Sat Jun 28, 2008
Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup
In college, I had one friend who still refused to eat vegetables. “I hate them,” she insisted repeatedly and with the vehemence of a five-year-old presented with a plate of cauliflower. And she meant it. In the span of fours years, the only vegetables I ever saw her eat, on purpose, were carrots cooked with cinnamon, potatoes and artichokes dipped in butter and sprinkled with salt. Believing that her aversion to veggies lay in poor parental preparation—overcooked, under-seasoned and texturally inert—I learned to cook broccoli al dente and make fresh cheese sauce for the cauliflower. But to no avail. My friend would look at the veggies with disdain, sniff them and then, with a flick of her long, brown hair, push them away. So I resigned, like a concerned parent, to slipping vegetables into dishes on the sly. There was spinach in my stuffed shells, chopped fine and mixed into the cheese and there were carrots and onions in my turkey burgers.
Fri Jun 20, 2008
Smoke-Roasted Sage-Crusted Pork Loin with Mostarda di Frutta
I must have been about five the first time my family went camping. It was in New Jersey. But it was nothing like the New Jersey of suburbs and highways and brick and concrete. There were acres of trees in every direction surrounding our campsite and a shallow, clear creek that ran alongside it. Across the road there was a lake and a waterfall.
It’s easy to love camping for the proximity it puts us in to striking natural beauty. It takes us out of our constructed lives, so that we eat and sleep and play by the sun. And regardless if you’re the kind of camper who prefers to reach your outdoor destination by foot or by car, every camper knows the smell of wood smoke. It wraps its fingers around each person sitting around the fire, weaving its way into the fibers of your clothes, working into the follicles of your hair. It infuses your food, from pancakes to burgers to potatoes, with a sweet, earthy smell that is unmistakably simple and natural, like the family hearth from another time.
Tue Jun 17, 2008
With the Fourth of July weekend festivities rapidly approaching and the weather starting to heat up like the inside of a firecracker, I’ve been thinking a lot about food-friendly, refreshing white wines. One that I absolutely can’t do without is the Marisa Cuomo Ravello Bianco. I first had this wine from Italy’s Campania while working at Pizzeria Mozza. It paired wonderfully with the truffle and sage flavors of the Bianco pizza. I’ve brought bottles home since then and paired it with grilled chicken and pork dishes, pizza, salads, fruit and seafood—it’s like the little black dress of white wine.
Marisa’s vineyards are located in Salerno, a small village on the Amalfi Coast near Mount Vesuvius. The proximity to the notorious volcano has created highly acidic soils perfect for indigenous varietals like falenghina and allowed the vines to thrive for centuries, even through phylloxera. The Ravello Bianco is a blend of biancolella and falenghina and is a lighter to medium-bodied white with zippy acidity and a kiss of sea air-like salinity. The fruit flavors tend to toward crisp Granny Smith apple, grapefruit and white flowers. At about $20 a bottle, this isn’t the cheapest white on the shelves, but it’s less expensive than most California chardonnays with a lot more complexity.
Next up? Now that you’ve got the wine, I’ll be working out the details for Sage-Smoked Pork Loin…
Tue Jun 10, 2008
Asparagus and Ricotta Ravioli with Favas and Sage Brown Butter
Never mind that the recipe was probably one of the easiest I’ve ever followed. A year ago, if you asked me whether I ever thought about making my own ricotta cheese I would have laughed, crinkling my brow like a concerned mother in a movie, and said plainly: no, never.
As frequent readers of SpicySaltySweet can attest, I do like making dishes from scratch. In fact, I get quite the kick out of deconstructing things I used to take for granted. A few years back I made a soupy mess that was my excuse for Greek yoghurt. I’ve made my own butter. I make fresh pasta almost weekly now. But cheese? Cheese is something spiritual—a vehicle for transcendence that no mere home cook could possibly concoct in her kitchen.
But when I stumbled across Julia Moskin’s article about ricotta in the New York Times two weeks ago, I became convinced that making my own would not require divine intervention.
Tue Jun 3, 2008
Rosemary Rhubarb Crisp
If you’ve ever listened Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” then you probably have the jingle for Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie running through your head right now, poking sharply at the corners of your brain as you sing. I first heard of rhubarb about ten years ago, listening to the old-fashioned radio variety show on NPR. The jingle was annoyingly addictive, particularly since I’d never had rhubarb before. When I found some of the slender, celery-like ruby stalks at the Tahoe City farmers’ market I had to try it, if only to get the song out of my head. I loved the way its tartness, when raw, twisted my face like a mop. And I loved how just a touch of sugar tamed its tangy nature, harnessing a quality that was indescribably rhubarb-like. After that first rhubarb experience (I made a pie, of course) I’ve sought out this odd-duck treat season after season to celebrate spring.