I recently read Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses for the first time, and I love love loved it. The writing, the story, the way it made me want to run away to Mexico and work with horses all day…and especially the tortillas. According to Google Books (a source I at least mostly trust), there are 15 mentions of tortillas in All the Pretty Horses. According to me, I wanted tortillas pretty much constantly after I started reading. They just sounded so simple and good, whether the characters were eating them in the morning with eggs and beans before going out to break horses, or with “an anonymous stew” in prison (yes, Cormac McCarthy can make even prison food sound appealing). Descriptions of food in books have been making me hungry for years–the breakfasts Jeeves makes for Bertie when he’s hungover in PG Wodehouse’s stories, the elaborate teas Anne learns to make at Green Gables*, pretty much every food ever mentioned in A Year in Provence–but this was the first time I was actually inspired to recreate something at home. Tortilla descriptions plus Cinco de Mayo was too perfect a combination to resist.
If you’re anything like me, you might not even read this post. Salads are boring. I would rather read about homemade funnel cakes or head-to-head comparisons of D.C.’s doughnuts. Salads, on the other hand, are mainly leaves. I find most salads are barely interesting enough to eat, let alone read about, and certainly not to write about. There are exceptions, of course, like when I was really excited to tell you about Smitten Kitchen’s kale salad. In that case, I needed to tell the world that I had real, hard proof that kale is edible (a fact I’d previously disputed). I didn’t think I would ever be so inspired by another homemade salad, but here I am, staying up late just to tell you about a salad so delicious, so interesting, and so satisfying that it made Ed drop the f-bomb.
Sandwiches would have seemed like the obvious choice from the April Bon Appétit. But—and this is a difficult confession—Jessica doesn’t care very much about sandwiches…with the important exception of grilled cheese, of course. Weird, yes, but also true. We were both drawn to the spring pea recipes, but one of us shares most of her meals with a gentleman who doesn’t like peas (also weird but true), and we decided it would be nicer to stick to a recipe that was more likely to be a crowd pleaser. We settled on the chicken tikka masala, because we both love Indian food and because Laura recently found out that she’ll have some less urban living in her future, and it seemed like a good call to try out a dish that will be harder to find in her new town.
Like Laura, I love a banana muffin. And a banana bread. And a banana cream pie. And heck, even a plain ole banana. But we’re talking about muffins this week, thanks to some mysterious vibe in the ether that inspired us to make banana muffins at the same time. We tend to just check in with each other about what we’re planning on writing about in any given week, deciding who will post when-ish. Our planned posts have clashed only once, when we realized that we were both fixing to write about pasta with sausage-that felt like a little much. But we figured the more the merrier when it came to banana muffins, and having eaten them for breakfast for two weeks, I still think we’re right.
When I told Jessica that my next post was going to be about banana muffins, she excitedly responded that her next post was also about banana muffins. She said that maybe this should be Banana Muffin Week on butter poached. I loved that idea. What’s better than a banana muffin recipe? Two banana muffin recipes! One of the best things about banana muffins is how many unique, delicious ways they can come to the party. Based on the world’s overwhelming number of variations on banana breads, muffins, and cakes, I knew it was likely that we’d made two very different treats, and sure enough, we did. Here are the banana muffins that have been on my mind. Jessica will share hers later this week.
Ok. So. I had a whole bunch of lovely and clever (I like to tell myself) things to say today about two recipes I made for a Mad Men season opener party Hal and I had two Sunday’s back–he in charge of the cocktails, I in charge of the food–but then I found out that today, April 17th, is National Cheeseball Day. I barely know how to process the fact that there IS a National Cheeseball Day, but I’m considering it major kismet. Because wouldn’t you know it, one of the recipes I had planned to share is for a cheeseball. So deviled eggs will just have to wait for a post of their own. Today, clearly, was always meant to be just about spherical cheese spread.
I hit a new cooking low on Saturday. For the first time ever, I actually spat out a bite of something I’d made. It was not too spicy or too hot, but it was completely gross. I made the world’s worst crème brûlée. Maybe you’re thinking, how bad could it have been—it’s heavy cream, vanilla, sugar, and eggs! Let me tell you exactly how bad it was. The top layer was a rubbery, waxy skin that tasted like the residue left in the pan after you cook scrambled eggs. Beneath that treat was a loose, wet blob studded with hard bits (of what, I don’t know). The taste was the least revolting thing about it, but even that was off the mark—egg all but erased the vanilla and cream. Oh, and it was ugly, too: the top was yellow mottled with pockmarks and blisters and the bottom was damp, lumpy cottage cheese. On my personal cooking success spectrum, this earns a spot way down low, just a hair above that halibut that ruined me for all halibut forever.
I was making the crème brûlées for a cookbook club dinner party my friend Jennifer was hosting. Like the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook party, we were cooking exclusively from one book: Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris. It was my job to do the dessert because Jennifer and our friend Katie had recently given me everything I needed to make crème brûlée. I was really excited to use my new ramekins, vanilla paste, and of course, blow torch. That said, I have had issues with custard in the past, so I was a little nervous. My confidence was buoyed by the fact that this was an Ina recipe (as you know, I trust Ina). I also skimmed the unanimously stellar reviews on the Food Network website and convinced myself that this was going to be a cinch. I even watched the online video clip of Ina making the crèmes. It sure did look simple.