Cooking and Gadgets

boiling_pasta.jpgI have an open kitchen in our New York apartment. It’s perfect for me because I like to be at the party while I’m cooking—rather than boxed away in another room, away from the fun. I’m an actor, after all – an entertainer; I want to be part of the show, out in the light – not backstage
toiling in the dark.

However. There’s always some bozo – I’m sorry, did I say bozo? I meant some charming dinner guest – who comes over to shoot the breeze just when I’m about to perform a delicate, crucial step – like tasting the pasta for doneness. This is a holy moment, a private moment that demands the cook’s full attention and focus; because if the pasta goes past its moment – even just a few seconds past — it becomes a mass of wormy, mushy crap and you may as well toss it. But inevitably at that moment, as I’m fishing out that first, crucial strand to taste …

“So, Michael, two Jews go into a bar. You know this one?”

“Not right now.”

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asparagus-pickling-007b-1024x682Mention a party that revolves around food, and I’m there. When my friend, Bobbie, sent an email out a couple of weeks ago asking if anyone was interested in getting together for an asparagus-pickling party, I hit reply and typed “For sure” without hesitation.

A file folder in my desk drawer had been holding a few recipes for pickled asparagus for years. Who knew what year I might get around to actually using the recipes, but pickling some spicy asparagus for adding to bloody Mary’s, nibbling between sips of wine and tossing into salads was definitely on my “To Do” list. For someday.

The night before five asparagus-crazy, party-hungry women were to gather in Bobbie’s kitchen, she sent us another email, letting us know she had 60 pounds of very fresh asparagus delivered from a local farmer and all the jars and other ingredients we would need. Sixty pounds? She wasn’t kidding. Good grief.

The party began at 1:00 on Saturday afternoon. On my way over, (I went right from my cooking demonstration at the farmers market) I figured we’d be finished pickling by 4:00, when I had to head home to prepare a dish to take to a dinner party that evening. I was wrong.

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potatocheeseIt feels like Week 19 of the heat wave. Seriously, ridiculous. It’s too hot to stay in and cook. Baking seems ludicrous. Even making a pot of chili in the afternoon (to serve later with grilled hot dogs or hamburgers) feels like too much – which reminded me of the Cuisinart. It sits on the counter every day and we rarely use it. Why did I forget about the Cuisinart?

I love the Cuisinart. I particularly love the slicer. And having remembered it, I’m now on a cooking and no-cooking cooking binge, if you know what I mean. Last night I threw little red potatoes into the Cuisinart (using the slicer blade), poured them into a porcelain casserole dish, drizzled them (understatement) with grape seed oil, salt, pepper, and a little bit of fresh rosemary.

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chowder.jpgWhere I live, it is very, very cold. There are icicles on the trees, cars must be started at least 10 minutes before one actually wishes to make the first foray of the day, and everyone has boots with tread, a shovel, and backup pair of gloves. This morning, sidewalks and streets were covered with a sheet of ice, and we semi-seriously contemplated getting to church by sliding down the hill from our house. (Not that my life is all that Norma Rockwell-ian, but we actually do live at the top of a hill, and our church is more or less at the foot of said hill).

On a Sunday night when it’s been gray and cold forever, and the promise of the holidays is gone along with the first, unsullied snow, dinner needs to provide more than fuel. Demoralized persons (particularly those returning to school tomorrow after a blissful vacation) require something to lift the spirits in a way that cannot be accomplished with meatloaf or macaroni. Saving the demoralized requires something a little more interesting, a little more labor-intensive, and definitely farther outside the box.

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salt-and-pepper-shaker.gif Today I want to discuss Pepper.    

Yes, Pepper.  

I feel the eye roll.  You think you know what there is to know. It's sat on the table, every day, for a lifetime in an arranged marriage to Salt.  A couple.  Separate but not equal.  I mean, really, isn't Mr. Pepper, in our culture, sort of the lesser of the two?  The sides of the shaker by the stove are not as greasy.   Pepper is....

A kick.  A punch.  A jab. 

Salt knows her boundaries.  She comes to you in the right size. Pepper, the guy, has to be ground down, beat up, knocked into shape.  

But what is he really....?   

What is the nature of the love affair – not just between them – but between us? 

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