Thursday, June 13, 2013

What you do

This is what you do. This is what you do when you've screwed up and it has cost you a job interview for a job you kind of really wanted; a job interview you thought you had. This is what you do. You don't go home. You're already home. You lay down on the couch, even though its only 3 in the afternoon. You wallow. You talk to a friend. You talk to your sister. You wallow. Throw the ball for the cat to chase. Wallow. You do not proofread that chapter that needs to be proofread. It needs some time to sit anyway. The client can wait. You do not answer that important email, you do not make that important call. No, not today. Not today when you are feeling too un-moored and paper thin. You read Jezebel. You read the Hairpin and Slate and i09. You watch Modern Warfare, because it is your favorite episode of Community, ever. You wallow. And suddenly it is 7:30 p.m. and you are starving and there is little-to-no food with nutritional value in your house. This is what you do. You take out the butter with flecks of crumbs in it from all the toast you have been eating. You pull out the pecorino because you don't have any parmesan. There is still a little bit of pasta left in its bin. If you were doing this right it would be spaghetti. It's not spaghetti, but that's just fine. That's all you need. Pasta, butter, cheese and the black pepper grinder sitting on its shelf. Vitamins and minerals are overrated.
This is what you do. You put the water up to boil. You add salt, as much salt as you think you can bear, so that it tastes like the sea. That is the key. You pour in the pasta and wait. You put a warm beer into the freezer so it will be cold. You pull out a piece of pasta. You burn your fingers a bit. That's ok. The pasta is not quite al-dante, there's still a dense, starchy bite to it.You pull out some of the cooking water with a mug and set it aside. Watch the steam curl up into the air as you drain the pasta. Now is the time for the butter- a good pat of it- into the pot that is back on the stove, the flame low and steady. The pasta goes back in, the cheese curls over it and a melts. You pour in some reserved pasta water- just a bit. You let it cook and mingle and smooth out, so that when you look down you see that your pasta is glazed in a sheen of something that once was just butter, cheese and water and now is something much more than the sum of its parts. You turn off the heat. You grind some black pepper, a lot of it, over the pot and this part will never not remind you of your friend in high school who lived with your family  and who used to put black pepper on her pasta. For years you wrinkled your nose at her, but you were wrong. So wrong. Black pepper on pasta is where its at. The Italians knew that years ago. (They have a name for it cacio e pepe and you love the way it sounds on your tongue.) So did Adena. It's you who was behind the times.
You eat your pasta. You drink your beer. You wallow. You talk to a friend. You read someone else's writing. Tomorrow. Tomorrow you'll get up. You'll make that phone call, you'll write that email. Or maybe not tomorrow. Maybe Sunday, or Monday. It will get done. But not today. Today this is what you do.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

House Cookie

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have found myself a house cookie. Some people have house wines, or house beers or even house dishes. I, evidently, have a house cookie. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Look, biscotti doesn't have the best reputation. I mean, it doesn't have a bad reputation, but it's also sometimes overlooked in favor of other cookies that feature things like butter. Who needs butter? But when it come down to it, I couldn't ask for a better house cookie. Biscotti is like that geeky girl/guy at the party in the corner. And let's face it, this isn't a 90's teenaged rom-com, there's no magical makeover. He/she will never be popular or fashionable, but if you get to talking, you will realize that they're actually pretty cool and smart and funny and dependable. Yup. That's biscotti: dependably delicious.
I used to make biscotti a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. There was this one summer back when I was living in Chicago, when I think I made biscotti at least once a week. I liked that I could play around with it. I would throw in whatever spices/dried fruit/nut combo I felt like and see what happened. Usually good stuff happened. Somehow, at some point I stopped making biscotti so often. This is something I regret.
Now, they are my house cookie. My go-to. My dependable friend.

David Lebovitz's chocolate biscotti are all kinds of wonderful.  And yes, there are those of you who might say, but biscotti should have almond flavor and nuts! What is this chocolate nonsense? Well, chill-out, you biscotti purists. There is almond extract. There are nuts. Relax. Just relax. Sit down. Have a cup of coffee. Have something to eat with- maybe some biscotti? It's the house cookie.

David Lebovitz's Chocolate Biscotti

From David Lebovitz

2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
120 grams dark chocolate, chopped (or 3/4 cup chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together the three eggs, sugar and the extracts. Add the dry ingredients, then the almonds and the chocolate. Mix until the dough holds together.

2. Divide the dough into two. Roll dough into two logs, about the length of a baking sheet. Transfer to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Beat the remaining egg. Brush the logs with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25 minutes.

3. Remove logs from oven, but don't turn it off. Let the logs cool for about 15 minutes, then using a serrated knife, diagonally cut the biscotti into 1/2-inch slices. Lay the cookies down on baking sheets and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until hard. Remove from oven and cool. The biscotti will last up to two weeks when stored in an airtight container.