lifesavers (basics)

The Internet is really one big wild card when it comes to – well – just about anything.  From forwarded e-mails to YouTube videos, the rule seems to be that there’s one gem for every one or two hundred throw-aways.  And it’s really rare to come across something truly special.

This is no less true for recipes; you can find a thousand versions of lasagna (or meatloaf or chocolate chip cookies), but good luck stumbling on one that you want to make again, never mind one that you want to make again rightnow. But we keep looking, and keep trying the recipes out, waiting for the one that proves that the Internet is more than information overload, that equivalent of the video we keep watching, the e-mail we just have to send along.

Well, here it is – the Evolution of Dance or dancing hamsters of recipes.  Originating with Marcella Hazan, doyenne of Italian cookery, this brilliantly simple tomato sauce has been passed around the Internet, blogged to death, incorporated into taste-making chefs’ own standards, and praised enthusiastically by cooks and diners the world around.  It’s my go-to sauce these days, and I have yet to serve it without the recipe being requested.

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Well, hello Spring.  I knew you wouldn’t stand me up.  Thanks for coming – it’s good to see you.

I celebrated this seventy-degree, sun-filled Friday by taking the kids into Boston at noontime.  Husband’s uncle, a pilot, had an extended layover and was meeting my dearest for lunch, and I thought a rare familial visit on a rare spectacular March day was the perfect excuse to flee the ‘burbs for a few hours.  We met in the quintessential Boston spot – on the bridge over the duck pond in the Public Garden, not wearing jackets and enjoying the smell of sunshine in the air. Despite the street performers and college students in their shorts and flip-flops, the duck pond itself reminded us that this softer season is really just beginning – it’s empty (which seems somewhat miraculous, since some houses I know had more water in them this week than the pond does) and Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were flapping about in a few puddles of mucky water.  But, regardless of the fact that the City of Boston hasn’t refilled its landmark quite yet, it was good to note: nothing was frozen.  Birds were rooting out seeds and worms.  College kids were in flip-flops.  Folks, I think we have turned the corner.

Of course, a few balmy days and the first crocuses don’t fast-forward us to the sweet, juicy delights of summer.  We still need some tricks up our sleeves to tide us over until we can eat those vine-fresh tomatoes or berries.  And so I offer you one of my favorite ways to taste summer without having to leave the country … tomatoes, slow roasted in some olive oil.  It’s an amazing way to turn those store-bought, pallid paste tomatoes into something worth eating, and can even be applied to a good-quality can of whole,peeled tomatoes (I prefer anything marked as coming from San Marzano for this recipe.)  A few seasonings to concentrate and round out the flavors, a few hours in a low oven, and you’ve got luscious, flavorful, tender tomatoes perfect for an antipasto platter, sandwiches, salads, and anything else you care to try them in.  I’d use these over sun-dried tomatoes any day, because they still taste as one expects a tomato to taste.

Also, this is a recipe that I firmly believe belongs to out-of-season tomatoes … fresh ones would be far too juicy to concentrate so well, and who wants to do much more than sprinkle some salt on one of summer’s finer gems?  So, while we wait for the ponds to fill and farm stands to open, enjoy this preview of summer flavor.

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I was at the coffee bar at Whole Foods and ordered a medium latte. The barista asked, “Skim milk, ma’am?” [we’ll not talk about how I feel about being ma’am-ed right now, I think.] I said, “No, whole please.”  He stopped mid-turn, looked at me and said (probably to the chagrin of his manager) “Well, damn, lady! You my kind of woman!”

It was hilarious – and clearly it made my day if I’m writing about it a week later – but it also made me think about what I eat and why.  I don’t always take my lattes with whole milk, but I never take them skim.  I use butter, and real sugar. I fry chicken in a combination of lard and canola oil. I like food that tastes good and feels good – I’d rather eat a little of something real than a lot of an imitation.  Just my perspective, and I’m here to tell you about how I eat and cook – not how you should.  But I’m sharing this because it might illuminate my complicated relationship with salads.

See, salads don’t really do it for me.  I know I should like them, but I generally just don’t.  I view them as vehicles for delicious things, and wonder why I’m not eating just the delicious things instead.  I don’t let this stop me from making and eating salads, though – I’m just trying to find one that is worth the effort it takes to make and then eat it. Read More