[One of my oldest friends, Alex Dickson, bravely agreed to tackle one of the hardest Sauce Week challenges: pesto by hand. By hand! Here’s her account of how it all went down. Take it away, Alex!]
The ingredients for a basil pesto sauce are simple but Adam challenged me to do this pesto old school Italian style, so the process was what made me nervous.
Nervous about making pesto? Wow, Alex, that sounds like something that’s really worth getting anxious about. Your life must be challenging. Stop judging me, Reader! I wanted this pesto to be good because I was making it for my parents, and cooking something for my father that he really likes is one of my favorite things.
My trip to New York started with a favorite brunch spot going down the tubes and ended with a brunch spot that I loved so much, I went twice. That spot is Lafayette and it’s located, as the name might suggest, on Lafayette Street just south of the Astor Place stop on the 6 train and north of the Broadway/Lafayette stop on every other train. My first visit was with my friend Alex who you can see above modeling a $14 basket of pastries so good, we pretty much devoured the whole thing. Going to Lafayette and not ordering the pastry basket is like going to Disneyland and not riding the rides. You just can’t avoid it.
So that dinner I made for my friend Alex’s birthday (the one with the soup) began a few days earlier when I e-mailed Alex a very important question: “Dear Alex,” I wrote, “what are your Top 5 favorite desserts of all time?”
Alex wrote back: “Hmmm…top five favorite desserts…I’ll do this w/o thinking too much: pecan pie, warm cake with cream cheese frosting, strawberry rhubarb pie, chocolate lava cake, lemon cake.” Seeing as she did this stream-of-consciousness style, I had to trust that the first dessert she named was truly her favorite. Which is why I ended up making what turned out to be (in my opinion at least) the greatest pecan pie ever.
Dealing with expectations is a tricky endeavor for every cook, whether at home or at a four-star restaurant.
Granted, the four-star chef has a harder time: diners at a four-star restaurant expect impeccable service, pristine surroundings, and food at the cutting edge of what food can be. At home, things are a little different. You don’t have to make a streak of sauce on the plate with the back of a spoon, you don’t have to scrape crumbs off the table with a crumb-scraper, but if you’re going to serve something familiar, as I did recently with Butternut Squash Soup, it better be the comfortingly sweet version that everyone knows and loves. Sad to say that this one, which comes from one of my favorite cookbooks ever, Suzanne Goin’s “Sunday Suppers at Lucques,” isn’t.
You may recall that the worst meal I’ve ever cooked for people in my life was the meal I cooked for my friends Alex and Raife in March of 2007 (see here). Rereading that post, I don’t think it was as awful as I remember it being; but the pressure was high because Alex, one of my closest friends from college, had never experienced my cooking (she’d only seen me defrost California Pizza Kitchen pizzas when we lived together) and I wanted to impress her. Well, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.
Luckily, Alex has a birthday. And now she lives in New York and so does our friend Raife who was also there at that disastrous dinner. So to celebrate Alex’s birthday, which was in October, I invited them both over for a gigantic do-over. How did I fare?
Buyer beware: this video podcast is mostly useless, not very informative, and–at the end–quite offensive (and R-rated). But it’s pretty entertaining and it features my friend Alex who just moved to New York. Hope you enjoy!
[Note: feel free to answer the question I ask Alex in the comments. What three food smells would you bottle before going to prison?]