The International House of Pancakes is not, by any standard, a hip place to eat. Leave it to Chef Roy Choi (a chef I cooked with for my cookbook, best known for starting the Kogi Truck) to turn an IHOP into a must-visit L.A. dining destination, one that effortlessly oozes panache and cool.
There’s a very hip restaurant in my neighborhood called Joseph Leonard; you go there, and everyone else is either more attractive or more wealthy than you. There’s a very cool bathroom with a medicine cabinet over the sink that has Q-tips, Altoids and tampons (I bet women wish more restaurant bathrooms had tampons; or maybe they do and that’s just a secret between women and restaurants?) and on every table a little jar of cornichons. It’s that little jar of cornichons (not the tampons) that I’d like to talk about today. It led to my own table decorating revelation, one involving sugar snap peas, garlic and lots of white wine vinegar.
[Hey, this is Adam The Amateur Gourmet. I’m on vacation in Barcelona, Spain and while I’m gone I’ve asked some awesome people to fill in for me. Today we continue talented female filmmaker day with another talented female filmmaker, Ms. Dara Bratt. (Check out her film, “In Vivid Detail.”) Dara isn’t just a talented filmmaker, she’s also an excellent cook–see here–but this post, I have to confess, has me a little worried. Take it away, Dara!]
What I’m about to share may shock you, some will be repulsed, others curious or even amused. Nothing beats a hot summer day like frozen pickle juice.
[The Amateur Gourmet is on vacation and, while he’s gone, he’s asked his friends to cover for him. Patty Jang, a playwright who lives in Brooklyn where she is working on her play “Yellow Peril 3.0,” somehow sneaked her way into the mix. For the sake of not making her angry, let’s listen to her whine about cucumbers!]
We’ve all heard that the best way to eat is to eat locally, organically, and seasonally, but when you’re making a fruit tart that calls for out-of-season cherries shipped in from California, it’s hard to be a saint. To force ourselves into eating more responsibly, Lauren and I decided to join the Washington Square CSA, which gets produce from Norwich Meadows Farm in upstate New York. After fighting the hordes that swarm the Union Square Whole Foods, picking up our produce at the CSA is an absolute pleasure. While weighing out our share of stunning organic tomatoes, beets, and delicate salad greens, I congratulated myself for being a conscientious citizen of the Earth… until I saw the overflowing bins of cucumbers. For the last nine weeks, we have been bombarded with cucumbers. I’m talking pounds and pounds of cucumbers. Every week. I hate cucumbers.
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.”
Dear Craig Claiborne,
I am greatly enjoying your somewhat notorious autobiography, “A Feast Made For Laughter.” Sure, it’s a little creepy when you talk about touching your dad’s erect penis while sharing a bed, but I appreciate your zeal for people and food. Case in point: early in the book, you tell a story involving Parker House rolls. Your brother passes you a basket of them and instead of taking the basket from him, you start to reach your hand in and take one out and your brother, appalled, drops the basket to the floor saying: “When anyone passes you a basket of bread, you take the basket. Or at least you touch it as a gesture of thoughtfulness.”
This passage amused me because it’s a good story, but mostly it made me hungry–hungry for Parker House rolls. I cracked open “The Joy of Cooking” and found the most basic recipe in the world; a recipe that required only yeast, butter, flour, sugar, salt and milk. I’d write out the recipe here, but it’s so standard any internet search will suffice. And those rolls–which took a few hours to rise–were quaint and comforting, the kind of food you want an American food icon to eat. Thank you for inspiring me to make them; I look forward to the rest of your book.