In the middle of a muddle…

  Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink

I've never considered myself a hoarder…in fact, just the opposite, until Monday, that is. That's when I decided it was time to go through a pantry drawer that is chock-full of recipes I've torn out of newspapers and magazines over the past many years. My initial inclination was just to toss them all into the recycling bin, but when I mentioned that to Jim in passing, he asked if I was sure. Some of you may know that, while Jim is great at after-dinner clean-up, he has only rarely prepared one of the zillion or so meals we have had together. In fact, that is the subject of a long-running math quiz around our dinner table: we've been married for well over 40 years, and let's assume three meals a day (the old adage "for better, for worse, but not for lunch," does not apply in this household)…times 365! With adjustments for an occasional evening out and vacations, we've never figured out the answer.

I don't know why I let that comment of his sow the seeds of doubt in my mind— but I did, and the result is that this has grown to become a much more time-consuming task than I envisioned. Hmmm, a recipe for slow-braised duck from Daniel Boulud sounds fabulous, but there are 15 recipes for duck in the stack, and how many times have I roasted a duck? Perhaps 5. So, how to decide what to keep and what to pitch?  A recipe for "Paula's Bagels" is definitely headed out the door.

I have almost finished going through the stack, winnowing them down, and in the process found some treasures. A forgotten Laurie Colwin file buried deep in the drawer brought back pleasant memories of her funny and spot-on cooking essays from early issues of Gourmet Magazine.

Another find, this one closer to home, is an Autumn 2002 "Jam Sessions"  newsletter from Companion Bakeshop that I picked up at their Clayton location, long before our own "late and dearly missed" Companion Bakeshop on Maryland came and went. It's for a flatbread that is one of those really easy recipes written in paragraph form. I've copied it below for you to try, and now, I'm going back to sorting through the rest of these recipes.

Tuscan Flatbread Pizzas or Piadini from Companion Bakeshop. Make a simple dough with 00 durum flour, or all purpose flour (2 cups). Use a pinch of sea salt, and half a teaspoon of baking powder, if you want (I did). Add olive oil to the dough, maybe 1/3 cup, and then mix or process with water (no amount was given) until the right consistency. Let it rest for 15 minutes or so.

Roll out eight pieces and then layer each with a different combination of ingredients (and here it gets a little highfalutin): broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic, fresh chanterelles cooked lightly in "French" butter, slices of potatoes cooked in duck fat (you know, the stuff you have in the fridge), shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano…or as we have done, tomato sauce, a little fresh spinach, and slices of mozzarella. Cook in a 500 (in our case, 450) degree oven for just a few minutes. When you remove the flatbread from the oven drizzle with a little olive oil.




Central West End Association House Tour features Lindell Mansions

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Central West End Association House Tour
For the first time in 20 years, the graceful mansions of Lindell Boulevard will be on tour as a benefit for The Central West End Association!

PREVIEW PARTY Friday May 13, 6-10 p.m.

There will be a special "sneak peek" of two of the biggest houses, along with a reception in the Grand Hall of the Missouri Historical Society with dinner, drinks and entertainment. $95 per person.

HOUSE TOUR Saturday May 14, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The tour features at least six houses and gardens. It's a self-guided tour and shuttle buses will be available. Parking is available on Lindell, at the History Museum, and at Washington University. For tickets visit or call 314.367.2220. Tickets $25; $22 advance.

  Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Central West End Association House Tour

The Central West End Association also needs volunteers to man the houses on Friday evening from 7-10 p.m. and Saturday from 9 to 1 and 1 to 5. Volunteers receive a free ticket to the House Tour. To volunteer, call Mary Lee Pankoff at the CWEA office: (314) 367-2220.