Eating Every Day

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Ojai, July 23, 2014—

NOT MANY VEGETABLES do I prefer to these peppers, which I insist, pedantic that I am, on calling padrones, three syllables, not puhDRONES, two..(The word is Spanish, after all.)

We're crashing with friends here tonight. We start with delicious local organic pistachios with a fine local gin, go on to a perfect St. Andre, and then begin to think about dinner. I fried up the peppers in oil and salt, then sweated some onion rings in the same pan. Jim grilled hamburgers, using great ground beef from a local butcher. Llisa made a nice salad. 

What more could we want? Oh — a popsicle made of nothing but tangerine juice. Local, of course.  


Monday, July 21, 2014

Salmon and broad beans

salmon and beans.jpg
Eastside Road, July 21, 2014—
SALMON TONIGHT — as long as Dave is willing to go to sea for it, we're willing to buy it from him. Tonight Cook simply broiled it with salt and pepper and we ate it with a squeeze of lemon. And those delicious broad beans, from Nancy Skall's garden, cooked in a bit of butter, not too long!

Green salad afterward, and some fine Brie, and a peach and a plum…

Chardonay-Viognier blend, Panilonco (Colchagua Valley, Chile), 2013 "Reserva": light, good varietals, a nice blend

Sunday, July 20, 2014

From the grill

Eastside Road, July 20, 2014—
ANOTHER DINNER with no photo: sorry. It was such a fine dinner. A granddaughter and her man to share it with us: eight of Franco's fine sausages, cooked over grapevine cuttings, along with a few zucchini; a tasty cabbage-lime-habanera-onion-carrot salad; beautiful ripe fresh sliced tomatoes. And dessert: Cobbler with peaches from our trees. You can't do a lot better than this…

Cheap Pinot grigio; Rosé, La ferme Julien, 2013

Saturday, July 19, 2014

New restaurant in town

Eastside Road, July 19, 2014—
LUNCH IN THE CITY today, well, the local city, not San Francisco, which we old-timers still refer to as The City. Lunch isn't really a very good test of a restaurant, perhaps, but on the basis of this lunch, and of the interesting wine list, I'm sure we'll be back before too long. For dinner.

I had a hamburger — two thick patties of ground beef, a little on the lean side, with delicious bacon, with the obligatory (to me) tomato, onion, and lettuce; aïoli; a fine dill pickle on the side; and quite professional shoestring french fries. And then dessert: Apricot tart with Bavarian cream (a dish I love: it always makes me think of Berlioz's Evenings in the Orchestra).
Bohigas Xarello (Catalunya), 2011: crisp, easy but serious, very pleasant; Ribeira Sacra, Adega Vella Mencia, 2011: sober, fruity, earthy, nicely made
Pullman, 205 Fifth Street, Santa Rosa, California; 707-545-4300SO ALL WE NEEDED for dinner was a big green salad (with Alta's delicious quince vinegar in the dressing), sliced tomatoes, and some very good Brie.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Eastside Road, July 18, 2014—
THERE ARE NOT MANY finer vegetables, I think, than chard. "Swiss chard," it was always called, when I was a child, and perhaps one reason for my fondness goes back to my childish curiosity about the name — why "Swiss"? (It was, alas, all too often charred, when Mom cooked it, with her usual technique when it came to cooking vegetables: chop them into small bits; cover them in a pot with at least two inches of water; boil rapidly until it is burned and sticking to the pot.)

But I do Mom's memory injustice. In fact I have fond memories of even the taste, let alone the name, of chard. I do not like beets, or turnips, or swedes, whose bitter aluminum taste lies unpleasant on my tongue. Chard has something of that taste, but I don't dislike it. It's not mineral, so much, as oxalic. Is chard related to rhubarb? I wouldn't be surprised.

And then chard always reminds me of Bob, Cook's father, born into a paisano family in the Italian Alps west of Torino, a man always fond of his vegetables and his orto, his vegetable garden. He lived well into his nineties, and from May until November he'd ask, when we visited, You want chard? And would go to the border of the garden and bend over with his knife and cut the broad white ribbed stems, always on the diagonal, and send us away with a big bouquet of broad-leafed green chard, with perhaps a perforation or two here and there as his orto was innocent of insecticide.

When I cook chard I cut the leaves from the stems, chop the stems and cook them in a little water with salt of course, then slice the leaves into thin strips and throw them on top, with another sprinkling of salt.

Tonight's chard was much better than that: Cook chopped it all, and added crushed garlic to the stewing vegetables, and finished them with a squeeze of lemon juice.

After the chard, the rest of the leftover fusilli con pesto, and I must say the pesto has held up beautifully, those pine nuts of ours deepening its flavor since Sunday. And then applesauce, since we'll have a big new harvest of apples before we know it, with ice cream.

Cheap Pinot grigio

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What a week.

Eastside Road, July 16, 2014—
OKAY, LET'S TRY a new format, one so shameful it'll encourage me to be more attentive here.

•July 8: fast.

•July 9: Fusilli con pesto. That's the making of pesto you see here, but today when I looked into the freezer what should I find but… What? No pine nuts? Impossible to make pesto without pine nuts. Nor were there any walnuts to be found. Truly I have been slacking off…

I made today's pesto without pine nuts; just garlic, salt, basil, olive oil. Even more shameful, I rinsed the basil, then after attempting to dry it I chopped it with a knife. The resulting pesto was not handsome, but good enough for yet another dinner in front of the TV, watching a World Cup game…

fusilli 7:9.jpg
•July 10:Yes, Fusilli con pesto again, and the pesto hasn't improved any…


•July 11: Ah: now this is more like it. Supper in Berkeley today, beginning with this delicious plate of arugula, dressed with hazelnuts, Parmesan, and very good olive oil. On, then, to roast lamb, roasted in the pizza oven, with tapenade, and green and yellow pole beans on the side, and a roasted tomato… truly delicious… why can't I cook like this at home…

• Café Chez Panisse, address; tel. salmon12.jpg
•July 12: I finally got around to cooking the little potatoes I bought (from Lou Preston) a week and more ago, rolling them around in olive oil in the hot black iron skillet, with a couple of garlic cloves, rosemary, and salt. What a delicious dish that is: one of the Hundred Plates.

Lindsey broiled the salmon and cooked some green beans in butter and sliced the tomato. Truth is, she's The Cook. I'm the Lucky Guy.

Oh: And I picked pine nuts today: but that'll be the subject of another blog.

•July 13: Big dinner party tonight, with my brother and his family — three generations here. Sausages on the grill; pasta con pesto; grilled eggplant and zucchini; big green salad; fruit and cookies.

You may have noticed by now that I haven't said anything on this post about wine. I'm not going to start now, beyond noting White; Rosé; Red.

•July 14, Bastille Day: leftovers: sausage; Fusilli con pesto

•July 15: Friends over to dinner. I made guacamole — that's the setup, above: salt, Tequila, avocados, limes, cilantro; the shallots and toasted Habanera pepper already chopped up. After that, chicken from the grill, and green beans dressed with sautéed shallot, and potatoes with rosemary and salt; and nectarine crisp for dessert…

Making pesto

Eastside Road, July 16, 2014—
THIS IS HOW I make pesto:

First I get the pine nuts. This is a laborious process. The nuts are ready right now, mid-July, and the first thing to do is to get the pine cones, from the three Italian stone pines up the hill.

Then you assemble your tools: needle-nose pliers; slipjoint pliers, a bucket, a bowl, a dish.

Then you make sure you have a couple of free hours, you arrange a comfortable place in the shade but with good light, you put on work clothes.

Then, using the needle-nose pliers, you pull the nuts out from under the scales of the pine cones. There's a pair of nuts under each scale, and they want to stay there. I usually shove the pliers in under the scale, pry up with them, then deftly or not extract the nuts, usually one at a time.

The nuts are covered with black sooty stuff, and before long your left hand is covered with pitch from the cones. Toss the emptied cone into a bucket; they're great for starting fires in the winter. Toss the sooty nuts in a bowl. Five cones gave me a couple of hundred nuts.

When you're done extracting them, rub the nuts between the palms of your hands, a few at a time, to get off as much soot as possible. The photo shows the result.

Now it's time for the slipjoint pliers. Careful: don't pinch your hand more than necessary! Carefully put a nut on edge between the jaws of the pliers and squeeze to crack the shell. The kernel is inside, wearing a brown paper jacket which it sometimes seems reluctant to give up. Don't worry about that; just toss the kernel into a little dish — you won't need a big one!. Continue cracking the pine nuts. Some will be disappointingly empty. Look out for bugs and spiders.

When you've finished cracking the nuts it's time to clean up. The cracked shells make nice barbecue fuel, along with any pine-cone scales that have scattered. Take the nuts into the kitchen. Wash the pitch off your left hand with Goo-Gone or orange oil. Change your clothes and put on an apron.
Now sort through the nuts, tossing them into the air and blowing on them to get rid of dust and such. Some of the kernels will be suspect — perhaps munched by something; perhaps dry and blasted, a little, by some kind of blight. Reject them.

On Friday, down in Berkeley, I bought two little packages of pine nuts, for $9.99 apiece. They were from Spain, and they look delicious. The cheaper pine nuts you get in various places look quite different, shorter and fatter; they come from China, and I think from a different kind of pine tree. The Italian and Spanish pine nuts are very expensive but much better.

I haven't opened those packages of Spanish nuts yet: on the right, you see the ones I picked yesterday. I toasted these nuts slightly by putting them in a hot oven after Cook had broiled salmon, leaving them in only five minutes or so.

But I've been distracted by these damn nuts. Here's how I make the pesto:

The setup: Cheese, pine nuts, basil, garlicIMG_3938.jpg
Mash the garlic with salt.
Then add the pine nuts and pound into a heavy paste.
Carefully slice, do not chop, the basil.
Don't bruise it!
Pound the sliced basil into the garlic and pine nuts.IMG_3944.jpg
Both Parmesan and Pecorino…
…grated (more Parmesan than Pecorino)
Pound in the cheese.IMG_3947.jpg
When pounded to the desired texture,
smooth it out with a spatula…
…and cover it with olive oil.
When ready to use, stir in the olive oil, add more if necessary, taste to see if it needs salt, and enjoy it!