Moules à la grecque, from The Les Halles Cookbook
This one’s a nice departure from the summer-style mussel recipes so far, a dish more suited to fall or winter, or post-Labor Day New England. You know, fluffy sweaters and shorts, tourists all gone…that crisp, cool, Cape Cod light. Okay, I don’t live that way either. But it sounds good, right?
Anthony Bourdain, The Les Halles Cookbook
There are days in August especially when all I want is a nice, rich bowl of pasta; fortunately for me, I can make us a pan of Amatriciana sauce with fresh tomatoes and still count it as seasonally-appropriate cooking. It’s much more difficult to find an analogous dish in the wintertime, one that is made with seasonal produce but won’t weigh you down in its density.
Shellfish dishes have been filling this need fairly well so far this season, but moules à la grecque is quite possibly the ne plus ultra of the bunch. Relatively fast to make, easy to cook, and riddled with fennel, this is everything that Bourdain promises above: a wintertime alternative to the bright, summery dishes that beg for freshly-trimmed herbs and fresh tomatoes from the garden. If you can get it made by 5PM in late February, you can also enjoy it in the crisp, cool New England light, though shorts would only be recommended if dining indoors with good central heating. Read More
Basque-style mussels and white bean stew.
I know the first post in this series was for an agua fresca, but I should make it clear that juicing is not something we do at all, but every once in a while I’ll crave something sweet and light and that fresh drink mix does the trick nicely. But then I see things like this interview and I’m kind of boggled by anyone being satiated by only drinking a few juices during the day and waiting until the evening to eat a meal of solid food. Then again, there’s no way I could do what I want to do powered simply by juice, because you can’t lift heavy or lift in volume on what appears to be a very limited amount of calories, particularly in the protein realm.
Because that’s the thing about doing things like barbell deadlifts and squats: for me, I need to feel like I have some serious fuel in the tank to get over the mental hurdle that is pulling a series of heavy triples in a row, or doing a circuit that calls for ten to twelve rounds of pressing sixty pounds over my head and squatting it on my back, all the while feeling confident that every time I do so I’m completely in control of the barbell in my hands. Fueling those pre-workout dinners with something that’s both filling but not stuffing can prove to be a challenge, but I find a nice balance with seafood, especially when I pair it with beans or quinoa. Read More
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
Vieiras con romesco/Scallops with roasted Catalan sauce
Ever since we got back from Spain, the number of grey, rainy, and unseasonably cold days we’ve had at home has been significantly higher than we usually get this time of year. I think it temporarily stymied all of that wonderful inspiration that accompanied me home from Barcelona and Caldetes because last Tuesday I mulling over what I wanted to make for dinner that night and had absolutely no ideas whatsoever. Remembering that I now had the first season of Made in Spain on DVD, I immediately went to the website to see if any of the recipes posted would provide a bit of inspiration.
And then I found this recipe and resolved to pop a DVD in while I made dinner and waited for Michael to get home. Suddenly, my grey and chilly Tuesday looked so much brighter. 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
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
Hable con ella - Alicia
I’ve been slowly making my way through the Pedro Almodóvar library, and one thing I’ve found that even in his most straightforward of films is that he always manages to include at least one good WTF moment that changes the whole path of the narrative. There’s always this element of the unbelievable, but to spin an oft-quoted English saying, one must keep calm and trust Almodóvar because he always manages to work himself and his characters out of any overly odd plot twist. The twist in Talk to Her (Hable con ella) is one I won’t give away as it’s pretty disturbing, but just when you think a character suddenly becomes completely unlikeable, redemption comes about in a strange way.
Hable con ella is one of those films in which the titular women are not present; they are in the past, and they are potentially in the future, but they primarily exist as coma patients during most of the film. Instead, the story is told from the perspective of the men who love them and care for them: the clownish Benigno and the standoffish Marco. It’s a story of men trying to understand women they love: Benigno thinks he understands Alicia because he talks to her, and has been doing so in the four years she’s spent in a coma; Marco is seen as someone who was open and could not stop talking to Lydia during the idyllic period prior to her accident.
They talk because they think that is what a good lover does; the problem, of course, is that they were pretty horrible at listening to the women they loved. Read More
Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe
Guilt can be a powerful thing–and as with all things powerful, it must be used in responsible ways. Michael is headed for a conference this coming weekend, leaving me to fend for myself for six days.* Naturally we’ve had periods of separation before–usually because I’m the one traveling for work–but this will be the longest period we’ve had to deal with since I moved to Connecticut five years ago. I know Michael feels bad about leaving me to have to cook for myself for a whole work week because not only did we have pasta on Sunday night, he was the one suggesting to make it and he acquiesced to my request for cacio e pepe without much protest.
In other words, he brooked no opposition to us having a dish that is, in essentials, pasta and cheese. Yep, that’s guilt. Read More
"Weeds" and Sausage (or, Pericatelli and Sausage Ragu)
Lately, I’ve found myself becoming more and more enraptured by movies that I had in quite some while: I credit this to watching a lot of foreign films lately (particularly those by Almodóvar and Fellini) and the availability of seeing virtually any film I want in one of the many theaters in New York. The AMC in Lincoln Square is our favorite theater, but sometimes we will go to the AMC Empire in Times Square if only for the novelty of riding the down escalator through an Applebee’s and a Dave and Buster’s as we try to make our way out of the building. It’s not quite the obsession I had with film when I was fifteen, but it’s nice to come back to it in a small way, and I am constantly on the search for recommendations for new foreign films to check out and/or purchase. Read More
Beef-Veal-Ricotta Meatballs in a White Wine Sauce
Some people prefer the good news-bad news-good news sandwich (you know, like the compliment sandwich); me, I prefer serving the bad news open-faced and supported by a solid cushion of good news.
So here it is. The bad news: it’s been really fracking cold here and it’s still technically autumn. Bla.
The good news: citrus is about to get really tasty and it is now seasonally appropriate to crank the oven and cook rib-sticking meals.
See, it’s not so bad, right? And if you’re lucky like us and have radiators that keep your apartment at a perpetual 85 degrees (at least), you can still get away with wearing next to nothing and pretending that it’s still warmer out. (Aside: since we can access the store beneath us via an interior elevator, I really enjoy finding the flimsiest excuse to go there on a really cold day dressed in a tank top, skirt and flip-flops and mess with all of the other customers. It’s so much fun.) Read More