Gabrielle Hamilton wrote a terrific column for The Times recently about how hard it is to cook the food she serves at Prune, her restaurant in the East Village of Manhattan, as if there weren’t line cooks in the kitchen but instead “a gentle older woman back there in heavy stockings and a cardigan.” There’s so much about home cooking — the best cooking! — that simply can’t be done in a restaurant, for reasons of scale and sanitation, speed and consistency. I loved the story because for me it’s always the opposite: I go into a restaurant kitchen to report on a recipe, then it’s the devil’s work to make the dish possible to cook in a home kitchen, for the same reasons turned upside down.
The recipe that accompanies her essay is for a zucchini tian (above), a sort of prettified ratatouille that Gabrielle learned from her late ex-mother-in-law, in Puglia, Italy. It is home cooking at its slow-and-steady finest, even if Gabrielle has successfully made and served it at Prune (and, as it happens, under the klieg lights of Kitchen Stadium, where in 2008 she used it to best Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef America: Battle Zucchini”). I think it’d be a great dish to cook this week.
Me, I’ve been flying solo for a few days, cooking duck legs in a cast-iron pan under a sprinkle of salt and five-spice powder, eating one for dinner and the other for lunch the next day, the skin crisped in the rendered fat and served over baby arugula with toast, then shredded onto a warm tortilla and drizzled with chile oil. I’ve done that three days running now. I’m duck mad.
This week I’d also like to cook in honor of Julia Reed, the vivacious, funny, irreverent and wise journalist and cook who contributed to The Times for years, and who died in late August. Kim Severson wrote a beautiful introduction to her recipes for us, and I’ll start with her summer squash casserole. (And maybe finish with her pralines.)
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Now, it’s nothing to do with coriander or Texas Pete hot sauce, but Amanda Hess on what a lack of live audiences has done to the worlds of sports, politics and comedy is really smart criticism.