Pan-Fried Striped Bass with Pancetta and Parsley
A few months ago, right around Valentine’s Day, one of my coworkers asked me for some advice on making paella, and if I’d mind lending him a cookbook with a recipe in it. That night found me pulling my various Spanish cookbooks and reviewing the paella recipes contained therein; I wanted to give him one that was authentic but presented in an accessible way. I ended up bringing in my copies of The Barcelona Cookbook and Made in Spain for him to peruse, and between the two he was able to cobble together a recipe that would work for him.
My point of this story? When I went and pulled all of those cookbooks off the shelves, I realized I had upwards of at least fifteen dedicated to Spanish and//or Catalonian cooking. And that only counts the books we keep downstairs–the less-often used go upstairs in our loft “library.”
Common sense, recollection, and this blog’s archives tell me that I shouldn’t be so surprised by this, but I am all the same. Read More
Ajo blanco de malagueño (or, white gazpacho)
Yes, that’s a whole mess of Spanish and Català up there in the post title. No, I make no apologies.
This meal was a bit ambitious for us, even for a Sunday night: in the mood for some delicious José Andrés-style tapas after hearing about Michael’s visit to Zaytinya during his recent trip to DC. Picking four dishes (the three listed here, along with a variation of this salad), I made a plan to get some of the work done early in the afternoon, after my workout but before I went down the street to see the Chilean movie No at the local non-profit movie theater. I really thought that I had it all in hand: I made the sofrito for the rossejat after we got back from the store, and everything else was pretty much self-explanatory. Or so I thought. Read More
Roasted Grape and Goat Cheese Bruschette
As a rule, I try not to be too precious about my cookbooks. They’re meant to be practical, after all, and the best ones should bear the stains of cooking: the pages a little warped from sauce splatters, little smudges here and there on the edges, even pages escaping the binding after years and years of use. When I pull a book from the shelf and sit down on the couch to browse it, those little signs of wear and tear remind me of successful (and even the less-than-successful) meals.
My practical outlook was almost turned upside down when I unwrapped a copy of Polpo on Christmas Day, because in my hands was quite possibly the most aesthetically pleasing cookbook I ever had the pleasure of owning. I instantly loved everything about it: the typeface, the photography, the paper used for the pages. But the absolute neatest visual aspect about this book is the spine::
How cool is that? And then I found this fantastic article from The Paris Review a few days later on the evolution of the bookshelf and that back in the days when books were primarily found in monasteries they would be placed with the front edges out, all ornately illustrated. But I digress.
When I’m feeling particularly industrious during a weekend morning hate-watch of the Food Network, I’ll sit down with my cookbooks and start flagging recipes to try with Post-Its. Over time the notes get a little scraggly as the books are taken off and placed back on the shelf and splatters from other cooking exploits land on them, but I can never bring myself to remove them–especially if I haven’t made that recipe. The really decrepit ones taunt me the most, and I’ll get it in my head that there’s something fundamentally inaccessible about the recipe to prevent me from making it, because why else would I continue to avoid it? Read More
Pan-seared trout with prosciutto and garlic-chile oil
Whole fish rank pretty high on the list of ingredients that are intimidating to work with when I’m cooking by myself. This isn’t the first time fresh whole fish have been featured here–when in New York we had more than our fair share of sardines and mackerel–but this was the first time I went at it on my own, using a new-to-me recipe because I’ve been on this ambitious cooking streak since we’ve gotten back from Spain. My trepidation in making this dish was actually three-fold:
- Was one fish enough for two people?
- The fish I did buy would not fit well into our only nonstick pan.
- I would overcook the fish. I prefer an ever-so-slightly underdone fish to overdone fish, because if it’s really an issue it can be reheated again. Overcooked fish tastes like cat food to me, and I really wasn’t in a mood to waste the $9 or so I spent on this lovely trout.
For the most part, my fears were unfounded as I was not only able to successfully cook this fish, Michael even declared it to be the best whole fish he’s ever had. I don’t credit my skills on that front, but rather the ingeniousness of the preparation.
Hawksmoor Roast Chicken
Back when Michael was in England, he was able to spend some time in London with our fabulous London friends, and during our subsequent cell phone and Google Hangout conversations he told me about this cookbook they had that from their favorite steakhouse Hawksmoor. Simply perusing the book made him feel inspired to buy it, and when I saw that it was under $30, I jumped and ordered a copy. To say that it’s a meat-lover’s cookbook is to be cliche; in fact, this cookbook is a diatribe on great English food and drink, albeit with a very heavy focus on meat. If a roast chicken recipe is an adequate barometer of the worth of a cookbook, well, the recipe here makes this one a good book to at least consider.
It may be a bit hasty to declare this when you’ve only tried one recipe, but when they get the roast chicken recipe so well, it’s only natural to assume the rest is remarkable. Especially when one is called “Beef Shin and Macaroni.” I’m looking forward to making that when it gets significantly colder. Read More
Bucatini con pesto trapanese/Bucatini with Trapanese pesto
It was with very mixed emotion I said goodbye to Michael a few Saturdays ago—I was off to Pennsylvania for some early-birthday celebrations with my family, while he was getting ready to head to England for a near-week-long trip. This wasn’t the longest he’s ever been away, but it is the furthest, and not having him handy when I was cooking, even remotely, meant that I was really on my own when it came to meal planning that week. And unlike the last time he was away for a long stretch, I wouldn’t have nearly enough time as I have in the past to plan my meals; after all, there was a Clásico to watch, and a barbell to lift, and groceries to buy on Sunday once I returned home from the Stamford train station. Fortunately, I was wise enough to ask for Made in Sicily for my birthday from my family, so I had a quiet ride on the Keystone to flip through its sizable pages.
It’s a pretty exhaustive tome on all things Sicilian that’s heavy on the vegetable, pasta, and seafood dishes, and it made me wish a few times at least that my birthday was a little earlier on the calendar so I’d have more time to take advantage of the many delicious tomato dishes on display. Other recipes definitely intrigued me until I realized the called for bottarga or uni (i.e. sea urchin roe), two ingredients that aren’t exactly cheap here in the U.S., but perhaps if I’m feeling particularly adventurous (and flush with cash), there may come a time to treat myself if only to try it in the future. I settled on a recipe that I had seen before, but never made from this book: a pesto trapanese that was exactly what I wanted: a fresh sauce made thicker by the inclusion of almonds and more refreshing with a healthy addition of mint. It may not need the processing I put it through via the blender, but I prefer a blended pesto over a very rustic one, and I loved how it coated every strand of the bucatini. Read More
This is not going to be a normal post with a pithy (ha!) little story about this particular meal, because I have been staring at this photo of ceviche for a few weeks now and still can’t come up with something about Labor Day that isn’t completely banal. I mean, I could go all “bla bla bla, no grilling here because we were craving something light” or some crap, but I can only imagine how boring it would be to read it given how dull I found every various narrative bent.
So I am going to ask for your forbearance while I write about some of the various stream-of-conscious thoughts that have been running through my head. Read More
Pollo al pimentos
I’ve never liked the lamentations that often accompany Labor Day, all bemoaning the end of the summer. First of all, summer is not over; September 20th marks the beginning of fall. And it’s not as if the weather immediately resets itself to autumn mode, either–the mere act of going into my closet Sunday morning to contemplate sweaters was causing me to break out in a sweat. Just because coffee shops are champing at the bit to push their pumpkin pie spice lattes doesn’t mean it’s time to put away the sandals. You can try to pry those off my feet, but I don’t think you’d be successful.
Besides: this is the best time of year to enjoy the best of what summer has to offer. Making your way down to the Union Square Greenmarket via subway comes with the best reward: the overwhelming aroma of peak-time tomatoes and herbs enveloping your senses as you emerge from the subway station. Even if you can’t make it to that particular market, you are afforded a similar sensation as you shop for tomatoes in your local supermarket, because if they don’t smell amazing now, they likely never will.
(I realize with the previous statement that I am showing my proximity-to-Jersey-tomatoes-privilege, but they are seriously the best tomatoes ever so I apologize for nothing.) Read More
It all began innocuously enough: I asked Michael what he’d like to make for dinner while the Food Network played in the background, and he requested tapas. So I pulled out my copy of Culinaria: Spain to browse through their tapas spread, first pausing in the Catalonian chapter to see if they had anything tasty that might also work. Between the two, I found a simple dish of sautéed shrimp with a tomato-based romesco sauce, and a bacon-and-egg tapa called duelas y quebrantos, which translates to “pain and destruction.”
We should have taken it as a sign. But then again–what would be wrong with eggs and bacon? Surely Ron Swanson would approve.