This weekend RZ and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. We typically create some geographical distance between ourselves and Brooklyn for the day, but not this year. That’s okay. We had a good reason for sticking close to home.
Back in college, one of the things that initially drew me to RZ was that he was a music composition major. Few disciplines so perfectly combine artistic expression and esoteric technical knowledge. Plus, he was totally the only bald dude around. Hot.
RZ hasn’t written a ton of music since college until lately. Our friend Mark Jason Williams asked him to provide some original recordings for a wonderful play that he has written. This proved to be a challenge for RZ, partly because he had never scored a play before, but mostly because it’s difficult to be creative after spending your days making websites at a multinational corporation. Shocking.
Making art is really hard and time consuming. It’s best to accept this at the outset. It’s usually worth it and it definitely was in this case. We had seen an earlier incarnation of Mark’s play, as well as a few other plays that he has written, so we already knew that it would be excellent. Mark’s specialty is writing witty, hilarious dialogue about melancholy subjects and I was curious as to how (or if) RZ would manage to interpret with music the specific feelings that Mark conjures up with words.
The play opens this week; over the weekend, RZ put the finishing touches on the recordings. They are beautiful. But more importantly, they capture the tone and mood of the play in a restrained and unsentimental way. This one is the main theme and my favorite.
Mark’s play is called The Other Day. It’s funny and sad and involves a trip to Amsterdam — which makes it pretty similar to the lives of most people I know. It opens on Thursday and there are six showings. If you live in the New York metro area, you should probably come. Also, the play benefits the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a safe and supportive place for LGBTQ kids to go to school and figure things out. It sucks that high schools like this are even necessary, but since they are, I’m proud to help out. I just bought tickets for Thursday, which is opening night. IF YOU ALSO BUY A TICKET FOR THURSDAY, WE CAN SEE IT TOGETHER.
Being surrounded by so many talented and committed artists is exhilarating. It can also be frustrating: There’s nothing that I can do to make the process easier when RZ stays up till 3 am writing music.
Except make food.
I made this for dinner last week, when RZ’s brain began to implode from lack of sleep, too much work and the impending music deadline. My goal was to make something that would be comforting, nutritious and energizing for the long night ahead. It turned out to be outstandingly delicious and so I share this, my humble contribution to the artistic process, with you.
Butter = Inspiration: Homefries and a Simple Salad
For the homefries, I used
- Five wax (thin-skinned, like an artist) potatoes, chopped and unpeeled
- Four very hot peppers, diced
- A bulb of garlic, diced
- A big handful of green beans, trimmed and cut in half
- Salt, pepper, lots of butter
Here’s what I did
I had never made homefries before (what?!), so I went with a quick-and-easy method that I learned about from Mark Bittman. I put the potato chunks in a pot with cold salted water just barely covering them. Then I boiled till tender, but not at all squishy. While they drained, I heated three tablespoons of butter in a large pan on medium-high. Here is the key: After adding the potatoes to the hot buttery pan, you have to let them sit. No stirring, no peaking. Just wait. It’s hard. I know, you think they are going to burn. Hold out for as long as you can, maybe seven minutes? It depends on your mental stamina and how heavy your pan is. Then flip them over and add more butter, if necessary. Repeat the process, adding salt and pepper from time to time. If you stir too often, the taters will become mushy instead of crispy. This isn’t the end of the world — it will be delicious either way — but it’s less like homefries. This process will take somewhere around half an hour. At around the 25-minute mark, I added the last round of salt and pepper, along with the hot peppers, garlic and green beans. I didn’t want these last ingredients to interfere with the crisping of the potatoes, but mostly I didn’t want them to overcook. The green beans are the secret weapon here: still crunchy, but hot, flavorful and salty.
For the salad, I used
- A mix of baby lettuce leaves (in a few weeks, I’ll be harvesting my own)
- A can of butter beans, drained and rinsed
- Plum tomatoes, chopped
- Chopped scallions
For the dressing
- Two tablespoons of your favorite mustard
- One tablespoon of honey
- Three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- Salt, pepper
Here’s what I did
This is about the most straightforward salad that I am capable of making. It doesn’t get much easier than this — crisp, flavorful veggies, some protein-rich butter beans to balance out all the real butter and starch in the homefries and an easy-going honey mustard dressing that won’t compete with the peppers and garlic that I used in the potatoes. You don’t even need a food processor for this one — just combine the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk away, pour over the salad and top off with more pepper.