Friday, July 30, 2010

Salad Nicoise

This week I had some stray green beans left from my produce box and I wasn't sure what to do with them. Coincidentally, we also had some leftover boiled small red potatoes. You what I was thinking? I was thinking Salad Nicoise! Composed salads are great fun and also an excellent way to use up extra veggies. Plus composed salads look awesome and you can serve them to guests without it appearing you are serving leftovers. (Heads up to future guests. If you see a composed salad, you are seeing last night's dinner.)

When I make a composed salad, I always just use my everyday vinaigrette, which I usually have on hand. But I wanted tonight's dinner to be special, so conjured all my inner Frenchness and made a nice vinaigrette with lemon, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, shallot, and then I added the oil slowly while whisking to emulsify. It was great. It might even become my everyday dressing.

I took at peek at Mastering the Art of French Cooking for salad pointers and mine was pretty spot-on with Julia's but hers had anchovies, so I added them to mine and I have to say, they made all the difference. I wish every meal of leftovers could be so luxurious. Another of her pointers that I've taken to heart is always use tuna packed in oil. She's right about that one. Tuna packed in water tastes like dust.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Plum Sorbet

I don't know quite when it happened, but I have become extremely frugal around food. My fridge is filled with beautiful organic produce and dairy, high quality meat, homemade condiments and pickles, so it isn't exactly that I'm cheap. I just cannot bare to throw ANY food away. In fact, I never do. Tonight's leftovers are tomorrow's lunch. I save my chicken carcasses and vegetable scraps and make stock. Seriously, we don't throw anything away. But every now and again I am faced with a surplus of something. For example, last week in my produce box I got kale. Well it was like 95 degrees last week and the last thing I wanted was a hearty winter green. So I made kale pesto and froze it. Now some night when I'm tired and haven't planned anything for dinner, I can boil up some pasta and pull out the pesto and Viola! a lovely dinner.

The same thing with some plums. Serena was going to make plum pie (yummy!) but then we got busy and it didn't happen. Honestly, I'd forgotten all about the plums until I was digging through the fridge looking for a snack and there they were, only days from expiration. I had no idea what to do with them, that was until I picked up the next issue of Gourmet, August 1962. And what is on the cover? You guessed it, plum sorbet.

We've got a workhorse of an old Kitchen Aid that my friend Daniel gave us as a housewarming present. In fact it looks exactly like the Kitchen Aid advertisement in that same issue of Gourmet. A couple of years ago for Christmas I asked my mom for the ice cream attachment and now we make our own ice cream. It's really good and easy. As for the sorbet, I followed the recipe pretty closely. (Click on the picture to make the recipe bigger.) I only made a couple of changes. First, I used pasteurized egg whites because I was sure I'd be feeding this to guests. Secondly, following the advice of America's Test Kitchen, I added a bit of booze to the fruit so it wouldn't freeze solid. Good thing I have like a pint of that Luxardo left over.

The sorbet tasted great and my friends ate it up. I will certainly make this again, and will use it as a template for other sorbets. Good stuff.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gourmet: The Magazine of Good Living

I have fallen down the freakin' rabbit hole. This food and nostalgia research project has been great fun and is yielding rocking essays, but once in a while I feel as if I am losing my grip on reality. A couple of months ago my friend Martha gave me a 1961 issue of Gourmet Magazine that someone had left at her restaurant (that I've mentioned before, where I used to work called The Sisters). Anyway, I was completely enthralled. Despite its stinky mustiness, I read every single page. Cover to cover. Including the ads. Immediately I got on eBay and bought a full five years: 1961-1965 including index.

Honest to god, I swore I wasn't going to blog about this. It was too easy. Too nostalgic. The magazine is rife with juicy tidbits. There could be a whole blog just about this.

I have now read all of '61 and of '62. The thing is, when you immerse yourself in the media and culture of a specific era some of it rubs off. We've heard this argument a million times about pornography and violence. Well, I hate to stand here in the camp of Andrea Dworkin, but after what must be two years of reading Culinary Arts Institute cookbooks, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), and now two years worth of Gourmet, I find myself inured to the likes of aspic (see picture).

Other things are happening too. I decant my half and half into a glass container. Organ meats, which I loved as a child, are now regaining their appeal. We use only cloth napkins. And as I've mentioned aspic has started to look appealing. Perhaps it is too much Dick Van Dyke Show.

Oh, and did I mention that I bought all of 1948 in a single bound volume. Do I see an intervention?