Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Unfamiliar Kitchen Dispatch #2
Putting together a meal in a kitchen not your own has its challenges, only one of which is:
the local grocery store.
Sometimes you land in a place...maybe a beach town, and the choices are somewhat limited. I have already shared the story of the memorable seven-dollar peach on Martha's Vineyard, and yet I have very fond memories of wonderful meals prepared there over the years. Amazing local fish, simply grilled, smeared with herb butter and served alongside tossed greens from the local farm stand a short bike-ride away. I loved the stand. It was a deserted, weatherbeaten half-structure, where you selected your produce and left your money in an old fishing tackle box, taking change if you needed it. A very distinguished, very large bull sat in a meadow across the way, keeping watch over the transactions. He seemed straight out of a Disney film.
We once spent a long, autumn weekend in a small town in Door County, Wisconsin where there was a surprisingly small and not-very-well-stocked grocery store. Yet, it yielded the simple ingredients for a hearty lentil soup welcomed by a large group of very hungry people on a cold, damp evening. (No doubt the homemade cherry pie purchased from yet another farm stand helped memories of that meal.) Wandering the cramped aisles of that little grocery store, reminded me of wonderful article written by one of my favorite writers, Laurie Colwin, years ago, which prefaced a recipe by pointing out that all the ingredients could be found in even "the nastiest grocery store".
Of course, there's the other end of the spectrum as well. Cooking in a perfectly outfitted, yet tiny kitchen in a rented Paris apartment on a street where one of the best cheese purveyors in the city is a handful of storefronts down from one of the finest patissiers in the city, and around the corner from La Grande Epicerie--Le Bon Marche department store's answer to the famous Harrod's food hall. An almost overwhelming selection of incredible food to work with.
So, here in San Francisco, in the cozy neighborhood of Noe Valley, I'm finding that being flexible is key. As my friend, Jane says..."think of it as camping".
Which brings me to my hero over the course of the past few weeks: the humble egg.
I purchased a doze on my first night here, at the somewhat nasty, miniscule corner store in the neighborhood, along with some milk, a loaf of bread a tiny, outrageously expensive jar of Hellman's mayonnaise, a can of tuna and a block of orange cheddar cheese. Dinner that first night was a cheese omelette. A few nights, and a small bag of broccoli, later, there was a frittata. We know I love frittata.
This past weekend, the weather here was magnificent. After a day spent outdoors, in the bright sunshine and near-70 degree temperatures (sorry all you East Coast and Midwest people!) I didn't really feel like eating, or cooking, anything hot.
Earlier in the day, I had picked up some incredible artisan rolls from a local favorite,
Acme Bread Co. and thought: egg salad.
(May I just say, I simply can't get over how much astonishing, fantastic bread there is in this city?!)
I had that four-dollar, micro-jar of Hellman's just waiting to be opened. Garnished with some arugula for a peppery crunch, and a couple thin slices of sweet red bell pepper, which upon reflection, were a bit much.
It was homey and comforting...and didn't generate too many dishes, or pots...my unfamiliar kitchen has one more quirk--no dishwasher.
NOTE: I love to hard-boil eggs, the Cook's Illustrated way. Place eggs in pan, with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, and immediately shut off the heat, put a lid on the pan, and set timer for 12 minutes. Plunge eggs into ice water. Let cool for a few minutes, after which eggs are ready to peel.
2 eggs, hard-boiled and roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste
OPTIONAL ADDITIONS: love love love to add chives, if you have them or can find them
also, a tiny bit of chopped Italian parsley or fresh dill
GARNISH: lettuce or arugula
1. chop eggs and mix with mayo, mustard, salt and pepper
2. spoon onto bread of your choice.
Yes, I a blessed with access to Acme Bread at the moment, but at home I like to use pumpernickel.