If you were around last Friday, you may have heard my husband‘s big announcement; and if you haven’t, well, I feel it is my duty to share some wonderful news with you.
While I’ve been spending the last few months not-so-much-cooking, and not-so-much-eating, and mostly putting all my energy into incubating Sprog 2.0, Mike has been pouring his heart and soul and considerable talents into a pretty major project of his own: a book. SHRUBS: AN OLD-FASHIONED DRINK FOR MODERN TIMES, is set for release in July of 2014. If you don’t yet know what a shrub is, well, my Dietsch is the guy to explain it to you.
My own involvement with this project goes a little beyond taste tester and head cheerleader, as well: I shot the cover (!), and will be providing additional photos for the book (!!), which is exciting and surreal and more than a little nerve-wracking, since our deadline falls right around the time the new baby is due, but hey, an opportunity like this is a once in a lifetime thing. It’s a thrill to have some tiny part in helping Mike’s lifelong dream become a reality.
Big, big congrats, sweetie – I am so proud of you, and hopefully this is just the beginning.
I don’t usually post about brand partnerships here, but I have a longstanding love for olives, and when I was asked earlier this year by the folks at Lindsay Olives to contribute a couple of my original recipes to their Olive Adventurer series, I was happy to oblige. (I’m in excellent company, as you can see!)
One of the very best things I did this week, one of the best moments of my life, was to call my beloved Grandma on Wednesday evening. I called to tell her that her name, and my recipe that was inspired by a dish that she has made countless times over the course of her 89 years, a humble pot of beans, no less, was featured in the New York Times. Those beans, those beans that I *had* to figure out how to make for myself years ago, those beans that she makes as effortlessly as breathing, no measuring, like all of her beloved dishes, they just come together, perfectly, every single time. My spin on my Grandma’s borrachos, with her name-checked as inspiration, is in the New. York. Times.
When I ask my Marina in person (way, WAY not often enough), or on the phone (also not often enough), how she makes X, or Y, or Z, there are never measurements. It’s just How We Cook. Handfuls and pinches, and “a leetle beet” – “everybody’s hands are different,” she always, always says. She is WHY I cook, she is my star, she is my heart, and if you could have heard how this amazing 89 year old woman giggled when I gave her the news that these beans, OUR beans, hit the big time, it would have made your heart grow about three sizes. And then melt. It did mine.
So check out this awesome interactive feature which highlights not just our beans, but 19 other amazing potluck-friendly recipes curated by (food52 Team Awesome) Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. And if you live in Providence, don’t be surprised if you can’t find a copy of the Sunday NYT – Amanda’s got an incredible piece in the Magazine about her new book, and WOW, I’m in that piece too, and Mike and I will be up bright and early tomorrow to buy up copies of the paper to send to our people back home. Most importantly, to my Grandma Marina, mi Abuela, my heart, my biggest inspiration.
So after our big day yesterday (which you can now get a sneak peek at on Projo.com), I was eager to tuck into one of my husband‘s homemade pizzas for dinner. After our meat-heavy weekend, we elected to go for a vegetarian pie topped with a few fresh, seasonal goodies.
Mike dressed his standard crust with a layer of Amanda Hesser’s deliciously jammy roasted cherry tomatoes (from this food52 recipe), a blend of cheeses (including our favorite fresh mozz from Narragansett Creamery), and thin mandolined slices of zucchini.
I gave the pizza a shower of freshly grated Pecorino Romano when it came out of the oven, along with a sprinkle of fresh marjoram leaves and a drizzle of Sicilian olive oil. The roasted tomatoes made for a delicious “sauce”, melting down even further into little orbs bursting with concentrated tomato flavor, and we loved how the paper-thin zucchini crisped and melded into the cheese.
The marjoram, too, was a welcome change from basil, with a deeper, earthier flavor to complement the more concentrated flavor of the roasted tomato “sauce”, a gentle reminder a that cooler weather and heartier fare are not too far away.
Those of you who have been waiting patiently for my gnudi recipe need wait no more – it’s live on the Edible Rhody website, along with my recipe for Sautéed Greens and Fresh Mozzarella Bruschetta. And don’t miss the great accompanying article about local treasure Narragansett Creamery, written by our friend Jan Faust Dane. Enjoy!
This time next week, I’ll be back in New York for the first time since we moved away (I’m not counting this trip, since I barely got out of the car). I’m planning to be at one of our old faves, d.b.a. bar in the East Village, on Wednesday, October 28th around 9 p.m. Joining me will be the lovely Maggie of Pithy and Cleaver fame, as well as my peach of a husband, Michael Dietsch. I realize this is a “school night” for many of you, but I do hope you can stop by and say hello.
If you had asked me a month ago if I ever in a billion years expected to be looking at my photo (twice! in the print edition anyway) and my recipe in the New York Times, I would have said you were crazy. But thanks to the wonderful folks behind food52 and Times reporter Kim Severson, there I am. And wow, I don’t know how I’m going to get any work done today.
I’ve never been comfortable having my photo taken, but can I just say that Mike Mergen is an absolute peach and a wonderful photographer, who made me feel incredibly comfortable during what was one of the more surreal days of my life. (Unfortunately, he also captured my horrific knife skills – my hands were shaking so hard I’m surprised I didn’t lose a finger!) So yeah. The Times. Think we’ll uncork something fizzy tonight.
If you missed it, Jen was kind enough to provide me with the audio from the show, which you can download here, or listen to embedded here:
I brought along a little breakfast to start our day off right, with ingredients sourced from the Springtime Farmers’ Market: a savory bread pudding made with breads from both Olga’s and Seven Stars Bakery, Four Town Farm scallions, asparagus from Cooks Valley Farm, Zephyr Farm eggs, milk and cream from Christiansen’s Dairy (plus homemade butter made from that cream), and finally, a creamy Gouda cheese from Narragansett Creamery.
Though I don’t often post recipes here, I promised Jen I’d let her know how I made this so she can duplicate it at home. As I’ve said before, what I love about bread pudding is that it is incredibly versatile, a great way to feed a crowd or to use up heels of bread or little odds and ends you might have lingering around the fridge. You can, as I did here, assemble everything the night before and bake it in the morning just before serving, and you can even bake individual portions in a muffin tin rather than a baking dish for an easy portable breakfast. We even like it for dinner, with a salad of mixed greens and a simple vinaigrette.
Savory Bread Pudding
3 farm eggs (ours are usually in the large to extra-large size range)
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons good, sharp Dijon mustard
freshly ground pepper, if desired
4-5 cups of cubed bread (Note: I like the textural effect of leaving the crusts on, but you can certainly remove them if you like. Also, I prefer using a rustic country-style bread, but almost any bread will do – even croissants are good if that’s what you’ve got on hand. Finally, slightly stale or dry bread tends to soak up the custard better.)
2-3 cups fresh seasonal vegetables (I used about 2 cups of diced asparagus and 1 cup of thinly sliced scallions, but again, use what’s fresh and in season in your neck of the woods. If you like, a little bit of thinly sliced prosciutto, cooked crumbled bacon or sausage is good, too, as are fresh herbs.)
1-2 cups flavorful artisan cheese, shredded or crumbled (the amount will vary according to your taste and how mild or strongly flavored the cheese is)
butter for the baking dish or muffin tins
Preheat oven to 450. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then stir in the milk, cream, mustard, salt and pepper if using, until the mixture is well-combined. Add the bread cubes and press down so that they are completely submerged in the egg mixture (clean hands are best for this, so you can really put some muscle behind it). Let this sit for a few minutes, then toss and press again so that all of the cubes are thoroughly soaked. Add the vegetables a little at a time, stirring through so they are fairly evenly distributed.
Butter your baking dish or muffin tins. Spoon the bread mixture in until it comes about halfway up the sides, then sprinkle a layer of cheese on top. Repeat with the remaining bread and cheese, then cover tightly with foil. (If you are preparing this ahead of time, you can stop at this point and store it in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.)
Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or so, until the top is golden and bubbly. Serve hot or at room temperature.