People who meet me are often surprised when I describe myself as an introvert. On the surface, I come across as outgoing, exuberant even, but secretly I find human interaction to be very exhausting. Craig, on the other hand, finds human interaction to be incredibly stimulating. Not a surprise, then, that he describes himself as an extrovert. (We once read an article that said that introverts lose energy when they’re around people and that extroverts gain energy when they’re around people, and that made total sense to us.)
And yet, nothing is ever so completely black and white. Despite being mostly introverted, I still enjoy going out (especially to restaurants, surprise surprise) and despite being mostly extroverted, Craig can really enjoy a night in. Which is why, last Saturday when he flew back from New York, we had to have a discussion about our evening. A group of friends were going out and we were invited. I bought ingredients to make a delicious dinner. Craig’s ideal evening was for me to make the dinner and then for us to go out with these friends. My ideal evening was to make the dinner and to lay on the couch watching Project Runway. Ultimately, I gave Craig a choice: (1) we could go out and meet these friends, but if we did that, I’d want to go out to dinner first so I wouldn’t be smelly and also so I’d be motivated to go out; or (2) I could make this delicious dinner, but then we’d have to stay in. Craig puzzled it over for a second and then chose the only acceptable option considering that I’d gone shopping and that I’m his husband and really he’d been away for a week so of course he’d want to stay in, Option 2.
My friend Toby spent a summer in Bologna during college and over the past few weeks (months?) he’s been talking to me about going to this new Italian restaurant in downtown L.A. called Rossoblu that cooks food from the region. “Yes, we should totally go!” I said in that tone that suggests that there’s a good chance this will never happen. Mind you, I love Toby and I loved the idea of going to a new Italian restaurant in downtown L.A., but the logistics seemed a little tricky. For starters: driving downtown, that’s not fun. Plus I make a lot of pasta at home, did I really need to pay for it at a restaurant? And reading about it online, it sounded very heavy (fried bread? lots of meats and cheese?). But then it was Toby’s birthday and I said, “We should go to Rossoblu!” in a tone that suggested I really meant it. So last night, we finally went.
Remember that time that I was a full-time food blogger? And I had the nerve to say things like: “You can cook after work! It’s easy.” Well I’d like to take that person, pin him against a wall, and say: “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Because now that I have a full-time job, I come home happily exhausted (I love where I’m working) and the idea of making a big mess in the kitchen at 6:45 PM (when I get home) and then cleaning it up holds very little appeal to me on a weekday night. So the picture you see above is my saving grace: Dune Falafel is on the other side of Atwater Village from me, so my new favorite thing is to come home, give the cat some treats, and to go for a 20 minute walk along GlenFeliz Blvd to procure the hummus plate you see above (it really is the most dazzling hummus plate I’ve ever experienced). And then, every so often, I do manage to make a dinner.
Loyal Amateur Gourmet readers, it’s time to come clean: I’ve been a bad blogger lately. It’s been a busy time for me here in L.A. but the hard part is that I really can’t get into why it’s so busy, just trust me that I haven’t really had time to devote to the blog. Can you forgive me? What if I share a bunch of really good things that I’ve cooked/eaten recently, will that make things better? OK, let’s try that. In random order….
Looks can be deceiving. For example, the picture you see above probably looks pretty good, but not the kind of thing you’re going to e-mail to all of your friends with the subject “!!!!” and the message, “OH MY GOD WE HAVE TO MAKE THIS.”
That’s a shame because, the thing is, if you could taste a bite of the picture above, fresh out of the pan, exploding with sweet corn flavor, given depth by nicely browned squash, married all together with a pat of butter, you’d be doing cartwheels down the street, eager to get all of the ingredients to make this yourself. It’s the best bite of summer I’ve had so far, and it’s a surprising way to use ingredients that normally wind up on the grill or in a salad.
[My friend Dara Bratt–an award-winning filmmaker and unabashed bon vivant–positively pounced when I mentioned “Sauce Week” and here’s her delightful contribution. Take it away, Dara!]
Recently, I had a girls’ night at a fairly new restaurant in Brooklyn called “Rucola”. The conversation was great, and the food equally impressive, the standout dish being the pasta, which my friend ordered; “Garganelli – Tomatoes – almond pesto, cherry tomatoes, zucchini.”
It was so light that the impact of flavor was shockingly impressive. A pesto with almonds at the core instead of pine nuts?! Cheaper? Healthier? Sold!
My life in New York was all about the newest and latest cookbooks, poring through them at The Strand and carefully calculating which ones were worth the price of purchase. In L.A., though, I’m all about finding old, tattered cookbooks at used book stores, both at Counterpoint Records in Franklin Village and Alias Books East in Atwater Village. At the latter, recently, I came upon The Campanile Cookbook which was written by two of America’s greatest chefs back when they were married: Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton. The recipe that sold me instantly is the one I’m about to share with you now.
Gather ye round, friends, and hear the tale of a ragu that cooked for five hours, perking away on the stove as the many pieces of meat that went into it–lamb shoulder, pork ribs, short ribs–slowly broke down and contributed their fat and flavor to the tomatoes and onions and garlic that made up the sauce, along with a secret ingredient (anchovies) we best not tell our guests about. Unlike Sunday gravies that I’ve made before, this ragu–which comes from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 2–asks you, at the three hour mark, to shred the meat by hand and return it to the pot. What happens then is that the meat continues to break down over the next two hours, as the sauce thickens, and what you have at the end is something so remarkable, so utterly delicious, you may as well throw away any other ragu recipe you possess because there’s no topping this one.