Friday, March 30, 2007

Meat & Potatoes

I went to Fleisher's today, to get fixins for tomorrow's paella, and couldn't not get one of their dry-aged top sirloin steaks (on account of how gorgeous they are and also we haven't had one since Christmas.) I baked some sweet potatoes, and quick-braised a head of escarole, just like last time, and made a pan sauce with red wine and a pat of butter; the meat had salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence for a simple rub. All these remarkably sophisticated flavors did well by a 2003 Finca Sandoval Manchuela, which could use a bit more time, but has a lusciousness that makes it enjoyable now. And if you think we've been hitting the Spanish wines hard lately, just wait until the post about tomorrow...


Completely exhausted from rototilling the garden, and with next to nothing in the fridge, I punted; the brown rice allowed for efficient use of the few things we had. Fillings included roasted acorn squash, chopped wasabi peas, avocado, carrot (shaved super-thin with the peeler) and minced ume plum. That was it. No sides, no wine, just simple food and then bed.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mas Feesh

This meal ended up as kind of a variation on the tuna/striped bass meal from last week, but it was all wild salmon. Another Nobu-style sashimi, this time with lime juice and zest, and black pepper added to finish. The rest of the fish got the simple pan treatment after a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and cinnamon. I steamed broccoli and cauliflower and brown rice was going in the cooker. For the sauce this time, a slight variation, with white wine, lemon juice, mustard, capers, and a drop of agave syrup. We finally finished the second half of the Banneret, which had been in an airtight decanter. Still nice, but without the oomph in the middle that a great Châteauneuf should have after being open for a while.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Thai Styley

The rare and wonderful presence of galangal in the fridge governed the direction for dinner tonight; absent kaffir lime leaves, or even non-slimy cilantro, (shudder) this magical rhizome pulled the whole meal into Southeast Asian territory all by itself. The chicken carcass simmered with its gravy plus more water, ginger, galangal, and garlic. Minus the bones, and plus coconut milk and lime juice, it turned into a pretty good tom kha gai. (The preserved lemons did a good job of covering the lemongrass part.) Meanwhile, some TVP had been simmering with dried mushrooms until they were all soft. I added tamari, nam pla, rice vinegar, and ginger, plus flour to thicken, and tossed it all in the wok, followed by a bunch of soaked rice noodles with soy, vinegar, and sesame oil, and then a bunch of watercress with smashed garlic:

Braise the Bird

Our 3.5 quart Dutch oven holds a chicken perfectly, and helps infuse the bird with whatever flavors go in there with it. In this case, they were carrot, onion, preserved lemon, herbes de Provence, ras el hanout, and white wine. Once the bird was cooked, I added shredded kale to the sauce and thickened it with a bit of flour to make it gravy. And that was it- chicken, gravy, and a 2003 Domaine du Banneret CDP, which had lovely cedary and herbal qualities, along with good fruit; 2003 was a tough, hot year but this one is not bad at all.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Less is More

Back from a gig in Providence, and not so much in the fridge. Some of Kenny's venison from the freezer provided the focal point for a rainbow of leftovers: half an acorn squash roasted while a quarter of a red cabbage braised and a sweet potato steamed. The last of the beet salad rounded out the brilliantly colored substrate for the buttery tender strips of meat, rubbed with salt, pepper, and ras-el-hanout. Seared up in the iron pan, they harmonized wonderfully with the complex sweet, earthy, and tangy vegetable flavors, as well as with a 1996 Hacienda Monasterio Ribera del Duero.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I was in the city all day, and stuck in traffic for too much of the time, but I mustered the strength to pick up some fish for dinner. Unable to choose, I got wild sea bass and a small piece of beautiful tuna. Rubbed with black pepper, the tuna made a nice seared sashimi with hot garlic-infused sesame oil, then ponzu drizzled on it.

The main course was pan-roasted sea bass over the cauliflower purée from yesterday (without agar) and wilted spinach with garlic. I made another blood orange-wine pan sauce because Milo likes it so much and it looks pretty too. This was all very well met by our last bottle of 2003 Siduri Sonatera pinot noir, which, while not even close to Burgundian, is one of their funkier single vineyard wines. Too bad we won't have a chance to see how it ages.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Using The Force

I usually try to have the meal come logically from what needs to be eaten, whether leftovers or a veggie that's getting tired. Tonight the cauliflower Christine steamed for Milo was the jumping-off point. Puréed and mixed with a drop of truffle oil, ume shu, soy milk, salt, and dissolved agar, then chilled, it became a sort of vegan panna cotta. Acorn squash, sweet potato, and carrot curry with coconut milk went around them for a nice complement, and a bit of lime zest finished the plate.

The second course could accurately, if inelegantly, be called meatball salad; the remaining lamb mixture from the fridge had gained sausage-like depth of flavor from all the added seasonings, so I made little meatballs with it, and, once they were done, used a bit of their hot fat as the base for an in-bowl vinaigrette (ume shu, salt, and pepper added to the greens, then a dribble of hot fat) that wilted the mesclun nicely and gave the whole salad some of the meatball richness. Both dishes went well with a 2005 St. Urbans-Hof riesling, which, though cheap, has fruit, flowers, decent acidity, and just enough sweetness to handle the curry spices.

Dim Sum

Far from traditional, but close to awesome, these various tidbits were filled as follows: the little egg rolls with ground lamb seasoned with garlic, rice vinegar, curry powder, tamari, ume shu, and pepper; the shu mai with the white bean/artichoke mixture, topped with black sesame seeds; and the wontons with finely shredded red cabbage, carrot, and scallion. In the middle of the plate is kale quickly cooked with a smashed garlic clove in a drop of the frying oil (which by then had some rendered lamb fat in it.) The dipping sauce for all this was tamari, Melinda's hot sauce, rice vinegar, agave syrup, and lime juice.

Hitting bottom, but in a good way

This meal was literally made from the last food in the fridge (although not the freezer.) From the last of the grilled lamb, some leftover kidney beans, a carrot, half an onion, a bit of kale, some dried porcini and a splash of wine came this instant risotto. Well, not really instant, but it didn't involve broth since the various components all flavored the water as it cooked. Just the right amount of lamb gave it good depth, and we each had a glass of the 2005 Nieto Senentiner Cabernet that Christine had opened while I was in the city.

Monday, March 19, 2007

More Old Wine

I finally made it over to Kris and Ken's place for dinner, and it was great. Sujit and James joined us, but alas Mary and David did not since his flight from Paris was so late due to bad weather. In order, the courses that Kris prepared were as follows: first, sea bream with celery root purée and caramelized garlic, enjoyed with a 1986(!) Pouilly-Fuissé "Les Reiss" from Ferret which was fascinating, and then a white 2004 Priorat called "Les Brugueres." Next, foie gras on raisin toast with homemade jam, paired with first a 1990 Les Lys Montlouis and then a 1979 Rieussec Sauternes, which did sweet in two completely opposite ways- one transparent and delicate, the other unctuous and honeyed. The next course was a curried poussin risotto, creamy and spicy, and we continued with the same whites.

The reds began with my 1996 Remirez de Ganuza, still a current favorite, and praised by all. It accompanied duck confit on braised carrots and cabbage, which had a very appropriate St. Patrick's day feel to it. We moved on to Sujit's 1998 Durand Cornas, which none of us guessed (I was the farthest off) and then to a 1999 Valdicava Brunello that Kris had decanted when I arrived. The main course was guinea hen roasted with boar bacon on top and rapini on the side. We opened Sujit's second mystery wine, a 2001 Beaurenard CDP, which we did better with, and Kris stumped us again with a 1989 Chinon "Cuvée des Verennes du Grand Clos," which was pretty over the hill but interesting since we had talked aging Loire wines earlier in the evening. Then cheeses, the standout of which was a Robiola "Rustica." Quite a night.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Old Bordeaux

Danny got hold of a 1978 Mouton Rothschild, and thus a dinner was called for. John and Debi came too, and brought a 1979 Pichon-Lalande. I made more of the cannelini-artichoke mixture, and spread it on the toasted homemade bread, then topped each one with a quarter of an artichoke (alla Romana, of course) and a drizzle of truffle oil. These were insanely hearty and great with the 2004 Quintarelli "bianco secco" that John brought along as well as a brown rice and bean risotto, port marinated seitan, and he braised radicchio in coconut water and pesto.
Danny brought potatoes, salad, and cherry planks that he had milled himself. The lamb, opened up and rubbed with a Moroccan lemon/olive/garlic/parsley tapenade, went on the planks over the fire after a quick char on the outside.

It was all delicious, and the 2 old wines were fascinating studies in great wines from lesser years; John called them "wise old women you need to listen to carefully." Though not powerful, they were elegant, seamless, and very different from each other. More different still, and much younger at only 15 years old, our 1992 Beringer offered a distinctly Californian take on the same idea, and while delicious, and at its prime, couldn't rival the subtlety of the other two. And it's the first time I've ever had a Mouton that came out before Star Wars.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pasta e fagioli

I went to Fleisher's to replenish the freezer, and get a lamb shoulder for tonight, and I also got some of their pastrami, which is insanely good- really salty and peppery and smoky- and used some of it in place of pancetta in the soffrito for cannelini (made from dried, of course) along with onion, carrot, and herbs. I sautéed a head of escarole with lemon, oil, and garlic, just like they do at Pepe Giallo. The beans deglazed with wine, then tomatoes, and then a bag of al dente whole wheat penne dumped in to finish; normally this dish is more of a soup, but I like it thicker. Having said that, for lunch today all the leftovers got added to the last of the chicken stew, canned tomatoes, escarole, and even brown rice and made a wicked rainy day fridge stew for all of us.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I got this recipe from Andrew's blog, where he has a link to a no-knead bread recipe from Jim Lahey of Sullivan St. Bakery. I used half whole wheat and half white flour, but otherwise followed it exactly. The point is to make a wet dough and let it rise and ferment for 18 hours, so time does your work for you, then bake it inside a preheated Dutch oven in your oven so that the steam gives it a lovely crust. It worked really well- crusty outside, moist and chewy inside, and the whole upstairs smells like fresh bread.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Almost Spring

I had been thinking about this for a few days; it always works out best when I cook what I really want to cook and tonight was no exception. Trout "en papillote" stuffed with garlic and herbs went in the oven along with twice-baked potatoes (for their second time) after baking and getting mashed up with garlic chives, (newly visible now the snow is melting) truffle oil, thyme, salt, pink pepper, and olive oil and put back in their skins. The trout produced ample juices for its own sauce, which were all contained in the parchment. Finished under the broiler, and with a big baby green salad with a mustard vinaigrette, they did their part to nudge winter into spring. In honor of the first warm day of the year, we opened our last 2000 Guigal white Hermitage, which is full of honey and hazelnuts.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Welcome Back

Christine went to the city, so Milo and I were alone this weekend. Yesterday, we made chicken stew with shiitakes, carrots, parsnip, celery root, moroccan lemon, and white wine, and today for lunch I added Lebanese couscous, the kabocha purée from salmon night, some red cabbage, and more roots, letting it simmer until all was soft. We'll have the rest for lunch tomorrow.

For her return, I defrosted 2 duck breasts, steamed a mixture of celery root and parsnip, boiled a couple of beets to make salad, and chiffonaded some kale. The beet salad is also for tomorrow, since it gets so much better after a day or two, but I used the cooking liquid (as before, an efficient substitute for juice) as the base for a sauce: some red wine, a splash of cider, a bit of agave syrup, and a handful of sliced kumquats reduced to a nice thick consistency. The kale I cooked in the same pan as the duck, with onions, after pouring off the excess rendered fat into a jar. We tried a 1997 Clos Mogador Priorat; these big Spanish wines are amazing for their depth and longevity, especially given their price; this had many Bordeaux-like characteristics, not least some tannins which could use another 5 years or so to relax.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Salmon again

I almost made the wasabi pea crust again for this salmon, but opted instead for cornmeal and spices (paprika, pink pepper, herbes de Provence, cinnamon.) Steamed kabocha squash made a super-creamy mash, and needed nothing but a little oil and salt, and then, still in the same pan, I browned shiitakes, then wilted spinach, each time with their own fresh smashed garlic clove. Last, another orange-based sauce: OJ, wine, tamari, agave syrup, pink pepper that reduced to a medium thickness and went with everything, just like the 2001 Domaine la Millière CDP which is still one of the best deals we've gotten in a while (thanks to Mary.)

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Finally available up here; I've been craving them since it's that time of year and the white beans we've been eating call out for them. So I bought four, and one got chopped up and added to the soaked beans along with onion, garlic, a bit of turkey bacon, herbs, and white wine, and simmered for two hours until the aromatics had disintegrated and the beans were tender. Meanwhile the other three artichokes got the standard "alla Romana" treatment and sat in their pan until the beans were ready. Finished with a bit of lemon juice, the oil from the artichoke pan, truffle oil, and celtic salt, they answered my craving handsomely. Milo liked them too (he loves beans, and even liked the artichoke raw.) This is serious winter food, and was well met by a 2000 Domaine du Gros Noré Bandol that I double-decanted when I first put the beans on. It's a feral wine and needs serious time to unwind. I have a case of the 1998 in Vermont and based on how this one tastes those should be good and ready for next winter.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

On Top of Spaghetti

Turkey meatballs, with minced turkey bacon, onion, garlic, herbes de provence, and a pinch of flour, in a tomato sauce with chiffonaded kale, piquin peppers, more garlic and onion, oregano, and a splash of wine. The spaghetti in question was organic whole wheat pasta, and the wine a 2003 Raymond Usseglio Châteauneuf, which was just right, since its relative lightness kept its youth from interfering with the expression of all the nice fruit, herbs, and earth that it had to offer.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Venison Stew

Our neighbor, Kenny, is a bow hunter, and gave us some meat from an animal he killed a while back. So the stew meat from him, browned, became the base for another fridge-clearing stew. Carrot, parsnip, onion, and celery root went in, plus some tomato sauce from Friday, plus the rest of the sweet potato cakes and green curry sauce from the scallops, plus the last of the quinoa and some leftover pinto beans. It all simmered for a couple of hours until everything was tender. The random sauces, purées, and other odds and ends that end up in the fridge can really turn a simple meat and root stew into something deep, unusual, and satisfying. Plus now we have room in the fridge and a pile of clean containers for next week's remnants.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Chiles Rellenos

But with a Peruvian slant- stuffed with leftover blue potatoes and quinoa, plus grated cheese, cumin, and a bit of cayenne. On the side, a mango/avo/red onion salsa, and plantains fried in a little olive oil. I broiled the peppers for a couple of minutes first to get the skins off, than baked them for a few more to heat the filling through. Along with a nice cold beer, the winter mess outside receded pretty far away for a little while.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Milo was asking for fish, so I bought some wild salmon, and while at the store also saw some wasabi peas. Ground up, they made a nice crust for the fish, which was accompanied by mashed purple potatoes, steamed broccoli, and a pan sauce of orange juice, red wine, soy sauce, and a drop of agave syrup. A good looking plate of food, and it tasted even better. We finished the Volnay from the night before.