Archives for posts with tag: cuisine dolce far niente

I live for tea sandwiches. I troll the menus of fancy hotels for tea sandwich ideas, which are strangely few and far between. As mentioned, the best big honkin’ sammie ideas evar came from Chicago’s Cafe Lula, and Alice’s Tea Cup in NY (Lula’s Tineka sammie — peanut butter, sambal, sweet soy sauce, vine ripe tomato, red onion, cuke, whole grain; Alice’s Tea Cup — cumin-roasted carrots, tapenade, goat cheese on sesame semolina). The one takes a day’s shopping and the other a day’s cooking and another day to wash the dishes, but they are ROLL YOUR EYES BACK good. Alai Nna, who learned to cook in NOLA, with Vietnamese touches, is the best sandwich imagineer ever. I think she might find these a little heavy, both in concept and with the hippie dippie bread.
This one, from a five star British hotel I cannot now name, fits way more easily into the Dolce Far Niente summer cooking style: Pickled onion cream cheese, cukes, cress on — what have you. A nice challah toast, I’m thinking.
Slice a cup of red onion very thinly. Put it in a microwave bowl. Cover with red wine vinegar and pickling spice. Nuke. Cool. When they’re sufficiently pickled (I waited a couple days), take a well-drained handful (2/3 cup) and add to food processor with a bar of Neufchatel, some pepper and salt. Blend. It’s pink. It’s awesome. It’s ONION DIP, people. without the frightening sodium content of the Lipton’s kind. Total prep time, possibly five minutes, and five minutes to wash the processor. Lick first.

I love grits with a blind passion, and have hacked and simplified a couple of recipes to come up with this delicious dish.

First, grill eight sweet peppers, red and yellow. Follow the directions in this recipe. Too hot to click the link? Preheat oven to 400. Core and halve eight peppers. Put them cut side down on a baking tray. Put them in the oven until the skins are well blistered, about 40 minutes. Let them cool. Julienne them. All those crazy people who insist the only way to roast a pepper is by holding it over a flame with tongs? And then skin them? Buh-bye. Skins is good for you.

Make four or more servings of grits following the directions on the back of the package of the five-minute quick kind, not instant. Omit the water and the salt. Use milk and a chicken bouillion cube instead. Stir constantly. When done, add two or three cups of grated smoked Gouda cheese. Stir and pour it into a serving dish. Or do it their way.

Serve it with half a cup of the pepper julienne on top of each portion, cold sliced meat, green salad and peach pah. Or just sliced peaches and blueberries, really, really, really cold, and tossed with a touch of peach jam.

Not exactly a cuisine dolce far niente candidate, but hacked sufficiently from its origins in onerous recipes to be headed that way. Irresistible enough to make you turn on the stove.

For the simple syrup:

2 c white sugar

2 c water

2 c tightly packed fresh herbs

(Alley recommends lavender flowers, licorice mint, and rose geranium. I got my licorice mint (lavender agastache anise hyssop plant) off eBay and added tarragon. I think this would be wonderful with just a few sticks of rosemary and lemon zest, as Martha suggests.)

Agastache foeniculum, licorice mint or anise hyssop.

Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and add fresh herbs. Simmer for five minutes. Cover and allow to cool to prevent aromatic oils from escaping. Steep overnight in the fridge. Strain and use as needed.

For the lemonade:

2/3 cup lemon juice (bottled tastes just fine)

1 c herb simple syrup

4 c good water (or soda water, seltzer or strong herb tea like Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice)

Mix. Add ice and sprigs of fresh herbs and slices of lemon.

Makes about six cups.

I’ve been surveying a bunch of cookbooks lately, tracing the development of Edward Espe Brown’s recipes, his influence on California cuisine (he did not invent mesquite grilling, since meat is not on his Buddhist menu, but he may have invented California pizza, Spago, Wolfgang Puck and all his pineapple pizza spawn), and on what is now the commodity fetishization of farmer’s market vegetables and locavorism. New York City’s number one chef, Mario Batali, dropped out of the fast corporate chef track in the 1990s and went to cook in a 25-seat trattoria in a small village in Italy for three years. He never stops talking about pristine produce and married his farmer’s daughter. He calls it Italy, but it’s really Eddie.

Edward Espe Brown

Edward Espe Brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of Espe Brown’s cooking foremothers is Adelle Davis, who was the nutritionist rediscovered by hippie dippie cooks like me in the early 1970s. I have my original yellowed edition of Let’s Cook It Right, and have not salted boiling food from the first day I read Adelle over 40 years ago.

Adelle Davis

Adelle Davis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I cracked her open recently, on my road trip, to do some of the tedious recipe comparison/origin work that is the backbone of the Espe Brown story. You never believe this of a nutritionist, and certainly not from the hippie-dippie ones, but what a good cook Adelle was!

Yesterday I made one of the aspics I pencilled a star alongside 40 years ago — slow and steady crosses the finish line, baby — and it is all I want to eat. Martha Stewart, having learned a lesson from Real Simple, a rival mag which pretends to be the anti-Martha but is weirdly anti-pleasure, has greatly simplified her recipes since the days I spent $100 on ingredients for minestrone and three days chopping that shit up, making stock, picking leaves off stems of herbs, and so on. This month she has a whole page of no cook soup, which almost qualify for the coveted Cuisine Dolce Far Niente tag I very seldom award.

So I made Adelle’s beet/smoked fish/apple aspic and Martha’s cantalope and chili soup. Cold fuds, mmmmmmm. Even with the enormous, perfectly tasteless cantalope I got from Smith’s, you bastards, and some doctoring with rice vinegar and honey, the soup is beautiful and mouth feely and almost tasty, and Adelle’s aspic is all I want to eat. She has one mother aspic recipe and about 50 changes to ring on it. I’m so psyched. Cold soup and aspic all summer long.


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