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Pressure-cooked fresh tomatoes–even better than canned.

I’m finally finished with my cookbook project–after nine months and change, I’ve cooked or made at least one thing from every cookbook in our primary collection, all 105 of them. In retrospect it was a really valuable exercise, not only because it gave me a new appreciation for the recipes that I had at my disposal, but also in helping me develop some really helpful techniques. Had I not set out to do this I wouldn’t have tried Massimo Bottura’s method for making pasta completely by hand, or Alton Brown’s shrimp scampi, or Mimi Thorisson’s dry pan-roasted mushrooms. I’ve pushed myself in ways I wasn’t expecting, and because of that I feel like I’ve grown as a cook, and I feel better-equipped to improvise where necessary. Read More

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Shrimp scampi via Alton Brown.

Few dishes scream “I was big in the nineties!” like shrimp scampi, maybe because even writing words takes me back to a table at a Red Lobster with a plate of butterflied fried shrimp and shirmp scampi before me, with the latter drowning in too much butter and probably some crappy white wine. It was so ubiquitous (to the point of nauseatingly generic) that it served as symbol in the ’90s romantic comedy Only You* that a shared love of the dish was a superficial connection at best.

So color me surprised when a few weeks ago I was flipping through the remainder of my cookbooks that I had yet to use and I found myself flagging a recipe for shrimp scampi in Alton Brown’s first cookbook I’m Just Here for the Food. There was no butter involved here–just a couple of tablespoons of olive oil–and not even a mention of wine. Instead, the idea is that you broil the shrimp with the garlic and some seasoning (salt, pepper, and some Old Bay) for a couple of minutes, and then stir in some lemon juice, panko breadcrumbs, and parsley, and put it back in the broiler to let the shrimp cook through and the breadcrumbs attain a lovely golden color. Intrigued, I put it on the list of things to make for dinner this past week. Read More

Chargrilled mushroom salad

As I’ve learned to love and appreciate a good salad over time, I’ve been trying to add more of them to our rotation, saving the more complicated ones for the weekend, or for days when I’m craving something simple and light during one of my sabor de soledad sessions. There’s one recipe from Alton Brown’s new cookbook that’s been an early favorite, but given that strawberries feature heavily in it, I’ve been waiting for them to come into their peak season before writing about it. This recipe, on the other hand, is relatively season-agnostic* and what I like about it is that in the winter it helps you think of warmer days and in the summer the grilled mushrooms add substance without weighing the dish down on a hot day. Read More

White Gazpacho from Appetites: A Cookbook

White Gazpacho from Appetites: A Cookbook

I actually made this back in January when entertaining a friend who was staying with us for the night, and she was so excited when I told her about my resolution for the year that she asks me how I’m doing on it and that’s one of the reasons that finally compelled me to write all of this down and track in properly. I have many books to go still, but I’m as determined as ever to get through this.

Next up: white gazpacho from Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites: A Cookbook.

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Strascinati con pomodoro e basilico

I’ve decided that I’m going to master making pasta completely by hand. This thought first came about a few weeks ago when I was trying and (mostly) succeeding in making a Puglian dough out of water and semolina flour, but was cemented when we finally sat down to watch the season two premiere of Master of None. Earlier that evening I had been feeling rather vulnerable and grouchy but thought that a solid workout and some soothing yoga had calmed my nerves. Then Aziz Ansari has to go and make a big, soaring love letter to classic Italian cinema and show this sequence:

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Fried oysters with avocado and black chile oil from ‘wichcraft

Whenever someone makes a crack about the flimsiness of IKEA furniture I want to tell them the story of our two tall BILLY bookcases that have moved from New Haven to New York to Stamford and then to two apartments in Baltimore. They’ve held up remarkably well given all of that activity, and right now one of them is playing host to 102 of our cookbooks, plus my various issues of Cherry Bombe, Lucky Peach (RIP), Fine Cooking, and Food and Wine. When I was organizing this shelf again after Christmas, I realized that I really shouldn’t buy one more cookbook until I’ve given all of our current ones a spin, perhaps signaling any that might not be living up to expectations and could potentially be given away. Read More

Lamb-herb meatballs with yogurt-lemon-herb sauce.

It is unequivocally spring around here, and every day it’s as if there’s something new to savor: longer days, warmer weather, the trees finally budding back to life and offering some gorgeous color. I try to keep reminding myself of this while I’ve been struggling with some writer’s block recently for a variety of reasons ranging from being busy with social engagements to feeling ennui in the spring, and the latter feeling is totally bullshit. Spring should be the last season in which ennui should be able to take hold of me, because for once everything I love is coming back: the light, the lush greenery, and the better produce. How can I struggle with existential crises when spring onions are back in the market? Read More

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