I had some very special guests coming over this past Wednesday and so I spent the weekend before that trying to figure out what to make. My first destination was the top shelf of my cookbook collection, where, as you now know, I keep the books I’m most excited to cook from these days. The book that I reached for was Nancy Silverton’s Mozza at Home which, I’ve come to believe, is Nancy Silverton’s best cookbook.
I own all of Nancy’s books–from her iconic Breads from the La Brea Bakery to The Food of Campanile (which she wrote with her then-husband, Mark Peel)–but this one is really geared towards the home cook, much more so than the others. Sure, it’s nice to know how she makes her sourdough bread (and I made that recipe once from Breads from the La Brea Bakery, almost a decade ago, creating a wild yeast starter with grapes and flour and water in an open Tupperware container… my roommate Lauren wasn’t thrilled), but it’s even better to know how she feeds her actual friends who are coming over for dinner. And as I flipped through the pages, I suddenly found my answer in the least likely recipe you’d ever expect to find in a Nancy Silverton cookbook: her version of Dean Fearing’s Frito Pie.
Recently on Twitter, someone named @Bobby Tweeted: “The worst writing online is those quirky 17-paragraph preambles recipe bloggers post before telling you what to put in your fuckin lasagna.”
You might think that a Tweet like this (which has over 12,000 likes and 3,000 RTs) might enrage someone like me who spent over a decade of my life writing quirky seventeen-paragraph preambles before telling people what to put in their f-ing lasagna, but actually, I totally agree with this Tweet. In fact, this Tweet speaks to why I kind of gave up food blogging two years ago. The writing seemed besides the point; I was just becoming a resource for recipes rather than a person whose words mattered. In a screenplay or a script for a TV show, every word matters; in fact, sometimes you get into hour-long discussions with producers or actors about one or two words that you feel strongly about. So when the writing on food blogs started to feel disposable, I lost interest. What’s the point of writing on here if no one really cares about what you’re saying?
My friend Toby spent a summer in Bologna during college and over the past few weeks (months?) he’s been talking to me about going to this new Italian restaurant in downtown L.A. called Rossoblu that cooks food from the region. “Yes, we should totally go!” I said in that tone that suggests that there’s a good chance this will never happen. Mind you, I love Toby and I loved the idea of going to a new Italian restaurant in downtown L.A., but the logistics seemed a little tricky. For starters: driving downtown, that’s not fun. Plus I make a lot of pasta at home, did I really need to pay for it at a restaurant? And reading about it online, it sounded very heavy (fried bread? lots of meats and cheese?). But then it was Toby’s birthday and I said, “We should go to Rossoblu!” in a tone that suggested I really meant it. So last night, we finally went.
You’re going to start calling me a broken record on here. In fact, me saying that “I’m a broken record on here” feels like something I’ve said before.
Essentially, I’m going to hit a few of the same themes in this post I’ve been hitting lately: (1) watching cooking shows on PBS; (2) going to McCall’s Meat and Fish. Let’s start with PBS. I watch all of the cooking shows on PBS to get ideas and recently I was watching one I’ve never watched before, Nick Stellino’s show. He’s a jovial Italian man who speaks with a thick Italian accent and with lots of enthusiasm for the food he makes. Recently, he was extolling the virtues of his wife’s pasta. Her trick? She stirs ricotta in at the end. I made a mental note to try that someday. That someday happened on Tuesday night.
This will shock none of you, especially if you know me in real life, but I’m something of a wimp.
Roller coasters? Terrifying. Horror movies? As if. (Though I do love Rosemary’s Baby, but mostly for Ruth Gordon). And, in the culinary department, I’ve been avoiding chiles for most of my adult life. Sure, I can handle a few pickled jalapeños in my nachos–and, as everyone knows, they’re a key ingredient in Eggs Adam Roberts–but the idea of cooking with raw, un-pickled, fiery chiles has never appealed to me. Until recently…
There are two kinds of childhoods to have in America: the one where you’re allowed to have sugar cereal and the one where you’re not.
I’m the product of the former sort of childhood and Craig’s the product of the latter. If scientists were to study us to see how my consumption of Lucky Charms, Corn Pops, and Frosted Rice Krispies (yes, that was a thing) and Craig’s non-consumption of these breakfast sugar bombs affected us in later life, they probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I have an enormous sweet tooth and Craig usually wants to skip dessert. Also, I do crossword puzzles in pen, get to the movies twenty minutes early, and I almost always choose escalators over elevators when given the choice. Whether this is the result of eating sugar cereal as a child is anyone’s guess.
Since you last knew me, I’ve developed a few food-related obsessions. The first one is plates. I collect vintage plates now on Ebay and Etsy and I have quite a collection (OK, here’s a peek on Instagram). I’m also obsessed with old cookbooks, usually ones that have historic value (The Lutece Cookbook, for example) but sometimes I purchase cookbooks that are pretty campy and semi-historic (The Uta Hagen Cookbook, The Liberace Cookbook, The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Cookbook). Those collectible cookbooks held the highest position on my old cookbook shelf, a shelf that was beginning to look like a real mess. Here’s what I’m talking about…
I know I’m late to the party with this one (the party being the “put tahini into your desserts” party) but I’ve also not been blogging for two years, so cut me some slack!
The truth is, during my blogging hiatus, I was much more likely to make recipes that I’d already made before than to try new ones. That was part of the relief of not blogging: there wasn’t this sense of, “I’ve got to feed the beast.” (Sorry for calling you a beast.) But now that I’m back in the saddle, I find myself thinking of you, my beautiful beast; and so when I had friends coming over for dinner the other night, I decided not to make my usual chocolate chip cookies. I decided to make the kind with tahini.