Wow, it’s been forever. Sorry about that.
I’m in Manhattan for the summer, writing a novel that is set here. This is my first time to ever “live” in NYC, though I know a three month sublet does not a New Yawker me make. Still. I have a big crush on the city. In particular I love that I don’t have to drive. Love that I can walk to Central Park. Love the multitude of lives, all being lived out on this island. Love the bustle, the tumult!
What I don’t love (cue the “obvious” sign) is how expensive it is to live here. One solution is not to eat out, because I swear, any time you do–at least for dinner–it costs $70 once you split the bottle of wine and tip generously. There was a fun book written about this very concept of eating in, about a woman who decided to cook every night in her tiny NY apartment (not Julia and Julie, which was also fun, but another one.) Which is to say I know I’m not the first person with this idea. But that caveat aside, I am proud to announce that in over two and a half weeks of being here, I have eaten out only twice, and that includes going for coffee, getting a bagel, anything. Basically, I’ve been a cooking machine, relying on Judith Jones’ very lovely book, The Pleasures of Cooking for One, as inspiration. (Though really, it could be called “for one or two” and still work.) The key to economic cooking (home economics!) is to continually use the ingredients you buy at the grocery in various meals. So if I buy a jar of canned tuna in olive oil, I will use that to make a Nicoise salad; the next night I will toss the tuna with some white beans, parsley, artichoke hearts, red peppers, lemon juice and olive oil; then make a sandwich with toasted baguette, artichoke hearts, roasted pepper, mustard; and finally I will make a pasta with tuna, black olives, red pepper, white wine, olive oil and parsley. See the repeat of ingredients? The one jar of tuna will last you for at least three of those meals, and a red pepper will serve you in good stead for two or three. (I roast them on the gas stovetop. Once charred all over I wrap them in aluminum foil til cool then peel off the blistered skin, revealing a soft, smoky, sweet pepper underneath.)
The other night I made a roast chicken, which led to chicken salad then chicken divan. For the chicken divan I made bechamel, freezing the leftovers of the white sauce. I had friends over for lunch the other day and I served them Croque Monsieur sandwiches with bechamel and Parmesan. But I still had about 1/2 a cup of the sauce leftover. So tonight I used it to make an artichoke dip that was pretty fab. Here’s the recipe, loosely interpreted. (I didn’t actually measure anything, just ball parked.)
Take a large jar of quartered artichoke hearts. Soak them in a couple of baths of water to get out the canned marinade flavor. Heat up about 1 T of oil in a sauce pan, over medium low heat. Add the soaked hearts to the pan, then add a clove of chopped garlic. Stir it around. Add a few squeezes of a lemon, plus a little of the lemon zest, if you have the time and inclination. Continue stirring. Add a generous splash of white wine. Stir until liquid is absorbed. Add a little salt and lots of cracked black pepper. Taste for balance. If it needs more lemon juice or salt, add away. When nearly finished, add 2 tablespoons of bechamel. Stir to melt. Finish by adding a handful of Parmesan cheese, grated, plus a quarter cup of chopped parsley. Taste for seasoning, pour into an oven proof dish, sprinkle a bunch of Parm on top and slide under the broiler for 8 minutes or so until dip is piping hot and cheese is melted and even a little brown. Serve with sliced French bread of water crackers.
Delish! And I got rid of the remaining artichoke hearts and bechamel to boot!