With This Salad, I Thee Wed.

Reading in a browser? Click to get this in your inbox every week!

Hey there, so the other night, Craig and I ordered pizza from Pizzeria Mozza-To-Go (via Caviar, my new favorite app) and for health purposes we also ordered a tricolore salad, Mozza's version being the best I've ever had (Nancy Silverton knows a thing or two about anchovies). When it arrived, I asked Craig if he could toss it in a big bowl, since I was still a little under the weather. He asked where the salad forks were and I told him just to use his hands. He seemed incredulous, but I explained that the hands are the ultimate tool in the kitchen! He rolled his eyes and proceeded to mix the leaves with the dressing while I set up the pizzas and poured the wine. Fast forward to us, twenty minutes later, eating our dinners... I went from pizza, to salad, back to the pizza, back to the salad, when suddenly I heard a CLANK against my fork. I pushed the leaves aside, and there inside my bowl, coated in an emulsion of garlic, anchovies, and Parmesan cheese, was Craig's wedding ring. It had slipped off while he was mixing the salad, he hadn't noticed at all, and I was this close to putting it in my mouth. I suppose if I had choked to death on it, there would've been some irony about my insistence that he use his hands. But I think the real lesson of the story is: he needs to get his ring tightened.

What I've Been Cooking:

1. Vanilla-Poached Quince.

What do you know about quince? My main knowledge came from Rosie Perez in White Men Can't Jump, when she was memorizing foods that start with Q for her stint on Jeopardy. But once, somewhere in my past, I brought home quince from the store, poached them, and was amazed at the transformation. You see quince, if you find them, are like really hard, really mealy apples.

Looking at one raw and peeled like that, you would never think to yourself: "This is going to be delicious!"

But then you poach them for an hour and a half, in a syrup infused with vanilla beans and sugar, and they become the most beautiful, perfumed specimens you've ever put in your mouth. Really: a poached quince has so much flavor, it'll boggle your mind. And your kitchen will smell oh so good.

I used David Lebovitz's technique and recipe; except I went a little crazy with the vanilla, using two whole pods and their seeds because I just love the aroma of real vanilla beans in anything.

The most challenging aspects of poaching quince are: 1. cutting them up (they're very hard and tough to cut through); and 2. keeping them submerged once they're in the poaching liquid. I followed David's advice and topped with parchment...

But, seeing the quince still bobbing on the surface, I decided to put a little plate in there to keep everything under water. And that's how I did it for 90 minutes until the quince were poached and beautiful.

When they were done, I removed the fruit from the liquid, cranked up the heat, and reduced the syrup to intensify the flavor a bit. That night, I served it up with vanilla ice cream and drizzled the syrup over everything.

Craig's family, who were visiting, really enjoyed the quince (his family's an apple pie family, so I figured they'd love the flavor profile).

But I wasn't done! The next morning, I served leftover quince (always make too much) with yogurt and granola and it was the most delicious breakfast.

And I still wasn't done. I decided to reduce the syrup even more, to try to make quince jam.

I got a little nervous, though, as the liquid neared the bottom and still hadn't jammified... this was my new All-Clad pot, and I didn't want to ruin it, so I poured the thickened syrup into a jar and instead of jam, I now have "quince syrup" which I might use to make a cocktail.

And if that didn't convince you to poach some quince this autumn, I don't know what will.

2. Cacio e Pepe, Once Again.

It was only a few newsletters ago that I made cacio e pepe (using this recipe from my blog, via Mark Ladner). Well Craig's dad saw that, and along with his uncle Chris, they mentioned that they'd love to learn how to make it. So I invited them into my kitchen (rare for me, because I get a little control freaky at the stove) and showed them how easy it is. Just toast some peppercorns in a big pot (I use my stock pot, because it can hold all the spaghetti and give you room to toss everything all around), while you drop the spaghetti into your second biggest pot (I used my Le Creuset Dutch Oven).

Not going to walk you through all the steps again, but my helpers were very happy at the results.

And they learned my ultimate trick: grate a ton of Parmesan and Pecorino in the food processor and then add a ton of it to make everything taste amazing. Overcheese your cacio, and you're golden even if you screw up the other parts. (I'm sure an Italian will read this and yell at me, but this is just my cacio truth.)

3. Toad-in-the-Hole.

The other night we got to go to the Suspiria premiere (more on that in a bit) and Craig's attitude about going to a party is: "There'll be lots of nibbles, we don't need to get dinner!" This goes against everything that I stand for and, sure enough, the little bites at the party were not enough to make me feel full. So when I got home (before Craig, who's indefatigable at social events) I decided to make myself a toad-in-a-hole. Now I know what some of you are thinking: "That's not a toad-in-the-hole. A toad-in-the-hole involves sausages in Yorkshire pudding." All I can say is: this is what we called a toad-in-the-hole growing up. You cut a hole in your bread, fry it in some butter, add an egg, sprinkle with salt, flip everything, and eat it. And it was a great post-party dinner.

Where I've Been Eating:

1. Wax Paper & La Colombe.

Our friend Ryan turned Craig on to a lunch spot in Frogtown called Wax Paper that has NPR-themed sandwiches. The place is kind of hidden away, with a little pocket of chairs and tables for you to quickly scarf down your lunch.

Craig made the wise decision of ordering the Terry Gross: turkey, green chile aioli, slaw.

I was trying to get some vegetables into my diet, so I went for the Lakshmi Singh and immediately regretted it.

Basically, a bunch of shaved squash with some pickled onions. The bread was good, but next time I'm going for the Terry Gross... or the Larry Mantle (salami, peppers).

Afterwards, I went over to La Colombe (really close by) for some coffee.

I wouldn't normally include coffee in a newsletter, but this iced cappuccino with oat milk (my new very L.A. order) was the best I've had in a long time. The espresso was so potent and good.

2. Sqirl & The Spice Station.

Do you guys follow Jake Cohen on Instagram? He's a nice Jewish boy from Queens who's killing it in the food world; his recipes are stellar and so are his pictures. He was visiting L.A. for his first time, so of course we had to meet him at Sqirl for lunch. (I'd say Sqirl is the most essential L.A. restaurant; if only because it feels the most L.A.). We had all of the things you're supposed to have at Sqirl--the ricotta toast, the rice bowl with lacto-fermented hot sauce (how L.A. is that?)--plus Jake ordered the congee, which was colorful and great.

(That last image is a little bit of a wreck because I had to move my car and by the time I got back, Craig and Jake had already dug into the ricotta toast and Meyer lemon apple pie. Do I consider this professional sabotage? I'm not sure.) Oh: those drinks are Turmeric Tonics.

After lunch, I dragged Jake up the hill to the new location of The Spice Station. The original location in Silverlake was where I used to buy all of my spices; then it closed, and I was at a loss, but now it's open again... on a strip that has so much great stuff: a wine shop, another location of Barkeep (where we get all our liquor), and even a high-end pot dispensary.

We had fun browsing inside, but then I bought my usuals: bagfuls of coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and cumin seeds. I use these (toasted and ground) on chicken, pork chops, you name it. It's my signature rub, I guess you could say.

3. Botanica.

If you read my blog at the very, very, beginning (we're talking 2004), you'll recall that I lived in Atlanta with a roommate and a cat named Lolita who would one day turn out to be a boy. That roommate was my friend Lauren, who came to stay with us on Friday night and got to meet our newest pet-child, Winston, who's most definitely a boy (there's no hiding it). (For those who are curious, Mr. Lolita went to the great beyond earlier this year. It was very sad, but Mr. Lolita was 19 years old and lived a long, good life).

I took Lauren to another one of my favorite L.A. restaurants, Botanica, which is still super charming and the food is still super great. The highlight of the meal was this little gem salad:

It was sort of modeled after a wedge salad, but it had pistachio butter on the bottom of the plate, and a Balsamic dressing, and then cheddar cheese... I couldn't stop eating it.

Lauren enjoyed her basil cocktail:

And we both devoured these beets and burrata.

There was more food--including lamb kebobs--but my pictures don't really do those dishes justice. Suffice it to say, it was a lovely night.

Links & Things:

* A Cheesy, Bready Dinner to Please the Pickiest Eaters in Your Household (congrats, Deb, on your new column!), Bon Appetit
* What Is It About Ina Garten, The Washington Post
* Store Bought Is Fine (Cooking My Way Through Every Ina Garten Recipe). (This blog’s featured in that previous article).
* Make One of Noma’s Secret Flavor Bombs in Your Own Kitchen, QZ (Rose petals and shrimp shells? I'm never making this.)
* A Lemon Cake That Cuts to the Pith (Melissa Clark), The New York Times
How To Make the Easiest, Creamiest Oat Milk, Food52
David Chang Will Open Momofuku Noodle Bar in Los Angeles in 2019, Eater LA
A Case For Eating Herbs As If They Were Vegetables, The New Yorker
Even more Ina content… Frank Bruni Interviews her at the 92nd Street Y, Eater
A Stir-Fry That Brings Out The Best in Green Beans, New York Times
$8 Spicy Ice at Mission Chinese (aka: Water Pickles), Eater
* Bakery Sparks Uproar By Referring To Gingerbread Men as “Ginger Persons,” Towleroad
The Evolution of a Restaurant Dish, From Vision to Revision (this is about our neighbor: Chef Jeremy Fox! We got engaged at his restaurant), The New York Times

So, as mentioned, we went to the Suspiria premiere last week and I don't even know what to say about this movie except that it's so well-made, so perfectly crafted, that it was the most unnerving, disturbing, nauseating horror movie I've seen in some time. There are certain images (I won't spoil them) that I'll never get out of my head; so if you don't mind that sort of thing, definitely check it out. And if you're the kind of person who gets nightmares from Count Chocula commercials, stay away. Otherwise, I finished reading Less by Andrew Sean Greer and absolutely loved it... it kind of reminded me of a gay Wes Anderson movie in novel form, if that makes sense. And I'm deep into Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 3, and it's kind of shocking how good it is: they're dealing with some real heavy issues, but amazingly it's still funny and fun to watch. I can't recommend it enough. Finally, Craig went to a Halloween party last week and needed a costume. So guess who he went as?

Yup: he went as me.

Ok, that's all for this week folks!

Until next time....

Your friend,