School’s out today. I have mixed feelings, as always. It’s been a fantastic year, and I happen to be one of those people who loves the routine of the weekly schedule. But I’m not going to lie..sleeping in and not packing a lunch sounds damn good right about now.
For those of us who developed our passion for food at the apron strings of a grandparent, take time to read the article in today’s NY Times about sons and daughters of immigrants who have taken their parents old family restaurants and made them their own. From Williamsburg, NY to Highland Park, CA, 20 & 30-somethings are seeing the value of the hole-in-the-wall joints they grew up in and the customers are loving it. There is Jason Wang, the 23 year old chef at Xi’an Famous Foods-started in Flushing, Queens and now operating out of 5 locations with a huge cult following, and Diep Tran of Good Girl Dinette in the Highland Park neighborhood of LA, making Chicken Curry Pot Pie inspired by her family’s Pho 79 Vietnamese restaurants. Even if you didn’t grow up with a tattered book of family recipes, it’s tough to not be inspired by this new wave of tradition.
Speaking of inspiration from grandparents, my love for phyllo dough comes directly from my Noni. When I was really young I remember her making the dough from scratch and stretching it across her dining room table, it was incredible. In her later years it came from a box, as mine does now, but her ability to work with it, filling the flaky dough with cheese, potato, or spinach, was artful. In our family most of the filling was encased in phyllo triangles, easy to master. This recipe from the LA Times, for Goat Cheese and Basil Stuffed Phyllo Parcels, uses a different technique. After encasing the filling in two sheets of dough, squares are folded like envelopes to expose the basil. You can see how beautiful it looks. Do not be intimated by the dough. The ultra thin sheets need to stay covered on your counter while you’re working-I use a sheet of plastic wrap and a damp towel, or they will dry out. Beyond that it’s really not hard-if it cracks or breaks, don’t worry. Once you fill and fold these babies no one will ever notice those tiny imperfections.
One of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my entire life was a sandwich I had in South Carolina. It was white bread, Vidalia onion slices, dripping ripe tomato slices, salt, and mayo. It was at least 12 years ago and I will never forget how amazing each bite tasted. Hence my attraction to this Tomato Pie in today’s Washington Post. No, it’s not the most sexy dish you’ll ever make, and the ingredients are nothing fancy. It’s even early to think about making it because you can just tell this is best when you have those uber-ripe tomatoes late in the summer. But, ahhh, a girl can dream….Find me in August and I can assure you I’ll be diving into this one.
Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.