Speaking of being shattered, did I tell you that I shattered my favorite Italian pasta bowl a few weeks ago? Well, someone suggested I go on Replacements.com to find its doppelgänger. I looked at the name of the designer, Richard Ginori, and didn’t find my beloved bowl, but I found so many cool ones, including the one you see above. So I ordered that, and a Pinocchio bowl (you can see it on my Instagram) and last night I decided to cook something to go into it.
One day I’m going to tell you about all of the plates that I buy on Etsy and Ebay. It started a few years ago, after I finished my first TV job, and I was feeling a little flush with cash and instead of buying a new car or a gold watch, I bought a vintage pasta bowl from Italy. That led to the French bread plates with the orange rims, the dessert plates with hot air balloons on them, and then a set of Italian clown plates that arrived shattered. I was shattered too.
You don’t often think about turning on your oven to make a salad, but that’s exactly what I did after flipping through Suzannne Goin’s AOC Cookbook during the build-up to lunch on Saturday. My usual salads are normally quick affairs of tearing up some lettuce, drizzling on some good olive oil (lately it’s Séka Hills), and my beloved white Balsamic.
Chef Goin has you toast walnuts in the oven for her chopped salad (which this isn’t), but I liked the idea. As I was getting ready to do that, I remembered Nicole Rucker’s trick of cooking bacon on a cookie sheet at 375 (see: my most excellent BLT). So I popped some bacon in there along with the walnuts and suddenly this salad was seeming very promising.
You never know where you’ll learn a life-altering cooking technique. Longtime readers will know that I glean most of my food knowledge from Saturday afternoon PBS cooking shows (hat-tips to Lidia, Bridget & Julia, and Mary Ann Esposito), but today’s post is a result of following pastry chef extraordinaire Nicole Rucker on Instagram.
What’s with me and pasta? No, seriously, I’m really asking: how can I eat so much of it and never get tired of it? Sometimes I think it’s my own personal Rosebud, because my earliest food-related memories involve sitting at a little yellow plastic table on a gray carpet in front of the big TV, eating fusilli with Prego on top. Am I trying to recreate the innocence of childhood? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s just that pasta is so versatile and, more importantly, once you know the rules of how to make it–undercooking your pasta in well-salted water, then finishing it in the sauce, taking off the heat when almost all the liquid’s absorbed, and finishing with raw olive oil and grated cheese–it’s just one of the most impressive, delightful things you can make at home.
Becoming a good cook is a little bit like becoming a good musician: at a certain point, you can glance at a recipe–the way a pianist might glance at a piece of sheet music–and know what it’s going to taste like, just like the pianist knows what it’s going to sound like. That’s a real skill to have, especially when planning a dinner and searching through cookbooks for something to dazzle. On the morning our story begins, I was flipping through a Food52 Cookbook that I was sent long ago, and this recipe–which is also live on the Food52 site–sang out to me like a Mozart concerto. Turns out, not only did it taste as good as it did in my head; it tasted even better.
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.
Our first weekend in the new apartment and it was my mission to make breakfast. I’d carried a box of foodstuffs from our old refrigerator to the new refrigerator so as not to waste anything and that box contained perishables like eggs, bacon, butter and milk. In my pantry, I had flour, sugar and salt. What could a person make with these things that wasn’t boring? A vision came to me, a vision of a nun on a beach dancing the hoochie-coochie. But then another vision came to me: Crêpes!
We did a very smart thing this weekend: we invited friends over for dinner on Sunday night which forced us to finish unpacking and get our new place in order. Worked like a charm. By early Sunday evening, all of our boxes were unpacked, our furniture was properly placed and all of the lights were plugged in. We have our master list of things to get (extra towel hook for the bathroom, drain stopper for the sink) but all in all, we’re pretty remarkably set up for having only moved in a week ago. Only one question remained: what to make for dinner?