You might think he's doing something else. But in reality, he's learning how to sit/stay, and not doing a very good job of it (he eventually learned how to do so beautifully ... sort of ).

venerdì 25 giugno 2010

Dogs, Apricots, and Alice Waters

Yesterday, Waldo yapped, frantically, at the door, indicating that there was some sort of emergency (like his bladder was bursting). But no. He needed an apricot fix. As soon as I opened the door, he made a bold dash to where they land when they fall, settled down, and chewed happily. At last count, thirty nine apricot pits were strewn about their walkway. (The other day I couldn’t find him, and then saw the white tip of his tail in a large oregano bush; he emerged happily, an apricot clamped between his jaws.)

Yesterday, the Splendid Veterinarian mentioned that he dreams of one day having an apricot tree in his yard. We gave him some apricot jam (really easy to make: take two pounds of apricots, put them in a pot, add about 2 cups of sugar, put on a medium flame, let it bubble, turn it down, and keep an eye on it, and stir frequently).

But enough about apricots. Let’s talk about Alice Waters, who has just brought out a new book called In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart. The concept is a simple one: pick a technique, discuss how to do it, and then provide a recipe or two. She has brought in many of her friends in the field (like Rick Bayless, David Chang (his tomato/tofu recipe sounds delicious), Charlie Trotter, Deborah Madison, among others) to provide the technique and the recipe. Proceeds go to her charity Chez Panisse Foundation in support of Edible Education.

At first glance, I was somewhat dismissive of this book as it seemed a bit … too, well … basic. It was, however, a gift from a fine friend with wonderful taste. Like all Chez Panisse cookbooks (we have five of them, and four are on the Desert Island Cookbook Shelf), the book’s beautifully produced and photographed. I sat down to read it, and ended up devouring it.

It isn’t too basic. This book’s a perfect present for someone starting out in his or her own first kitchen, and it’s perfect for those of us who think we know our way around in said. It provides gentle reminders of how to do things properly.

In “Washing Salad,” she reminds us to keep the greens (well washed, of course) crisp by wrapping them up in paper towels and then refrigerating them ‘til you’re ready to eat them (which of course would be on the same day). We used to do this a long time ago, became lazy, couldn’t be bothered. The lettuces wallowed, refrigerated, in the salad spinner.

Well, wrapping them in paper towels (even newspaper) sure does make a difference. Not only are they cold when they emerge, they are downright crispy.

But more important, to my mind at least, was her garlic vinaigrette dressing, a simple concoction of mortar’d garlic, pinch of salt, and close-to-equal parts olive oil and vinegar. She suggests a ratio of 3:2 or, in some cases, 4:2. Alan Davidson and Larousse Gastronomique suggest a 3-1 ratio; Davidson suggests equal parts if using lemon juice instead of vinegar.[1]

(Davidson : "[vinaigrette] is essentially a ‘mixture’(inverted commas because oil and vinegar are, strictly speaking, immiscible).”)

You can use different oils, you can add herbs; you can use different vinegars; you can add mustard. The crucial thing is, as Alice Waters says, “The mixture should taste delicious by itself.”. What’s most amazing about this simple, basic idea is that you can actually taste the ingredients, which are not slathered in needless oil.

This is a little gem of a book. A pity, sometimes, that the United States is not a monarchy: Alice Waters should be knighted.

Mixed lettuces with croutons, mortadella, and mozzarella di bufala
3 large handfuls of mixed greens, painstakingly cleaned if you’re pulling them from your garden
3 slices stale-ish bread (Tuscan preferred, but anything will do)
1 ball of mozzarella di bufala, about 1 c. chopped
¼ lb. mortadella, thinly sliced
Handful of fresh chives, scissor-snipped

The vinaigrette:

1 large clove of garlic, mortar’d and pestle’d with a pinch of sea salt
2 T. red wine vinegar
4 T. extravirgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F, cube the bread, place on an oven-proof pan, and bake for about 7 minutes. Stir, and bake for another 5 minutes or so. (You want the bread golden, not browned.) Remove from the oven, and toss with an ample tablespoon or two of extravirgin olive oil.)

While that’s happening, make the vinaigrette. Mortar and pestle the salt/garlic, add the 2 T. of red wine vinegar, and let macerate.

Carefully wash the lettuces, toss into a big salad bowl, add the mortadella, mozzarella di bufala, and the croutons. Add the remaining 2 T. of extravirgin olive oil to the macerating vinaigrette, taste for salt, add the cracked black pepper, and then throw it over the salad. Add the snipped chives, and toss to coat.

Eat immediately.

Mixed lettuces with tuna, capers, and green pepper

3 large handfuls of mixed greens, as above
8 oz. can of Italian tuna packed in oil
3 heaping T. of capers, rinsed and drained
½ green pepper, membrane and seeds removed, very thinly sliced (think of the crescent moon)
1 heaping T. horseradish
Throw all these ingredients together, and toss with the vinaigrette. And eat immediately.
The vinaigrette:

Same as above, only use 2 T. balsamic vinegar. When you add the olive oil, add 1 heaping tablespoon of horseradish. Many Italians maintain that one shouldn’t mix olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Why, when it tastes so good?

[1] Alan Davidson, Oxford Companion to Food, New York, 1999; Jennifer Harvey Lang, ed., Larousse Gastronomique, New York, 1984. In the Green Kitchen, New York, 2010.

1 commento:

  1. I think I can actually manage both of these recipes. I can think of someone with a birthday coming up who would particularly enjoy the mortadella/mozzarella salad. Thank you for these.
    PS--need to see picture of your garden. It's time.