A mad scientist’s power comes from making something wonderful and brand new—like a singular dish that was just a grocery list of disparate ingredients, moments or hours before. The golden, shimmering alchemy of cooking is one of the ways I fill my life with warmth and light. I cook home food; no molecular gastronomics, no loopy swirls on the plate. It is a remarkable thing to be confident in providing for yourself—not just surviving, but creating, often out of very little, a feast, nourishing and magnificent in its rustic simplicity.
SOUTHERN TOMATO AND MAYO
SANDWICH WITH ITALIAN HERBS
Summer means tomatoes—in every imaginable way. One of the most soul-satisfying yet simple ways to enjoy the season’s star player is to make them the star of a sandwich, so just do it!
1 large local tomato, chopped
2 tbsps Duke’s mayo
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped finely
1 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
1 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 large slices bakery bread (Sourdough is my favorite, but pumpernickel or rye would also be good; just get something fresh and strong enough to hold all the tomatoey bliss.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Season the chopped tomato with salt, add the lemon juice, mash with fork or potato masher, and set aside.
Turn on the broiler and rub both sides of each slice with the garlic clove and pop into the oven for about 2 minutes on each side, enough for a nice golden toast. Keep your eye on it! When the toast is toasty, pull it out, plate the slices, and slather both sides with some Duke’s. Toss the chopped tomatoes with basil and parsley and season with fresh cracked pepper. Spread the mixture on the bread like a fresh tomato jam, close that bitch or eat it open-faced! Glorious Southern summer treat.
PATATAS BRAVAS WITH SPANISH PAPRIKA
My take on the traditional Spanish dish is simple and streamlined. It’s basically french fries and mayo, the creamy aioli here spiked with smoky paprika, the bright acid of tomato and a hit of lemon. It’s crazy good, and always a crowd-pleaser.
Appetizer or serves 4
3 lbs russet potatoes, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large tomato, halved, seeded and roasted until soft
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
6 oz Duke’s mayo
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, peeled and diced
2 tsps lemon juice
1 tsp hot sauce (or more to taste)
1 heaping tbsp smoked Spanish paprika
Salt and pepper
4 c canola or vegetable oil
2 tbsps flat-leaf parsley, chopped roughly
Preheat the oven to 385 degrees, and pop in the tomato on a piece of tinfoil. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium, and cook the onion and garlic until soft. Add the paprika and cook for 30 more seconds. Take off the heat and set aside to cool. Remove the tomato and let that cool, too.
Heat the cooking oil in a heavy bottomed skillet or dutch oven until very hot and shimmering. Add the potatoes carefully, frying them in batches so the pot doesn’t become overcrowded (because that will cause the temperature to drop and/or the potatoes to cook unevenly). When all the potatoes are golden brown, remove to a plate lined with towels to drain the excess oil, then place them on a preheated baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes for extra crispy texture!
While the potatoes are crisping in the oven, combine the tomato, mayo, onion, garlic, hot sauce, and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set in the fridge to cool further. The longer it sits the better the flavor will be, so you could do this process beforehand, and then wait to crisp the potatoes until ready to serve. Either way, it’s unbelievable: Spanish tapas in your very own home!
Serve the potatoes warm and crispy, and tossed in parsley, alongside the paprika-spiked aioli.
GRILLED CORN SALAD WITH
CHIPOTLES IN ADOBO
This recipe, created by chef Grace Parisi, is an enduringly popular item on her menu, and you’re about to find out why. Serve as an incredibly flavorful side or salad with pretty simple prep. It’s easy to make on the move, and keeps and travels well. You can roast the corn, too, if you don’t have access to a grill or grill pan. It’s rich and satisfying but light enough for a steamy Indian summer day.
Serves 5 people
4-5 ears corn, shucked
Half a medium vidalia onion, thickly sliced
2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped finely
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 tbsps lime juice
4 oz sour cream
Salt and pepper
In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, lime juice, chopped chiles, and sliced scallions and set aside. If you have a grill or grill pan, set over medium-high heat. If not, you can set the corn under the broiler while you saute the onions. It’s not ideal, but it still works great. Either way, brush the vegetables with olive oil, and cook until charred and blistered in spots but still crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. If you’re using a broiler, keep a close eye on it.
Let cool, then slice the kernels off the cob, and roughly chop the onion. Fold the corn and onion into the sour cream and chipotle mixture, season with a little salt and pepper. Serve immediately!