Saturday, April 23, 2011

reviving the classics

There are certain things we hold in higher esteem purely because we consider them to be "classic."  What does that mean, though?  How does, say, a recipe come to hold that special place in our hearts?  Is it a tradition behind the recipe?  Is it the author of the recipe?  Is it the publisher of the cookbook?  Also, what makes a cocktail a classic?  Philadelphia has seen a huge trend in "Old-School" bartending in recent years - everyone wants the "classic" cocktails.  Maybe it lends a certain sophistication?  But how did we decide which combinations of spirits were worthy of that title?  Is there something special about a gimlet or a martini or a manhattan that makes them stand out against a vanilla vodka & ginger ale?

The past two dinners have fit a classic-with-a-twist mold:

Everything about that picture makes me smile a big, Mediterranean smile - grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, and a bowlful of basil... you know it has to be good.  Last night, I made Mediterranean Pasta with Artichokes, Olives, and Tomatoes, from the April/May 2007 Body+Soul magazine, which should give you a hint as to why I consider this a classic.

Well, you know, besides the hint of how incredibly mouth-watering that looks.  This recipe comes to us courtesy of my dear Martha Stewart (I cannot believe she is nearly 70 years old - she looks terrific).  Martha is kind of like Betty Crocker, Donna Reed, and a little Dale Carnegie all rolled into one very successful woman.  She has built an empire around the many things she is good at and has earned the respect of many, so I consider things I learn from her to be classic.  Of course, the twist here is that it's hard for someone to be the inventor of "classic" things (it seems) when the person is still living. 

Tonight's dinner came to us originally from a classic red-and-white-checkered-tablecloth-covered Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, and by cookbook, I mean a three-ring binder with dividers for the different kinds of pilafs and puddings and pasta salads.  I really don't know how you expect to get much more Old School than that.  Anyway, I updated the culturally insensitive recipe for Spicy Black Beans and Rice and made Spicy Black Bean Burritos.  After sauteing my black beans and "mexican-style" tomatoes (AKA diced tomatoes with zesty jalapenos) for about 10 minutes, I added in the rice upon which I was supposed to serve this culinary treasure, along with a healthy dose of unspecified salt.  After allowing as much of the liquid to boil off as I could without testing the non-stick nature of my pan, I plopped the mixture onto a couple of whole wheat tortillas and handed Mister the hot sauce.

It's an easy "classic" and tastes so good that I had to force myself to stop after two so Mister and I can enjoy snacks with our movie tonight.  I did customize one last classic - the margarita.  I thought it would be Mexican fun to have a margarita with dinner, so I mixed together a bit of Skinnygirl Margarita with a Berry Lemonade Honest Kids juice drink - classic and classy.

It's pretty, though - pale pink with a bit of mist around the glass and a clear, small straw to help me be moderate...

Speaking of pink (the color of every Easter dress I wore for the first 15 years of my life), have a beautiful and blessed holiday tomorrow!

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