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.
The third season of the AMC series Mad Men, which revolves around a cast of hard-drinking ad execs in the 1960s, debuts Sunday night. What to expect, according to the New York Times: more historically accurate booze. For a Mad Men–themed cocktail party, we offer the following drinks:
Vanilla Old-Fashioned A muddled vanilla bean adds a twist to creative director Don Draper's drink of choice.
Limoncello Collins This updated take on one of tortured housewife Betty Draper's favorite cocktails calls for limoncello, an intensely flavored Italian liqueur made from lemon peels.
Mai Tai Department store head Rachel Menken drinks the classic rum cocktail when out with Don. This version borrows from the recipe by Ernest Beaumont-Gantt (a.k.a. "Donn Beach," the father of tiki culture), and calls for dashes of Pernod and Angostura bitters for complexity.
F&W Best New Chef 2002 Dan Barber, the chef and co-owner of New York City's Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York, strikes again with another insightful op-ed in the New York Times. This time, the subject is late blight, the pesky, fast-spreading plant disease that's made finding flavorful organic tomatoes across much of the Northeast harder this summer than in seasons past. While Barber names several culprits for the disease's severity, he also turns the tables and blames...himself. "It’s a nostalgia I’m guilty of promoting as a chef when I celebrate only heirloom tomatoes on my menus," he writes. (It turns out that 70 percent of heirloom tomatoes have fallen victim to late blight.) Barber's vision of the more resilient farm of the future? One that grows multiple crops, with multiple varieties of the same vegetables—a few heirlooms, yes, but also new varieties bred to resist diseases. Perhaps that vision might cause a ripple of shock across the Slow Food movement, but it may be what's necessary to ensure flavorful produce for the future.
For those lucky enough to get their hands on a ripe, juicy tomato, we offer tomato recipes here. We also offer recipes for other seasonal produce, like corn, eggplant and watermelon.
The whole food universe has gone a little mad for Julia Child with the Friday release of Julie & Julia, and we're no exception. In our August issue, as one of 10 whimsical ideas for summer gatherings (from a bikini party to a We Love Julia party), we're running the recipe for an amazing bacon-and-leek quiche, inspired by one of Julia's favorite foods. Today on our website we're featuring some of our favorite recipes from French Masters, and a few of our best Julia-worthy French desserts (like François Payard's Triple-Decker Macaroon Cake). Tomorrow, on Etsy.com, F&W Editor in Chief Dana Cowin will share Julia-inspired style finds (here's a preview). I think this should all tide me over until Friday, when I can watch Meryl Streep embody the greatest TV chef of all time, the queen of all Francophile foodies, and my own epicurean raison d'être. That's the hope, in any case. If not, I can always read the pages-long recipe for French bread in Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2.
Saddened by yesterday's news
that historic Guss’ Pickles is moving out of Manhattan’s Lower East Side after 89 years (and some sour legal issues
), I’ve resolved to make my own batch. Here are a few I’ll try from the F&W archives:
Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Saffron Cucumber Pickles
(amazing with grilled food, pictured here).
F&W Best New Chef 2009 Linton Hopkins’s Bread-and-Butter Pickles
(crunchy, sweet and tangy).
F&W’s own Grace Parisi’s Winey Briny Quick Pickles
(total prep time is only 20 minutes, plus overnight brining).
OR these 13 fantastic pickled vegetable recipes
I hadn't cooked for my kids for more than two weeks, but all that changed when they returned from camp yesterday. Maybe I was out of practice, maybe I was feeling a bit defiant or maybe I was just hoping for a change, but given how much I enjoyed superspicy broccoli rabe last week, I wanted it again. There were sweet Italian sausages in the fridge, some homemade focaccia buns in the freezer and, of course, broccoli rabe—all ready to come together. I thought about sautéing the broccoli rabe, chopping it and kneading it into the sausage meat, but that would've been too cruel to my kids, not to mention self-defeating (I would surely have wound up making PB&Js). To satisfy everyone, I sautéed the broccoli rabe with garlic and so much crushed red pepper flakes all our mouths were vibrating, grilled the sausage patties (and the buns) and sandwiched it all together. A little aioli with olives, capers and herbs from my garden finished the dish. Malcolm, my 7-year-old son, passed on the aioli and broccoli rabe, but my 12-year-old daughter, Pia, ate it all.
NASA celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon this week by handing out slices of a giant moon pie
, and a San Diego woman known as "The Cheese Lady"
sculpted a five-and-a-half-foot-tall astronaut from a 1,920-pound block of Wisconsin mild cheddar. I commemorated the historic event on a smaller scale at supercool Queens, NY, bar Dutch Kills
with a Moonwalk, a fruity sparkling cocktail that was the first the astronauts drank upon their return to earth. Here's the original recipe for the drink, created in 1969 by Joe Gilmore, the head barman at the Savoy Hotel in London:
Makes 1 drink
1 ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
2 dashes rosewater
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the Grand Marnier, grapefruit juice and rosewater and shake lightly. Strain into a chilled coupe and top with Champagne.
Don't get me wrong—I love my kids, and I love eating with them. Some days I challenge them with unusual foods, but mostly I take the path of least resistance. But since they've been away at camp, I've rediscovered the joys of eating whatever and whenever I want (if at all). Tuesday's dinner was a bowl of cereal (Chex, granola and Grape-Nuts), Wednesday's was a peach, Thursday's was a PB&J (natural peanut butter and homemade berry jam) and Friday's was sautéed broccoli rabe with anchovies, olives and so much crushed red pepper that my mouth was vibrating. Maybe someday, my kids will appreciate stinky, spicy and bitter foods, but right now, that's a challenge I'm not ready to take on. Till then, I'll seize every opportunity to satisfy my own appetite.
My good friend Andrew Sessa, senior editor at F&W's sister magazine Departures
, has a sweet tooth that rivals my own. A brilliant baker, he recently decided to make a cake for a colleague’s birthday: a s’mores cake
combining chocolate cake
, a graham cracker crust and crumble and a marshmallow frosting
he planned to char with a mini blowtorch. But when he discovered his colleague’s favorite childhood cereal was Cinnamon Toast Crunch, he channeled cereal-obsessed pastry chef Christina Tosi
of NYC's Momofuku Milk Bar and used Cinnamon Toast Crunch instead of graham crackers. Definitely Milk Bar