The First Meal

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The first meal that you cook in a new apartment is very, very important. We all remember what happened last time, don’t we? I attempted to inaugurate our Park Slope apartment three years ago with Edna Lewis’s fried chicken (fried in butter and lard) and didn’t get the fat hot enough. The result? Gooey, gloppy, undercooked chicken and a cursed apartment that gave us bad heat over three harsh winters. (OK, I exaggerate: I liked that apartment. But the heat did suck).

For the first meal here in our new West Village digs, I had to play to my strengths. And my strengths fall into two categories: pasta and dessert. Everything else, eh, but pasta and dessert? That’s where I really shine.

I may have said this before (Lord knows, after almost six years of blogging, I may begin to repeat myself) but my most comforting of comfort foods is fusilli with tomato sauce. It’s easy to explain why: growing up, this is one of the few dishes I’d eat at home. More often than not, we’d eat dinner out, but when we were left at home with a babysitter, my mom would have a box of fusilli and a jar of Prego ready to go.

So I associate pasta and tomato sauce with comfort and home: a perfect first meal for the new apartment.

Craig, on the other hand, isn’t a huge fan of pasta with just plain old tomato sauce. Before I met him, I’d make it really simple: just some garlic, maybe some basil, and a can of tomatoes. When I made that for him, he did not swoon. He kind of shrugged.

That’s when I turned to Puttanesca. When I want to make a comforting bowl of pasta with tomato sauce these days, I use this recipe: it’s got garlic, anchovies, capers and red pepper flakes. In other words, it explodes with flavor. Craig loves it, I love it, and my new kitchen loves it too. See how it looks cooking away on my new stove in my freshly painted orange kitchen?

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The best part? I wanted Parmesan to grate on top (I know, I know, sacrilegious for some, but I think it works with this b/c the only fish is anchovy, which works with Parmesan in Caesar salad–so there!) and I wasn’t happy with the Parmesan at the grocery store, so where did I go? Why I sauntered over to THE GREATEST CHEESE SHOP IN ALL OF NEW YORK Murray’s cheese, just steps away. Pretty cool, huh?! I love our new apartment.

But that’s not all I cooked on this night, the first night cooking in my new kitchen. I also decided to cook a universal people magnet: the Barefoot Contessa’s chocolate cake (see here).

If you make this cake (a simple chocolate cake with a bit of coffee in there, to intensify the flavor) people will instantly flock to your apartment to eat it. And sure enough, our friends who live in the building–Rob, Kath, Ameer, and our friend Cary (who doesn’t live in the building, but who directed an awesome movie, so that’s kind of like living in our building (huh?)) popped on over:

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Our place was a total mess, but the chocolate cake made for much merriment and good cheer at this, our inaugural night of cooking and eating. Have you ever seen anyone in better spirits than Ameer eating his chocolate cake?

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All of this bodes very well for the new place. If our first meal was this successful, who can imagine all the good things to come? And yes, Craig is still unpacking boxes and we haven’t fully assembled our IKEA furniture (actually, Craig destroyed a nightstand in a fit of IKEA rage yesterday), but we’re getting there. All it took was pasta and cake and we’re off to a great, great start.

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