So once you have your homemade ricotta, the next question is: what to do with it?
Me, I decided to be ultra-spontaneous. Well mostly spontaneous. On Saturday, I bought a nice loaf of bread, made the ricotta, left it overnight in the refrigerator to drain. Then, on Sunday, with dinner guests coming at 5:30, I opened up my CSA box in the morning to see what was in there. Whatever I found, I’d make up some kind of bruschetta. Lo and behold, I found…
“Dip” is a funny word because, really, does it make you hungry? It connotes a drop in the road or a dippy person. It’s also kind of retro. “How about some chips and dip,” says a mom on a black-and-white TV show from the past, doesn’t matter which one. Oh: it also connotes chewing tobacco which my college roommate used to spit into a cup. He’d leave the cup around our dorm room and every so often I’d glance into it and want to puke. So dip, yeah. It’s not the sexiest food word.
Any time I’ve ever made deviled eggs, I’ve basically spooned a gloppy mayo-yolk mixture into floppy egg whites and masked the ugliness with either smoked paprika (see here) or weird garnishes (see my Deviled Eggs Three Ways). The problem was always that filling: never stiff enough to pipe, always wet enough to spoon. This time around, I decided to change my game by deferring to a master chef’s technique; that would be April Bloomfield’s.
One thing that I like about cooking is that even if think you know a recipe, there’s always a better version lurking around the corner. It’s always possible to make something better. So, for example, homemade hummus: I’ve been making it for a while. Generally, I just strain a can of chickpeas (reserving the liquid), toss it into a food processor with some garlic, some tahini, some lemon juice, a splash of olive oil, salt and a little of that liquid. Whir it up and I’ve got hummus. I’m usually pretty happy with the results.
Remember that time I made a stovetop-charred eggplant dip (aka baba ganoush)? Really? You don’t remember that? Because that was like a week or two ago. You really ought to have your memory checked.
Anyhoo, I realize that many of you may have been intimidated by the idea of stovetop charring. “Put an eggplant on my stovetop?” said an old granny who reads my blog. “Not in my house!” Here, granny, is a smart alternative.
Sometimes you don’t want to cook, you just want to play with fire. I bet many chefs would admit as much (see: guys and grilling, for example). The other day, still on the hunt for our next apartment (a tedious hunt, by the way) I found myself, in a trance, wandering into my kitchen, turning on the gas stove, and holding a skinny Japanese eggplant over the flame with tongs. Was I having a serial killer moment? Maybe. But I’d learned this technique from Chef Anita Lo while writing my cookbook.
Spring peas require patience. You have to take the time to go to the farmer’s market to find them and then you have to remove them from their pods. If you have a lazy afternoon ahead and you want to sit on your front porch rocking in a chair and chatting with neighbors, by all means, shell a bunch of peas. Me? When a recipe calls for fresh peas vs. frozen peas, I always opt for frozen peas. Because they’re always so good and sweet. And because I don’t have a porch. And because I’m lazy. Stop judging me.
It’s time for chopped liver to make a comeback. I mean think about it: chefs flaunt their charcuterie and pâtés at places like Bar Boulud in New York and Salt’s Cure here in L.A. And what is chopped liver if not liver pâté’s chunky Jewish cousin? I grew up eating the stuff–my grandmother used to warn (as I mentioned in this old post), “Don’t eat that, it’s an organ meat!”–and to this day I’m not quite sure what she meant by that. But you’ll be surprised–if you put this on your coffee table with some crackers and a few whisky drinks (Craig made Manhattans) it’ll get quickly gobbled up.