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.
One reoccurring theme you’ll discover on Amateur Gourmet 2.0 is that I watch a lot of PBS cooking shows. I learned how to make a daiquiri watching Simply Ming, and then, watching Rick Bayless’s show, I learned how to make a most excellent breakfast taco.
If Ned Flanders became human and grew obsessed with Mexico, he’d have a show a lot like Rick Bayless’s. There’s an “aw shucks” charm to Bayless, but also a huge breadth of knowledge, which–at the end of every episode–he translates into something you can do at home. (Some have accused Bayles of cultural appropriation, but I don’t think that’s true of his show: most of it is a platform for Mexican chefs to show off what they do.) Anyway, this breakfast taco…
One of the best things about starting this blog again is the help that I get from you, my loyal readers.
A commenter with a wonderful name, Adam, chimed in on my last post about cocktail-making (see: “The Time I Made A Lime-Leaf Infused Daiquiri But Couldn’t Open The Cocktail Shaker”) and suggested I try a Boston shaker. I read up on it, and the concept made sense to me: instead of a vertical, tightly-sealed bullet, the Boston shaker works at an angle. At least that’s how it seemed. Then I got confirmation of that yesterday when I popped into Barkeep in Silverlake to ask all about it…
Craig’s in the middle of editing his new movie ALEX STRANGELOVE for Netflix (can’t wait for you to see it) in New York and though I planned to just stay in L.A. for the duration of the edit, two things did occur to me when he asked me to come out for a week: (1) it’d be good for our marriage for me to support and nurture Craig through the difficulties of the editing process; (2) I COULD EAT AT A BUNCH OF NEW YORK CITY RESTAURANTS!
I won’t tell you which was the more compelling factor, but there I was, last Monday, arriving at JFK and taking a cab into the city.
I’m sitting on a bench in the West Village, waiting for Craig to finish editing, and since I have some time to kill I’m going to tell you a story about something that happened to me a few weeks ago. I was at a party in West Hollywood on the top of a building and Craig, and several of our friends, had made their way up to the roof. I’d just poured myself a plastic cup of red wine and wasn’t sure what to do, so I put the plastic cup in my mouth, biting the lip, and started my way up the ladder. At some point, I wanted to see how much further I had to go, and–like a modern day CARRIE–I lifted my head up and completely doused myself with cheap Pinot Noir. I had to walk through a room of attractive strangers searching for paper towels while dripping purple/red fluid.
The moral of the story is: never leave home.
I’m a big fan of Simply Ming on PBS (in fact, I’m just a big fan of cooking shows on PBS in general).
But Simply Ming seems to be one of the only platforms on TV where real, heavyweight chefs can come and showcase a dish (Daniel Boulud and Shaun Hergatt were recent guests). And he always starts the show with a cocktail, usually something simple and elegantly-made, which he offers to the guest before they get cooking. When pastry chef extraordinaire Johnny Iuzzini was on the show recently, Ming made him one of his favorite cocktails–a cocktail that Johnny said he always orders at a new bar to see if they make it right–a simple daiquiri with white rum, lime juice, and simple syrup.
Something about that combo really intrigued me (and also the fact that it’s a classic cocktail) so the next time I was at Barkeep in Silverlake, I picked up a bottle of white rum, the one you see at the top of this post. I had the limes, I had the sugar and water, I also had (foreboding music) the cocktail shaker.
My friend Ryan O’Connell is one of my favorite people. If you don’t know who he is, hop on to Amazon now and check out his book, I’m Special, and come back here once you’ve bought it and read it. Not only did he write that book, but now he’s writing for fall’s most anticipated TV show: the reboot of Will & Grace. So Ryan’s a talented guy who has great taste in wine and even better taste in dinner parties: he loves my cooking. For his birthday, I told him I’d make him a dinner and he could choose the menu. He thought on it and came back with “spaghetti and meatballs, because I know you’ll do it really, really well.” His boyfriend Jonathan loves my Caesar salad, so we added that to the menu. Later I e-mailed to query about his favorite desserts and he wrote back: “My fave desserts are chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, and strawberry shortcake.” I combined a little from Column A and a little from Column B and chose my favorite dinner party staple, this flourless chocolate cake.
Everyone (Ryan, Jonathan, and our mutual friends Lara, Graydon, and Kyle) were all set to come over on Saturday night at 7:30 PM. So on Saturday morning, I set out for Gelson’s to get started on my food shopping when I had an idea: what if I documented the whole thing, from the food shopping in the morning to the moment everyone leaves at the end of the night? Sort of a timeline of how I pull off a dinner party? Wouldn’t that be an epic, potentially useful post for people who want to pull off similar dinner parties? Well, either way, I did it, so without further ado, I present: a timeline of how I pulled off Ryan’s Birthday Dinner.
I’ve been really into tomatoes this summer. Every Sunday I’ve been going to the Atwater Village Farmer’s Market, buying some juicy heirlooms, and using them in sandwiches, salads, tomato baths, you get the idea. You might think that now that August is over, tomato season is on the way out… but you’d be wrong! Most chefs agree that the best tomatoes come in September and October. We’re entering PEAK tomato season.
So why am I sharing a recipe for a soup made with canned tomatoes? Answer: sometimes, even in peak tomato season, you feel a little fresh tomato fatigue. Just the words “farmer’s market” and “heirloom tomato” sound annoying on a Sunday morning when you’re hungover, laying on the couch, and happy to be watching PBS cooking shows while pretending to read The New York Times. When dinner rolls around, you don’t have anything except a few cans of tomatoes, an onion, garlic, and that leftover bread from a few days ago. That’s when PAPPA AL POMODORO comes to the rescue.