We finally have a winner for “United States of Arugula” . Below you will find David Kamp’s email:
First, let me say how honored I am that the Cook the Books Club chose “The United States of Arugula” both as reading material and as cooking inspiration. I am one of those writers who has never become jaded about the fact that he gets to write for a living, and when I see people moved to action–in this case, furious food preparation–by something I have written, it compounds the joy I take in my work.
There’s not a clunker among these entries; I want to eat each and every one of your submissions, right now. But I have to single out the two goat-cheese-based entries, from Deb of Kahakai Kitchen and Eliot of Eliot’s Eats. Goat cheese is an important thing in my book and in my life. It still amazes me that it was only 32 years ago–1980!—that domestically produced goat cheese first became available to American consumers, and, even then, only to Californians who lived close enough to Laura Chenel’s Sonoma County HQ. Now, there’s literally not a day in our lives that my family does not eat goat cheese. We have it in our salads, on crackers, in eggs, on bagels, and so on. (True story: My son, when younger, kept an imaginary herd of goats.)
So: Runner-up is Deb, whose crostini with strawberries, baby arugula, and goat cheese are both beautiful to look at and imaginative in their harmonious but slightly off-center combination of flavors. (Sweet + peppery + creamy.) I also liked the fact that, because of the time of year it is, I was able, like Deb, to make these crostini with local ingredients from the farmer’s market, even though we live six time zones apart.
And the winner is: Eliot, for the smoked log of goat cheese. Probably the least aesthetically pleasing of the entries, looking, in its final state, like something removed from a patient rushed into emergency surgery after collapsing in abdominal pain. But this was the recipe that I read and thought “Good god, this is something I must try as soon as I am able!” Eliot’s recipe requires patience but otherwise couldn’t be more simple–and, better still, it invites all manner of variation. Best of all, it manages the noble feat of making fresh goat cheese, already one of my favorite foods, taste even better.
I see from the “About Us” tab of the Eliot’s Eats blog that Eliot is actually a pseudonym for a self-described “near middle-aged couple.” On the basis of their smoky, delightfully nuanced goat cheese, I think it is high time that this couple proudly go public with their identities.