We’re going about our day today, very aware of that day…
The Twin Towers have a strange presence still, a memory that intrudes into every day of my life in New York City like some phantom limb. On September 11th, while standing at my window holding a frilly pastry I’d made for a photo shoot, I saw the towers engulfed in smoke and flames; they crumbled before my very eyes. That evening in tears, I lost count after twenty-two ambulances screamed past my window, and I breathed in the acrid, unthinkable smoke.
I was heartsick, almost speechless from shock. By the third day, the relentlessness and weight of it all made me desperate for escape. Where could my boyfriend David and I find respite if only for a few hours? I imagined sitting in Babbo, Mario Batali’s restaurant downtown in Greenwich Village. But the village had become a no-mans land: there were barricades at 14th street, no cars were allowed beyond, and few people were venturing out on foot. My hope was so great I picked up the phone.
“Hey, are you open?”
“Yes, yes. We are. We’ve got just the downstairs open, for whoever can get here”.
“Do we need a reservation?”
“Just come.” read more…
In a recent interview on Nowness’ FB page, superstar chef Mario Batali was asked what olive oils he “swears by”. The answer:
“Da Vero from Healdsburg, Primo Olio from Sicilia, Castello di Ama and Capezzana from Toscana.”
We’ve tasted three of the oils he mentioned and they ARE stunning, as well as pricey and not easy to come by, although worth every penny. A good olive oil can MAKE a dish, literally. Along with salt, it can be the only seasoning you need to turn say, a bowl of steamed wax beans from the farmer’s market, or a tomato or a slice of mozzarella, or a piece of grilled or slow-roasted fish into a perfect, ‘complete’ dish.
The world of olive oils is vast. Flavors range from pepper to grassy to herbal and on. A fine place to start learning about them is through Zingerman’s, a mail-order company who offers a wide range of carefully chosen oils, that you know will be in perfect shape. (We have tasted many an esoteric olive oil that was rancid from having been stored improperly.) Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating: How to Choose the Best Bread, Cheeses, Olive Oil, Pasta, Chocolate, and Much More is a reliable primer.
The problem for many folks we know is that these oils are just too expensive. What to do then? How to find a well-flavored economical olive oil for everyday use? read more…
The only time we read Esquire magazine is in the dentist’s waiting room where we turn right to the “What I’ve Learned” column: to-the-point, full-of-insight interviews with notable artists, writers, actors, athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, musicians, scientists, thinkers. Now Esquire’s published a book of 64 of “the best of” from the column called Esquire, The Meaning of Life: Wisdom, Humor, and Damn Good Advice from 64 Extraordinary Lives. We hate the title but think that a compendium of “What I’ve Learned” columns would be the perfect bathroom read: short and illuminating. You can also find an archive of them on Esquire’s site. Here’s some favorite bits we found there:
The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up. —Mohammed Ali
Get yourself in trouble. If you get yourself in trouble, you don’t have the answers. And if you don’t have the answers, your solution will more likely be personal because no one else’s solutions will seem appropriate. You’ll have to come up with your own. — Chuck Close
Food is much better off the hand than the fork.–Mario Batali read more…
Our dear friend Ellen Silverman, resident photographer at ‘the improvised life’, did all the photos for Gwyneth Paltrow‘s new cookbook My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness. To quote Heather Horn of The Atlantic Online “the book is an eyeful”, no doubt due to Ellen’s sensual and luminous images. Here’s a sampling of photos from the book, along what looks to be a great, unexpectedly over-the-top recipe for Mac and Cheese (we haven’t had a chance to try it yet).
It smacks of Paltrow’s friend Mario Batali’s influence (He is one of the best cooks we know). In lieu of the traditional and somewhat time-consuming cream sauce and grating of American cheese, Paltrow uses marscarpone as a base for freshly grated Parmigiano (easily bought) as the sauce for the macaroni. Fast and furious, with those big-guns ingredients, it cannot fail. You’ll find the recipe at the end of the post… read more…
We saw some fresh figs in the market the other day and were reminded of the simplest of dishes: prosciutto – ham that’s been carefully dry-cured for 8 to 24 months – and lush, gently-perfumed fruit like figs, melons, peaches, apricots or plumcots in summer…comice pears, fresh or roasted, in fall. We love this classic combo for breakfast, midnight supper, lone-lazy-dog supper, light lunch, and of course, appetizer.
There is a secret to a marriage of only two or three ingredients like this: that they be at their best. The fruit should be truly ripe and fragrant. The prosciutto should be of fine quality and sliced to order – NOT pre-sliced who-knows-when? and sealed in plastic packages which seem to suffocate its flavors and cause its creamy texture to turn rubbery. This means planning ahead a bit in order to have an ingredient so delicious and complete it requires hardly any effort at to serve or eat. Once you understand how prosciutto works, you can make it work for you. Here’s what you need to know… read more…