During a recent stop at the bookstore on my street, Idle Time Books (which, btw, had a cameo in A Few Good Men), I was thumbing through cookbook author Deborah Madison’s latest book, What We Eat When We Eat Alone, which she co-wrote with her artist-partner Patrick McFarlin. WWEWWEA (liberally abbreviating the long title here…) is a funny and shockingly intimate account of the ways in which, in the absence of others, food becomes our animated companion. It’s a book that draws you in, and before I knew it, I had plopped down on the floor to dig in, and was reading about pouring sardine juice onto cottage cheese and eating it on one foot at the open refrigerator. I laughed out loud as I thought about similar moments I’ve had, grabbing a bite standing up while I peer into the fridge for my next little nibble.
In the spirit of celebrating this wonderful little book, I’ll tell you about one thing I invariably eat lots of when it’s just me in the house: crostini.
Here’s how I do it: I buy a baguette about once a week. I always rip off a piece on the way home, while it’s still super-fresh, but when I get home, I cut the baguette on a sharp bias into 1 or 1.5-inch slices. I put the slices into a ziplock bag. That way, they stay soft and don’t get stale immediately. Granted, they’re no good this way unless toasted, but I always toast the slices for crostini, so no matter.
Here’s just a selection of the crostini I’ve had over the past month:
- Fresh ricotta, thinly-sliced radish, fleur de sel
- Fresh ricotta, late-summer fava beans, fleur de sel, a couple drops of fresh lemon juice
- Same ingredients, but favas mashed into ricotta for smoother texture
- Goat cheese, tomato confit (cherry tomatoes slow-roasted with olive oil and salt for 4 hours
- Tomme de Raclette (an earthy cheese wrapped in herbs and lots of paprika) and homemade apricot jam
- Herbed quark (tangy, reminiscent of goat cheese), smoked salmon, capers, red onion
- Warmed goat cheese-stuffed figs with rosemary, a hint of fleur de sel
Here’s another little confession: sometimes, when I’m alone in the house, I get really particular about the look of the crostini, arranging my radishes just so or ensuring the favas cover every inch of ricotta. There’s something so pleasurable about eating beautiful food. Then again, sometimes I hold a fava in one hand and a half-slice of baguette shmeared with as much ricotta as the knife could grab, then pop both in to my mouth at once. That’s a whole different kind of beautiful, an equally tasty one.