Archives for posts with tag: cuisine

weston eggplant
Making Eggplant Croquettes with the NYT Food Page
by Robbi Nester

To make this dish, you have to plan ahead.
One day, two eggplants occupied the shelf
in my refrigerator. I baked them, purple
as a nimbus cloud about to split. They fell in
on themselves, all steam and soft white flesh.
Then I left them overnight to cool, bitter
black juice seeping into the bowl. The next
day, I slipped off their blackened jackets,
chopped the yielding shreds, grated in
four cloves of garlic with a microplane,
mixed in some green-gold olive oil
and salt. I wasn’t finished yet!

After another day of waiting, I spread
a sheet of parchment paper in a pan,
poured in the eggplant mixture, wedged
it in the freezer. Next afternoon, I cut it
into greyish squares smelling of sweet
garlic. Finally, it was time to cook!
I arranged three bowls of beaten egg,
flour, and seasoned panko, dredged
the squares of frozen eggplant,
heated the cast iron pan till waves
of heat shimmered like a spirit
over the oil, lowered the croquettes
into their sizzling bath. They hissed
and spit like cornered cats, and crisped
immediately, the insides creamy
on my tongue. Sometimes, cooking
is like a séance, calling forth from plain
ingredients what’s been there all along.

PHOTO: Eggplant by Edward Weston, silver gelatin print (1929).

egplant croquettes

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have always enjoyed reading and writing about food and cooking as well as watching professional chefs cook and talk about food. During the pandemic, I stopped going to restaurants. The highlight of my week has become going to the grocery store, mostly very early in the morning, when the markets are virtually empty, and I feel as though I am walking through my own personal pantry. ¶ Before, I was a careless cook. Though I have always loved culinary variety and innovation and sought to learn something from making new dishes, the pandemic has slowed everything down considerably, allowed me to spend more time on each step of the preparation. Now I have time to prepare dishes that I would never consider making in the before-world, like the eggplant croquettes I have written about in this poem, which I first discovered in the pages of the Sunday New York Times Magazine.

PHOTO: Smoky Eggplant Croquettes (New York Times, All Rights Reserved).

NOTE: The New York Times recipe site is subscription only. A list of ingredients for Smoky Eggplant Croquettes is available at copymethat.com. But the directions are only available at the New York Times subscription site, or in the above poem.

nester2-copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester is the author of four books of poetry, a chapbook, and three collections of poems, the most recent is Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019). She has also edited three anthologies, the most recent is The Plague Papers, published as a special issue of Poemeleon Poetry Journal, available to read at Poemeleon.me. Find more of her work at robbinester.net.

Elwell licensed
Gravy
by Barbara Crooker

To make good gravy, you must be patient,
let the juice settle to the bottom, let the fat
float to the top in all its golden light. Skim
it with a thin spoon, take its measure. Equal
it with flour, sprinkle with salt, speckle
with pepper. Stir constantly in the roasting pan,
making figure eights with a wooden spoon.
Scrape off strips of skin, bits of meat; incorporate
them in the mixture, like a difficult uncle
or the lonely neighbor invited out of duty.
Keep stirring. Hand the wooden baton
to one of your daughters; it’s time for her
to start learning this music, the bubble and
seethe as it plays the score. One minute
at the boil, then almost like magic, it’s gravy,
a rich velvet brown. Thin it with broth,
stir in chopped giblets, then pour into
its little boat, waiting with mouth open.
Take up your forks, slide potatoes, stuffing,
gravy, into your mouth, hum under your breath.
Oh, the holy family of gravy, all those
little odd bits and pieces, the parts that could
be discarded, but aren’t; instead, transformed
into a warm brown blanket that makes
delicious every thing it covers.

SOURCE: Line Dance (Word Poetry, 2008).

PHOTO: Rich steaming gravy with ladle by Christopher and Amanda Elwell, used by permission.

Crooker

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Crooker is a poetry editor for Italian Americana and author of nine books; the latest is Some Glad Morning, Pitt Poetry Series. Her awards include the Best Book of Poetry 2018 from Poetry by the Sea, the WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships. Her work appears in a variety of anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Visit her at barbaracrooker.com and on Facebook and Twitter. 

cheese spread

How to Make the Perfect Southern Sandwich
by Joan Leotta

At our weekly lunches,
my Georgia-born
neighbor, Faye, introduced
little Pennsylvania me
to her “perfect sandwich,”
bread spread with a
mix of cheddar, roasted red peppers
(pimento) and Southern charm.
I begged for the secret to the
orange-red spread I had never
tried before eating it with Faye,
what she told me was called
“pimento cheese.”
At last, one afternoon, she invited
me into her kitchen
to demonstrate how,
when blended with Duke’s mayo,
canned pimento punctuates
shredded white cheddar
with a vinegary spike.
“Duke’s blends it all,”
Faye whispered. “Duke’s is
the secret, the kiss of the South.”
We mashed the ingredients
together with a fork.
Then she smothered white bread
slices with a knife-full of gold,
deftly trimmed off crusts
and with one swift stroke,
divided the sandwich
into triangles, one each.
“So, Northern Girl, what do you
think?” she asked. I replied,
“I think I’m buying a jar of Duke’s.
These sandwiches are perfection.”

PHOTO: Still from youtube video How It’s Done: South Carolina Pimento Cheese by Discover South Carolina, All Rights Reserved. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I first tasted Pimento Cheese at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, at the site’s snack bar with my friend Faye, and then at the Indigo Inn in Charleston, South Carolina. Like any recipe that’s made in many families, there are numerous versions across the South. Some folks add cream cheese to make the mixture more spreadable. (If using cream cheese in the recipe below, use 3-4 ounces room-temperature cream cheese). Some families add cayenne pepper and/or Worcestershire sauce. I like it plain. I use white sharp cheddar because I like the color to come from the pimento only. You can also use sharp yellow cheddar.

cheese pamela mcadams licensed

Joan’s Pimento Cheese (with a nod to the Indigo Inn in Charleston, South Carolina)
Ingredients
1 cup freshly grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese (do not buy pre-grated).
2 ounces pimento peppers, well drained and chopped
3 tablespoons to ½ cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
Dash of cayenne pepper
Method
Stir and stir until the ingredients are well blended. Refrigerate. Lasts one week.

Photo by Pamela McAdams, used by permission. 

JOAN L

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta, a Pittsburgh girl now living in North Carolina, plays with words on page, stage, and in the kitchen where she balances Southern Italian cooking with American Southern. Her poems, essays, and stories have appeared in Silver Birch Press, Potato Soup Journal, Sasse, Highland Park Poetry, Verse Virtual and Visual Verse and others. Her chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon is available from Finishing Line Press.

benjamas suwanmanee licensed
The Fallback Plan
by Jay Passer

my niece moved to Santa Cruz
to attend the University there.

for her birthday I gave her a nice
chef’s knife, cutting board, and
a clean bar towel.

she was delighted, but perplexed
by the bar towel.

what’s this for?

2 functions, I said. wet it a little
as an anchor for the cutting board,
so it doesn’t slip around while
you’re using the knife.

she pursed her lips and nodded.
and the other?

to practice flipping pizza pie,
of course.
just pretend the towel is the dough.

I showed her how.
she was tickled, but flummoxed.

why would I ever need to know
how to do that?

her major is astrophysics.

you never know, I said,
keeping that Cheshire smile to myself.

Photo by Benjamas Suwanmanee, used by permission.

towel toss

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was a pizza cook for several years, and in the beginning cheated a bit by using a damp bar towel to simulate a pizza dough in order to practice twirling. If the dough is proofed properly, it’s not absolutely necessary to twirl (although the centrifugal force does quicken the expansion process), but if you’re working in an exhibition kitchen it’s definitely worth it because the kids love it.

PHOTO: Still from youtube video Pizza Toss 101 with Carl Penrow. Watch the video here.

JayPasser

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jay Passer’s poetry and prose have appeared online and in print, in anthologies, chapbooks, and a few full length volumes, since 1988. He lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth.