Romances and recipes


August 14, 2002|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

I once dated a man who really knew what he was doing - in the kitchen.

In the years since the relationship fizzled, I haven't felt sad that we broke up or that we hardly talk now. But I do regret one thing: the fact that I never got the recipe for his exquisite Southwestern chicken casserole.

For all the women who, like me, have been fortunate enough to have once dated a man more talented in the kitchen than, well, in any other room, there's a new book out that's likely to conjure up delicious memories of past romances.

Co-authors Erin Ergenbright and Thisbe Nissen mined their years of failed relationships and compiled The Ex-Boyfriend Cookbook: They Came, They Cooked, They Left ... (But We Ended Up With Some Great Recipes) (HarperCollins, 2002, $21.95). In the book sleeve, the authors swear they didn't write the book as a publicity stunt to win dates.

"One day we were planning a barbecue at the Iowa farmhouse where we lived and Erin said, `Oh, I'll make Davis' spicy BBQ rub!' " they explain. "And we kind of looked at each other and said, `We should write a cookbook of all the recipes we've gotten from ex-boyfriends over the years!' "

The final product is a kitschy tome filled with recipes accompanied with pictures of the authors and their exes from proms, dinners - even kindergarten. (The poor guys' heads are all cut out.)

Most of the recipes are straightforward and don't require too many steps or ingredients. And the dishes - from pancakes to ratatouille to flourless chocolate torte - represent a range that's likely to inspire jealousy among women who've never dated a man who's known what picadillo is, much less possessed the skill to make it. (It's a spicy Spanish dish of ground meat and vegetables.)

But what truly sets this cookbook apart from most are the stories attached to each recipe that make the book a breezy cross between Sex and the City and Martha Stewart Living.

There's no telling whether these tales are real, embellished or flat-out invented. But they are entertaining. We learn that ex-boyfriend Rob Becker's mother handed over her recipe for cream-cheese brownies so his girlfriend could bake them for him once they got married. And that one Wesley Kresbaugh slipped a diamond ring into his cottage-cheese pancakes the first time he baked them for one of the authors:

"He waited until I nearly broke a tooth to announce that he wanted to spend his life with me. ... Things went pretty much downhill from there, but I did get the recipe before leaving the state."

Lucas Amarati's Gazpacho

Lucas was my boyfriend the first of two summers I worked on an organic vegetable farm in Virginia. He was a beautiful, impish little long-haired hippie boy, and the sight of him, shirtless, hefting hay bales from the back of a pickup truck, his Army shorts hanging low off his hips, never failed to make my knees go weak. ...

My absolute favorite Virginia tomato dish was Lucas' gazpacho. It's honestly out of this world. The fact that I have this recipe almost makes up for the fact that when he left at the end of the summer to travel in Nepal, I only got one postcard and then never heard from him again.

1 garlic clove

3 to 4 ripe tomatoes, quartered

1/2 green pepper, cut into chunks

1/2 small onion, cut into chunks

1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

1/2 cup iced water

Blend all the ingredients a very short time. Do not pulverize; leave some chunks of vegetables. Refrigerate before serving.

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