I'm sure by now you've realized a sad truth - it's been a while since I've blogged. This is, actually, a very good thing, because it means that my job, at Saveur, is fulfilling enough that I don't have extra creative energy (or time) for other projects.
I have a new love in my life. I stumble home from work at 9:30pm with no time to cook, hoping I still have a container of buffalo milk yogurt in the back of the fridge, fall on the couch, and watch Jaques Pépin cook. Everything he makes looks incredibly delicious, and I find myself thinking, "Why didn't I realize how much I want to eat mussels and saffron over pasta? Ooo, those strawberries are exactly what I want - nothing in the world could possibly be as good as they would be."
Of course, half the charm is Jacques himself, talking to me about just how to dunk my baguette into the watery, saffrony sauce, saying adorable things like, "I wouldn't want to put more wine into this, but I will add a little 'château sink'," in that lovely, soft French accent. Yes, I am head-over-heels for a man old enough to be my grandfather. Fortunately, so is The Guy, so we collapse together and plan the dinners we will make someday, when we have time to reacquaint ourselves with our kitchen. I've even started to talk him into getting me the book for my birthday (he thinks he should just get me the dvd set so I can drool over it night after night).
The show has a funny website, here, but it doesn't nearly do justice to the genius that is this particular PBS jewel. So if you can't find time to cook, look up your local PBS schedules and feed on the master and his food.
Given my totally crazy schedule and the hideous heat wave we suffered through a couple weeks ago, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I've been playing around with more no-cook pasta sauces. At first I thought I'd just stick to my regular tomatoes/onions/basil/mozzarella staple (above), but then one day when I went to the Co-op on my way home from work, I couldn't find any mozzarella. I sat in front of the cheese shelves for a few minutes, momentarily stymied. What would I use instead? I scanned the rows of tallegio, parmigiano-reggiano, and morbier, but in the end I wimped out and bought goat-cheese; it would be different, but there would be no surprises. I also bought some picholine olives to add to the mix.
I took everything home and made the sauce as usual, but when I opened the fridge to grab the olives I saw a bag of peaches that looked so good I just had to grab one. After confirming with The Guy that, no, he didn't want any peach in his pasta, I cut half of one into small pieces and added it to the sauce before pouring everything over pasta and crumbling the goat cheese on top.
How was it? It was fantastic! Something about the combination of the peach, the mild goat cheese, and the basil is pure summer.
I also tried another recipe that tastes like summer from the NY Times food section's new column about eating from the Greenmarket. I couldn't really remember exactly what the recipe consisted of, and the recipe was no longer on line, here is what I used:
Note: This recipe is amazing if you have really good, fragrant tomatoes and young, sweet corn, but wasn't nearly as memorable the second time I made it, with slightly "off" ingredients, it lost the wow-factor.
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved, mixed with olive oil and salt, and roasted in the oven for about 30 mins. 2 large fresh tomatoes (the kind that smell really good), cut into small chunks. 3 ears sweet corn kernels, cut off the cob (yes, raw). A few scallions, sliced lengthwise and finely chopped. A handful of fresh basil, sliced. Fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes.
Toss everything with warm pasta, olive oil, salt and pepper.
When I first met The Guy he didn't eat anything green. No, actually that's not fair of me, he did eat one kind of vegetable: haricot verts. Yes, that's right, the very expensive, very thin cousin of the green beans that most of us eat. He gushed about the wonderful qualities of his haricot verts every time I mentioned the need to add veggies to our meals until, one day, he got a job and started buying his own groceries. Then those little haricot verts started to look, well, a little less appetizing, even at Fairway prices. So we switched to green beans.
It took me almost a full year to get The Guy to try salads. It was like pulling teeth. "Please?" I'd ask, every time I bought a head of lettuce that I knew I couldn't finish before it went bad; "Maybe next time," he'd say. But to my great surprise, when he finally did try salad he loved it (only the way I make it, but that's a good thing). We had the same battle over greens like spinach and Chinese watercress with the same results - once he finally tried it he fell in love. And over time he started to trust me to feed him greens (and sushi and shellfish) that he would like. By the time we'd worked our way up to artichokes he didn't even take any cajoling - he just bit right in.
But then, last week, he balked at a food choice: sandwiches for dinner. With the temperatures in triple digits I didn't feel like turning on the oven or boiling water, so, after a little inspiration from a beautiful picture of a BLT from one of the recent issues of Bon Appétit, I suggested that we try BLTs for dinner. "For dinner?" he asked, with a look on his face that reminded me very suddenly of the look he used to have when I mentioned spinach. I tried to tell him how lovely the sandwich would be. "But we wouldn't have to cook much at all and we can add cheese and have a lovely sandwich with cheese and tomatoes and bacon." "Bacon?" he asked, a new look beginning to dawn on his face, "crunchy, fatty yummy bacon?" I paused a minute to consider if this was, in fact, what I wanted to talk exercise-challenged hubby into, but I had just begun to win the argument and I wasn't going to back down, so we had lovely sandwiches with crunchy, fatty bacon (and good tomatoes, good lettuce, whole-wheat challah and melted raclette).
And did he like it? Of course he did. He loved it. We even had it the next night. And we're going to have it again tomorrow night.
For the second time in two weeks I'm going to make a change to what I do on the blog. Last week I joined the editorial staff at Saveur, so to keep up with the blog while my life gets totally hectic (and not use any ideas that I might decide I want to use for work), I'm going to be changing the focus a little and writing more about my attempts to handle the stresses of cooking, keeping up the apartment and (occasionally) being a decent hostess while handling a job that will often keep me busy not just all day but all evening too.
But this doesn't mean I'm going to stop cooking! So for the first installment of the "new" blog entrees, a few notes about what I learned over the past couple weeks about making shortcakes. I tried two of the shortcake recipes from last month's magazines: the Two-Berry Shortcakes from Gourmet (in the picture) and the Peach and Blackberry Shortcakes with Blackberry Cream from Bon Appétit. The two recipes were very different - the first was billed as a "quick" recipe and was by far the faster of the two. The biscuits were easy to make and plop down on to the pan, whereas the biscuits for the second recipe required me to roll out a very sticky dough and cut out rounds. The extra work created a different kind of biscuit, nice and crunchy on the top in a way that reminded me of the top of a very good muffin, but, frankly wasn't so good that I'd do the extra work again. The second recipe also included a very time consuming blackberry cream (blackberries pureed with sugar and pushed through a sieve then whipped with cream) which, again, created a wonderful result, but was a little too much work to think about doing again. Next time maybe I can find some blackberry syrup, liqueur or jelly (or just stick with Gourmet's version and change the fruit).
Isn't the cover gorgeous? The recipe, for Skillet Blackberry Cobbler, is actually from the R.S.V.P. section on p. 28 (just in case you had as much trouble as I did finding it). Again, my mantra from last month - it's very hard to screw up summer recipes.
So much yumminess: Blackberries Brûlée with Marscapone Cream; a "caprese-like salad" of sliced peaches, fresh mozzarella and basil; Grilled Steak and Onions with Rosemary-Balsamic Butter Sauce; Grilled Spicy-Citrus Chicken Thighs with grilled corn; Lobster with Herb Butter; Plum Streusel; Citrus Mint Juleps; Bruschetta with Tomato, Avocado, Basil, and Mint; Almond, Apricot, and Cream Cheese Crostata; and Tangy Avocado-Orange Salad. Wow, so much yum, wow.
There is also a beautiful picnic basket (the "Somerset" willow picnic tote) in Bon Vivant that I am absolutely in love with. And, frankly, it's not that expensive for a gift (only $49); not something bought on a whim, but less than a nice pair of shoes, so I might just have to save for it (can I give myself a midsummer gift?)
We'll have to see how the recipes pan out, but it's very exciting.