Okay, I’m going to cheese-out and be lazy with this post…I’m working on a very relevant piece on that sonofaBITCH Huckabee, who represents so much of what is wrong with America, and I don’t know how much angst and energy it’s going to take out of me. So this is a nice little interim thought while I trudge through the quagmire that is lazy, evangelical pop culture, which is of course the absolute antithesis of anything suggested in that lovin’ tome we call the New Testament….
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gotten much more serious about my cooking since surgery. Part of this stems from the fact that the food-crazed energy has to go SOMEWHERE, as well as the fact that I’m “safe” when I cook now because I can’t (and don’t really have a desire to) over-indulge. So I’ve been reading cookbooks like yo’ mama reads all of that Harlequin romance shite. Obviously, there is the Sopranos cookbook that I used as an inspiration for my dinner party. That’s a pretty light, fun, easy read with recipes that aren’t complicated. Slightly more involved, but still not overly complicated, is the literary miracle known as The Babbo Cookbook from Mario Batali (from which I will share my favorite easy recipe here shortly). Reading that thing is like smelling a woman’s hair and saying….”where in the hell have you been all of my life?”. It is a great read, and what makes it so fantastic is that other than a few obscure ingredients here and there, the recipes are totally approachable for anyone with “fair to middlin” cooking skills. My meal at Babbo was definitely in the top five favorite meals of my life, so to see some of these amazing dishes broken down for me was truly inspiring. Now, I’m not a cookbook NERD, so all of you uber-foodies who like to wax poetic about the shortcomings of such inauthentic Italian recipes can email or call me, and I’ll be more than happy to send you a list of all of the creative ways in which you can service me….this book and me, we’re very close. So there you have it, buy the damn thing.
So TODAY I was blessed with a delivery from Amazon.com…..it was none other than Fergus Henderson’s “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating” (I also got Marvin Weisbord’s “Future Search” for school, but I will spare you). If you’ve watched Tony Bourdain’s shows, you’ve undoubtedly seen Henderson’s St. John restaurant featured in all of its glory. I haven’t had the opportunity to travel abroad and dine there, but if you know anything about me you know I’m a big fan of offal. Sweetbreads are like popcorn to me. Seriously, other than foie gras they represent the very top of my foodie pyramid. I’m not a huge fan of kidneys, but when it comes to tongue, tripe, brains, bone marrow, liver, tail, stomach, cheeks, head……I’m sure there are some preparations I wouldn’t be too crazy about, but in general it’s all good eating if done well. I don’t try convincing people that my way of thinking is cool or superior, because honestly, I don’t want the yuppies latching onto anything else like they did oxtails and shanks and drive the prices right through the roof. Yeah, in fact, all of the stuff I just mentioned is really shitty, so steer clear of it.
So Henderson’s book is one fun read. I can’t wait until I can find enough non-squeamish members of The Mutual Admiration Society and host “Blood Feast” in the fall so that I can use some of these recipes. Yeah, I know Michael Alig used that title back in the club kid days, but it was a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie way before that, so I’m going with it. It just sounds cool. Who wouldn’t want to come over for the Blood Feast right before Halloween? Anyway, The Whole Beast is not only a joy to read because of recipes like “Pea and Pig’s Ear Soup” and “Tongue and Beets”, but also VERY imaginative and inviting with the use of language. Whimsical imagery such as “Now add the stock, enough so that you end up with an Arctic Sea of soup with icebergs of pumpkin bobbing about in your broth” is found throughout, and I for one truly appreciate it. When I get a good book like this I tend to sit down and read it from cover to cover, just like yo’ mama does with the latest issue of Cosmo once the Harlequin well runs dry. Mmmmm good…now to go and get even friendlier with some local butchers so that they’ll provide me with the porcine and bovine sustenance that I require.
Okay, I promised a RECIPE, so that I can be one of those bariatric patients who throws some actual RELEVANT information out there for others to use…….don’t get used to it. I’m only doing this because I love this simple dish. It’s tasty, easy to digest, healthy, and has a decent dose of plant based protein. Yeah, I’d eat Bambi’s mother right in front of her children without thinking twice, but I have come to appreciate good vegetarian fare. In fact, I’d say that at this point I get more excited about the prospect of vegetarian dishes when I dine out than anything else….unless it’s that tongue, oxtail and Humboldt Fog pseudo-French onion soup at Bluestem, because I’d tie off and put that shit straight into my mainline if I could find a way to cook it down enough. Yes, it is tasty enough to deserve its own illicit drug use imagery.
So this recipe is what went on top of my “Ceci Bruschetta” dish that I made for the Sopranos party. The secret is to use good olive oil and fresh basil…..if you don’t do that then don’t make it. Trust me, I tried dried basil when the store was out of fresh, and it was not a good thing. I’ve got some sitting in my fridge that is about to get tossed, it makes THAT much of a difference.
I’m not going to format this all “FAINCY” for you, it’s too simple of a recipe to worry about all of that. It’s totally scaleable, I usually make a double batch, but here is the one-batch version……take one cup of drained chickpeas, 4 tablespoons of GOOD olive oil, 2 tablespoons of olive paste (or just chopped/minced black olives….I use kalamata), 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (you can go cheap with this, Colavita is fine), 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary (I actually use dried since it’s winter), 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil leaves (once again, I stress FRESH), 1 thinly sliced garlic clove (you can bump this up some, but do not use one of those garlic presses or you’ll kill the dish), kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. You just MIX ALL OF THAT in a bowl…..and I find that if you leave it overnight it’s a lot better, kind of like potato salad. If you want, cut back on the oil (I usually do, especially if you use a good, flavorful and fruity variety), use more of one thing and less of another, it’s all to taste. But I seriously love having this onhand for a quick lunch, or for the rare moments when I have some crazy craving at night…..I know we’re not supposed to snack, but I’m a realist. Remember the days when a “snack” was an entire St. Louis style pizza? Well I do. So this I can live with.
Really, give it a shot. I love this stuff. No quippy little closing statement, just eat your veggies.