My in-laws are visiting from Boston and they have now eaten two Molly Wizenberg-driven meals.
Saturday night: an innocuous chana masala*(Indian chickpea stew) that I served with some Indian accoutrements, most notably the banana raita out of Anne Mendelson's Milk. I have no idea what made this raita so special (the 1/2 teaspoon of cumin? the supersweet, bordering-on-blackened bananas?) but it was very special. For dessert: Wizenberg's fabulous macaroons (so moist they're almost juicy -- like the inside of a Mounds bar -- the recipe is printed here) accompanied by dishes of black pepper ice cream.
The ice cream gave me pause. It occurred to me that black pepper ice cream could be perceived as a hostile gesture by visitors on their first night in town. Food is so loaded and symbolic maybe it would be better to go with, you know, strawberry.
But to thine own self be true and all that. If I'd served strawberry ice cream it would have been completely phony, and then what would the message be? I served the pepper ice cream. And while it was strange, it was also delicious, the dusty pepper kind of sneaking up on you towards the end. I don't think I'll make it again, but it turned out to be a delightful experiment and David and Mary are still speaking to me.
Last night, we had Wizenberg's lovely fennel and Asian pear salad, in which I substituted some Manchego for Parmesan. Just pristine layers of thinly sliced crispy fruit, vegetable, and cheese lightly dressed in lemon and olive oil. You feel like eating a salad like this is a spa treatment.
This was not true of Doron's meatballs made with turkey, pine nuts, raisins, cilantro along with the more pedestrian meatball components, like egg and breadcrumbs. Served these fatty, delectable little numbers with a lemony Middle Eastern-ish yogurt sauce. As always, in my fear of undercooking meatballs I overcooked them so they all had a thick dark crust. Still excellent. Also, blurry.
I hate it when all I can think of to do is list the food I've cooked, but this morning, that is all I can think of to do. We finished with chocolate glazed chocolate cupcakes. They were likened to Ho-Ho's by those who enjoy chocolate, which was everyone at the table but me. I made the chocolate cupcakes as penance for the black pepper ice cream, but actually eating them would have been martyrdom. Sometimes, I feel so alone.
*This is Wizenberg's now-husband Brandon's "recipe." Except, he doesn't use a recipe, he cooks by ear, and this is her attempt to capture his formula on paper. She encourages the cook to tweak to taste, which I did. A lot. The dish still never quite came together.