Mark, Kerri, and Two Days of Peak Summer Cooking
A kitchen adventure play-by-play, plus Mark's new recipe
Kerri: The bucket of pig slop was so fresh I didn't even know it was in the back seat when Mark picked me up at the train station. “If the compost is that good,” I thought, watching Mark sling a colorful stew of corn husks, tomato cores, and cucumber peels over the fence for the clamoring critters, “our food is going to be amazing.”
It's always inspiring to cook with Mark. And I was extra excited to be visiting Glynwood during the summer. After 10 days in Manhattan working on the photo shoot for his next book and enjoying a steady diet of restaurant food, it was past time to get my hands on some just-picked produce. The only downside was that Kathleen was out of town, so I missed her this visit.
Mark: In fifty years of cooking with other people, there are few I’ve enjoyed cooking with as much (or as regularly) as Kerri, and none who are more fun, or who work harder. We have somewhat opposing styles (I’m very right-brained and she left), and we complement each other well. But also—we both like high flavor, doing things we haven’t done before, playing around.
What follows is a play-by-play of our 48 hours together, including a recipe for Spiced Corn and Salt Cod (or Other Fish) and walk-throughs of everything we ate. For even more peak summertime fare, check out The Bittman Project Recipe Index (available to paid subscribers; if that’s not you, we’d love it if you’d join us).
Socca ’n Cider
M: Apparently it's a rule that Kerri and I always start with some kind of socca-ish flatbread. (Kate throws a log on our fire with this pizza-like recipe from last week.) On Kerri's first night we had cider saint Ryan Burk over for a casual dinner and wanted something to nibble with my newest yogurt experiment, Cashew Labneh. (More on that when it's perfected, though we all agreed it's pretty darn good as is.) We mostly followed this leavened recipe from Bittman Bread, using chickpea flour with the usual whole wheat starter and sizzling big pieces of young onion in the oil as it heated. Unleavened skillet pancakes made with rice, wheat, corn, buckwheat, or of course chickpea flours are just as good, and in some cases even better due to their less bready texture. Here's a master recipe.
K: The cider Ryan brought finally turned me into an enthusiast. It was super food friendly, which has always been my challenge with the apple-versus-grape bottle match. Thank you for the epiphany, Ryan!
Corn ‘n Cod
M: In my year-round quest for seasonal vegetable-driven mains, I turned to corn and cod for dinner, dousing the whole thing with fresh rosemary, warm spices, and a couple whole dried chiles.
The backstory: Mike Diago was supposed to join us, but got sick. (He lives with bioterrorists, otherwise known as young children.) But he and I had both discovered salt cod in our freezer and, by utter coincidence, had both defrosted them. So we didn’t have Mike (or his salt cod), but I rehydrated mine — I explain how to desalinate it in the recipe below, which is an easy but plan-in-advance endeavor — and figured the combo with corn would be a winner. (You could use fresh cod in this dish, or even salmon, lump crab meat, or other sturdy white fish.) The idea is to cook different-size pieces in just enough oil to dry the flesh out in spots (ironic, I know) and sort of turn it into bacon. And figure two fresh ears of corn per person—it's that good right now, you're going to want more than you think.
The Beauty of Bolted Herbs
K: With Mark locked into his vision for the main dish, I turned to how it might be garnished. Tons of fresh herbs in the dooryard garden, but once again I poked around for something bolted (an obsession I first wrote about in Sex and the Seedy for Mark's NY Times blog some 14 summers ago.) The cilantro out back was at my dream stage: wispy leaves, flowers of all sizes, and the teeniest of green seeds forming.
Ready for the Table
M: Kerri is amazing with this little herb flower thing, and the cilantro was perfect. The dish was wonderful with cider (and, it should be added, rosé).
Salad and Dessert, This Summer’s Hottest Couple
K: Neither of us felt like we'd need or want dessert. Instead, the salad could do