Let’s face it, cabbage is a tough sell. Even though it’s what makes coleslaw coleslaw and it’s a crunchy companion to a fish taco, most people associate it with their grandmother’s boiled cabbage fouling up the air with its death-like aroma. That’s why I’m titling this post Sexy Cabbage Sexytime because the other night, I came up with a way to cook it that’s so terrific, so genre-shifting, it’ll forever change the way that you think about cabbage.
Meet your new favorite weeknight dinner. It asks only a few things of you: that you have a cluster of esoteric ingredients on hand (chili paste, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil), and also a few familiar ones (ginger, soy sauce, peanut butter). It asks you to boil water and to blend things up in your blender. But approximately 20 minutes after you start, you’ll have the plate of food that you see above and, on a hot summer’s eve, you’ll find that very satisfying.
My favorite way to cook, the cooking that makes me happiest, is the kind of cooking you do on the fly: no planning, no prepping. You just see what you have already on hand and you make dinner. And often that dinner is way better than the dinner you spend a week prepping for, shopping for and methodically executing. I have a theory about this. The theory involves cravings: the food that you crave in a specific moment directly correlates to something that your body wants. So, when you’re making dinner on the fly, if you add an extra pinch of red chile flakes? That’s because your body’s craving some heat. And that’s why the dinner you make on the fly is often so satisfying.
There are certain readers of my blog–and I know they exist, I’ve met them in real life–who see the food I make as aspirational. Instead of thinking, “Oooh, that’s easy, I can make that” (as many of you think when you read my posts), they think, “Oooh, that looks tasty, I wonder if someone will make that for me?”
To those readers, then, who think these recipes are outside of your reach (and, again, I acknowledge that I’m not describing most of you) I have a recipe for you. It’s Penne with Brown Butter, Nutmeg and Parmesan and I used to write about it all the time on the blog when I was a bachelor; it’s a dinner you can whip up easily for yourself after coming home from work. All you need is a pot, a pan, a box of penne, a stick (or less) of butter, whole nutmeg (so much better than the pre-ground stuff), a hunk of Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. This is comfort food with a sophisticated flair.
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.
So the last time I tried to cook for you live from my kitchen (remember?), I had trouble balancing the art of entertainment with the art of doing dishes. This time around, we have a very special guest to help us out in that regard: TV’s own COLE ESCOLA! Best known for his work on Logo’s “Jeffery & Cole Casserole,” Cole has also appeared on “Law & Order” (his episode, in which he plays an autistic 16 year old, airs again tonight (10/7) at 6 on TNT.) Cole will help me field questions in the chat room while I go about making dinner. Now for the menu: whatever shall I make? See you here with Cole, Thursday, at 5:30!
UPDATE: Thanks everyone who came! We had 67 people watching. The video is archived and playable above.
When I told my friend Alex that I was cooking a dinner for my parents and Craig’s parents at the end of last week, Alex (who knew me in college) said to me: “Did you ever think, 10 years ago, that this would ever happen? That you’d cook a dinner one day for your parents and your boyfriend and his parents?” The answer to that question was most definitely: “No.”
It’s hard to get back into the headspace where that dinner would’ve seemed impossible. But in recent weeks, there’ve been so many tragic gay suicides–13 year-old Seth Walsh, 15 year-old Billy Lucas, 13 year-old Asher Brown and, perhaps the most publicized case, Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, who jumped off a bridge after his roommate broadcast his sexual encounter with another man online–that getting back into that headspace seems important. And so, inspired by Dan Savage and his “It Gets Better” campaign (in which openly gay men and women tell their stories to encourage suicidal gay teens that it, indeed, gets better) I’d like to tell you how I got from that world of impossibility to the dinner I cooked on Friday night.
Hey readers, I’m cooking dinner for some friends tonight (an appetizer, an entree, a side dish and dessert) and I thought to myself: “Wouldn’t it be cool if I live-streamed the cooking process, so people can see me pull it off in real time?” So that’s exactly what I’m doing. Check back here at 5 PM EST (that’s less than 2 hours away) to watch me cook live; or click this link and join the chat room where you can ask me questions as I go.
UPDATE: Yesterday’s live cooking show went great. Thanks to everyone who came. For those who missed it, here’s a recording for you to watch and enjoy. Next time, I may employ a sidekick to engage the room while I do dishes.