Mario Batali is my #1 favorite food-world hero: I love his books, I love his old Food Network show “Molto Mario,” and I love his restaurants. When I found out, last year, he was doing a show about Spain, I was delighted. Especially since Craig and I are going to Spain this summer–we leave at the end of next month!–so I expected a lot from “Spain: On The Road Again,” his show with Gwyenth Paltrow and Mark Bittman on PBS.
Boy, was I disappointed. Instead of a show about food, this turned out to be a show about celebrity; a show about celebrities celebrating their celebrity and occasionally taking the time to cook or eat. I really couldn’t get through one episode, I disliked it so much. I was willing to write the whole enterprise off until, the other day, I saw the book version of the show at my favorite book store, Three Lives in Greenwich Village.
The book is much better than the show: it’s full of information, beautiful pictures and recipes. And the recipe that intrigued me the most, the one that had me scratching my head and wondering, was the simplest one in the book: a plate of pineapple topped with molasses and lime zest.
This was a recipe I could commit to memory. In fact, more than that, it was a recipe that stuck in my memory so fervently, I couldn’t let it go. I just had to find out what pineapple with molasses and lime zest tasted like.
I went to the store and considered buying pineapple already cut up, but–would you believe it?–a pineapple already cut up is more expensive than just buying a pineapple. So I bought a whole pineapple for $3.99, took it home, and cut off the skin. Then I cut off a big wedge and sliced it into slices.
I drizzled on some molasses and grated on the lime zest and immediately tasted.
And it was intriguing! Really: a truly beguiling combination. The molasses adds this depth and complexity you don’t expect. At first, I thought it would be like pouring maple syrup over pineapple, but molasses is more than just sweet. It’s a got a deep, almost smoky bitterness to it that takes the pineapple to a profound place. And the lime zest evokes the tropics, with subtle hints of Pina Colatas or Gin & Tonics consumed on the beach.
So, Batalz (as Gwyneth “Palsie” Paltrow calls him on the show), you’re still a hero in my book. Maybe I didn’t love your show, but any show that produces a book with such a strange recipe deserves some credit. Now do what you’re meant to do and get a show where you teach us to cook again: your biggest fan is waiting.