So remember that time that Jim Parsons and his partner Todd Spiewak made my rainbow cookie cake for Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his partner Justin Mikita? Well, since then, Jim and I have been e-mailing and trying to figure out a time for him and Todd to come over for dinner. We finally picked a date–Saturday, August 30th–and we each spent the time leading up to it in different ways: I went to the Pacific Northwest and ate Dungeness crab on a beach; Jim went to the Emmy Awards and picked up his fourth trophy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. At last, the dinner was upon us and it was time for me to cook.
Give me credit. It’s been a while since I’ve declared something “the best ___ of your life.” There is, of course, the broccoli, which brought all of you to my blog in the first place. Then there’s the chili which, as far as I’m concerned, has never been topped. The brownies remain unrivaled and the curry is definitely the best I’ve ever made.
Now, into the pantheon, comes this fried chicken which–as you’ll soon discover–has nothing to do with a specific recipe and everything to do with a piece of equipment that costs a minimal amount of money ($33.31 on Amazon) but makes all the difference in the world.
Look, I can’t pretend it’s autumn here in L.A. To be blunt: it’s as summery as it was in July, though the mornings and evenings are cooler. The telltale sign is what I’m seeing at the farmer’s market: sure, there’s kabocha squash–and I made a very excellent risotto out of it–but, way more present still are heirloom tomatoes, eggplants, basil and all of those sum sum summertime ingredients. If I were a disingenuous food blogger, I could pretend I was crunching through falling leaves, sipping cider and humming the theme from “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Instead, I’m going to share this amazing recipe from last week’s trip to the farmer’s market despite its unavoidable summeryness.
Here’s a cooking tip: if you have something in your pantry that requires a long soak (dried beans, for example, or dried chickpeas), rip open the bag in the morning, pour them into a bowl and fill it up with water even if you have no idea what you’re going to do with them later in the day. What’s great about this approach is that it narrows the field for you after 5 o’clock; instead of choosing from endless recipes, you know you need to find one that features soaked-beans or chickpeas. It’s a win-win because you have a component that’s normally a pain in the butt and some direction for your dinner.
I have a distinct memory of a spring day in New York, back when I lived in Park Slope, at Brooklyn Fish Camp. Craig and I were sitting outside at a picnic table with benches and under that warm blue sky, the first of its kind after a harsh winter, a waitress presented us with the basket of hush puppies that we ordered. I didn’t know much about hush puppies; they just sounded good to me. And seeing them there in that basket–fluffy orbs of corn meal that had been deep-fried in oil–I suddenly felt the winter drop out from beneath me, and felt the heat of summer rising up at full blast.
The scene? My kitchen. The day? Last Thursday. The idea? Take everything out of my refrigerator–fresh mozzarella, a red onion, scallions, celery, parsley, dill, a nectarine (ok, that wasn’t in the refrigerator, it was on the counter)–and make dinner. I didn’t know what I was going to make but then I had a thought: “What if I make a pasta salad? And what if that pasta salad is kind of healthy? What if I uses Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise and lots of these fresh herbs to perk it up?”
Ladies and gentlemen: a star was born.
Remember yesterday when I posted about making salsa verde with a mortar and pestle? And remember this morning how I linked to a Huffington Post piece I wrote about roasting a chicken? Now it all comes together in this post, a post that begins with a confession: last week, I made a meal on Monday that I loved so much, I made it again on Friday. This is that meal.