Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Imagist Plate - Butter Lettuce Salad with Tarragon and Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

-William Carlos Williams

Not surprisingly, it hasn’t taken long to relate my love of food with one of my aforementioned “other interests,” in this case, poetry. So I am not just a neurotic, but a nerdy neurotic - a total English Lit junky. My idea of a good time in college was to drink too much at a party and return home and read some T.S. Eliot verse online and cry. What can I say? He appeals to my sometimes stark view of life and my constant struggle between optimism and pessimism. Nerd-dom confirmed.

Monday was a great day. I received an unexpected complimentary cookbook from Food and Wine  in the mail. This compilation is, as my best friend would say, “amazeballs” because it combines a handful of the top recipes from each of the 25 cookbooks voted best this year. I turned straight to the Eric Ripert section. He’s the chef and owner of Le Bernardin - one of my personal favorites. He’s talented, French, and also, real cute.

I decided to try the salad recipe detailed below and ran out to the store for its simple ingredients. Come Tuesday, while assembling this beautiful salad as a complement to my take on Rao’s Lemon Sole, my nerd days at college came rushing back. I found myself muttering William Carlos Williams' verse, but quietly, so the husband would not be alarmed. The Imagist movement in poetry has always been a favorite of mine. I love its stripped down language and use of simple, universal images to convey the essence of a concrete thing or conjure a collective emotion. It struck me that I was making a dish that captured the essence of lettuce - a composition that highlights, in a quiet way, with just a few elements, what’s wonderful and even elegant about the most unassuming veggie – a humble head of lettuce. Try it and check out its wow factor for yourself:

Butter Lettuce Salad with Tarragon and Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette
-from Eric Ripert’s Cookbook, Avec Eric
Serves 4 - 6

Total Time – 10 Minutes

  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 heads butter lettuce (also known as Boston lettuce or Bibb lettuce)
  • 1/2 cup cut fresh tarragon leaves
Method: Whisk the lemon zest and juice, lime zest and juice, honey, and mustard in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the canola oil while whisking constantly until completely emulsified.

Trim off the core from each head of lettuce and separate the leaves, discarding the tough outer leaves. Rinse the lettuce leaves in a bowl of cold water and spin dry. Place the lettuce leaves in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the tarragon leaves and gently toss the lettuce with enough vinaigrette to coat lightly.

Stack the lettuce leaves on 4 plates, starting each stack with the large outer leaves on the bottom and ending with the small inner leaves on top. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Welcome to Neurotic Kitchen

Today is the day - the inaugural post here on Neurotic Kitchen. This site combines my passion for food with my not-so-secret amusement with my own mild neuroses. It's the result of years of learning from the best cooks and hosts in my life and a tribute to the women and men in my family who delighted in sharing their love through food. For some, the kitchen is a place to work out your stresses and worries deliciously.  And if you get into it, it's the ultimate haven for expression and at its best, tranquility.

Turkey Date Meatballs Over Lentils with Yogurt Sauce  - Photo: Neurotic Kitchen

I'll be sharing my favorite recipes, adapted and borrowed, my neuroses, inherited or otherwise, as well as some helpful tricks and techniques that allow even a busy home cook with a day job to execute beautiful dishes stress free. Surely some of my other interests will pop in from time to time (travel & wine), but primarily I hope to show that with a bit of planning, cooking can be fun and pain free - a creative outlet with a very practical purpose - a way to put your love on a plate.