Well if the banner says it’s autumn, it’s autumn. So let’s make soup.
Soup really tests your cooking prowess because there’s always a way to make it taste better. Even if you’re not crazy about the results, you can fix them. For example: when Gina DePalma taught me how to make her lentil soup (which Smitten Kitchen featured on her blog) the key step was sizzling garlic in olive oil and stirring it in at the end. That’s the ultimate soup fixer-upper. Today’s soup comes to us from Chez Panisse Cooking and there’s a lot of flavor introduced up front so it doesn’t need much fixing at the end.
I suppose I must really like a challenge because, on the night that I made the bouillabaisse, I also attempted a famously difficult dessert: Lindsey Shere’s Almond Tart.
Lindsey Shere, in case you don’t know, helped open Chez Panisse in 1971 and stayed there as pastry chef until 1998. I first heard about her famous almond tart on my trip to San Francisco in 2007; I think it was at a place called Jojo in Oakland, with my friends Derrick and Melissa, that I first heard tell about it. The word “legendary” might’ve been applied.
Ask someone if they want chocolate cake, chances are they’ll say: “Ya-huh!”
Ask someone if they want a pickled wax bean, their reaction may not be so kind. I learned this the hard way after making a jar of pickled yellow wax beans from the Park Slope farmer’s market a few weeks ago. The recipe comes from Chez Panisse Vegetables, a book that proves to be an excellent resource in summer when vegetables are plentiful at farmer’s markets and you don’t know what to do with them. Case in point? Yellow wax beans. It was from this book that I got the idea to pickle them.
And you know what? Even though most guests balked at the opportunity to try one, that was better for me because I am now a pickled yellow wax bean convert. They are terrific. Why are they so terrific? They’re pickled in cider vinegar, which makes them punchy, fruity, and intense and the other aromatics–garlic, a red chile–only heighten the experience. Plus, they’re incredibly easy to make. You just stick the beans in a jar (that you’ve cleaned and boiled) and pour over boiling cider vinegar. That’s it. See? Isn’t that easy? Chocolate cake isn’t so easy.
And chocolate cake isn’t good for you. And these are–so make them and then keep them all to yourself. Or offer them to others, but don’t be insulted when they say “no.”
A mountain of sugar snap peas greeted visitors to the Union Square Farmer’s Market on Friday. I was there because on Friday night I was hosting a screening of “Showgirls,” a movie that Craig delights in as “sublimely disastrous.” Browsing around the market, I was trying to piece together a meal concept and, aware that it was spring, I purchased two bunches of asparagus and then, at the pile of sugar snap peas, I went a little crazy and bought two pounds of them! And would you believe, all two pounds were gone and consumed by Friday night.
Sometimes the name of a dish sounds so intimidating your immediate reaction is: “Pish posh! I can’t make that! And why did I just say pish posh?”
Such might be the case with the pizza you see above. You hear “pizza” and that doesn’t sound so difficult, but you add “caramelized onions, rosemary and gorgonzola” and you feel like you’re on Planet Impossible. Well come back to Earth, Earthling, and let me assure you: that pizza you see above may SOUND difficult, but it’s really a cinch. Here, let me convince you.
At the farmer’s market last week, I spotted green garlic and I recalled a whole section about green garlic in my favorite cookbook: Chez Panisse Cooking. On page 105, Paul Bertolli and Alice Waters write: “Garlic is commonly used as a mature plant when the bulb containing many cloves has formed. Green garlic is the same plant pulled from the ground at a much earlier stage, before the bulb forms and when the plant resembles a leek, with a stalk about 1/2 inch in diameter. Until recently, green garlic never appeared in the market and was largely unrecognized by cooks. The quality of green garlic is unique and of great use in the kitchen. When cooked it has none of the hot, pungent qualities of fresh garlic cloves. Its flavor, although unmistakably associated with the mature form, is much milder.”
When I got home I took their advice: “The flavor of green garlic is most clearly captured in a pureed soup made with new potatoes and finished with cream.” Here’s how you make it.