The day the tsunami never came, we all looked into our cupboards. At my house, there was nary a candlestick nor flashlight in sight, and if the water had gone out I would have been bathing in 2006 Pinotage. In a disaster, if the boats stop coming, we’ll be out of food in four days–everyone knows this. But for those 96 hours, what would we eat? In the case of my cupboards: hazelnuts.
Jason has a singular talent for setting up shop in other people’s kitchens. He blew into mine last weekend with an ice cream machine, and improvised this tart, tart sorbet: 8 lemons and a handful of organic blueberries; a shot of POM; and a splash from a tin of mandarin oranges. Smacking good and gorgeous.
Ottolenghi is my favorite new cookbook.
Here, the bare bones of an effortless and infallible salad:
Grilled stone fruit (I used peaches and apricots)
Fresh organic arugula (CSA)
Thinly-sliced speck prosciutto
I posted this on Facebook and learned in moments that one of my old college friends had been eating frequently at Ottolenghi, a bike’s ride from his London flat.
I ask myself more often than you’d think (or than I’d care to): what’s the right potluck dish for a pool party?
My co-guests, the ones floating on the foam noodles, would blurt out: mixed drinks.
Those of us whose years are half our SPFs, and whose chaises lie in the shade might answer differently. I spent half my childhood at swim meets, in a constant state of snacking, and am firmly of the mind that pool food should:
1. Withstand direct sunshine, and travel well. E.g. watermelon on ice.
2. Serve and eat with fingers. Or be chopsticky. E.g. sushi.
3. Suit the pool palette: bright, splashy, cool. E.g. mojito. Limes. Mango.
4. Favor swimwear. E.g. tiny bites.
I also invariably want something fried–spring rolls, spicy mochiko chicken–to balance all the blue water and good weather.
This salad struck out on all counts but swimsuit diet and traveling well. It was lovely–baby spinach with tonnato tuna; chopped black olives, eggplant caviar (this post is asynchronous; the leftover eggplant is what ended up on the pizzas) and tiny supersweet tomatoes macerated in red wine vinegar and mint. But look at the picture. The truth is obvious: it wasn’t pool food. Wrong colors. Wrong temperature (not sun-savvy or refreshingly cool). Wrong utensils.
I’ll try something else next time. Stay tuned, and invite me to your pool!
Saturday, January 23rd was National Pie Day– the kind of occasion I can count on missing, and count on my friend Jason for wanting to celebrate.
He verified in the American Pie Council rulebook that pizzas were an acceptable way to observe the Day, and we took the excuse to unshelve long-waitlisted cooking dreams:
1. Peter Reinhardt’s pizza dough. (Heidi Swanson calls the recipe ”perfect.”)
2. Indian fusion cooking.
3. Unagi, which had surfaced, clock ticking, from the depths of my mother’s pantry in an early bout of spring cleaning.
The two favorites: unagi and brie, with a dusting of mozzarella, Japanese eggplant caviar, and (post-oven) avocado and a squeeze of lime; and chicken tikka masala on a “chapati” crust, which was Reinhardt’s dough with atta subbed for bread flour, and ghee in place of olive oil.
We made eight pies–they went fast. I don’t think we even got plates down on the table. :P
On the subject of Roses, Rose Levy Beranbaum has an interesting discussion on the addition of fat—either butter or oil—to a bread. Very small additions will lubricate the gluten and make a loaf expand; larger amounts will actually reduce the volume of loaf, making it heavy and dense.
For banana bread, I’m solidly in the heavy camp. The gold standard, as far as I’m concerned, is the loaf that emerges from the Kahaluu kitchen of a family friend. We were once brazen enough to ask for the recipe.
Mrs. Beachy, the infallibly gracious and generous baker, hesitated only for a second. ”Of course I’ll give you the recipe,” she said, “I’m just a little sad–if I give you the recipe, I won’t be able to make you banana bread anymore–”
“—Please don’t give us the recipe!” I interrupted.
We must have taken it anyway, because it’s now on file. Vegetable oil reliably yields the extraordinarily smooth, dense, moist, heavy loaf we knew and loved. Wrapped in foil and chilled, it is almost more terrine than loaf. You could slice it with a piece of floss.
Rosie’s banana cake is something entirely different. It is exactly as heavy and banana-packed as our favorite bread, but has the tender crumb of butter and a crisp crust (I think the baker’s vocab is “lid”) under its icing.
We have a very thin friend who uses applesauce instead of butter or oil in her banana bread. It’s good, but has no place amidst buttercream clouds.