Three Things 8/24
Charred cherry tomatoes, salad dressing station, a question that needs to be normalized
Good morning! I spent the weekend preparing for Hurricane Henri’s arrival and my youngest daughter’s departure for college, and luckily it all went fine. It should come as no surprise to you that as part of her Goodbye Tour, she requested a few last meals, including but not limited to: Bolognese, a favorite shake, and a quick drive into the city for sushi and ice cream. (Good thing we are not weekEND vegetarians at the moment.) As usual, I found it much easier to focus on the food than what was actually happening, but I will have better, deeper thoughts on all of this empty nest stuff soon, I promise. Just gotta get the other kid off to college first. In the meantime, here’s another much more pleasant thing to focus on: your THREE THINGS…
1. Charred Cherry Tomatoes with Yogurt
How do you come up with your ideas? People always ask me this question and the truth is, I don’t really have an answer, except for this: Ideas are everywhere, and it is my job to Always have my idea goggles on! That way, when my neighbors drop off an enormous bowl of their backyard cherry tomatoes (thank you, Ian and Gillian!) and later, someone DMs me on instagram a reminder that Ottolenghi’s Charred Tomatoes with Cold Yogurt is a surefire hit every time (thank you Nicolette P!), I know exactly what’s on the line-up for a Friday night dinner. This recipe is in Ottolenghi Simple, which is yet another book I depend on for plant-based showstopper inspiration…
…and Ottolenghi recommends the dish as part of a meze spread, served with pita and other vegetable dishes, which is exactly what we did. I love the contrast between the ice cold yogurt (he’s very adamant about this instruction…serving it cold) with the warm, sweetened, charred tomatoes.
2. The Dressing Station
I wanted to give you a tour of possibly the most used corner of my entire house: What I think of as The Dressing Station. It began as the area next to the stove where I could readily reach for the olive oil, salt, and pepper, but over the years it has grown to include the condiments I use the most frequently for homemade vinaigrettes and salad dressings. The only thing not shown here is the Grey Poupon Dijon squeeze bottle. The squeeze bottle is crucial because it means the dressing-making becomes a utensil-free operation. Just squeeze your teaspoon of mustard into an old jar (or measuring cup), add 1/4 cup of vinegar — lately I’ve been very into sherry vinegar — a small scoop of sugar (it has its own little serving spoon, so doesn’t need to be washed), salt, pepper and olive oil. And Shake away. My friend and food stylist Olivia McCool was the first one to turn me on to the Trader Joe’s peppercorn mill. You know how some of those storebought mills can be super janky and yield powdery, unsatisfying pepper dust? Not the case with Trader Joe’s. The pepper grinds are freshly cracked and aromatic and you can absolutely not discount the ASMR factor when you crank that thing with conviction. So satisfying. I own a number of pepper mills (including one of those classic French pepper mills) but now I suddenly seem to be favoring the Trader Joe’s mix instead. The others certainly are pretty for photo shoots, though! (PS I almost removed the bottle of ibuprofen for the photo, but it made me laugh — with two college athletes in the house, we deplete those faster than any other staples shown.)
3. Let’s normalize this question….
Last week, my column for Cup of Jo was about a casual but complicated graduation menu I made for a group of Abby’s friends. (Two of her friends are vegan. One is dairy-free. Another is both gluten-free and dairy-free. Most of them are vegetarian, except one guy who loves meat so much he calls himself a “me-gan,” rhymes with vegan). The comments were fascinating — there were discussions about the expected etiquette of a good guest, and a good host, and dozens and dozens of people with eating restrictions weighed in on how grateful they are when hosts take the time to be inclusive and innovative. Anyway, it got me thinking that we’d do well to remind ourselves: When we invite someone for dinner, we should always always ask “Any eating restrictions you’d like me to know about? I’d like to make sure you are excited to come and full when you leave.” Because that is the actual true measure of a successful dinner party in my mind. (Shown: Vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, three-bean chili with plantain chips from The Weekday Vegetarians, and PS every recipe I cooked for Abby’s party was from the book.)
P.S. Did you know I wrote a book? Lol. (Sorry!) One more thing about it before I let you go on with your day: This chapter is dedicated to my philosophy of always having a “hook” on the plate, i.e. something that you or your kid or whoever you are cooking for, is guaranteed to be excited about. The Weekday Vegetarians, filled with strategies like this and 100+ recipes, is out in ONE WEEK, Friends! Thank you to all of you who have pre-ordered. If you haven’t, you can do so here.