February 8, 2017
Gwendolyn Brooks would never have called herself a food writer. The Pulitzer-prize winner was one of the most decorated poets in American history. She published 75 poems before the age of 16, and was Poet Laureate of Illinois for 32 years.
She wrote only one novel, but it contains one of the most arresting descriptions of cooking that I know.
Brooks was part of the great migration; when she was six weeks old her parents packed up their Kansas life and moved the family north to Chicago. Having escaped Jim Crow she became part of the Chicago Black Renaissance, getting to know great writers like Langston Hughes. Brooks returned the favor, mentoring many young poets. Among her many students were poets Sonia Sanchez, Don L. Lee and Nikki Giovanni (not to mention members of the street gang, the Blackstone Rangers).
January 13, 2017
This was dinner last night; it might be the strangest recipe I’ve ever attempted. You stuff the bananas, and then eat them, peel and all. Trust me – it’s delicious.
The recipe is from this book:
And this is what chick pea flour looks like:
January 1, 2017
Feeling like you need a little color? Here are a few recipes for the easiest green of winter from the January 1985 issue of Gourmet.
And here, for Eric, is the Margarita recipe. And then – why not? – the one the magazine printed alongside for guacamole. Happy New Year!
November 20, 2016
I’m looking out the window, and this is what I see: an entirely white world. The power’s out all over Columbia County, but we’ve got a back up generator and a fire burning in the grate. The scent of the stock I’m making for Thanksgiving gravy fills the house, making everything seem cozy.
And I’m hungry.
Happily, we had some warning. I knew we’d want some red meat on this winter day, so I marinated skirt steak. Lunch is almost ready.
Shopping list: 1 pound skirt steak, 1 loaf bread.
Staples: salt, vegetable oil, condiments.
If you love steak sandwiches, you need to make friends with skirt steak. It’s a fantastically flavorful cut that doesn’t cost much. It does, however, demand a bit of coddling.
The skirt is a bundle of abdominal muscles that have worked very hard, lending them great flavor and a tendency to be tough. Long and thin (a friend calls it “steak by the yard”), skirt steak has many aliases. In Texas it’s called “beef for fajitas,” and in the Jewish restaurants of New York’s Lower East Side it goes by “Romanian tenderloin.” But in my house it’s sandwich steak because the skinny slices can stand up to salsa, chimichurri, pesto – or simply mustard and a bit of butter.
If you buy your meat from an artisanal butcher, ask for the “outside” skirt, which is fatter and juicier than the inside cut. (If you’re buying meat from industrially-raised animals this is a pointless exercise; the Japanese import 90% of American outside skirt steak.)
Rub the meat all over with salt – 3/4 of a teaspoon per pound of meat and let it sit in this dry brine for 4 or 5 hours before cooking. This will draw out the liquid and concentrate the flavor. Just before cooking blot the meat very well with paper towels to remove all the surface moisture, and brush it with a bit of vegetable oil. (I prefer a neutral oil like grapeseed, but it’s your call.)
Skirt steaks prefer high heat (cooked low and slow the meat turns chewy), so get a grill or grill pan very hot. The steak will cook quickly; two minutes a side should give you beautifully rare meat.
Rest the meat for ten minutes. Now comes the most important part: the slicing. If you cut with the grain each slice will be a single tough muscle. If you cut against the grain, into very thin slices, you’ll end up with tender meat. (This means that when you’re cutting you want the grain to run up and down in vertical stripes, not horizontal ones.)
Now cut a crusty roll in half, butter one side, spread mustard on the other, and heap it with thinly sliced steak. You can add any condiments you like, but this meat is so tasty it really deserves the spotlight to itself.
November 14, 2016
In the mood to cook? I think this tart soup might be the perfect dish for this particular moment in time. If anything can comfort you, this is it.
Shopping list: 6 cups chicken stock, 1/3 cup rice, 1 lemon.
Staples: 4 eggs, salt.
Bring about six cups of good rich chicken stock to a boil. Add a third of a cup of raw rice, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes..
Meanwhile, grate the rind from one lemon into a bowl. Squeeze the naked lemon, and add the juice to the rind.
Separate four eggs, dropping the yolks into the lemon juice. (Save the whites for another use.) Add a pinch of salt and beat the yolks into the lemon juice and rind.
When the rice is tender, whisk about half a cup of the hot stock into the yolks, then slowly pour the yolks into the soup, stirring constantly. Cook gently for about five minutes, or until the soup is slightly thickened. Pour into bowls and eat slowly.