Last night we had some family over to celebrate my sister in law's birthday. We are not a family that exchanges gifts, but somehow the simple act of cooking each other dinner in honor of the day you were born means so much more than a trinket or token ever could.
As each year passes I find myself becoming less and less fussy. Tablecloths feel too stuffy nowadays so I stopped worrying about my table getting scratched and just use a charger under the dinner plate. A few thrifted French mustard crocks and an old Ball jar made perfect vessels for the Valentine's flowers my husband gave me. I've also found that mix match dishes from Target or the thrift store are much more fun than fancy china anyway.
The same thought process now applies to the meal I am making. I no longer want to stand in the kitchen sauteing, frying or doing any major cooking whatsoever. Give me a cohesive menu with simple, hearty fare. I can't imagine many of you would disagree. Since we were expecting a few more inches of snow yesterday, Ina Garten's Weeknight Bolognese seemed like the perfect entree. I have spent hours making other bolognese recipes and let me tell you, this one is just as good as any other. Possibly better. Plus, all I had to do once everyone was here was boil the pasta. This recipe is in Ina's How Easy Is That? book and all I can say is, "It was damn easy and super delicious. Now, will you and Jeffrey adopt me please????"
While I will always have undying love for Ina, there's another player in the forefront of my kitchen idolatry. I don't know if any of you have noticed, but Bon Appetit magazine is just rocking the world lately. They make Food & Wine seem old, antiquated and full of complex recipes I would never try. I find myself tearing page after page out of every issue. I stick them on the side of my fridge like a sports line up ~ each one eagerly waiting their turn to play in the kitchen. When they published their Roasted Pepper Panzanella salad in the September issue I was dumbfounded. They took my favorite summer salad and made a winter version?!?!
Since I like change and am always switching up the way I go about things, I wasn't feeling birthday cake. Or pie. Or even ice cream cake. (Probably because this winter has felt like we live in Antarctica). I turned to my trusty recipe line up and found the quarterback of simple but satisfying desserts. From Bon Appetit, of course. Dark Chocolate Pudding With Pretzels. And whipped cream. I totally cheated on preparing this dessert, but that in itself is a totally different post because it will lead us down a road of different conversation. In the meanwhile, you can find their recipe in the January 2014 issue of the magazine.
Wrapping up such a great meal with salt and chocolate?
Now excuse me while I pat myself on the back a little.... just kidding. Maybe not.