It all happened very quickly. My friend Jimmy IMed me and asked what we were up to, we said nada, decided to all go to a movie but first, I invited him over for dinner. “It won’t be fancy,” I warned. “Probably just some pasta.” (I had penne in the cabinet and cauliflower in the refrigerator, so I knew I could make this recipe, minus the broccoli.) But after the plan was set, my hosting gene kicked in and I felt the need to also make a dessert and an appetizer. The dessert? I’ll tell you about that later. But the appetizer came together in no time, and it had everything to do with having three ingredients on hand: spicy mustard, a box of Triscuits and a can of sardines.
Let me say right off the bat: this is not a great recipe.
It has the potential to be a great recipe–I really wanted it to be a great recipe–but as it stands right now, it’s in need of some serious tweaking. And that tweaking may just be the simple addition of a Tablespoon of olive oil, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
When I’m home alone and making dinner for myself, my standards change dramatically. If Craig’s there (and he usually is), I know he has certain expectations about what constitutes a dinner. That’s fair, because most people do. But alone? My standards go out the window and I just improvise a meal with whatever I have on hand. And the other night, while Craig was in London showing his movie at the Raindance Film Festival, I happened to have the following on hand: mushrooms, thyme, cream and bread. That’s why I decided to make something I’d never made before, something I wasn’t even sure constituted a proper dinner. That something was creamed mushrooms on toast.
Now that I’m a health guru you might suspect that I made granola last week because of my new fitness regimen. But you’d be wrong, very wrong indeed; I made granola last week because of the newest cookbook in my collection, a gorgeous cookbook that I bought for my friend Lisa’s 30th birthday and that I secretly wished I’d kept for myself. But then the publisher offered to send me a review copy and I was in heaven. The book in question is “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito of the Baked Bakery in Red Hook and next to Martha Stewart’s Baking Book this may quickly become my favorite baking book in my collection.
There are certain dishes that I don’t like until I make them myself. For example, this may come as a shock to you, but I used to hate–and I mean hate–macaroni and cheese. I know! But I grew up in a non-cheese household (longtime readers know that my dad hates cheese) so whenever I’d go to someone’s house and there’d be mac and cheese for dinner, I’d have to make up an excuse not to eat it (“I’m allergic,” I’d say.)
But then, once I got into cooking, I made a few mac and cheeses (here’s one here) and once I understood the basic components of the dish–the bechamel, the way the cheese melts into the sauce, the way it all bakes in the oven–I could stomach other people’s mac and cheese because I understood what it was and how it was made.
Now, after last night’s effort, I feel the same way about deviled eggs.
Ask someone if they want chocolate cake, chances are they’ll say: “Ya-huh!”
Ask someone if they want a pickled wax bean, their reaction may not be so kind. I learned this the hard way after making a jar of pickled yellow wax beans from the Park Slope farmer’s market a few weeks ago. The recipe comes from Chez Panisse Vegetables, a book that proves to be an excellent resource in summer when vegetables are plentiful at farmer’s markets and you don’t know what to do with them. Case in point? Yellow wax beans. It was from this book that I got the idea to pickle them.
And you know what? Even though most guests balked at the opportunity to try one, that was better for me because I am now a pickled yellow wax bean convert. They are terrific. Why are they so terrific? They’re pickled in cider vinegar, which makes them punchy, fruity, and intense and the other aromatics–garlic, a red chile–only heighten the experience. Plus, they’re incredibly easy to make. You just stick the beans in a jar (that you’ve cleaned and boiled) and pour over boiling cider vinegar. That’s it. See? Isn’t that easy? Chocolate cake isn’t so easy.
And chocolate cake isn’t good for you. And these are–so make them and then keep them all to yourself. Or offer them to others, but don’t be insulted when they say “no.”
Let’s talk about shrimp, baby, let’s talk about you and me…
Ok, that was a Salt-N-Pepa joke. If you don’t get that joke, click here (I couldn’t embed it!)
Now then, salt and pepper shrimp. What are they? I’d never had them until I went to Brooklyn Fish Camp last week with Robbie Baitz. They are shrimp, fried with their shells on, and then dusted in salt and pepper. Hot from the fryer, you crunch through that skin and it’s like a perfectly cooked shrimp wrapped in a potato chip. To quote the Barefoot Contessa, “How bad could that be, fool?”
When you’ve been blogging for almost five years and many people read your blog, you start to receive things in the mail. Cookbooks, for example. I get many cookbooks in the mail, also general food books like books about oysters. I have a book about oysters on my shelf that I’ve never read.
Sometimes, though, you get sent something that excites you. And such was the case when I received a preview of Andrew Carmellini’s new cookbook, Urban Italian.