Thursday, October 20, 2005

indecision

when plagued by indecision, even picking what to eat can be paralyzing. my advice is to choose something simple. and add butter.

a long time ago i wrote down a julia child recipe on a scrap of paper. it's for a dish called "potage parmentier," and the other night i made it for julie (along with roasted brussel sprouts and a gigantic steak). i added turnips to julia's recipe, but it was similar in outcome, i am sure. it's just that the farmer's market had turnips and it felt right to buy them. when else?

now i have a giant bowl and every night when i come home and fret about small meaningless decisions (about computer purchase and travel plans), i can just pop some potage parmentier into the microwave, and no choice need be made.

potage parmentier

2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
3 turnips, peeled and diced
3 leeks, white and light green parts, cut into chunks
2 quarts water (in truth i myself have no way of measuring a quart)
1 tsp salt
several knobs butter

put the potatoes, turnips, leeks, salt and water in a pot on the stove
cover, bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes
about 25 minutes into this process, remove the cover
once finished, mash with a fork and stir in the butter
add more salt and pepper to taste

this makes a whole lot, certainly enough for 5 or 6 people.

Monday, October 17, 2005

liking it the first time

things i didn't like the very first time i tried them:

coffee
sushi
tofu
spicy mustard
gefilte fish
olives

if i hadn't tried these things again, i would have missed out. now i love the warm comfort of a cup of joe, crave the tangy zip of mustard on almost anything, and unabashedly look forward to the seder every year so i can wolf down a processed whitefish ball slathered in red horseradish.

what about people? i have dear friends in my life i didn't like the whole first year i knew them! but what about a fella on a date? if i don't like him the first time, is that a good indication, or do i need to keep trying? could he become my mustard? my bowl of assorted french cocktail olives?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

cranachan or: first supper

i chose my new apartment for its kitchen, so it was my great delight to host my first supper. in looking for recipes to use for this meal, i encountered one for the aforementioned "cranachan." this seemed like a perfect choice, both because i had tasted it recently on its home turf, and because the folks coming over were all recent visitors to edinburgh. it turns out it's a mess of cream, sugar, rum, and granola. i would have thought it was whisky, but i guess, occasionally, the scots veer away from beer and whisky and hit the rum.

we had ravioli with a butter/sage/walnut sauce, a salad with roasted pears, blue cheese and cranberry vinaigrette, several bottles of argentinian red, cookies, and the ol' scottish classic: cranachan. it is incredibly rich. chris declared that "it tastes like breakfast--in switzerland!"

my apartment is large enough for guests. the counter space is ample; cooking was a cinch. my cats are social butterflies. i used my grandmother's vintage tablecoth. we drank adam's grandfather's whisky. the DISHWASHER made cleanup easy. so, about the new apartment, i'd have to say: so far so good.

cranachan

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup granola
pinch salt
2 tbsp melted butter
2 peaches, diced
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup blueberries
2 tbsp rum
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

mix granola, nuts and salt
pour onto a rimmed cookie sheet
cover with melted butter and bake in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes
whip the cream until soft peaks form
fold in sugar
fold in rum
fold in cooled granola mixture
fold in all fruit
cover with saran and chill for 1 hour or more

Saturday, October 08, 2005

scotland, in a nutshell

what i love about food in nyc is that you don't need to spend a lot of money to get a great meal. the $2 pakistani food at the punjabi grocery on houston is decidedly good, as are the $5 arepas at caracas on 7th street. if you mention to people the bad food in scotland, they will likely give you a response that mentions how much british food has improved, and also that there is a michelin 4 star restaurant (martin wishart). but to eat at this place, one must be a millionaire. scotland has not yet had a food revoultion for the people.

i myself was in edinburgh on a very tight budget (thanks to the poorly-performing US dollar, you rat bastard), and i had a hard time eating well. i ate a lot of potatoes. and a lot of cheese. there were however, some highlights. though be aware that some things on this list are not here for the culinary excellence.

1) snug scottish bistro. here i spent my 31st birthday. a wee dram of a place, snuggled in the basement floor of a stockbridge townhouse. the proprietor is a delight--friendly and kind and totally invested in his restaurant. it is BYO and quite casual. if the dollar weren't so bad, it would be very reasonably priced. i dined with emily, my new friend. i had venison, she had chicken stuffed with haggis (surprisingly--YUM!). both were expertly prepared and we also really liked our oddball scottish dessert called "cranachan." we finished up, tipsy and sated, and headed off to see david o'doherty, a charming and understated irish comic.

2) piemaker. a fast food joint of sorts, selling basically single serving chicken pot pies. but with many different options for filling (chicken tikka anyone?). at one pound fifty a pop, hard to resist. not to mention that flaky crust.

3) cheese. the brits know their cheddar. the cheese aisle at the supermarket practically consists of nothing but. not to be missed: an extra sharp white cheddar sandwich with onion pickle (basically chutney). I found a pickle at crombie's of edinburgh, a gourmet sausage place on broughton road, that i'm very fond of. of which i'm fond. crap.

4) valvonna and crolla. i found the gourmet food shop! this small italian specialty food store would be nothing special in food-obsessed nyc, but in edinburgh it is a rare treasure. sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, fresh pasta, prosciutto, and a gourmet cheese counter. i bought a "sourdough" bread, which was certainly the best and crustiest bread i had all month, but ch-rist people! you should be able to break your teeth on the crust of a good sourdough. i also bought a scone--the best one i had in scotland; i could taste the cream. and an english cheese called "cairphilly," which i thought to be a ridiculously fun name. i made open faced sandwiches of this cheese, on the sourdough bread, with caramelized onion pickle. yesssssss.



5) clarinda's tea room. the first friday we arrived, eric led us at sunrise for a crisp morning hike up arthur's seat. it was virtually empty and there were clear views of edinburgh for miles. delirious with lack of sleep, it was an oddly grounding experience, a great way to start off the month. after our descent, we hit this small grandma-style tea room, replete with doily tablecloths, and antique china on the walls. at the time i had no way of knowing that this place is indeed special, that the food is notable, etc. after trying other places over the course of the month and returning to clarinda's several times, i understood. the tea is delicious, the scones are great, the scottish breakfast is a greasy delight. the service is gruff and perfunctory, at odds with the gentle sweet decor. this, too, i came to love.



6) fried fried fried. they have these shops where there is a glass case at the front, with heat lamps, and piles of every food known to man--all of it DEEP FRIED. fish, sure, but also hamburger patties, haggis, sausages, mars bars. late at night, drunken folks crowd these places and order up heaping portions of all things fried. it is one of the most astonishingly gross things i have ever seen. miraculously, americans continue to be the fattest creatures on earth.

it was interesting for me, though, to be in a place in which there were few culinary marvels for me to behold. it helped me ease off of my obsession, and freed up my extra dough for unceasing theater attendance.

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