Remember the end of The Goonies, when the Goonies reunite with their parents and they’re rattling off all of the things that happened to them on their adventure? And Data says, “The octopus was very scary,” even though there wasn’t an octopus, though technically there was an octopus, it was just cut from the movie?
That’s how it feels to tackle an epic recipe. And when it comes to epic recipes, the reigning queen on my bookshelf is Nancy Silverton. Her Frito Pie — which was a three day process — is still one of my proudest culinary moments. That recipe, like the one I’m about to tell you about, comes from her Mozza at Home, a cookbook that doesn’t get enough praise, possibly because it’s affiliated with a restaurant, even though it’s one of the best cookbooks on my shelf. (Put it on your list.)
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.
Sometimes I do Q&As on Instagram and lots of people have been asking me lately how I shop for the week.
The answer: I do a Supermarket Sweep every Monday at Cookbook in Echo Park. It’s a SuperMarket Sweep because you get the store to yourself, but you only get ten minutes, so you have to go as fast as you can. Here’s my strategy: dry goods first (Rancho Gordo beans, pastas, ancient grains like freekeh (more on that in a sec)), fruits and vegetables next (I load up on as many as I can; I feel like you can’t buy too many fruits and vegetables during Covid, they can go into salads, side dishes, desserts), and, finally, I buy three proteins to dole out over the week. One of those proteins is almost alway sausage because sausages work in soups, pastas, or you can cook them whole in tomato sauce and serve over polenta.
Nothing sets me off like sanctimoniousness; that holier-than-thou, self-righteous, sermon-on-the-mount style of food writing. Often the sentiments are well-intentioned but everything is done so humorlessly, it’s hard for the average person to connect. And so it goes with vegetables. The general take, these days, seems to be that we should eat less dead bodies and more living green stuff. OK, I can get on board with that, though often the images associated with this new way of life are plates of kale and quinoa and other foods that start with a hard “K” sound. Can’t vegetables be sexy? Decadent? The kind of special dinner you might ask for on your birthday? Well, let’s not get carried away, but here’s a dinner that’s not at all good for you but is good for you in the broader sense because it’s got no dead bodies in it, just vegetables. Actually just one vegetable then lots of butter, flour, whole milk, cheese, and bread crumbs. There’s not a sanctimonious thing about it.
Oh kale, you’re everywhere. You’re in my belly right now because I just had you for lunch (a raw salad that was a little too spicy from Little Dom’s Deli). You’re a fad, you’re a trend. You’re chips, you’re juice. You’re unavoidable in L.A.
And here I am putting a recipe with kale in it up on the blog. Have I no shame? Am I the equivalent of an insecure middle schooler who chases the popular kids around yelling, “Hey, guys, wait for me!” (Funny: when I started high school, one of the first friends I made–an older girl–actually said, “You seem like the kind of kid who’d say, ‘Hey guys, wait for me!'”) Whatever.
What is grilling? Does it have to happen outside? Why?
These are questions I often ask myself, especially since I’ve yet to be able to buy my dream grill (a Weber kettle drum charcoal grill) to begin my own grilling education. In the interim, I’ve read–in fact, I’ve written in my own cookbook–that you can replicate the effects of outdoor grilling with a cast iron skillet at home. Problem is, any time I’d ever done this I added oil to the skillet and whatever I was “grilling” ended up tasting like it was fried in oil, not grilled. What would happen if I heated my cast iron skillet until super hot and added food to it without any fat? Would that result in a more “grilled” flavor? I decided to give that a try with cauliflower steaks.
When I declared my pescatarianism last week, I was mostly being tongue-in-cheek because I was pretty sure it wouldn’t stick. I’m still not sure it’ll stick. But so far, it’s stuck, and at the same dinner party when I made that spring pea puree, I needed a vegetarian entree that would impress in a way that didn’t make anyone think: “Vegetarian entree.” Rifling through a recent Food & Wine, I found a recipe for David Kinch’s Eggplant Dirty Rice and thought: “Ooooh.” Once I made it, that “oooh” transformed into a “whoah.” This is powerful stuff, one of the best vegetarian dinners I’ve had in a long time.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, a musical can be built around the poetry of Ezra Pound.
Wait, that was a ridiculous line from last week’s Smash (as recapped, hilariously, by Rachel Shukert here). What I meant to say was: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, it’s worth knowing how to make a curry. I’ve done it with chickpeas, I’ve done it with cauliflower, and today I’ll show you how to do it with a sweet potato.