Phyllis Grant’s Everything Is Under Control is a memoir about appetite as it comes, goes, and refocuses its object of desire. Grant’s story follows the sometimes smooth, sometimes jagged, always revealing contours of her life: from her days as a dancer struggling to find her place at Julliard, to her experiences in and out of four-star kitchens in New York City, to falling in love with her future husband and leaving the city after 9/11 for California, where her children are born. All the while, a sense of longing pulses in each stage as she moves through the headspace of a young woman longing to be sustained by a city into that of a mother now sustaining a family herself.
AVOCADO BOWLS WITH GARLIC
I serve these by themselves or on top of a butter lettuce, hearts of romaine, or cabbage salad.
6 oil-packed anchovy fillets
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and microplaned or very finely chopped
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
1 shallot, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Handful of parsley and cilantro leaves, chopped coarsely
For the vinaigrette
Heat a small heavy-bottomed pan (I use cast iron) over medium heat. Add the anchovies and a splash of their oil. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to help them disintegrate. Turn the heat to low and add the garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds until the garlic smells sweet and fragrant. Whisk in the vinegar. Once simmering, add the shallots and cook for 20 seconds. Take off the heat. Whisk in the mustard. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste. Add more olive oil if it’s too tangy. If it doesn’t emulsify right away, sometimes it’s helpful to pour it into a jar and shake vigorously.
For the avocado bowls
Halve and pit the avocados. Carefully peel off the skin. Place the halves cut-sideup. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Spoon a tablespoon of the vinaigrette into each half. Top with chopped herbs.
makes enough for one 8-or 9-inch tart or galette;
double the recipe for a pie
I use this recipe for all my sweet and savory pies, tarts, and galettes.
If you have time, make the dough a day ahead so that it can chill in the refrigerator overnight. If you are in a hurry, you can chill it in the freezer for 2 hours before you roll it out.
If there are any kids around, give them the dough scraps. Let them overknead and over-roll and oversmush it into mini tarts. Then they can fill the dough-lined tart molds with honey or berries or chocolate chips.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, right out of the fridge
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Put the water in a small pitcher with a handful of ice cubes.
Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
Place half the chilled butter cubes into the flour mixture. With your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Just keep squeezing the chunks of butter between your fingertips, almost like you’re trying to snap with all your fingers at once.
Add the remaining butter and continue using your fingertips to incorporate until the chunks from the second batch of butter are about the size of peas (they’ll be larger than the first round). Add a few tablespoons of the cold water and gently mix it in with a fork. Add another tablespoon of the water, mixing with the fork and jostling the bowl. Add more as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time. It’s ready when there are still some dry pockets but the dough is just starting to gather into about 1-inch globules. It will still be quite loose, so don’t expect it to come together yet into a dough. You will be pressing it into a disc in a moment.
Spread out an 18-inch length of plastic wrap. Empty the contents of the bowl into the middle of the plastic wrap. Fold up the sides of the plastic wrap to press the dough into a round or square disc (depending on the shape of your tart). After about 15 seconds of pressing and molding, it should come together to form a delicate mass. Remember, you aren’t kneading it, just bringing it together. You should still be able to see small pea-size chunks of butter.
Wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours or freeze for 2 hours before rolling out.
Before rolling out the dough, let it stand at room temperature until slightly softened, about 20 to 30 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
CARAMELIZED ONION TART WITH
ANCHOVIES AND OLIVES (PISSALADIÈRE)
serves 6 to 8
This was the first savory tart I ever made back when I was teaching myself to cook. I learned how to make caramelized onions from Richard Olney’s book Lulu’s Proven.al Table. He writes that Lulu Peyraud was very strict about how you’re never supposed to brown the onions. And while I usually don’t like anyone telling me that there is only one way to do something in the kitchen, I have always respected Lulu’s wishes. Be prepared: they take at least an hour. Sometimes a bit more. But the reward is a sweet, golden, compote-like onion jam.
I love eating this tart with a crisp green salad and Avocado Bowls (page 201).
This recipe makes enough onions for one 8-inch tart plus another jarful of caramelized onions to freeze or keep in the fridge to add to pastas, sandwiches, potato salads, or vinaigrettes. It’s a lot of trouble, so it’s nice to have some extra.
Warning: Don’t use red onions. They taste great, but the dark reddish-brown color is very unappealing.
1 recipe Tart Dough (above)
5 medium yellow onions
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Two 3-inch sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (creamy Grey Poupon is my favorite)
8 to 10 oil-packed anchovy fillets
⅓ cup Niçoise olives
Cut the onions in half from stem to root end, peel, and thinly slice. Don’t be perfect about it. Discard any tough root ends. Alternatively (saving time and tears), you can use the slicing disc on your food processor to slice peeled, quartered onions.
Heat a large heavy-bottomed pan (with an available lid) over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and butter.
Once the butter is melted, add the onions. Stir. Add the salt and thyme. Keep stirring every few minutes. The onions will give off about a . cup of liquid almost immediately. When the onions have softened a bit and are starting to turn translucent (about 5 minutes), turn down the heat to low and throw on the lid. Cook, covered, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the onions have turned very soft, translucent, and very sweet, and have released a good cup or two of juices, at least one hour and up to two. If the onions start to brown, add a splash of water or chicken stock.
Remove the lid for good, turn the heat to medium-high, and bring to a gentle boil. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until nearly all the liquid in the pan has evaporated and the onions have taken on a marmalade-like consistency (golden yellow, honey-sweet, and still moist), about 15 minutes. Stay with it. Don’t let it burn. Stir, stir, stir.
Locate the thyme sprigs and discard. Taste. Add salt if needed. Cool. The onions keep in a covered container for a few days in the fridge and for several months in the freezer.
Take your tart dough out of the fridge or freezer. Once it’s soft enough to roll out, preheat the oven to 350 fahrenheit. Roll out your tart dough until it’s about 10 inches in diameter and ⅛-inch thick. Press into an 8-or 9-inch tart pan. You can also do this as a free- form tart. Thinly spread the mustard over the bottom of the tart shell with a pastry brush or a butter knife. Spread at least a cup of the cooked onions over the bottom of the prepared tart shell. Top with lots of anchovies and olives in any pattern that you like. Bake until the crust is just set and the onions are golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a crisp green salad. Freezes beautifully.
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Award finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. She has cooked in world-renowned restaurants, including Nobu, Michael’s, and Bouley. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks, including Best Food Writing in both 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured in Esquire, O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, Real Simple, Saveur, HuffPost, Time, San Francisco Chronicle, Food52, and Salon. She lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband and two children.