Grocery shopping ahead of an evening of cooking can involve a certain joie de vivre. Especially when my friend the Baron is in town.
Passing through the city every coupla months, he always seems to be en route to somewhere: to teach a class at some institution of learning; to participate in some poetry fandango, or simply to head off for a stint of peace and quiet and writing at one of the artists’ residencies where he seems to have finagled an open-door invitation.
At these times, we seldom forgo an opportunity to cook.
And so, following an afternoon sidebar to a watering hole of years past – where the braced and bearded bartender brought us up to speed on what a dollop of St. Germaine could add to our usual Radler & Titos – we headed toward the box store to lay in supplies.
Jason (aka the Baron,) unlike so many of my compatriots, remains un-intimidated when confronted by an unfamiliar ingredient. Inclined to declare “Why the hell not!” rather than sound a retreat. Close to the earth our preferred ingredient methodology and ‘ramming speed’ our battle cry, we direct our attentions to the perimeters of the modern box store.
The produce aisle, answering the call of the culinary portisculus, plays a central role to any of our kitchen throw downs.
There are mushrooms and leafy greens, radishes and a handful of tri-colored peppers – food must also be a feast for the eyes as well as a mouth party. An onion – hell, two onions (one cannot go wrong with onions)! A zucchini – our tip-o-the-hat recognition to too much starchy intake – will give its all in the spiralizer, a low-cal, al dente substitute for pasta. A couple bulbs of garlic – the late season ones with purple skins – make the cut. In a fit of uncertainty, a huge bundle of thumb-sized asparagus is added to the cart. Just in case. And lest you think we’ve grotesquely overlooked the obvious – the neighbor’s vines, back of the house, remain loaded with tomatoes.
Next, there is a heated discussion at the butcher counter. What protein?! In the end, why limit ourselves? A nice marbled sirloin, three plump sea scallops and half a pound of shrimp.
Our one foray into the realm of processed horrors, is for a couple tins of anchovies (the kind packed in oil and curled up around a caper) and a jar of roasted artichoke hearts.
Whenever shopping with Jason, the uninitiated’s initial reaction to our pass through the liquor department can be one of shock. Good food and good times require goodly amounts of spirits.
At the checkout, the receipt is a surprisingly modest $89. Shopping for 4 and including two bottles of red wine, a half-liter of porto and a fifth of tequila, not bad.