For years, I’ve served dishes that were spontaneously created from my refrigerator or made with food—sometimes slightly dried or in need of trimming—that otherwise might get thrown away. My kids ate countless minestrones, chilies and even tossed salads that were never the same from one version to the next. The fact is, I disdain wasting food, plus I think those bits can add style, texture, color and taste.
My first quiche was a voluptuous open-faced tart with smoky lardons, Gruyère and golden strands of sautéed onion baked in custard. It was called a Lorraine, and I was seduced. Later, I learned it was a misnomer according to the French society that defined quiches, saying that only bacon should be in the seasoned custard. With cheese added, it becomes a Vosgienne (referring to the Vosges region of France); sautéed onions in the mix make it Alsaçienne. But Lorraine became the familiar name for many of these savory tarts.
After my family’s annual Easter egg hunt, mom often deviled those colorful little ovals that had been hidden in our backyard. She’d peel and cut them in half, mash the yolks with mayonnaise and minced celery, and spoon the mixture back into the whites. While fairly pedestrian, they were a beloved fixture at our family picnics and barbecues, usually sprinkled with paprika to garnish.
Macaroni and cheese is as American as hot dogs, burgers and apple pie. You would be hard-pressed to find a citizen in any part of the country that has not spooned up the creamy cheesy dish at least once, with most developing a fondness or downright addiction for the rich dish in early childhood. For many parents, the pasta and cheese dish was the original easy-to-make, nutritious fast food that the whole family could enjoy in just a matter of minutes.
Back in the day, the best way to find great restaurants was to look for the parking lots with the most cars. It’s still a good idea to keep your eyes peeled on parking lots, but these days smart shoppers look for parked food trucks with the longest lines for a taste of the new and unusual.
Top chefs sometimes man the busiest food vending vehicles selling creative dishes at discounted prices. Make no mistake, those with grilled cheese, which can be replicated at home, are not serving your mother’s version.
So, your foodie friends are forming a monthly dinner club to share meals and newfound recipes. The fun couple brings the dessert. The couple paying off that La Cornue rotisserie gets the main dish. The guy with the wine frig chooses the wine. That means you bring the… oh, come on… salad.