Cinderella has to pick lentils out of the fireplace in order to go to the ball (at least in Into The Woods) and for a long time I thought to myself, “At least she doesn’t have to eat them!”
There are so many foods that people associate with “health food,” they’re anything but enticing. Lentils definitely have a prominent place on that list. (The guiltiest offender? “Nutritional yeast.” Can you think of a food with a more awful name? I can’t.) And yet, just like The Best Broccoli of Your Life changed the way we think about broccoli, Ottolenghi has a recipe for lentils that’ll shift them into the category: “Something I really want to eat!”
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.
This summer, I’ve been having an affair. No, not in the bedroom, in the kitchen. I’m passionately in love with a vinegar; not just any vinegar, but white balsamic vinegar.
It all started when I was ordering groceries to pick up from McCalls Meat & Fish (yes, I know I mention them a lot). Their online store has an oils and vinegars section, so I checked out their offerings and saw that they had white balsamic. I’d never used white balsamic before, but I was intrigued, so I bought it. And that’s when everything changed. I started feeling feelings I’d never felt about a vinegar before.
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.”
At first, I talked myself out of it. We were going stir-crazy in our very hot apartment here in L.A. and Craig said we should drive up the California coast, up the Oregon coast, and finally to visit his family in Bellingham, Washington, where they share a cabin in the summers with friends on Eliza Island, at the tip of the San Juans. It sounded ideal, but also a little scary in Covid-times: where would we stay along the way? Where would we eat? Would it be safe? I came down on the “no” side and Craig was disappointed.
Then he decided to fly. He started looking at tickets. Fly! Wasn’t that more dangerous? What germs would he encounter on the plane? Would he be bringing them to his parents? Back to me? I recalculated the risk of driving: we would have to stay in hotels or AirBnBs, but face-to-face interactions could still be minimized. Food-wise we could stick to outside or drive-throughs. Plus: wouldn’t it be great to get out of this fiery cauldron? I re-approached the idea while walking Winston and shifted my stance. “Let’s just do it!” I said and, before we knew it, we were on our way.
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.