I have a tendency to cling to summer, soaking up late afternoon sun on the beach, scowling at reddening leaves, and refusing to wear shoes despite my cold toes. Eventually though, I give in, and one sure sign of this acceptance of fall has traditionally been the replacement of my evening gin & tonic with a bourbon & ginger. While I’m nowhere near ready to make the annual gin to bourbon transition, the other night I did have a dream about bourbon.
More specifically, I dreamt of a dessert my friend Jess and I once shared — a chocolaty, bourbony dessert that, as I recall, was ridiculously good. So good that we talked about it for weeks afterward and actually considered holding happy hour at a restaurant with no happy hour specials simply so that we might order dessert to go. So good that one slice shared two years ago now sends visions of chocolate and bourbon dancing in my head. So good that since awakening from said visions, I’ve been able to think of little else. And so good that despite there being a nearly-full bottle of gin in the freezer and a solid month of gin-drinking weather to go, I broke down and bought a bottle of bourbon.
Just for the chocolate though. Well, and the pecans. But not for me. It is, after all, still summer. Just so we’re clear.
Alice Waters is one of my culinary heroes, but I often read her recipes and think, “There’s no way that could be any good — it’s too simple.” Then I make them anyway because I am always always wrong.
This one starts with flowers and ends with butter, and if the novelty of eating flowers doesn’t win you right over, the zippy nasturtium butter certainly should. It’s the foundation of the dish and a prime example of the simplicity that is Alice. You combine a few teaspoons of herbs, some shallots, and a handful of nasturtium blossoms with a few tablespoons of butter; let it sit for an hour or so; and that, surprisingly, is all the flavor you need. The pepperiness of the nasturtiums and the freshness of the herbs seep into the butter, creating a delightfully unexpected complexity.
There are many fine uses for mayonnaise, but coleslaw dressing ain’t one of ’em. Actually, it’s possible that somebody somewhere makes a decent mayo-based slaw, but that mound of gloppy white mush masquerading as coleslaw in deli departments and dive bars across the land? Kill me now.
What you want is a light, tangy dressing that clings ever-so-slightly to the slaw, a dressing whose flavor gradually seeps into every pore of the cabbage without diminishing its crispy, crunchy goodness. What you want is vinegar.
I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who can wander through the grocery or farmers market and spontaneously plan a meal based on what looks good. But I’m not. I’m more the kind of person who, if she doesn’t have a carefully crafted list in hand, will come home with a random assortment of lovely-looking stuff, none of which has any business being on the same plate.
So while ordinarily I try to have at least a general idea of what I might like to make before coming into close contact with vegetables, it doesn’t always work out that way. Like on my last trip to the farmers market, for example.
I was accompanied by my mom, who doesn’t particularly enjoy cooking or even eating, but who really likes buying things. She’s also the kind of person who keeps four bottles of ketchup on hand. Just in case.
So it should really come as no surprise to anyone that our unsupervised visit to the farmers market yielded thirteen ears of corn, a pound of eggplant, two pints of cherry tomatoes, a pound of zucchini, two pounds of squash, five large onions, several peppers, and two pounds of potatoes. Oh, and no plan.