Monday, October 29, 2007


Last night we had our first frost, and the row covers worked well to protect the less hardy greens. My hope is that we'll be able to keep some things going at least as far as full Winter, if not longer for the kale and collards. Those I planted a month ago will have a great head start in the spring if they survive. In any case, it will be a good chance to learn about what does well and what doesn't, and whether some more robust winterproofing is in order for next time.

Tonight I made falafel for the first time in a long time, which is odd because it's so easy and so good. The key is to soak and then cook the chick peas early in the day so all that's needed come dinner time is to fry them up and assemble the garnishes. These included fresh radishes, pickled beets, hot and mild garden salsas, mixed late greens (arugula, mustard, mizuna, sorrel) and of course tahini (but with an avocado mashed in for good measure.) A very nice balance between the crispy fried and the crunchy raw ends of the spectrum, all tied together with creamy sauce and a little spice.

The other accomplishment today was the crock of kimchi- two perfect cabbages, carrots, scallions, a couple of radishes, garlic, ginger, and a minced cayenne pepper combined in salt water- in a week or so I'll check its progress. I'm pretty excited for this; it's so healthy and so good and will help wake up many winter favorites. All our hot pepper preparations are going to require lots of beer or riesling this winter.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The chicken carcass became broth, and I made "meatballs" with the leftover lentil salad, a dab of pâté, an egg, and some flour, then poached them in the broth. Soba and braised pan di zucchero finished the bowl. The meatballs were OK, but needed more zing- ginger, garlic, and chile, maybe, and some matzo meal to improve the texture. This dish also underscored the urgency of making the big crock of kimchi I've been planning for the minute our cabbages are big enough; with our first frost likely to come on Sunday night I'll probably make it on Saturday just in case my winterizing doesn't work.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


A roast chicken, with Japanese yams and whole garlic cloves in the pan, plus sautéed kale with lemon and a lemony gravy made with the pan juices. Just right for a rainy day and I got to work right up to dinner time. A 2001 Cheze St.-Joseph Cuvée Ro-Rée was well suited to this simple meal, though I think I like the 03 better.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Pendulum Swings

Today was another, even warmer perfect fall day and the leaves are peaking. I got to work outside for a couple of hours and enjoy the sounds and smells of the season. The scarcity and magic of these days makes them even more valuable, and the undercurrent of melancholy at the fleeting warmth gives each moment added weight. Time is fat like pumpkins right now.

To balance the divine excess of last night, a couple of clean and healthy dishes tonight. Little puy lentils simmered with carrot, onion, and celery and finished with olive oil, parsley, and fennel fronds accompanied a puréed soup of celery root, leeks, fennel, onion, sorrel, and potato with a broth fortified by the bones of the two legs of duck confit we had last week. The soup really worked; with good texture and a broad range of integrated flavors- from the meaty duck to the bright lemony sorrel- it was light for a warm day yet still rich for the time of year. Ditto the lentils, but from the other direction: vegan, but intensely earthy and substantial. Speaking of earthy and substantial yet light, a 2001 Guigal white Hermitage matched both these dishes quite well.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bend Over, Abigail Mae

Fans of Patton Oswalt (he was the voice of Ratatouille, you know) might recognize the title for this post. Today, because I'm the daddy, and it was an impeccable crystalline warm fall day- with all those fleeting perfections of smell and light and feeling that fill one at once with both pure distilled joy of life and sad dread at its evanescence- a meal to celebrate the exact intersection of those two emotions.

At Daniel's Bistro DB in the city he makes the famous "DB Burger" and I made it my mission to rival it in pure sensuous fabulosity (if not refined elegance.) Having a bit of the pâté mixture left in the fridge, I seasoned organic ground beef with salt, pepper, and garlic and stuffed the orotund patties with a generous dollop of same. Then, chopping the bacon cracklings also remaining from pâté fabrication, I studded the outside of the burgers with them and got to work on the fries- sweet potatoes, fried twice, then salted, that is. Once the burgers were done, I caramelized leeks in the combination of beef, pork, and duck fat that the burgers had rendered out and then mopped up the last of it with organic whole wheat English muffins.

The toppings were thus HP Sauce, leeks, and fresh-picked frisée, with a good raw-fermented dill pickle on the side. Crunchy, sweet fries, insanely decadent burger, crisp, tangy, and sweet condiments. Not a drop of ketchup or mustard to be found, and I must say that this burger succeeded in every imaginable way, including some I'm not going into here. We opened a 1998 Gros Noré Bandol, which is a great burger wine, with hair and fruit and depth and the focus to cut through the fat and scour the cholesterol from your arteries. This wine, for the price, is a must-buy, but you do have to sit on it for 8-10 years to reap the benefits.

A final tasting note on the Chambolle-Musigny from last night: left on the counter overnight with a cork in the bottle, the last glass has opened up into a rounder, darker-flavored wine that suggests more time will bring this to a much nicer place and indeed make it an excellent bargain.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Another variation on Ma Po tofu tonight, using a bit of the pâté mixture I made yesterday in place of ground pork and carrots as well as peas. The pâté has a lot of flavor, but I still added rice vinegar, lime juice, nama shoyu, wine, and sesame oil to round it out. After it was done, the green outer leaves of a head of pan di zucchero, braised with their own residual washing water, garlic, lime juice, and sesame oil left the wok clean & shiny so dishes were a snap. We tried a 1999 François Parent Chambolle-Musigny that was better than his Vosne-Romanée we had a few nights back- ironically, given that this one is cheaper. The nose is good, but it's sour and thin in the mouth. Whether more time will improve it is hard to say; it will never be epic, but if the tartness gives way to the soft fruit and truffles hinted at in the nose it will be well worth the 20+ bucks.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Home Cookin'

Tonight, a mix of old and new; more thinning and picking in the garden gave us a couple of fantastic fresh additions to the lamb and puréed greens from the last couple of days. The lamb, pulled apart and seasoned with some ras-el-hanout, became a sort of Moroccan pulled lamb, with the preserved lemon flavor really coming through the complex spices. There is no substitute for letting stews sit in the fridge for a day or two. Baby kale made a brilliant, tender salad, while chopped cabbage and collards got the Italian treatment with smashed garlic and lemon. These four dishes, served with reheated brown rice, offered a decidedly new meal on a used chassis. Not much to look at, but the flavors really zinged and the ratio of meat to grain to greens was perfect.

The sharp focus and deep comfort of this combination had worthy companionship in a bottle of 2004 Savigny-les-Beaune 1er cru "Les Narbantons" by Mongeard-Mugneret which is the first really good modestly priced Burgundy I've had in a while. Still tight, it has the classic nose and good potential to become something special in a few years if the hole in the middle fills in.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cutting The Mustard

One of the many pleasures of a garden is that it tells you what to eat; on any given day something is à point and must be picked immediately for best flavor. Yesterday, the thinned kale became a nutritious garnish in place of herbs. Today, it was mustard greens and sorrel that needed beating back. Combined with chick peas I put out to soak and some salmon that Christine bought it all became a pretty decent Indian-inspired meal.

The greens got stick-blended into a lovely thick purée along with fenugreek, mustard, coriander, and cumin seeds plus a grilled serrano chile, and the chick peas cooked long and low with vindaloo paste and a bunch of different dried spices. For the salmon, lemon rind and juice, tomato and tamarind pastes, and a turmeric-based curry powder. All atop brown rice with our peach-habañero chutney and handsomely accompanied by a 2005 Sancerre by Franck Millet; the delicate fruit and good acidity weren't overpowered by the fairly gentle heat of the food (I am also cooking for a three-year-old, after all.)

Again With The Meat & Potatoes

Rick and Julie extended their visit long enough to have an early dinner, so I braised some lamb ribs in wine, tapenade, preserved lemon, and mirepoix. While they were getting tender, I steamed a big parsnip, a celery root, and the leftover potatoes from the night before then mashed them up with some butter. Baby kale (thinned from the winter bed) and green mash to finish. Fall makes for such good eating, and drinking, though a 1999 Vosne-Romanée by François Parent did not impress.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Meat and Potatoes and

Rick and Julie are visiting for a couple of days, so after last night's birthday party at Liz's house- a pot luck in the grand tradition of our tribe- tonight was a more refined 3-course meal designed to highlight some great wine. First, a zucchini-shiso soup with minced serrano chiles for garnish paired with a 1989 Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon which had a rich sweetness that matched quite nicely with the creamy, slightly spicy soup. Then, a variation on frisée aux lardons, with our own frisée tossed in an egg yolk-mustard-lemon vinaigrette and topped with our shredded duck confit, paired with a 1983 Domaine Dujac Clos la Roche which shone ever brighter as the evening went on.

The final course was grass-fed sirloin, seared on the grill, and sliced over our mashed yukon gold potatoes with a red wine-coffee reduction, pan di zucchero mash, tiny whole potatoes crisped in duck fat, and leeks caramelized in the selfsame fat. This we matched with their 1989 (coincidentally) Kathryn Kennedy cabernet that had all the understated elegance of our refined take on meat and potatoes. Simple, local (mostly homegrown) food, old wine, and good company: an unbeatable combination. The cheesy tablecloth added rustic color and protects my Grandmother's dining room table from wine-related mishaps.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I finally got to Fleisher's today, after using everything in the fridge except the enormous lamb shoulder which I'm saving for a bigger group, and got a few things to see us through the next couple of weeks. For tonight, ground lamb seasoned with garlic, cumin, herbs, pepper, and salt accompanied by another perfect salad and fresh-dug red potato fries. Not a particularly photogenic meal, nor very healthy- the fries got their second dunk in the frying oil (safflower) enriched with the copious rendered lamb fat- but as a departure from our normally pretty sound diet I thought it well justified by yet another clammy, rainy day plus the fact that I make fries about three times a year.

To illustrate this, when I told Milo what we were having, he asked "what are French fries?" To make it past his third birthday in today's Factory Food America without knowing what fries are is pretty great in my book; how many three-year-olds do you know who would ask that, and who eat nasturtium flowers, mustard greens, and beet pickles like they're cookies? To cap it all off, I found more Domaine Cheze Saint-Joseph and bought 3 each of the 2001 and 2003 so I can decide which I want more of; we tried the 01 but we'll have to do a side-by-side to decide.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Another chilly wet day required soup, and this time I went for a Japanese-style dinner with a bunch of small dishes followed by a big bowl of soba. Clockwise from upper left: beet pickles, sorrel and nasturtium salad (sesame/ume shu dressing,) leftover braised pan di zucchero, and our own Japanese eggplant cooked with scallions in a serious sauce of garlic, rice vinegar, shoyu, agave syrup, and HP sauce that Christine bought me recently so I can make proper fried egg sandwiches.

The soba had a dashi broth, blanched kale, seared yellowfin tuna, scallions, and black sesame seeds. All in all, far from traditional or authentic, but similar in the variety and focus of flavors.

Duck Confit

It finally feels like fall, and we got some rain; the combination was more than enough to make me reach for the big tub of duck fat at the back of the fridge and pull out two legs for dinner. They crisped up just right in the iron pan, and sat on a bed of braised pan di zucchero that I wilted in the rendered fat (this also happens to be the best way to clean your iron pan; the greens and their liquid mean that once you serve them all the pan needs is a wipe.) On the side, another of our roasted kabocha and some of the spicy peach chutney, and in the glass a Pleiades XV. So many things were right about this meal- the weather-appropriateness, the contrasts of crispy skin and creamy squash, sweet chutney and bitter greens, the wine with all of the above- and most important, the fact that I got to use the phrase "big tub of duck fat."

Friday, October 05, 2007

Indian Summer

The weather here in the Northeast has been incredible of late: hot, and no rain for what seems like weeks now. But the evenings are cool, so even if it's uncomfortably warm during the day, it's beautiful sleeping weather and the resulting dew in the morning keeps the plants from drying out too much. It's hard to believe we're well into October already; the garden is at a peak we haven't seen since June. With the row covers I'm building, the hope is to have fresh greens into December and then a big head start in March. All the frozen & canned stuff is for those 2-3 months in between.

Tonight, a meal more appropriate to August, but since we have that weather it was just right. Fresh wild salmon, done up the normal sashimi way, with hot garlic-infused sesame oil and then nama shoyu, but then instead of lime juice and jalapeño slices I spooned some fresh salsa I had just made from the last of our cherry tomatoes, plus serranos, lime juice, cilantro, and garlic. All told I got another quart, which will replace the jar we finished last night. To go with the salmon, a perfect salad and chicken-of-the-woods cooked pulled pork style- low & slow with the homemade BBQ sauce. To cap this off, I opened a 1978 Drouhin Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots which I fully expected to be cooked but instead is pretty delicious- a bit thin, and getting tired, but still a rare and special treat- especially given that I had planned on marinating the fish and cooking the mushrooms in it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


It's good to be home. The garden is loving the cooler weather; late plantings of greens are freaking out and we can't keep up. The salads are as good as they were in the spring, and now they get to play against creamy winter squash. On Sunday we went apple picking with the gang, and bought peaches and plums as well to preserve. Today saw the happy combination of peaches, red onions, lime basil, honey, cider vinegar, and insanely hot Chinese paper lantern peppers (like habañeros, but bright red) into a chutney that will be great on duck and fish all winter.

Later, after the canning was done, I braised lamb shanks in red wine and garden goodness while the first kabocha squash of the season roasted in the oven. I used half a bottle of 2005 Nieto Senetiner riserva cabernet to make the lamb, and we drank the rest with it. For 10 bucks, this wine is a great value for fans of big, grapey cabs.

Fusili With Chard And Potatoes

That's pretty much it. All homegrown, except the pasta; I used the last of the homemade butter in place of olive oil. The chard turned the pasta pink.

A Week In The City

Apart from installing the show, I didn't do much last week. One exception was Thursday, when John called me around 3:30 to tell me they were playing, in Brooklyn, a mere 5 blocks from the gallery. I had no idea they were in town. (If you follow the link above, then scroll down a bit, you can see Milo modeling their latest fashions.) When John called, I was a sweaty, cranky mess, but following the call I had enough energy to finish the wall piece before dinner. We went to Aurora, run by an Il Buco alum, where I've been twice before. Sitting outside, we had many appetizers to share- best among which were the sardines, the zucchini flowers, and the carpaccio of salmon. For the main course, we all split a few orders of veal cheek and marrow ravioli, and pappardelle al cinghiale. We started off with a 2003 Mastrojani Rosso di Montalcino and moved on to two of their 2001 Brunellos. Then we strolled back to the venue, and they tore the fucking roof off.

After the opening on Friday, I went with my Brother and some friends to Marlow & sons, which I had read about. Our friend Cass works there, and we tucked into some great grub. 6 oysters, charcuterie, arugula salad, and crostini with local ricotta and peaches, along with a pretty good Burgundy that I don't remember the name of since by then I was a tad tipsy. All in all, the week was a pretty perfect balance of business and pleasure.

I Think It was Raining

Chicken pieces, crusted with coarse cornmeal and spices, browned in the big pan then sat aside while supplì of the smoked chicken risotto (with a similar cornmeal coating, and fromage blanc inside) sizzled in about half an inch of oil next door. Back in the big pan, mirepoix, leeks, tomatoes, scallions, peas, and broccoli- all just picked- deglazed all the chckeny goodness along with a splash of wine from the fridge. I'm sure we drank some yummy rosé but can't remember it now.