Riverhead Table: WONDERLAND
Vanilla. Pepper. Cloves. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. According to Steven Johnson’s latest book WONDERLAND: How Play Made the Modern World these are the spices that make the world go round, some even as far back as 1721 BCE in Syria! When we consider the food we eat—from Thanksgiving meals to that giant bag of Doritos sitting in our snack drawer—we don’t always think about what goes into them, and we’re not just talking ingredients, here. We’re also talking about history. As Steven writes, “Like many forms of delight, the taste for spice propelled us far from our roots—not just geographically but also existentially. That strange new taste on the tongue that would send any child into howls of pain could be savored by an adult, its pain turned into pleasure. Spices enlarged the map of possible desires, which in turn enlarged the map of the world itself.”
So for this edition of #RiverheadTable we decided to focus on these five core spices to show just how propelling and versatile they can be. Special thanks to Steven for being on grill duty, and thanks as always to Jones of Boerum Hill for our fashionable aprons!
Cacio e Pepe (Serves 11)
2 lbs dried spaghetti (2 boxes)
8 cups baby arugula or spinach
4 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more to serve
½ tbs black pepper, plus more to taste
½ cup lemon juice (or more if you like super lemony pasta)
2 tbs red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
8 tbs minced garlic
1-2 sticks of unsalted butter
½ cup EVOO
In a large pot of heavily salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti to al dente according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water (it comes in handy), then drain the pasta.
(NOTE: You might have to do the next couple of steps in two parts, depending on how big your skillet actually is.) In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Make sure it doesn’t burn! Add the olive oil, then add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and black pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the lemon juice to the skillet, then toss in the drained pasta and toss to coat. Add the cheese and toss, adding the pasta water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, just to help the cheese coat the pasta. Add the arugula or spinach and toss until it wilts, about 1 minute. Season to taste with additional salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Serve with more cheese.
Riverhead staffers Jessica and Kevin on the pasta station!
WONDERLAND author Steven Johnson marinates the salmon.
Salmon with Vanilla Balsamic Marinade (serves 11)
Ingredients for Marinade
6 tbs EVOO
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried basil
¾ tsp brown sugar
¾ tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Ingredients for Salmon
11 salmon filets (or half of a large salmon, deboned by your fish guy/gal if you can’t do it yourself)
Salt and pepper
For the marinade, combine the olive oil, shallot, parsley, basil, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and vanilla paste into a food processor and puree. Pour evenly into two containers and set one container aside.
grill. (NOTE: If you bought half a
fish we recommend slicing it into three large pieces.) Brush each filet with
canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush the tops of the fillets with
the marinade, then discard any leftover marinade.
Place the filets marinated side down on a grill rack over direct heat. Grill for 8-10 minutes or until dark grill marks appear and the marinade begins to caramelize. Turn the filets and grill for 3 to 4 minutes longer. Serve with the reserved marinade.
Oven Method: Don’t have a grill? No problem! Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place your marinated salmon on a lightly greased baking pan and cook for 15 minutes or until done the way you like it.
Steven really enjoys being on grill duty!
Simple Kale Salad (serves 11)
Kale (we bought one large box but feel free to buy in bunches–3 should do)
7 tbs EVOO, plus more if necessary
1/3 cup lemon juice, plus more if necessary
6 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup grated parmesan, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large mixing bowl put the kale, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic cloves, parmesan and salt. Using your hands start massaging the kale salad and continue to do this for about 3-4 minutes (you want the kale to reduce down to about half of what you started with). Taste the salad and add pepper and continue to massage for another few seconds. Taste again and adjust seasoning accordingly.
Spice Cake (with Vanilla Ice Cream)
1 cup milk
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, softened until easily spreadable
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 ½ cups bleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground cloves
Vanilla ice cream
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a metal or disposable foil 9-by-13-inch pan. Whisk dry ingredients and spices in a large bowl. Mix milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a 2-cup measuring cup.
Beat softened butter into dry ingredients, first on low, then medium, until mixture forms pebble-sized pieces. Add about 1/3 of the milk mixture and beat on low until smooth. Add remaining milk mixture in two stages; beat on medium speed until batter is just smooth. Add the sugar; beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Pour batter into cake pan.
Lydia from our marketing team masters the Kitchen Aid.
Bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the cake’s center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the pan perimeter and turn cake onto rack. Let cool then serve with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream!
The right spices can make even the simplest of meals stand out! Don’t be afraid to play around with them in the kitchen and enjoy the delicious meal you end up with.
Setting the table for our Wonderland inspired dinner.
Special guest model/chef Scully :)
Cheers to spices!
Bring on the eats.
**BONUS** We decided to take the concept of “playing with our food” to the next level by also partaking in some weird (but awesome) tasting experiments. We each dissolved one mBerry Miracle Fruit Tablet on our tongues to see how the flavors of various fruits and cheeses would change. The results were surprisingly delicious. Lemons tasted like lemonade and green apples tasted pleasantly sweet instead of tart!
Dinosaurs tasted the same even after mBerry consumption.