The Ingredients

It's About Food

David Schiller

David Schiller
January 14
Author of upcoming book The Ingredients, founder Sharing the Table food charity, cook, food-lover, Zen enthusiast and author of The Little Zen Companion.


APRIL 30, 2012 7:08AM

Sharing the Table XI

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Sharing the Table XIIn the midst of a demanding stretch at work, when it was impossible to think about anything Ingredients, we hosted our latest Sharing the Table. It was good to get back into thinking about food as something other than what’s easy and quick for dinner tonight.

The whole world changed since our bistro-y meal in March—spring! It wasn’t yet asparagus and peas spring, or first lettuce in the garden spring. But it did inspire thoughts of lamb which, in a winding road way, led to a recipe by the mother of a cook who works with Daniel Boulud. We liked it for the same reason chef Boulud chose to write about it—it was a curry, and unexpected. It led to other Indian-ish ideas, and this became our menu:

Toasted Naan with Nigella Seed and Cumin • Spicy Chickpea Poppers • Tears of the Prophet Cocktail

Tandoori Chicken Wings with Pickled Cauliflower • Cucumber Mint Riata • Cilantro Chutney

Lamb and Spinach Curry • Basmati Rice

Cardamom Saffron Panna Cotta with Grilled Pineapple

Look how green the curry is!

Lamb and Spinach Curry

This may have been our eleventh meal, but it had a significant first: first epic failure of a dish. We’ve had disappointments before, dishes that didn’t taste as good or weren’t as well-cooked as they might have been. This was different. Our drink bite was intended to be aloo tikka, Indian potato fritters, but while cooking them a half hour before guests were expected to arrive, I watched in dismay as the little cakes simply dissolved in the hot pan. There was nothing in the recipe to bind the potato. They crumbled, stuck to the bottom, were impossible to turn…So, we improvised with wedges of warm, buttered naan, something I’d picked up at Kalustyan’s and planned to serve with the lamb.

In fact the whole meal had an ill-fated feeling to it. The fritters failed. The lamb seemed overly spicy when I tasted it earlier in the afternoon. (This was mitigated by the creamed spinach and yogurt, added just before serving—it was a great dish.) The rice started to break apart during its preliminary rinse—literally, the grains were shattering into rice bits. And as late as 7:00 the panna cotta still hadn’t set, so we were thinking we could pretend it was a pudding. Somehow it held together just enough, though it did have the look of a floppy breast implant when turned out over the pineapple:

Cardamom and saffron panna cotta

And yet, and yet….All was well, the company was terrific, and lessons were learned: 1. have backup; 2. avoid random recipes off the internet, or, if unavoidable, vet with common sense; 3. try challenging recipes or unfamiliar techniques at least once before winging it for company; 4. see #1.

Our charity was Montclair’s Human Needs Food Pantry. And one of these days, we will have a minute to experiment with the camera and its settings, and will work on getting better photos:

Theo in the kitchen, eating leftover tandoori wings Stephanie and John Rich, Asa, and Rachel Rachel, Noah, and Enid Rachel and Jamil Our eleventh Sharing the Table John Jenny and Rich Enid

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