Supercalifragicabbage

How do you name a recipe? Does “polenta” by any other name (“mush,” for example) taste as sweet? As our incontestable authority on naming, Anne Shirley, said, “I’ve never been able to believe it.”

Of course it matters what a dish is called!

That’s why my sister has insisted on calling one of her specialties “Soupe au Fromage” instead of “Cheeseburger Soup” (the unappetizing title on her recipe). This is also why it’s so painful when my dad obnoxiously pronounces soufflé “sow-ful.” And it’s why dishes like Jambalaya, Minestrone, Tapioca and Tamales are always so appealing when planning a menu.

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When I made this Mediterranean dish for the first time, I loved it instantly. I knew I would make it again and again — but there was a problem (or five). The book I’d adapted it from titled the recipe “Braised Cabbage with Red Beans and Rice.” Continue reading

A Mad Experiment

Does it sound too pretentious to call this creation “avant garde?”

I’ll accept any of the usual connotations—from daring and innovative to just plain weird.

As far as kitchen experiments go, the recipe was a surprising success. But in a parade of beloved, more traditional breads, I’m afraid it might need an intellectual term to hide behind.

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Polly Wolly

The first recipe I made from my new bread cookbook wasn’t bread.

It was Crispy Rye and Seed Crackers.

This may have disappointed my family (I strongly suspect their motives in giving me the book), but since the author, master baker Peter Reinhart, freely admits his own preference for crackers, I know I have very distinguished company outside the bread box.

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I was fascinated to find crackers—which I had only known as mass-produced snacks—among recipes for ciabatta, croissants and baguettes. I was further intrigued when Reinhart’s recipes introduced me to a kind of dough so completely different from anything I had worked with before.

Before many days passed, I had turned out half a dozen different batches. I fell in love with the process—and the results were incredible too. Who knew that humble crackers could be so classy and delicious?

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Deviation

If I wanted to stir up debate, I’d say this was a traditional Irish scone.

It’s not.

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Proper scones are so traditional to Ireland that they were chosen to represent the country at Cafe Europe in 2006. Scones may even get their name from the Gaelic word “sgonn,” meaning “lump.” But applying the word “traditional” to a particular recipe always sparks controversy among aficionados.

Of course, recipes can be traditional without being uniform. These scones, however, break the mold completely. They don’t come close to “authentic,” but they are delicious. Plus, they highlight the wonderful flavor and texture of oats—one of Ireland’s oldest and greatest crops.

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A Lesson in Making Do and Making Spaetzle

Just for a moment, I’m going to try to think of a food more German than Spaetzle.

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I didn’t come up with anything.

(If you can think of anything more distinctly German, leave a comment! But for now, I’ll move on.)

What sets Spaetzle apart in my mind is the difficulty of explaining what it is. (It means “little sparrow,” and you say it “SHPAY-tsul.”) You can compare it to more familiar foods—noodles, dumplings… but it’s not. It’s Spaetzle.

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