May 2011


I am a sucker for a good tiramisu. There’s just something about the creaminess of the mascarpone, combined with coffee and booze and the lushness of the soaked ladyfingers, that just kills me.

Yes, I will pick you up.

I also love tiramisu miscellania—like the origin myth that it was invented by Italian prostitutes who needed a “pick me up” between appointments. And then there’s the line from Sleepless in Seattle where a friend tells Tom Hanks, new to the dating scene in the early 1990s, that women love tiramisu. But the friend refuses to elaborate, leaving poor Tom to freak out that “Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I’m not gonna know what it is!”

All these racy anecdotes notwithstanding, I made tiramisu for my friends, and it was superb. It’s much easier to make than I expected, but, I should note, also much more expensive. Rum, mascarpone, and ladyfingers add up—but are worth every penny. I’m sure Tom and the prostitutes would agree.

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Every time I have a party, it’s a struggle not to have the menu be all Smitten Kitchen, all the time. When I threw a party a couple of weeks ago, I think I succeeded—only two of the six or so items I cooked were from her blog. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of those two—these leek toasts with blue cheese—was the tastiest thing there, by my reckoning.

Leeking.

The other one I screwed up, but had I not read “1/3 cup sour cream” when the recipe clearly called for “1 cup sour cream,” it probably would have the second-most delicious thing at my party. Which makes me wonder why I bother trying to limit myself to not-all-Smitten recipes.

Anyway. I love leeks, I love blue cheese, I love toast. I never would have thought to combine them, but someone ingenious did, and I am thankful.

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There are many opinions to be had about the new New York Times paywall—it’s a disaster, it’s the future of journalism, etc. I fully intended to curtail my NYT habit rather than pony up the $15 per month. I can get my new content elsewhere, I thought.

But I had forgotten about  the recipes. More specifically, I had forgotten about all the recipes I had bookmarked over the years but not yet tried—and which I could no longer access if I’d hit my 20-article limit. That simply would not do, because I had to make this cake.

All this can be yours, for just $15 per month!

And now, with my full NYT access restored, I can confess that I missed it during the weeks that I was, cheaply, holding out. So thank you, cake. Also, thank you for being tart and unusual and delicious.

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My mom’s vegetable lasagna—a classic red-sauce version with spinach mixed into the ricotta layer—used to be my favorite treat when I came home from college. I haven’t had to request it from her in ages, though, ever since I started making it for myself on a regular basis.

In hindsight, given my well-documented dislike of tomatoes (although, perhaps thanks to Mom’s lasagna, I am more tolerant of them in their sauce form), I’m amazed it took me this long to figure out that lasagna can be made without tomato sauce, but instead with a creamy béchamel between the layers of pasta and vegetables.

Apologies for the extra goop. I couldn't help myself.

I’m particularly amazed because another standby, growing up, was my mom’s mac and cheese with a cheesy béchamel and spinach, and I distinctly remember the night she taught me to make the sauce. I guess I was just too stuck on tradition—Mom’s lasagna has red sauce, Mom’s mac and cheese has a béchamel—to figure out how to put the pieces together.

So, Mom, in honor of Mother’s Day, I bastardized two of your recipes. It’s Smitten Kitchen‘s fault—and since you love her as much as I do, I know you’ll understand. And even though her recipe didn’t call for spinach, I had to add some—because of you, I just can’t imagine a vegetable lasagna, or a béchamel sauce, without spinach. Especially because this recipe calls for way more butter than you’d probably ever use.

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As I have related previously, I am a succher for gnocchi. I love them with pesto; I love them with gorgonzola. I love them in a box and with a fox.

Until recently, I believed that the only way to cook them, though, was boiled.  I was wrong. You can also toast them in a skillet until they are as browned and crispy on the outside as they are creamy and pillowy on the inside. In other words, they can be even better than I thought possible.

In a house, with a mouse.

This recipe even purports to be healthy! I think it reaches that result, though, only by claiming that it serves six—which is, frankly, ridiculous. But these gnocchi—nestled in a creamy sauce—are so good that I can see how they might have induced delusions.

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