Last Sunday a class I was in for work got done early so I went shopping at Russo's. It takes a certain amount of patience to be there during a popular day of the week/time of the day, so I take many deep breaths and "zen out" as much as possible before entering the fray. It is a little like going to the New England Mobile Bookfair for just one book (they even have t-shirts at this bookstore mocking the naive who think they can escape without a cubic ton of reading material). I ended up spending way too much time - but as always, not too much money - in my spree, realizing as I walked out I would have to cook like a maniac this week to use up what I bought before my next big trip.
I found lots of good varieties of "the usual suspects" - wonderful mushrooms, super-fresh greens and herbs, great bread, and some things I don't usually get, like pea shoots, a mess of eggplants, and poblano chilis (note to self - buy some damn latex gloves for preparing even the mildest of hot chili peppers). And I decided to grab some bocconcini - "mouth-sized" fresh mozzarella - to go with my homegrown Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes ripening on my kitchen counter.
Wednesday was the first night of a mad cooking frenzy involving a ratatouille to use up lots of the produce I bought (and nearly blinding myself with poblano chili juice because I didn't wear protection). I figured I better make a caprese salad with my wonderful, all-too-mortal tomatoes, basil from my garden, Russo's Boston lettuce, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and of course the mozzarella. I grabbed the container and a small knife to slice up what I assumed would be little spheres waiting in their brine. I skewered the first blob I could skewer and pulled it to the plate, gasping in delight. There was a sweet little knot of cheese, literally a hand-tied knot of fresh, milky mozzarella, waiting on the plate, created only a few days earlier at Gigi's in Everett. I have no idea if it was better or worse than any fresh mozzarella I have eaten. It was doubtless the cutest piece of cheese I have ever consumed. I was inspired to make a beautiful looking salad that we ate up in a hurry.
Nicely complementing the cute food trend of the week was a lovely birthday gift from my sister Yvette, who sent an adorable wooden box stuffed with Burdick's chocolates, including his signature chocolate mice and penguins. Some might say they are too cute to eat. While I sympathize, I have to say I haven't met any food to cute for me to eat yet.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Just a few of my (recent) favorite things:
- Mushrooms, and not the ones growing on my lawn after all the rain this summer. Russo's has the best, most gorgeous produce I have ever bought. In addition to being beautiful, delicious and usually cheaper than elsewhere, it is somehow magically resilient. A forgotten bag of peapods lived for possibly 3 weeks in the crisper and were fabulous the other night in a Japanese-style broth with tofu and chicken. Mushrooms from Russo's are varied, lovely and of so much better quality than anywhere else (SO disappointed with Whole Foods!) that I gird my loins and march into the chaos of tiny aisles and crazed shoppers to grab shiitakes and oysters (and occasionally splurge on bluefoots and other exotics). We made a fantastic vegan meal of those shrooms along with braised bok choy, tofu and jasmine rice. One of the best things I ate at a restaurant this summer was an appetizer of mushroom crepe (crespelle al funghi) at Panzano in downtown Denver. Normally I avoid cream sauces but I wanted to lick the plate on this one. I had a similarly happy experience this week enjoying the halibut with wild mushrooms at the Beacon Hill Bistro and the special lobster-mushroom-corn souffle appetizer (I could've eaten about 5 of these myself).
- Slice - Giving tours in downtown Boston for Boston By Foot meant I had the opportunity to gorge myself on the finest offerings the Hub has on hand. I almost uniformly chose pizza to satisfy my palate. Ernesto's on Salem Street has traditional and oddball choices. My current fave is chicken and hot yellow peppers. Sadly, the mala femina (a crazy woman's slice with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, no sauce, and blue chese) is only available as a whole pie, and even I am not a crazy enough femina to order that by myself. Regina's is my other standby - and yes, it is awesome, even the slices in the sweaty press of humanity that is the Quincy Market food hall. Get a fresh slice of anything there and you will be very happy. I stay away from Haymarket Pizza due to the ancient prohibition of my husband who had a very unpleasant experience there. But if memory serves, they have the only meatball pizza worth eating on the planet.
- Banh Mi - It's been too long since I had one of these unbelievably delicious Vietnamese submarine sandwiches. Cheap, fresh, delicious. The last time I grabbed one I sat in the bum's venue across from the Registry and the Essex Street T stop and chowed down, baguette crumbs everywhere. Will post more details next time I have the chance to eat one.