Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Something New for When They Ask You to Bring an Appetizer

What’s cooking? Marinated Zucchini

A layout of noshes for a luncheon with friends. The zucchini is the far right dish. The center dish is a fava bean pesto, but that recipe is for another time.
For the longest time, I’ve had a little tidbit of fun to share. But I never could figure out a way to incorporate it thematically into a post. Until now.

Soooo... I was listening to a Serious Eats podcast, in which the host interviewed Chef Missy Robbins. After running the kitchens at some of the country’s better Italian restaurants (Spiaggia in Chicago, A Voce in NYC), Ms. Robbins has opened her own eatery, in a renovated garage in Brooklyn of all places. It’s called Lilia. And right off the bat, she earned herself THREE stars from New York Times critic Pete Wells.

I’m a big fan of Wells’s writing, so I read the review, and amazingly enough, it opened with a reference to one of my new faves in internet lingo:

“My one-sentence review of Lilia for the too-long-didn’t-read crowd: Missy Robbins is cooking pasta again.”

In the world of web slang and acronyms, you likely already know LOL and IMHO and WTF and OMG. But how about tl;dr? Always written in lower case – and the only one I’m aware of that uses specific punctuation – it refers to a post/article/rant/review that’s a little too chock full for its own good, and it means “too long; didn’t read.” It apparently began as a form of protest – an editorial notation to indicate that a passage exceeded the reader’s attention span. Most recently, it can also be used by a writer to point out a précis of a longer piece, as Pete Wells did with his review of Lilia. As a writer who often finds herself penning more than is really necessary, I just think it’s fun, and hope none of you see my posts as tl;dr.

And now, in the way that internet denizens inevitably stretch any good idea into hyperbole, there’s even a Facebook page for tl;dr wikipedia, and a Twitter page for the same thing, where writers use humor to present Wiki-like entries stripped to the bare essentials. As in these examples:

Exclamation point (!): An exclamation point is a punctuation mark used to indicate that the writer of a sentence is a 12-year-old girl.

Nintendo: According to your mother, a Nintendo is anything with buttons on it.

Cracker Barrel: Cracker Barrel is a chain of restaurants catering to travelers with the insanely specific need for both pancakes and a wooden sign that says “Never Enough Thyme.”

Reply all: Reply all is an email function that streamlines the process of getting fired.

At the end of this journey into another way to waste time online, the Kitchen Goddess was naturally intrigued with the thought of a visit to Lilia. It took a month to secure a reservation before 9:45pm, but that only reinforced my desire.

I was not disappointed. Amazing pasta, inspired desserts, delightfully funky if noisy environment, and the trip to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood was an adventure in itself. Then the very first dish we tried – raw, lightly crunchy zucchini marinating in olive oil with capers and herbs – piqued my tastebuds with the excitement you get from a successful movie trailer. I bogarted the last few pieces in the bowl, then begged our server to tell me what was in it. When the list of ingredients contained fennel pollen, I knew I had to try it on my own.
Kitchen Goddess note on fennel pollen: The KG has mentioned fennel pollen before on this blog, and yet I sense that many of you still haven’t tried it. What are you waiting for?

Fennel pollen has been gaining popularity in the U.S. since Mario Batali began to cook with it in the 1990s. In Italian cuisine, it’s often added – in lieu of saffron – to pastas, pestos, and risotto. Although the primary flavor of the fennel bulb is licorice, the pollen carries a much more nuanced mix of flavors, conveying a sweet mustiness that reminds me of curry. In an article for Saveur magazine, the award-winning food writer Peggy Knickerbocker wrote, “If angels sprinkled a spice from their wings, this would be it.”

The aroma alone will transport you to the stalls of some Middle Eastern spice bazaar. I had it on a crusted pork roast and practically keeled over. I toss some in chicken soup, in lentil soup, and sprinkle it on roast chicken.  A whiff will give you ideas of what to do. It’s the ultimate secret ingredient, and it’s now available in specialty spice stores, some high-end groceries, or online.

The KG orders hers online, from My Spice Sage for $19.75/ounce (less if you order more) with free shipping, or through amazon.com for slightly more. Try some – for the timid, try sharing an order with a friend. You won’t be sorry, and then you can make this dish...

Marinated Zucchini 

Inspired by Missy Robbins at Lilia, in Brooklyn, New York.

Serves 6-8.

16-20 ounces (1-1¼ pounds) zucchini or any summer squash, including pattypan
½-inch wide strips of zest from one lemon (use a vegetable peeler)
juice of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon brine from caper jar
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon fennel pollen
½ teaspoon dried dill or 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Choose squash that are small and firm, as the skin will be thinner and the seeds smaller and tenderer.
Slice the zucchini (and any other long squash) on an angle into pieces about ½ inch thick. If you have pattypan squash, slice it into wedges about ½ inch thick at the outside. Put the squash into a medium mixing bowl or a 6-7-cup plastic container with a lid.

In a jar or separate small bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the olive oil. Shake or stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Whisk in the olive oil and pour the mixture over the squash. Cover the bowl tightly with cellophane wrap or plastic lid and refrigerate 4-5 hours before serving. Serve in a decorative bowl with toothpicks or cocktail forks.

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