I'm one of those fanatics who counts down the days to spring's first farmers markets, eagerly awaiting the ramps and the radishes and the weekly chance to check in on farmers and cheesemakers and foragers alike. This year, I had April 11 circled on my virtual calendar - the first day for the Peachtree Road Farmers Market. When I heard about the new book from Miller Union chef, Steven Satterfield, I knew I had to grab a copy before opening day. I had a feeling the book, Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons, would make a perfect companion for that trip. What I didn't know was how much of a kindred spirit Satterfield would prove to be. In the very first paragraph he writes:
One hour. 23 minutes. 12 seconds. I glanced at the countdown clock on the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market website. It was ticking down to the late-afternoon season opening and I made a point to arrive right on time, knowing it would be swarmed. It was the first warm day of spring and the market was teeming with energy.
Pssst. I got a secret. You don't need to go to New Orleans to get a good muffuletta. Sure, standing in line at Central Grocery in the French Quarter has its charms, as does diverting your airport taxi to make a pit stop at Nor-Joe Import Company, but you can actually make an astoundingly good rendition of this New Orleans classic at home with ease. You'll just need to visit a few places around town for the right ingredients, assemble the sandwich, and then... let it sit so the flavors have time to come together. Your mind may tell you to eat it immediately, but your mouth will thank you for waiting.
We recently hosted a New Orleans-themed party, so whipped up a batch of muffulettas to feed thirty or so people. We cut each large sandwich - about a foot in diameter - into eight slices, so just four of them easily fed the crowd (in addition to the jambalaya, and red beans and rice, and shrimp remoulade, and bourbon bread pudding...).
The ingredients are simple. First, you have to start with a muffuletta loaf - a flattish, round loaf of not-quite-crusty bread, usually topped with hundreds and hundreds of sesame seeds. H&F Bread Co. makes a very nice version, and you can also find them at Star Provisions - just call ahead to make sure they're available when you want them. Accept no substitutes (foccacia? no. just no.).
For those of you not familiar with this cult of the Big Green Egg, its membership seems to be 95% male, and its home base is here in Atlanta, Georgia (well, Tucker), where the Big Green Egg company is based. The Big Green Egg was created here in Atlanta in 1974 by one Ed Fisher - may his name be forever revered (here's a nice profile from the AJC from five years ago). Fanaticism runs high in the cult due to the remarkable things one can do with a Big Green Egg, not to mention the fact that fire is involved - we all know that man, at his most instinctual level, loves playing with fire and trying to harness its power. So what can you do with fire and a Big Green Egg? How can you join this cult? Let me show you the way.
In the US, canned goods tend to have a lowbrow image, so the idea that the very best of an item comes in a can is somewhat foreign. But canning has been around approximately 200 years. In Spain, the best white asparagus? Canned. The best tuna? Canned. The best razor clams or mussels? Canned. Anthony Bourdain did an episode of "No Reservations" in Spain that featured canned seafood, and let's just say it will change your mind on the merits of canned seafood forever.
I don't think I ever actually cooked a beet until I was about 30 years old. My childhood was one of those that included the repulsion that only canned beets can produce. Their staining red syntheticness scarred me, scared me off beets for years to come. Until I moved to California. Maybe it wasn't the fact that it was California, but rather that I started shopping at local farmers markets. There were the easy temptations - the heirloom tomatoes and the ripe, fragrant stone fruits and the supremely bitter arugula. Then there were those things that I simply hadn't cooked before. I started cooking Brussels sprouts after buying them still on the stalk, and have loved them ever since. And I finally found a way to overcome my aversion to beets, having read about the wonders of roasting them in the oven and the reassurances that doing so would erase all (OK, most) memories of canned beets from the brain.
Which brings us to Jerusalem. Or at least the cookbook called Jerusalem.
I ran into a friend who is an interior designer last week and the conversation turned to kitchens. He said that he was working with a client who wants a super-modern one with every new gadget built-in and so sleek "you'd hardly know it was a kitchen."
My friend said he prefers designs with free-standing appliances - "kitchens that look like kitchens."
I don't really have a preference. If you spent two years editing a large design magazine, as I did, you might not care, either. When friends spend $100,000 on a kitchen redo, I always blurt, "Why? Wouldn't you rather take a cruise around the world?"
The subject of kitchens came up recently in an interesting debate between Ryan Avent of The Economist and Matthew Iglesias of Slate. Both essays are followed by spirited commentary by readers.
Avent's essay is about the slowdown of American technology. He spends a paragraph illustrating his argument with kitchen development:
I have to admit, I'm in no place to actually pick a "cookbook of the year." Of the hundreds (thousands?) of new cookbooks this year, I've only actually read and cooked from a few. There were some with strong Atlanta ties worth pointing out - Kevin Gillespie's Fire in My Belly was well received, and Adam Roberts' Secrets of the Best Chefs leaned heavily on Atlanta chefs for inspiration. But Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, is as worthy of singling out as its namesake city.
I'm not alone in praising Jerusalem. Eater.com compiled a mega-list of the various "best of 2012" lists out there, and Jerusalem came out on top. It's a book that, yes, has intriguing recipes. And mouth watering photos. But, most of all, it has a great story to tell.
The only thing getting me to ClusterFuckhead is Umi.
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