Suffice it to say, I feel very lucky to call Ryan a friend. And knowing that his birthday was coming up, and that he’s part of our quarantine bubble (a very small group of friends that we still see), I asked if he had a menu in mind for his birthday dinner. He didn’t hesitate: “Oooh, can we have Martha’s Mac and Cheese?” (The best of all time, in case you didn’t know that.) “Oh, and maybe a salad with peaches? Peaches are season, right?” (They are.) “And can we do a coconut cake for dessert?” “You got it,” I replied.
When we think about one-pan cooking, we usually think about a dish where all of the components cook together in one pan at the same time. But there’s another kind of one-pan cooking! (Sorry for the exclamation mark, I was excited.) It’s the kind where you cook multiple components in the same pan one after the other and then assemble everything together on the plate at the end.
That’s what I did here when I made salmon for dinner the other night. You may be thinking: “Make the components one after the other? Don’t they get cold?” And I’d say to you: “Not really, they’ll stay warm. Stop worrying so much.”
Grilling in the summer is difficult when you don’t have a grill. We had a communal one in our fourplex’s backyard, but I haven’t seen it in a while. Maybe I just don’t want to see it. I don’t really love our backyard, though I love our apartment in general; the backyard’s just not a place I want to spend much time. That’s my big realization about grilling: grilling is only fun if you like the environment in which you’re grilling.
So until we have a house with a pool surrounded by citrus trees and male models, I’m staying inside and using my broiler. It’s funny to me how many people don’t know about their broilers. When I interviewed the amazing Kate Berlant on Instagram Live, she said she didn’t even know if her oven had one. People! Your broiler can be your best friend in the kitchen. Let me tell you why.
The internet can be an overwhelming place when it comes to finding a chocolate chip cookie recipe. You type “chocolate chip cookie” into a Google search and suddenly you’re bombarded with thousands of recipes featuring various techniques, many of which ask more of you than you’re willing to give right now. There are recipes that have you age the dough for twenty-four hours, there are recipes that have you melt the butter, others that have you bring it to room temperature (which, in this L.A. heat, is basically the same thing).
Here’s my most controversial opinion: almost all chocolate chip cookie recipes are the same — with varying amounts of brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking soda, salt, chocolate — and you don’t need the best one or the latest one; you just need a very good one. Look no further.
Is there anything better than a hand-written recipe?
When my mom got married, her father’s co-workers gave her a bunch of handwritten recipes that she still has. And here on Eliza Island, where we’re on our last full day of summer vacation (which we’re lucky to have, considering what’s going on in the world), it’s not just the crab cake recipes that are handwritten. The dessert recipes are handwritten too.
Craig’s dad Steve has opinions about the title of this post. “Well,” he says, “if people like it, great. If they don’t, tell them it’s not my recipe.”
I have no qualms about calling these the world’s best crab cakes. Here’s my evidence: 1. The crab is freshly caught Dungeness crab; 2. That crab is cooked in sea water; 3. The crab cake itself is composed mostly of that crab; and 4. The man who makes them has the following sign in his kitchen.
Following a recipe can sometimes feel like you’re on a mad voyage with a crazed captain determined to set your kitchen ablaze in a quest to capture that ephemeral, culinary white whale.
“Are you out of your mind?” I wanted to yell at Melissa Clark, whose Pasta with Caramelized Peppers and Anchovies inspired this particular dinner. “Put the anchovies in the hot oil first? Before the peppers?! And use a whole jar?” The spatter coated not just the whole pan, but the tea kettle next to it and my entire stove top. I was ready to jump overboard. But the resulting dinner had Craig aflutter, moaning “Oh my God” upon taking the first bite. As a person who makes pasta on a biweekly basis (in the two-times-a-week sense), this may be the most potently flavorful pasta I’ve ever drummed up in my kitchen.
Mixing drinks at home has never been a priority. We’ve been known to stir up a Negroni now and again — it’s such an easy drink, I basically eyeball it — but the days of Craig shaking up Sidecars at dinner parties has been in steep decline ever since I noticed how much more clean-up is involved (the shaker, the extra glassware, the jigger, etc). Plus Craig always leaves the bottles with the caps off on my cutting board as I’m trying to get dinner together and it drives me crazy.
All of that changed under our current circumstances. We’ve been mixing up cocktails on the regular, with Craig reclaiming the mantle as our resident mixologist. His favorite drink to make is a Paper Plane, which is a surprising combination of Aperol, Amaro, Bourbon, and lemon juice: producing a bright, summery drink despite the presence of a wintery spirit. He also makes a mean gin martini, a fizzy gin and tonic (the day he told me to buy “bespoke tonic water,” I knew we’d become monsters), and an excellent classic daiquiri. And now we’re making even more sophisticated cocktails with the arrival of David Lebovitz’s Drinking French.