Summer in New York is really kicking in and that means hot, humid and not the time of year for meals involving long cooking times, where the cook ends up looking like he or she came out of the oven along with the roast. We're moving more towards salads and stove-top food now, so that we spend as little time as possible in the culinary sauna. This is a simple salmon dish which combines fresh, bright, basic flavours to good effect. It also manages to give the impression of being light and healthy whilst actually containing enough cream and carbs to delight Atkins-unfriendly people like us. Credit for the recipe goes to Gary Rhodes, the spiky-headed likely lad from London. Like many UK TV chefs his manner can be more than a little irksome (Hello Ainsley! Hi Jamie!) but this dish made me forgive him.
Gorgonzola Cremifacto (or Dolce) is enriched with heavy cream and then aged for about 3 months. It's soft and rich, pungent and sweet. At room temperature it's runny enough to puddle, so when the Bedford Cheese Shop has it in stock they display it in a glass dish on the counter, where it oozes invitingly and suggestively to all visitors. We gave into temptation and bought about 6 ounces, thinking we'd make a sauce for pasta with it.
Then we did some research, reading five or six recipes for pasta with gorgonzola. We settled on a refined version of this recipe for Fettuccine Carbonara with Gorgonzola (or, as we renamed it, Gorgonzola Death Pasta) at Epicurious.
My ex-husband’s parents are gift-givers. For most of my tenure as their daughter-in-law they were residents of London, traveling six months of the year around the world and to the States to visit family.
Each and every summer they secured a large house on a beach somewhere and subsidized travel for those unable to afford the fare. My ex-mother-in-law arrived for these summer vacations like Mary Poppins—pulling an endless array of gifts from her luggage. A thoughtful and tireless shopper, she was always on the look-out for interesting and unusual items during her travel.
I don’t see her much anymore—divorce is like that, I suppose. We never had the easiest of relationships but I remember many moments of real delight in her company. Of all the lovely gifts she gave to me, my favorite and the most lasting is her recipe for Plum Torte.
Unfortunately the card she wrote the recipe on has become so smeared I can’t read it anymore and I’m not sure I make it exactly as she recorded it. It comes out fine, though it has a distressing tendency to leak butter over the bottom of the oven. It may simply be that my spring form pan needs replacing, but I really ought to ask her to send the recipe to me again. Like my relationship with her, this recipe is a mixture of sweet and sour.
Cut 6 to 8 plums in half, removing the pits, and set aside. Cream 1 cup of unsalted butter with 1 cup of sugar, and then add 2 eggs. Sift 1 cup of flour with 1 teaspoon of baking powder and a dash of salt, then add it to the butter mixture, mixing until smooth. The batter will be quite stiff. Spoon it into an oiled spring form pan. Place the plum halves skin-side up over the top, sprinkle with plenty of fresh lemon juice, sugar and lots of cinnamon. Bake for 1 hour at 350.
The result is a sweet yet tart confection that satisfies all sorts of tastes. Great after dinner, better for breakfast, the first bite floods the mouth with a perfect balance of sweetness and mouth-puckering tartness. You can also use other fruits—blueberries, peaches or blackberries work well—but I never do and neither did my mother-in-law. I love the unexpectedness of the plums and I love the reminder of days past.
(Orignially published in Damned Intellectuals, August 2003)
The first time I made Tomatilla Salsa was a bit of a disaster. It was the middle of summer and I'd gotten up early to take advantage of the (relatively) cool kitchen. I'd gotten things organized and wandered off to surf through a few websites before going back into the kitchen to check on the tomatillos, chilies and garlic roasting in the oven. It's a sad fact that I'd forgotten to light the oven. It's a sadder fact that I miscalculated how long the gas had been on. Have you ever opened an oven full of gas with a lit match in your hand? I don't advise it. I had to delay everything until I could brush all of the singed hair off my head, inspect what was left of my eyebrows and immerse my face in a sink of cold water.
Tomatillo salsa is easy to make, really - so long as you observe proper gas oven safety rules - and fairly quick.
Allioli was our neighborhood hangout. It was the annex to our apartment, right around the corner, always there, always welcoming, always full of acquaintances and friends. To walk in the door was to feel like a celebrity, with greetings shouted out by customers and staff alike. Like Cheers, it was the place where everyone knows your name. We loved it so much we created a website for them. I suppose I really ought to shut it down now.
Allioli was the place we went when we wanted a glass of red wine and a snack. It was the place we went when we knew we wanted to eat well and then settle in for a night of dedicated drinking. Scoring a 27 from Zagat's in 2003 meant it was also the place we took our friends when we wanted to impress them.
Our favorite seats were at the end of the bar facing the small open kitchen. We could watch Diego, a genius chef, and his assistants prepare sizzling dishes of hot chorizo, or ensalada de pulpito (whole baby octopus marinated with peppers, red onions and potatoes), or perhaps foie gras con higos negros en balsamico (pan seared foie gras served with black figs in balsamic syrup).
We used to drop in for dinner often--sometimes twice a week. At first, Jack would say, "We shouldn't go so often-- we might spoil it for ourselves." And I would always reply, "Nothing lasts forever and someday it'll be gone. Let's enjoy it."