A Date to Remember

Of all my possessions, my standalone box freezer prompts the most curiosity from guests because its glaring attributes—unattractiveness and girth—defy New York apartment-dwelling and decorating logic. A suburban luxury that aids and abets my cooking habits, it’s roomy enough to store nonessentials like two homemade batches of red-wine ice cream (one to gift and one to keep); it’s also the place I squirrel away my mail-order pecans from Georgia.

That’s quirky, to be sure, but I almost always substitute walnuts with pecans when baking. Freezing pecans maintains their freshness (the high oil content makes them susceptible to becoming rancid in heat and humidity.) And, unlike the chain grocery store pieces who’ve seen better days, these are perfect, whole, meaty specimens.

They pair perfectly with dried Medjool dates, which I’d bought, forgotten about, and needed to use up. Pecan-stuffed dates are a staple of my mom’s Christmas cookie platter, but the other day I conjured up a variation and headed to my local cheesemonger for a petite wheel of Brillat-Savarin, a pasteurized cow’s milk triple crème brie that was a popular standout at our wine-and-cheese party in May.

Back in the kitchen, I whipped up a haiku:

Sweet, crunchy, creamy:

pitted dates stuffed with pecans

and triple crème brie.

I’ve never met a brie or a camembert I didn’t like; feel free to experiment with melt-in-your-mouth varietals that are readily available near you.

These are great as a snack or alongside a green salad for lunch, a first course or light dinner. Keep dates and pecans on hand, and serve Mom’s original version to impromptu guests or my triple-crème embellishment on planned occasions and as party hors d’oeuvre.

Haiku Cooking

It recently struck me that haiku has much in common with the best improvised home cooking: the simpler and fewer the ingredients involved, the more feasible and better it is—and frequently, the most challenging to do well. (Haiku, for those unfamiliar, is Japanese poetry that comprises just three lines and 17 syllables in total, the syllabic breakdown per line being 5:7:5.)

I first heard of haiku way back in Miss Mitamura’s fourth grade class at the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo. Back then, we were charged with describing cherry blossoms, which in springtime were ubiquitous and luxuriously lined the path to our school’s entrance. I wish I could share with you what I wrote, but I do remember the assignment like it was yesterday.

At nine years old, it never occurred to me to write recipes in haiku. The extent of my cooking repertoire was baking Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip cookies, and I dutifully followed the instructions on the back of that bag of semisweet morsels.

But the other night, during the sweltering heat wave we’ve had here in New York, I threw together a simple salad with what was in the fridge, to accompany cold leftover pizza.

And I wrote a haiku about it:

Lettuce strewn with nuts,

Chunks of cherries, blue cheese, cukes;

Fruity vinaigrette.

Click here for a clever, effective method for pitting cherries.