Thursday, May 13, 2010

Vegetables and Herbs

The other day I planned to meet Chris for lunch at the Chelsea Market but a previous appointment of mine finished early and suddenly I had an hour to kill and it was freezing out. Bookstores are perfect for this sort of predicament and there happens to be a great one, 192 Books, right around the corner from where Chris works. They sell mostly art and art criticism titles but there is a small section on cooking which I went to straight away. For the most part it's a pretty classic selection, perhaps slightly more refined than a mega bookstore, but nonetheless there was Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver, The Barefoot Contessa, Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan sitting side by side. Any titles I was familiar with I breezed over and focused my attention on the small, less recognizable spines sandwiched between the heavyweights. 

I suppose you could call M.F.K. Fisher the grandmother of food writing in America, publishing over twenty books and hundreds of articles and essays in food journals and magazines from 1937 to 1992,  she was certainly no lightweight, but I had never heard of her until two days ago. The title M.F.K. Fisher among the Pots and Pans: Celebrating her Kitchens by Joan Reardon called out to me like a drippy, ripe peach on a hot July day. Not only did M.K. love the fresh and simple, she also didn't have a kitchen for most of her adult life and she wrote about it with joy and good humor. I bought the book.

I've just begun to read it, but here is a passage from the Foreword by Amanda Hesser about Fisher's first kitchen-less apartment: 

In The Gastronomical Me, she wrote fondly of cooking in her apartment in Dijon, shortly after she was married to Al Fisher: "It was the first real day-to-day meal-after-meal cooking I'd ever done, and was only a little less complicated than performing an appendectomy on a life-raft, but after I got used to hauling water and putting together three courses on a table the size of a bandanna and lighting the portable oven without blowing myself clear into the living room instead of only halfway, it was fun."

There is a lesson in this for us now: today's kitchens have become places of aspiration. They are so enormous that they occasion both infinite possibility and unattainable expectation. There is promise in a second dishwasher-the promise of large parties. And there is melancholy in it's disuse.

The other night I made a simple meal of vegetables and herbs and filled it out with bread, cheese and a little chicken liver mousse from the store. 

It was all we needed.

Vegetables and Herbs
2 carrots
1 zucchini
1 small head of cauliflower
4 small beets
1 bunch ramps
olive oil
salt + pepper

Wash, peel and cut into bite size pieces, the carrots, beets, zucchini and cauliflower. I heated water up in my rice cooker and parboiled until barely tender the carrots and cauliflower in one batch and then cooked the beets last so they wouldn't turn everything red. Drain and put aside. Chop the ramps, bulbs and leaves, as well as a good handful of the rest of the herbs. Heat up the olive oil in a skillet and add the bulb part of the ramps, saute for a minute. Then add the zucchini and toss around for a few minutes before adding the rest of the parboiled vegetables. Cook until tender and add the herbs a minute before they're done along with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with good crusty bread, raw milk cheese and some pate or chicken liver mousse.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to read all of these books you talk about! I still have to get the first you email me about, but I'm looking forward to furthering my food obsession with some of your assistance :)