It sounds cliché, but I was recently reminded how the greatest gifts are those that keep on giving. In 2005, when our friends Jamie and Magali came all the way from London to visit us in San Francisco, they brought with them the cookbook Moro by Sam and Sam Clark. To demonstrate the beauty of this gift they made us a Moro dinner, a meal Ryan and I can still taste to this day ~ Roast chicken with harissa, carrot and cumin salad with coriander, feta salad with spinach, crispbread, sumac and pinenuts. They served these dishes with sherry, apparently the perfect complement.
It quickly became clear that Jamie and Magali had gifted us more than a fantastic meal; they had welcomed us into their happiest memories. For years these recipes had graced their table and when the two got married they planned an elaborate menu that all the guests participated in preparing…from the Moro cookbook.
Growing up, my dad, his partner and I had a Sunday tradition of Indian buffet in Cambridge, MA. I typically made the trip from NYC to Boston once a month and every Sunday we’d hop on the Tube and get off at Central Station to hit up whichever Indian spot they’d currently decided was the best in town. Inevitably every six months or so they’d venture out to a new place and proclaim this one the new favorite.
For me, a good Indian buffet has several features. Aside from the obvious freshness factor, I look for a good variety of dishes (e.g. veg, lentils, meats), quality homemade chutneys in mass quantities, and good Kheer (Indian rice pudding) for dessert. Tandoori chicken is not a staple for me at Indian lunch buffets mostly because the qualities that make or break Tandoori chicken are the antithesis of buffet style food. There’s a reason why Tandoori typically comes on a sizzling plate with charred onions and melting lemons – it should be served hot and fresh to prevent the meat from drying.
After years of feeling intrigued by indian marinades I decided to start playing around with my own Tandoori recipes. I love the idea of marinating meat in yogurt and spices, a tradition found in so many great South Asian and Middle Eastern recipes. The yogurt acts as a natural tenderizer and keeps the meat moist when cooking. It also locks in great flavor when combined with herbs and spices. For a super simple recipe, this one uses a number of great techniques that will help you make loads of great marinades. I like to serve this chicken with mango chutney (Kalustyan’s is my absolute favorite) and warm buttery naan.
I grew up in a family with divorced parents and every other weekend was spent with my mother, stepfather and two stepbrothers. Inevitably there was a lot riding on these weekends, four days out of every month that we spent all together as a family. My parents worked hard at making these weekends fun for everyone, a daunting task given our 9 year spread and vastly different interests. While activities and outings were met with mixed reviews, one thing we all could agree on was Saturday night family dinner.
In many ways it’s hard to believe we could all agree on a favorite dish given our diverse tastes in food. My stepfather, who is French, to this day feels strongly that garlic, parsley, salt and pepper are all one really needs to season a dish…any dish… ever. I on the other hand could live on highly spiced dishes with loads of cilantro, an herb that in large quantities might literally send him to an early grave. One of my brothers has always been rather adventurous when it comes to food while the other, even today at age of 42, could probably live on baked ziti and cereal.
My mother, being the extraordinary cook that she is, somehow figured out that veal piccata with its sharp lemony flavor and comforting soft texture was the perfect dish to nourish our family. She’d serve it with two types of angel hair pasta, one with loads of garlic, parsley and olive oil, and the other with “shit sauce,” a term my stepfather coined for tomato sauce out of a jar for the brother who liked to keep things “traditional”. I loved the way the lemony sauce from the veal added just the right acidity to the pasta with garlic and olive oil and how the pasta with tomato sauce out of a jar felt like the perfect sweet finish when the meat was done.
There are a few things that have been especially hard about moving from the Bay Area to rural Ohio. The friends, the weather, the outdoor activities are all among them. Food is also high on the list. Here in central Ohio we have some great options for meat and vegetables. Our Saturday farmer’s market is filled with local folks, some with small farms and some with over abundant vegetable gardens selling their tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, lettuce and peppers. There’s even a kid who sells apples from his family’s backyard tree – 20 for a $1! As a matter of fact, it feels like everything costs $1, a stark comparison to our Oakland farmer’s market where you’d be hard pressed to spend less that $5 on two peaches. Let’s be clear, they were very good peaches.