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My Sister, the food whisperer

What is so hard about keeping a recipe folder? Every time Bertrand and I make a new dish we love, we should drop it right into a folder, or, at the very least, add it to a set list with the appropriate link attached. But, no. Too lazy to tackle such a monumental task, we always end up knocking our heads against the wall trying to remember where the hell that amazing dish had come from.
Just the other night, I had a hankering for these crazy-delicious lentil burgers we’d once cooked up ages ago, but their provenance escaped me. I looked on bonappetit.com. Nope. Epicurious.com. Failed. A few days later it hit me. I ran to my laptop, logged on to gmail and typed “Kate” and “lentil burger.” Bam! Up popped the email from my sister with the link. Paradise found.
I bet Kate keeps a recipe folder. She always was the organized one. Me, not so much.
Kate is six years older. With such a wide age gap, we weren’t close growing up. By the time I started grade school, she was already in junior high. When I hit puberty, she was hitting college.
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Kate was pretty, outgoing, kind and popular. She went out with the high school quarterback and was president of her senior class. As her 11-year-old shy little sister, I viewed her accomplishments from afar with utter awe. When I got to high school, all the teachers asked, “Are you Kate Larkworthy’s sister?” always with a wistful smile attached. Once, having cut gym too many times in 10th grade, the sting of “You certainly aren’t like your sister” straightened me right up. (But, come on. It was gym.)
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Me, Mom, Kate

The first great gift Kate–and our older brother Pete–passed down to me was a love of music. From their respective bedrooms I discovered the Beach Boys, George Harrison, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Laura Nyro, Jackson Brown, Paul McCartney and Wings, ELO. I remember the day Kate brought home Blondie’s “Parallel Lines” and the first time I heard Elvis Costello spit out “Accidents will Happen.” Life changing moments for me. If it hadn’t been for my siblings, my music tastes would likely not have expanded past “The King and I,” “Peter Pan” and “Annie.”

Kate had great influence on my sense of fashion during my college years, though she may not exactly have been aware of it. Working in the industry gave her access to a lot of clothes–too many for her small apartment, so she’d lug stuffed duffle bags home and store them in our attic. Then I’d come home on break and discover said duffles. I’d shave just a little off the top–a Ralph Lauren ski sweater here, a pair of Girbaud jeans there. It was like sartorial embezzlement. She’d never miss them, I reasoned, while my cool ranking shot up. Win-win. (Kate, I swear your elusive Katherine Hamnett skirt was not among the swiped booty.)
When I moved to New York, Kate magnanimously turned her dining room into a bedroom for me. The music education recommenced (The Traveling Wilburys, the McGarrigles, Rufus Wainwright, Barbara Cook, Blossom Dearie), as well as a new department at Kate University: Gastronomy.IMG_7358
I may have inherited Dad’s sarcasm, but Kate inherited his adventurous palate. Our Riverside Drive kitchen became a wondrous workshop of fresh ingredients and intoxicating aromas. When she invited friends over, she brought home the freshest baguettes and mysterious cheeses I’d never heard of. Her bruschetta was restaurant grade; her salads vibrant creations brimming with freshly chopped garlic and copious amounts of freshly grated parmesan.
When I look back on that year we lived together, I can’t believe I wasn’t more interested in learning her kitchen skills. Was it because the term “foodie” hadn’t been coined yet, so cooking wasn’t a “thing”? Or maybe because I felt eons away from marriage and motherhood, so therefore, had no concern of learning how to cook for a family? It stumps me to this day.
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In Dad’s kitchen

Now, of course, I wish I’d paid more attention. I’ve acquired a few skills, but as much as Bertrand and I continue to experiment and gain confidence in our kitchen, I still regard Kate as the one with the inside track for where to find that killer olive oil or those magnificent cheeses. She could very likely reveal “Trader Joe’s!” or “Fairway!” in her signature “Can you believe it??” ebullient way.  But I like the mystery I’ve wrapped around her and her magic finds.

Her recipes are another story. I’ve tried nearly every one she’s sent, and several have become our favorites: Delia’s roasted lemon-tarragon chicken (http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/main-ingredient/poultry-and-game/chicken/fast-roast-chicken-with-lemon-and-tarragon.html), the aforementioned lentil burgers (http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/vegetarian-lentil-burgers-recipe.html).
And that bruschetta. Decades after the first time she made it for Dad and me, I’ve served it up dozens of times. Of course, it’s never as good as hers. She and her husband Hugh (the aforementioned quarterback, who she reconnected with and married a few years back) whipped up a salad just the other night, and–yep–the dressing bore that mysterious Kate-perfect quality.
She wrote out the bruschetta recipe (below) for this post.
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lentil burgers in the making

I would ask her to be more specific about which type of bread she prefers or whose brand of olive oil, but I’d rather maintain that mystery around her. I suppose that older sister aspirational thing never goes away.
 Kate’s Bruschetta
serves 6-8
4 large size ripe tomatoes, chopped in small pieces
1 medium red onion, chopped finely
Approximately 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves chopped
6-8 slices fresh crusty bread  cut 1″ thick
Combine tomatoes, garlic and onion in large bowl.
Season generously with salt and pepper.
Add olive oil, and oregano and mix well.
Cover and set aside for at least half an hour at room temperature, stirring a few times to
mix the flavors.

Add basil to tomato mixture and mix well.
Spoon the tomato mixture on each slice of bread and serve immediately.

correct bruschetta

I downed all three pieces.

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Jane was executive beauty director at W Magazine for 16 years. When she is not writing beauty articles, she's likely either hiking with her husband and dog, Remy, or in her kitchen, frauding (new verb) her way around a fancy recipe, a home decoration or a highbrow dinner party conversation of which she knows nothing about. In other words, she nods a lot and googles a lot later.