Not so fast frittata

It may be because I am a child of the 70′s when convenience started to pop itself up another notch.  Cooking with boxed cakes and canned spaghetti was an art and if we could have afforded TV dinners with cake included for all the kids at my birthday party, I would have stapled a balloon to each one and included myself as a member of the Hartford, Connecticut Jet Set.  Or maybe it’s because my mother could make dinner (never from a mix), for 6 in the under 7 minute time frame she had when she got home from work, which inspired me to thrive on the challenge of cooking AS FAST AS POSSIBLE.

It’s not always the right choice.

Fritattas are already a convenience food.  The other night, when I was making fritattas for 35 I decided to use the biggest pan I had.  Why make 18 that each serve two when you can make 2 that each serve 18?

I’ll tell you why–because if you are using a pan that has rubber fixed to the handle, you can’t put it in the oven, and if you can’t put it in the oven, it’s hard to have control when it’s time for flipping and that thing is air born.
So make your fritattas in little batches, and make your people wait if they have to.  That’s what nuts are for.  Start by caramelizing your onions.  Ease a tablespoon of unsalted butter to melting, and then add a spill of olive oil.  Bang the skin off a clove of garlic and throw it in the pan uncut, along with a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf.  Slice one bursting with youth yellow or red onion as thinly as possible and add to the pan.  Give it a little kosher salt and saute over a low to medium heat until it is so delicious that it becomes to difficult to think about sharing it.  That’s how you know it’s done.  Cool to room temperature.  Whisk no more than 6 eggs together and season them with a grind of black pepper and a pinch of salt.  Wipe out the saute pan so that it is completely clean.  Heat the pan over a medium flame and give it another pour of olive oil (the better the olive oil, the better the flavor).  Add the onions to the egg and pour into the pan.  Let it set for a minute, and then very carefully push the edges towards the middle of the pan (just a half an inch or so) with a wooden spoon, to let the egg flow underneath itself.  When the top still looks very wet, but not like it has big pools of egg left, slide the egg without flipping, onto a plate of the same size.  Put a pat of butter in the pan.  Now get your courage up, and flip the whole plate onto the pan so that the frittata is cooked side up.  Almost immediately to about 10 seconds later, your frittata will be done.  It should be still slightly wet in the middle.

Serve with sauteed asparagus, French green olives with the pits and ridiculously good bread.

Pass the salame

Sometimes I am a vegetarian, but not when there is a good cured salame on the table.  It has a lot of fat and a lot of salt, and the history of being a pig before it was a salame, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.  You know what else it has?  Flavor.  If I have a few slices of salame a week, I figure I can make up for it by growing a head of lettuce in a milk carton, and still stay within the range of “responsible human.”

Dinner in less than five minutes:  Slice a good Saucisson (try Marca el Ray) as thinly as you can.  Slap a few slices onto a beautiful baguette (or anything that truly moves you) that has been buttered on one side with cold, unsalted butter and top with sliced cornichon, and then another piece of bread.

Or if you happen to be in Italy then use Finocchiona on Pane Normale, no dressing, no butter, no pickle needed.(not in Italy?!!!  Well then come–there are still a few spots available with Faye Delicious, June 27th to July 4th.  Check fayefood.com/cookingclass for more info.)

On the side, Chateau Vieux Bomale from a bag in a box.
Or for the Italy lovers–my favorite bag in box is a Tuscan Shiraz, from Casa Gialla in Camucia, across the street from the nursery, in case you need to cheat and buy a head of lettuce already in the dirt.

On the other side, you could have a salad of slivered fennel, parsley leaves, trevissio (a long leafed radiccio), endive and a mustard vinaigrette.

And on the other side of that?  Find someone to make you a chocolate mousse.

Busted

On Friday I sent Ferdinand to school with a packed lunch which included a recycled single serving glass bottle, full of milk.  I had the conversation with myself as I was filling the bottle (glass=not safe in the cafeteria), but I reasoned that when I was a kid, there were glass Coke bottles brought in for lunch, thermoses with glass interiors, and nobody died (of breakage).  I got a message back that same day from Ferdinand that glass is not allowed.  Fair enough.  The truth is that if I were the rule enforcing lunch lady, at 11:30 am (post shower, post coffee, post trying to beat the clock) instead of the uncoffee’ed unshowered, in-the-ring-with-the-clock-and about-to-get-knocked-out-mother, I would have said the same thing.  This morning I sent him in with a plastic recycled water bottle.  Also for single use but the longer term issues of gases that are emitted from the dishwasher from washing plastic that is intended for single use, or if you wash it by hand, the germs that are still clinging to the mouth of the bottle are not as high on the list of lunchroom danger for the lunch lady.  The problem is, they are on my list.  Along with the issue that school lunch cows are pumped up with steroids to keep them on their feet.

What about “plastic inside, plastic outside Thermoses?”  is what the lunch lady is most likely thinking, along with what the heck is the matter with the mother?

I am on the look out for a plastic thermos that will not crack in the dishwasher, and will not smell.
Making broccoli with toasted slivered almonds and coriander seeds over a lemon scented rice–much easier.

A little of this for a little of that

When you really want something–I’m talking deep down from your knees can’t figure how your world is going to spin without it–creative thinking skills kick in.  I’m cute, but I’m not that cute.  I’ll admit it; I have been known to cook for love.  I have won over a certain few with the likes of chicken pot pie, slowly simmering tender chicken breasts in a stock made from scratch and pressing bits of butter into flour with my fingertips and quickbreads warm from the oven stuffed with grated flakes of garden fresh zucchini folded into sweet cake batter with the freshly scrubbed side of my hand.

It costs a lot to make a television pilot.  Camera, lights, sound, producer, director, editor and lipstick all add up.  My friend Kelie and I put our piggy banks together and counted out 56 cents and some lint balls, but come Hell, high waters or A.I.G. fatcats riding to work on used bicycles, we are going to make this show.
“Sir, we need your skills, and your input. How do you feel about Carbonara?”

Asparagus Carbonara

This is a very quick and simple pasta, but you have to use the best ingredients that you can find.  An egg, is not just an egg.  Taste the difference between the mass-produced and a farm fresh egg, and you won’t go back.  Asparagus should look lively and snap when you try and break it.  Lastly, buy good pasta.  Prince and Ronzoni, are no good.  Buy Italian pasta, made in Italy.  Find your favorite brand, and stick to it.  I like De Cecco.  You will need a little more than half a pound of pasta.  Get two pans of water ready with enough salt to make it taste like the sea.  One should be a pasta pot, and the other, a large saute pan.  Slice up two pounds of asparagus the diagonal, leaving the tough bottom few inches of each stalk.  Bring a pot of water to the boil, season with salt, and add the asparagus.  Cook for four minutes, and drain well.  Heat a frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil and gently cook two cloves of whole garlic, and a sprig of fresh herb until the garlic is golden.  Turn off the heat.
Drop the pasta into the other pan of boiling water.  In a small bowl beat together six egg yolks, with about a quarter cup of finely grated parmesan cheese, a little pinch of salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Take a spoonful of the hot pasta water, and whisk it into your eggs. Repeat with another spoonful.  As soon as the pasta is ready, drain well, and combine with the asparagus.  In a steady stream, stir the egg mixture into the pasta, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Drizzle in a few spoonfuls of heavy cream, and another cup of parmesan.  Taste for salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Broccoli Rabe

It’s not never that I get stuck in the vegetable aisle standing in front of one good looking bunch of broccoli rabe with no idea of what to do with it, and no way out of wanting it so bad that it ends up in the basket. “Away, away baby let’s go!!!” and me and the broccoli rabe are running out of the store together.
When I got home, I paired it up with a little pantry cleaning and put it together with risotto, and got a little nervous about that because isn’t risotto supposed to be saved for earls and dukes of ladies in waiting type of vegetables like asparagus and wildmushrooms and baby peas and fresh from the net seafood and tiny little roasted tomatoes?
Says who?
(This is why I can’t hold a job…)
It is my kitchen, my pots and pans, my time, my dinner and so after aruging with myself and winning, it all went together.
I picked out carnaroli risotto–the kind of rice that can wear a crown to a picnic and get away with it. I started with a pan of finely chopped onion that I stirred on it’s own for fifteen minutes over a low flame with a twig of fresh thyme and one of parsley, along with olive oil and a knob of butter for that extra smoothness that only butter can deliver. In a whole separate pan, I simmered the brocoli rabe with a dash of salt, olive oil and a garlic clove added to the cooking water. When it was tender, I drained it, got about 4 more garlic cloves finely sliced, and nearly golden in glaze of olive oil and added the rabe to the mix. I set this over a colander to wait for my rice.
You know I always save the tips from the chicken wings for making stock for just a moment like this, and out they came from the freezer to simmer with a carrot, a half an onion, bay leaf, thyme, parsley and plenty of water. I can hear you complaining about this, but by the time your onion and rabe have cooked in their separate pans, your stock will be ready to use. 30 minutes is fine, (two to four hours is better but a quicky has its place.)
When the onion was looking and tasting like an onion should (be sure to season it with salt and a little pepper) I stirred in a cup and a half of the carnaroli. Let it go for 30 seconds until just going clear. Add a ladleful of hot stock. Stir.

Now is the time to love the risotto. Show the risotto what it means to focus. Show the risotto that the phone can ring itself off the hook–and because you are in the middle of love, there is not one thing that is going to move you from the source. Keep adding hot stock and keep stirring like you mean it. The flame should be about medium. When the risotto tastes nearly done–tender but no where near mushy–standing on it’s own as a grain, turn off the flame. Taste for salt and black pepper. Add a few tablespoons of room temperature butter, one tablespoon at a time, folding it in the way you would fold egg whites into cake batter. Fold in a good handful of a cheese that can stand up strong to broccoli rabe like Parmigiano Reggiano. Add a little bit of chopped flat leaf parsley, and taste again. Give your broccoli rabe a little glaze of your very best olive oil and then gently fold into the risotto. Serve with a platter of garlicky white wine infused fresh clams and you’ll feel life dancing from your heels on up.

Cream it.

I would like to give a shout out to my girlfriends.  I love you guys.

And I’m going to give you my secret to sassy, smooth, dreamy, creamy, get yourself in a Spring suit, pesto.  For one whole bunch of unblemished leaves, minus their stems, flatten and crush one clove of garlic.  If you have the fever, get out the mortar and pestle and start grinding, adding a few drops of olive oil nectar at a time with a good pinch of salt and a turn of black pepper.  Smash in a piece of yesterday’s fabulous and now crunchy bread.  Add a  half cup of pignoli (pine nuts) and keep crushing.  Grind in the basil leaves a about three or four at a time, and then add about a half cup more of olive oil.  If you don’t have the fever, you can do the whole thing in a food processor or a blender.  Start with the garlic and bread, a little olive oil, all the basil, and then the nuts and the rest of the olive oil a little at a time.  Add about 3/4 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano that you have grated yourself.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Boil up the water with enough salt to make it taste good, add the pasta, and cook the pasta until it is seriously al dente.  Reserve about a quarter cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta well.  Give a few generous spoonfuls of pesto to the pasta along with a few tablespoons of the cooking water.  Now give it a drizzle of heavy cream.  Nobody has to see this bit.  Put the cream back in the fridge and if you need to make it a little smoother, give it another teeny bit of the cooking water.  Taste for salt and pepper (and cream).

Cheap

This is no time to turn off the porch light to keep people from coming over for dinner.  A feast does not have to cost a million dollars.  A feast is all about the company.  Turn the music on, tell everyone to bring a candle (nothing stinky) and a bottle of wine if you’re drinking.  Then get over your feelings about cans.  Open up some chic peas, get a pan of olive oil, garlic and rosemary going, and when the garlic is golden, turn it off, dump in the chic peas and give them a toss with some red pepper flakes, fresh orange zest and a pinch of salt.  Next.  Peel a fresh beet, grate it, and give it a saute with chopped shallot and garlic and thyme.  Top with a few toasted walnuts.  Boil up some eggs, starting with cold water, turn off the heat when it comes to a boil, cover for four minutes, and then remove them from the pot.  Make your own mayo with a little extra mustard and lemon and after you salt and pepper them, drizzle the mayo over the halved eggs.  Scatter the plate with whatever tiny greens you have (arugula, parsley, fresh mint, basil..).  Slice up some oranges ala Bittman with a few smashed black olives.  Sprinkle with mint and salt.  Cut a few zucchini into matchsticks, dip them into a mixture of 1 cup of flour, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and warm water to make it like a loose sour cream.  Beat 2 extra large egg whites until just stiff and fold in.  Now fry those puppies, (when your oil is hot–a bread crumb will sink and then swim immediately); sprinkle with capers, toasted pine nuts and currants and serve immediately. Roasted broccoli goes like candy (olive oil salt, 400 degrees).  Make a big plate of croutons by chopping up yesterday’s bread and baking it in the same oven as the broccoli, but on a separate sheet pan.  Use your vegetable peeler to get the last bits of any hunks of parmesan you may have hanging around and toss those in with the bread.

Throw your head back and have a laugh.