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march sunshine

March 9th, 2010 | 15 Comments »

March is a fickle friend, isn’t it? On my birthday in 2007, we had a blizzard that left us buried under 18″ of snow. Way back in 1991, I recall it being 67 degrees on my birthday. This year? We had temps in the 40′s, plenty of warm sunshine and slush covering the ground as we made our way out for my celebratory dinner. March, the month that supposedly comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, rarely seems to be able to make up it’s mind as to what it hands us. It’s the month where we officially hang up Winter, and turn to Spring, eyeing our wardrobe and wishing for the right weather to break out the lighter side of ourselves.

With the stretch of days drenched in gorgeous sunshine, and me fingering the short sleeve shirts in longing, there came yet another craving I haven’t known in some time, perhaps a harbinger of the changing season. It was the desire to not only shed the weight of winter clothing but the heavy and comforting draw of it’s food as well, replacing it with those that snap and crunch in their remarkable shades of green. I really wanted a salad.

Likely spurred on by the current issue of Saveur magazine, and it’s ode to the chopped salad- just in time for Spring!- I took one long glance at the Cobb Salad pictured and my mind high-fived my stomach, both in hearty agreement that it was indeed necessary to create. Right away.

The Cobb Salad was named for Robert L. Cobb, credited with inventing it at his famed Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles in 1937, and made up of chicken, bacon, avocado, blue cheese crumbles, tomato, hard cooked egg, chive, watercress, romaine and iceberg lettuces. It’s now a standard on so many menus, often in a wide array of options, most of them a far cry from the original version.

This time of year I tend to get a lot of food fatigue, and indecision about what my body is needing to eat. I’m tired of winter and it’s stews and braises, of it’s root vegetables and tubers, the lack of fresh options and choices. I want to wash the mittens, hats and scarves and then pack them away. I crave berries and peaches, bare skin and white wine. I am beginning to paw through the Spring clothes in my closet, wishing for the warmth to wear just one item, especially those bought on sale last Fall, many with price tags still attached. I think about pedicures and exposing my toes again. I yearn for the Markets to open, bearing tables of new potatoes, spring peas and the first tender bunches of spinach. The buckets of lettuce soon follow, overflowing in green, and mine for just a few dollars. Seed catalogs tempt me. I want summer foods, long warm twilights sipping rosé, a simple sheet thrown over me at night.

So the salad craving was not a surprise, nor pushed aside, even though the greens came from the store and lacked the flavor of the earth. I splurged on good Nueske’s bacon and burned some aromatic candles to freshen the house. Next time Nueske’s and I meet, it likely will be high summer, alongside crimson orbs of fresh garden tomato.

The salad served me well, filling the need for somewhat lighter fare, yet hearty enough to stick with me through the afternoon hours. The bacon doesn’t exactly make this the healthiest option, but it works for an occasional treat, and the mix of flavors just seems to work. I can’t say why the tang of blue cheese, smoky bacon, moist chicken and creamy avocado make for such a pleasing plate of flavor, maybe it’s the carnival of tastes going on at once, a culinary samba that relentlessly entertains your mouth. I sure know that I need waking up from the snow, hearty foods and sweaters, my metaphor of winter. My tastebuds seem to as well. Here’s to more salad, and increasing temperatures, all things Spring and sunshine.

Grant Achatz' Mac and Cheese

January 5th, 2007 | 8 Comments »

Mac and Cheese (Grant Achatz’s from Food and Wine magazine, Dec ’06)

6 thick slices of bacon, diced, 1 medium onion, minced, 2 bay leaves, 1 T. sweet paprika, ½ t. cayenne,1/3 c. AP flour, 6 c. milk, 1 # elbow macaroni, 1# extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded. Browned bread crumbs if desired.

Preheat oven to 350° and spray a 9×13 pan with non stick cooking spray

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy, about 7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add onion and bay leaves to pan and cook until onion is softened, 5 minutes. Stir in paprika and cayenne until fragrant. Add in flour and stir to incorporate. Slowly whisk in milk until smooth. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring frequently for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Boil water and cook pasta until just soft. Drain. Stir all but approximately one cup of cheese into the sauce, stirring well. Add in bacon. Pour over macaroni and mix well. Spread mac and cheese in baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.