Nothing sets me off like sanctimoniousness; that holier-than-thou, self-righteous, sermon-on-the-mount style of food writing. Often the sentiments are well-intentioned but everything is done so humorlessly, it’s hard for the average person to connect. And so it goes with vegetables. The general take, these days, seems to be that we should eat less dead bodies and more living green stuff. OK, I can get on board with that, though often the images associated with this new way of life are plates of kale and quinoa and other foods that start with a hard “K” sound. Can’t vegetables be sexy? Decadent? The kind of special dinner you might ask for on your birthday? Well, let’s not get carried away, but here’s a dinner that’s not at all good for you but is good for you in the broader sense because it’s got no dead bodies in it, just vegetables. Actually just one vegetable then lots of butter, flour, whole milk, cheese, and bread crumbs. There’s not a sanctimonious thing about it.
Talking about the best way to cook farro is a bit like talking about the best place to have a colonoscopy; useful information, perhaps, but not anything to get excited about. Hey, I shared your feelings until I had the privilege of cooking with the great American chef Suzanne Goin at the LA Times Book Festival last April. Right in front of my eyes, she prepared a farro salad with a garlic and parsley dressing that wasn’t punishing in any way; in fact, it was quite the opposite: light and herbal and fluffy and fragrant. The most shocking part? The highlight was the farro itself; each grain stood apart and was both tender and toothsome in a way most farro isn’t. I knew I had to learn the Suzanne Goin method for making it.
Oh kale, you’re everywhere. You’re in my belly right now because I just had you for lunch (a raw salad that was a little too spicy from Little Dom’s Deli). You’re a fad, you’re a trend. You’re chips, you’re juice. You’re unavoidable in L.A.
And here I am putting a recipe with kale in it up on the blog. Have I no shame? Am I the equivalent of an insecure middle schooler who chases the popular kids around yelling, “Hey, guys, wait for me!” (Funny: when I started high school, one of the first friends I made–an older girl–actually said, “You seem like the kind of kid who’d say, ‘Hey guys, wait for me!'”) Whatever.
What is grilling? Does it have to happen outside? Why?
These are questions I often ask myself, especially since I’ve yet to be able to buy my dream grill (a Weber kettle drum charcoal grill) to begin my own grilling education. In the interim, I’ve read–in fact, I’ve written in my own cookbook–that you can replicate the effects of outdoor grilling with a cast iron skillet at home. Problem is, any time I’d ever done this I added oil to the skillet and whatever I was “grilling” ended up tasting like it was fried in oil, not grilled. What would happen if I heated my cast iron skillet until super hot and added food to it without any fat? Would that result in a more “grilled” flavor? I decided to give that a try with cauliflower steaks.
When I declared my pescatarianism last week, I was mostly being tongue-in-cheek because I was pretty sure it wouldn’t stick. I’m still not sure it’ll stick. But so far, it’s stuck, and at the same dinner party when I made that spring pea puree, I needed a vegetarian entree that would impress in a way that didn’t make anyone think: “Vegetarian entree.” Rifling through a recent Food & Wine, I found a recipe for David Kinch’s Eggplant Dirty Rice and thought: “Ooooh.” Once I made it, that “oooh” transformed into a “whoah.” This is powerful stuff, one of the best vegetarian dinners I’ve had in a long time.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, a musical can be built around the poetry of Ezra Pound.
Wait, that was a ridiculous line from last week’s Smash (as recapped, hilariously, by Rachel Shukert here). What I meant to say was: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, it’s worth knowing how to make a curry. I’ve done it with chickpeas, I’ve done it with cauliflower, and today I’ll show you how to do it with a sweet potato.
Pride in the name of dinner: I’m really proud of this healthy dish I came up with last week. It started in the morning when I cracked open a bag of black chickpeas, poured them into a large red bowl, filled it with cold water and left for the day. 8 hours later, when I came home, I drained off the liquid, put the chickpeas in a pot, added more cold water to cover and threw in a head of garlic, a bay leaf and a few dried Arbol chiles. Up to a simmer it went, I added salt (breaking convention) and cooked for about 90 minutes until a chickpea tasted creamy.
They look like the aliens in Toy Story, the ones that gaze up and worship The Claw; only those aliens are cute and kohlrabi, which I often see at the farmer’s market, is rather beguiling. What is it? What are you supposed to do with it? What does it taste like? Last week, I bought a few orbs and brought them home in order to finally unpack the mystery of kohlrabi.