Back in graduate school, when my friends and I began to set up our new apartments and started to entertain and have one another over to dinner, one friend in particular stood out from the rest. She had a certain sense of style. I used to describe her as being “VSFA,” or as the store’s advertising campaign would add “Very Saks Fifth Avenue.”
Before the internet, as some of you may recall, food companies often added recipes to their packaging that would suggest ways to use their products. Of course, the limited space on the package restricted these recipes to relatively simple dishes, but I still remember my mother cutting them out and adding them to her hand-painted tin recipe box, yet another culinary icon of a bygone era.
As a graduate student in the mid-seventies, I was living in a fifth-floor walk-up studio on New York City’s, not-yet-gentrified, Upper West Side. The apartment was on the top floor of a converted brownstone and consequently had a tiny kitchen, my very first, maybe 6-feet long by 3-feet wide. Yet it was here that I began to take a serious interest in cooking.
Occasionally, the New York Times “Cooking” newsletter has an attention-grabbing, hyperbolic headline that makes me stop reading my emails and go directly to their website. Such was the case earlier this week when the subject line read: “The Most Incredible Cauliflower.”
During these seemingly amalgamating days of self-quarantine (a.k.a. lock-up), I’m constantly finding food that’s either going bad or needs using up. I attribute this regrettable position to buying more than we need out of fear of running out or of an item’s becoming unavailable. Something we never did when, in happier days, we food shopped almost daily.
For years, I’ve been a fan of the British chef Jamie Oliver. His down-to-earth approach to food and emphasis on rich flavor have led me to add several of his cookbooks to my collection. One of my latest additions is Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, a companion volume to his television series by the same name, which is the source of today’s recipe.
Last night’s supper resulted from the two of us thinking the other had taken the chicken thighs from the freezer that morning for my sheet-pan chicken with roasted tomatoes. When I asked my husband for them, he looked dumbfounded and replied “I thought you said you were going to do that.” Perhaps, it was my slip-up, but now I was faced with bowlful of diced grape tomatoes that needed to be used up.
Growing up, the only ribs I ever had were those my Neapolitan aunt would make in tomato sauce. She used to brown them in olive oil and then slowly simmer them in a large pot of sauce, which sometimes contained cotenne, or pig-skin braciole. Yum! It was pork at its best.
Perhaps many of you who are sheltering in place during this pandemic are like me and are often faced with produce about to go bad or with other products nearing their use-by dates. I can only attribute this situation to my buying more food items than necessary for fear that when I need something, it won’t be available.
Once again during this pandemic, the result of placing an online order for groceries changed our dinner plans. In the mood for a lamb stew, I ordered three pounds of lamb shoulder; what arrived were two netted boneless legs of lamb. One was a little more than two pounds; the other, about one.