An e-mail arrived from Chloe, our beloved neighbor and resident gardener: “Hi Adam, Sometime this week when you step outside, please see the purple sage blossoms by your little herb garden. Pick a couple and eat them. They have a lovely flavor. Chloe.”
I have to confess: I didn’t follow these instructions because despite what you may have heard about me, I’m not a big flower eater. Then, a few days later, I ran into Chloe in the garden and she led me over to the flowering sage and encouraged me, once again, to eat a sage blossom, this time in person. How could I say “no”?
Sometimes it takes a person’s wild enthusiasm to get you to try a recipe that doesn’t immediately jump off the page. Take, for example, Paul Bertolli’s cauliflower soup. After I declared my love for cauliflower in this Cauliflower Casserole post, a commenter named Eliza said, “If you love cauliflower, you should try Paul Bertolli’s Cauliflower Soup, especially with the spring crop of cauliflower beginning to show up in the farmers markets. This soup is rich, creamy (without any cream) yet fresh tasting. Only 4 ingredients – olive oil, onion, cauliflower and water – make magic.” The recipe didn’t sell me, but Eliza did. So I tried it.
Sometimes I write recipe posts where I share a recipe at the end and other times I write recipe posts where the recipe is embedded in the post itself. There’s a reason for that!
Recipe posts where the recipe’s at the end are the kinds of recipes where specific amounts matter; recipe posts where I just write a recipe as part of a larger narrative are recipes where you can just wing it. So, Sam Sifton’s Pear Cobbler? You need to follow those instructions. But my Butternut Squash Soup with Whiskey Ginger Cream? That’s a totally improvised recipe and I wanted to give you the power to improvise your own version. If I’d written that with specific amounts, chances are you would’ve just replicated what I did instead of doing it your own way. The soup will taste better if you do it your way.
When I got back from my book tour, all I wanted to do was cook cook cook. Comfort foods, mostly. That first night it was my ultimate comfort food dish of fusilli with homemade tomato sauce and a Caesar salad to start. The next night, though, I wanted a different sort of comfort food. I was thinking: “Butternut Squash Soup.” I’d serve it with a salad made with radicchio, fennel, apples, toasted walnuts–olive oil and lemon juice for dressing–a hunk of blue cheese on the side and maybe a hunk of bread to round things out. No recipes were used in the making of this dinner. I just winged it. And the results totally hit the spot.
How do you wing a butternut squash soup? Easy….
A funny thing about L.A.: you can drive past a place over and over again, not think anything of it, and then–out of the blue–have a food friend tell you to meet them there on a Thursday afternoon, at which point you discover that this place you’ve been driving past and ignoring has really excellent food.
Such was the case with Rodded and my friend Zach Brooks of Midtown Lunch. I met him and Noah (who gave me that great Katz’s Deli advice) and Zach’s “Food is the New Rock” co-host Chuck P for lunch there last week.
One benefit of making a complicated, classic dish like bouillabaisse, as I did last week, is that the process of making it becomes its own version of cooking school. You follow the steps but as you do so, you learn things. For example: making a fumet (or fish stock) may be labor-intensive but your efforts pay off later when that highly flavored broth is poured in with the tomatoes and onions and fish and takes your bouillabaisse over the moon. Why couldn’t I apply a similar strategy with leftover chicken and leftover chicken carcasses? Last week, that’s precisely what I did.
Yesterday morning I Tweeted the following Tweet: “Should I get a medal for not having any Thanksgiving content on my blog (minus the banner?) Or should I cave and make some turkey & pie?”
Several followers felt I deserved a medal (“Don’t cave! It’s a welcome respite from the ‘holiday spirit,'” wrote @laujk; “Please no Thanksgiving stuff. I haven’t bought a food magazine all month. Super boring. (especially for us Canadians,” wrote @emmawaverman.”) Ultimately, though, enough people DID want Thanksgiving content (“Embrace the festivities,” wrote @5_minutespeace; “Cave–it’s fun to see everyone’s take/ideas,” wrote @FreshTartSteph) that I decided to do a round-up of all the recipes from my blog’s archives that’d be perfect at your Thanksgiving table.
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.