Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pan bagnat

Eastside Road, August 4, 2011—
WHAT TO SAY ABOUT an extraordinary dinner like tonight's? It was so simple, so inexpensive, so fresh, so colorful, so nutritious, so unusual yet so absolutely simple yet, I'm aware of it, so unattainable to so many.

Image 9.jpgI'd been hungering for a pan bagnat. Yesterday I picked up a good-sized loaf of ”Italian country“ bread in town at The Bakery (intimates will know what bakery I mean); today we stopped at a local farm stand and bought a few tomatoes. I had basil in the garden, and there is always fine canned tuna and anchovies in the pantry, and onions of course. Olive oil, too. Lindsey cut the loaf in half horizontally and lengthwise, drizzled olive oil on the cut surfaces, then chopped all the other stuff together, with salt and pepper and garlic, and laid it on the basil leaves on the bottom half of the loaf. Then she put the top half on and weighted the whole thing down with a nest of black iron skillets for a few hours. The taste took me right back to le Comté de Nice. Clearly this is one of the Hundred Plates.

(I noticed Lindsey's copy of The Cuisine of the Sun, that great cookbook by the late Mireille Johnston [New York: Random House, 1976] on the kitchen worktable: I bet she consulted it for some reason, though I'm sure she could have made this in her sleep.)

We had some broad beans with this, as you see, and the customary green salad afterward, with some arugula leaves in it, and the sour cherry pickling vinegar that gives so much flavor. And then dessert!
Image 8.jpgStrawberries from the same farm stand, and deep mysterious chthonic Persian mulberries from our tree, which this year is producing in quantity — I picked a pint or so in no time at all. I can think of no finer fruit than mulberries, unless it's apricots, or dates, or figs, or white nectarines, or … but, truly, these mulberries are fabulous. We planted the tree thinking we would have a chicken yard; the landscape consultant said chickens really appreciate a mulberry tree, you really ought to plant one. We never did get chickens; they require too much attention. All the mulberry tree wants is a little water now and then, and attention at picking time.

Rosé, of course

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