Back in October I received an unexpected but very welcome birthday gift from a dear friend: a turntable. I’ve had a small collection of records that have been traveling from apartment to apartment with me and finally I had a vehicle on which to play them whenever I wanted. I also went on a bit of a record buying spree, picking up some albums that I’ve long wanted on vinyl but couldn’t justify because, well, I didn’t have anything on which to play them. I had some great fun over the holiday season decorating the apartment to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and playing some mellow jazz on New Year’s Day, but what I was looking forward to most was the simple act of coming home, pouring myself a glass of something, and letting the stress of the week go as I listened to the sweet strains of John Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard or started a mini dance party set to Otis Blue. Read More
If the galettes were a foray into the unknown, the following week was a retreat into the familiar and easy. Initially my plan was to have dinner planned for three nights, but Michael’s schedule changed and I ended up only needing plans for two, so one of my favorite meals alone–ricotta dumplings with arugula–had to wait until lunchtime on Friday. Oh well.
Still, I ate very well: Tuesday I made Rachel Khoo’s delicious fig and liver salad. I wrote about this salad last year when I first read about it and felt compelled to make it, but Fairway didn’t have any fresh figs at the times so I subbed in some Italian plums instead. Thanks to Whole Foods I was able to make it as written, and I even splurged and bought some organic chicken livers. I’m not one to get up on soap boxes to sing the praises of organic foods, but I’ll make an exception for chicken livers. Since they are organs that filter things, the fact that they come from chickens fed an all-vegetarian diet means that they definitely taste way better than the super-cheap ones I’d find at the grocery store. They still don’t break the bank (a pound of them cost me $4) but the difference is extremely notable. Read More
Michael was traveling quite a bit over the past two weeks, going to such varied places as Bangor, Maine, and the suburbs of Toronto. (He didn’t even get a stamp in his new passport for the latter!) It’s the first time he’s had to travel for work since we moved, so it was subsequently my first opportunity to have a few sessions of sabor de soledad. Over the years of cooking for myself I’ve tried to strike a balance between trying new things and indulging in dishes and ingredients that I like but Michael doesn’t. Cheese often plays a big part–but not always–and sometimes I’ll even content myself with a big salad.
This time around, I had some fun with French food, from making my first galettes to flambeeing shrimp for the first time on my own. I’m not sure what exactly sparked this sudden desire for French food–perhaps it was the abundance of crisp French roses and whites we enjoyed this summer–but I found myself flipping through both Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen and Mimi Thorisson’s A Kitchen in France with greater frequency, mentally noting dishes that I wanted to make as soon as possible. Read More
It’s kind of surreal when I consider how much I used to hate eggs given that I’ll have them any time of day nowadays, but I think that my former distaste for them is rooted in the fact that I prefer my eggs on the slightly runnier side rather than cooked to oblivion, and growing up the latter is what we usually had at breakfast on the weekends. (The fact that I would also eat them with pancake syrup–and yes, pancake syrup and not real maple syrup–probably had something to do with it too.) I’m glad that I eventually came to this realization because otherwise I would be missing out on so many fast and relatively inexpensive dishes as well as the health benefits of the egg itself.
Of all the ways I love them–softly scrambled, poached, in an omelette or tortilla, or even baked in a sauce–I think my absolute favorite is the French classic ouefs en cocotte. It’s so easy to make, can be endlessly modified to one’s own taste, and unlike omelette cookery requires very little actual cooking skill aside from safely removing the ramekin from the hot water bath (or bain marie) when it’s done. Rachel Khoo’s take on this dish was what finally got me on board with it as she employed some creme fraiche and salmon roe along with nutmeg and dill to bring it together, and then later when I was flipping through Mimi Thorrison’s cookbook I found her version that employed mushrooms and onions cooked in a red wine sauce to also pique my interest. I tried Rachel’s first during a stint when Michael was away on business, and initially I was really frustrated with it because when I would check in after twelve minutes, then fifteen, and then twenty, it didn’t seem like anything was actually happening. I think I let it stay in there for twenty-five minutes altogether and was preparing myself to spoon into a fully-cooked egg yolk, but happily it was far runnier than I expected. When Michael and I tried Mimi’s version a few months later we also let the eggs go for longer than prescribed and yet the results were similar. It was then when it dawned on Michael where the disconnect lay: given that both of these women are European, they are naturally accustomed to using eggs that aren’t refrigerated. No refrigeration means that egg-cooking times are going to be much shorter as a rule. Read More
Remember when I was all ready to sing the praises of Lorraine Pascale and Rachel Khoo, my two favorite food presenters? I had done so thinking that I’d be watching their exploits on the Cooking Channel for at least months to come (you know, until they found others to fill their slots), but then we found out a few weeks ago that cable won’t be an option at our new place. So while Michael is rejoicing at the thought of no more weekend mornings dominated by the Food Network, I’m bummed that I can’t fangirl over my two new favorites each week.
Oh well—at least I have cookbooks and online recipes to get me through this transition. It also helps that both shows have had their episodes in reruns, so at the very least I’ve been able to see them many times already and written down notes to any recipe that has caught my fancy well before we have to disconnect and mail back the cable box. Read More