The greatest sin you can commit at any dinner party, as far as I’m concerned, is to not have enough food. ALWAYS, ALWAYS make too much. There are two reasons for this: 1. No one ever leaves a dinner party saying, “My oh my, there were far too many delicious things to eat!” and 2. Whatever doesn’t get eaten, you can use the next day.
And sometimes — not always, but sometimes — the thing that you make the next day is even better than the thing you made for the dinner party. Case in point: this tomato salad shakshuka which, hyperbole police alert, may be the single best thing that I’ve cooked this year.
Craig and I have a routine we do on Mondays. He pours a glass of wine and asks, “Want some?” and I say: “I don’t drink on Mondays.”
It’s not that funny, but it happens almost every Monday. “I don’t drink on Mondays.” It’s basically my catchphrase. I say it because I do drink wine on weekends, and frequently on nights that aren’t Mondays, but on Mondays I give my body a break. That was until yesterday.
One reoccurring theme you’ll discover on Amateur Gourmet 2.0 is that I watch a lot of PBS cooking shows. I learned how to make a daiquiri watching Simply Ming, and then, watching Rick Bayless’s show, I learned how to make a most excellent breakfast taco.
If Ned Flanders became human and grew obsessed with Mexico, he’d have a show a lot like Rick Bayless’s. There’s an “aw shucks” charm to Bayless, but also a huge breadth of knowledge, which–at the end of every episode–he translates into something you can do at home. (Some have accused Bayles of cultural appropriation, but I don’t think that’s true of his show: most of it is a platform for Mexican chefs to show off what they do.) Anyway, this breakfast taco…
Resourcefulness is a quality that emerges gradually as you get more comfortable in the kitchen. At first, you might make a panzanella salad–with big chunks of toasted bread, heirloom tomatoes, garlic, a little anchovy, some basil, olive oil, and red wine vinegar–eat most of it and then throw the rest away because panzanella doesn’t really keep. That’s level one of being a cook. But to graduate to the next level, you should put the leftover panzanella in the fridge and figure out something to do with it the next day. Option 1? Blend it into a soup (why not? It has all the makings of a gazpacho and a tomato bread soup combined). I went for Option 2: frying it into a cake.
My grandfather, who celebrated his birthday this week (Happy Birthday, Grandpa!), reads my blog on his Kindle only he can’t see anything past the jump. (We’ve tried to fix it; can’t figure it out.) So as a birthday treat for him, here’s a whole post in one paragraph. It’s a recipe I came up with last weekend because I had pork/fennel/garlic sausage in my fridge and I wanted to make tomato sauce with it and use that sauce to make something with eggs. I could’ve cracked eggs on top and baked it in the oven like this, but that sounded boring. So here’s what I did: I cut two sausages out of their skin, added them to a non-stick skillet with olive oil, and broke them up over medium heat until the pieces were brown all over. Then I added some chopped onion and a pinch of salt, allowed that to soften, then added 3 cloves of chopped garlic. Once that was fragrant, I added all the tomatoes out of a can of San Marzano tomatoes with a minimal amount of the liquid, plus some more salt. Then I cooked that down for a while, allowing the tomatoes to break down and the liquid to reduce, until there wasn’t any liquid at all in the pan. At that point, I added six eggs which I’d whisked together with more salt, turned the heat to high, and allowed the eggs to set, sprinkling in some grated Pecorino cheese. Gradually, I stirred the eggs around a bit and when they were just firm, I scooped everything on to a plate and served with thickly sliced bread which I’d broiled on both sides, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with olive oil, sprinkling Pecorino on everything at the end. Voila. If you make this over the weekend, send some to my grandpa.
I didn’t experiment much in college (well, except in the ways of improvisational comedy and musical theater directing), but as an adult I’ve become a hardcore experimenter, specifically on weekend mornings when Craig’s out of town. That’s when I let my soul run free, tapping into my inner being, and cooking up whatever springs to mind. Sometimes, my ideas are pretty gross (see here); sometimes, though, I hit on something so good, it enters the repertoire. This breakfast, thankfully, falls into the latter category.
Picasso had his blue period; I’m having my “smoked trout, pickled onion and kale” period right now. You may recognize these ingredients from some earlier posts this week–Fun Times with Farro, the very popular Chicken Sausage with White Beans and Kale–and now they’re all reuniting, once again, for a breakfast that had Craig and I leaping from our chairs, we enjoyed it so much.