I’m not normally quid pro quo when it comes to food, but when you make something as delicious as David Lebovitz’s mint chip ice cream, someone’s gotta give you something pretty good for dinner before you offer them a whole container. Good thing I’m friends with Harry and Cris. Cris is from Bordeaux (that’s in France) and he’s one of the best natural cooks I know. The other night, they invited us over for pizza.
My podcast is having an effect on me. I had Jenni Konner on my second episode and she talked all about letting people into her kitchen during a dinner party, giving people tasks, sharing responsibilities. That’s the total opposite of what I normally do; normally, I get everything done hours ahead then just warm everything up when everyone gets there. It’s a control thing. It’s also an anxiety thing. Basically, it’s a me thing.
Not too long ago, my friend Cary asked if he could cook with me and, with Jenni’s podcast on my mind, I said: “Sure.” I didn’t know what to expect. I went to the market in the morning and bought a bunch of tomatoes, green peppers, and a melon. He texted that he was picking up prune plums from his farmer’s market.
I’m not the world’s biggest zucchini fan. It’s fine: I like it in bread, I guess I like it in a salad. Maybe on a pizza?
But there’s one recipe from my archives that really made zucchini come alive for me. That’s this side dish of Zucchini with Almonds from The Red Cat in New York. Here’s what you do: you sauté slivered almonds in olive oil and just as they start to get toasty you add a bunch of sliced zucchini. Add a big pinch of salt, toss all around, and serve right away with a squeeze of lemon.
I’m going through a real sorbet / ice cream-making phase right now. If you follow me on Instagram (and how can you not?!), you saw me make a vanilla bean ice cream a few weeks ago, and a Concord grape sorbet more recently. Not only was it fun to dig out my old ice cream maker (it’s nothing fancy; just a crappy old Cuisinart, with a canister I keep in the freezer), but it’s been EXTRA fun to have homemade frozen treats waiting for me every night after dinner. I have a real sweet tooth, but eating a whole dessert every night is a lot, so I just have a spoonful or two of homemade ice cream or sorbet, and I’m good.
Yesterday, I was at the farmer’s market and I decided to brave the line at the only organic stand (they’re so popular, they scared away all the others). As I gathered up heirloom tomatoes and zucchini, I spied really gorgeous strawberries. Even though strawberries are more of a spring thing (aren’t they?), these specimens were pretty undeniable.
One of the reasons that I stopped blogging for as long as I did was that I felt like I was starting to repeat myself. How many times could I tell you about making cavatappi with sun-dried tomatoes? Or how I roast a chicken?
Now, on this new-ish iteration of the blog (where my m.o. is to be much more casual about the whole thing), I find myself repeatedly talking about Cookbook in Echo Park. It’s where I do most of my grocery shopping and it’s pretty much the best food store I’ve ever been to anywhere. Look what I saw when I walked in there yesterday…
Yesterday I went food shopping with my friend Diana. We went to Lassen’s and the produce looked fine, not great, so I grabbed two cauliflowers (cauliflower?) even though it’s the height of summer and I should be buying corn and tomatoes. Then we went across the street to the butcher (McCall’s) and despite the vast array of meat and fish options — short ribs, head-on shrimp — I chose two skin-on chicken breasts because I was just feeling very basic yesterday.
Sometimes, though, the most basic, bland, white ingredients (chicken breasts and cauliflower!) can be canvasses for the creative mind. To quote George Seurat in Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George: “White / a blank chicken breast or cauliflower / the challenge? Bring order to the whole.”
Super excited to share with you loyal blog readers my brand new podcast, LUNCH THERAPY, which just launched today on iTunes. The concept is a riff on that old Brillat-Savarin quote from Iron Chef: “Tell me what you eat: I will tell you who you are.” Only here, it’s “tell me what you eat for lunch.”
My first guest is superstar RYAN O’CONNELL, whose new Netflix show Special just earned FOUR Emmy nominations (including one for best actor). We go deep on his Sweetgreen salad, tracing it back to childhood traumas involving room temperature Taco Bell.
I’ve got lots of amazing guests in store, so SUBSCRIBE and, if you enjoy what you hear, please give it a nice rating in iTunes. Here’s to an exciting new therapeutic adventure!
The greatest sin you can commit at any dinner party, as far as I’m concerned, is to not have enough food. ALWAYS, ALWAYS make too much. There are two reasons for this: 1. No one ever leaves a dinner party saying, “My oh my, there were far too many delicious things to eat!” and 2. Whatever doesn’t get eaten, you can use the next day.
And sometimes — not always, but sometimes — the thing that you make the next day is even better than the thing you made for the dinner party. Case in point: this tomato salad shakshuka which, hyperbole police alert, may be the single best thing that I’ve cooked this year.