A few months ago when we were in the throes of absolutely miserable weather, I had this feeling that ramp season would be embraced even more fervently than before, if only because it was definitive proof that spring was finally here and the long tyranny of this winter had come to an end. There had been some backlash against the ramp’s trendiness over the last few years, with some sniffing that while good, the hype surrounding them had ballooned out of control. Even by the time I had first gotten my hands on a few bunches back in 2010 the eye-rolling had already begun, but thankfully that hasn’t stopped the influx of ramps into the Union Square Greenmarket. As J. Kenji López-Alt rightly pointed out in 2011, part of what makes the ramp special is that we do have to wait for them to come every year and when they are available we have to make the most of them—in our increasingly on-demand society, it’s kind of refreshing to exercise some patience when it comes to food.
Whenever we’re in the Flatiron district, I love to teasingly goad Michael into dropping in on Eataly; lately, his response has been simply “OK, see you at home then.” You may recall our initial impressions of Eataly New York when it first opened over Labor Day weekend in 2010; I’ve made a few visits there since then on my own, and I can’t say that my initial impressions have changed all that much. Any time I’ve purchased ingredients to make dinner I’ve been extremely satisfied with the results, and on my last visit I treated myself to a Neapolitan-style pizza that was easily among the best pizzas I ever had. But on the weekends the place was nearly as claustrophobic as it had been on opening weekend, and for all of the text on the walls celebrating Italian food culture, I was still left rather…cold.
Over Christmas I had heard that there were other Eataly locations opening up in the next few years, with a Chicago location having opened in November and space on a spot in Philadelphia allegedly secured. In chatting with my brother-in-law and his boyfriend about the latter, reflecting on the good and the disappointing, I realized that it had been a while since I went there and maybe, just maybe I had been too hard on the place, that I was trying to make it into something it never set out to be anyway. So when we were in Chicago a few weekends ago and I realized that Eataly Chicago was open and right off of Michigan Avenue, I decided to see if perhaps the second iteration had improved upon the first.
Welp. Well, I guess it’s really fall, even if the temperatures have crept close to the 70s a few days ago, and threaten to do so later this week. You know how I know this? The darkness has been making a hasty return sooner and sooner every day, and as someone who lives in the Northeast and prefers taking pictures of my food in natural light, I hate it. So please bear with me as I once again readjust to the awful artificial light in our apartment. Clearly, I will never take this transition well.
One of the few bright spots about this transition to colder weather is feeling the need to take the shears to my pots of herbs while they are still lush and vibrant. My oregano plant has been left to its own devices all season and has gotten positively unruly; because it’s considered to be really strong in taste, the only amount I’ve needed to use are a few sprigs here and there in recipes all summer. I despaired of finding a proper way to dispatch of it until I found this lovely pesto recipe from Saveur, which called for one and a half cups of packed oregano leaves and only half a cup of basil leaves. A little more than a week ago I trimmed back my plant to make the sauce to pour over pasta, and the results were not only really satisfying, but this pesto felt more autumnal compared to the ones I’ve been making all summer. Read More
Lobster and pasta: it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And doesn’t it sound like the epitome of the springtime or summer meal, something to enjoy after a nice day at the beach, perhaps served with a refreshing beer or glass of white wine?
Oh, were it so simple. The truth of the matter is that this is a dish that demands patience. Not only does it take some work to get all of the components ready, but it’s one that requires you to wait until the ingredients are in season because anything otherwise would result in a less-than-stellar meal. I knew this when I first saw the recipe in Made In Sicily months ago, so I abstained from even thinking about it. But then Memorial Day weekend came, and Michael was home after a long week in England, and Fairway had lobster on sale. Even the tomatoes smelled delicious, despite it not quite being peak tomato season just yet in our neck of the woods.
In short: I waited long enough to have this, and to borrow a phrase from Alton Brown, my patience was going to be rewarded. Read More
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.
Welp. I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I hit “publish” on this blog until I saw that my last update was in May. Early May. I can offer no good explanation for this–I know when this kind of extended silence happens elsewhere in the blogosphere, it’s usually due to news of great import, but I can assure you that is not the case here at all. Between the new job, various summer outings, visitors, and finally getting into Game of Thrones, the summer has been full so far. Read More
Of the many things I miss about New York, access to the year-round greenmarkets can get really high on the list when I’m craving certain foods; namely, carbornara. It’s easy to feel confident about 99% of the foods we purchase at Fairway, but the only time a shadow of doubt crosses my mind is when I want to combine raw eggs with pasta. I was taught over our honeymoon that only the freshest eggs would do for pasta alla carbornara, so now I need to be able to know that the eggs I’m buying are fresh enough to do so–hence the need to buy directly from the farmer.
But what’s a girl to do when those greenmarkets aren’t a stone’s throw away anymore? While we aren’t horribly far from the city, it feels kind of silly to spend nearly $20 a person to go into Manhattan just to get eggs. That’s when the idea struck to add poached eggs to an otherwise simple combination of pasta, pancetta, and cheese, and that making the pasta drunken would keep things even more interesting. Read More
One of the downsides in traveling to celebrate the holidays is not having a reason to buy any of the special holiday-only products that are usually in one’s supermarket meat department. At Fairway this is particularly difficult when you see such fascinating things like goose or capon or the crown roasts of lamb and pork that are on special and look absolutely delicious, but are far too large for two people to reasonably consume on their own. The week before Christmas tested our resistance to not hauling home a huge hunk of meat when Fairway was sampling its standing choice rib roasts: two bites of the medium-rare beef had us both sorely tempted, but it felt a little too over-indulgent, even for us. Cut to a few days later when a gift card to my favorite store fell into my lap and it took all of five seconds for me to offer to use it to procure a couple of bones of rib roast. We purchased it the evening before we were heading to Pennsylvania for the holiday weekend, and the following morning it was in the fridge, dry-aging to perfection. Read More
You know how when you make a tomato sauce and there’s all of those dark red or purple bits on the side of the pan? I want to make this sauce taste like that.
–Michael on the way home from Fairway after I nagged him to death about his super-secretive sauce idea.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I wish I had some profound reason for our collective silence, but to be honest, it boiled down to not feeling terribly inclined to write about food. The Thanksgiving holiday leaves me with nothing to say about holiday cooking since we’re not the ones cooking it, and we have to travel, and frankly I’m over writing about various squashes and how good they are with sage and rosemary and waxing endlessly on the deliciousness of roasted vegetables.. Yeah–they are all awesome. We know that. Let’s move on.
Over the course of the fall Michael and I have been tweaking red sauces fairly often, in part to rebel against the beige-ness of what tends to be made this time of year. This is a dish that evolved from that culinary puttering (see Michael’s quote above) as well as a very intense desire to have a sun-dried tomato pesto with orecchiette after a rather silly conversation on Twitter (see the #pastawar tag to see what I mean). Michael completely ran with it and flatly refuesd to give me the details of what he was thinking as he gathered ingredients at Fairway. Bastard. But I trusted him because he had a vision, and that vision included prosciutto di Parma, and there was no way I was going to object to any of it. Read More
Now I am quietly waiting
for the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.
It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
Frank O’Hara, excerpt of “Mayakovsky” from Meditations in an Emergency
This passage kind of perfectly expresses those mean reds I mentioned a week and a half ago that have taken up in casa TMFP. It hasn’t helped that it was a fairly rainy week and therefore the sky grew dark out even sooner than it should, and in one of those rainstorms Michael’s new car was lightly clipped by some jerk near his office. And ugh–as I write this it’s gotten grey and moody outside again. It’s like the weather is gleefully pissing all over my “Operation: Abolish Mean Reds” efforts with every cold, grey, sodden day. It’s why we curled up with the second season premiere episode of Mad Men in all of its angsty glory but at the same time pushed ourselves from a culinary perspective–we may be indulging our grumpiness in some ways, but tasting something new and different could also be the jolt we both need. First up: our anniversary dinner on Sunday and going back to a genuine happy place.