Saturday, December 30, 2006

VT post xmas

Alan had to go home, but the rest of us schlepped up to Vermont for more eating and occasional walks with the kids. The first night we had more steaks, which had marinated since before Christmas in a bit of soy and rice vinegar, then got a rub of coffee, garlic, pepper, salt, and grated dried Chinese mushrooms (the intensely chocolatey ones, which were the inspiration for the cappucino-mushroom soup that I'll get to someday) and seared up just right in an iron pan. With various sides, including a 2001 Dead Arm, to my taste the most French of Aussie wines, except maybe for Grange, which is 3 times the price.

The next night we had carrot risotto, Mat marinated (sesame oil, soy sauce, tabasco, lemon) and grilled salmon and swordfish (amazing, especially the swordfish) asparagus, and Andrew's salad. A Sine Qua Non pinot noir #6 took this already fantasic meal to a whole other level. I'm very glad that I have two more of them in store.


Mat & Emily, Andrew, and Alan joined us for Christmas dinner. We roasted a capon, stuffed with our version of her Mom's stuffing: whole wheat bread, onion, celery, shiitake, Moroccan lemon, smoked pork broth, lots of herbs, and that which did not fit into the bird got well basted with fat and baked in a pan separately.

Along with the bird came roasted kabocha squash, gravy made from a purée of burdock and dried Chinese mushrooms whisked into a roux made from the hot bird fat, cranberry sauce (sweetened only with maple syrup) and kale. We began with yet another Pleiades, and finished with a 2002 Sirius. Dessert was a pretty perfect pear tart (the glaze was strawberry wine cooked down with orange whiskey and honey to a syrup) and vanilla ice cream. Fantastic.

Christmas Eve

As per Christine's family tradition, we had pea soup for dinner. This one was pretty great, since it had layers of flavors due to its composition; the last of the frozen smoked rib-based soup from the summer, plus smoked pork broth from the huge hunk that ended up as pulled pork, plus a new batch that began with bacon and finished with Fleisher's homemade kielbasa. All added together, and simmmered until the new peas were just right (and the older ones were a perfectly smooth velvet) this one was a real symphony of pork flavors suspended in a creamy substrate of peas. With crusty bread and creamy, funky cheese, it was a perfect beginning to a week of family and more or less constant eating.


Chris, Sirkka, and Nissa all came for dinner before their trip, and I had gone shopping for Christmas so we had lots of good stuff in the house. First, the last of the cauliflower soup, increased a bit with more milk and butter, then served in little cups and finished with pepper and a drop of truffle oil.

Then, big shrimp, cleaned but with the shells on, dredged in cumin, cinnamon, pepper, salt, curry, garlic, and oregano, then seared in an iron pan and finished with a bit of wine.

I wilted a big bunch of spinach with garlic and oil, mashed a pile of steamed sweet potatoes, and finally seared a big top sirloin steak that had a coffee, garlic, salt and pepper rub liberally worked into it. This meat (from Fleisher's, of course) is really like land sushi; I just seared both sides for about 3 minutes each and then let it rest for 10 to heat through. Gorgeous.

We drank another new Pleiades (see what I mean?) and then a 2003 Cheze St.-Joseph Ro-Rée, which also represents a great mouthful of wine for the price.

Sweet Latkes

As a sort of Hanukkah meal I made sweet potato latkes, pan-seared salmon, and kale. The latkes really worked; while much less fatty than traditional ones, they had a lot of flavor and covered the full spectrum of texture from crunchy outside to creamy farther in and still a bit al dente in the middle. The salmon got an apple cider/honey/soy reduction and we washed it down with another Pleiades.

Cauliflower soup

This started off as a roasted cauliflower with a cheese and porcini enhanced béchamel poured on it, the product of a rainy day and some boring cheddar in the fridge. The next day, I threw it all in a pot, added some more mushrooms, buttermilk and water, and once it was totally soft stick blended the whole thing into this creamy goodness. Mushrooms and cauliflower really get along, and the combination of cheese, milk, and buttermilk really elevated the earthy flavors.


Upon return from Miami, I found some lamb chops in the freezer, and since I had eaten pretty badly on my trip got excited to make some home cooking. So parsnip and sweet potato purées, steamed kale with lemon and garlic, and the chops crusted with mustard and herbs. We drank one of the new Pleiades (XV) which just arrived, and it's a particularly good one. It will be fascinating to see how it ages, but I doubt we'll be able to keep it around long enough to find out. For the money, I think it's the best wine made in America.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


In Chicago, with Christine's Mom, Aunt, & Uncle, a smaller gathering called for a more modest meal and thus turkey was not on the menu. Instead we had a roasted pork loin, stuck with garlic, and a cranberry/red wine reduction with ginger and lemon, and mushrooms cooked in the pan drippings then flamed with cognac to finish. Along with this lovely roast, which had brined all day and was really juicy and flavorful, we had roasted roots (carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, red and yellow beets, celery root, garlic, and apples) and puréed roasted red kuri and kabocha squash, plus kale and Arlette's roasted asparagus. We began with Susana Balbo's Torrontes, then moved on to a 2000 Carver Sutro petite sirah which is finally hitting its stride.

For dessert we had a pear tart I made earlier in the day (with a passion fruit/clementine/cointreau/honey glaze) and Arlette's chocolate cake. A good simple Thanksgiving- not a big blowout, but better for the quality of people and food, and the space to enjoy both.

Dim Sum

Fresh from a shopping trip to Chinatown in the city, all the new treats inspired this inaccurate but damn tasty dinner upon my return. It's hard to find gai lan and long beans anywhere else, so I loaded up on them, as well as baby bok choy. The long beans sautéed in the last of the pork belly, then had garlic, sambal oelek, rice wine and ponzu added to finish. The gai lan tossed with tons of garlic and ginger finished with rice wine and the last of our soy sauce (I wish I had bought some more on my trip; it's so much cheaper down there.) We had two kinds of dumplings: shu mai with a filling of puréed lotus root, black beans, and umeboshi paste, and gyoza filled with shredded bok choy, carrot, and onion. I fried the gyoza and steamed the shu mai, and the dippng sauce was ponzu with some heat added.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Sometimes we get lucky, and my evening survey of the fridge immediately suggests a plan. This was one of those times. We liked to order malai kofta from our local Indian place back in Brooklyn, and I saw the makings of a mutant variation in the remnants of recent meals. So, for the balls, leftover steamed Brussels sprouts, parsnips, and cauliflower puréed along with brown rice and sweet potatoes as well as onion that I cooked fresh with oil, various seeds, and a thumb of ginger all went in the food processor along with half an egg an a bit of flour. These fried in a pan to firm them up, then went into a mixture of black beans, coconut milk, tomato paste, eggplant, spinach and spices which I stick-blended into a gorgeous thick sauce. Garnished with cilantro and lime, it tasted pretty authentic considering it was made of scraps and I have no idea how it's actually made.

Return of the revenge of the son of fridge soup

I've always been a fan, especially in colder months, of keeping a pot of soup going day after day by adding leftovers or new ingredients to it every day or two (reheating it fully every time) so that it remains a work in progress- hitting certain plateaus of completeness but then undergoing slight or radical changes based on the nature of what gets added and subtracted. This particular version had its genesis back in the lamb shanks, and the leftover stew (plus quinoa and black radish) on subsequent nights had cabbage, kale, tortellini, pesto, chicken broth, and ultimately the rice and beans from 2 nights ago added to it. Milo had the penultimate bowl for breakfast this morning.

The rice and beans from 2 nights ago: pork belly (and INSANE mole-flavored sausage from Salumi that Andrew sent me as part of a birthday sampler from Seattle) rendered, then onion, celery, and carrot, plus cumin seeds and powder, then soaked black beans plus their liquid bubbled for 3 hours until al dente and perfect. Served on brown rice with grape tomato salsa, avocado, and "Margaritas" made from strawberry wine that Mike brought on Friday, orange-infused Scotch from Mary, tequila and lime juice.


3 couples came to dinner the night before my birthday, so I bought a bunch of good things and figured out how to put them together. I knew I wanted slow-cooked lamb shoulder, so that morning I put a 4-pound beauty into a big pot with the usual aromatics plus lemon, cumin, kombu, dried porcini, wine, soy, and vinegar and, once bubbling, put it in the oven for about 8 hours at 225˚. Then I strained the liquid, pulled the meat apart, and put it into a smaller pot with just enough of the liquid to cover and simmered it on the back of the stove for another 2 hours until it was time to eat it.

The first course was smoked trout that I made earlier, made as before into little soufflans but with the recipe tweaked a bit due to an egg shortage. They went with sautéed local oyster and shiitake mushrooms, shredded kale quickly tossed in a pan with oil and lemon, and a chopped radicchio/butter/wine sauce poured over all of it.

Next the lamb, on whipped parsnips with yogurt and truffle oil, and Danny's roasted vegetables, with a dab of mint/rosemary/garlic chive pesto on top. And then pear tart, along with amazing local blue cheese and a Montbazillac that, for the money, is a worthy substitute for sauternes without breaking the bank.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Indian Summer

An unbelievably beautiful day today; I spent some of it moving rhododendrons to make room for the garden, which is tilled and awaiting a fence. I went shoppping too, to get things for tomorrow's dinner, and I picked up some wild salmon among other things. Crusted with sesame seeds, and seared, it sat on mashed sweet potatoes and kale sautéed with a bit of pancetta and garlic. Just right for the cool evening; the richness of the pork fat brought this dish firmly into fall despite its inherent lightness, especially without a sauce. A 2000 Joblot Givry "Cellier aux Moines" bonded nicely with the fall themes, including that magic leaf-must smell.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eggplant Parmigiana

Tonight, in honor of the rain, good hearty fare that hit all those exalted kid-food notes while still being refined and healthy. Instead of breading and frying the slices, I usually bake them with a little oil and salt, or sautée them so they're soft. Grilled is best, because then you get the amazing alchemy that fire works on eggplant combined with the whole bubbly cheese and tomato sauce context, but the rain tonight precluded grilling. I did add layers of spinach as well, and the mozzarella was the real deal, the herbs were fresh from outside, and a little truffle salt really amped up the tang of parmigiano reggiano. Another rich, earthy, and affordable 2001 Domaine La Millière worked with the spectrum of simple flavors that intertwined so satisfyingly; there's a magical sweetness that results from the baking of tomato and mozzarella.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Curry, but different

We've been enjoying the combination of cauliflower and tofu in a coconut-based curry, so I revisited it, but this time the sauce had the rest of the kabocha and gravy added to thicken and deepen it. Broccoli, peas, and a nice mix of seeds and pastes rounded out the flavors. It's important to let this kind of thing simmer a bit to really reduce and marry the flavors; it also greatly benefits from having the already-deepened leftovers added since they have so much to offer already.

More Rockin' Chicken

Sort of Moroccan, with a Southern twist: a whole chicken slowly stewed with lemons, olives, cumin, ras el hanout, onion, celery, carrot, sweet potatoes and herbs until it was falling-apart tender, then all solids removed to bowl & board while the liquid thickened with some flour to make a fantastic gravy. Meanwhile baby spinach wilted with garlic and more lemon, and gave a nice tangy counterpoint to the rich sauce. A Pleiades XIV couldn't have worked better with the dish; it matched the acid of the lemons, and the sweet spices, and even the tangy spinach. This one really worked on all levels.

Another Visit

Noah and Deanna came up for a night, so we had crispy tofu in a pungent peanut sauce (PB, sesame oil, vinegar, lime, umeboshi paste) as well as faux BBQ tempeh (molasses, ketchup, tamarind, vinegars, hot sauce) rice, roasted kabocha, and the last of the red cabbage from rib night. We drank a 2003 Turley Keig vineyard zin and a 2003 Siduri 2003 Sonatera vineyard pinot noir.

Lamb Shanks

Cooked slow, until they fell off the bone, with onion, celery root, carrot, riesling, cumin, shiitakes, garlic and herbs, and served over quinoa. Chris made an amazing salad from their garden, and cooked Richard and Susan's black radishes in sake and soy until they were perfectly tender. We started by finishing the riesling, then had a 2002 Marquis Philips cabernet S2.

Friday, November 03, 2006


The paella rice (after having been made into maki for lunch the next day) now became supplì, or arancini, with bacon and mozzarella inside and corn meal outside since we had no bread crumbs. A very simple tomato sauce, salad, and Susana Balbo's Syrah/Bonardo blend. Comfort food for the fall.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


For the second night of their stay we made paella. 5 kinds of sausage from Fleisher's (one each of what they had) plus scallops and clams, plus chicken legs, all in arborio rice with saffron and a broth made from earlier chicken bones and carrots, celery root, onion, and parsley. I browned the chicken, sausage, and scallops in the same pan, using their rendered fat, then threw in the onion and rice to start the main dish. Once arranged, brussels sprouts went in, and I added peas and the scallops just before serving so they didn't overcook. We drank a 2000 Guigal Condrieu, then a 2003 Cocodrilo cabernet from Argentina (first time- well received all around), then a 1996 Remirez de Ganuza Rioja Riserva which was as elegant and deep as ever.

Ribs Again

Jody and Anna came to visit, and they had requested the ribs we made last time in Brooklyn. So we had them, and red cabbage kraut, and mashed roasted butternut squash, and roasted blue potatoes with garlic. We drank three different 2002s from Thackrey: an Andromeda, an Aquila, and a Sirius. Surprisingly enough (although maybe not, given their youth) the Andromeda, which is the least pinot noir-tasting pinot noir I've ever had, won for its pure and seamlessly complex finesse. The others were no slouches, but doubtless will improve with time. It's remarkable how he can make any grape taste like his own.


The green soup became little pancakes with the addition of a couple of eggs and some flour, and half a red cabbage simmmered in spices and wine until nice and soft. Combined, they were sort of like blinis and kraut- a strange homage to my Eastern European ancestors. Finished with a yogurt sauce in place of sour cream, they satisfied pretty well that autumnal craving for hearty food, as well as the need for simple, healthy, leftover-using dinners. We also had bean thread noodles in a miso-dashi soup with cilantro to start.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Thai Curry

Tofu, cauliflower, sweet potato, and peas simmered in a sauce of coconut milk, tomato juice, water, lime juice, green curry paste, two curry powders, and a dab of vindaloo paste as well. It simmered until all the veggies were super tender and the liquid had thickened to a good sauce. I made a side of spinach wilted in hot oil with mustard and fenugreek seeds, with yogurt added at the end. Rich, hearty, and completely satisfying with another 2004 St. Urbans Hof riesling.

Pulled Pork

This is a tad out of order, but whatever. I put the meat into the marinade after the dinner party and cooked it low on the stove all night. Come morning (about 10 hours later) I separated all the bone and fat from the meat, and strained the liquid, then skimmed it. All the meat, pulled apart into strands, went back in half the liquid (the other half waits in the freezer) and reduced along with tamarind, molasses, vinegars, tomato paste, and spices for another 6 hours or so. By then it was pure magic; I put it in the fridge and this, heated up just right, was our lunch the next day:

The rest of this ambrosia is in the freezer for another occasion. It's safe to say that if you have the time, there's no other way to do this meat.

Salmon Stew

Seeking once angain to consildate leftovers, I took the daikon I had steamed upon return from the road trip and added it to some wild Alaskan salmon along with some of Chris' burdock, the rest of the pumpkin filling and their parsley pesto. I also took the mustard greens from Richard and Susan and sautéed them with garlic. Hearty, earthy, and pretty clean. We opened a 2002 Jadot Beaune "Bressandes" to keep the Burgundy theme going.

Get Together

Chris & Sirkka and John & Debi came over, plus the girls, and I had gone into Kingston to procure a hunk of pork since John and I had been talking about it. Flisher's was closed, but we had left messages, and I banged on the door. Some poor cleaning guy let me in, and Josh coached him over the phone in the art of cutting the sirloin off a whole pig leg on the bandsaw. 9 pounds in all, with the tail still attached, (I cut it off) it went into the smoker for an hour to get some flavor on it. While it was smoking, I cooked half a bottle each of Aussie shiraz and German reisling in a pot with star anise, cinnamon, onion, carrots, garlic, herbs, peppercorns, and cabbage leaves to make a marinade. This went in a big pot along with the smoked meat and into an oven for 5 hours. I took the nappa cabbage from Richard and Susan, shredded it, and braised it with the rest of the reisling, cumin, fennel and mustard seeds, and onion for just as long.

John took some beautiful yellowfin tuna and chopped it superfine into a tartare with chives, then rolled balls of it in toasted sesame seeds and put it in little bowls of grated daikon and ponzu (the real thing, bought on their recent tour of Japan.)

So we began with more green soup, then had the tartare, then pumpkin ravioli which all the kids helped me roll out (using the filling from last time that we froze, and Chris & Sirkka's parsley pesto mixed with sage butter as the sauce) and last the pork, sliced on top of the cabbage with the marinade. On the side, John's pressure-cooked daikon in flying fish broth, and Chris' burdock and leeks. Awesome, even if scheduling prevented the meat from attaining what we had in mind.

We drank, in order, a 1997 "Les Cailloux" CDP which was almost Burgundian, a 1999 Beaux Frères, which might have fooled someone, a 1983 Dujac Clos de la Roche which was over the hill, and a 1983 Drouhin Bonnes Mares which was, in John's words, "the holy grail" of old Burgundy- funky, earthy, still sweet, and transparent.

Chicken Stew

Four chicken legs formed the base of a stew that combined new and leftover ingredients; the kale and cabbage from previous nights, and the last of the chicken/lamb broth plus fresh sweet potato and carrot and herbs from outside. Once tender, I pulled all the meat off the chicken bones and let it thicken some more. Good, and even better the next day for lunch.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dinner Out

We went to Beacon to hear an old friend play chamber music in a beautiful old hall originally built as a library. Afterwards, we went to a place called O II for dinner. Inventive, hearty as the season calls for, and reasonably priced, although the wine list is awful. We ordered 5 small plates and shared them all. First mushrooms in a rich meat reduction with a cap of puff pastry and a crab cake with rhubarb chutney. Then BBQ spare ribs and ravioli with a foie gras filling and lemon sorbet, and last little blue corn soft tacos with short rib filling. The tacos were quite good as a closer, but the ravioli were under-filled and what filling there was had no taste. The sauce and sorbet were nice, but had no richness to contrast with. The crab cake was crispy, savory, and the rhubarb preserves went pretty well with it, and the mushrooms were delicious but the pastry seemed superfluous and the bottom piece was completely soggy. The ribs were competent, but after being used to my "happy ending" ribs it's hard not to be let down. Still very enjoyable, though, and a great and much-needed date night.

Steak and Radish

Beautiful New York Strips from Alaska farms, cooked rare and accompanied by raw grated daikon, as well as steamed slices, with a pan sauce of red wine and Banyuls vinegar and a bit of demi-glace. Eaten with a lovely 1999 Lisini Brunello, which, though young, was drinking well. I bought a bunch of the '99 Brunellos; it will be good fun to see how they age.

Green Soup

So the bounty from Richard and Susan, being far too much to fit in the fridge, was of neccessity reduced by soupmaking. Amazing turnips, radishes, daikon, kale, turnip greens, parsley, cilantro, rutabaga, and leeks became about 2 gallons of rich, velvety green purée, some of which will be frozen and the rest used this week. Food as medicine in the truest sense. I cannot wait to have a garden next year.

Road Trip

I got a ride with John to Great Barrington to hear him play with Club d'Elf again, and the drives there and back bookended the two extremes of the culinary universe. First, a famished and rainy trip over there was saved by a sandwich of Iowa prosciutto and goat cheese on a baguette, all bought at Rubiner's, which had the additional benefit of keeping us from dying later when the food at the club turned out to be the worst I have had in recent memory. All this fancy cooking here shouldn't fool anyone; I am a cheap date when hunger and circumstance require. This food was flat out inedible.

The apogee to this culinary nadir was to be found at our lodging for the night: Richard and Susan have the best home garden I've ever seen, and they gave us bags to fill with whatever we wanted. Thus did many roots and greens come back to Woodstock- see future posts for their glory.

For the trip home we replicated the sandwiches, but with better goat cheese and some Basque marinated peppers. A three foot loaf of bread crammed with perfect prosciutto, cheese, and tangy peppers, cut in half, and the weather for the return was perfect golden fall sunshine with the late leaves glowing. Never was a ham sammich better enjoyed.


More gorgeous lamb chops from Fleisher's, again cooked in a pan, but with an herb rub this time. They went on mashed sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli, with a pan sauce of red wine and broth. This decadent richnes was well met by another 1998 Brusquières CDP, which has an unbelievable nose and good depth.


Burdock, peeled and sliced, cooked in water, soy sauce, and rice vinegar until the liquid cooked off and it was tender. (It actually came within seconds of burning, but I saved it with a splash more water.) The almost-burned caramelization gave the dish a fabulous richness, where the earthiness of the root and soy turned almost to an aged cheese flavor. Also cubed tofu cooked in some of the lamb-chicken broth with peas and carrots, and red cabbage braised with balsamic vinegar and red wine. A fat, juicy Turley zin was just right with the deep end of the (almost) vegetarian spectrum.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Chris, Sirkka, and Nissa came over again; what you see here is steak, kabocha squash, and radicchio salad from their garden. For the first course we had a pizza with kale pesto and shiitakes sautéed with a bit of bacon. The steak was marinated in wine, broth, soy sauce, and vinegar, and then the marinade reduced for a sauce. We alternated between a 2002 Sirius and a 2001 Carver Sutro petite sirah; as always the Thackrey won, but the C/S needs more time. A fairer pairing might be the 2001 Sirius against the C/S in a few years.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ma Po Tofu

I have been craving this for a while, and an order from the local Chinese place was not at all satisfying, so I got to work. I made it mild, so Milo could eat it too, and it was well received. Pork from fleisher's, good tofu, and a sauce from the chicken/lamb broth thickened with flour since we have no corn starch. A bit of soy, some vinegar, and peas. Then a pile of spinach and garlic in the same wok to round it out, and a pot of quinoa since there wasn't time for rice. It went well with a "Facets" chardonnay from Gemstone since it had no hot pepper in it.

Turkey Chili

A pound of ground turkey, kidney beans, canned tomatoes and paste, and a panoply of herbs and spices simmered long and low to become a welcome treat after a busy day. A bit of smoked duck fat helped give it depth, and extra garlic made up for the lack of onion. I also splashed a little cider vinegar in to balance the acidity. There was a glass of the Orion left, now five days open, and the aromatics were extraordinary but the tannins still tight. A wine to age as long as possible.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Always save the bones

Everyone is a bit under the weather, so I took the bones from both the lamb chops and the smoked chicken and made a broth with leeks and carrots. After a couple of hours, strained, and with the addition of the trimmings from the ravioli, plus a few ravioli, as well as kidney beans, carrots, half a can of tomatoes, and the rest of the puréed vegetable soup, it became a perfect meal for tired, sniffly people of all ages. I couldn't resist having half a glass of the Orion with it, to see how it had changed overnight; it has opened up but still has a core of opaque tannins. I'll try the rest tomorrow and hope for more evolution.

The next day...

After smoking the trout on Sunday, the fire still had plenty of life left in it, so I threw on some chicken legs for the next day. We had them for lunch, chopped and tossed with homemade mayonnaise, onion, capers, and parsley to make a salad. The leftover risotto became little fried cakes, and we put the chicken salad on the last of the radicchio leaves.

Dinner was simpler than the night before, but still pretty good. Homemade ravioli filled with roasted pumpkin and pine nuts, with a sauce of tomato, apple, oregano, and sage. On the side, sliced shiitake cooked in smoked duck fat with garlic, parsley, and flamed cognac at the end. I wanted to introduce our guests to Thackrey's wines, so we started with a Pleiades XII, then had a 2002 Andromeda, and finished with a taste of a 1997 Orion which is still huge, tight, and needs much more time.

Monday, October 09, 2006

More Friends

Rick and Julie (and little Holden) are staying for a couple of nights, so we celebrated in fine style. First, more soup, from more or less the same mixture of vegetables as before.

We opened a 1998 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne to go with this, and with the next course, little flans of smoked trout. They were actually halfway between flans and souflées, since they puffed up a fair amount. With these went a marinated radicchio salad- Chris left us a big bag of theirs in the fridge.

Next came a roasted carrot risotto- really simple, but it tasted like fall on a plate and sang with a 1983 Drouhin Bonnes-Mares.

Last were lamb chops, with the espresso rub, seared up and served with parsnip/yogurt/truffle oil purée and sautéed bok choy, as well as a pesto of mint and rosemary from outside. The lamb pan deglazed with wine and demi-glace to dribble over all. With this mighty plate went their gift- a 1989 Optima cabernet, which was absolutely gorgeous. Quite a meal.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Old school

Sometimes you just need to go back to the archetypes of comfort food- the touchstones of taste- because you're tired and the seasons are changing, and darn it, there's a pound of bork (beef and pork) from Fleisher's in the fridge. Thus did the following become dinner: spaghetti with a slow-cooked meat sauce involving tomato paste, onion, herbs, garlic, wine and several hours. On the side, fresh arugula tossed with the leftover chard and radicchio from last night, and another Cheze Saint-Jseph.

Dinner party

Chris and Sirkka came over with an amazing basket of treats from their garden:

and we made them into a great dinner. Micro was also in town, luckily, and it was a perfect evening. First, the rest of the puréed soup from before, enhanced with a bit of truffle oil and wild mint from the meadow. Next, seared sashimi of marlin, marinated with umeboshi paste, miso, and honey, which I threw in the pan after the fish seared to reduce it to a thick, tangy paste. This we had with a 1999 Kistler "Les Noisetiers" Chardonnay which was just beautiful.

Then, a sort of homage to smoke, in the form of three different kinds of smoked flavors on the same plate. Chicken-of-the-woods cut into matchsticks became "fries" cooked in some smoked duck fat, while maitake and shiitake caramelized wth a bit of bacon and garlic and parsley. Last some nice big scallops smoked over black lichee-flavored tea in the wok and it all went together with the last of the radish relish from the fridge, and we paired it with a 2002 Gevrey-Chambertin "Clos Prieur" by Esmonin which had the requisite funk to handle the smoke, yet was light enough not to crush the delicate earth and sea flavors.

Last, we made nettle gnocchi; Sirkka and I both recently bought the Silver Spoon cookbook, and she wanted to try making them, and luckily all the rain caused all our nettles to jump up with new growth like it was spring. So I picked a bunch, and they brought the potatoes, and we had the gnocchi with sage butter and parmesan. Chris made chard, and radicchio salad. Awesome, and even better with a 1998 Brusquières Châteauneuf and then, best of all, a 1996 Remirez de Ganuza Riserva which had us all in awe.

Kale 3 ways

Kale pesto has become the go-to way for getting copious greens into Milo; he loves it on pasta (and cauliflower,) and he also loved the two ways we had it: on pizza with goat cheese and in a puréed soup that included more cauliflower, carrot, celery root, onion, and parsley. We had all this green goodness with a 2003 d'Arenberg "Laughing Magpie" shiraz/viognier which, though not as friendly as the 2002, is a mighty wine and has much aging potential.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Just right

Needing something clean and healthy, I fell back on maki, always a good way to use up small amounts of leftovers in a healthy way. So the remaining brown rice became rolls around two different fillings: the first, roasted carnival squash puréed with a bit of umeboshi paste and shaken with sesame seeds, and the second kale pesto with fresh arugula leaves in the middle. As an appetizer, 2/3 of a block of tofu browned in a tiny bit of smoked duck fat, then tossed in a reduction of the duck broth/miso soup and some honey. I spun the last of the corn and radish salad plus a few more radishes in the food processor to make a relish of sorts, which went particularly well with the squash maki (and was a pretty pink color.) All this goodness met its match in a 2000 Guigal white Hermitage, which meshed beautifully with the rich tofu and the clean rolls; it has the rocks and candied hazelnuts plus the lovely apricot sweetness to handle everything from umeboshi to the smoked fat.


I was talking to the plumber and discussing variations in sauce recipes from family to family; once he left I knew what needed making for dinner. So a bit of bacon and half an onion browned, then a ton of fresh herbs, garlic, a splash of wine, and a can of tomatoes all simmered while I heated up a big pot of water for pasta. The fettucine tossed in with the sauce just before it was al dente, then parsley, good oil, and salt to finish, and freshly grated cheese on top. A side of sautéed watercress with garlic rounded it out, and a 2000 Cortese Barbaresco "Rabajà" had an unbelievable nose, but was way too young, needing another 5 years at least to relax. Still pretty yummy, though.

Corn, beans, and squash

Roasted butternut squash, stick-blended into the rest of the smoked duck broth, became the first course in another fridge-clearing dinner. The caramelized squash and the smoky broth combined beautifully, and the natural affinity duck has with sweet vegetables really made this one special. The main course was brown rice, pinto beans cooked with onion, cumin, lemon, chile powder, and the smoked fat from the top of the broth, and a salsa of corn, radish, and red onion. Corn, beans, and squash, with a little smoky bird essence- all-American fall food, with a nice German wine: a 2005 Riesling by St. Urbans-Hof.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Still more rain, this time with the closest and loudest lightning I've ever heard (it blew all our surge suppressors and killed the phone) wanted another comfort-centric response, so I schlepped to the store after I thought it broke and got thoroughly soaked on the way home, to the point where a stranger gave me a ride, seeing that my feeble paper bags were about to dump dinner all over the sidewalk. The joys of a small town.

Thus did I procure lasagna noodles, and shiitake mushrooms, and a can of tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. The mushrooms, an onion, summer squash, herbs garlic, and the tomatoes made a sauce that thickened while I cooked the noodles. Then built the thing, and grated parm all over the top. Blanched some kale in the pasta water, then tossed it in ume vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper while the dish bubbled in the oven.

Just great with another 2002 Cheze Saint-Joseph, which is now my favorite under-$20 bottle save Peiades; there was a moment, glass in hand, smelling the wine and the still-bubbling cheese together, that defined perfectly how heavenly a good match can be.

Duck Soup II

This time the broth was all duck; the whole glorious smoked carcass along with an onion, carrots, and parsley simmered for a couple of hours. Then, once strained, more carrot and zucchini plus soy sauce went in to simmer while whole wheat spaghetti boiled since we were out of soba. Finished with scallions and cilantro, and had with a 2002 Jadot Beaune Les Bressandes, it proved another antidote to what seems like eternal rain.


All the other night's ingredients (except the fish, which was gone) went back in the pan after a bit of onion had browned up a bit and then had some scallion and cilantro added to make a beautiful curried fried rice. This time a Trimbach riesling, also 2003 went with it. A nice way to enjoy a variation with subtle differences.

Roast pork

Roasting weather is upon us, so a pork shoulder got crammed with many garlic cloves and then goodly slathered with thyme, more garlic, oregano, rosemary, pepper and salt mashed to a paste in the suribachi. Into the oven, and then some blue potatoes steamed, skinned, and mashed with yogurt and parmesan went on the back of the stove to keep warm while I steamed some broccoli in the same pot. A quick pan sauce of fresh plum, ume vinegar, honey, red wine, demi-glace, and broth reduced, then poured on the meat for color, contrast, and a bit more moisture. A 1999 Lignier Chambolle-Musigny was a good match, but a little thin- probably a tad past its prime.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


A multi-course meal tonight: first, a pot of brown rice. Second, collards cooked with mustard, fenugreek, cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds plus lemon and onion. Third, carrots, sweet potatoes, onion, and a whole head of cauliflower with coconut milk, tomato paste, and two kinds of curry powder. Fourth, tilapia filets with a vindaloo paste/yogurt marinade, seared in the cast iron pan and finished under the broiler. Really, really good, and enhanced by a 2004 Trimbach Gewurztraminer.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Duck Soup

This one was really simple, but really satisfying. First, a dashi broth, supplemented with the sauce from the night before, and miso at the end with the heat off. Julienned carrots blanched, then udon cooked in the same water. All in a bowl with sliced duck breast on top and gomasio over all. The smoky dashi and smoky duck were a pretty powerful harmony, and done very well by a 2003 Chèze Saint-Joseph.