Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Garlic bread

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Eastside Road, May 30, 2016—

WELL THIS IS pretty embarrassing — the only photo from tonight's dinneris this one: "Red Witch" cheese from eastern Switzerland, an Appenzeller type, grated up to put on my signature garlic bread.

We were joining two other couples at the home of an old friend, the woman who introduced us to one another and started this sixty-year relationship. At that time Gaye was Cook's roommate, and invited me to their Berkeley apartment for dinner. I was living in San Francisco at the time, in a furnished room, and just beginning the bad collector's habit I've since improved upon — paintings, books, even little sculptures.

Among that stuff, what we've come to call The Fish Dish. This is a heavy low-fire earthenware dish, on four stubby feet, just under a yard long, left unglazed on its outside but decorated with an expressionistic toothy fish of some sort onits inside. As you see, the fish is preparing its own fish dinner.

On that night so long ago I bought a loaf of "French bread" from a delicatessen — ready spread with garlic butter and grated cheese and broiled somehow. I'm sure I didn't cook it myself; I don't know where I'd have found the facilities. All I recall is braving the streetcar and then the Key System F train with this heavy dish and its fragrant contents, and carrying it up the steps at Number Three (or was it Four?), Las Casitas, on Walnut Street in Berkeley, where a year or so we were married, the Contessa and I, at a little church down on the corner at Cedar Street.

Today I made my own garlic bread: split a loaf lengthwise; spread the halves with butter containing a couple of cloves of mashed garlic creamed into it; add grated cheese on top; heat in the oven, raising the heat at the end to broil the cheese to give it a bit of color.

Others supplied chicken thighs in teriyaki sauce, potato salad, green salad. Vanilla ice cream with blackberry sauce.

Prosecco; cheap Pinot grigio; rosé of some kind, Sauvignon blanc…
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Monday, May 30, 2016

Hot dog!

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Eastside Road, May 29, 2016—

A FINE LONG HIKE at the coast today; then most of a baseball game (we joined it late) on television, with a couple of Niman hot dogs. The crudités in the glass are celery and carrots, including tasty yellow carrots. The dogs were garnished, as is proper, with mustard, pickle relish, sliced onion, and sauerkraut, and that's Cook's superb potato salad on the plate.

Afterward, of course, green salad…

Syrah Sirah, Preston of Dry Creek, 2013

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Salmon Saturday

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Eastside Road, May 28, 2016—

YES: SATURDAY, farm market day in Healdsburg. I madeit a very quick trip; hardly conversed with anyone. First to buy today's salmon, and happy to find the price down a bit, the fish even brighter-looking. Dave was out on his boat, as seems usual these days — in fact I haven't seen him for quite a while: the younger generation presides over the till.

Then to Burt and Mary's stand, for a last head of red oakleaf lettuce — I was lucky to get that; next week I'd better be earlier. And a bunch of Nantes carrots, because they're so tasty.

Couldn't pass up Gayle's peaches: but just half a dozen, three yellow, three white. It's early in the season, but it looks like a fine crop this year.

Look! Yael still has favas! They go perfectly with the salmon…

Cook grilled the fish in the black iron skillet on top of the stove, and cooked the favas in a little butter. Green salad afterward. Martini before. I love Saturday.

Syrah-Sirah, Preston of Dry Creek, 2013: deep, fruity, delicious

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Chicken breast

Eastside Road, May 27, 2016—
CHICKEN BREASTS from Cook's inexhaustible freezer, first cousin to Fortunatus's purse. She simply sautéed it in the faithful black iron skillet, the asparagus alongside, then deglazed with cheap Pinot grigio. Green salad after, and
Gelato al limon'…

Carrots and leeks; pasta with anchovies and garlic

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Eastside Road, May 26, 2016—
LEEKS AND CARROTS, far as I'm concerned, are a marriage made in heaven: elective affinities. Chopping them up and cooking them in a little butter doesn't hurt.

Afterward, conchiglie pasta with garlic and anchovies, another happy couple. Chopped parsley on top.

Green salad. Olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and garlic — why shouldn't a foursome be just as elective?

Cheap Pinot grigio

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Sausalito, California, May 25, 2016—
ON THE SPUR of the moment, because we were driving home from San Francisco, we thought we'd have supper in Sausalito. The first place we saw after parking was a place we've been meaning to try but had forgotten about, a Mexican restaurant opened a couple of years ago by an acquaintance of ours, Joanne Weir, who worked at Chez Panisse years ago.

We had a light meal but a very satisfying one. We began with tasty sticks of jicama moistened with lime juice and dusted with chile-pepper-salt, very refreshing; and continued with amazingly delicious tortilla chips and a suave guacamole.

I ordered the "6 hour braised beef shank", served as rillettes, off the bone, in a little Le Creuset casserole: it was beautifully cooked, fat and tender, and accompanied by a mole-like salsa pasilla, sparkling pickled onion, and minced cilantro leaves, with three small flour tortillas. This was an absolutely delicious dish; I want to return soon.

Firestone Pivo pilsener

•Copita, 739 Bridgeway, Sausalito, California; (415) 331-7400

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The other shoe

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Eastside Road, May 23, 2016—
THE OTHER DAY I told you about a half chicken I cooked: here's the other half. I cooked it in almost exactly the same way: flattened it a bit by smacking it with a good-sized cast iron frying pan, then browning it in the same pan in a little olive oil, then adding pieces of a potato, a couple of carrots, a half-dozen cipollini, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a couple of sprigs of rosemary. I just cooked the whole thing until it was done, as you see here. Then I deglazed the pan with some cheap white. Next time I do this I think I'll throw in some diced bacon, too. Why not?

Yesterday, Sunday, we returned to AT&T Park for another Cubs loss to the Giants. The day's eating was minimal: the usual soft-boiled egg, toast, and cappuccinos for Sunday breakfast; a couple of salame and arugula sandwiches; some Red Hawk cheese on bread.

Multum in parvo

Cheap pinot grigio

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dog at the park

Eastside Road, May 21, 2016—
WENT TO THE CITY for a ball game today. (Our team lost, 5-3. But seeing a ball game turn out badly is better than seeing no ball game at all.)

"Dinner", then, was just an Italian "hot" sausage on a bun, mustard, pickle relish, sauerkraut, red bell pepper à la grecque.

Beer: Lagunitas IPA on tap

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Roast chicken

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Eastside Road, May 20, 2016—
HERE YOU SEE the beginning of it: a half chicken, which I salted and wrapped loosely yesterday when I got it home from the market. (In fact I got two halves, though not of the same chicken for some reason: both were from the left side. This makes me a little nervous.)

I heated a little olive oil in the black iron skillet and browned the chicken on both sides over fairly high heat; then threw in a half dozen spring onions, split lengthwise, and a couple of potatoes chopped into dice, a few unpeeled cloves of garlic, and a couple of good-sized sprigs of rosemary.

Then the pan went into the oven for half an hour or so, until everything was done. I deglazed the pan with some cheap Pinot grigio (what else: oh: some cheap dry Vermouth; we're running low on both) and poured the result over the plated servings.

A little romanesco and a green salad; applesauce for dessert.

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Carignan, Preston of Dry Creek, 2013

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Salade lyonnaise

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Eastside Road, May 19, 2016—
ANOTHER OF THE Hundred Plates, which is to say, indispensable.

A new supermarket opened in our town today, with a very big section of organic produce, and what should I find there but a head of frisée. Naturally one of my favorite salads suggested itself.

I bought some local bacon, and cut a few slices into smallish squares and browned them fairly slowly in a bit of olive oil. With them, an unpeeled but slightly smashed clove of garlic.

That done, I removed the bacon and browned a good handful of cubes of bread in the bacon fat. I made a mustard vinaigrette, using red wine vinegar, adding a finely minced shallot to it, and tossed the frisée in it with the bacon and the croutons.

I poached two eggs to set on the individual plates of salad, and set stalks of steamed asparagus on the side. A very nice hot-day supper!

Carignane, Preston of Dry Creek, 2013: it's hard to find a good wine to go with this salad, let alone with asparagus; this was a perfect companion.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

One more catchup

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Eastside Road, May 18, 2016—

NOTHING LIKE HOUSE-GUESTS for a pleasant distraction from the routines of daily life: but now it's time to get back down to brass tacks. Here's as much of the last week as I can recall:

May 12: To Cornerstone Gardens, south of Glen Ellen, a fascinating place in whose cafe I lunched on the “Best Adult Grilled Cheese,” seen here. In fact it was quite tasty, and I liked the pickled carrots that came with it, along with cucumbers and tomatoes and a bit of thinned mayonnaise dressing.

That night, fettucine bolognese at a staid Italian white-tablecloth restaurant we like to share with friends. The pasta was house-made, I'm sure, and cooked to just the right degree, and the bolognese was thoughtful, meaty, aware of carrot and herbs. With the decent Caesar salad before, a Negroni; after dinner, a Nardini grappa.

•Ca'Bianca, 835 2nd Street, Santa Rosa; 707-542-5800

May 13: Friday the Thirteenth, and I don't remember.

May 14: Farm market in the morning; salmon for dinner… I have to say I was alarmed at the price of salmon: it's gone up thirty percent since last year. It's local, of course, and line-caught, and fresh and tasty and undoubtedly good for us; and what's our money for if not nourishment. But I wonder how often we'll be eating salmon this year…

Cook fixed it in her now usual way, a recipe from Nancy Hachisu's fine book Japanese Farm Food: just a dot of butter on the fish, and a scallion, and maybe a drop of sake or vodka; wrap it in foil; cook it under the broiler until barely done…

May 15: Picnic lunch at our favorite winery. I should reveal that Lou and Susan Preston are old friends: their organic and biodynamic operation is comfortable, friendly, authentic, and beautiful. The wines are favorites of ours: we had a bottle of this year's rosé, with a loaf of Lou's bread, some cheese, some olive oil, and crudités our friends brought.

•Preston Farm and Winery, 9282 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, California; 707-433-3372

IMG 7213In the evening, this magnificent soufflé at the neighbors down the hill: half a pound of cheese, half a dozen eggs, extra egg whites, masterfully cooked. With it, green beans and tomatoes. What a dish that is! It took me back seventy years: my mother used to put a can of tomatoes and a can of green beans in her Pyrex baking dish, tear up some Wonder bread (or was it Langendorf?) and strew it on top, and bake it until the bread burned. This was not like that: the beans were cooked al dente, the tomatoes had flavor, and the dish was gluten free.

May 16: After an early-morning drive to the airport we stopped off for breakfast in Larkspur at a place we're fond of. The cappuccino here is beautifully made, and the croissants — called "brioches" here, in the Italian style — soft, buttery, flavorful.

•Emporio Rulli, 484 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, California; 415-924-7478

Then, in the evening, at home, a rice pilaf and Franco's delicious sausage.

Yesterday was a fast day, our first in three weeks. Tonight we dined on a plate of Romanesco; then a delicious dish of lentils, potatoes, scallions.

I apologize for the lack of information about wines. They've ranged from Syrah and Viognier from Preston to cheap ordinaries from elsewhere. You can be sure we've not neglected them.

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Sausage and pilaf Slow-braised Romanesco Lentils, potatoes, scallions

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

My pork chops; browsing about; party time

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Eastside Road, May 11, 2016 —

FIRST, ON AN ENTIRELY personal note having little to do with cuisine, let me record my thanks to Cook the Contessa for fifty-nine years of wedded bliss. That's a lot of meals shared!

There have been many distractions these last few days, and I've been kept from the computer, the mail, the log. Facebook friends have some awareness of this, but you can't all be Facebook friends. Here's a quick recapitulation:

Last Thursday I cooked Pork Chops My Way for dinner — dinner for seven, I think it was. I've described the recipe before: fennel seeds, salt, and garlic in the mortar, the paste moistened with olive oil and spread on the chops, which are then cooked quickly in a hot black iron skillet. (Two skillets, in this case.) With them, Cook's long-cooled potatoes, cipollini, favas, and Romanesco: a brilliant combination.

Afterward, green salad; then, vanilla ice cream with preserved sour cherries. Wow.

FRIDAY WE TOURED Petaluma, the former "Egg Basket of the World," now like so many small towns living on a modest mixed economy among which tourism and leisure activity plays an important part.

Here we are partial to an ice cream parlor. The ice cream's not particularly special, tough it does run to interesting flavors — it's the ambiance we like, and the modest size of the smaller sundaes. I was content with a root beer float, with bourbon and butterbrickle ice cream instead of vanilla; it was delicious.

Afterward, to another local favorite, a butcher whose work and sourcing are beyond any reproach, where we laid in some duck rillettes and some salame. Those were set aside for later: back home, we were content with buttered barley pilaf for supper…
•Lala's Creamery, 134 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, California; (707) 763-5252
•Thistle Meats, : 160 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, California; (707) 772-5442

IMG 6929SATURDAY WAS GIVEN over to a fourteen-mile walk. (Increasing longer walks are one of the distractions keeping me from work: the reason for them will become evident this summer.) Meanwhile, Cook and our houseguests were at the opening of the Healdsburg Farm Market, an event I was sorry to miss.

No salmon yet, but Dave's stand provided some tasty local cod. Cook fried it lightly and served it with braised broccoli again, a dish I'm coming to enjoy very much. After the salad, strawberry shortcake.

SUNDAY, MOTHER'S DAY, was one of those marvelous days: all three of our children were here, and three grandchildren and a great-grandson, and others, a real family gathering. We cooked hamburgers and sausages on the grill; a daughter-in-law made a big rich complex delicious potato salad, there was green salad of course, and ice cream… a fine Sunday on the patio.
IMG 6959MONDAY WE LUNCHED in Healdsburg, our houseguests and we, and I had a very nice salad-tartine: bocadillos with chopped celery, shaved radishes and carrots, and lemon aioli, with a fine affogato for dessert. In the evening, nothing wanted beyond those duck rillettes on toast, with a little bit of cheese to follow.
Home Farm Rosé (Dry Creek Valley), 2015
•Healdsburg Shed, 25 North Street, Healdsburg, California; (707) 431-7433
YESTERDAY'S GRAZING was the least responsible of all, though quite delicious. We'd gone to San Francisco for a Bonnard exhibition and settled in afterward at a favorite spot of ours for lunch. I had a fine Reuben sandwich garnished with delicious pickled carrot, and then the four of us divided pastries: an Esterhazy; a Dobos torte; a Russian honey cake, a cherry strudel. Oof; but what a delightful way to prepare for a subsequent Fernet and soda!
Plavac, Pelješak Peninsula (Croatia), 2012
•20th Century Cafe, 198 Gough Street, San Francisco; (415) 621-2380

WHICH BRINGS MEto today, another meal out. Porchetta for me, leaning a bit toward Santa Fe with a subtle chile rub — a very substantial serving, garnished with braised green garlic and preceeded by sautéed greens. Couldn't manage any dessert…
Teroldego, Foradori, Dolomiti, 2013
•Peter Lowell's Restaurant, 7385 Healdsburg Avenue, Sebastopol, California; (707) 829-1077

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Catching up…

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Eastside Road, May 4, 2016—
PRETTY, DON'T YOU THINK? It's a favorite springtime dinner here, salmon and asparagus. In truth the salmon could have been better: this was "previously frozen" Coho, said to have grown wild; but it didn't taste as fresh as I'd have liked, though the texture was perfectly acceptable. Cook fixed it en papillote, dotting it with butter, setting a green onion shoot on top, and wrapping it in foil before cooking it in the broiler. The asparagus was simply steamed in buttery water, with salt and pepper, in the usual way.

That was day before yesterday, May 2. The previous couple of days we also ate at home, and I'm afraid I can only recall one of those evenings, when we had Cook's delicious hominy-chorizo casseroles.

LAST NIGHT we ate in Berkeley, taking our Australian house-guest for a treat. It was a marvelous dinner:
olives and pickled watermelon radish
"Prosecco basilicato"

California halibut carpaccio with artichoke salad andd fried capers

Melon, Lieu Dit (Santa Maria Valley), 2015

Pasta al forno with porcini and morels and greenpeas

Secco Ca' del Merlo (Veneto), Giuseppe Quintarelli, 2014

Grilled duck breast and confit leg with favas, chard, turnips, and parsley sauce

Duluc de Branaire-Ducru, Saint-Julien, 2009
Frozen cassata with strawberry sorbetto
Moscato d'Asti, Scopiio

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By "basilicato" I simply mean the Prosecco was infused very lightly with basil leaves and a bit of Meyer lemon zest, makimg a very nice aperitif. The halibut carpaccio was a marvelous plate, strewn with nasturtum-petal chiffonade, the raw fish quite taming the earthy Melon.

The pasta was a sort of baked package, filled with mushrooms bound in a crème fraîche sauce, substantial and rather serious; and the duck was perfectly cooked and, again, very substantial, with fava purée, dark well-cooked erbette chard, and delicate glazed spring turnips, a classic dish. The wines, served as pairings, were exactly right.

•Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California; 510-548-5525

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