During the cold winter months, we make homemade pizza almost every Sunday evening. This time of year, however, the heat of summer generally keeps us from cranking up the oven to the necessary 550 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, there’s an exception to every rule, and the surplus of ripe, miniature tomatoes at the farmers market these days triggers the exception to our No-Homemade-Pizza-in-Summer rule. Fresh mozzarella, sharp garlic, sweet onion, and minty basil are almost mystical compliments to the sweet and savory little tomatoes. But, please, hold the sauce. With tomatoes like these, sauce would only interfere with the magic.
We almost never eat white bread in our house, so when we traveled to New Orleans last February, we treated ourselves to Parker House rolls at Cochon Butcher. When they arrived dripping in butter, we reminded each other that we were making an exception to our “whole grains only” rule because it was a special occasion. The experience reminded us that rare exceptions to daily rules can make wonderful memories and, indeed, I’m still smiling about those rolls a year later.
My friend Raquel―a talented personal trainer―and I hang out together whenever possible to teach each other new skills. I taught Raquel how to properly use a chef’s knife and how to make fresh pasta. Raquel taught me how to make her grandmother’s tamales and how to walk upright without falling over. This week, Raquel came over to teach me how to make her family’s dinner roll recipe. I was amazed that the flour, yeast, milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar, all got mixed together in a single bowl to knead and rise, without the need to bloom the yeast separately. The rolls came out pretty well for my first time, and I’m already looking forward to making them again, maybe with a little cardamom and raisins in the dough . . .
As a teenager in the 70s, I was enthralled by the cooking shows on PBS. The obsession followed me right through college, law school, and law practice, and Julia Child, Martin Yan, Justin Wilson, and Jeff Smith kept me company on many a Saturday. In the late 80s, a few years before enrolling in culinary school, I purchased a copy of The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, and found within it a simple recipe for maple cornbread. A quarter century later, I have tweaked the recipe a bit here and there, but I still make it at least a dozen times each winter to the delight, I’m told, of everyone lucky enough to get a slice.
A trip to the farmers market this past weekend produced a crunchy sour dough baguette, fresh creamy butter, unparalleled pecorino stagianoto cheese, sublime capricollo sausage, and the season’s first beautiful breakfast radishes. In little more time than it would have taken to order takeout food, we arrived home with an embarrassment of riches fit for an imperial picnic . . . but ― in the absence of royalty― we devoured it all ourselves.