One of the aspects of Spanish food culture that I love is how they eat eggs at any time of day, with no need to cloak it in the really irritating “breakfast for dinner” trope.* The tortilla is perhaps the most famous way they cook eggs–check out Le culs en rows for her rather brilliant mini-tortillas that you can make in a muffin tin, by they way–but I’m convinced that the Spanish version of any egg preparation is the best. When we do have some eggs on Saturday mornings, Michael follows the technique that José Andrés calls for in his scrambled eggs with shallots and scallions recipe and they always are really creamy and tender because he makes sure they are still a little runny when he pulls the pan off of the heat. And then there is the baked egg variation, which I first enjoyed at La Tasqueta de Caldes in Caldes d’Estrac and I’ve been trying to recreate ever since.
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.
[Editor's note: it should go without saying that what happened in Newtown, CT, this past Friday was deplorable, horrific, abominable, heinous, and many more synonyms that could be employed to describe it as such. I hesitated on whether I should mention anything at all on the subject as this doesn't feel like the appropriate forum, but then my friends at Saugatuck Grain and Grape announced that they would donate 10% of their sales from their Bubbles, Bubbles and More Bubbles event to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund, so if you're in the Westport, CT area on Saturday the 22nd between 3 and 6PM, stop on by and enjoy some bubbles while giving back to a worthy cause. If you're like me and will be traveling, their phone orders will also count towards their final donation and they offer free delivery (but I would inquire within on specifics, of course). They haven't asked me to publicize this, but I thought it had a nice sentiment: a small business toasting its customers while wanting to give back to the greater community during a time of intense sorrow. Full explanation of the photograph above after the jump.] 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.
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
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.
In the five and a half years I’ve lived in Connecticut and New York, I’ve been fortunate to be within easy walking distance to gourmet shops that stocked most of the basics we might need for a weeknight meal–in New Haven, it was Romeo and Cesare’s, and in New York I didn’t even have to leave my own building as our apartment was literally above a bodega. I’m going to miss being able to take the elevator down there and swan around in flip flops and tank tops ind the dead of winter while the bundled-up folk give me the side-eye, but now I miss it as an easy resource to pick up a block of cheese, some lemons and limes or a can of chiles in adobo whenever I needed it without adding any significant time to my otherwise epic commute, because it allowed us the freedom to be spontaneous.
Now that we’re in Stamford, things have changed drastically. The closest convenience store to our building advertises their stock of sodas and body oils, which doesn’t inspire the most confidence in the quality of any food they might carry, so if either random inspiration strikes us or we realize that we forgot to get something at Fairway, the closest store we have to walk to is…Target. Read More
One of the incredibly irritating things about moving is slowly losing access to things that you maybe don’t use everyday–your spontaneity becomes more limited. or at least more time-consuming, as you suddenly have to knead dough by hand.
One thing I really hate about moving is when you realize that certain things are the “last” things: the last time we had to make the trek from Fairway Harlem laden with bags (that was Sunday), the last time I ride the 1 regularly (I don’t want to think about that right now), the last time you make pizza dough or fresh pasta dough. Of course, all of these vary in emotional significance–although my lower lip may have trembled a little bit when we were in line for the register at Fairway and I stared out the window at the foggy Hudson and cursed the fact that the weather was so crappy. But then Michael casually mentioned packing away the Kitchen Aid and I realized that these pizzas were the last to be made here in New York. If they must be the last…at least they were delicious. And a little over the top. Read More
[Editor's Note: Michael is filing this while at a conference in California, so he deserves a few props.]
Over Christmas, I made a point of requesting a large number of cookbooks in the name of expanding my culinary repertoire boldly into the realm French cookery. One of my first attempts was an as yet unpublished, seemingly straightforward Beef Bourguignonne. While everything seemed right on the surface, the final product was a bit too dry for my liking. I wondered if our very lean American supermarket beef was to blame for the discontinuity. We resolved to try again, this time with an ingredient that we hoped would be more foolproof. Read More
I have a confession to make, but I’m not sure how you’ll take it, so I’ll provide a little back story. It started on a Friday night and the conundrum of what to do for food for the week when we were traveling Saturday through Sunday morning (really, we were in Pennsylvania for less than 24 hours) and so Friday
we I spent the evening poring through cookbooks and logging some ingredients into our Fresh Direct order.
As I read the list of ingredients from The Book of Tapas, Michael surmised that we were making “a more complicated version of a Western omelette.” Suddenly warning bells sounded in my ear, urging me to proceed with caution. I took solace in the fact that the tortilla we were making was only one of two dishes, and the second was a longtime favorite: Catalan meatball soup.
Why the worry, you ask? I’ll be frank: I don’t like omelets. Read More