July 2012

Salad 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

7.31.12 Artful Compositions (& a Jam Winner)

If you don't like cooking, make sure you know how to shop. There are people who can pull together a wonderful dinner without ever lighting the stove. If you have access to lovely cheeses and charcuterie, fresh produce and a delectable bakery, you can simply act the part of curator, responsible only (but crucially) for the selection and arrangement of the perfect elements. A salade composée, or composed salad, is another variatiom on this theme. This French invention (if, in fact, anyone can really claim ownership)—a fitting combination of prescribed rules and laissez-faire—is a perfectly calibrated assortment of ingredients aesthetically arranged on a plate and drizzled with dressing, rather than tossed with it. (Though I'm not above tossing mine, if I feel it may be of benefit.) The most famous example is arguably the salade Niçoise, with its complementary hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, canned tuna, potatoes, olives and green beans. The most successful manage an artful balance of colors, flavors and textures and a pleasing architecture, like the ones currently featured on two of my favorite blogs—flavor in spades and hungry ghost—whose fertile creativity and gorgeous refinement continually amaze.
Salad 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

7.30.12 Cut the Mustard

I'm not sure that subtle is a word that describes me, nor the food I cook. I'm pretty open about my thoughts and feelings, and equally forthright with the flavors on my plate. I'm fairly certain that I'm a supertaster, yet my highly attuned palate does not shy away from big, bold tastes. I love sharp pickles, lethal chiles and pungent aromatics like shallots and lime leaves. The complex funkiness of aged cheeses and fermented fish is mother's milk to me. I embrace brassicas of all sorts, with their often pronounced mustardy character and their wonderfully cruciferous texture. I shared a recipe for a kohlrabi and apple slaw earlier this year, a crisp and refreshing salad with a citrusy dressing, and I'm offering another one here, to encourage you to get acquainted with this often neglected member of the wild cabbage family. Look for tender young specimens at farmers markets now—in pale green or deep purple—and enjoy them raw in all their glory.
Inside men 10 790 xxx
unarmed and dangerous

7.27.12 Weekend Update: Hot Links

Breaking Bad is back with a vengeance, and we're still making our way through the original Swedish Wallander, but we also stumbled across Inside Men, a new BBC One series that I submit for your viewing pleasure. It's really quite gripping. It's about a brutal armed robbery that takes place at a secure money counting house, the events that lead up to it and the aftermath. I especially love the performance of Steven Mackintosh as the milquetoast manager who finds his inner bad-ass. I confess that after these grueling days spent sweltering at my desk, in the garden and in the kitchen, I like nothing better than stretching out on my Society linen sheets, popping open a bottled Americano and being amused. No more reading, no more surfing, no more writing, no more cooking—but certainly not mindless entertainment, no chick flicks or idle fluff for me. I like something truly engaging, full of believable characters and smart dialogue. Don't you? Here are some more worthy distractions for you...
Anonymous —
Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday.
Bertrand Russell —
There is no difference between someone who eats too little and sees heaven and someone who drinks too much and sees snakes.
Red eyes 790 xxx
photos by george billard

7.26.12 Snake Eyes

The greater diversity of plants we have in our garden, the more creatures we attract. Fewer chimpmunks are roaming around the rock walls that surround our raised beds, and now we know why: the snakes have arrived! I love snakes and am very fascinated by them. I adore their gorgeous skin and have not been above spending close to $1,000 on a python Bottega Veneta bag. But that was in another life. Now I prefer to admire them alive and in my own yard. We have established that there are at least five and are beginning to understand their habits—when they like to take the sun, when they are on the move, when they rest. It's all about being warm, but not too warm. I am slightly relieved that these are just common garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) because they only have a tiny bit of venom which doesn't affect humans.
Americanos2 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

7.25.12 Carbon(ated) Copy

David Mamet has written some great plays with plenty of memorable dialogue, but the line of his that sticks with me is a deceptively mundane one from a slightly camp film, The Edge. It stars Alec Baldwin as a smarmy fashion photographer and Anthony Hopkins as an intellectual billionaire thrust together in the Alaskan wilderness. After their plane crashes, the two of them—who mix it up like oil and water—are pitted against a gargantuan Grizzly that's out for their blood. Hopkins is amazingly resourceful and when faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of outrunning the bear, says only, What one man can do, another can do. Meaning survive, in this case, I'm guessing.

It's a reassuring thought, isn't it? A reminder that determination and force of will are sometimes all you need to level the playing field. When confronting fear, this has become a sort of mantra for me. It's handy even in the face of small challenges, like recreating the wonderfully refreshing carbonated Americanos we enjoyed at Clyde Common in Portland. Essentially a ready-to-quaff Italian-style aperitivo—Campari and sweet vermouth with an orange peel twist—these house-made and -bottled cocktails were a real revelation, and G pined for them back in New York. So what's a DIYer to do? It's not like barman extraordinaire Jeffrey Morgenthaler doesn't have the full set of instructions up on his website.
Rem Koolhaas —
The areas of consensus shift unbelievably fast; the bubbles of certainty are constantly exploding.
Lewis Carroll —
“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday—but never jam today.”
Toast 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

7.23.12 Jam On: Summer Giveaway

I am not so different from the beasts of the field and forest. Even in this heat, and with all of summer's bounty making it seem that we will never lack for food, we're thinking ahead to those cold, barren months. The squirrels are stockpiling pinecones, the mice are hiding seeds, and I am preserving fruits, vegetables and herbs in a variety of ways. I buy so much fruit at the local farmers market that I am officially known as a good customer and receive certain perks. This week that meant 10 pints of free raspberries deemed too soft to sell but really in absolutely perfect condition. That very same day I cooked them down and put them up—their sweet essence, garnet hue and soft, floral fragrance stowed away for a wintry delight. I've done the same with yellow plums, apricots, gooseberries and strawberries, so I've got quite the collection going in my basement. And it would be my pleasure to share some of it with one of my readers. Just leave a comment before Sunday the 29th at 6pm, and I'll select a winner at random to be announced next Monday the 30th.