This is my father:
- When I was a little girl, he took me to special movie dates, just the two of us, and we always got popcorn.
- He is perfectly capable of cooking, but my mother does most of it in their house. That’s because my father’s signature dishes are sauteed mushrooms with at LEAST an entire stick of butter, and veal piccata with two sticks.
- He has won over my dog by feeding her steak whenever she sees him. Now when we visit she runs and sits at his feet, the stinker.
- When I was in college, he would visit me on Valentine’s Day weekend (not the greatest time of year to travel from California to Connecticut), take me out to dinner, and buy me wine for my dorm room.
- He loves Paris and takes every opportunity to visit. When he gets home, he starts planning his next trip, whether that’s in 2 months or 2 years.
- He is a near-obsessive watcher of the Food Network, HGTV and MSNBC.
- When he likes a restaurant, he goes back again and again and invariably finds a favorite waitress to whom he gives college advice and good tips.
- He adds Green Tabasco to EVERYTHING despite spending most of my childhood insisting he hates spicy foods.
- He calls me every week and asks to speak to his granddaughter. His granddaughter’s sum total of phone conversation equals “Hi! Ayaa! ByeBye!” but he wants to hear it across the ocean.
- At my wedding, he wore a morning suit to give me away and gave a speech that kept everyone laughing. Then he cried.
This is the father of my child:
- He has an inexplicable love for Hawaiian pizza and Coke Zero.
- The day I found out I was pregnant, his smile lit up the room.
- He keeps syrup in a hummingbird feeder and built a bird feeder outside our apartment so he can sit outside and watch the birds come and go.
- He sits by the Nuni’s tiny toddler bed, every night, and sings “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” until she falls asleep.
- He founded a men’s book club that has struggled because he’s the only man he knows who reads.
- When the Nuni was born, he spent her first two weeks doing nearly everything for both her and me, while I recovered from childbirth.
- The first time he cooked for me he made Chicken Tikka Masala, and stuck candles in empty 2 L coke bottles.
- He lets the Nuni push him over, shouting “Sapeee!” (her version of “timber”) helpless in the face of her tiny might.
- The first time we went to Paris, he fearlessly ordered blood sausage, just because he had never had it before.
- He has a miniature orchard and small vegetable garden in pots on our tiled patio, and he waters them every day.
These are the men whom I am loving on this Father’s Day — my two favorite fathers. And even though one of them will be in Paris (natch) and the other will be at home with me, I hope they both know how much I love them.
Father’s day is a little trickier than Mother’s Day for the cooks among us. Moms are easy — breakfast in bed or brunch seem like the perfect, feminine solution. Fathers are a little harder. Cookies are always appreciated, and I’ve never met a man who didn’t like pie (my father prefers coconut cream, my husband likes cherry or apple). If brunch is a necessity you can’t go wrong with bacon. Or you could go the old fashioned route and cook up a nice steak dinner — cook steaks on the grill, or in a hot pan with a lot of butter, and serve them with this twist on a steakhouse classic — creamed spinach with jalapenos. Sure, it’s green vegetables, but it’s green vegetables in a fabulously creamy, spicy, cheesy context. One that both my father and my husband love.
- 1 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach
- 2 T butter
- 1 T flour
- 1 shallot, minced fine
- ½ c. spinach water
- ¼ c. evaporated milk
- 3 oz jack cheese, grated or cut into small cubes
- ¼ c. chopped pickled jalapenos in escabeche
- ½ c. panko
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Cook the spinach. Drain and reserve the ½ c. of liquid.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the flour, and cook briefly until the mixture is blended but not colored. Add the shallot and cook until the shallot is translucent.
- Whisk in the spinach water and the evaporated milk. Add cheese, jalapenos, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low heat until the cheese is melted and the mixture is combined.
- Pour into a buttered gratin dish, top with panko and dot with butter.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, until panko has colored.
The recipe is from Laurie Colwin, for whom I have already expressed my deep and undying affection. It was one of her staples, and once you make this, it will be one of yours too. You cook frozen spinach, reserving the water you cooked it in. Make a roux of butter and flour, add some chopped shallots (you can also use a combo of onion and garlic), then add the spinach water, some evaporated milk (despite the name, there’s no cream in this spinach), pickled jalapenos (I bought the ones in escabeche, and promptly wondered how I had come this far in my life without having these ALL the time. They’re totally addictive, and you can snack on the carrots while you’re waiting for the spinach to cook) and monterey jack cheese. Top with some panko and butter, and bake. The process isn’t incredibly quick, but it’s certainly not difficult, and the flavor is good enough that you’ll wonder why you’ve ever made creamed spinach without jalapenos.
Make it for the fathers in your life, and tell them how much you love them.