Friday, June 1, 2018

Niçoise

salade niçoise
Eastside Road, June 1, 2018——

FIRST DAY OF JUNE:let’s celebrate with a very generous Salade Niçoise, surely one of the great dishes.

Cook steamed some perfect little green beans, boiled a couple of eggs, found a couple of pretty good tomatoes and red bell peppers, opened a can of good tuna, tossed in some anchovies, and laid it all out on tender lettuce leaves. Sumer is icumen in.

     🍷Rosé, La Ferme Julien

Monday, May 28, 2018

Lamb shanks

IMG 9494
Eastside Road, May 27, 2018—

SURELY ONE OF the great recipes is Richard Olney's for braised lamb shanks. It is simple, complete, and inspired, and it never fails. We have followed it scores of times over the years, and both Cook and I could no doubt prepare the dish from memory.

We never do, of course; we always return to the book, Simple French Food . And I, at least — I don't know about Cook — always realize the procedure has long since been completely internalized. I wrote about it here, nine long years ago:

Ask the butcher to saw the lamb shanks into slices a couple of inches thick. Brown them on all sides in a little olive oil in a heavy pot with a close-fitting lid; then throw in a head of garlic, the cloves separated but not peeled, and let them cook very slowly — we use an asbestos pad under the pot and turn the flame as low as possible. The meat will form its own juice.

After an hour or two sprinkle dry herbes de Provence on the meat and let it cook as much longer as you like. When all the liquid's gone you might want to sprinkle a few drops of water on the meat; we've never found that necessary.

Remove the meat to a hot platter, deglaze the pot with a little white wine, and pass the glaze and the garlic cloves through a food mill to make a heavy sauce for the meat. Serve with noodles.

I just Googled "olney lamb shanks simple" and found a few adaptations of the recipe (along with my own 2009 post, quoted above). One cooks the shanks with Vermouth. Another serves the meat with cannelini. I can't think why anyone would do either of these things. Olney's recipe is perfect. Lamb, garlic, herbes de Provence, white wine. It's all you need, and you do want to serve it with egg noodles.

About those herbes de Provence: This is about the only time we use them, so they're getting a bit long in the tooth — I bought our current supply in the market in Nice five years ago. They're a little dusty, but thanks to Ziplock still aromatic. Lamb, Provence, red wine. Dinner on the patio with much of the family around us: marvelous.

     🍷White: La Ferme Julien; "Madam Preston." Red: L. Preston, Preston of Dry Creek IMG 9495

Friday, May 25, 2018

Split pea soup

Split pea soup
Eastside Road, May 25, 2018—

EATING AT HOME; domestically. By that I mean modestly, even frugally, something with lots of flavor, but substantial.

Cook buys dry beans, peas, chickpeas, and such — organic ones, of course. It doesn't take all that much time to cook them: they soak while she gardens; cook while we watch the depressing news or maybe a ball game.

This soup began with a slice or two of bacon sizzling in a black iron skillet, of course. When you cook and eat bacon rarely, and then only a slice or two at a time, it's neither expensive nor particularly bad for one's health, or so we tell ourselves.

Onion, of course; salt and pepper. A green salad afterward.

IMG 9480And dessert: an ice cream sundae, with toasted pecans and caramel sauce — because she is, after all, a pastry chef.

     🍷Vin blanc ordinaire, La Ferme Julien

Running out of steam

IMG 9445
Eastside Road, May 25, 2018—
MY FIRST POST to this blog was written a little over ten years ago, on March 25, 2008. Since then two thousand, seven hundred seventy posts have followed, not counting this one. For years I took the perhaps unwisely chosen title of the blog seriously — not until 2013 did fewer than 300 posts appear in a given year.

Last year, though, I began to run out of steam: only 155 posts. Eating every other day, the title should have been. And this year has been disastrous.

I won’t go into the reasons for this, which are personal and a little discouraging. What I am doing, as I type this, is wondering where to take the blog next. I know that over the years there have been a number of followers, and I like to think the blog’s presence, on line, has had its usefulness. Most of you must know about the search box up in the upper left corner: type in “pizza” or “Rome” or “anchov*” (the asterisk standing for either “y” or “ies”) will turn up posts with possibly useful or interesting content.

But to tell the truth I no longer trust my palate for day-to-day comments. We continue to eat well, of course; Cook always finds ways to tickle that aging palate, and there are pleasures both evolved and simple that might be reported.

IMG 9443Yesterday, for example: we’d gone to Sonoma, there to see a small exhibition of paintings by an acquaintance, and we stopped off at a favorite spot for lunch. I suppose I ordered unwisely: two pork tamales, twice as much as I needed. But they were delicious, muy sabrosos, as always here, and I washed them down with a bottle of Pacifico beer, because I haven’t had Pacifico for years, and wondered if it were as bland as recalled (yes).

So I’ll try to soldier on here, I suppose, when there’s something potentially useful, or at least pleasant, to share. Do in the meantime indulge my uncertainties.

•El Molino Central, 11 Central Avenue, Sonoma; 📞+1 707 939 1010

Monday, April 30, 2018

Last week catchup

Eastside Road, Berkeley, and San Francisco, April 23-28—
1F2674AA A0B1 4AA4 BD27 0D3875E20512 MONDAY, April 23 — How can I have left so many days slip past? — was a flight day, beginning with a frozen croissant bought days earlier at a favorite bakery, then coffee at a pleasant neighborhood café we'd been depending on the last few days.
Lunch, much delayed, was a serviceable grilled cheese and ham grabbed at an eatery on our drive home; and I have to confess having needed a "gelato" by the time that drive got us two thirds of the way home. Too tired for dinner.

•Bakeshop, 5351 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland; 📞503-946-8884
•Saint Simon Coffee Company, 2005 NE Broadway Street, Portland; 📞971-703-4993
•LaLa's Creamery, 134 Petaluma Blvd. N, Petaluma; 📞707-763-5252

IMG 9185 Tuesday, April 24: A delicious improvisation: a fried-egg-and-bacon sandwich on nice dense rye bread, with savory sautéed vegetables on the side.
IMG 9189 Wednesday, April 25: Baseball night in front of the television. We're partial to the Niman Schell hot dogs, which I like with mustard but never catsup, chopped raw onions, pickle relish, and sauerkraut. Sautéed potatoes and carrots on the side; green salad afterward. The buns are from our local bakery, of course.

•Downtown Bakery and Creamery, 308a Center Street, Healdsburg

IMG 9214 Thursday, April 26: to Berkeley to meet last week's bride and groom, flown down from Portland for a short honeymoon in the Bay Area. We ate in the café, beginning with housemade salt-cod pizetta; I went on to a green salad and rich, redolent braised pork with chiles, oregano, lime, shell beans, and cilantro-flavored long-grain rice, with a bittersweet choclate pavé with caramel ice cream for dessert.

     🍷Zinfandel, Green and Red, 2016

•Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 📞510-548-5525

IMG 9231 Friday, April 27: After a night at home and breakfast as usual we took the newlyweds into town to see the Downtown Bakery, then home to the neighbors down the hill for a fine al fresco lunch: a chopped salad, deviled eggs, cheeses and anchovies. Then a quick trip to deliver the pair to their San Francisco hotel and drinks at a favorite bar where the celery and parmesan, the anchovies and butter, the French fries and my Hanky Panky ae always dependable. Once home, only fruit and a chocolate seemed necessary.

•Zuni Café, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco; 📞415-552-2522


Saturday, April 28: Cook smashed up canned sardines — we like those canned in spring water, not oil — with chopped onions and horseradish to make sandwiches, served with a bowl of store-bought red-pepper soup; green salad afterward, and an apple. And finally I'm beginning to return to normal after the nuptial feasting of the previous week…

     🍷Beer…

Finally, yesterday, Sunday: Penne rigata tossed with chopped lemon, garlic, and anchovies; the green salad. I am well looked after.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Portland catchup

Portland, Oregon, April 19-22, 2018—
IMG 9118 THIS IS WHY we were in Portland a week ago: the wedding of our granddaughter Francesca and her beau Hamza, seen here last Saturday at the reception, cutting a glorious cake baked by Giovanna and the Contessa and decorated by Thérèse — bakers all.

But first, let me catch up a bit. I've told you about the pizzas we had on Wednesday. Thursday, April 19, we cooked supermarket ravioli at home, with a green salad afterward — not bad.

     🍷Cheap Nero d'Avola

IMG 9080 The next day I took the groom to lunch in a downtown bistro where we had a little splurge: a bottle of 🍷Beaujolais-Villages, Le Bouteau, Pascal Granger, ‘16,
as it was listed on the menu: but in the event it was a 2014, holding up well for its age. With it, for me, a grilled ham-cheese baguette: jambon de Paris with Gruyère, a dollop of Dijon mustard, and mixed arugula and frisée. Not bad at all.

•Little Bird Bistro, 215 SW 6th Avenue, Portland, Oregon; 📞(503) 688 - 5952

That night we ate at home — not our B&B this time, but the home of the mother of the bride. It was a big dinner for the family, and all three of our children and their mates, seven of our eight grandchildren and their various beaux and friends, and all four of our great-grandchildren were there.

How to feed such a crew? Giovanna asked me to pick up the roast chicken dinners ordered in from Arrosto, and foccaccia from Pastaworks, and green salad and roasted potatoes. I really like Providore, a marketplace incorporating these subsidiary businesses; they have an interesting wine shop, a small but soigné cheese selection, and are a comfortable, well-lit, quiet place for lunch.
     🍷Many wines, of course, including a fine Regaliali Nero d'Avola
•Providore Fine Foods, 2340 NE Sandy Boulevard, Portland; 📞+1 (503) 232-1010

IMG 9102 The big day, of course, was Saturday, the wedding day. I don't think we ate lunch. I got a haircut in the morning, and most of us seemed to float around in a sort of haze. It was a splendid April spring day; all Portland was in bloom — dogwoods, cherries, azaleas and rhododendrons, tulips and hyacinths.

The ceremony was in the front garden of the bride's parents' house, and among the 150 guests or so it seemed most of the neighbors were present — along with all our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, the Contessa's sisters, various cousins, the bride's other grandparents and their daughter and her son and daughter.

It all went off without a hitch, and afterward we repaired to a nearby social hall for the reception: sixteen tables of various sizes seating from six to a dozen. Like the entire week of parties, the menu had an Italian theme with decidedly Algerian contributions, reflecting the couple's residence and the groom's birthplace.

We began with little frittata bites with asparagus, chèvre, soft herbs, olives, and piquilles; bread, butter, and anchovies, crudités, and bread with a sort of Algerian pesto made with fava tops and garlic.

IMG 9107 The bridal couple stood serving out the dinner, and the groom rather overloaded my plate: "Uncle Paolo" 's grilled steak with salsa verde; Merguez sausages, radicchio "Caesar" salad with grapefruit, tarragon, and green olives; honey and za'atar-roasted carrots; Farro with preserved lemon, red onion, and roasted kale.

Paolo is of course uncle of the bride, our son; he raised and butchered the steer whose steak we enjoyed, grilling it outside the dining hall over charcoal. There was plenty left over to enjoy the next day, spent in rest and recovery.

There was, of course, cake, as you see at the top of this post — two, in fact: a four-storey chocolate wedding cake with coffee crunch filling and coffee butter cream, and a "groom's cake," Lindsey's almond torte with sour cherry jam and chocolate icing. The bride's mother made the cakes, with her mother's help: this was a thoroughly professional job. The bride's aunt decorated the cakes, splendidly I thought, and my Lindsey made marzipan olive leaves to decorate the groom's cake.

The wedding theme was Mediterranean, as I've mentioned, and the olive leaves seemed to me an auspicious decoration, signaling as they do peace and return to safety. Long and happy years to the couple; this beginning of their marital adventure will long be remembered.

     🍷Campari Spritzes; Pilsner Urquell; Nero d'Avola, Perricone, "L'Isola dei Profumi"(Sicily), 2016; Cava, Torre Oria (Valencia), nv; Moroccan mint tea

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pizza

IMG 9068
Portland, Oregon, April 18, 2018—
THESE DAYS I seem to crave sharp flavors more than usual: tomato, pepper, salt, lemon. Lunch was pretty good: good bread with sardines from the can. Dinner was even more to my point: for the many of us — three couples and assorted others — we ordered in four pizzas.

One of them was a Margherita, you can be sure. Not the slice in the photo, which was bizarrely, I thought, strewn with a few stalks of asparagus. The Margherita had less basil than I like but the sauce was first-rate.

I don't think pizza profits from being put in a cardboard box, any more than bread should see a container of any kind until it's cold, and then only when necessary. But there seems to be no other way to get fresh-baked pizzas home. Giovanna did slip them into the oven, on pizza pans, and that helped. But still.

     🍷Aglianico, Epicuro (I like this cheap red)

Lovely's Fifty-Fifty, 4039 North Mississippi Avenue, Portland; 📞+1 (503) 281-4060

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017