Ice cream is my joy

I know it’s Spring and I appreciate that tender asparagus and furry fave pods are available in heaps of new born chlorophyll.  I have been making menus, shopping, marinating, chopping, boning, searing, braising, and roasting. Coaxing peas out of their jackets, stripping artichokes, smashing basil, and slicing tiny fennel bulbs into slivers.

When I come home, I want ice cream.  Full fat, no chemicals, smooth and creamy, grandma-would-a-made-it (except she is 98 and busy watching 24 hour Bonanza reruns).  It soothes, it lifts (spiritually), and it nurtures.

When in doubt, do without

You could probably whip a pile of string beans into a puree and then pour some crazy lobster flavored liquor over the top, set them on fire, shave truffles over that and serve it in a long stemmed glass with a swizzle stick of fresh peas and a chaser of hot lemon cream, but I prefer my string beans alone, and practically naked.  Especially when I am nervous.
I had a cooking audition last night in a home with a view normally reserved for the winged; 76 stories up and windows that wrapped around the hills of New Jersey, the Statue of Liberty the bridges that connect Manhattan on the East, Manhattan on the West, the whole of Central Park, some of all of the boroughs and I’m sure if I squinted I could see Connecticut.  I was thinking about a tasting menu with 46 items, and instead I decided on my classic meat sauce with all the love I have to give, seared chicken with a warm carrot salad tossed with shallot, currant and pignoli and practically naked green beans.  They liked it.

If it’s a day when you have it all together and you want to shake things up, simmer the beans with a dash of olive oil and salt until they are just tender.  In a saute pan at the same time, drizzle in a little olive oil and add a shallot for a pound of beans, about a tablespoon of fresh parsley, the same of mint, a little salt and once the shallot has begun to caramelize, a handful of pignoli, shaking the pan until the pignoli begin to go golden. (No further) Toss with the string beans and taste for salt and freshly ground black pepper.  This is also good with a tumble of your favorite goat cheese.

What to bring

The perfect thing to take to somebody’s house for Easter:

Cupcakes with fresh coconut on top and a few jelly beans.  Toasted almonds with rosemary, lemon zest, garlic and a little red pepper.  A lasagna with homemade noodles, stuffed with spinach, garlic, sauteed mushrooms, white sauce (no red) and parmesan.  A charcuterie platter.  A cheesecake.  A chocolate rabbit.

A ham with a mustardy, brown sugary, dried apricot glaze.  A roasted turkey breast that you baste with the dedication of a new mother.  A chocolate rabbit.  Fried zucchini pancakes (In case you need something to do when you get there; these need to made in the minute.)  Popovers with a little gruyere cheese in the batter.

Scottish bacon on crusty bread.  Pate.  A brand new cheese that no one has ever tasted before. Artichoke puree.  A chocolate rabbit. Or champagne.  Or a kiss.

Here is a link to the pancakes:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/dining/081vrex.html?ref=dining

Beef and boots

Lord and Taylor had a 40 percent off sale, plus I had the 20 percent off coupon from the paper, and on top of that I was one of the first 250 customers at the door, which meant there was a man standing there handing out coupons for another 15% off.  Mama is feeling pretty good at the moment.  You know what screams Spring to me?  A pair of knee hi Wellies like the Queen wears, along with a pound of “natural” ground beef; and that is exactly what I bought.  (Are other cows not natural?  Now that I have the boots, I can go and have a look for myself.
I am tempted to make the classic Friday night treat, Sloppy Joes, except without the can.  You can’t serve dinner from a can, in a pair of classy new rain boots.  Saute a clove of garlic, whole, an onion, half a carrot, and half a stalk of celery, finely minced, in your best olive oil with a little salt, freshly ground pepper, a few red pepper flakes, a sprig of rosemary, and a bay leaf, until it cries out to you to be eaten.  It should take about 15 minutes over a medium/low flame.  Push them to the side, and add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.  Toast for about 1 minute.  Stir into onion mix.  Remove from the pan.  Add another drizzle of olive oil, and a pound of ground beef.  Season the beef, and cook slowly with plenty of attention, until the meat is nearly cooked through.  Drain, and get it back in the pan with your onion mixture.  The garlic at this point should be softened; smash it thoroughly with a fork, and stir it into everything else.   Add one or two whole plum tomates from a can that you squish first, so that there are no big bits.  If you have homemade chicken stock, add about 1 cup.  (If not, a half cup of dry red wine).  Or both.  If you have the boots on, go for it.

Let this simmer for about an hour, adding a little more liquid if you need to.  Serve over a toasted slice of thick, delicious bread, that has been brushed with your best olive oil.

On the side–wine, and that new Parmigiano made with buffalo’s milk at Fairway Market (74th street and Broadway) and RAIN!!!!