What’s the soup???

You know things are getting bad when you find yourself standing in front of a school ranting at a piece of paper taped to the door about a meeting that you are supposed to be at because you are class parent. You thought it was critical to your son’s education that you show your support and dedication to him and to his school, so you raised your hand high enough to be seen and selected and now not only do you have to face the fact that you are lousy at making lists of names and addresses and worse at checking for typos, but you also find out that somebody in charge of flyers on the front door is assuming that five minutes notice is ample time to alert class parents that they have an orientation meeting.
That is so low. Low, low, low. And I told the piece of paper that, and then I went home.
Soup. Brain not functioning? Soup. Memory holes? Soup. Don’t want to go anywhere? Soup.
Chop up a pound of carrots, the inside bits from a head of celery, and two small onions. Heat up a quarter cup of olive oil in a heavy soup pot. Add a few sprigs of thyme a few of parsley (unchopped), and two whole, halved cloves of garlic(unchopped). After a minute, add the vegetables with a little salt and a few flakes of red pepper. Saute until completely soft. Add a finely diced, peeled potato. Move the carrot mixture around to give the potato some room to hit the bottom of the pot. You want to let it get crusty. Add another pinch of salt. When the potato is browned a bit, add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, and stir that around on the bottom of the pot, right on the bottom, to toast it. Add about four cups of water, and when it comes to a simmer, add two halves of a cleaned chicken breast (leave it on the bone if it’s on the bone), and cover with the lid propped a bit, cooking only until the chicken is done, even still a tiny bit pink. Remove the chicken and allow it to cool. Shred into big pieces, and when you are ready to eat, heat up the broth and drop in the chicken. You can add cannellini to this or dark leafy greens.
Make biscuits to go with it. 2 cups of flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, a pinch of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix. Rub in 1/2 cup of diced cold, cold butter. Drop on greased sheet pan and bake at 400 degrees.

Don’t try to hide it

My grandmother used to try and hide the onions in her meatloaf by chopping them up to a size small enough for an ant to eat without chewing. My cousin Lisa would find every one of them and build them neatly into a pile on the edge of her plate. Why lie? If somebody doesn’t like something, they are not going to like it more because it’s smaller. I don’t like onions in meatloaf either, if they are raw. The trick is, to make the thing taste good. Dice the onion into tiny bits, and then saute it in the best olive oil that you have along with a little salt over low heat, until the onions are completely soft and barely caramelized. Now they are good.
The same with tofu. I am so not interested in tofu lasagna. Lasagna was not meant for tofu, and you can’t hide it in there without getting caught out. I understand not eating cheese, but tofu is not cheese, and will never be cheese. Feature the tofu. Sear it in olive oil with a little salt, minced fresh garlic and some fresh thyme. Without moving it around in the pan, saute it over medium to high heat until it has plenty of color. Do the garlic first until it is golden, then get it out of the pan before you put the tofu in, so it doesn’t burn. When the flame is off, mix the tofu together with the garlic, along with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Taste again for salt. Cook any Asian style noodle until it is still a little firm. Drain. Drizzle with olive oil, a little more lime, and sprinkle with toasted and crushed fennel and coriander seeds. Toss with the tofu. If you like it spicy, add some red pepper flakes, or a few drops of chili garlic sauce and some diced green onion.

What I forgot to tell you

I totally forgot to tell you two things.
One: I will be changing the name of the blog to FAYEFOOD. How cute is that? I love kitchensister, but lo and behold there are already a few kitchensisters, who aren’t looking to make one big happy kitchensister club. So, my name is Faye, and I’m sticking to it. I will give you a few days before I make the change. Change is no good without notice.
(1a: the book will called FAYEFOOD too. Now you won’t have to shop for loads of people. You can just go to lulu.com and order FAYEFOOD for the holidays. People love getting cookbooks. Even if they don’t use them, it makes them feel good. Plus the pictures are beautiful, the design is beautiful…my fabulous team made the book a little like having Faye right there in the kitchen with you. It will be the cookbook that talks over your shoulder the whole time you’re cooking.

Two: You can’t believe how many people visited the site a few days ago when I was talking about figs. Why is that? Are people across the country wanting to know what to do with fresh figs? All right then, here is the other thing I forgot to tell you. My favorite appetizer of all time is a fresh fig compote, with a duck liver pate, and a tiny salad of bitter greens on the side. Serve it with sliced and toasted slivers of French bread and an artisanal semi-soft goat cheese called mini chevrot.
You can buy the pate and the cheese. For the fresh fig compote, bring 2 cups of water to the boil with with 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add 2 pounds of fresh figs that have been washed, stemmed and peeled (or you can leave them unpeeled.) Add one stick of cinnamon or three pieces of star anise. Let it simmer gently over medium heat until it thickens.

(note: for those in the family not partial to duck liver pate or fig compote, or bitter salad, may I suggest a BLT made with the last of the summer tomatoes, a little acceptable lettuce, and bacon (look for the stuff with no nitrites), served on the same French bread as the rest of the family is having, spread with homemade mayo!!!
(a few egg yolks in the food processor with a squeeze of lemon juice, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, a pinch of salt, and as it is whirrin around, olive oil drizzled in every so slowly until it thickens. Taste for salt.)

Sit to eat

Faye is on the fly. I don’t know whose clothes I am wearing, but I’m hoping they’re mine. No time to sort the laundry, and when I get a chance to look down at the outfit, I have no guarantee that my husband’s socks won’t be showing themselves all baggy and embarassing around my ankles. Dinner last night was delicious, and was easier than making a packed lunch. Little steak, seasoned with kosher salt, brown it on both sides in your best olive oil (critical) that has one garlic clove cut in half already in the pan. Don’t overcook. The meat should still feel really soft. Take it out of the pan and let it rest for five minutes before slicing into it. Peel and cut potatoes into chunks. Throw them in cold salted water with a drizzle of olive oil. Be sure they are crowded, and water just covers the top of the taters. Cover the pan. Simmer gently until they are soft. Drain. Get them back in the pan, and over low heat, dry them out a bit. Smash with butter and NOT TOO MUCH WHOLE MILK. Steam a little broccoli, seasoned with a little salt, and drizzled with a little olive oil, BEFORE YOU STEAM. Drain well. Heat up a little more olive oil, throw in some whole garlic cloves, cut in half, a few red pepper flakes, and the broccoli. Season with salt and another drizzle of olive oil. Voila. Toast with Vouvray and finish with Vacqueyras.

Can’t cook? Bake.

Jonathan’s mother, Isabel, came to visit this weekend from England. The weather is beautiful and Ferdinand has been charming, and I have not cooked. Meal after meal goes by, and they have been out to eat, or Jonathan has cooked, but what kind of scandal is that– you come to the United States of America in an airplane, and the cook makes no food, not even a biscuit. I don’t know what happens. When my best friend comes to visit it’s the same. When I first met Jonathan, it was the same. I moved in with him after knowing him mere hours, but I wouldn’t cook for him for weeks. Finally he said, “I feel it’s my right that you cook for me. I love ya.”
So there is only a lunch left, and there is no food in the house, not an egg. Thank the good Lord there is a fig tree in the back yard. I’m going to make a tart. You can serve it as a dessert, or you can serve it as part of a cheese platter, stuffed with gorgeous artisanal cheeses, a little pate, some dried dates and apricots, some fresh pears, a balsamic good enough to sip that you could drizzle onto Parmigiano, and maybe a bit of quiche with smoked bacon and Greyere.
To make the tart, start with a cup of flour, 1/2 a cup of cold butter cut into tiny bits, a pinch of salt, and a 1/4 cup of sugar. Mix it together with your fingertips until it is nearly uniform, and press it into a 9 inch pan. Bake at 450 degrees, until golden. Cool. Stir a little lemon zest, and about 3 tablespoons of sugar into an 8 ounce container of mascarpone or creme fraiche. Cut your figs in half and in quarters (the mix looks nice). On the stove, heat up a little honey with a cinnamon stick and a few pieces of star anice. When it comes to a simmer, turn off the heat. Spread the mascarpone onto the pastry. Right when you are ready to serve, top with the figs and drizzle ever so lightly with the honey. You can pass extra honey in a pitcher. Make pot of tea to have at the end, and pour glasses of champagne to start.

The brisket job

I made the brisket yesterday (my first ever and there is a cardinal rule of never ever make something for the first time for a party, ESPECIALLY when someone is paying you.) Sometimes a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do. The most important thing apparently is to make it the day ahead and to cook it for five hours all tucked up in a foil pack. Rub the whole 7 pound thing (or as many as you need) with a paste of mustard, paprika, salt, olive oil and minced garlic. Drizzle a huge piece of heavy duty foil with olive oil, and a layer of sliced Spanish onions and at least 6 whole cloves of garlic. Set the thing down in there and cover with another layer of onions and whole cloves of garlic. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a few bay leaves. Pour a cup of water around the meat. Crimp the foil together so nothing escapes, and cook at 35o degrees for five hours. Serve with a sauce of caramelized onions, garlic, thyme, and pan juices.

Bake it, stuff it, bake it again

Tomorrow morning just as the sun is making its way into my back window, I am going to rise myself from my bed, kiss my son and my husband goodbye, and head off to Manhattan, first on the 7 train which will take me under the river and then to the uptown 2 or 3 to 72nd Street to shop at Fairway for two days of cooking further north and east, across the street from the Park. I will have to wake Ferdinand before I go because I forgot to tell him last night that I would be off so early in the morning. I hate to forget.
When I come home I am going to make stuffed potatoes. You can’t forget how to stuff potatoes. You bake the potato, you cut it in half, you take (nearly) all of the potato out of it’s skin, dump it into a bowl, and mash it. What you add to it, before it goes back into it’s shell is up to you, and you have full license to make no effort to remember what you put in there the last time. I usually the add the same ol’, same ol.
A little bit of mayonnaise, a chopped boiled egg, some fresh chive, a tiny bit of parsely, a little mustard, some cheddar cheese, and cottage cheese (or even ricotta if you have some left over from your blintz.) Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with broccoli and garlic or roasted peppers and onions. Bake them again until they are heated through with a little extra cheese on top.

Aging and broccoli rabe

My hair is so dried out that I have to avoid candles at dinner, getting too close to the subway tracks (sparks) and any situation or event where people would expect you to have nice hair. Hair product does nothing, raw eggs and mayonnaise do nothing. I’m thinking about a pixi.
The same kind of situation can happen at dinner. Last night I got on the phone right after I put the broccoli rabe into a covered pan of simmering and salted water to cook. Out of sight, out of mind. At least twenty minutes later (maybe even more, but it hurts too much to think about it), I drained the greens. Overcooked broccoli rabe is never going to be undercooked broccoli rabe. I set it down in the sink, because I couldn’t look at it, and as I was putting Ferdinand to bed, I called out to Jonathan what to do to finish dinner. Somewhere between sliver three cloves of garlic and simmer it slowly in the olive oil with a little salt and red pepper flakes, and him asking me shouldn’t he just flash fry it, it got all confused. He continued to cook the broccoli rabe for another twenty minutes in the garlic once it was golden, ever so slowly just about until Ferd was sound asleep.
I didn’t say anything. What are you going to say? I threw the pasta in the pot with salted water, drained it well when it was done, saving a little of the cooking water, and then dumped the noodles into the rabe. I drizzled it with a little extra virgin olive oil, tasted for salt and red pepper flakes, grated on some Parmegiano Reggiano, and a few teaspoon fulls of the cooking water. It was delicious. It tasted like grandma’s. Maybe that’s what’s happening to me. I just need to go out and get some pink foamy curlers and a blue tint.

A blintz, eyes open, or closed

I do not recommend sleeping in a single bed with a four year old, no matter how much they cry, or even worse try so hard not to cry, but the lower lip quivers just the same and the tears are rolling down the little hot cheeks, and they are saying in the quietest voice, “please Mom, oh please won’t you sleep with me. I need to stay in my own bed, but I am so afraid.” And then they add merciless tactics like searching out your hand from under the covers to hold it in theirs while they wait, and all along knowing full well that there is no adult brain that functions on full power when it is dragged from the depths of deep and needed sleep.
Still it isn’t hard at all to make blintzes, so even without sleep they are a dinner possiblity. Make the crepes by combining 1 cup of milk, 3/4 cup of all purpose flour, 2 beaten eggs and a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture through a sieve and then let it rest for fifteen minutes. Pour a 2 ounce ladleful into a heavy small, buttered frying pan, and turn the pan immediately to allow the mixture to reach all the sides. You want it to just barely cover the pan. Let it sit until it pulls easily away from the sides of the pan, and then with your fingers grabbing an edge, flip it over for another second, and remove.
For the filling, season two cups of fresh ricotta with a little salt and pepper, a half teaspoon of fresh lemon zest, a little sauted finely diced shallot if you like, and even a little grated parmesan or a hard pecorino. Put a spoonful of the cheese mixture into the center of each crepe. Fold up the bottom edge over the cheese, then each side, then the top, to create a little pillow. When you are ready to serve, heat up the frying pan, melt a little butter, and saute them just to heat through.

Heat up the heavy frying pan with a few tablespoons of butter and add some sliced and peeled apples that have been coated with sugar. Caramelize over high heat and serve with the blintzes. A salad of watercress, endive and slices of a sharp cheddar is great with this.

That was last night, this is today

Last night I carried all of my pots, pans, knives and graters, bowls, whisks, and sheets pans to Manhattan and made a wild mushroom frittata, heirloom tomato confit tart, crositini with roasted butternut squash and cannellini, fresh fennel salad with green apple and chive, to start, swiss chard and fresh ricottoa gnocchi (gnudi) as a mini first course to get the appetite going, mushroom risotto for the first course, seared wild alaskan king salmon with a salsa verde on a bed of warm potato and braised leek salad for the main course, tossed green salad with a cheese platter in case there was anybody still hungry, and why not keep going? I say, if you are going to eat, eat. For dessert, a roasted grape and Italian plum tart.
Today’s menu we have an option of cold cereal or a fried egg, all day.