TND – Taking a Hint

January 19, 2012

I’m slowly working my way through the cookbooks on the 2011 Best of lists that I talked about in early December.

I’ve perused The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden which was pretty, but didn’t inspire me to copy out a single recipe.

I’ve drooled over the pretty pretty pictures in The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert, but mostly relegated it to the realm of ‘and this is why I go to restaurants’. She had some spectacular recipes for tagines, including a lamb tagine with honeyed squash that involves a shredded squash that’s cooked down to a jam like consistency with honey and lemon juice and then layered over a slow braised lamb and browned in the oven. Expect to see this on the Dinner menu sometime this winter, although probably with beef not lamb.

On the other hand, she also had a lot of sections that started like this:

“A few words about tagines [ . . . ] Must you acquire one? No, you don’t have to but you really should. A tagine will make it possible to cook Moroccan food the authentic way and present your dishes beautifully at table, and the results will greatly reward you. To put the question another way, would you even consider embarking on an exploration of Chinese food without purchasing a wok?”

Answer? Yes, yes I would. I have nowhere to put a wok, and for the amount of stir frying I do a heavy skillet is entirely sufficient. As much as I covet a tagine, for it’s aesthetic qualities if nothing else, a dutch oven is just fine for my tagine making needs.

And this:

“If you love couscous as much as I do, you’ll want to acquire a true couscousier. But you can steam couscous perfectly well in a colander (metal or, even better, stoneware) that fits snugly over a tall pot, or in the type of pasta pot that comes with a shallow steam insert.”

One, a couscousier? Really? Two, the only stoneware colanders I’ve ever seen have been small, and generally for the purposes of draining fruit in a decorative manner on your counter. And three, she then proceeds to give a two page, six step method for making couscous that involves rinsing it twice and steaming it three times. I have a fairly high bar for unnecessarily complicated, but that’s way way over it.

As an antidote to the sheer improbable (although probably very authentic) impracticality of Paula Wolfert, I checked out Ana Sortun’s* Spice: Flavor’s of the Eastern Mediterranean. It’s sitting on my coffee table and I’m daunted by the multitude of recipes I want to copy out and make.

* Owner/chef of “Oleana” which I’m now referring to as my favorite restaurant I’ve never been to.

I read Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese and was passably amused by it. I am, to a certain extent, the choir to her preacher. I already make most things from scratch (bread being a notable exception), and the things I don’t make from scratch I’m usually perfectly happy to spend the money for someone else to make for me (see ricotta, mozzarella, yogurt . . . ). On the other hand, I was genuinely entertained by her description of the three day long saga that was making homemade hot dogs. Verdict, she spent three days, achieved something that tasted exactly like ballpark hotdogs (which was the goal), and now knew precisely what was likely to be in a mass produced hotdog (her recommendation – buy it sporadically when you have a craving).

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain got picked up this week as T-ride reading material. I’m about 100 pages in, and I’d say I’ll never eat brunch out again except that I have a brunch reservation for this Sunday.

Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibanez is waiting for me at the library, and I added American Flavor by Andrew Carmellini to my list after I ran across a recipe for a lamb chili with chickpeas and raita that was included in the book.


Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce


Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce

This week’s Dinner is evidence that I can in fact take a hint after everyone (no really, everyone) wistfully commented in the weeks leading up to Christmas that we hadn’t had Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce in such a long time. Also, next week’s Dinner is probably an overly ambitious nod to Chinese New Year, so I have to take my simple where I can this week.

Recipe previously given: Season of Mists & Mellow Fruitfulness


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