When I was younger and not so wise, I was friends with a couple. Let’s call them Henry and Sarah. They were funny and smart, interesting, going places. We all hit the road one weekend to celebrate another friend’s birthday in Houston. After a lavish meal where the wine poured freely, I relaxed, thinking about the next full day I’d enjoy in the big city before heading back to Beaumont and the daily grind. “Where should we go for brunch tomorrow?” I wondered allowed. Henry looked at me in disdain, his usual engaging expression clouding over with something that looked a little bit like disgust. He brushed a crumb off the sleeve of his sleek blazer. “Brunch? We just ate. My life doesn’t revolve around food,” he said, secure and certain in his slim righteousness. Well, as you can imagine, that was pretty much it for Henry and Sarah. “What does it revolve around?” I wondered. What other focus is there that encompasses everything that makes us human–the emotional, the spiritual, the political, the practical, the aesthetic, the intellectual experience? I never made that mistake again.
My friend Rachel Lomas knows from food. On the first day of school two years ago, another friend called across the schoolyard, “You need to meet my friend Rachel. She loves food too!” It didn’t hurt that she and her husband Andy are also funny, smart, interesting, going places. Last year, I invited Rachel along on a weekend trip that included food writers, chefs, farmers, growers and photographers. There was lots of impressive food coming to the table that weekend, but we all elbowed each other out of the way to get to Rachel’s dishes–a pork and green chile stew, crab dip with creme fraiche, and a radish salad that was unlike anything we’d ever tasted. Rachel is talented in an intuitive way. Her food tastes vibrant and alive, surprising and exciting. Best of all, she loves to share recipes, and they always come out as good as you remember. And on top of that, she’s the kind of friend you can call to come on a picnic at the last minute. She’ll show up in high heels, bringing a bottle of pink champagne and her beautiful family, she’ll laugh at your stories, and she’ll wonder what we should eat the next time we get together.
Almond-Fried Chicken Wings or Legs
2 pounds chicken wings or legs
1 c. flour (substitute Pamela’s gluten free baking mix if desired, and omit almonds)
1/4 c. ground almonds
salt & pepper
grapeseed oil for frying
Mix together flour, almonds, salt and pepper. Dredge chicken pieces in mixture and fry in large skillet with high sides. Fry chicken pieces over medium-high heat until cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Potato Salad with Salsa Verde
2 pounds new potatoes
1/4 c. mint leaves
1/4 c. basil leaves
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4 c. chives
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbs. capers
1 anchovy, rinsed and drained
1/4 c. olive oil
salt & pepper
1/3 c. grated ricotta salata or crumbled feta cheese
Cut potatoes into quarters and boil until just cooked. Meanwhile, place herbs, lemon juice, capers, olive oil and anchovy in blender or food processor and blend until almost smooth. When potatoes are cooked, drain and while still hot, pour dressing over and stir to combine. Allow to come to room temperature and top with ricotta salata or eta and serve at once.
Radish Salad with Chile-Piave Cinaigrette
This salad was so amazing, it inspired our friend Penny De Los Santos to invite Rachel into her studio kitchen for a photo shoot for Design Sponge. Find the recipe here. And if you don’t already, you should follow Penny’s blog religiously. Her life is full of amazing experiences and her talent knows no bounds. You’re already familiar with her work in Saveur, National Geographic, Gourmet and elsewhere.