Disastrously Delicious: Food Writers Get Together and Shake Things Up

The following is cross-posted from The Jew & the Carrot

Ratatouille

A group of Jewish food lovers, a spread of delectable dishes, and milkshakes made of laughter. If it were possible for one afternoon to be too good, this is where it would start.

A group of Jew & the Carrot writers, editors, and friends faced the risk—overflowing goodness and all—this past Sunday. Of course, it all started with the food. I arrived at host Avigail’s Clinton Hill, Brooklyn apartment to find hand-layered ratatouille swirling from the center of a clay baking dish, crusty homemade beer bread, a cake topped with the purple velvet of baked plums, aromatic rosemary bread, peach-basil salad, and made-from-scratch yogurt. That alone nearly tipped the scales to the side of the too good. Did I mention that we washed this down with homemade sparkling ginger-grapefruit juice? Spiked with gin?

JCarrot spread

Yes, this was dangerous.

The gathering was innocently planned as a way to put a concrete face to virtual relationships. All Jew & the Carrot writers were invited, and a small but chatty crew of us made it through the heat and the tangle of summer conflicts to be there. Mia-Rut, a Jew & the Carrot blogger, and the host, a member of the Hazon staff, did most of the cooking, with contributions from The Jew & the Carrot supporters Noam and Rachel. (Coming from upstate and dragging a suitcase, I opted to bring beer).

Once the group started to nibble, the conversation began: Tragic and amusing stories of refrigerators dying on us; the going rate for recipes on MyJewishLearning.com; the joys of dumpster diving fresh ginger.

JCarrot dessert spread

Just as our palates felt ready for some dessert to follow our cake, chocolate emerged in the hands of Hazon intern Alona and friend Joanie. So did the laughter “milkshakes,” which were actually an exercise led by the two cocoa-bearers that stemmed from the practice of Laughter Yoga. A little later came a beautiful blueberry-peach crumble and tangy pesto courtesy of Roberta, who had been hard at work testing recipes for a vegan Jewish cookbook.

Somewhere in there, of course, something had to go wrong. And it did.

At first, most of us just felt a light splatter. Then we realized we’d just heard the loudest plop-splat!that ever resounded on Clinton Avenue. We looked toward the sound to see the destruction: A container of leftover ratatouille tragically hurled to the ground from a precarious spot in the refrigerator, with sauce and errant vegetable slices scattered on the floor.

Then, with one look at Adam, came the full realization of the level of disaster.

Adam’s white shirt had become something between a botched Pollock canvas and a clumsy butcher’s apron. Echoes of the ruined shirt could be found in splotches on the couch, on our shins and forearms, and even in our hair and on a few faces. The trajectory of the sauce astounded us.

Adam and tomato sauce

While I’m sure we had all been brought to tears by cooking exploits gone wrong (or, in Tamar’s case, had bawled as we cooked a version of that doomed dish), we all chose to laugh. Really, there was nothing that could upset the mood set by boisterous conversation, community gathering, and wholesome food.

If you’d like to capture some of that goodness, here are a few of the recipes from the get-together. Feel free to give them a try, but please—do be careful!

First, of course, the ratatouille.

The recipe is actually for “Confit Byaldi,” taken from a recipe by Thomas Keller in The New York Times. Here’s the recipe.

Next up:

Rosemary Loaf Cake

From Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking (page 9)

This is a dense, buttery, slightly pungent loaf, very savory/sweet.

Ingredients

1 cup of soft, unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/3 cups self raising flour*

1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Needles from a 4-inch stalk of rosemary, chopped small, but not too fine

4 Tbs. milk

1-2 Tbs. rosemary sugar (fresh rosemary placed in sugar. You can make a quick version by simply pressing the sugar and rosemary together with your fingertips – releasing the oil from the rosemary)

9 x 5-inch loaf pan, buttered and lined with parchment paper.

*To make self-rising flour: add 1.5 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp of salt for every cup of all-purpose flour. Mix well.

Method

Preheat the oven to 350F

Cream the butter, adding the sugar when it is very soft. Cream together until both are pale, smooth, and light. Beat in the eggs one at a time, folding a spoonful of the flour after each addition, then add the vanilla. Fold the rest of the flour in using a rubber spatula and then add the rosemary.

Thin the batter by adding the milk (you want a soft, dropping consistency). Pour into the waiting pan. Sprinkle the top with rosemary sugar.

Bake for around 1 hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack, in its pan. When completely cold, unmold and wrap in foil until you eat it.

And, finally, the yummy bread.

Beer Bread

As described by the creator:

I usually make my beer bread by feel. It was just yeast (1 packet) and a little flour and some warm water to get the yeast activated (or make a “sponge”). When that is bubbly, I add a pinch of salt, more flour (I use a 50% unbleached 50% whole wheat mix) and a very hoppy beer (like an IPA, or sometimes a dark or nut beer goes well) until it forms a cohesive dough. Knead, adding more flour or beer as needed. The person who taught me to make bread said the taste is in the texture so you want to have done this in enough time to let it rise a few times then punch down and knead again. I like to shape my dough into a ball and let it rise on the baking sheet a little before putting it in the oven. I’ve baked at various temperatures (usually based on whatever I just had in the oven because I like my bread to be the last thing to finish and serve it hot right out of the oven), but it should be golden brown and the bottom should sound hollow when tapped.

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