Dumplings!

December 2, 2009

It took me a while to get the weekly Gourmet Newsletter right.  I thought we'd be writing about all the great stuff we found out in the world, like the incredible Satsuma oranges that are available for just a couple of weeks every year.  Tiny, intensely flavorful and so irresistible that you eat a dozen before you  know it, they're a treat I want everyone to experience.  Or the amazing Richter raspberries, summer's ripest flavor, that come bursting out of the box, begging you to eat them.

Alas, it turned out that what people really wanted were recipes.  So that's what we started to give them, week after week.  It was easy – but pretty boring, at least to me.

Here, of course, I can say anything I want. And what I want to write about is the foods I find myself craving. Today it's dumplings from Supertaste on Eldridge Street, just below Canal.  Bud brought them as a Thanksgiving house gift, but we ate them so greedily every morning that now they're gone. You buy them frozen – 50 to a bag- and simply throw them into a pot of boiling water for 7 minutes.  The transformation – from frozen white lumps into knobbly little pockets of fragile dough filled with a sweetly pungent mixture of pork, garlic and scallions – is astonishing.  As they bubble merrily in the pot they send wafts of fragrant steam up into the air.  The anticipation is so intense that by the time they're ready to eat you're willing to burn your mouth, and you find yourself dumping them into the sauce and scooping them into your mouth without even bothering to let them cool downl.

Heaven. 

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The Guests are Gone

December 1, 2009

Does everybody get depressed when the holidays end?  I've so loved having this houseful of people to cook for, loved the way people roll out of bed when they smell the coffee brewing, come into the kitchen, faces hopeful, to see what might be for breakfast.  I love the way fresh orange juice smells when it mingles with frying bacon and the warm brown scent of buttery toast.  I love the hunt for different kinds of jam and the pawing through the refrigerator by the people who prefer leftover meatballs to just-made pancakes.

I love the constant conversation, the going out for walks or off to the movies, the feeling of life happening in every room.  Now that everyone's gone back to their own lives, and even Nick is back in  school, the house feels yawningly empty and slightly hungry, waiting for what's next.

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Thanksgiving, 2009

December 1, 2009

Around the table there were 23 people, ranging in age from 19 to 70.  Median age was 23, which gives you some idea of how much the young outnumbered the old.

What was on the table?  Herewith, a list.

To stave off hunger while we cooked;

Spiced nuts
Marinated eggplant
Chinese pork and chive dumplings
Liver pate
Cheesy home-made crackers
An assortment of cheeses

Two turkeys
Herbed apricot stuffing
Sausage, mushroom and chestnut stuffing
Creamy mashed potatoes
Roasted sweet potatoes with miso butter
Red Cabbage
Brussels sprouts with pine nuts
Pureed squash
Rutabagas mashed with butter and cream
Creamed pearl onions
Cooked cranberry sauce
Fresh cranberry and orange sauce
Pomegranate gravy

Pumpkin pie
Pecan pie
Cranberry crostata
Apple pie
Whipped cream
Assorted chocolates
Tangerines

Wines: Charles Ellner Champagne, Bavard Burgundy, Adelsheim Pinot Noir, Beaucastel, Cotes du Rhone, Cognac

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Crumbling Pictures

November 17, 2009

Going through old photographs is dusty, sentimental and satisfying work.  I’ve spent the day traveling through the past, poring over old albums and pawing through boxes. I’ve promised to come up with new material for the reissue of Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me With Apples, and I thought old pictures might make people happy.   But what a journey it’s been!

Here’s the picture of our fourth grade class at PS 41; I’m a little stunned to discover that I can name every person, even Glynn Turman, who was only in our class for one year.  (He left for a role in Raisin in the Sun, and later I heard that he’d married Aretha Franklin.  Wonder if that’s true?)  Here’s my sweet Aunt Lili, squinting into the Hollywood sun, holding one of the miniature Schnauzers that she bred.  Aunt Birdie, eclipsed by the gaudy splendor of my rainbow wedding dress, stands between me and Doug ; she is so tiny that she barely comes to his waist. In the next picture Alice Waters, Marion Cunningham and Cecilia Chiang hover like three fairy godmothers as they cut the cake at my wedding to Michael. (Nancy Silverton, who made it, stands in the background, holding an infant – it must be Ben- and frowning as if she doesn’t quite trust that they’ll do it right. )

The pictures are in no particular order, and they tumble from the box in a dizzying spill of years.  One minute I’m looking at my father’s father, who died in 1913, posing in front of some Alp wearing lederhosen, and the next I’m looking at myself in front of the lake in Taishan in 1980, a long-gone China which no longer exists. I found a whole box of slides from that trip to Barcelona that Colman arranged in the late 80s for Alice Waters, Lydia Shire, Mark Miller, Brad Ogden and Jonathan Waxman.  We are buying food in the Boqueria, we are in restaurants, we are in bakeries.  MOstly we look like we are pretty drunk (we were), and like we’re having way too much fun.

My hands are covered in dust, there are piles of photographs all over the floor and stacked on top of the tablle.  But what I keep wondering is how all these random memories ended up, together, in an apartment in New York in 2009?

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Street Food

November 13, 2009

It’s raining in New York, but I’m sitting in a little cottage in the Napa Valley,  looking out at trees, sky sunshine, thinking about this street food conference I’m attending at the CIA.  Roy Choi, the Kogi Truck guy, spoke last night, and he was so moving in a shyly quiet way. While he mixed pork (butts and bellies) in a firey red chile mixture with his rubber-gloved hands, he spoke of putting his whole soul into the food.  “I don’t like to speak while I’m doing this,” he said.  “You probably think it doesn’t matter, but I’m convinced that it does.”

Later, walking around the huge hall with, literally, hundreds of different dishes made by hundreds of different street food chefs, I couldn’t help wondering if that was the reason that the Kogi food stood out.  It was simple, but it was superb.

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