In his excellent, just-out memoir, Born Round,
Frank Bruni devotes a lot of space to loving descriptions of food. No surprise—the New York Times’s former restaurant critic
spent the last five years of his life eating almost every single meal out. But he writes even more rapturously about the outrageous dishes his Italian grandmother and his mother made for him when he was growing up. Bruni has given several of these recipes exclusively to Food & Wine
; each day this week, we’ll run a new one on this blog. And we’re starting with his mother's pesto.
“When my mother believed in something, she was dogmatic about it,” Bruni told us. “And she had firm ideas about what belonged in pesto, and what didn’t. Walnuts instead of pine nuts—that was apostasy to her. She also really frowned on cheeses that were too mild. No low-grade supermarket Parmesan; the cheese needed to be saltier than Parmesan, anyway. It was Pecorino Romano for her.”
In Born Round
, Bruni writes about a later pesto period, when he was a reporter at the Detroit Free Press in the early '90s, working with his editor and friend Renee Murawski. As he writes, “Renee is always making pesto, and it's a damned fine pesto, nearly as good as Mom's, and pesto happens to be one of your Top Five Most Beloved Ways to sauce pasta, especially if the pasta is fusilli.... Renee often uses fusilli.”
Renee's pesto might be great but Bruni deems his mother's pesto better. After trying it in the Food & Wine Test Kitchen we agree that it's fabulous: It's powerfully cheesy and garlicky, with lots of bright basil flavor, too.
Last week I was sailing through the Pacific Northwest and fell in love with Lopez Island and its food. The island, located north of Seattle, is relatively remote and can be reached by ferry or sea plane. After docking, we waited in line with the locals outside of Holly B’s Bakery to fill up on their almond-studded cinnamon rolls, warm baguettes and crumbly cheddar-herb biscuits. Next door, lattes made with Graffeo beans beckoned us to recaffeinate at Caffe la Boheme. We headed out of town on bikes and stumbled upon Lopez Island Farm’s store, where the cash box was (trustingly) left out for us to ring up our purchase. I scooped up some marionberry syrup, which was perfect with our pancakes the next morning, and a goat cheese spread with apricots and pistachios that became our preferred snack for refueling after hikes. I only wish I had put ice in my day pack, so I could have brought back some of their beautiful lamb sausage to grill as well.
Wines Under $20
We have hit prime Sauvignon Blanc season here in New York City, with 90-degree days and unbearable humidity. Lucky for me, the Food & Wine wine fridge happens to be loaded with Sauvignon Blanc, so I took the opportunity to taste through a dozen or so and turned up a few that would be great for the steamy weekend.
2008 Bogle California Sauvignon Blanc ($10, find this wine)
This affordable California bottling is made with grapes from both Monterey and the Russian River Valley. Not at all a complex wine, it's simply refreshing, with lemon-lime and tropical-fruit flavors.
2008 Robert Oatley Sauvignon Blanc ($18, find this wine)
From Western Australia, this Sauvignon has a spritzy pink-grapefruit flavor and cool sage-y notes.
2008 Valentin Bianchi Famiglia Bianchi Sauvignon Blanc ($16, find this wine)
This Argentine white from Mendoza is bright, crisp and fresh, with a pretty key-lime aroma.
At the sleek yet cozy Bar Blanc Bistro in New York City’s West Village, I had a delicious charred octopus set over a roasted tomato sauce with slivers of grilled zucchini. The whole dish smelled wonderfully smoky—a treat in a city where it’s so hard to grill. There was also a perfect tomato salad in a pickled-shallot vinaigrette that was a step up from what I might do at home, but not overwrought: It tasted just like summer. But what I loved most was one of the more humble items chef Sebastiaan Zijp served that night. Along with the charcuterie platter came a bowl of pickles, including two-inch pieces of kale stems that hit the right balance between sweet and tangy. I love when scraps are transformed into a clever snack.
Some great pickle recipes from our Test Kitchen.
More delicious ways to use up scraps.