Last night I was watching a documentary made in 1975 called “Grey Gardens” and at one point I recognized a mustard colored recipe box with dark red pointy flowers on it and I started crying. You would have thought I would have been crying over the crazy mother daughter team or the state of the house that was filled with cats and racoons and liquor, but not me–I was crying for the recipe box. When I was 8 or 9 until I’m not sure when, I had that same box, stuffed with recipes, but I lost it. After that, I had a dark blue canvas pouch with sheep on the zipper that I carried around in my purse for years, until I lost it. Then I started filling notebooks. A few years ago in a hot summer flood, along with nearly all of my cookbooks, I lost just about every recipe that had moved me to write it down. I don’t use recipes now. I love to look at cookbooks, but I look at them the way you might look at the patterns that waves make in the sand. If I need to remember how to make something, I do it over and over again, to remember the smell, the taste and the look of it, until I know it like a person.
Tonight I’m making potatoes and leeks with a little sausage on the side and tiny romaine leaves tossed with a crumbly earthy goat cheese and slivers of shallot and green French olives.
Saute the sliced and cleaned leeks in olive oil and a little bit of butter with a pinch of salt over low heat until they are completely softened and just a little bit caramelized. Boil the potatoes in cold, salted water with a drizzle of olive oil and a whole clove of garlic, crowded into the pan, and with just enough water to cover. Put the lid on. When they are fork tender, they are ready. Drain immediately. Set them back over the heat for just a few seconds to dry them out a little. Remove and toss with the leek. Brown the sausages, and toss the greens.