I didn’t make it through the entire magazine before deciding which recipe I was going to adapt from this month’s Bon Appetit. I made it to page 54, a page that it is now easy to find and difficult to open because it’s been splattered repeatedly with honey syrup. The recipe on that page is for an olive-oil cake with candied orange, and I knew as soon as I saw it that I had to make it for a multitude of reasons.
First, I love olive oil cake. I mean, olive oil. That’s enough right there. But there’s also the fact that olive oil cakes remind me of my friend Carolyn, my maid of honor and partner in silliness and unrelenting laughter. She once sent me an olive oil cake recipe and asked if I could adapt it to gluten-free (she doesn’t have to eat that way, but she’s played around with it from time to time). After an initial failure, it took me more than a year to get around to finishing the recipe for her, which I wound up doing as a gift for her standing up with me at our wedding. I actually wrote recipes for all my bridesmaids—I’ll share them with you sometime. And lucky for me and for New York, after a stint down south and some time on the west coast, Carolyn is once more just a borough away from me. Which reminds me: I need to get off my agoraphobic butt and bring her some cake already.
We are big fans of garlic around here. If you browse through the recipe index, you'll find that I rarely cook without it. In fact, since I mince or slice up several cloves on an almost daily basis, my fingertips smell distinctly of garlic more than 90% of the time. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I like it.
I love garlic for all that it is just as it is, but I'd be lying by omission if I didn't also tell you that I love it even more for what it can become. With a teeny bit of prep work and a little bit of time in a toasty hot oven, garlic goes from being wonderfully potent and pungent to meltingly buttery-sweet. Roasted garlic, my friends, is something that no cooking repertoire should be without. It's too easy and it makes even the most simple dishes groan-worthy.
The hedge fund that I used to work at was a small company, personnel-wise. At the time that I left, there were only 40 or so employees between the New York and west coast offices, most of whom, unsurprisingly, were men. For the most part, the guys that I worked with were great, but there was still a good deal of chest-beating and explosive, testosterone-fueled aggression (or straight-up sociopathy, depending on exactly who we’re talking about). Finance is insanely stressful, money makes people crazy, and every guy wants to make it known that he has the biggest d…esk. I get it, but sometimes us poor outnumbered girls just needed a break. So, every few months, the women in the office would head out for a Ladies’ Night.
Ladies’ Nights usually involved going out to a nice restaurant, eating good food, gossiping, and drinking way too much. There may have been a call out "sick" or two made the following day--the Irish flu, as my boss liked to call it. And when we weren’t over-imbibing, efforts were being made to keep certain sets of claws in check. (Hey, I never said our gender was perfect.) At the end of it all, though, we could say that we had a good time, just us girls, and the knowing glances the next morning were always worth it.
On the last Ladies’ Night that I attended, one of the more low-key occasions, we went to a restaurant in Soho called the Antique Garage. The place is colored of burgundy and wood, the exposed brick walls hung with mirrors, ceiling sparkling with chandeliers. It’s that intriguing combination of opulent and decrepit that only antiques can possess. The menu features Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors—olive oil, feta, hummus, olives, oregano and tzatziki.
Sometimes, just when you think you’ve figured out how something works, you realize that the rules aren’t so hard and fast. That they maybe only apply in certain situations. That, on occasion, you need to break them entirely.
Last year, I published this post on cooking with dried beans. In it I describe the soak, drain, cook method of cooking dried beans. I still stand by it for use in certain recipes and especially if you’re looking to replace canned beans. But as soon as I thought that was all I’d ever need to know about cooking with dried beans, I realized that there are some cases in which you don’t need or want to soak your beans.
My realization occurred a couple months after that post, when working on a recipe for black bean soup. Every iteration of the soup was good, but it took three tries get it just right. More of this spice, less of that. As it turned out, however, the biggest factor in achieving the soup I wanted wound up having very little to do with seasoning and a whole lot more to do with my approach to the beans.
When Italian food emporium Eataly (of Batali and Bastianich fame) opened last fall, I felt a mix of excitement and trepidation. Everything that Mario Batali touches is fantastic. Molto Gusto is one of my most frequently consulted cookbooks, and—even after dining at the likes of Blue Hill and The Herbfarm—I still count the meal that Chris and I ate at Del Posto several years ago among my top five. I knew, without even walking past the place, that it would be filled with fabulous food.
I also knew, however, that it would be filled with fabulous, glutenous food, which is why we didn’t actually get around to visiting until a couple weekends ago. It seemed self-torturous to walk through a place stocked with top-notch pasta, pizza, and bread, not being able to so much as touch anything without experiencing that immediate compulsion to wash my hands. But after spending an entire afternoon there, I am so glad we went.
Last year I took my first stab at gardening. Certain things were fairly successful—I grew a moderate amount of thyme, a few cherry tomatoes, and more basil than I knew what to do with. The rest of the things I grew pretty much failed, some for clearer reasons than others. Periods of neglect due to pre-wedding travel played a significant role in much of my garden’s demise, but, by the end of the season, I knew that there were other things I could have done differently along the way.
(Successes from 2010: abundant basil, thyme, tomatoes)
This year I’ve made a few tweaks, pulling from what seemed to be last year’s mistakes and stumbling upon a few new tips purely out of circumstance. I’m already having more success. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned:
Chris and I traveled up to Westchester this weekend to get together with his family for a belated celebration of his grandmother's 80th birthday. On the way home, we were practicing his "camera smile". It quickly devolved into this:
Welcome to month four of the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally! If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are interested in reading more about what the Rally is all about, check out the post from our inaugural run when we all shared ratios and recipes for pancakes. This month we’re sharing our recipes and ratios using pâte à choux. I used Rulman's ratio:
2 parts water : 1 part butter : 1 part flour : 2 part eggs
I’m going to keep this simple today. I don’t have a story to tell, no anecdote about what this recipe means to me or how it relates to my life. I only have one urgent and important thing to say: