My wonderfully thoughtful mother-in-law, Catherine, brought me a copy of Tamar Adler's book, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, and I devoured it. Adler is beguiling and her prose read like M.F.K. Fisher's. I don't recall if Adler is from the south, but her writing feels southern to me and reminds me of the wit, humor, and stylish wordsmithings of my relations from Alabama and Tennessee.
Adler has a clear voice and her recipes waste not and want not. She offers the simplest and most brilliant advice, beginning with how to boil water (my favorite chapter) and ending, of course, with dessert!
This is one of my favorite quotes from the book. It reminds me of my polenta post ramblings.
"...when we watch people cook naturally, in what looks like an agreement between cook and cooked, we think that they were born with an ability to simply know that an egg is done, that the fish needs flipping, and that the soup needs salt.
Instinct, whether on the ground or in the kitchen, is not a destination but a path. The word instinct comes from a combination of in meaning "toward," and stinguere meaning "to prick." It doesn't mean knowing anything, but pricking your way toward the answer." (Page 63).So, here is the dinner I made after reading An Everlasting Meal. It's loaded with excellent olive oil, fresh vegetables, and pricks toward perfection (or at least toward deliciousness!).
Following Tamar's advice, I felt my way through these recipes and suggest you do the same.
2 large yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into about 1/4 inch thick slices
1 large white onion (or enough small ones to make up a large one), sliced into thin half-rounds
a lot of good olive oil
salt and pepper
Slice up the potatoes and onions and preheat your oven to 375.
Heat about 1/2 inch of olive oil in a saute pan large enough so you won't risk sloshing oil everywhere but small enough so you can use it to cook the tortilla (about 8-10 inches is good). Add the potatoes and onions and heat over a medium/low flame until the oil is slightly bubbling. Cook until the potatoes are tender, sliding any uncooked potatoes to the edge and under the others as you go along so everything is cooked evenly.
Once everything is tender, pour off about 2/3 of the oil through a sieve into a bowl or container for later use. Sprinkle a good pinch of salt over the top of the potato/onion mixture.
Whip up 4 eggs with salt and pepper and pour them over everything.
Place the pan into the hot oven and cook until the eggs are puffed, set, and edges are just beginning to brown. About 15 minutes.
Pull out (don't forget your oven mitt!) and allow to cool for a few minutes before inverting onto a plate. Serve at room temperature in the Spanish style with either or both of the following.
Lemony Garlic Beet and Collard Greens
1 bunch beet greens/stems, swished in water to remove dirt and sliced into ribbons
1 bunch collard greens/stems, swished in water to remove dirt and sliced into ribbons
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a large saute pan over medium/high heat, then add the garlic. Once it comes to a sizzle, add the greens. It's perfect if they're still a little wet from washing as this will help them wilt. Cook them down and if things look dry, add a splash of water or wine vinegar.
Once everything is just about done (tender but still bright green) zest a lemon over the top and then add the juice of that entire lemon, a teaspoon of dried thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Toss everything together and enjoy as a salad, or spoon over good bread that you've toasted, drizzled with olive oil, and rubbed with garlic.
Fennel Herb Salad
Any veggies and herbs you have will work here but I used about two big handfuls each of sliced fennel, celery, basil and parsley. One large tomato, a quarter of a small red onion, and one carrot sliced thinly. Use whatever you have available.
For the vinaigrette, combine the following then toss with the vegetables.
1 Tablespoon any grainy brown mustard or dijon
juice of one lemon
a healthy drizzle of olive oil (about a Tablespoon and a half)
salt and pepper to taste