Friday, June 29, 2007


Chris and Sirkka had a long day coming back from his gig at the Montreal jazz festival, so I offered to make them dinner to make things easier. Christine is in the city for a couple of days, so I wasn't able to shop, and thus made do with the garden, fridge, and pantry. Poppadums kept the kids happy while I made more summer rolls (from now on just assume I make them every time since I'm completely addicted to them) with the same almond butter-ponzu based sauce as last time. I soaked and then cooked a bunch of chick peas with a variety of milder curry spices so the kids would be able to eat them, and Chris made endive mash and picked more salad- last time they were here we made a walnut oil-sherry vinegar dressing, and it really let the greens shine through, while still having a ton of flavor, so he made it again. They also brought homegrown/made radish pickles that rounded out a rich, varied and clean meal very nicely. This kind of food really gets the taste of the road out of your mouth, as does a sparkling Vieux Pressoir Saumur rosé followed by a 2003 Selbach-Oster Spätlese riesling.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Week in Review

The lemon tarts were so well reviewed, especially by Christine, that I was pleased to have saved the unused pie dough in the fridge. We had some of the sweet potato salad left, and a few of the blue potatoes, and tofu that I didn't throw in lunch's fridge soup because I wanted to make more summer rolls. So I made a tart in the small pan, just the same as last night, and summer rolls with mint, greens, tofu, and noodles with an almond butter-ponzu sauce, green mash from radicchio this time, sweetened a bit with an ume plum, and so arranged a nice plate that kind of reprised the highlights of our last few meals in fine style. I had wanted to open a sparkling rosé with the fancy feast, but neither of us felt like drinking tonight.

John's Birthday

Phillipe and Lea hosted a party for John, and several people brought some food and wine. Phillipe made fantastic boeuf bourgignon and a sublime gratin of cauliflower; Liz curated the perfect salad from her garden and made her signature cashew cream to pour on gorgeous fresh berries for dessert (there was also cake.) I made the raw sweet potato salad, twice-baked tiny blue potatoes with fromage blanc, chives, and truffle oil mixed in and baby chioggia beet chips to garnish, sautéed scallops with a red wine-butter sauce, and last little Moroccan-inspired savory lemon tartlets that I thought up recently. It's basically a zabaglione style lemon tart, but with salty preserved lemon in the custard, a dollop of cumin-enhanced tapenade on top, and a drop of homemade harissa to finish. I baked the crusts in the muffin tin and filled them after they cooled.

We drank many things: my last half bottle of Sine Qua Non "Pagan Poetry" rosé, Pleiades XI and XV, Liz's 2002 Kistler pinot noir, a 2002 Joblot Givry, a 1998 Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus (I know it's one of John's favorites, so I dug it out) and Gerard brought an insanely good double magnum of 1990 Le Pergole Torte. Then we had champagne, Billiot and a grand cru rosé I bought that afternoon and failed to write down for posterity. It was very good. We never made it to the 1967 Barolo that we gave him. I also forgot to bring the camera.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

We went to Providence for a night for a wedding, where we saw some family, met some great people, and ate very well; the wedding was catered by Smoke & Pickles, and they did a bang-up job with giant striped bass and copious smoked chicken, plus smoked bluefish, ahi tuna and beef tenderloin as appetizers. I LOVE a well-catered wedding. Food is the music of love, so play loud and often.

So we returned tired and hungry today but with all the ingredients for another eggplant parmigiana cleverly staged in the fridge by Christine. I had used the shiitakes with the short ribs the other night, so to replace them I pulled up the last of the spinach and wilted it in a pan, while the eggplant roasted with salt and oil and I chopped many herbs with garlic to add to canned tomatoes for the sauce. Layered with the spinach in the middle, and baked, then finished under the broiler, it was a hearty, bubbly welcome home that made me doubly grateful that I hadn't bought any crappy road food when we stopped for gas. As for the Thackrey Centaur- the name the Aquila sangiovese briefly had until he had to change it for legal reasons, and which was shipped without capsule or label (I just found a sixpack of it in Brooklyn when I was organizing the basement, so naturally we had to have one) it's so damn sexy and luscious that we should have brought a bottle or twelve to the wedding.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Another Dinner Party

But this time back home, after thorough provisioning at Sahadi and in Chinatown; we're set for exotic staples and condiments for quite a while. Chris, Sirkka, and Nissa came, so I had defrosted some short ribs, and combed through the garden for baby vegetables; this bowl is honestly one of the greatest things I've seen in quite a while. I blanched everything separately to perfect al dente tenderness, and rubbed the skin off beets and carrots to let the pure color show.

The ribs browned, got aromatics added, and wine, and simmered for about 4 hours. I strained the liquid and poured it back over them on low while I steamed a giant sweet potato, caramelized shiitake, braised pak choi, and made summer rolls with tofu, lettuce, mint, mustard greens, and bean thread noodles for an appetizer (with tangy peanut sauce.) Chris made a mash out of the galia endive, and picked a killer salad while I finished the plates with jus and parsley:

We drank their gorgeous 1990 Batasiolo Barolo "Vigneto Bofani," and our 2000 Hilberg-Pasquero Nebbiolo d'Alba. It's always interesting to compare two wines, and having the same varietal a decade apart from two different producers in adjacent regions shed a lot of light on how many variables can influence a wine.

Dinner Party

Another city trip, and finally we were able to schedule a dinner at Kris' house. Mary came, and Sujit and James, and Sujit's Mom, and Susan. Kris made many courses, most very high-end riffs on simple comfort food. The amuse bouche was a tiny bowl of puréed chard atop a dollop of parmesan cream- like creamed spinach but super refined. Next came ham and eggs- a poached egg with super fancy jamón and a red pepper sauce. Then crab, mango, and avocado in an apple juice-moscato syrup followed by an octopus and potato stew, rich, sweet and oceany, then macaroni and cheese with gorgeous lamb bits and deep Indian spices that took it to a whole other level. Finally, poussin with cabbage and carrots, then cheese, then cake since his birthday was a few days before.

Roughly in order, the wine highlights of the evening were as follows: a 2005 Selbach-Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr, my 98 Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco and 1983 Drouhin Bonnes Mares, Mary's 98 Gros Richebourg, and Sujit's 86 Jayer-Gilles Echezeaux. Pretty fantastic.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Zuppa del Frigorifero

Somewhat presciently, last night after dinner I thought to make fridge soup for tonight since I suspected I'd be working late. This one was a continuation of last week's, via another iteration we made in Vermont containing the leftover sausage and garden greens (yes, I brought the soup with us to Vermont.) This time around I browned 3 strips of chopped bacon with half an onion, deglazed with wine, and dumped in the earlier soup, a beef bone from takeout night, tricolor orzo, and fresh herbs. Simmered for an hour or so, it gained a whole new depth and direction of flavor and got to sit overnight which always helps. I love these soups; normally more of a winter thing, the availability of fresh or leftover things from the garden plus random meat scraps make the summer version even better. As long as you bring it back to a boil every couple of days, they can keep going indefinitely. This one approaches the two week mark if you count all the way back to the pulled pork which started it all, and there's enough left to add more to tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


As if by fate, no sooner had I extolled the many pleasures to be had during and after drinking Thackrey's Andromeda but the email announcing the new release arrived in my inbox. Hooray! We've been waiting for the 2004 for a long time and are most excited to try it (and then leave the rest alone for as long as we can stand it.)

Tonight, a really healthy vegan meal to get us centered after some heavy eating; last night, exhausted, we ordered takeout from the Bear, which was very good, but still meat-o-centric and which left us craving clean green food. So another variation on the faux green papaya salad, this time using japanese yam with serrano chile and homegrown scallion in a peanut/lime/ume/agave/tamari dressing accompanied the last of the tatsoi, (cabbage and cauliflower will go in the empty rows) sautéed, and wok-seared tofu in a hybrid tahini-guacamole sauce: tahini, avocado, lemon and lime juice, truffle and olive oils, and salt. A few black sesame seeds, garden cilantro, and the rest of the scallion to garnish, and another Marques de Cáceres Rioja rosé hastily chilled in the freezer later we were happy and feeling much healthier.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Havin' a Meatwave

A de rigueur trip to the farmer's market was different in one notable way this time around: we bought no vegetables. Our garden provided salad and cooking greens, plus herbs and radishes to last the weekend, so all we needed was cheese, jam, bread, snacks to get us through the market, and of course some of Pascal's mighty sausages. He has recently reopened in a new location, and his charcuterie is as good as ever. We bought the duck crepinettes, plus merguez and pork with cabbage and bacon, and threw them on the grill. I chopped the mixture of greens we brought- chard, radicchio, endive, tatsoi, and spinach- and gave them a quick sautée with garlic and lemon while some couscous cooked. Served on a big platter, with a decanted 1998 Beaucastel CDP, it was a simple yet sublime late Spring meal.

Vermont Weekend

We arrived later than planned, so a quick dinner was required. 4 chicken legs, only partially defrosted, went in the big enamel pan with oil and onion to caramelize a little bit. Then wine to deglaze, and Japanese yam, carrot, zucchini, grape tomato, a quartered lemon, and a mix of Moroccan spices followed by enough water to safely leave it alone to simmer for about 45 minutes. Normally I would have added everything at different times so all was perfect, but this way it attained a certain stewy charm and was dead easy. To celebrate our arrival, and my organizing of the cellar, we opened a 2003 Thackrey Andromeda, which remains a gorgeous paradox; it beats every other California pinot we put it up against, and yet seems to taste hardly at all like pinot noir- it just tastes like Thackrey. It's also a well-documented fact (and not just by me) that ladies LOVE the Andromeda.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Two meals today featured some homemade charcuterie; I recently got the eponymous book by Ruhlman & Polcyn and have many plans to make some serious stuff this summer. Normally with cookbooks I read them through like a novel and then only occasionally consult them again except for baking and other things where actual measurements are important. For lunch, joined by my cousin Marilyn and her husband Sandy, I picked a lavish salad and made rillettes of trout that Kenny brought by a few days ago and that I smoked this morning. The trout, mixed with local horseradish flavored goat cheese, olive oil, lemon, melted butter and lightly sizzled garlic, herbs, and salt, went in a big bowl and I mashed it with a fork until it was all smooth and creamy (this keeps some texture that the food processor would destroy, and makes it easy to spot any errant bones.) With a crusty baguette, a perfect lunch.

At the same time, I made a paté, but it wasn't ready in time so we had it for dinner with another salad. The rest of the pork, plus rendered bacon fat, spices (cumin, ginger, Vietnamese 5 spice, paprika, herbs, chile) salt, pepper, and a bit of bread soaked in milk all went in the food processor with just enough water to get a good spin going. Then I folded in the chopped bacon and whacked it into a 2 cup pyrex thing with a lid that I rushed out and bought this morning at the hardware store of all places; I was prepared to go to the fancy kitchen store in town but got lucky. Baked in a bain-Marie for a bit over an hour, then cooled and secured with rubber bands, by dinner it was ready and unmolded and sliced beautifully. Garnished traditionellement with cornichons and a good mustard, and the salad on the side, it was a classic country dinner for a perfect Spring evening, enhanced by a 2004 Jadot Meursault. We've been digging the (more affordable) white Burgundies lately, especially with this kind of food.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ma Po Tofu

This is a standby favorite, and when I went to buy tofu this afternoon there were fresh local snap peas at the store as if to underscore the wisdom of my choice (ours are only just flowering.) So half the ground pork I got on Saturday, plus the tofu, garlic, ginger, hot peppers, and a sauce made from the shrimp/miso broth, tamari, rice vinegar, a drop of agave and flour to thicken it went into the wok in roughly that order. Scallions to garnish, and the bolting tatsoi from the garden cleaned the wok out with some lemon. Served on brown rice, with a Crios Torrontes that has such a strong lychee note that it cries out to go with Chinese food. Although to be fair, if I had made this really hot like it's supposed to be (and like we did pre-Milo) an off-dry riesling would have been the better match. Never one to sweat the wine pairings, Christine made up for the lack of spice by larding hers with sambal oelek.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Well, not really, but if we had Bento boxes it would have looked pretty close. Christine bought both salmon and shrimp today, because they were both great, so I did a multi-course meal but served them all at once. First, the salmon as sashimi, with garlic-infused sesame oil, tamari, lime juice and pink peppercorns, which was decadently creamy, rich, and elegant. Then, the shrimp, shelled- the shells became a broth with onion and carrot- rubbed with a mix of cumin, cinnamon, ginger, curry powder, and salt, and seared in a pan, which I deglazed with some of the shrimp broth. Fresh chopped and sautéed pak choi from the garden got a splash of the same broth to finish, and then I added red miso to the rest of the broth and poured it over soba for a nice soup. We finished with a mesclun salad, as fresh as can be, with a simple vinaigrette. All together it added up to a nicely varied meal, with lots of textures and flavors, many of which were well complimented by a 2002 Jadot Savigny-lès-Beaune "La Dominode" which is still young and tart but has a gorgeous nose that shows what it might be like in a few years.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Changing courses in midstream

As regular readers know, I am a huge fan of fridge soup, wherein all the random scraps and leftovers from a week's worth of meals contribute their various qualities to a rich and efficient pot of goodness that can then be polished off or further transformed depending on quantity. I began dinner thinking that tonight's would be such a dinner, and we had some good stuff to throw in: the pork-flavored tomato sauce from last night, some lentil salad, asian greens, half an onion, carrots, some bacon, and multicolored pasta. And in fact this all did become a pretty damn good soup. But Christine made it known that soup alone might not satisfy, so instead of making goat cheese-kalamata olive-garlic-herb-truffle oil crostini as an appetizer I took the puréed mixture and used it as a sauce for some butternut squash ravioli from the freezer. Now having pasta twice in a row isn't optimal, and I had put some pasta into the soup before this adjustment, and store-bought ravioli don't exactly compare well to homemade fettucine, but at the end of the day she was right and we were full and happy; I also sautéed some zucchini with garlic and wine (a splash of the Mas de Gourgonnier rosé we had with the meal.)


There wasn't enough pulled pork left to make a meal from, so it became the base for a pasta sauce: herbs, onion, garlic, and a can of tomatoes cooked together for a couple of hours to integrate the deep BBQ with the fresh new flavors. Milo and I rolled out some fresh fettucine- half white, half whole wheat flour- and cut turnip greens and mesclun in the garden. There's a fabulous chewy density to fresh pasta, and it takes me right back to the "green door," the unnamed restaurant in Rome behind the school where I would go for artichokes and fettucine on a regular basis. Unlike the cheap red I enjoyed so much back then, this time around we had a 2003 Moreau Saint-Aubin "en Remilly." It's hard to believe that nearly 20 years has gone by since I first lived in Rome, but there's no doubt that that year was the beginning of my trajectory as a self-taught cook; penne all'arrabiata and carciofi alla Romana were the first dishes I ever duplicated without a recipe at home after eating them at restaurants, and they're still two of my go-to specialties.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Pork, Beans

I went to Fleisher's today to stock up- haven't had meat in quite a while- and so was moved upon return home to use the pulled pork in the freezer from last fall in order to make room for a whole lamb shoulder. I pulled up the hon tsai tai from the garden, since it had all bolted, and stripped the leaves, giving them the garlic & oil treatment with a squeeze of lime at the end. Fresh fava beans cooked long and low with oregano and tomato paste were the focus of Milo's dinner, and added a nice counterpoint to the pork, which I served on little corn muffins with the beans spread around the plate. A mash of galia endive from the garden with garlic and oil provided a nice sharp condiment, and we drank a 2006 Marques de Cáceres Rioja rosé.

Friday, June 08, 2007


I was in the city last night (where I ordered sushi and drank a delicious, citrusy 2004 Jadot Puligny-Montrachet to celebrate my return to wine-drinking) and returned late enough to need a quick dinner plan. Thus pizza, with spinach from the garden plus olives, fresh (local) tomatoes, garlic, and local mozzarella. With salad from the garden and a 2005 Château de Roquefort Corail, it did the trick on a hot, humid evening and made me very glad to be home. This weekend I'm going shopping, and the scale arrived so tomorrow I'm going to wake up the 150 year old sourdough starter and get to work.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Snapper and bell pepper, to be exact, both of which looked good at the store this afternoon. I juiced the peppers, reserved the foam, and reduced the juice with ginger, garlic, and a bit of agave syrup. The fish got a coating of fine and coarse cornmeal, spices, and salt, and cooked in some olive oil in the iron skillet. After the fish finished, I threw in some pak choi fresh from the garden and wilted it, deglazing the pan with lemon juice (this is by far the easiest way to clean an iron pan; all it needed was a rinse and wipe when dinner was over.) Leftover brown rice became creamy & steamy in a small pot with a little water on low. The reduction and foam offered two versions of the essence of pepper- sweet, tangy, and subtle. It would have been killing with a nice rosé, but I can't have any wine until tomorrow.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Kind of a mannerist take on the original, with the eggplant slices baked in the oven on a cookie sheet with a bit of oil and salt, and alternating layers of caramelized shiitakes between, with sauce full of garden herbs and cheddar and mozzarella on top. It's less work and a lot healthier to do it this way, and tastes fantastic. With a perfect salad to finish, it got us through the second day of rain in fine style.

Potato Pizza

A good lunch for a rainy day, and a great reason to have a mandoline in the cupboard. With rosemary from the herb garden, a drizzle of truffle oil, and fresh mesclun, it really hit the spot. As soon as my scale arrives, I'm going to start making pizza dough from scratch.

Spring Cleaning

I took some time off, since I was on what they call "la dieta" in the Amazon, which culminated in a healing circle presided over by a Peruvian shaman. Now I'm back, though certain things are still off-limits for a few more days. There's an immense value to paring down from time to time; you realize how little food we need to stay alive, and how the variety and quantity of what we eat is so much more than that. Going without salt in particular really draws your taste out, and lets you find amazing subtleties in the simplest food.

The garden is exploding, and it's already time to start succesive plantings of certain things. I will take pictures as soon as it stops raining.