An excellent Saturday night menu, Emma Cline's new page-turner, and...Sicily!
Greetings eaters and readers, and I hope you all had great Mother’s Days. What’s for dinner tonight? I made a bunch of crustless quiches for my gluten-free mother-in-law on Sunday and I’m still feasting on the leftovers. (Book owners, pages 115-117) Also on the line-up: Three-Bean Chili and Andrea Nguyen’s Tofu Mushroom Curry. Lastly, this week’s dispatch was brought to you by the Trader Joe’s flower department, which is popping off with affordable everythings right now. I can’t get enough of those tulips! And now, your Three Things.
Dinner: A Love Story is a labor of love, but it is still…labor. Consider becoming a paid subscriber. If you do, you’ll have access to weeknight menu plans (with shopping lists), hotlines with experts, and bonus recipes. Plus you’ll be supporting the whole DALS operation, which means so much to me it’s crazy! Subscribe for $5/month or $50/ year. xoxo
1. Dinner for Four, Outside
We had our friends Jodi and Fred over on Saturday for our first outdoor dinner of the season, and we absolutely nailed the menu. I feel ok bragging about this because I barely had anything to do with the meal. For starters, we ripped off the entire line-up from the Eventide cookbook — a big pot of New England clam chowder (made with some excellent local Little Necks) plus…
…their famous-in-our-house pickled vegetable salad with Nori vinaigrette. I made the salad but Andy really did the yeoman’s work of scrubbing the clams and chopping the potatoes and toasting the nori sheets — it’s not exactly a simple recipe — while I stood around and snapped a few photos. I did however, make French fries! And by “make,” I of course mean that I heated up some Ore-Ida shoestrings in a 450°oven for 10 minutes. I disguised this fact by sticking bunches of them in a parchment-paper lined cups, restaurant-style. I don’t think anyone was fooled, but it didn’t matter. French fries are French fries, and they’re always going to cast a happy glow on the rest of the table. This might be my go-to move for summer 2023.
2. This Week in Page-Turners
Last December, Andy came home with a fat manuscript in his backpack and handed it to Phoebe, then a college sophomore and the newest English major in the house. “You’re going to love this one,” he said. Because he’s a book editor, it is not unusual for him to foist galleys and advance copies upon his family (or really whoever is in the house, you can ask Abby’s poor college roommates who visited us last spring), but it was unusual for him to give her a manuscript. Meaning, about 300 unbound 8 1/2-by-11-inch pages of double-spaced text. Phoebe settled on the couch and started, and we didn’t see her for the rest of the afternoon, until she staggered into the kitchen, bleary-eyed and shook. The ending! That book was The Guest, by Emma Cline.
The story follows 22-year-old Alex, who when we first meet her, is living with her affluent, much-older boyfriend in his Long Island summer house. After she bangs up his car and embarrasses him at a party, he kicks Alex out, back to the city, without realizing she’d already been booted out of her apartment by her roommates and has nowhere to stay. Deluded and unspeakably self-destructive, she hatches a scheme to attach herself from one wealthy Hampton-esque character to the next, plotting out a long weekend until she can return to her boyfriend’s Labor Day party when she assumes all will be forgiven. (See above: Deluded.) Attractive, manipulative, and con-artist-level street-smart, Alex masterfully blends into the rarefied circles, hiding in plain sight, though never completely outrunning her outsider status. In the hands of Cline, what sounds like an easy beach-read plot, instead becomes a master class in tight, incisive, page-turning prose:
A strange afternoon, here with this poor unhappy girl, now alone in this pool that, Alex felt sure, no one ever used. These were the type of people who assumed that there were rules, who believed that if they followed them they would one day be rewarded. And here was Alex, naked in their pool.
3. Sicily Bound!
I am headed to Sicily next week! My home base will be Ortigia, the jewel-like ancient island off Siracusa, but we will be heading up to Noto and Etna and taking cooking classes and visiting almond farms and vineyards and olive groves and eating very very well! Best of all, I’ll be hanging with about a dozen Dinner: A Love Story newsletter subscribers who all signed up for the tour through my collaboration with Elizabeth Minchilli’s Week in Italy program. (Follow her premium substack if you want first dibs on future trips.) I will be doing most of my reporting on instagram next week, so feel free to follow along. (If that link doesn’t work — it’s being wonky for me— just head to the app and find me at @dinneralovestory.) Have a great week!
P.S. Attn, Subscribers!
Hopefully you received last week’s bonus recipe, Cream Cheese and Rhubarb Swirl Muffins from Sarah Kieffer’s new book, Morning Treats. Unfortunately, I left a crucial ingredient off the recipe list in my initial email, but you can find the corrected version here. Remember: you can always visit my archive to find the most up-to-date versions of recipes, no matter how long ago I wrote about them.
P.P.S. No surprise here, but Sarah’s book, Morning Treats, is a total delight. Even for baking novices like me. Just a small sampling: Cheesy Croissant Casserole, Popovers with Fig Butter, Raspberry Hazelnut Danish Braid, excuse me while I go preheat my oven.
Thanks for reading,