Monday, September 29

Tart and Juicy Something-or-Others

When I moved into my apartment in early August we were in the middle of a perfectly frigid San Francisco summer. I didn't leave the house without at least two thick layers, and I found myself drinking copious amounts of hot tea.

My godmother generously stocked my new abode with a bagful of lemons fresh from her backyard, and this juicer. I had never seen such a thing before (nor had I ever met a juicer I liked), but now that they're part of my kitchen lexicon I see them everywhere, working their magic one citrus at a time.

I take Bikram yoga, which is that crazy yoga practiced by crazy people in a heated room (supposedly 108 degrees is ideal, but I've definitely seen the febrile arm of the thermometer fervently wobbling to the 116 mark). This means I am thirsty, constantly. My favorite instructor in Philly could and would literally read my mind: during one of the more sweltering classes in the dead of a Philadelphia summer (NOT frigid), I had been fantasizing about the extra-tart glass of lemonade I was going to whip up at work as soon as I got out of class (sometimes working in a bar has it's advantages). Leo leaned over and whispered into my teetering bow pose, "Sometimes, I just think, 'Lemonade'."

When I am really thirsty -- and I mean really thirsty -- I crave tart. I'm sure there is a biological explanation for this reaction; in Bikram, the instructors sometimes advise us to squeeze a healthy dose of lemon juice into our water to help the recovery period and expedite the hydration process. For me, lemonade, limeade, kombucha -- even a particularly vinegary vinaigrette will do the trick. Tart: "Sharp or acid in taste"; "Dress or make oneself up in order to look attractive or eye-catching" (there's a third definition related to promiscuity, and a fourth involving pastry shell, but we'll ignore those for the time being). Something about that sharp, biting quality is alluring, even if laced with a hint of severity.

Back in San Francisco, exiting class to a foggy, windy sixty-degree day tended to waylay my cravings for tart, juicy something-or-others. Fortunately our Indian summer has finally made it's much-anticipated entrance, and we are enjoying ideal limeade weather. Hence, today's selection:

Dissolve one heaping teaspoon of honey in a pint glass with a bit of boiling water. Add the juice of three limes, and fill with ice. Top off with water (sparkling or still). Sip, slowly -- if you can gulp it down it isn't tart enough.

Tuesday, September 16

Oblatory Potatoes (Secular)

Ever since my Penina (like My Antonia, but Jewish and Jersey) departed San Francisco to make a name for herself in the wilds of Brooklyn, I've struggled with the concept of cooking for one. It's just not as fun. I could and would cook Perrin breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and maybe an afternoon snack for good measure, but when it comes to feeding myself I'm just not as ambitious, nor as nourishing. In fact, cooking for one notably lacks the element of nurturing that I find so pivotal to the joy I garner from my culinary endeavors. And I don't just mean the act of solitary eating can be monumentally less satisfying, but more importantly that cooking, for me, is inextricably wrapped up with the idea of nurturing someone. It's a kind of offering: here, eat my food, absorb my affection, accept my care. Let me share with you. Share with me.

And so when I recently had the opportunity to cook for someone, I pulled out all the stops. I served a highly-tinkered version of this salmon ceviche with pickled cucumbers and tomatillos (don't let anyone, particularly the fishmonger at Whole Foods, tell you that salmon is a bad choice for ceviche); Smitten Kitchen's rosemary flatbreads (but substituting chives and wheat flour); my now-classic stuffed baby potatoes; wilted spinach salad goat cheese packets and a warm honey-balsamic vinaigrette; and drunken peaches with ginger sorbet. My guest's selection of a Macon-villages Chardonnay complemented my culinary choices surprisingly well, and a spot of pear brandy with dessert rounded out the meal. It's nice to have a hand in the kitchen, but mainly nice to have company in the kitchen...and help with the dishes certainly doesn't hurt.

These potatoes can be a bit time-intensive, but a good choice if you have a minion, er, assistant to help out. I particularly enjoy them as a tapas-style offering as they travel well and make good finger food. If you're especially finicky about presentation, cut off the rounded bottoms so that they sit flat -- myself, I'm a fan of curves.

8-10 Baby potatoes
3-4oz Goat cheese
~2 T Coarsely chopped herbs of your choice (I used chives and a sprinkling of dried thyme)
2-3 Cloves garlic, crushed
A few healthy pinches of sea salt and plenty of fresh cracked pepper
Capers (or, olives)

Boil potatoes with salt until just tender. Rinse, let cool, halve, and scoop out the fleshy insides. Mix with everything except capers/olives, check seasoning, then pack into potato skins. Top with capers or olives, garnish with chives or parsley, and chili oil if you're feeling especially decorative.

NB: You could also sprinkle with breadcrumbs and broil for a few minutes, but I prefer them cold, despite the persistent San Francisco summer fog.


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