Mushrooms are scary. Eat the wrong one, and it can kill you or make you think you’re Jesus (luckily, if you think you’re Jesus and it kills you, you can raise yourself from the dead). As a child, I absolutely loathed raw mushrooms in salads at pizza restaurants. That was my first impression of mushrooms: these spongy, weird, white things that ruin a very crisp experience. Blech.
On Thursday night, we were supposed to go to dinner with Craig’s former boss and the boss’s wife. A work dinner, so to speak. “7:30 at Pizzeria Mozza,” said Craig, earlier in the day.
Then, as 7:30 rolled around, Craig pulled me aside. “I told a white lie,” he said. “We’re not going out with (name redacted) and (name redacted). I’m taking you to Rustic Canyon.”
Hey there! So guess what? A few weeks ago I had an idea for a podcast: what if I host a dinner party where I invite one food world guest and one non-food world guest over for dinner with me and Craig and I record the conversation? Wouldn’t that be fun to listen to? Well, after a trip to the Apple Store (where I procured a large, round microphone called a Snowball) I decided to put my plan into action. The result is what you see/hear below: The Clean Plate Club, a brand-spanking-new podcast that may become a regular feature here on the blog.
Our debut episode features two EXTRAORDINARY guests. The first is the celebrated food critic from L.A. Weekly, who stepped into Jonathan Gold’s shoes when he moved to the L.A. Times: Besha Rodell. The other guest is a hilarious author and playwright who took the world by storm with her brilliant Smash-recaps for New York Magazine’s Vulture site: Rachel Shukert. Her Kindle single about that experience is climbing up the Amazon charts.
So sit back, relax, click play and join us as fellow members of The Clean Plate Club. Then let me know what you think in the comments!
P.S. If you want recipes for the meal that I cooked for a famous food critic and a famous Smash critic, here’s my Caesar salad and here’s my chicken with cous cous and salsa verde. The plum cake is coming later this week.
What time do you eat dinner?
My grandparents, who live in Delray Beach, Florida, are definite Early Birders. And having spent my teenage years in Boca Raton, I was familiar with the early dinner. My parents usually eat, on weeknights, around 6 o’clock when my dad gets home from work. Craig and I eat later than that, closer to 7:30. Craig has a later lunch than I do so he gets hungrier later than I do. Which is why I can justify a scone or a cookie at 4:30, to keep me full until Craig’s ready for dinner. It’s a survival strategy.
Elizabeth David has a famous book called An Omelette and a Glass of Wine that, I’m embarassed to say, I’ve never read. Still: I’m aware of it.
So aware, in fact, that last week when I came home from the gym, exhausted, I decided to put that title into action. I had eggs from the farmer’s market in the refrigerator. I had half a bottle of red wine leftover from the previous night’s dinner. I also had some celery and walnuts. Ok, Elzabeth David, let’s do this thing.
The New York Times recently published an article with a powerful first sentence: “About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.”
I like this news because it’s not like it’s saying “all delicious things are bad for you!” It’s saying: “Hey, you can eat really delicious things, just not In-N-Out burgers and milkshakes, ok?” And though I don’t imagine I’ll be giving those up any time soon, it’s good to know that I can maintain a mostly Mediterranean diet by doing the following: pouring a bag of dried beans into a bowl of cold water before starting my day.
There are three kinds of people in this world: people who eat salad before dinner, people who eat salad after dinner (aka: the French) and the strangest group of all, people who eat salad on the same plate as dinner.
I grew up in a “salad before dinner” family. On those rare occasions when we’d eat at home, mom would toss together some iceberg lettuce, sliced red onion, and cucumbers with Seven Seasons red wine vinaigrette and serve it up in white bowls. There was a ritual to all this, a sense of structure that echoed the structure we’d find when we went out to dinner. The Olive Garden did it this way. So did T.G.I. Friday’s.
There’s salad. There’s pasta sauce. Those are things you can do with heirloom tomatoes in the summertime to make dinner.
But try this: get a loaf of really good bread. Slice the bread thickly and set it aside. Now take an eggplant (preferably purchased from the farmer’s market) and cut it into rings; cut a red heirloom tomato into rings too. Place those rings on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper…