SOUP, JUST FINE MINESTRONE soup at a friend's house, almonds and olives first, then soup, bread, salad, chocolate and cheese. Life is good.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
SOUP, JUST FINE MINESTRONE soup at a friend's house, almonds and olives first, then soup, bread, salad, chocolate and cheese. Life is good.
Monday, March 30, 2009
EATING EVERY DAY; everyday eating. Many of our meals repeat, of course, though not usually as predictably, or on as short a cycle, as was the case when I was a boy. Back then, sixty-odd years ago, it seemed like the repertory was small and regular. Let's see: we had liver and onions, chicken, macaroni and cheese, roast pork, an occasional fish of some kind, Swiss steak, beans and chili. I don't know if these came around on a regular weekly cycle, but I think they did. There were the exceptions, of course. Ham was for Christmas and Easter, with pineapple rings and brown sugar. Sometimes there might be venison. But those were exceptional.
Here on Eastside Road we alternate among repeating a familiar repertory, stretching with excursions into new territory prompted by who knows what, and eating out. At home, of course, there are the frequently-sounded notes: green salad; cheap Pinot grigio, pasta. Tonight we had chickpeas, very much like those we had on March 23, a week ago. And almost every night we have the same vinaigrette.
Tonight I noticed for perhaps the first time how little vinegar goes into that vinaigrette. I always make it the same way: I crush a clove of garlic (or two, depending on how big they are) into the big stainless-steel bowl, crush sea-salt into it using the tines of a dinner fork, cover the resulting paste with olive oil, and let that stand while we eat our dinner. Then I add the vinegar, whisking the vinaigrette into a smooth emulsion with the dinner fork; toss in the lettuces, which Lindsey will have washed and dried, and hand her the bowl to mix the salad.
The Italians say you need four people to make a proper salad: a spendthrift for the oil, a miser for the vinegar, a judge for the salt, and a maniac to mix it all up. This allotment makes no sense in my family, where I am mania and spendthrift, and Lindsey is judge and miser. But it works.
Most sources seem to converge on the same formula for vinaigrette as the one I rely on for my Friday-Saturday Martini: Three to one. Three oil, one vinegar. As I say, I seem to go use less vinegar than that: four, perhaps five parts oil to one of vinegar. The right amount produces a true stable emulsion; too much vinegar and the result is watery, too much oil and it's, well, oily. I suppose our vinegar is stronger than a lot of storebought stuff — it's our own, from our own grapes. I gave up making wine years ago, but vinegar, now that's something worth staying with.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
FOR A LONG TIME I thought the reason I didn't like broccoli more was because of various adventures with aphids, which hide out so successfully in the flowerets. It's one of the few problems with buying organic produce. I suppose I'd rather eat aphids than insecticide, but neither one really leaves a nice taste in your mouth.
Tonight Lindsey cooked up some Broccolini for our first course. Organic, to be sure: most of it bought in town, but one or two stalks from a friend's garden, where we'd been this afternoon moving two or three pickup-loads of horse manure.
Writing this has sent me once again to Wikipedia, which informs me that Broccolini is a registered trademark. Who'd have known? Tasting it tonight I was reminded of its seriousness and asperity, akin to cavalonero and kale. Broccoli's too sweet. It's probably been bred that way, for the American market. Broccolini's a vegetable for grown-ups. There's that sulfur undertone common to all the brassicas, but there's also a resiny component. I like it, and I think the aphids do not.
…LASAGNA? Yes, macaroni and cheese; and lasagna. We were at a late-afternoon supper party yesterday for a friend's 80th birthday. Mac and cheese; lasagna; garlic bread; green salad. Well, and all those nice nibbles before -- raw peppers, cauliflower, and the like, with spicy hummus to dip into, and nuts, and things…
Saturday, March 28, 2009
HUNGRY: GRAB WHAT'S CLOSE. I shaved Parmesan cheese onto a slice of bread, covered it with another, put a little oil in a black iron skillet and got it pretty hit, put the sandwich in, and weighted it down with a slightly smaller black iron skillet, equally hot. Then I noticed a little Stilton left from who knows how long ago, and made a similar sandwich using it, tossing in the chopped walnuts left over from garnish on yesterday's pasta. Delicious.
FOR DINNER, I grilled chicken over grapevine cuttings outside; Giovanna steamed some nice fresh asparagus; Lindsey roasted some potatoes. Green salad, of course.
Friday, March 27, 2009
LINDSEY'S FATHER was born in Italy, and for a few years her aunt and some of her uncles — her grandmother too — lived on the family farm. That didn't last long, unfortunately; by the time I met her they were all returned up to Washington State, all except Uncle Vic who lived in San Francisco and drove up on weekends in the summer, bringing pastry from the old Victoria Bakery, and cheeses, and salume, and other nice things.
Aunt Victoria had returned to Seattle, where she had an imposing vegetable garden, and a true bay tree, and a bottle of Canadian Club in the kitchen cabinet to add a drop or two to her after-dinner coffee. And, of course, she made giardiniera.
Lindsey made a batch for a first course for last night's dinner, using pickled vegetables I'd bought at the Middle-East grocery I like in Berkeley — Sadaf, made in Greece. She combined them with a can of that delicious Ortiz bonito, and added half a little jar of equally delicious "bio" tomato paste, also Spanish, Vita Vella is the brand. No one complained! Afterward, pasta with walnut sauce, and the green salad.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
FRESH ALASKA COD from Monterey Fish, one of the very few Berkeley institutions we miss from the old days. We were down in Berkeley yesterday, and took an ice-chest with us, to bring back fish.
Lindsey sliced onions and lemons, and put them on the cod fillets, and wrapped them in parchment; we took them down the hill to T's house where they were cooked in the oven, while asparagus steamed en sautée on the stove; green salad after, and ice cream with chocolate sauce...
LUNCH YESTERDAY in the café at Chez Panisse with family: sand dab sa'or with onions, currants, pine nuts, and bay leaves, served cool; grilled pork leg with sauerkraut, roast potatoes, and mustard sauce. I've loved sand dabs sa'or for years; it's how I always cook them at home -- sweat the onions with some pine nuts, then add liquid (white wine, stock, or even water) and currants; I add a splash of vinegar too. The dabs go on top of all this and barely steam 'til cooked.
The pork was delicious and as I thought made a perfect match to the sand dabs, kraut answering sa'or. Lunch was like a piece of music in two movements, each an analogue of the other. It didn't hurt to have a delicious Barhi date and a Page mandarin afterward.
Monday, March 23, 2009
THEY WERE ALWAYS garbanzos when I was a kid, I suppose because Dad grew up in Bisbee Arizona. I can't get used to the word "chickpeas." But I love them, even canned ones, which we don't eat that often any more. Tonight Lindsey cooked dried ones, as usual; cooked the Basmati rice as usual, then sweated a diced onion in oil, added a teaspoon of ground cumin, salt, and the garbanzos; then the grated zest of a lemon; then a handful of spinach leaves and cooked that until the spinach was wilted. Rice in the bowls, vegetables served over it.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
THERE'S A WALNUT TREE next to the mailboxes, so last October, I think it was, I picked up a few fallen walnuts every time I went down to get the mail. I spread them out on a tray I'd made by stapling some quarter-inch hardware cloth to a wooden frame, and set that in the cab of the El Camino: a perfect drying apparatus.
Cook your pasta and drain it, then toss it with the walnut sauce, and garnish with chopped parsley and walnuts. After the pasta, we had chard from the garden.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
YESTERDAY INCLUDED AN HOUR in the sun cracking walnuts, and I thought that today I'd be making pasta with walnut sauce, a dish of my dreams — one of those fantasies that seem so real, so familiar as facts rather than fantasies, that their appeal transcends desire, becomes rather the substance of lived experience.
Instead we had a perfectly fine substitute, the remains of our St. Patrick's Day dinner, including the remains of its bottles.
Friday, March 20, 2009
DOWN TO SANTA ROSA tonight to have dinner with a couple of old friends. No one felt like cooking, so we had a Martini and ordered pizza delivered from Borolo's — one Martinez (cilantro pesto, mozzarella, jack cheese, chicken, Anaheim chiles (mild) and fresh tomato); one North Beach (olive oil and garlic, mozzarella, fontina cheese, prosciutto, and mushrooms). I don't believe that chicken belongs on a pizza, and I certainly don't go for ham, pineapple, kalamata olives, feta, or bean sprouts and peanuts. So we stuck with the North Beach, though I must say the Martinez was surprisngly good. You just never know. Caesar salad on the side, also Borolo's, also good.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
EVERY YEAR CHEZ PANISSE celebrates the coming of Spring with a dinner honoring Parsi New Year, with a menu conceived and executed by Niloufer Ichaporia King, who was born in Bombay to a Parsi family. There have been
And, you might say, even the fifth sense, hearing: most obviously in the snap of the
We began with little dishes of cashews, lightly seasoned to match the pappadum, and pickled tiny carrots and radish slices, with a nice twist on Kir royale: a glass of cava flavored with pomegranate juice.
Then a bowl of Niloufer's traditional "Auspicious dal," to confirm the promise of the New Year, with its Zen-like circle of spices further delineating the significance. With these two courses we had a fine Pinot blanc from Domaine Weinbach (Alsace), 2006.
Three oysters on the half shell came next, an Arcimboldo version of a fleur-de-lis, on a bed of rock salt, with a mignonette sauce lifted judiciously with lime and chili: perfect with a little glass of Crémant pink with the skins of its pinot noir.
Plat principal: and the photo does not do it justice. Grilled and braised rabbit in pistachio cream; springtime pulao (pilaf) with peas; a deep green note of nettles and chard, reminding us that Spring issues from the dark depths of Winter; and chicory salad with tamarind and slices of kumquats. The rabbit was succulent, meaty yet delicate, the cream sauce complex but light with its pistachio and turmeric. With this, a cuirous an very good "Vassal de Puech" Languedoc 2006, earthy and fertile.
Rhubarb Ice, faluda, and sweets:
the faluda recalling the feel (though not the flavor!) of the pistacho cream, the little date pastry visually recalling the Bombay potato… what an intelligent, artful, good-humored dinner this was. And, as always, a delightfully printed menu decorated by David King (who also pounce-stencils the ritual blessings on the steps to the restaurant), and fabulous floral displays… too bad it comes but once a year. At other times we make do with Niloufer's fine book, My Bombay Kitchen, and look forward to next March.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
BAGNA CAUDA is one of my favorite things. It wasn't on the lunch menu, but a salad involving cardoons, anchovy sauce, and brandade on toast comes pretty close, close enough for lunch. After that, braised chicken, moist and succulent, with snap peas and garlic-scented mashed potatoes. Chocolate pavé with stracciatella ice cream finished things off nicely. What a pleasant meal for a balmy spring day a couple of days early!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
CORNED BEEF and cabbage, boiled potatoes, carrots; horseradish sauce. When I was a boy it was a regular feature, not merely once a year. Lindsey does it just right, not that there's really that much to it. It was a favorite meal of her father's, who died ten years ago today; a real friend, one of the best I've ever had; I miss him daily. He would have enjoyed tonight's dinner.
Green salad, of course, and an Irish dessert, a sort of apple crisp made with rolled oats rather than flour-based crisp-topping.
Monday, March 16, 2009
FRIENDS FROM OUT of town: let's go to lunch. Lindsey likes Willi's in Healdsburg, because she likes seafood, so I look on and enjoy her enjoying her lobster roll. My Petrale sole, pan-fried and coated with sliced almonds, was nice enough, and the fries are nice. Green salad later, at home.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
WHAT'LL WE DO FOR LUNCH? Let's go back to Marzano, since it's just down the road from Claire and Kendall's. It's Sunday, so lunch is, in fact brunch. I have a very nice cappuccino to begin, then move to a breakfast pizza, with a "tricolore": a very nice pizza covered with what on the Marzano dinner menu is a salad: radicchio, frisée and arugula, with a lemon-anchovy component, bits of crushed grissini, and grated pecorino on top — and to make it my Sunday breakfast, an egg in the center, nicely baked in the oven.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
OUR ANNUAL NEW YEAR'S EVE dinner with a couple of old friends was postponed this year. It's the sort of thing happens more readily as we grow older; nothing to be done but accept it.
In any case a delicious dinner: roast lamb, pink and full of flavor under its mustard glaze, serious long-stemmed broccoli, fine steam-sauteed potatoes. And Claire's perfect cheesecake for dessert. Happy New Year!
Cabernet sauvignon, Simi, 2006; Sauternes, Ch. Rieussec, 1978
Friday, March 13, 2009
TUNA, BREAD, pickle relish, a little marjoram, and — Lemonaise?
Well, I'll be damned. I knew there was something different about tonight's grilled tuna sandwich. There was an elusive, gee, no, well maybe… and of course I'd just finished reading Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires (very funny, by the way, and very revealing too). My mind was primed for elusive what's-its among the savories.
Anyhow: delicious. Before the sandwich, Lindsey's succotash, which combines soybeans and corn, both frozen. You can see we've been eating out of the freezer and off the pantry shelves. The tuna's Ortiz brand Bonito, about as good as it gets. And Lindsey "grilled" the sandwiches using a trick we learned last year, I think: heat two black-iron skillets, one a little smaller than the other; grill the sandwich in a few drops of olive oil in the big one, putting the hot smaller one on top to weight the sandwich down. Did I mention green salad?
Thursday, March 12, 2009
THAT'S WHAT IT WAS, polenta with red sauce; we've been here before and we'll be here again. Green salad. Oh: Dessert! Apricots and sour cherries from the freezer (last summer's fruit, and the trees are in bloom again now), made into a crisp: very nice.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
FISH TONIGHT, and not fresh fish either: breaded fillets, frozen. They tasted a bit industrial. We don't usually eat things out of boxes, and this is a reminder why. With them, delicious creamy steam-sautéed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts, and green salad, of course.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
WE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW how appropriate it was, having a hot dog for dinner tonight, until an e-mail from Portland asked if we were watching the game. I didn't even know there was a rematch. I tune in just in time to be too late: The Netherlands had defeated the Dominican Republic, two to one, in the bottom of the eleventh inning. The DR had 26 major-league players on their roster, I read somewhere; The Netherlands "only" twelve or sixteen or so.
Oh. Sorry. Right: this is food, not baseball. Niman=Schell frankfurter (the new edition is longer and skinnier and tastes much the same), Downtown Bakery bun, pickle relish, mustard, chopped raw onion. Green salad.
Monday, March 9, 2009
LINDSEY CONTINUES TO SEARCH the freezer and the refrigerator; there's a burst of Spring cleaning going on. What should she find but four big pork chops sent down a while back by our son. She pan-fried them, then finished them in the oven in the pan in which she'd roasted potatoes and cloves of unpeeled garlic.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
tel. (707) 546-2929
OUT TO SEE A SHOW tonight, and dinner before, with a couple of special friends. We'd been to Bistro 29 before, a year or so ago. We started with a plate of panisses for the table — served as sticks here, say a half-inch square by four inches long, to be dipped into a vaguely pesto-like mayonnaise. I prefer the traditional panisse, more like a crèpe, but these had the same delicious chickpea taste, though necessarily less crisp.
On then to a dish of slow-braised greens, and then a pork shank — closest thing to a stinco di maiale I've ever encountered in a French-style bistro, rich, perhaps even too rich, particularly as accompanied irrelevantly (I thought) by a crisped crèpe filled with cheese. An enormous serving. Good, though.
tel. (707) 544-1200
LUNCH, NOT DINNER, was the thing today. With two old friends, and two old friends of theirs, at Worth Our Weight, a unique institution started and run by another old friend, Evelyn Cheatham. She's made it her mission in life to find kids who might otherwise be on a bad course and show them a way to make the best of themselves — through cooking. Cooking, but more than that: thinking, sourcing, cooking, serving, sharing. In short, another example — there may be hundreds of them now in this country — of an outfit that reifies the convergence of ethics, nutrition, service, business, and pleasure that right-thinking restaurants can provide their communities: and with the special twist of finding kids at risk and offering them a way back to health.
I had a bowl of thick vegetable soup, perfect for the waning days of winter, and a pulled-pork sandwich — that, and good society.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
WE CONTINUE TO EMPTY the freezer; or, rather, Lindsey does; I continue to see to it that the gin bottle's still there. Tonight she found some roast beef, and a small container of gravy from some other occasion. She sweated some sliced onion in olive oil, added four potatoes cut up into large dice, the beef and the gravy; maybe a couple of other things I don't know about. Very good; I'd happily eat it once a week — but the freezer's getting empty; I doubt there's any beef left. Green salad.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
THAT'S BASICALLY WHAT it was tonight, yesterday's delicious cranberry beans, updated with rainbow chard from the garden (the chard is perpetual); a slice of toast floated atop, drizzled with good olive oil.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
THAT'S WHAT LINDSEY called it, Full Belly Dinner, and she meant it on two levels. Last time we were in Berkeley, last week, it was farm market day. That's one of the few things we miss about moving away from Berkeley -- the farm market, Monterey Market, and Monterey Fish. (Well, and easier access to Chez Panisse, of course, and Moe's, and a couple of other things.)
Lindsey bought some cranberry beans and a package of flour. Flour! From wheat grown in Yolo County at Full Belly Farms! Milled into flour! So tonight, after a first course of little Brussels sprouts cooked with a little mustard and chopped garlic, we had beans and biscuits, and they were good.
Could be there's some atavism there: my mother's father, though born in Geyserville, moved with his parents (and brothers) to a Yolo county farm where their principal cash crop, as I recall it, was wheat. They didn't stay long -- from there they went up to Crane Mountain country in southeast Oregon, then to Berkeley for the boys to go to college. But there's a little Yolo in me, along with a lot of Sonoma.
Monday, March 2, 2009
I THINK WE FIRST tasted it in Apeldoorn, when Kees made it for dinner — it was just when he'd begun studying to be the chef he is; I don't think he was yet seventeen. So we always think of it by its Dutch name: boerenkool, "farmer's kale".
Lindsey chopped up some bacon and fried it, then sautéed onions in the bacon fat with a little olive oil too, then potatoes; then added a bit of water to steam things, and leftover gravy from last week's pork roast; and then added the chopped kale and steamed it until done. Served with malt vinegar and the crumbled bacon bits. You don't need anything else: no bread, no green salad, no nothing.
THE WINTER STAFF PARTY chez Chez Panisse is always a lot of fun. This time it was in a new location, the Albany Bowl.
Here's Alice, cute as a button in a borrowed jacket, a little blurry not because of the libations but because this is available light. There was a big pot of pinto beans, and a big bowl of green salad (of course); and Sue Moore was there with her Let's Be Frank cart cooking up frankfurters and brats and spicy sausage; and Mary Canales had brought her car from Ici to serve up cups and cones and hot fudge sundaes. I had a little caramel sauce added to mine: might as well go for it.