Like lots of other people around the blog world, I fell pretty hard for Nigel Slater‘s The Kitchen Diaries. It’s homey and elegant at the same time, full of appealing and fairly easy recipes and menu ideas and so wonderfully in tune with the seasons that you really do want to go back to it day after day as the weather shifts and get inspired about what to cook for dinner tonight. And the photos. Oh, the photos. Gorgeous in their own right and gorgeously printed on creamy matte paper.
But the thing is, I was always the girl that ended up going for the quieter, darker, under-appreciated room-mate/brother/best friend of the popular pretty-boy. In that vain, I’m championing Slater’s Appetite, an earlier book, more traditionally printed — but still a knock-out — and quite as compelling as The Kitchen Diaries. The writing is sensual, opinionated and wryly intelligent, punctuated with some endearing vulgarity (on selecting Brussels sprouts: “why are you even thinking of buying a bag of pungent, watery little balls, that give you wind?” — for the record, I disagree). And best of all, it’s full of really, really easy recipes. In fact, the book is designed to teach you basics and give you room to run so that you don’t need recipes.
The one I picked for dinner the other night was “deeply savory noodles as hot as you like.” It’s not really a recipe, just a guideline. Heat up some chicken stock (mine was actually a blend of lamb and chicken that had been hanging out in the freezer). While it’s getting (really) hot, put some greens in a steamer and cook them lightly — mine were the last of the tatsoi from the farm share. Meanwhile, get some Asian noodles going — either pour some boiling water over rice sticks or cook up some udon. While the greens and noodles are doing their thing, add fish sauce (1/2 T per cup of stock), soy sauce (1 t per cup ), some chili sauce (or you might leave this out and add it individually at the table if there are timid and/or eleven year old eaters present) and some lemon or lime juice. I had some shitake mushrooms around so I also saute-ed those up and threw them in the stock. When everything seems about right, drain the noodles, put some in individual bowls, lay a handful of greens on top and ladle the stock over it all.
I had some very long green beans from the farm share in the fridge, so I also flash-fried those and tossed them with a little chicken stock, cornstarch and oyster sauce (also inspired by Nigel) and put them out on a serving dish for everyone to reach over and help themselves.
It was all good. We felt virtuous but not at all deprived. Naomi (11) thought the broth was “good but not soothing, too sharp” (for the record, I also disagree with that — it was quite soothing, but not, I guess, in the traditional chicken noodle soup kind of way). Nick (2) used his budding chopstick skills to indignantly remove the tatsoi saying “get that OUT mama, get that OUT” but slurped the noodles with gusto. The adults contentedly stirred in chili sauce and swilled broth and felt justified in returning to the kitchen for Cherry Garcia (QUART size container, 3.99 at Trader Joe’s!) later that night.
Sadly, no pictures, but it was quite handsome in big, deep off-white soup bowls.