Friday, July 20, 2007

Most-emailed merguez

One of the fictitious books mentioned in the Monty Python "Bookshop" sketch* is 101 Ways to Start a Fight. Mark Bittman's most-emailed article, "Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less," should be the exact opposite, a way for you and your household to minimize time discussing what to have for dinner, as well as time preparing dinner, the two biggest sources of conflict among First World residents who do not live alone.

The problem with Bittman's 101 is that so many of them amount to the same thing: buy an expensive type of meat or fish, cook it in a 'simple' manner, and serve. Steak, lamb chops, and salmon are all indeed quick to prepare, but are, at least in NYC, no cheaper than eating in a restaurant. And by 'restaurant' I mean any place you can sit in where food is prepared for you and you do not have to do the dishes, not necessarily a place with a Michelin star. Once you're spending above $10 a person, not to mention waiting on line at a supermarket, you might as well order in.

Then there's the slight problem of many of the more creative dishes sounding inedible. "Grill or sauté Italian sausage and serve over store-bought hummus, with lemon wedges." I can imagine going to a talk and afterwards at the reception eating an Italian sausage despite the fact that it had encountered hummus, or vice versa. I cannot imagine doing this intentionally. Bittman must really have it in for Italian sausage because his other worst suggestion is, "Cut up Italian sausage into chunks and brown in a little olive oil until just about done. Dump in a lot of seedless grapes and, if you like, a little slivered garlic and chopped rosemary. Cook, stirring, until the grapes are hot. Serve with bread." Or better yet, end the recipe at the word "dump."

But still, I like the idea. "Not-quite merguez" sounds not quite awful, and it never hurts to be reminded, when seeking variety, that on pasta you can either cook the tomatoes or just cut them up raw. More like 10 simple meals, but it's something.

*I saw a 'tween' girl on the subway today, with her parents, wearing a shirt that said, "Satan is a dork." Never do I feel so Satanic as when I blog about Monty Python.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My personal favorite is number 94.

Ketchup-braised tofu: Dredge large tofu cubes in flour. Brown in oil; remove from skillet and wipe skillet clean. Add a little more oil, then a tablespoon minced garlic; 30 seconds later, add one and a half cups ketchup and the tofu. Cook until sauce bubbles and tofu is hot.