I cook almost every night. I cook so often that my husband and kids are beginning to resent it. Every night, mom? Every night we have to put our tushy fully on the chair and use a fork and wipe with a napkin and eat a vegetable? Really?!
But didn't we do this every night while we were growing up? Why does it seem like such a chore with these guys?
Anyway, recently even I was bored with cooking the same sorta stuff every night. But restaurants and babysitters are expensive and often not even worth it so we decided to create a restaurant experience at home. Last year, my friend Beverly gave me Ottolenghi's NOPI cookbook, which is all recipes that are more complicated than his usual ones. As he says in the intro
"The recipes here were created from a different frame of mind; that is, in an environment where a team of professional cooks labors for a few hours in preparation for a short pinnacle. It is the complete opposite of the way we cook and eat at home."
It's not the cookbook you turn to on a Wednesday night at 6 but rather a project that consumes the whole weekend, in a good way.
When Bev gave me the book she said that I had to cook at least one thing from the book in return. So we invited her, Adrian and Remi to our house and with two days advance notice I started planning, prepping and cooking a Nopi meal.
After weeks of spaghetti with butter, this was a hell of a lot of work. I couldn't believe how much time and energy went into just prepping the watercress puree that was to be hidden in the risotto. But not having done this kind of cooking for some time, I also loved every minute of it. 20 hours of work later we had an exquisite meal, the kind of meal you can't easily forget all while our kids watched a movie on the laptop in another room and music was playing in our darkening apartment. Not only was it a fun and delicious night, it's a good way for me to broaden my repertoire. I am taking reservations for Chez Shana.
Now my bragging rights (which really I owe to Ottolenghi's genius):
I used a side dish as a starter: Whole roasted celery root- that ugly knobby brown sphere that you usually avoid at the farmer's market but tastes really good with lots of cream and butter. This time I roasted the whole thing-skin and all-with a little olive oil and salt for about 3 hours. Then I peeled some of the skin off and cut it up and served it with lemon and a yogurt dip. It's not for everyone and it's not attractive but this group ate it up.
Then we had a pepper-crusted beef tenderloin (which marinated in hand crushed black pepper and fresh herbs for 24 hours) and was topped by a very thinly sliced (mandolin in use) fennel salad with pecorino and truffle. I served it alongside the pearl barley risotto (mixed with a smooth green watercress puree) and topped with a thinly shaved (again) asparagus and pecorino salad.