While staging in a Piedmontese restaurant in Torino years ago, I was startled by the reminiscent flavor of spaghetti al pomodoro we were eating at family meal one night. The tomato purée, canned earlier in the year when the fruit was at its peak, was as sweet as candy. Finished with a large spoon of butter, a technique Italian chefs call montecare al burro, the sauce had a pleasing richness. The combination of flavors was resonant with my childhood memories of a favorite family dish we called Jewish Spaghetti.
Jewish Spaghetti? What on earth? It was staple side dish in my mother’s repertoire, a dish that her grandmother Eva had apparently conceived, and that each of Eva’s four daughters passed on down to their families. (I suppose her four sons, though likely fans of the dish, probably didn’t know how to make it.) My grandmother made it. My mother made it. I make it. I recently learned on one of my radio shows that my cousin Madeline Poley, the celebrated chef/owner of the Soho Charcuterie and creator of other New York city food faves, hated her mother’s Jewish Spaghetti. We loved ours so much that I assumed it was a known pasta variant, like spaghetti bolgonese and fettuccine alfredo. So, imagine my surprise at the reaction of my classmates when I referred to Jewish Spaghetti in elementary school.
I wrote home from the restaurant in Turin to tell my family I had found an Italian antecedent to our family’s Jewish Spaghetti.
The recipe is simple. Continue reading
So, it turns out that updating a blog regularly is like a full-time job. And considering how my full-time job has turned into two or three full-time jobs at the moment, the blog has fallen aside. Here’s just one thing I’ve been up to lately, extolling the culinary virtues of James Beard and his cookbooks. You might say that I’ve been impersonating James Beard. No, that’s not quite right. But I did film this segment of the new Cooking Channel‘s new series Food(ography). Hosted by none other than Mo Rocca, the topic of this episode was American cookbooks. And I was asked both to cook a recipe of Beard’s (I chose Salade Oriental from Beard on Food) and to discuss Beard’s significance in the context of other American cookbooks and food. Watch it now.
Here’s the recipe, verbatim, from Beard on Food:
“Salade Orientale is not just a salad but an elaborate one-dish meal. To serve eight, cook 1 1/2 to 2 cups rice until bitingly tender (not mushy). Drain and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss gently with 2 to 3 tablespoons oil, using two forks. Leave to cool. Meanwhile, cut 1 1/2 cups cooked shrimp into smallish pieces, leaving a few whole ones for garnish Combine with 1 cup crabmeat and, if you like, 1/2 to 1 cup mussels, which have been steamed with white wine and water (or used the canned mussels from France or Scandinavia). For an alternate seafood mixture, you might have bite-sized chunks of cooked lobster or lobster tails or raw bay scallops with either shrimp or mussels. To either seafood mixture add 1/2 cup finely cut celery, 1/2 cup finely chopped green or red onion, and 1/2 up peeled, seeded, and finely diced cucumber. Toss with the rice and a vinaigrette sauce made with 4 parts olive oil to 1 part wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon, 1 tablespoon prepared mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the whole shrimp, and serve on greens. ”
Click here to order your copy of Beard’s personal, eccentric exploration of food.
Back in March, when Nate and I unexpectedly (and delightedly) hosted an Indian street foods cooking class in our apartment taught by Geetika Khanna, one of the marvels she revealed was the technique of making kati rolls. Originating in Calcutta, the kati roll is a sort of Indian burrito with egg and other fixin’s. The magic occurs when the roti, chapati, or paratha (you can use a flour tortilla, too) adheres perfectly to the egg frying in the pan and, voilà, makes for a delicious and nutritious wrap for whatever you have on hand.
Having just returned from Alabama yesterday with a bag full of fresh Alabama peas and beans (from Andy’s Farm Market and Landscaping Center), I set out for my first solo kati roll attempt. I shucked and stewed the fresh pink-eyed peas with onion, garlic, tomato, and a selection of Indian spices (toasted cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, asofetida, and turmeric). Tender and sweet, the peas were done after less than 15 minutes of simmering. I made a quick Indian “salsa” with tomato, spring onion, nigella seeds, amchur powder, oil, and vinegar. And I heated up some leftover mujedrah for bulk. The fillings ready to go, it was time for the magic.
Kati (un)roll(ed), in order of layers: roti, fried egg, mujedrah, curried pink-eyed peas, tomato salsa, cilantro.
To make the kati roll wrap, Continue reading