Yesterday afternoon I found myself overcome by an urge to make a proper cup of strong black tea. To be exact, I felt a sudden need to make it the way it was always made in my family. That is, to take a nice round teapot (James and I bought this one in St. Petersburg last summer), rinse it with boiling water first, add loose tea, cover it with a small amount of boiling water, let it steep for a moment, fill it halfway with more boiling water, let steep a moment, fill to the top, cover with a towel, wait a few minutes, pour a little tea into a cup and immediately pour it back into the pot (the latter step is referred to in Russian as “marrying” the tea). It’s unclear to me why for the last decade or so I have castrated this familial savoir-faire down to a one-step process (not to mention tea bags or Starbucks). Today’s big realization was that by foregoing these few extra steps I’ve been depriving myself of something quite essential, a multi-sensory pleasure that on some (not very obvious) level is identical to that which I derive from my feral gardening. When I poured the tea, the result smelled and looked so drastically different from what I’d gotten used to that I switched out my everyday cup for nice china one, to celebrate in style the re-awakening of my repressed tea self. And it looked so pretty that I had another sudden urge — to take pictures of it.
Lesson learned: process is important. I have used the same tea (Harney & Sons English Breakfast, in case anyone wonders), the same pot, and the same water, but sometimes you need a sacred ritual to release the magic of something. Oh great, now I sound like that bartender the other night who convoluted his dissatisfaction with the amount of tip we left him in the following comment: “A lot of love went into that drink.”
Anyway, the reason for desiring a cup of strong tea in the first place was to clear my head in order to blog about my recent binge cooking incident. On Tuesday I decided it might be fun and therapeutic to spend a whole day in the kitchen. As you remember, I needed to do something with the 6 pounds of green tomatoes sitting on our kitchen counter. And also, we had invited our friends K, A, M & P over for dinner. All I can say that I got a little carried away… But, as a result, I now have a whole bunch of new recipes, and we even invented a new one.
Here are all the things I made on Tuesday, in chronological order:
Pickled green tomatoes, inspired by this recipe. I used whole garlic and whole peppers, and also added coriander seeds and dill. The amount of brine this recipe calls for was enough for almost 3 lbs of small green tomatoes, the way I packed them into the jars. Now waiting for results.
Green tomato chutney — what a revelation! I used dates and apricots instead of raisins and added sliced cayenne pepper from the garden. Even though it’s supposed to “mature” for a day or two, I served some as a garnish for the glazed cod, and it was revelational. The rest is jarred in the fridge, waiting for its moment to shine again. I’m envisioning its future — on a lovely thin cracker, topped with some blue cheese, with a glass of full-bodied red wine…
Dinner for Six
And here’s what I fed KAMP for dinner in addition to chutney.
Appetizers: the ubiquitous kale chips that by now turned into a staple of entertaining and some fast and easy homemade hummus — my very first hummus!!! Another revelation of the day: it took me about 1 minute to make and was so smooth and flavorful that I swore to never buy store-made hummus again. I used young garlic from the garden and some sunflower seed oil to drizzle over it for fragrance). I didn’t make any pita chips but got some delicious Green Olive Picholine at Amy’s Bread in Chelsea Market instead.
Salad: garden arugula, sliced pear, sliced dates, toasted walnuts.
Sides: jasmine rice (I added some frozen edamame beans at the end just to seem more sophisticated) and this zucchini with almonds recipe that I have already raved about but will keep pushing until everyone has tried it.
The frying of green tomatoes was largely informed by this recipe. However, the original idea of serving them with burrata was suggested (and then assembled) by the A of KAMP who has an impeccable taste in everything (exemplified, among other things, by her very own column on Apartment Therapy New York); so, when she says, “I want to eat the green tomatoes with breadcrumbs – maybe scattered around a mound of burrata?” I know that the best response is to go and get some burrata. You can’t get it at Whole Foods or from Fresh Direct, so I first went to Buon Italia in Chelsea Market where I was told to return tomorrow, because they just went to pick it up from JFK (No, JFK hasn’t turned into a dairy farm; it’s just that burrata has to be delivered extra fresh from Italy). To my surprise, I found it at Lucy’s Whey, despite their “American artisanal cheeses” profile. You can see the last surviving fried green tomato with burrata and fresh basil presented on the left. Incidentally, this is the only photo (snapped with an iPhone) of the dinner portion of my cooking binge.
Another lesson learned: if you’re going to cook an unreasonable number of dishes, at least keep a camera handy. A picture might not be as good as a bite but it’s definitely worth more than the endless blah-blah-blah of this post that started out with a promise of harmony and ended up in total discombobulation. Ohhh, wait, I think I’m recognizing a pattern…