Maybe lockdown is the perfect time to bring back soufflés. If you screw it up – and you probably won’t – and who’s going to complain? A few months or a year from now you can whip one up for a special night. Then, Jeez, who knew you could make a soufflé? Plus it has tons of Parmesan and cheddar in it.
Spanakopita is a Greek spinach pie. Few ingredients, lots of steps. Some of you may cry, “JFC! This is what you choose for your first post??!! There’s a million steps! What were you thinking – I’m trapped in a three-room apartment with two kids while my spouse and I fight for space for our laptops on the kitchen table with the glitter gun projects and stray lego pieces!”
We made it for the simple reason that the ingredients were what we had on hand – flour, feta, lots of greens, a eek and some garlic.
Not that kind of naked. Naked as in camera-only. No multiple lights, no radio controls, not even a tripod. It has been a very long month–the PanMass Challenge, loved ones off to parts known and unknown–and during our single day of work in a week of vacation the last thing I wanted to do was set up lights and softboxes in our little vacation kitchen to make it look and feel transformed. Sometimes all you can do is just let things be. We had
barely enough plenty of light coming though the windows and I thought why not dance on the edge a little? Back to basics: camera – light – food. This is a Chilled Corn and Peach Soup photographed au naturel.
Previous blog posts notwithstanding, we don’t spend every free moment careering about the back roads of rural France and Italy, pausing every few hours for an under-the-olive-tree feast. Truth is, we almost never go on picnics unless we’re on vacation or on a biking trip. Trying to find time when everyone’s schedule meshes during the day is like trying to plot when when three or four different orbiting satellites will pass within shouting distance–not impossible, but requiring more math and determination than any one of us can muster. We’re as overbooked as you are. Which is why when we do manage to find the time, having something special – other than what’s on offer from a gourmet deli – becomes all the more important. Enter Poached Salmon with Chipotle Yogurt.
Who flipped the switch? After weeks of height-of-summer salads and cookies suddenly here we are, plunged into nights when you need a jacket. I grilled a dozen ears of corn last Thursday, alone at home, nursing a scotch on our deck in the dark, except when I raised the lid of our grill …
Local Massachusetts peaches seem increasingly old-fashioned to me, meaning that you make a mess when you eat one (unless a nearby vendor gives you slices) and while they taste sweet they also have a faint counterpoint of tartness. This makes them the ideal companion for salty prosciutto. I suppose we could have left it at that, but we also had a raft of mint and some pistachios, so Jody upped the ante with a pistachio-mint pesto that doesn’t require much more than a quick buzz in the food processor. Fresh mozzarella makes it a sumptuous enough to stand in for lunch, if that’s where’s you want to go. You’ll also be relieved to know that local cherry tomatoes, now at their spectacular peak, don’t require peeling. This is the easiest antipasto you’ll even encounter, especially on a hot day when instead of cooking all you want to do is savor the last days of summer.
Fat. Let’s not beat around the bush, shall we? Fat’s probably the best place to begin a discussion of Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory. Au debut, as the French say, in the beginning, rillettes meant one thing – pork. Or rather, pork and fat. Rillettes was pork that had been salted, cooked slowly in pork fat, shredded, then preserved in the same fat, and served at room temperature, usually spread on toast. Rillettes* are now found all over France, and while pork is still popular, in the Southwest, the Midi-Pyrenees, extending down to the Spanish border, the technique is more often seen with duck or rabbit. Today rillettes of salmon, tuna or other fatty fish, or even mushrooms are not uncommon on pricey menus. It’s hard to argue with that–what doesn’t taste good when cooked slowly in fat and salt?
Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Blood Orange – Fennel Salad. If you make nothing else from us this year, make this. It’s crazy delicious, one of my contenders for the tastiest thing Jody’s cooked in the past year, and it’s easy. Contrary to what you may think, the recipe doesn’t involve filleting your own mackerel. Unless you want to. If so, have it. That’s what we did, but only because the whole fish were so gorgeous I couldn’t bear not photographing them, so I spared our fishmonger the hassle of filleting them for us. You’ll also notice that there are three fish and only four fillets, when you’d expect six. That’s because we roasted the third mackerel whole. If Spanish mackerel’s around, we can’t get enough of it. Make this dish.
Shouldn’t Prairie Home Companion have a folksy sponsor like the American Soup Council to tout this most comforting of all dishes? Imagine the catchphrases: “Soup – we’ve got your back,” or “Soup – a mom in every bowl,” or even, “Soup – at least the barn didn’t burn down.” That’s how I feel about this week’s spicy makeover – Lentil, Pepper and Escarole Soup. I just had a bowl. It was all the things soup should be – tasty and warm and reassuring. It certainly dispelled some of the gloom attendant on my losing this week’s photographs.
That’s right, I lost them.
Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes? Culinary gravity inexorably pulls them toward brown sugar or molasses or something candied, even with bacon (candied bacon). But don’t do it, at least not this time. I never encountered a sweet potato during my year abroad in the Swiss canton of Fribourg, a stone’s throw from the town of Gruyères (town, plural: cheese, singular), but I can guarantee that that if there were ever a culinary match made in heaven it’s sweet potato and that most hazelnut and butter flavored of all cheeses, aged Gruyère. Some cheeses should never be melted (sorry, brie en croute is ghastly) but Gruyère is just the opposite. Quiche, the poster child of boring French food from the ’70’s, is redeemed by the addition of aged Gruyère. Fondue without Gruyère is but a pale revenant of the real deal. Gruyère is expensive (around $20/lb.) but the recipe only calls for a cup and half of the stuff, grated, about 3 ounces. Unfortunately, I only found out about the Gruyère after the ingredients photograph had been taken. Jody announced that she’d added Gruyère–I couldn’t even photograph it being stirred into the bowl. I growled and stomped around. I should have waited until I tasted the finished pie. Gruyère and sweet potatoes rule.