Monthly Archive for January 2009
I am not privy to the produce world’s inner pecking order. But if I were, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that potatoes were the plain Janes of the lot. While gourds sashay around in their vibrant colors (think butternut) and artichokes wow with their spicy, layer-y outfits and chard and kale splay out into bouquet-ish bundles, potatoes—with their mottled brown jackets—fade into the background. Some potato varieties—the jewel-toned purple ones or the luxe yukon golds—might get a second look, but the good old russets, I’m guessing, are the last to get picked for a schoolyard pick-up game.
This recipe aims to shake up that vegetable social hierarchy. This recipe will send the baking potato straight to the top. Like the ugly duckling morphing into the swan, if you will. Because this recipe is undeniably luxurious and incredibly delicious.
I have to say, I’ve been enjoying the recent football hiatus in my (Kevin’s) life. Weekends are so productive! The TV barely flickers to life for an entire Sunday afternoon (let alone Monday night, Thursday night and and and)! And the Five-Five-Five-Dollar-Foot-Long jingle is finally out of my head (until now, whoops)! But it’s come to my attention that there’s some football game this Sunday. I believe they’re calling it the Super Bowl.
I spent good chunks of the first two weekends of January working, which, in this economy, is not really something to complain about. So I won’t gripe about the work. Instead, I’ll whine about the lunch. Because I was otherwise occupied, most of the lunches were delivered. And while you can’t beat the convenience of sandwich delivery on a subzero Chicago Saturday, I swear to you: the order was never right. My reactions ranged from unattractive gagging noises when I discovered a sandwich slopped with mayo, something akin to a temper tantrum when another sandwich came with coleslaw instead of chips, tears when I opened a sack to find a white bread-ed sandwich when I’d ordered multigrain, to (worst of all) oh-no-they-didn’t-forget-my-pickle.
So last weekend, when I did not one minute of work (ahhh), I decided that when it came to lunch, I’d do it myself. Thankyouverymuch. I started out with beautiful, fresh ingredients: slices from a loaf of burnished whole wheat sourdough; folds of black forest ham the light pink color of a flush cheek; slices of havarti, as lacey as a delicate doiley; peppery leaves of baby arugula; spicy Dijon mustard; kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper; thin slices of juicy bosc pear:
You were all so nice to me about this new menu idea. I’m glad you’re as excited about it as I am. For the second menu, I gravitated toward breakfast, probably because I love it so much. I’d go as far as to say it’s in my top three favorite meals of the day. (Ba-dum-DUM.) Pulling together this menu has got me thinking about my ideal morning.
There are the weekday mornings that start at a mind-numbing hour and involve tearing myself out of bed and prying my eyelids open. But lately, they also involve a scoop of yogurt, topped with grapefruit segments and a walnut-and-dried cherry-laced granola—and that’s nothing to sniff at. There’s aslo a delicious comfort to the routine and a stillness to the dark quiet of our building, our street, our neighborhood, our city at that hour.
As a kid, I had a thing for magenta. Not red, not pink: magenta. I liked the sound of it, for one thing. Try it now: mahhh-gen-TAH! It also happened to be the hue of my eight-year-old self’s favorite outfit (a stripey multiples number, complete with cumberbund, if you must know). I also adored the book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, but that’s neither here nor there, is it?
Magenta also features prominently in one of my favorite childhood memories. A distant cousin (second cousin, I think, but really: what does that even mean?) came to visit, decked out in magenta (knowing it was my favorite shade) and took me to the zoo. We rode camels and ate magenta-colored snow cones, and, well, that’s really all it takes for an eight year old, isn’t it?
I think we’ve come to the point in the winter where you have to grasp at the small bright spots—pin pricks of light on what seems like an inky dark horizon. Take yesterday: Kevin and I took a walk through the neighborhood and marveled at how downright pleasant it was. Sure, we had to pick our way over snow drifts and patches of ice—but the sun was shining and the temperature was in the double-digits. Small victories, but victories, nonetheless.
There are other bright spots to January: the day light slowly but surely lengthens; there are so many good movies out that you could contemplate moving into a theatre near you, subsisting on pocorn alone; it’s a new year, which, this year, comes with a new president. Better than all of these things, though, (except maybe the new president part!) is citrus. Like the friend who knows you better than anyone, it arrives in your darkest hour (or, say, month), just when you need a pick-me-up.
I had something of a wheat thin addiction in college. For an entire summer, I am fairly certain I went to the grocery store almost exclusively for those yellow boxes and, well, beer. I’m not proud. But, for the record, we did throw at least a few backyard barbecues and I remember making a fresh salsa (wondering how the heck one removed the little leaves of cilantro from the stems) and helping my friend Louie make ribs (on a industrial size charcoal grill he’d “borrowed” from his fraternity). But, back to the wheat thins.
After college, I became intrigued by all the letters on those wheat thin boxes. And I’m not talking about n-a-b-i-s-c-o. I’m talking about the quadruple-plus-syllabled-words in the ingredients list. I investigated, became icked out and quit wheat thins cold turkey. I miss those salty, crunchy little squares more than I care to admit.
Every time I’ve wanted to complain about the weather this week (“I can’t feel my toes!”; “Let’s move to southern California or better yet Maui!”; “When’s our next vacation?”; “Is the sun still yellow, I wonder, because I don’t even remember”; “Why, Chicago, WHY?”), I visit weather.com and type in my grandparents’ zip code, which has frequently elicited an air temperature well below zero and a truly horrific “feels like” temperature (which, I’m convinced, is just a cruel feature and weather.com should be ashamed of itself for even thinking of it). If my grandparents can handle this Alberta Clipper, so can I.
I didn’t expect to check one of the New Orleans-inspired recipes off my To Make List this soon. For the biscuits, in particular, I thought I’d be searching for the perfect recipe for weeks. And, frankly, I was kind of looking forward to the buttery, flaky auditions. But they won’t be necessary: this recipe is a clear winner.
As I mentioned last week, one of the first things Kevin and I ate in New Orleans was a big, hot biscuit, served with a foil-wrapped pat of butter at Mother’s. And it was perfect—dunked in my gumbo or standing alone. None of the other biscuits we ate during the trip quite lived up and I was doubtful that I could find a recipe to stand up to the Mother’s memory in my own kitchen.
Sometimes it seems like all I do on this site is fall in love—with a new recipe, a novel cooking method, a city visited for the first time, or that roommate of mine. It’s not all that unlike my middle school years: a new crush practically every week. Except these days, instead of loopy, heart-filled diary entries about the latest gent to catch my eye, I gush about produce and pots and such on this site. What can I say? Cooking is thrilling for me. Maybe because, in the grand scheme of things, I’m relatively new to the endeavor. But, really, I hope it never changes. So I suppose that means that my gushy posts will continue to clutter up your Google Reader.
Today’s recipe had all the trappings of a gushy post—homemade pastry, hand-whisked lemon curd, billowy meringue. Just thinking about making this pie practically sent me into raptures. But (you had to know there was a “but,” no?) instead of becoming my next new heartthrob, this pie was a heartache, through and through. So much so that I could’ve just curled up with a pint of ice cream and some angsty, croony music (which would’ve rounded out the middle school image, quite nicely, I think), except I made the pie on Christmas Eve and there was no time for a pity party.