TND – Seductive Wiles

November 2, 2012

The sheer number of people who have been seduced, reinvented, and otherwise found themselves in France or Italy is actually mildly disturbing. It makes me wonder if there are any actual French or Italians left in France and Italy or if they’ve all been pushed out by American’s seeking enlightenment, falling in love, and/or saving their marriages.

How to Eat a Small Country: A Family’s Pursuit of Happiness One Meal at a Time

Almost French: Love & a New Life in Paris

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story

Tout Sweet: Hanging Up my High Heels for a New Life in France

Blossoming in Provence

The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City – okay, to be fair, I actually really love this book.

A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure

Living in a Foreign Language: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Love in Italy

Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home

In a rare nod towards the rest of Europe, there’s also My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes)

Oddly, however, while spiritual enlightenment may be found in India, culinary epiphanies are not. My – admittedly completely cursory – survey suggests, in fact, that culinary epiphanies can only be experienced in European Mediterranean countries. Mysteriously, whatever magic the Mediterranean lends to those seeking to renew their lives apparently does not extend south to the African coast, or eastwards to the Dardanelles and the Peloponnesus. More exotic shores that are lapped by the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, or the North Pacific are apparently uninspirational, and landlocked countries should clearly just give up now.

Now granted, French and Italian food is very good, and the weather is very nice on the Mediterranean. However, I’m also quite fond of tagines, curries, dumplings, and donar kebab, and despite what you might have heard the Mediterranean does not have a monopoly on sunshine. Also, have you seen Ottolenghi’s Middle-Eastern inspired cookbooks? Plenty and Jerusalem are the culinary equivalent of hard core porn. I’m almost embarrassed to leave them out on my coffee table.

I’m also mildly baffled by the dearth of books about being seduced by the English (or Irish or Scottish or Welsh) countryside. This is particularly true since as far as I can tell half of British cinema and TV is premised on small quirky villages where people either get murdered at an alarming rate (every Agatha Christie novel ever) or allow curmudgeonly city professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc) to find themselves and rediscover the charms of a slower life. Or, alternatively, it’s about small groups of unlikely people doing marginally transgressive things – factory workers stripping; shoe factories making boots for transvestites; ladies garden clubs producing nude calendars.

I know that English cuisine is less immediately sexy than French or Italian food, but the British culinary establishment has been having a renaissance in the past decade or so, and the whole British national ethos seems tailor made for memoirs of back-to-roots/down-to-earth British soul food in quirky little villages. Nigella Lawson alone should be seducing people into leaving their Wall Street corner offices and settling down across the Pond into a drafty old manse where they can learn the nirvana of rich eggy Yorkshire Puddings, and the consolation that may be found in the bottom of an immoderately large bowl of trifle.

That said, the menu for Dinner this week was classic French, so obviously I should stop talking now. But, Dinner next week is a salute to the inherent sexiness of that venerable British tradition of the Ploughman’s Lunch (because when is pork and cheese ever not sexy?).


Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Mustard Roasted Potatoes
Broccoli Rabe


Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Recipe previously given: Top 10

Mustard Roasted Potatoes

Recipe previously given: Color Me Unimpressed


Broccoli Rabe
(serves 2-3 – multiply as needed)

1 bunch broccoli rabe
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced pole-to-pole
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
small handful dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins – whatever you have on hand)

Trim the ends off the broccoli rabe, and then cut into 2″ lengths.  Blanch the broccoli rabe in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Immediately transfer to an ice bath, then drain and either wrap in towels and refrigerate overnight, or dry well and continue with recipe.

Saute onion and garlic in some olive oil over a low heat until caramelized (about 30-40 minutes).  Deglaze the pan with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Turn up the heat and add the broccoli rabe and the dried fruit.  Saute for 5 minutes or so, or until the broccoli rabe is heated through.  Season to taste.  Serve.


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