I realize that you might have been expecting something green, rainbow-ed or four-leaf clover-ed or filled with beer, cabbage and potatoes today. But sometimes life presents bigger exigencies, needs that must be addressed tout de suite, wrongs that ...
I realize that you might have been expecting something green, rainbow-ed or four-leaf clover-ed or filled with beer, cabbage and potatoes today. But sometimes life presents bigger exigencies, needs that must be addressed tout de suite, wrongs that cannot wait for the ideal slot on the calendar to be righted. What I mean is: I really wanted a chocolate and peanut butter brownie the other day and realized I’ve never, in 10-plus years of showing up here a couple times a week, made time for these. This is reprehensible.
I found a version I’d worked on a few years ago in the mines of my disorganized laptop. I’ve always thought that peanut butter is perfect complement for cream cheese; the sharp creamy flavor brings out everything that often puts peanut butter to sleep in other recipes. But I hadn’t noted why the recipe had underwhelmed me, only remembered that it had so I had to — woe is me — make them again. They weren’t right; the peanut butter was too muted. So, I made them again sans cream cheese and they were better, but there were marbling issues. And then, fully drowning in chocolate peanut butter brownies but unable to quit now, I made them one last time and now I need you to come over and take these away. No human being should have to face down dozens of sea salt-flecked crisp-edged, fudgy-centered peanut butter swirled brownies every time they open the refrigerator — these are amazing cold, by the way, just do it — to get a grapefruit or avocado or apple, any of the other foods I used to sustain myself with before this week began.
Last weekend, we had 13 friends over for moules-frites. This — plus a big green salad, some crusty baguettes and more white wine than seems conscionable — is my favorite dinner party menu. It makes the easiest, surprisingly budget-conscious meal and might, if you play your cards right, make you feel ever-so-slightly like you’re on vacation somewhere European and full of sailor-types. Okay, maybe that’s pushing things but let’s run with it. I forgot to add, however that it’s best for 6 people, 8 at most. As soon as the mussels exceed the volume of your largest pot or the fries surpass the one large tray that fits in your oven (plus you have a salad you really only want to toss at the last minute), basically everything needing to be cooked à la minute, you’re going to have to hustle. I am constitutionally incapable of hustling; we ate dinner at 10.
Because I have strange habits, I spent a lot of time one night last week watching videos on YouTube of grandmothers and other home cooks making dal makhani, a rich black lentil dish from the Punjab region. Unpolished home cooking videos are one of my favorite ways to learn how to make a dish that is foreign to me, and while what I’ve made here isn’t an authentic black lentil (urad) dal, it’s worth knowing why it is isn’t. For example, it would have a small portion of kidney beans (rajma) it in too, you’d definitely have soaked your lentils and beans together the night before and in almost every case, cooked them in a pressure cooker on another burner while making the spiced base sauce, and then together for a little or long while. The more authentic versions I looked at have a lot more butter and cream in them, and only sometimes began with an onion. In every case, the cook had a “ginger-garlic paste” that seemed to have come prepared, something I was previously unfamiliar with but find brilliant as they are so often better together, and of course all spices were added with eyeballed measurements.
I love two things most of all about chess pie — that sweet, buttery baked custard pie well-known across the South but whose reach can be tasted in everything from Canadian butter tarts to Brooklyn-ish Crack Pies — one, that it has none of the fussiness usually associated with custards and flans (separated egg yolks, tempering, straining and water baths); you could, and in fact should, make this with any little chefs in your life with ease.
All January and early February, as glacial winds smacked us in our face on the walk to school — and somehow back too (uphill, both ways, etc.) — I counted down the days until we would go to Florida to visit my parents (who winter-as-a-verb there like all the other smart retirees of the Northeast) and thaw our bones for five days. Instead, the warm weather found its way here and apparently it’s been full-out spring while we were away but I’m not mad, how could I be, I was sitting on a beach in the middle of winter and it was exactly what we needed, or at least the 3/4 of us that are willing to let our feet touch the sand. Spotty wi-fi, falling asleep shortly after the kids did each night (one who learned a new word “mom-MEE!”) and great heaps of fresh fruit at the hotel’s breakfast buffet (shamelessly one of my favorite resort things) all contributed to an overall feeling of wellness that I hope to carry with me at least for the next 15 minutes, because I believe in keeping expectations reasonable.