Saturday, October 31, 2009


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 31, 2009—
THING IS, LIMA BEANS were always one of those vegetables not to my taste. Partly that chestnutty texture (though in fact I do like chestnuts), partly the faintly grassy flavor, mostly the fact that Mom always burned them without, somehow, altering the mushy texture she'd given them by boiling the bejeezus out of them first.
Along came Nancy Skall and her beans. Two varieties are particularly wonderful: willowleaf and musica. These are the musicas, very flat and thin, beautifully smooth, a little bit grainy on the tooth, deep with flavor. Lindsey cooks them in olive oil; I'd swear she put a bit of butter in with them too. It takes longer to shell them than to cook them.
Otherwise tonight, an ear of corn, a hunk of salmon, braised chard and kale. If only the Phillies hadn't lost.
Pinot grigio, "Vivace", Contadino, 2008 (only 12%, and quite effervescent)

Friday, October 30, 2009


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 30, 2009—
I OFTEN FEEL GUILTY posting to this blog: we eat so much, so easily; others eat little or sometimes nothing. We drove down to Berkeley today listening to a woman talk about providing food once a week to poor people in Haiti. I stopped in at Summer Kitchen for lunch to go: a couscous salad, a potato-fines herbes salad, a muffaletta, a roast beef sandwich. We ate the sandwiches in the car, driving home in the afternoon.
Dinner tonight: after our Martini, the two Summer Kitchen salads (delicious and complex, as were the sandwiches), with some peppers à la greque (I hope they never end); then on to
a mixture of chard and kale from the garden, sautéed; delicious little Merguez sausages from Franco, and little potatoes sautéed slowly, slowly with whole unpeeled garlic cloves and rosemary and salt. Oh la la; this is eating. I'm sorry about the Haitians, and I just bought 35 meals for them online. (What we need is a way to do this automatically, rotating among Haitians and other people similarly in need.)
Tempranillo, Brick Kiln Cellars (Los Angeles), 1997; much better tonight.

Grilled tuna sandwich

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 29, 2009—
WHAT WITH ONE THING and another cooking dinner wasn't an attractive option, one thing being a late-in-the-afternoon event in town that dragged on, the other being the second game of the World Series. So Lindsey fixed grilled tuna sandwiches, one of my favorite things. Artisan's nine-grain bread is not one of my favorite things, but L. likes it, and I have to agree it makes fine grilled sandwiches. Superb canned Ortiz tuna. Little chunks of dill pickle. Just the right amount of chopped onion. Grilled between two hot cast-iron frying pans. Green salad afterward. The only improvement would have been a second Phillies win.
Tempranillo, Brick Kiln Cellars (Los Angeles), 1997 (!)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chicory; tomatoes and eggs

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 28, 2009—
OH BOY, THAT WAS a fabulous dinner tonight. To begin with, cicory. The other day at the farm stand (Tierra Vegetables) the counterwoman smiled brightly as we were leaving: Oh! Did you know we have pane di zucchero today, too?
Immediately I saw Mrs. Bertolli in front of me. She was our back neighbor on Curtis Street in Berkeley when we moved in there in 1973, certainly at least eighty years old at that time, thin as a rail, always wearing a sober print dress, a cardigan, long grey stockings and sensible shoes, spending virtually the entire day in her huge vegetable garden that occupied a double lot: favas, cabbages, broccoli, leeks, onions, tomatoes, peppers, with a few scrawny trees — lemons, figs, an apple I think. A typical ancient Italian immigrant.
One day I asked her about some strange lettuces she had, huge oval leaves. Pane di zucchero, she said, try it. I soon discovered the leaves were all that was missing from the sandwich I had until then thought completely perfect: mortadella, galantina, butter, bread. No: you need also a leaf of pane di zucchero.
It isn't lettuce, it's chicory. The Tierra lady warned us of its bitterness: It took me a while to get used to that, she said. But I knew about that. While it's delicious with lunch meat — the mortadella's sweetness offsets it — it's even better as Lindsey served it tonight: chopped, sautéed in olive oil, flavored with lots of crushed garlic. A glass of red wine perfected it.
Afterward, a recipe from the September issue of Sunset: Paprika tomatoes with poached eggs. She ground coriander, cumin, paprika, garlic, and salt in a mortar; browned a chopped, seeded, and skinned poblano on some oil; added the spices and some tomato paste, then water and halved Roma tomatoes; then poached four eggs in the mixture, and served the whole with some bread to sop it up. Absolutely delicious. (The recipe is here.)
Tempranillo, as yesterday; cheap Pinot grigio

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lunch and dinner

San Francisco, October 27, 2009—
TO THE CITY TODAY for a meeting, a fascinating one: the Bakers Dozen, Lindsey's professional (and in the best sense amateur) organization, where we and a hundred others listened to Harold McGee and Shirley Corriher talk off the cuff about Food Science — principally, about leavenings. This is tremendously interesting stuff. I was particularly impressed with McGee's revelation that he'd somewhat dismissed Julia Child's mention of the importance of copper pans to the beating of eggs, because it had been dismissed by the few scientific investigations he'd found twenty years ago, but that he then put it to the test and found out through hands-on experimentation that of course she was right. This is an interesting story I'll relate another time, another place.
Shirley Corriher is a hoot, a very funny woman with a southern drawl, a suspect taste (she likes aluminum baking powder and commercial vanilla paste), and a razorsharp scientist's approach to Truth. Beat the fool out of your batter, she said more than once. McGee, is how she referred to Harold McGee; I half looked round to see if Molly was nearby.
But the lunch! We were at the San Francisco Culinary Academy, and had a sort of Caesar salad, and braised lamb breast with couscous and cumin-cooked garbanzos, and breads that really weren't very good, and carafe coffee. Dessert was the best thing, I think, poached apple slices in commercial puff-pastry shells with pretty damn good ice cream, or maybe I was just grateful by then.
Home, it was tamales for dinner, tamales from Primavera in Sonoma. I don't know when Lindsey bought them; she found them in our freezer. They were delicious.
Tempranillo, La Granja 360, Cariñena, nv

Monday, October 26, 2009

Market menu

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 26, 2009 —
MARKET MENU, a day or two later than usual, since we ate out yesterday. These days,
sliced raw tomatoes
peppers à la greque
"Musica" lima beans from Middleton Gardens
salmon, baked, with shallots and lemon
green salad
cheap Pinot grigio

Earlier, Crane melon and pears.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dinner al fresco

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 25, 2009—
HERE IT'S ALMOST November, and we ate at outside this evening, watching the fabulous evening light go to black, Jupiter ascendent near the increasing moon, a balmy autumn night in Healdsburg.
And what a delicious dinner, cooked for us by friends. We began with tequila gimlets of a sort, with considerable heat from chile pepper, and extraordinary raw tuna tossed with chiles, scallions, ginger and a little sesame oil; and halved figs warmed with pancetta, I think — I should have paid more attention, but the conversation trumped.
That was in the kitchen, while Jeff finished things at the grill: nice small prawns (though not for me, alas); long red peppers; halibut wrapped in grape leaves with grilled lemon slices as a garnish; and a festive salad with tomatoes and chiffonaded lettuces. Lindsey'd fixed the desserts: butterscotch puddings with sprinkled chopped toasted pecans. A marvelous evening: thanks, Jeff and Ina!
Panilonco, Chardonnay-Viognier blend (Chile), 2008; Merlot, Peju "Province" (Napa), 2000

Coco beans

Eastside Road, October 24, 2009—
IN BERKELEY TODAY TO VISIT friends visiting from Hawaii (I know that's complicated; they hadn't time to drive up our way), and remembered the Saturday market on Center Street, so stopped to see what was to be seen. We used to shop that market every week, but it's twelve years since we left Berkeley; it's getting to where I hardly know the streets any more.
What should we find but those excellent black nearly spherical beans David Tanis had put in his faux-cassoulet Monday night, so we bought some, of course.
Lindsey wasted no time shelling and cooking them for dinner. Delicious. Tomatoes, broad beans, Coco beans. Maybe it's Koko; I could get to them plighted.
Malbec, "La Finca" (Mendoza), 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 23, 2009—
ONE OF THE DIFFERENCES between Lindsey and me is probably the reverse of what most of the people who know us would expect. When I fry onions, preparatory to a sauce or whatever, I sweat them very slowly. My aim is to make them translucent, with no color at all. When I make a risotto, for example, I sweat them as slow as possible, and after adding the stock I stand there and pick out the darkened bits of onion, eating them on the spot, so my risotto will have as little caramel color and taste as possible.

Lindsey, on the other hand, tends to leave the pan to its own devices, turned down low for sure, but cooking away while she knits, or reads, or watches the news, or talks on the telephone, or does any of a number of things. I shake my head sadly at this: the onions will be burned, the dinner will be ruined.
What happens, of course, is that the onions get very dark, very crisp, and very delicious. So it was again tonight: she browned the onions, added some leftover lentils, and made another perfectly delightful dinner. I have so much to complain about.
Malbec, "La Finca" (Mendoza), 2009 (not very good)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Boeuf Bourgignon

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 22, 2009—
DINNER WITH OLD FRIENDS tonight: Gaye was Lindsey's college roommate, and in fact introduced us to one another, so I owe her a lot. And it was her husband John's birthday. Gaye made Boeuf Bourgignon in honor of the occasion. I knew Gaye before I knew Lindsey; we met in 1952, in the literary club at our junior college. Five years later, Lindsey and I were married. Not long after that, Lindsey made her first Boeuf Bourgignon, from Julia Childs's recipe I imagine. I remember that on its way from stove to dining table it somehow slipped from her grip and fell to the floor. Nothing to do but scoop it up, spoon it back into the serving dish, and bring it to the table. Oh well: it was just our friends Kendall and Ruthie to dinner.

So tonight old friends who in fact haven't met came together, over a classic dish from the French canon. Gaye served it over polenta, an avant-garde idea I really like; it made the dish somehow Piedmontese rather than Burgundian, and Lindsey's half Piedmontese and not at all Burgundian. And afterward a good salad, and after that a nice complex cake involving chocolate.
Cabernet sauvignon, Sebastiani, 1973 (!); Merlot, private label

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 21, 2009—
FIVE SERVINGS A DAY, I'm told, is what it takes to keep us healthy; I think (I hope) that's vegetables and fruits, not just vegetables. Here are three of today's: heritage tomatoes from the farm market — what a nice tomato season we've had. Broad beans from Nancy Skall's Middleton Farms. Delicious chard from our own little potager. Afterward, leftover lentils. We had Crane melon for lunch, and there'll be our apples and pears for a bedtime snack.
Sancerre, André Vatan "Les Charmes," 2006

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dining in the kitchen

Berkeley, October 20, 2009—
DINING IN THE KITCHEN downstairs at Chez Panisse is a particular pleasure. The table is small, the light bright, the ambiance distracting, I grant you: but that's the point. You sit between the pastry kitchen and the salad-pasta table; a little further is the line, the stoves, and the hearth. Dishwashers shuttle quickly and smoothly between kitchens and dishroom. Waiters hustle in, chalk up orders, pick up plates. Bussers fetch bottles from the wine room. The pastry staff quietly and intently go about folding lattices of pastry across tartes, whisking sauces, plating desserts.
We dine downstairs at Chez Panisse rarely; it's always a specal treat. We're tolerated in the kitchen because we know these people, have worked with them for nearly forty years. We still feel honored to be there.

This dinner began with these leeks in vinaigrette with prosciutto, egg, capers, and cornichons, a spray of chervil on the side. The vinaigrette was thick, verging toward a mayonnaise. Leeks from the restaurant's Sonoma valley farm; egg and prosciutto with flavor that manages to be both delicate and deep.
Afterward, "tea-smoked Bolinas black cod" — don't ask me how that's done — with spinach and wild mushrooms: complex, spicy, smoky, certainly exotic. Then grilled duck breast with duck-leg confit and a faux-cassoulet (my term, not the menu's) featuring fresh shell beans, at least four different kinds each maintaining its integrity. And then an apple-quince tart with Calvados ice cream. Quite an amazing dinner, no matter where you eat it.
Sancerre, Les Monts Damnés, Chavignol, Thomas Labaille, 2007; Morgon, Côte du Py, Jean Foillard, 2008; Touraine, Domaine La Grande Tiphaine, Damien Delecheneau, "Côt, vieilles vignes", 2008

Monday, October 19, 2009


Galt, California, Oct. 19--

DINNER, THIS LONG strange day, was the other half of lunch, which we'd had at El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma. I reported on this, with photo, over at Facebook; one day I have to figure out how to cross-reference these things. Ham-cheese pizza with three eggs: great concept but short on execution. When on a real keyboard I'll amplify.

Sunday Salmon

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 18, 2009—
WE DIDN'T GET to the farm market in Healdsburg yesterday (Saturday), so we drove down to the neighboring town to the south, Sebastopol, to go to this morning's Sunday market. It's a little bigger, with more prepared foods and more crafts items, seems to me; but two of the provisioners we most rely on were there: Nancy Skall with her delicious Spanish "Musica" broad beans, her delicious "Willow leaf" limas, and her infectious dry wit; and The Fish Guy with his fresh wild Coho salmon, his halibut and oysters, and his tales of his life as a detective. So, after an irregular Martini — because of our trip to the Futurist banquet in San Francisco we'd taken a rain check on our Saturday Martini — it was broiled salmon with lemon juice, fresh-dug purple potatoes, and those limas. Earlier we'd had another Crane melon. What a fine season this is!
Sancerre, André Vatan "Les Charmes," 2006

The Futurist Banquet

San Francisco, October 17, 2009—
INSPIRED BUT NOT RESTRAINED by Filippo Marinetti's Futurist Cookbook, a number of artist-chefs conspired with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to produce a Banquet in the lobby of the museum tonight (Saturday, October 18, 2009).. We arrived at 8 pm to find the place absolutely packed. Huge screens on the walls flickered with newsreels, grainy industrial films, and occasional glimpses of ourselves, for there was media everywhere.
We headed for the bar: Pinot noir from Sonoma county; absinthe-brandy punch, local brandies and grappa, Boiler Room beer. I was quickly drawn to a table featuring a sort of avocado zabaglione: avocado, orange flower water, brandy, vanilla bean, and sugar blended smooth, then garnished with candied orange peel: delicious.
A poet shouted Futurist intonations through a megaphone; sirens blared; metallic clanking; excited conversation. At another table, Our Beeting Heart: beet gelée and goat cheese in the disquieting form of a human heart. In tribute to a particularly misguided experiment in commercial gene-splicing — hard to believe Monsanto actually engineered a cross between a flounder and a tomato — there were delicious tomato halves covered with halibut tartare as well as porcini with cheese.

Some miles away, in South San Francisco, a quarter-ton steer had been roasting twenty hours on a spit. It was brought through the city streets on a trailer drawn by bicycle and triumphantly entered the museum lobby, where a posse of stout men tore off its protective aluminum foil and laid it magnificently on a huge butcher-block. Then a dozen or so women, all in white chef's jackets, approached, first saluting the steer reverently with knives and cleavers raised in tribute, then plunging in to hack the flesh from the bones.
Plates of sliced meat were sent on the conveyer belt dividing the hundreds of guests into two camps, and ultimately some of the meat, particularly nerves and gristle, was minced and formed into a parody of ice-cream, to be served in cones.
The scent and sight of the beef filled the museum and aroused primal communitarian instincts in the crowd. Everything tasted fabulous. The cooks were true artists; I have rarely seen the artistic and intellectual component of the highest level of food preparation so generally recognized by an assembled crowd.
Toward the end of the evening the dessert arrived: slices of panforte wrapped in manifestos, dropped by parachute from the fifth-floor overlook. It was an amazing evening. I've posted 29 photos here; they're unedited and uncommented for the moment. I'll have more to write about this unique and unforgettable event later over at The Eastside View, no doubt, but it'll take time to sort out my impressions.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 16, 2009—
THE FIRST COURSE was sliced tomatoes and quickly steamed broad beans, and the salad course was the usual green salad. In between we had a bit of a departure; we haven't had lentils for quite a while. Lindsey cooked up lentils with rice into a pilaf, flavored with onions, garlic, and cumin. Lentils have such a deep, chthonic sort of flavor; I don't know why we don't eat them every week.
Nero d'Avola

Hot dog

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 15, 2009—
BASEBALL CONTINUES APACE, this being golden October. Tonight we watched the Phillies beat the Dodgers (Yes!) with hot dogs in our laps, well, on a plate of course, and a napkin beneath. A Niman Schell hot dog, to be sure; they're about as good as they get within reach. Lindsey broiled them in the oven, and warmed the Downtown Bakery buns there too. On them, that good Maille moutarde de Dijon, and that perfectly acceptable Del Monte pickle relish. You see: we do eat manufactured foods from time to time.

Also on the bun, thin-sliced raw onion. For years I could not eat raw onion; invariably the attempt was accompanied by a sour stomach. The day after I retired from twenty years of journalism something led me to try raw onion once again, and I found the experience delightful. Raw onion is sweet, delicate, clearly nutritious, and utterly benign. It's work makes the stomach sour, work and stress. Though not the stress of baseball.
Nero d'Avola

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reprise with sausage

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 14, 2009—
WERE IT ONLY BETTER for me — more healthful, I mean — I would happily eat sausage twice or three times a week. I don't go as far as my Slavic son-in-law, who leads his family in The Sausage Dance — they clasp hands and do a slow ring-dance around the platter, set on the floor, chanting sau-sage sau-sage we are going to eat — you. But I do love sausage, have since childhood, when we made our own, the best thing (and one of the few good things) about pig-butchering time.

I wrote recently about Franco Dunn, our Sausage Guy at the Healdsburg farm market. The protein trifecta there, Saturday mornings, is Franco for sausage; The Fish Guy for, well, fish; and Pug's Leap for cheese. (There are other protein pushers, from butter to beef, but I haven't really explored them.) Tonight Lindsey pulled the rest of yesterday's polenta and red sauce out of the refrigerator, and a package of little sausages, I no longer recall what they were called, from the freezer, where to tell the truth they may have spent a teeny bit too much time.
They were elegant things, say half an inch in diameter and six or eight inches long, and tasted strongly of herbs, especially thyme. A French model, a saucisse. They made you stop and taste and think, and I like food that does that. Green salad, of course.
Nero d'Avola

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Polenta, redsauce

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 13, 2009—
I FIND EIGHTEEN earlier references to red sauce on this blog, dating back a year and a half — roughly one a month, I guess: time to accord this one of the Hundred Plates. Today we had our first serious rain in months, and it was serious, four and a half inches at our house, with heavy winds from time to time: perfect polenta and red sauce weather. But summer lingers, so we began with sliced fresh tomatoes, with the last of the peppers Lindsey à la Greque'd the other day. (If I try to describe Lindsey's way of making tomato sauce I'll probably get it wrong: anyway, I already have described it, here).
Afterward, a very delicious Crane melon, bought at the Crane melon barn, near the Crane ranch, on Crane Canyon Road. My mother was a Crane; my grandfather's grandfather and his two brothers settled that ranch, a century and a half ago. Crane melons are nearly always good, but those from the Crane ranch are the best. The best melon of any kind at all, say I, except perhaps for a perfect Cavaillon or, better, Charentais: but you can only get them, at their best, in France.
Nero d'Avola

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lunch in Berkeley

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 12, 2009—
DOWN TO BERKELEY today for a meeting, then lunch in the café, sort of a monthly affair for us. I had the fixed-price menu: a really delicious salad, dressed simply with olive oil and salt; then pasta with mint, ricotta, and a light creamy tomato sauce. For dessert, Marsala ice cream, very delicately flavored, married perfectly to little figs cooked in wine.
Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Syrah, Domaine Faury, 2007

Staff party

Glen Ellen, October 11, 2009—
EVERY LATE SUMMER OR EARLY FALL, usually a little earlier in the year than this, we have a big staff party on Bob Cannard's farm. He seems to be running two of them these days; last year we were outside Petaluma, today, back in the Valley of the Moon. In the past I've taken lots of photos; this time not a one. Don't know why.
It's always a splendid event, though this time the weather was a bit short of ideal — a cool day with a covered sky; jacket-and-scarf weather. Chris Lee cooked huge quantities of fish soup, alas for me with shrimp and a lobster-flavored base, but with toasted baguettes and rouille and all that. The wine flowed freely; there was lots of fruit; delicious salad of course, fine cheeses. Best of all great company, because it is, let's not mince words, a great company.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nettle soup

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 10, 2009—
WHAT SHOULD WE FIND at the farm market this morning but nettles and chestnuts. I didn't buy any of the latter, though they smelled delicious on this quite cold morning, but we did take home a big sack of nettles, and I made soup. We made soup: Lindsey tore the leaves off the stems, because we don't have any rubber gloves big enough for my Rachmaninovian paws.

I browned a chopped onion in olive oil, added a few cloves of garlic, minced, then a couple of quarts of chicken stock, four potatoes chopped into small dice, and plenty of salt. The nettles, chopped into fairly small shreds, went in about five minutes before time to eat. Delicious. Afterward, those nice limas of Nancy's, and some fine Coho salmon from The Fish Guy; and green salad of course, and figs for dessert.
Rosé, Louis Jadot (Beaujolais), 2007

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 9, 2009—
FIVE SERVINGS A DAY, we're told, and this time of the year that's a pleasure. Five servings of fruits and vegetables, that is.
We began with peppers, the skin burnt off, then chopped and sautéed in olive oil, with slice tomatoes and broccoli just lightly steamed, and went on to penne in pesto. For fruit, these days we have apples, pears, and figs from the garden; today we had a melon too, from a nearby farm. All this and baseball too. It's a good life, even though our teams don't look so good.
Rosé, Louis Jadot (Beaujolais), 2007

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 8, 2009—
JUST TYPE THE WORD "kale" into the search box for this blog and you'll see how often we return to Boerenkool. It's substantial, delicious, cheap, and not that difficult, particularly when you get someone else to cook it.
Lindsey cooked some bacon in the stainless-steel skillet, sautéed cubed (and peeled) potatoes in the bacon-fat, then sweated the chopped kale leaves in the skillet, covered, over very low heat.
This took quite a while, tonight, because the kale in the garden is very old, very tough, very big. And very tasty. Lindsey sometimes puts a little vinegar on the dish. I think the vinegar harms the
Nero d'Avola, 2007

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 6, 2009--
ONE OF THE BEST pestos this year, I think, so I have to give some thought to it. As I wrote earlier today, pesto proves the logic of single-terroir recipes: garlic, salt, pine nuts, basil, Parmesan, olive oil. Six ingredients, all Mediterranean. All Italian, in fact. But tonight's ingredients came from far and near: Yael's fabulous Rose de Lautrec garlic; grey salt from the Ile de Ré (bought at our local Cheese Shop); pine nuts from Raley's and, I'm afraid, probably originally from China; basil again from Yael's farm; Parmesan (but not Reggiano) from Parma, bought eleven months ago in Milan; olive oil from Turkey, bought in Portland. Well, I never said we were locavores.

I think the basil is probably the most significant variable here. This was fresh, but not garden-fresh; probably picked early Saturday morning, and in our refrigerator since then. The garlic and the salt are really important, and I swear by the ones I've mentioned. Maybe the pine nuts are the least significant variable in the lot: but in the past, when I've used nuts from our very own pine trees, I've thought the result particularly good.
I suppose the ratios are significant, too, but I can't be sure. I never measure these things, at least not consciously. A few cloves of garlic, a few pinches of salt, a palm-hollow of pine nuts, a bunch of basil, the right amount of grated cheese, oil to make the right texture (and to float on top as a preservative if some is left over).
More important, probably, the technique: I use a big marble mortar, grind garlic and salt together to a nice paste, add pine nuts and smash to a smooth heavy paste, then throw in the basil leaves (not the stems!) and pound away. When it's as smooth as I want, or I'm bored, I add the grated cheese, pound a little more, then mix in the oil. (I documented all this four years ago here; since then Lindsey's given me a much finer mortar. Also, since then I've given up washing the basil.) What you see here is what was left after dinner, put in a plastic dish to keep for later. Not too much later!
Nero d'Avola

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fava toasts

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 5, 2009—
WHAT SHE DOES IS, mashes the cooked fava beans which have been cooked with rosemary, heats crushed garlic in olive oil and adds that to them, and spreads the result on toast — it is delicious. With them, tonight, sliced tomatoes and slightly steamed broad beans; green salad afterward.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dinner concert

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 4, 2009—
TO DINNER TONIGHT in Sebastopol, at the French Garden Restaurant, because a benefit dinner had been scheduled to raise some money for a production a friend is working on — John Duykers, opera tenor and market gardener. The FGR gets most of its produce from a local market garden; Duykers works it, between opera gigs. (You can hear part of the result here.)
I had the house Caesar salad, in fact a small Caesar salad next to a small garden salad; then a nice pork loin stuffed with apple and accompanied by green beans, broccoli, and carrots, with two symmetrically placed cherry tomatoes to soften the triangular presentation. Oh: and some delicious little cubes of sautéed potatoes. Dessert was a New York style cheesecake, something I rarely eat but enjoy when I do.
Seghesio Zinfandel, 2007
  • French Garden, 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol, tel. (707) 824-2030

  • Saturday, October 3, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 3, 2009—
    ONE OF THE THINGS we're particularly happy about with our farmers' market in Healdsburg is Franco Dunn, one of the founders of the legendary restaurant Santi in Geyserville (where my grandfather was born, in 1883), a man of many parts who staged at the even more legendary restaurant Il Vipore, outside of Lucca, back when it was Cesare Casella's place. (I'll have to tell you about this place one of these days: it's one of the Five Restaurants.) Franco is a master of salumi. Most weekends he's there at the Healdsburg farmers' market, selling four or five kinds of sausage out of a considerably larger repertory, cycling through them all on a schedule I will never decry.
    A week ago he had Merguez: lamb sausage in a north African mood, piquant and deeply flavored. They don't really go that well with most of the other foods of this terroir and season — Healdsburg tends more to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. But we bought a package anyway, reasoning they'd come in handy.
    And they did, tonight. We weren't sure we'd be eating at home, so hadn't really planned on it. But Lindsey bought the usual supply of lima beans from Nancy Skall this morning, again at the market, and we made a quick supper of them, the grilled Merguez, and the obligatory green salad. (Lunch, which I rarely mention on these pages, was also from the market: fava puré toasts, corn on the cob, and a Calville Blanc from one of our trees.)
    Nero d'Avola

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    My dinner with Lindsey

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 2, 2009—
    EATING DINNER IS IN so many ways a routine, an automatic process. So much more goes into the making, in most cases, than into the consumption. Consumption: what a word. One should of course taste every mouthful, savor the food, begin its digestion in the mouth — to taste, to perceive with your senses the substance, is to initiate its destruction. But before the destruction comes the construction. I work at the computer, mix the Martinis, take a look at the e-mail; Lindsey's in the kitchen, slicing, heating, distributing.
    We drink the Martinis while watching the news — think of it: we're not even really savoring the Martinis, delicious as they are. It takes a calamity — a wrong gin or vermouth, let's say, or running out of olives — to suddenly bring our tasting mechanism back into focus, back to the matter at hand. But that's not completely true: I do savor my Martini; that's one of the reasons I restrict it to Fridays and Saturdays, to protect it from routine.
    Lindsey tips and tails the green beans while we watch the news; then she goes into the kitchen, returning in a few minutes with plates of sliced tomatoes and the beans, now lightly cooked. With them, sautéed chard and kale that I'd picked this afternoon. Then it's pasta, with the last of the pesto I made the other day. The pesto is holding up well; I think its walnut base, being more bourgeois, less ephemeral than pine nuts, paradoxically makes it both more ordinary and more of a survivor in that crowded dangerous refrigerator.
    Later on, I think, we'll have the end of an apple crisp Lindsey made a couple of nights ago. After dinner we watched My Dinner with Andre; we'd never seen it before. It is of course a great movie. I have my dinner with Lindsey every night of my life, well, nearly; and nearly every one of those dinners is made for me by Lindsey. No one will ever realize how grateful I am, perhaps; but I certainly realize how fortunate I am.
    Nero d'Avola

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    About that green salad…

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 1, 2009—
    LEFTOVERS TONIGHT, and every time they come around I'm surprised all over again at how different each day is. We began with that amaranth-and-wheat-flour flatbread Lindsey made a few days back, from a cookbook that's due to be published soon. (Not hers, I hasten to add: someone else's, that she was reading in page proofs.) I'm not a fan of amaranth, or indeed of almost anything that I hadn't tasted by the time I was twenty, but I have to say this flatbread was nice — she sprinkled it with marjoram and baked it in oil in the black iron skillet, and we had it as an appetizer.
    Then fusilli pasta with pesto, yesterday's pesto with its walnut base; and then the green salad de rigeur.
    Even the salad dressing was left over, the fine-chopped shallot vinaigrette I'd made yesterday, when we ran short of lettuce. But with the salad, a few slices of tomato from the garden: the tomatoes are peak form just now. And, as you see, a slice of Artisan nine-grain bread to sop things up with. There's a Crane melon lurking in the pantry for later…
    Nero d'Avola