|Cover of The Key to Chinese Cooking|
All of which, since my mind is kind of like an attic with heaps of ideas piled in every corner, reminds me of my father's method for picking restaurants.
I am a native New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan. At one point, in my late teens, I traveled with my parents to London and Paris. This was in the 1960's, when finding imported items back in the states was rare, and long before the bottled water craze. Back when coffee at home was pretty much always brown and watery-weak.
Somehow we managed to enjoy delicious meals in London, which at the time had a reputation -- perhaps undeserved -- for dull food. My father had a number of friends and acquaintances there, so perhaps he gathered some underground intelligence. But at least one of the ways he picked restaurants was quite simple: was the place half-empty, or was there a line of patrons waiting to get in.
We waited for tables, but we always ate great food.
I discovered radicchio, a lettuce-like red cabbage relative, some time after moving to the Boston area in 1978. I had acquired the truly excellent, The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo, and was eager to try her recipe for stir-fried red cabbage.
Red cabbage heads are large, and, loathe to waste so much cabbage on a meal meant to serve two, I hadn't yet attempted the recipe when I discovered what I firmly believed to be a small head of red cabbage. Delighted, I brought it home and started stir-frying.
The directions read, "..when the cabbage turns from purple to deep red ..." Mine wasn't turning deep red -- more like a darkish burgundy. Mentally shrugging my shoulders, I ignored the color difference and finished making the dish. Very tasty.
I did eventually discover my mistake, and decided to search for a recipe for radicchio. I searched through the Chinese cookbook (no luck) and went on to Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cooking,where she recommended pretending the vegetable was an endive.
If Marcella could pretend that radicchio was endive, I could pretend it was red cabbage. And I highly recommend both cookbooks. My aliens are vegetarians, so they'd doubtless enjoy the stir-fried radicchio as much as I do.
What are your favorite recipes? Favorite cookbooks? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
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