Friday, August 31, 2007

Lumpy Gravy

The perfect freshness and intense complexity of our homegrown mirepoix has really made an impression on me, and I want to use it in everything. To that end, I plan on chopping a vast quantity and then blanching and freezing the mixture in small bags for use throughout the winter. Who knew celery could actually be exciting? So tonight, a clean take on fried chicken and gravy: cornmeal/spice crusted chicken legs well browned in the iron pan- with some extra oil to get them going- atop the veggie mix plus chard, sorrel, and tomatoes, all thickened with a pinch of flour so it could handle a splash each of water and wine at the end to make a lovely gravy. Perched on top of some purple Thai rice, it covered the spectrum from crisp to creamy, crunchy to al dente, lemony sorrel fresh to deep gravy funk.

Taco Belle

We went over to C&S's house, bringing some of the duck confit (Chris' favorite) plus the salsa, tortillas, a smoked coffee-tamarind-molasses-red wine-agave reduction to go with the duck (which tasted like mutant hoisin sauce) and some red snapper. I made a ceviche with the fish, citrus juice, celery, onion, and cilantro, and they made a salad, guacamole, and pulled out a turnip-hijiki dish from the day before. So we had soft tacos with either ceviche or duck and various sauces, accompanied by a 2003 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sclossberg Riesling Spätlese and then a 2002 Domaine du Closel "Clos du Papillon" Savennières, which were both remarkable matches- the first with the ceviche and the second with the duck.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Given a pound of ground beef the options are limited only by what else is in the kitchen. Having a garden means being able to make a million dinners on any given day. One of my go-to dishes is a Bolognese pasta- especially on a day like today, which I spent cutting an entire sheet of MDF into ornate shapes with a jigsaw- so I modified the usual recipe to include nothing but our own vegetables. Thus: meat browned with mirepoix (same as last night) and then simmered with many herbs and lots of tomatoes. Chiffonaded kale got a quick blanch in the pasta water before a toss with salt, pepper, oil, and cider vinegar, and I made a big bowl of mash with the favored galia endive. Simple, humble, satisfying (the mash is killer with all things meat) local, and extra good with a 2000 Carver Sutro petite sirah.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hard To Argue

I pickled beets and turnips a couple of days ago, and had one of each left over, so I steamed them until soft, then puréed them and added egg yolk and rye flour to make gnocchi dough. Today we used it, along with tilapia and garden goodies. Fennel, celery, onion, and carrot sweated while I rolled, cut, and boiled the gnocchi. Then veggies out and gnocchi into the same pan but with duck fat to brown all over. The fish got a cornmeal and spice dredge, and replaced the gnocchi along with a bit of oil to keep it going. Last, lots of multicolored cherry tomatoes and herbs deglazed with wine dissolved all the gorgeous brown stuff off the bottom of the now well-seasoned pan. Fish, atop gnocchi/mirepoix mixture, surrounded by tomatoes and topped with fennel frond is what you see here: rich, crusty fishy goodness with superfresh al dente fennel crunch, chewy earthy gnocchi and sweet, tangy tomatoes all melded together into a perfect late summer meal.

Three Lefts Make A Right

So two mornings ago I started a pre-ferment for the same whole wheat recipe I made last time, intending to bake it in the Dutch oven for a better shape and crust. Come evening, lo and behold, we were out of white flour, and low on whole wheat. So I used rye to make up the difference and kneaded in the pre-ferment and let it sit overnight to develop further and end up like the no-knead recipe. Shaped, rested, then dumped into the hot pot (seam-side up, which avoids having to score a blob at the bottom of a 450˚ casserole) then baked, it came out pretty well. The crust is the best yet, and the crumb is lovely. The change in flour wants a pinch more salt for flavor and a bit more water for crust, but overall a winner. The Dutch oven method guarantees a beautiful shape, and a better crust than most home ovens can achieve. I'm going to use it for most loaves from now on. Steaming, schmeaming.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ken's Birthday

On short notice, Kris invited me down to the city to join them for a celebration. It was well worth the trip. Excellent food, wine, and company. Here's the menu:

Crab Cake and Smoked Trout on Toast
1997 Bollinger Grande Cuvée

Mushroom Soup with Bellota Ham of Joselito, Shiitake Mushrooms, 7-day cooked egg yolk & Arbequina Olive Oil Air
1951 Barbeito Sercial Riserva Velha Madeira (from his birth year)

Alaskan Wild Scallops with Corn Sauce, Papadum, and Flowering Chives
1982 Dauvissat "Les Preuses" Chablis

Grilled Langoustine, Langoustine & Vegetable Tempura with Honey-Pecan Butter
1989 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne

Lamb Belly with Gazpacho Jelly, Gazpacho emulsion, and "Chlorophyll" Foam
1995 Pignan

Piemonte Beef, Potato Purée and Haricots Verts
1997 Poggio Antico Brunello

Selection of Cheeses: Valencay, Pecorino Rosselino, and Saint Vernier (Savoie)
(plus my pork pâté)
2003 Luce, 1994 Pignan

Mocha Chocolate Layer Cake and Lemon Tart

Needless to say, Kris outdid himself yet again. The portions were so perfect- and the number of people divided each bottle so ideally- that I even drove 100 miles afterwards so I could wake up here rather than in Brooklyn and thus have a full Sunday with the family.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Back From The Shadows

Needless to say, I got sick too, though not as badly. (Let's hear it for massive doses of vitamins and echinacea.) Today we all started to feel like normal people again, and the weather shifted from the cold, rainy 60s we've had all week to the hot, muggy 80s in the blink of an eye. I caught up on some gardening and preserving: 3 bags of green beans blanched and frozen, another big crock of cucumber pickles put down below to ferment, and 2 quarts of this lovely salsa made from our many-colored cherry tomatoes (red, orange, yellow, green, white) plus serrano chiles, onion, and cilantro. The only non-garden ingredients were some lemon juice, cider vinegar, and salt. We had porcini agnolotti (from the store) with a stilton/butter/fromage blanc sauce and sautéed zucchini since it was all I could manage.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


This is a recipe from Bread that uses a pre-ferment for those of us too lazy to get our own sourdough starter going (and keep it going; they're like pets once you have one.) I made one freeform loaf, and threw the other half in a pan so I could put the first one on the stone with the peel and then plunk the other down next to it. They crusted up pretty well, though next time I will steam the oven more; another possibility would be to try it in the preheated Dutch oven like the no-knead recipe I tried a while back. But the crumb is nice, and the flavor is pretty great, especially with local cultured butter. Plus the house smells incredible.


A cold, rainy day and sick wife and son called for straight-up comfort food. I made this with almost no fancy flourishes- just plain and simple. Ground beef, pasta, tomato sauce, local fromage blanc- all organic- and mozzarella on top. The goat cheese added a nice touch, so next time I might use ground lamb in place of beef, and throw in some olives. But this time it was all about easy and quick. And yummy.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Chicken Soup For The Son

Milo has a cold, so garden goodness in the form of carrot, onion, celery, and parsley went into a pot with chicken thighs to make broth. The carrot, subsequently cubed, and the chicken meat combined with the strained broth, wild rice, and orzo to make a simple, archetypal dinner that he slurped up with abandon and yet was refined enough for us to enjoy on a less sniffly level.

Off The Hook

Noah and Deanna stopped over on their way back to Brooklyn which gave me the perfect excuse to try the pizza dough recipe from Local Bread. Not only is it the new book from our local bakery founder, but the recipe comes from the very place in Campo dei Fiori in Rome where I used to go for bread and pizza rossa almost every day (though truth be told, often I wouldn't get that far since there was another, closer place with equally good pizza- but inferior bread.) Someday I would love to write a guidebook for walking tours of the pizzerie rustiche of Rome, with favorite little churches and less famous sights thrown in.

This is an insanely wet dough, but stretchy, so I did manage to get it out near the edges of the peel. We made two: the first with cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs all from the garden, and the second with potatoes from the garden and black trumpet mushrooms from the woods. The crust was a winner, and I was transported back to those magic times spent eating this perfect food while leaning against the fountain in Piazza Farnese. I also made a crudo of wild salmon and sautéed the last of our escarole to make room for spinach in the fall, and we made the tomato and cucumber salad that we have almost every day. We started with rosé, then moved on to a 1997 Soletta Cannonau Riserva which was quite rich and still young. For dessert, we had Roquefort and Stilton with a 1996 Château Theulet Montbazillac.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Lettuce Soup

I owe the inspiration for this to cookiecrumb, who referred me to Becks & Posh based on the "Bolted Lettuce" post from the other day. The happy presence of duck broth in our freezer (they leave those giblets in there for a reason) made it even better, and let me clear out a large part of the lettuce bed for the fall crop. All the various bolted varieties went in: butterhead, red and green oakleaf, and a few random others from the shaggy remnants of the mesclun row. A handful of pine nuts for density, plus some yogurt for opacity and complimentary tang rounded out the pot and got churned to smithereens with my beloved stick blender. With truffle oil and daikon sprouts, it was soup and salad together (plus, in the picture, it has clouds in it.) Our first white tomatoes commingled happily with their yellow, orange, and red brethren and yellow cucumbers in a lovely side salad. Another Pink Flamingo rosé made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of all our senile lettuce.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pretty Yummy

I pulled some organic chicken legs out of the freezer and made a sort of stew around them using only things from the garden: green beans, chard, tomatoes, kale, zucchini, carrot, celery, shallot, basil, oregano, parsley, and scallion all got added at different times so they could cook the right amount of time before serving. Finished with a dollop of tomato sauce from Milo's pasta (normally he eats with us but today he needed something earlier) and served on brown rice from curry night it was simple yet gratifying and almost totally local. We had some Magnien Bourgogne rosé and then moved on to a Pleiades that I opened on Monday night- his wine seems impervious to the effects of air and time- it was as rich, young, and complex as if I had just popped the cork.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Perfect Dinner

Tonight we went to Cris & Sirkka's place, since he's back from tour for a minute and their garden needed some grazing to get it under control (although we hardly made a dent; it's at least as big as ours and has been going crazy in his absence.) Sirkka made ravioli with zucchini and feta filling, Chris smoked salmon on the grill, and they made chard and mash as well. I made a salad of tomatoes and yellow cucumbers from our garden with basil form theirs, and we tossed the ravioli in shiso pesto they had in the fridge. All washed down with a couple of yummy French rosés: a Listel Vin des Sables "Pink Flamingo" (Grenache/Cinsault/Carignane) and a Murray Family Routas (Grenache/Syrah/Cinsault.) Summer eating at its best- unpretentious, yet utterly delicious, healthy, and mostly homegrown.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bolted Lettuce

Now normally this is the bane of the gardener, since it means it's too hot to grow sweet, tender salad greens until summer is almost over. But the slight bitterness and firmer texture of bolted lettuces allow other treatments to offer themselves, (though I likes me some bitter in my salad too.) Mash makes good use of midsummer lettuce trees, and so does wilting or even braising; try it and be delighted. Plus you can bring one huge head to a party and make a salad for 12 with no problem. I am really enjoying the learning that comes with a garden, and the appreciation for subtle differences in flavor and texture as plants move through their life cycle.

Tonight, a tofu coconut curry with beans, kale, and tomatoes from the garden, and a 2003 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sclossberg Riesling Spätlese.

Roughing It

We were in Vermont with family for the weekend, and it was perfect weather and good eating. We brought all the greens from the garden, and supplemented them with local bread, cheese, and sausages. I also lugged along the smoked duck carcass to make a broth on the second night, with soba and sliced filet of beef. The first course was salmon as sushi with brown rice and sashimi with the now-familiar sauce of hot garlic sesame oil followed by lime juice and tamari. I found a bottle of 2005 Hilberg/Pasquero Vareij, which I love but haven't seen for a while, and it was its usual crazy mix of blueberries, jasmine, and feet.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Mollusc

Chris is on the road, so Sirkka and Nissa came over to hang out on a rainy, even chilly afternoon. A trip to the store yielded a bag of Cape Cod mussels, and some spinach fettucine. The garden gave carrot, fennel, celery, shallot, and green onion plus basil, parsley, thyme, and oregano. A few slices of guanciale got the pan going, and all the rest of the veggies sweated until soft. Then wine, mussels, and the cover while the pasta cooked. Then herbs and all tossed together in my Mom's big bread-rising bowl. I also wilted some escarole with oil, garlic and lime juice, and Christine made a salad. Sirkka made coconut ice cream. We drank a 2006 Bourgogne rosé by Frédéric Magnien. Delightful.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The transformative power of salt part 2

This time, two duck breast halves, salted overnight, then dusted with pepper and wrapped in cheesecloth went in the trusty wastebasket to hang for a week. When dried, they'll be much like prosciutto. With any luck our melons will be ripe by then and we'll have a feast.


Christine recently bought me Hamelman's Bread book, and I tried his recipe for pizza dough. It came out well; using a biga, or pre-ferment, for taste and texture is the secret. Next time I will probably add half whole wheat for health and flavor. I made two- the first was guanciale and shiitake, the second endive/basil pesto with cherry tomatoes. Given our oven's upper limit of 500˚, another important key to success is to get it nice and thin-right up to the edges of the peel- so it cooks quickly and gets good and crisp. The small effort required and the possibility of storing the dough in the fridge (or freezer) until needed mean that with a tiny bit of planning this can be a near-constant option. It does make me want to build a brick oven outside, though.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Day of the Duck

Indeed. So First off, I managed to pick a ton of green beans and kale, then blanch and freeze them while the duck smoked on our very own apple wood; its neck and giblets went in a pot with carrot, celery, shallot and parsley from the garden to make a broth for freezing until needed. The duck legs, breasts, and fat I ordered arrived, locally sourced, which means that tomorrow is confit and prosciutto day- it all gets salted and seasoned in anticipation of two very different yet equally alchemical treatments.

To accompany the luscious, smoky bird, our standard sides, since there was no time for anything fancy: mashed sweet potatoes and kale (some of the big batch I blanched.) Leftover endive mash and a gooey red wine reduction (Marquis Philips is the best for this sort of thing, including poached pears and tart glazes) with 5-spice and honey rounded out the meal. A 1997 Marchesato degli Aleramici Brunello was still kind of a big tannic bitch, but had good fruit and complexity. I'm a big fan of 1999 Brunello right now, and the 2001s are of course wonderful, but 97 is a bit of a sleeper; it needs more time but represents a good value in the face of the Wine Speculator hype surrounding more recent vintages.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Shortcut To Mushrooms

One of our shortcuts to town goes right by Elijah's, and we stopped in to give Kurt a pickle- they just came out of the crock and I must say I nailed them; they're just like Grandpa made- and Kurt gave us some beautiful chicken-of-the-woods (yellow and orange) and chanterelles.

With the guanciale ready for action, I grabbed some worthy companions from the garden and went to work turning all of it into a heavenly pasta condimento.

Rendered guanciale, sizzled mushrooms, softened fennel, chard, and zucchini, herbs and tomatoes (our first) added at the end with a glug of wine to deglaze and soften everything all got tossed with penne, salt, and some olive oil to finish. Insane, summery, earthy, local, and perfect. The guanciale is more or less indistinguishable from bacon, so a little bit gave this dish a sublime unifying lift. We finished a 2006 Murray family Routas rosé (grenache/syrah/cinsault) that we opened last night to go with tofu, sweet potatoes, and mash. It worked well with both. We love summer. We love pink wine.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Back In The Saddle

Christine returned from the city, bearing a beautiful enameled cast-iron gratin dish that she got for 13 bucks at the dollar store around the corner from our place. It's indistinguishable from Le Creuset, and got me inspired, given that I had made a merguez mixture a couple of days ago, figuring to grill it on sticks like before. Milo and I had already picked a beet, carrots, and potatoes earier in the day, as well as both kinds of cucumbers, which made a salad appetizer that- along with some local sweet corn- kept them quiet while I made the rest.

So out came the mandoline, which made short work of the above plus half a zucchini from yesterday and all went into the new pan in layers and into the oven; it's finally cooled off so this actually wasn't insane. Kurt from Elijah's café gave me a bunch of fresh black trumpet mushrooms from undisclosed woods nearby (for free, since he likes our garden) and I sautéed them with the usual mushroom ensemble of garlic, parsley, and wine. The carrots, steamed and tossed with cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, lime juice, parsley, scallion, and oil became a Moroccan dish that echoed the spices in the ground lamb. A little leftover pesto, thinned with olive and truffle oil, worked well as a finishing/unifying sauce, and we had some Château Roquefort Corail to begin and some Pleiades XV I opened yesterday to finish. A worthy homecoming, and but for the wine, salt, pepper, lime, and oil made entirely from homegrown or local ingredients.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hot, Therefore Cold

It was quite hot and muggy today, and after a swim in the river Milo and I needed something light yet satisfying. The zucchini are going off again, so I made them into "noodles" with the saladacco and churned a thick, yummy sauce of fresh and dried tomatoes, pine nuts, pesto, and oil in the food processor. With a lovely cold glass of Les Domaniers Puits de Moret Côtes de Provence rosé (the Ott acquisition, which blindfolded I might guess was a chardonnay) it filled us up and scoffed at the heat. Being able to navigate the full spectrum from raw and vegan food to homemade pork paté- depending on ingredients, weather, and occasion- is to my mind one of the keys to great eating.