Something that annoys me about the food world is the notion of a dish or an ingredient being dated. “Sun-dried tomatoes are so 1986,” some pretentious food person might say. Really? Well I really love them, especially in Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes which doesn’t taste like 1986 to me, it just tastes good. And I suppose there’s a similar notion that garnishes–big gestural ones–are passé. It’s a shame, though, because–as I’ve discovered recently–garnishes can be a lot of fun, especially when they enhance whatever dish you’re serving. Let me show you what I mean.
Monday night is healthy dinner night. I don’t drink wine, even if Craig makes a stink and opens a bottle in protest. I don’t make dessert, even if he begs for my famous chocolate chip cookies. What I do, on Monday night, is penance for all of the ridiculous things I ate over the weekend and, also, I set the tone for the upcoming week: if I eat healthy on Monday night, it’ll make the fact that I went to the gym earlier in the day seem worthwhile. Also, it’ll keep me in the zone for going to the gym next day. The trick, though, is to make the dinner just healthy enough; meaning, it shouldn’t be punishing. It should still be good. Which is how I came up with the dinner I’m about to tell you about.
So I have a friend named Rachel Sheridan who also happens to be a neighbor here, in Atwater Village, and recently she did an Instagram of a CSA box that had arrived at her doorstep. What’s a CSA box? CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and the idea is this: you pay a set fee, each week, and as a reward a box arrives at your door full of fresh-from-the-farm produce. I asked Rachel about her CSA and she told me it was called Summerland and that I should check it out. Not only did I check it out, after clicking around for a bit, I signed up too. Cue the trumpets: this box arrived yesterday (Sunday) morning! What was inside? Let’s open it up.
Please take your computer screen–this may be tricky, if you have a laptop–and detach it from the base. Good. Now nail it to the wall with this post prominently featured because DANG, isn’t this salad that I made yesterday a work of art? I’m mighty proud of it. In fact, I’m so proud of it, maybe I don’t even want to tell you how I made it because then you may steal my thunder and tell people that YOU invented it, not me. Well, it’s not like I invented it, but you know what I mean. Ok, fine, you wore me down…here’s how this artful plate of food came into existence.
The first time that I went to Roberta’s in Bushwick it was in the middle of winter and they seated us next to a swinging door which produced an arctic blast anytime a server or a customer swung it open. We sat in our winter coats, shivering, and huddling around a heater in between courses. It was a memorable, if not quite ideal, dining experience.
Things were warmer and better at Roberta’s last week, when I ate lunch there before appearing on Michael Harlan Turkell’s Heritage Radio Network show, “The Food Seen” (which is recorded on the Roberta’s complex).
The farmer’s market can be an intimidating place, especially in summer when there’s just so much to choose from. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, buy a few peaches and tomatoes and leave quickly. Other times, I just buy everything in sight, a strategy that seems wasteful at first but which almost always pays off. When I come home with armfuls of bags and mountains of vegetables, I put them immediately to use and whatever I don’t use I pickle. It’s a win-win.
There are certain dinners we make for ourselves that maybe shouldn’t be shared in public.
It’s one thing to share a recipe for a roast chicken, for example; everyone gets that, everyone wants that. But the next day, when that chicken’s cold and wrapped in aluminum foil in your refrigerator and you have a few stray carrots and some yogurt and some raisins and some eggs, and you make a dinner with those things? People may not want to hear about that. So if you’re one of those people, look away! Everyone else, here’s a dinner I made for myself last week.
When it comes to roasting vegetables, the question shouldn’t be: “What vegetables can you roast?” The question should be: “What vegetables can’t you roast?”
Last week, I had some leftover carrots, radishes and Jerusalem artichokes from the farmer’s market (and, sidenote: whoever says the farmer’s market is more expensive than the regular grocery store hasn’t purchased carrots, radishes, or Jerusalem artichokes there before…they’re cheap!) and, as a side for a roast chicken dinner, I decided to roast ’em all in the same oven.