What’s for Dinner

The highlight of last week’s dinners was certainly the agnello all’araba from The Silver Spoon cookbook—lamb cubes roasted with onions, honey, saffron and other spices. (I used honey that Sam’s dad harvests in his own backyard, from his own bees.) It wasn’t especially picturesque—just looked like brown lamb cubes in a setting of yellow onions—so I didn’t take a photo, but Sam raved about it and Sam is generally pretty taciturn about these things.

I did take a picture of the pie:
pie It wasn’t the most beautiful of pies (the strawberry juices overflowed the crust and made the oven smoke) but you can’t tell that when it’s cut up and plated, and it tasted great. Sweet-tart and flaky and yummy.

Sam liked the pie. But his highly approving reaction to the lamb made me think that maybe I should do like that one chick did with Julia Child, or that other chick did with Thomas Keller, and dedicate myself to the mastery of a certain cuisine via an iconic cookbook: in my case, Italian cuisine and the Silver Spoon cookbook.

And then I realized there’s over 2,000 recipes in The Silver Spoon, and it would take me about ten years.

And anyway, if the idea is to dedicate myself to a certain cuisine that will satisfy my husband’s hunger on some kind of a deep genetic level, then I should really be going for Arbëreshë recipes. Because Sam isn’t Italian, exactly: his family is Arbëreshë, Albanian by way of Italy. Trouble is, I don’t think there are any Arbëreshë cookbooks.

Maybe I should collect one. If you’re reading this, and you’re Arbëreshë, and you have an old family recipe, will you please think about sending it to me? If I put in online or even someday in a book, I promise I’ll credit you.

The other thing that happened last week: while I was at the farmer’s market buying things for Easter dinner, I saw a produce stand where they were selling stinging nettles. And I decided I had to try cooking with that shit! Once you boil them, see, they stop stinging. And they’re like a superfood, loaded with nutrients and antioxidants.

Unfortunately, my recipe for ravioli buried in stinging nettle broth wasn’t all that tasty. So no recipes or pictures on that one. Instead, feast your eyes on this:


Oh yeah. That’s spaghetti carbonara with real guanciale. What’s guanciale, you say? Why, guanciale is a cured pig’s cheek.

That sounds disgusting, you say? Oh no. Spaghetti carbonara is a big favorite of ours, but we generally make it with bacon. Bacon is, obviously, delicious, but authentic carbonara is apparently made with guanciale. I’d read this before. So when I walked out of the farmer’s market holding a bag of stinging nettles, and my eyes settled on a storefront emblazoned “Boccalone: Tasty Salty Pig Parts,” well. I had to check and see if they had any guanciale.

And they did. And it was delicious. Even better than bacon.

The other thing that I made last week, that was particularly good, was the false mahshi. It’s kind of an autumn recipe, but Sam said he liked it even better than borscht. (Even though I used sirloin tips instead of rib-eye like the recipe calls for.) With the beets and the red-dyed rice it was really pretty. I tried to take a picture, but the snapshot doesn’t really do it justice:


And I did cook the squid, and it was alright but not spectacular: I braised it in red wine and tomatoes and served it over spaghetti, but Sam and I both agreed that we’d rather have had pasta puttanesca. And Robin wouldn’t touch it.

Well. Anyway. Today in our veggie box we got a bag of baby lettuces, a bunch of asparagus, a bag of small potatoes, a bunch of chard, a bunch of radishes, several green garlic stems, two leeks, and a sweet bunch of thin, delicate new carrots.

Tonight we’re having creamy spring asparagus soup (I’ve already made it, and it’s tasty), with a salad of the lettuce, radishes, carrots, and green garlic dressing.

Tomorrow another veggie dinner: garlicky chard (using the last of the green garlic) and boiled potatoes with butter and dill. That’ll leave only one leek to deal with for the whole rest of the week.

I honestly don’t know what I’ll do with all the freedom; I think I’ll take each day as it comes. Stay tuned for more thrilling updates throughout the week!

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