Friday, December 30, 2011
Thursday, December 29, 2011
After a doughy Starbuck's croissant for breakfast and an enjoyable stroll in the Ruth Bancroft Garden I was hungry. We met an old friend from Chez P. in the 1980s at the place of her choice, also recommended by others. I had standbys: an almost authentic but not really Caesar salad (no anchovies, fluffy croutons, cut-up romaine) and a quite nice steak-frites made with hanger steak correctly grilled rare and served in a wine-flavored reduction. Nice frenchfries, too.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
It was delicious, of course, and the dining room looks so festive and inviting. We began with tasty green olives marinated with just the right amount of lemon zest, then went on to the table d'hôte menu:
Warm chicory salad with pancetta, farm egg and toasted hazelnuts
Steamed local ling cod and shellfish brodo
Spit-roasted Riverdog Farm chicken stuffed with herbs, ragoût of wild mushrooms
and roasted potatoes with green garlic
Apple and candied Meyer lemon galette à la modeThe whole meal was beautiful. The dining room was full; everyone seemed relaxed and enjoying the evening. I don't see how you can do any better than this, but then, I suppose I'm biased.Vouvray, Le Mont, Sec, Gaston Huet, 2007; Sauvignon blanc, Ojai, 2010; Santenay, Lucien Muzard, Champs Claude "Vielles Vines", 2009• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; (510) 548-5525
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
Perchè il baccalà mantecato non è semplice cibo. É storia, religione, avventura, segreto tramandato di cuoco in cuoco, di madre in figlia: piacere del palato, della mente, del cuore.Because baccalà mantecato isn't simply food: it's history, religion, adventure, and secret, handed down from cook to cook, mother to daughter: a pleasure of the palate, the mind, the heart.
Well, this particular baccalà was handed up from daughter to mother, and to father too, and we're both grateful for it, from the heart.
So we went to one of the local upscale supermarkets in search of a decent natural ham. I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find no hams in the butcher case. There was one pork leg roast: Is that what you mean? the "butcher" asked; No, it isn't, I want a cured ham, bone in, fat on, that we can cook for Christmas dinner.
We were directed to the refrigerated help-yourself case, and there they were: precooked hams, spiral-sliced hams, curious compressed hams, none of them with fat, or skin, or bones. We chose one of the compressed jobs: it looked like an old-fashioned beehive, those hemispherical ring-marked basket-weave beehives.
Well, it was okay. It wasn't ham, I said; Yes it is, said Cook. It's ham food, I countered — a little bit sullenly, I'm sorry to say.
Other things had gone wrong. The 1984 Joseph Swan Chardonnay was past drinking — we stuck the bottle in the fridge, corked, to use in risotto next month. My pickled carrots lacked bite and salt.
But mostly things went just fine. Our guests from down the hill brought spoon bread fixings (and cooked it for us in our kitchen) and a lovely baccalà mantecato to have with a bottle of Frexeinet as an appetizer. Cook made a fine roast vegetable
dish with carrots, parsnips, Delicata squash, celery root, garlic, marjoram and thyme. I dressed the green salad with shallots and a marvelous new olive oil from Les Baux (thanks, Michael!). And there was pumpkin pie with hard sauce for dessert. Oh: and, again from down the hill, made from David Lebovitz's recipe, a little tower of chocolate macarons.
Good thing it was all so good, as there was plenty left over, and we'll be eating Christmas dinner all Christmas week…
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Next morning you bring it back to a boil, turn off the fire, cover it for a few minutes while you make the coffee, et voilà.
Well, this time it didn't work — for the first time in decades. Reason: only wheat: no barley, no oats. Wheat from a neighbor's farm: perhaps too early harvested. Still, it was delicious.
Lunch was tea and too many delicious cookies — after all, it's Christmas — at a friend's.
Dinner: The rest of yesterday's chicken soup, heightened by the addition of some pesto found in the back of the freezer — I hate to think of what may still be lurking there. End of year thing. Still, it was delicious, and followed by green salad.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Turns out a plastic container at the back of the freezer was filled with chicken meat, shredded from who knows what bird, on who knows what date. A box of organic chicken broth, a few carrots, a potato, the tops of the leeks we had, let's see, when, thirteen days ago.
But we'd begun with pork rillettes on toast, and ended with mâche in a shallot-and-sherry-vinegar vinaigrette. You can do worse than this.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Wikipedia sums it up neatly:
a Milanese specialty of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth. It is often garnished with gremolata and traditionally served with risotto alla milanese.
There are two types of ossobuco: a modern version that has tomatoes and the original version which does not. The older version, ossobuco in bianco, is flavored with cinnamon, bay leaf and gremolata. The modern and more popular recipe includes tomatoes, carrots, celery and onions. Gremolata is optional.
Tonight's version was nothing if not revisionist. Read the menu description, which I overlooked on first viewing:
HERITAGE PORK OSSO BUCCO
ACE Hard Cider braised pork, fennel seed gremolata, red cabbage & apples, crème fraiche spaetzle
Pork, not veal. Cider, not white wine. Red cabbage and apples. Why call it osso buco?
Still, it wasn't unpleasant, and the spaetzle were a nice touch. But you know? I think I'll make osso buco one of these days soon…
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I expected something along those lines, though I knew it would be Petrale sole, not the Dover sole this quintessentially Parisian dish really requires. What arrived, though, was a Provençal take, heavy on the lemon, even heavier on vinegary capers. The almonds were not slivered but halved, and there were too many of them. The fish was a bit dried out.
Let's not be overhasty in blaming the restaurant: I ordered badly. I knew I was ordering badly when I did it. I should have had the fish tacos. Next time I will. I did like the buttery spinach, though, and the French fries. And the flourless chocolate cake, with a couple of ice creams, was marvelous.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Tuna grilled in the fireplace tonight, with a quinoa salad, and cauliflower florets braised with olives, aïoli on the side. Interesting, enterprising, grounded, and nourishing: just like the birthday girl herself.
Oh: and dessert: Linzer torte, with a syllabub on the side. Why only once a year?
Once home, a salad of arugula, dressed simply with lemon juice, salt, and a delicious new olive oil from Les Baux (thank you, Michael); and a fried egg sandwich.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
The old friend who is coincidentally a food professional who we'd met for brunch thought it over and finally recommended a chain restaurant. Apparently Pasadena really does have a dearth of good restaurants. (I have my favorite, but the rest of the party won't agree; besides, Tre Venezie takes time; it's not best for a theater night.)
So we wound up at Il Fornaio. I had a decent small green salad with a simple balsamic vinaigrette; then a plate of tagliatelle in Bolognese. Or so promised the menu. Lindsey thought the sauce acceptable, though in need of the promised Parmagiano that never appeared. I thought it quite lacking in depth.
Bolognese requires beef, beef stock, and flavorings: carrot, thyme, wine, onion — I list these in random order, as they occur to me. Olive oil, of course. This Bolognese may have had many of these things, but it had another thing no Bolognese should know: water. It was thin and lackluster, and, sorry Lindsey, I don't think the addition of grated Parmesan would have offset its basic blandness.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
We looked at Zagat, and consulted Open Table, and settled on a place not too far away with a curious name and a reputation for good food. I had a sliced grilled hanger steak, rare, flageolets with shallots on the side.
The steak was covered with a sort of tomato-modulated reduction, rather nice, and came with a square of gratinéed potatoes. The green beans were a tad undercooked and salty, like the steak, but pleasant enough. Only the casual service detracted from a competent meal out.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
OUR DEAR FRIENDS Jim and Lisa are putting us up tonight, and acquainted us with this provocative, truly clever main course: a whole chicken, flash-poached, then flamed with lemon-based spirits. We've never tasted anything quite like it.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Dinner at a new restaurant on Telegraph Avenue in a location that's housed at least five restaurants in the last dozen years. We wish this place well; it shows promise and deserves its chance to make its way. We opened with a plate of patatas braves, nicely roasted potato wedges served with aïoli and a tomato confiture; then I went on to rather too complicated a dish: steamed ling cod (very nicely done) which had been battered, in a sense, with shoestring potatoes and served with kale and crisply steamed snap peas. Dessert was a delicious Seckel pear, poached, with honey and an over-acidulated whipped gastrique, a bit too recherché for my taste.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Ironically, she'd made the soup for an ailing friend. But said friend was taken off to hospital before the soup could be delivered, so it served as our reward — I'm pretty sure another pot of soup will be in the works by the time friend is discharged from hospital.
After the soup, a nice green salad; before and after the soup, that delicious cheese I mentioned the other day — Joe Matos's St. George, named for the Azores island he's from, and made as it's made there, I'm told. Oh: and a bait of Dreyer's Rocky Road ice cream. A nice supper.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Well, lunch: we sat down to eat about 1:30, got up maybe three hours later. Leek-and-potato soup; the salad Lyonnaise, cheeses and rillettes, lemon pie. I doubt we'll need supper tonight!
Saturday, December 10, 2011
The one exception was a delicious Portuguese-style cheese nibbled at a friend's house: Joe Matos's St. George cheese, which Gaye likes enough to buy a wheel at a time, and I could imagine doing the same. Delicious.
Friday, December 9, 2011
In the summer of 1917, when I had been at the Ritz seven years, I reflected upon the potato and leek soup of my childhood which my mother and grandmother used to make. I recalled how during the summer my older brother and I used to cool it off by pouring in cold milk and how delicious it was. I resolved to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz.Aha: it's the addition of milk — or, better, cream — that turns good old peasant leek-and-potato into uptown Vichyssoise. And the whole point, originally, apparently, was to cool it.
Well, it's winter here with a vengeance, 22° every morning for the last week; the fire's been burning nonstop, and I want my soup hot. We took our principal meal at midday today, and it began with leek-and-potato soup, maigre for lacking chicken stock as well as cream, and hot, and with a toast fried in butter floating on top. Delicious. Also a plate of cheeses — Stilton, Affinois, Gruyère; with some really amazingly deep and delicious Damson jelly. And "wild" arugula dressed with olive oil and Champagne vinegar.
And dessert! Lemon pie! Meyer lemon pie, made in the manner of a Key lime pie, with Graham-cracker crust and softly whipped cream… You can't do much better than this…
The best one I've ever eaten, I think, was served to me in the bar down at the Square St. Médard in Paris, where Les Caves de Bourgogne is now. Thirty years ago this was a rougher area; the bar was more ordinary. Still, the sandwich was on good bread, Poilâne in fact.
A true croque-monsieur requires really good bread. Also four other things: decent boiled ham; decent Gruyère cheese; Béchamel sauce; and that hyphen in its name. Don't ask how it got its name; no one seems to know. The earliest mention in the literature seems to be Proust, according to the French-language Wikipedia; but in this Internet epoch all such research seems circular at best, unverifiable in general.
Now today's question is, what the hell is a "croque baton"? I'd never seen the term before today, when it showed up (as seen here, no circumflex on "bâton") on the lunch menu at this bakery we like in Petaluma. Googling suggests it's a yuppieish word referring to a pressed grilled sandwich. The Dutch make pressed grilled ham-and-cheese, and call them Tosti's (Dutch nouns ending in vowels adding the apostrophe "s" to denote plural); the Italians of course call them panini.
But baton? Why "baton"? No idea. In any case, it tasted good. It was made with chopped ham and Gruyère — the cheese had been diced, I'm pretty sure — combined with a Mornay-type sauce, put between slices of bread, buttered, and grilled. The green salad with it was clean and flavorful and nicely dressed with good olive oil and salt. No complaints.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
But there wasn't really enough of it, nor was it (probably: I haven't inquired too closely) in good enough shape, to serve as a main course, even for just the two of us. So she turned it into soup, and it was delicious, and recalled pleasant evenings gone by.
Then on to Franco's sausages — tonight, a fine, redolent cotecchino, which always makes me think of Paolo, so dearly does he love it — and, of course, a green salad, dressed with oil and lemon juice. A simple supper, welcome after yesterday's fast.
Monday, December 5, 2011
With them, as you see, broiled salmon, one of the last pieces of the season, from out of the freezer and so a little dry but delicious nonetheless. We dressed it with salt pepper and lime juice, not lemon, as we'd warmed up with guacamole and tequila, and had a little of the lime left.
Green salad, of course; fruit, of course.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Saturday, December 3, 2011
We were at the Farm Market in Santa Rosa today — in winter it's the nearest fairly complete market, with produce, bakery goods, fish and shellfish, a band that sounded like the Hot Club of San Francisco. Yael Bernier was there: we buy garlic and peppers from her at the Healdsburg market, and it's nice to know we can stay in touch out of season.
She had a beautiful head of frisée, and seeing it I was immediately struck with a strong desire for a Salade Lyonnaise. I looked it up online, to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything, and then made the dish you see here:
A little olive oil in the black iron skillet, got good and hot. Throw in some bacon you've cut into cubes: I used maybe three ounces altogether. When that's crisp, or as crisp as it can get in all that oil and bacon fat, throw in a couple of shallots chopped not too fine.
Oh! I forgot croutons! Oh well: cut a couple of thick slices of French bread, stale is better, into cubes, and toast them in a dry iron skillet with a little salt.
Meanwhile, boil some salted water; then turn it down and slide a couple of eggs into it to poach.
You've washed the frisée, yes? Then tear it apart, put it in a mixing bowl with the croutons, pour the bacon-shallot mixture over and toss, adjust for salt, distribute among the serving plates, and put a poached egg atop each one.
Afterward we had a baked potato, nothing more.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Then came two days of erwtensoep. I have to admit that much as I love The Netherlands, its culture and its people, its landscapes and its landscape, and as attracted as I am, even, to its language, I find erwtensoep an impossible word to pronounce. You leave out the "w," of course; but I think you sort of hint at it. "Air-ten-soup" doesn't quite do it justice. That "w" is a palimpsest of Proto-Germanic*, I find after a Google search, and it should be honored though not lingered over.
In any case, it's good old split pea soup. Lindsey fried up a little bit of bacon, then fried onions in it; then made the split pea soup in the usual way — but she'd found some leftover cooked kale in the freezer, and added it in: that, I think, made it Dutch. It was delicious last night, and it was just as delicious again tonight, always with a slice of toasted bread rubbed with un-Dutch garlic floating on top.
*Proto-Germanic: *arwait=, *arwīt=
IE etymology: IE etymology
Old Norse: pl. ert-r f.
Old Saxon: eriwit, erit f.
Middle Dutch: erwete, aerwete, arwete
Dutch: erwt f.
Middle Low German: erwete, ērt f.
Low German: pl. erwten
Old High German: arawīʒ f. (9./10.Jh.), bair. araweiʒ (10.Jh.) `Erbse, Kichererbse'
Middle High German: arwīʒ, ar(e)weiʒ, er(e)weiʒ, (spät) erbeiʒ st. f. 'erbse'
German: Erbse f.
Monday we drove a long way, leaving Portland about eleven in the morning, spending a short hour in Eugene with Penny and Gary and a slice of pizza and a salad, then driving on to Emeryville and a cheap motel. On such a day one's grateful for anything of flavor and substance, and the pizza margherita, with a Caesar salad on the side, qualified. I looked longingly at the wines available by the glass, thought about the five hundred twenty miles left to drive, and forgoddabouddit.
• Marché Provisions, 296 E 5th Avenue, Eugene, OR; 541.743.0660
Then it was on to Ashland, where we stopped for a coffee from Mix. Somewhere along the way we ate the ham sandwich we'd bought in Portland at Ken's Artisan Bakery. At our motel I settled into a glass of Cutty Sark, and so to bed.
Next day, Tuesday, we enjoyed a fish sandwich as a delayed lunch at Oakland's Sidebar, with a glass of fine white Rioja (Ostatu, Cosecha 2010, very delicious); and a dinner with friends at Piperade, where I feasted on a curious but delicious plate of local cod turned into bacalao on a bed of crème frâiche with a few oysters on top, then the piperade, sautéed Serrano ham with a poached egg atop the obligatory peppers and onions. Authentic, crisp and pointed flavors, refreshing, with a glass or two of Lagar de Cervera Albariño, 2009, and then a glass of Tempranillo, Baron de Ley (Rioja), 2004 (!), a deep, serious pleasure.
• Sidebar, 542 Grand Avenue, Oakland; (510) 452-9500
• Piperade, 1015 Battery St, San Francisco; 415.391.2555
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Let's just go to the store and cook something, I said, and Pavel and I drove to the supermarket, where we bought an already-prepped boneless pork roast, a couple of packages of padrones, a couple of packages of pasta, and a supply of arugula. Oh: and a lemon or two.
The roast — actually, I'd call it a rollito — took a short hour to cook and needed no attention at all. Simon washed the arugula. We dressed the strozzapreti, once cooked and drained, with olive oil, lemon juice and minced garlic; I sliced up the roast; the arugula was dressed just like the pasta; and Bob's your uncle.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
A fine dry-brined roasted turkey has been at the center of our eating every one of the last three days. His companions have been all but totally consumed: the mashed potatoes and gravy, the Brussels sprouts and chestnuts, the cranberry sauce; even the yams and beets have met their fates (though I assure you I did my best to spare them).
Thursday was complicated by having been a birthday here as well, so after the obligatory apple, mince, and pumpkin pies, and a visit to a nearby friend's party for even more pie, we went home to a Lane cake, and they don't get much richer and delicious than that.
The last two days were given over, as you might imagine, to leftovers. No complaints. Cold roast turkey on buttered bread — who'd complain?
Wines: Dolcetto d'Alba, for the most part…
Thursday, November 24, 2011
I chose one of the vegetable side dishes for a first course: kale with bagna cauda, an idea that had never occurred to me before, but one that makes perfect sense — the lacinato kale has that deep, chthonic quality that marries anchovy so well. Afterward I was less enterprising and settled on flank steak, nicely grilled and accompanied by a huge serving of onion rings, battered with coarse cornmeal and deep-fried.
Dessert was almost too enterprising: Brutto ma buoni, it was called, but instead of the delicious bitter-almond macaroons I so like it was a kind of flip or fool or trifle. Revisionist for sure, but, again, delicious, and nothing to complain about.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Lunch had been downtown, in a "fast slow food" place: a codfish-cake sandwich on a sesame bun with crisp-fried potatoes, butter lettuce, dill relish and tartar sauce, gloppy and tasty, and a couple of fine beignets for dessert.
Monday, November 21, 2011
And, later, ice cream from Alma, one of Portland's finest shops, a chocolatier making better Bicerins than, even, Bicerin, in Torino. And a little glass of Clear Creek eau-de-vie de poire, to make today uniquely Portland.
The potatoes: well, there's some Jerusalem artichoke in there too, and some carrot, as you see. Roasted in olive oil in the oven, one of our favorite dishes. Thanks, Giovanna!
Saturday, November 19, 2011
HOW LONG IS IT since last we had polenta for dinner? Way too long: so it was particularly pleasant to find it waiting for us when we finally rolled into Portland after fighting traffic for hours. On it, a nice smooth supple tomato sauce, and grated Parmesan and good fresh-ground black pepper of course. Afterward, green salad.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Tonight, though, I realized at the end of the evening that she is not only peerless as a maîtresse de la braise, not only impeccable as a chooser of ingredients; she is something even more rare, a chef as perfectly suited to pastry as she is to savory. Intelligence, a subtle but fully trained hand, a gifted sense of taste both physical and imaginative, and a keen interest in research unite in this woman, one of the most well-balanced, enthusiastic, and egoless geniuses I've met anywhere.
Well, shucks, she might well say at this point, and what did she do for us tonight? We started with the green salad energized with broccoli flowerets, then went on to Anaheim peppers filled with salt cod brandade and served on a bed of pumpkin purée, lifted with discreet pimenton.
From there Lindsey moved on to quail, but I couldn't resist the local lamb chops, succulent, cooked just to the rare degree I wanted, again lifted with a generous but not overwhelming touch of smoky pimento, and surrounded by a bed of braised vegetables: carrot, sweet potato, onion, kale. I could have sworn I was in Spain. ¡Sabroso!
We had desserts, of course: gingerbread with apples and chestnut-honey ice cream for Lindsey, pecan torte served in thin slices, a sort of Spanish twist on panforte da Siena, with salt-caramel ice cream for me — a truly delicious, memorable dessert.
A PERFECT DINNER for a vertical tasting of Rhone wines and surely one of the Hundred Plates: coq au vin, rooster in wine. These days of course it's never a rooster, not unless you've been either farming or foraging. And come to think of it it's a long time since I've had capon, a favorite dish of mine. Ah well: we're lucky to get one of the sixty billion chickens they say occupy this planet at any given moment.
In any case, coq au vin it was, rich and succulent, preceded by a fine green salad with pecans, and followed by, first, four delicious cheeses, and then apple crisp with heavy cream; and it doesn't get much better. Thanks, John and Susan
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
And, anyhow, it gives me a chance to report on one more recipe from My Calabria, by Rosetta Costantino, which I mentioned here two days ago. I set out one little eggplant too late last summer, and finally picked a half dozen fruits from it the other day; Costantino's book told me what to do with them: slice them lengthwise from the cap, left on to keep things together; blanch them quickly; then marinate them in wine vinegar and olive oil with mint, garlic, and red pepper.
I'm still learning this year's vinegar. It's quite powerful; I should really dilute it a bit, but I'm not sure how to go about that in a stable way. So this dish was pretty vinegary, but the flavor was good. Next time I'll use a little more mint, too.
The tomatoes were from Nancy Skall's garden. It's nearly Thanksgiving; it's odd to be eating tomatoes and eggplant; we don't complain.
There I ate:
Liberty Farm duck leg braised with prunes and red wine; with turnip purée,
carrots, and rosemary
After yesterday's fantasy on Calabrian themes it felt like we'd driven north: first to Rome, as the menu stated, for that delicious salad, whose anchovy was just the right balance — and recalled yesterday's anchovy-stuffed peppers. And then up toward Austria, perhaps, for a braise that nodded toward winter but recalled that it was still, after all, a pleasantly warm day. The rosemary kept the dish grounded in das Land, wo die citrönen blühen, but the prunes, the duck, the turnips suggested Austria. (And by the way the purée was potatoes, not turnips; the turnips were slices of small roots, thankfully, and on the side.)
Monday, November 14, 2011
Then too, the book's co-written by a woman I like a lot who worked her shifts at Chez Panisse. I think I recognize some of her input, but the book's more than that: the principal author's voice is present in every sentence.
I could hardly wait to cook from it, but I waited until today, when I tried four recipes. The heart of the meal was pasta, home-made pasta — nothing could have been easier: a cup of flour, a little more than a quarter-cup of water, some time, my two hands, and a rolling pin. Oh: and a sharp knife and a straightedge: you see the result at the left.
The vegetable was sweet Italian peppers, cooked so easily, but with such an interesting and delicious twist: you cut the stem and core out of the pepper, leave it whole, ribs and seeds still inside, put an anchovy inside, and fry it in olive oil, over high heat.
I strayed from Costantino's recipe for Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino, adapting it to the meal that was taking shape, and using the lagani I'd just made — a sort of fettucine — instead of spaghetti. No point in cleaning out the skillet I've just used for the peppers, I thought, and sliced a couple of cloves of garlic thin, and a couple of tiny sweet tomatoes, and the stipulated hot peppers into the same, sweet-pepper-and-anchovy flavored skillet, cooked them just a minute or two, and then put the cooked, drained lagani in the skillet.
Meanwhile Lindsey had cooked up some little carrots and spring onions (spring, in November?) that had from a neighbor's truck garden; that's what you see at the bottom of the plate. It was a delicious dinner, and the salad matched it: wild arugula from my garden, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
Oh yes: I said I tried four recipes. The fourth was marinated eggplants. They're still marinating; maybe I can describe them tomorrow or next day…
When I was a boy we bought rolled barley in 75-pound sacks. It looked very much like rolled oats, the sort you used to cook for oatmeal — Quaker Oats. It has quite a different taste and texture. We bought it for the pigs; it was my job to dump the barley into a big vat into which we also poured the surplus skim milk. (We sold the cream.) I never tasted the result, which we always referred to as "pig slop," but I did eat the occasional handful of barley, and always rather liked it.
Pearl barley goes into various soups. Beef and barley soup is a favorite of mine. But this is made with whole-grain barley, which also goes into our old dependable Bog-Man Cereal. Tonight's recipe makes a sort of barley pilaf, and the lightly browned butter gives it a nutty flavor that nicely complements the chopped scallions, which aren't cooked at all except by the retained heat of the barley, into which they're dumped — like barley into pig slop — just before serving. Delicious.
Before the barley, as a first course, we had the very last, I'm sure of it this time, of Nancy Skall's lima beans, for this year I mean; I'm sure they'll be back in the market next year. Some pods have two or three rather huge beans inside, some only a couple of tiny ones, barely big enough to notice. They all cook together, so there's a nice range of textures. Even the big ones are delicate and tender. I'll miss them, these next few months…
Saturday, November 12, 2011
It was one of the last of our Meyer lemons, too — only three or four left on the tree; but lots of green ones for the next cycle. And the radishes are coming up; the new lettuces won't be far behind. Kale, too, and broccoli. And after our salmon we had a really delicious salad of frisée from a nearby farm, dressed with olive oil, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Tomorrow we'll have arugula, and the puntarelle are flourishing…
Friday, November 11, 2011
Well, yes, just a couple of weeks ago. But it's such a delicious thing, I thought I'd revisit it. This one was different, better in some respects, lesser in others. Here's how I made it: I browned some sausage and ground veal in goose fat, removed it, and browned chopped celery, carrots and leeks; then I combined all that with cooked short-grain rice, the core and some inner leaves of the cabbage, and a few leaves of chard, all chopped fine. I added an egg for the fun of it. Alas, I did not salt this sufficiently; nor did I flavor it with any herbs — next time I won't fail to add thyme.
I'd blanched the cabbage and deconstructed it; then, starting with the outside leaves, put it back together again, in a stainless-steel mixing bowl, interleaving the cabbage leaves with the stuffing mixture. (In the photo above, the operation isn't yet quite completed.) The finished cabbage — which I neglected to photograph, alas — completely filled the bowl, and I added veal stock up to its rim, then covered it with aluminum foil and baked it in the oven, not too hot, for an hour or so.
The finished cabbage turned out easily onto a platter and looked very nice indeed — I'm sorry I didn't think to take its picture; we just wanted to get on with our dinner. All it needed was a slice or two of bread on the side, but there was a little ice cream for a sundae afterward.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
And tonight we feasted on a baked potato. When we first started this fasting business, nearly a year ago, we ate a baked potato for dinner on the fast day: now we're happy to go without it when fasting, and feast on it the next day — especially when it's a 560-gram beauty like this one, bought Saturday at the Healdsburg Farm Market. The flesh was that perfect russet texture, not too mealy, and the flavor went deep.
I like my baked potato with just olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add beefsteak and lemon and you'd have Bistecca fiorentina with a potato on the side. Even without the beefsteak it's a meal, one of the Hundred Plates; and the green salad, with good old Eastside Zinfandel vinegar again, followed by a Bosc pear and a few figs from our trees, finished it off nicely.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The meetings are held at a favorite restaurant of ours, too, and lunch is always delicious. Today we had a mixed chicory salad with lemon-anchovy vinaigrette, a crisp pappadum, and grated Piave; then sesame-coated crisp-fried chicken with a cheddar biscuit and spiced kale set off by Moroccan honey. Dessert: a little chocolate pot de crème with a discreet pâte sablée cookie.
All around us dedicated professional and amateur cooks were polishing off their lunches; every plate I saw was perfectly bare when the meal was over. Everyone knew this was delicious. And what bravery, serving a biscuit to a company of bakers! (And it was as tender and perfect a biscuit as I've ever seen.)
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Monday, November 7, 2011
Sunday, November 6, 2011
In this version the beans and rice formed a base for the slightly crisp tortillas; the poached eggs rested on top of those, with a tomato concassée, cilantro leaves — not chopped! — on top, and a spoonful of sour cream. The whole affair was pretty, nicely balanced, and delicious.
Dinner at home: salmon from yesterday's market, with the usual lima beans — I think there will be only one more market this year, and then we will look back fondly on these limas with a certain amount of regret. Sliced tomatoes, as you see; the green salad afterward.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Had I given a toast I'd have said this: the other day someone asked me point-blank to list the three most important values to me: answer quick. Attentiveness, reflection, enjoyment, I responded, perhaps because subconsciously I was already thinking about the qualities this remarkable woman embodies. And she expresses those values in the Two Humble Virtues: generosity and gratitude. She'd invited eighty or so of us, and we ate and drank, talked and sang, danced and celebrated; for Community is at the heart of her great gifts to her world.
Friday, November 4, 2011
This time I set the cast-iron griddle on the kitchen stove, straddling two burners. A few raw peppers, those little spherical ones, went on first, to roast and blister; and I laid out two or three Nardini we'd prepared a few days ago and had left over in the icebox, to let them warm up.
Lindsey shaved the last of the Gruyère and sliced some more onion to fill the sandwiches, and after putting a tiny bit of butter on the griddle they went on next. As you see, we had some radishes ready to go too.
After the sandwiches were done and the peppers ready and the griddle empty, I threw on a few little cubes of bacon and diced leftover stale bread, figuring they'd add nicely to the green salad. They did.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Then a nice roast chicken for dinner. Friends arrived with armloads of vegetables, so we had oven-roasted potatoes — cut 'em up, put them in a roasting pan with a little olive oil in it, shake them around, sprinkle them with salt, pepper, rosemary. A garlic clove or two won't hurt.
And leeks and carrots, diced and cooked in a little butter and olive oil.
I salted the chicken, let it stand a few hours, then stabbed a lemon a few times and put it in the cavity, put rosemary branches and thyme branches under the skin on the breast and between the legs and wings and the body, sprinkled it with a little olive oil, and roasted it at about 400° for forty minutes or so. Delicious.
Dessert: ice cream sundaes with chocolate sauce, chopped nuts, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry. Who could complain?
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Two cups of coffee and a buttered English muffin this morning at the motel. Later, a macchiato at the Palo Alto café that no longer, alas, serves my favorite, Caffe il Doge. A small handful of nuts with the tea. Three small figs at bedtime.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
The cassoulet was off-standard, too, but not really substandard, just a little revisionist. In the first place, you can't really make a satisfactory cassoulet as a single serving — though I imagine this is ladled out of a big pot and finished, in its little ramekin, under the salamander.
The beans were good, if a tiny bit undercooked; I liked the addition of tomato coulis, accepted in some traditional quarters; the duck confit was pleasant if a little dry. It was odd to find chopped fennel in the dish, but it was fairly discreet. Chives, though, have no place at all in cassoulet. (Or in much else from the kitchen, far as I'm concerned.) Still, cassoulet is like baseball: bad cassoulet is better than no cassoulet at all. And this, don't get me wrong, wasn't really bad, not at all.
Monday, October 31, 2011
So, another salmon "steak" out of the freezer and onto the grill, over charcoal this time. I brushed it with olive oil with chopped shallots in it, and salted and peppered it; it's a nice preparation. Six or eight of those delicious Nardini peppers had already roasted, whole, over the charcoal; I split and seeded them while the salmon was cooking. Lindsey'd cooked up another mess of Nancy Skall's peerless lima beans and sliced up a couple of tomatoes; and then we had green salad of course, and the last of yesterday's apple pie and Mary Jo's crisp — life is good…
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Is anything better than a supper like this with friends and family? I doubt it.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
First you need a good sound cabbage, Savoy for preference, though today's was simply a big Dutch slightly curled one. You blanche it in a big pot of boiling water and, running a sharp knife down around the core, remove the leaves, one by one, setting them aside.
Then I browned a pound of ground veal and set it aside, then four Italian sausages which I'd liberated from their casings and crumbled up and set that aside, then a carrot, two leeks, a half-inch slice of Virginia ham, and the chopped core of the cabbage, with some thyme and sage. I combined all that with half a cup or so of cooked rice.
Then you lay out the outside leaves of the cabbage inside a stainless-steel bowl about the size and shape of the original cabbage, and sprinkle them with the meat-vegetable mixture. More leaves; more stuffing; etcetera, until all the leaves are in place.
You then fill up the bowl with beef or veal stock and put it in the oven at 350° or so and cook it until the cabbage is tender, and there you have it. What a fine meal it is!
Not that I really know: I only hazarded three courses. But the carciofa alla giudia was pretty authentic, and made memorable by the chiffonade of mint flavoring the soft, delectable artichoke. My pasta caccio e pepe was dressed with a pungent Pecorino and nicely peppered, though I did think the pepper unnecessarily exotic and single-varietal in flavor (a nit-picker's complaint, I admit). Dessert was a fine pine-nut tart with fior di latte gelato on the side, my favorite; and afterward I had a small chunk of perfect robiola with carta da musica bread, brown-buttered, and blackberry marmelade on the side. Delizioso.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Then, Sunday, we visited Bob Cannard's farm for a Chez Panisse party, and of course we came home with an armload of vegetables — a handsome Savoy cabbage, some carrots, peppers, an onion, eggplants, tomatoes. I was thinking of stuffing the cabbage, and I probably will, Saturday morning. It's a favorite recipe of mine, and I'll be glad to share it with you.
But Monday we had leftover Bolognese to eat, and Tuesday we didn't eat, and yesterday, well, still a bit of Bolognese. And the vegetables were waiting. So tonight Lindsey sliced up the peppers and eggplants and a nice big spring onion, sprinkled them with olive oil and salt, and set them on sheet pans to roast in the oven.
Meanwhile I built a wood fire outside, with grapevine cuttings and a bit of old oak barrel, and I sprinkled the salmon with salt and pepper and a little olive oil and a handful of coriander stalks Bob had sent along with the vegetables, and grilled it over the fire, along with a couple of slices of bread.
The tomato was absolutely delicious, but then so was the rest of the dinner. Green salad, of course; maybe a pear a little later.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Venice, goes without saying. Verona, where our dear friends live. Rome, as we learned in a fine week back in 1988, and then for two wonderful months in 2004. (Buy the book!) Sardinia. Sicily.
We did have a splendid dinner in Emilia-Romagna a little over a year ago: that's as close as we've come to eating in Bologna. Otherwise, what we know first-hand about Bologna is the sausage, and Bologna ain't baloney, and the sauce. I wrote enough about it day before yesterday; there's no point adding more today.
Monday, October 24, 2011
But the true Bolognese is a much subtler, richer, more highly evolved thing. I can well believe it dates back to the Sixth Century: or, rather, I can't believe it waited until then to be perfected. (And the addition of chicken livers is brilliant: I've never much liked chicken livers, but they'd be perfect in a Bolognese.)
Well: Lindsey made lasagna alla Bolognese last week, with the true recipe, and we had the last teeny little corner of it as a first course tonight. Then came
the dish you see above, fusilli with the extra ragù Bolognese she had cunningly set aside, and a little Parmesan cheese grated on top. Rich, profound, nourishing, totally satisfying. A little chard from the garden, with garlic crushed in. Later some fruit, no doubt, and we'll be ready for tomorrow's fast.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
The menu seemed to me the perfect expression of Californio cooking: ranch-style cooking drawing directly from what's available, pointed up with discreet use of exotic spices. It centered on a spit-roasted pig, a wild one Angelo had shot for the occasion — succulent, lean, full of flavor, healthy. The table was laden with salads and vegetables: slaw, poblanos stuffed with corn and cheese, sliced tomatoes, roasted beets, shell beans, onion salad, crudités. There were delicious sardines with lemon zest, peppers, and olive oil; there were olives of course, and grilled bread; there was sliced tongue with chimichurri.
For dessert there was an apple tart with figs cooked in red wine and whipped cream. And best of all, throughout, there was the company of cooks and diners, people who knew why they were so happy with what they were confronting; and good conversation; and memories and good wishes for the future; and generosity and gratitude.