even if I had been paying attention, but let me enjoy this rose-colored Pinterest fantasy just the same] and beach? Hadn’t seen it since May. I have about seven weeks left to catch up, except I know at least five of those will be buried under recipe testing and book edits, which basically means it’s now or never to do all the summer things I haven’t yet. Read more »