Growing up, when mom and dad would get dressed up on a Friday night, they’d leave us behind with a babysitter, a box of fusilli and a jar of Prego. I couldn’t have been happier because, as most of you know by now, pasta is my favorite food (next to dessert). Chicken or the egg-wise, it is possible that it is my favorite food because I grew up eating it; if mom had left us behind with a can of Spam and a pair of pliers, maybe I’d be gorging on canned meat to pep myself up. As it stands, though, when I’m down in the dumps, nothing puts a smile on my face like a big bowl of fusilli with a meaty tomato sauce. Here’s one I whipped up this weekend using some smoky bacon I had leftover.
We had plans to eat Sunday brunch with Rebecca Lando of Working Class Foodies last week only we were a bit under-the-weather (um, hungover). Instead of canceling, I had an idea: what if I just invite Rebecca over at 11:45? This was at 10:30. So I had an hour and fifteen minutes to cook up an impressive breakfast before she’d arrive. Could I pull it off? I most certainly could. Here’s what I did.
There’s salad. There’s pasta sauce. Those are things you can do with heirloom tomatoes in the summertime to make dinner.
But try this: get a loaf of really good bread. Slice the bread thickly and set it aside. Now take an eggplant (preferably purchased from the farmer’s market) and cut it into rings; cut a red heirloom tomato into rings too. Place those rings on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper…
Italians, please look away.
Everyone else, here’s something that I made up last week that was so good, I think you should make it too. I used leftover ingredients from the Haddock chowder I’d made the day before and, in using them, I did what Tom Colicchio’s always talking about on “Top Chef”–I developed lots of flavor through careful cooking. Let me show you what I mean.
Ok, so you read the last post, you read to yourself “vegetarian chili, sweet corn bread” and thought “eh, I’m not that impressed, I’m moving on with my day, I’m going to read about Anderson Cooper’s gayness and Katie Holmes protecting her kids from Tom Cruise’s Scientology.” That’s your prerogative. I won’t judge.
But you won’t be clicking away so fast when I tell you what I did with that leftover cornbread the next morning. It’s almost pornographic, what happened, so parents, please shield your children’s eyes.
There are two kinds of people who cook at home: the first kind chooses an elaborate recipe, buys all of the ingredients, spends hours cooking it, invites friends to eat it, spends hours cleaning it, and takes the rest of the week off. The other kind has long-range vision, makes a large batch of something and uses that batch to feed his or her family for the rest of the week. This kind of home cook–the true home cook–is resourceful, inventive, and frugal without letting that frugality show. And, lately, I’m proud to say, I’m shifting from Column A to Column B. Let me prove it to you with a bag of lentils.
You have people coming over for breakfast. You want to serve those people bacon. You want the bacon to be hot. You don’t want to fry it because that would require several pans, it would make a mess and it would be hard to manage while entertaining guests. You may think to yourself, “Maybe bacon’s not worth it.” But you would be wrong: bacon’s always worth it! And there’s an easy solution that you should know about; lean in close, and I’ll tell you.
Every year, Craig’s dad, Steve, makes the most amazing prime rib for Christmas dinner (see here) and every year I help out the best I can, usually volunteering to make a side dish. Last year I made a gratin but this year, since mashed potatoes were already on the menu, I offered up a vegetable. At my request, Craig’s mom (Julee) bought me a bag of Brussels sprouts from the grocery store and when the dinner hour grew close, I opened their refrigerator and pulled out a bevy of ingredients to help in my enterprise.