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Adesina's Kitchen

Issue No. 3 | September 2011

This Month's Kitchen

Though I’ve always been a book nerd and a school lover (I can hear my husband and sister groaning as they read this), history and I have never really been simpatico. Give me reams of essays on literature and science and art, I can’t even feign an interest in battles and dates and conquests that form the backbone of the study of history. Truthfully, I know that my proclamation is a little off - the study of art or science or literature is all rooted in history. I can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. But if you’re trying to sell me on a Ken Burn’s marathon or a trip to the National Museum of American History, you’re gonna have to get a really sexy argument together, because I’m not buying it.

Feijoada Completa
Photo: Feijoada Completa (Recipe for Brazilian Collard Greens with Garlic and Olive Oil)

When it comes to food, however, all bets are off. I can wax poetically on the historical origins of the Brazilian national dish, Feijoada Completa. I’ll read essays on the lineage of American cornbread preparations and the changes in names assigned to the cooking techniques. I am passionate and ruthless in tracking down the true inside story of madeleine, black eyed peas, tabbouleh, and black garlic. If an ingredient has a story, rest assured I’ll attempt to suss it out.

Photo: Tabbouleh

I recently polished off the last of the New York Times Essential Cookbook (see Choice Read of the Month to the right) and circuitously re-read the intro on how to use the book. Amanda Hesser wrote that her book was far from a food history, and gave a long list of authors who could be consulted as experts on the subject. I immediately went to Amazon and spent an obscene amount of scratch (don’t worry - I bought used copies when I could) on *shock* history books! Can you see me blushing with embarrassment, because I am.

String Bean and Tomato Salad
Photo: String Been and Heirloom Tomato Salad

The whole point is that, regardless of whether we’re talking about cooking or education or you name it, it’s entirely possible that pastimes or interests can be ported from the “dislike” to “like” category if the subject matter is something you’re passionate about. If you’ve been feeling a little lukewarm about cooking lately (or have always felt that way), consider seeking out ingredients that excite or delight. I guarantee that you’ll see the kitchen as less a chore and more a place of infinite inspiration.

Choice Read of the Month

The New York Times Essential Coopkbook by Amanda Hesser
I purchased the New York Times Essential Cookbook on a whim - I was in the midst of a foodie shopping spree (“Heart of the Artichoke” “Asian Dumplings” and “The Urban Pantry” to name a few) and Amazon felt the need to impress upon me a need to throw Amanda Hesser’s book into the cart. I’m pretty sure I said, “What the hell” aloud to myself as purchased it. When the book arrived, I was shocked at not only its heft, but the total lack of photos. As one who reads cookbooks for the drool-worthy food porn contained within the glossy pages, at just under 1000 pages of straight text, I was over it before I started. I’d already docked Ruth Reichl cool points for her mess of a Gourmet Cookbook from 2004 (although truthfully, it was for the illegible yellow font more than anything else as she has some seriously amazing recipes in there) and this new tome felt quite similar for some reason. Maybe it was the sensory overload of such a far-reaching theme as “every recipe known to man.” And then, as I forced myself to read, something magical happened. Hesser’s literary voice painted her less a bookish food nerd and more an unabashedly passionate cook and eater. Her notes on the many vintage recipes (a goodly amount over a century old) are mindful and eloquently stated, and the upgrades made to old techniques and ingredients are judicious and sage. The resulting book is no less than a masterpiece, and I could kick myself for almost running with my early misgivings and relegating it to the reject shelf. If you read this book like a novel, it’ll delight as much as any gorgeous food photography. But what I think is more telling is that the new chef and the old hand in the kitchen will be able to work (wonders) from this book, and that’s a rare thing. In that the kitchen can often harbor a sense of pretension and ego, Hesser’s work brings us back to the ideal that cooking is egalitarian. All those up for a challenge have a place in front of the stove, and the NYT Essential Cookbook can be your guide in the process.

Most Popular this Month

Appam (Sri Lankan Coconut Pancakes
Food blogging, for me, is a voracious feast of techniques, flavors and ingredients kissing every single stretch of the globe. It’s a pursuit that never grows old, because the influences are endless and so varied in nature. While seeking out the new and novel can grow stale in and of itself, there are several outlets for culinary inspiration out there on the web. My new favorite is The Daring Kitchen, a site for bloggers and non-bloggers alike with a Fight Club-esque set of rules and a monthly challenge for its members. August featured appam, Sri Lankan coconut rice pancakes that are perfect for mopping up spicy curry. Apparently, you guys could taste the goodness through the screen, because the appam recipe was the most visited for this month.

Menu of the Month

Bistro Feast for Beginners
I know we are nowhere near Valentine’s Day, but this menu is all about romance. Simply seared hanger steak, classic mussels and quiche do the heavy lifting, while truffle oil and champagne guild the lily. It’s a feast that won’t kill you to prepare, making it the perfect menu to take on if you’re a little nervous about putting on a fancy-pants menu for that apple dumplin’ that’s caught your eye. And because an actual apple dumplin’ is too fussy to prepare, you round the meal out with a boozy, no-cook dessert of strawberries in elderflower liqueur and even more champagne. If that ain’t love, then I don’t know what is. Make the quiche and prep the mussels ahead of time to give you a little wiggle room in case you can't break away from your date to attend to the stove.

Featured Inspiration

Meatballs always seem to appear on my inspiration lists in countless formats and remixes - if I put them all together, I could be the UN of meatball cookery. I’m not alone in this obsession - from NYC’s buzzy Meatball Shop to the hilarious guerilla marketing of Phillip Foss and his food truck, the Meaty Balls Mobile, everyone wants to get their meatball on. I’m EEO in my meatball love, from Spanish Albondigas to Tuscan Wild Boar Meatballs to Sri Lankan Meatballs with Coconut Curry. So this month, I choose to celebrate fully by proclaiming my addiction and prompting you to make some for yourself. You know you want to about as badly as I wanted to make a million dirty jokes while writing this post about meatballs. And yet I refrained like a good girl - I know my mama is officially proud.
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