Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Close Enough For Jazz

A while back I did a thing with red snapper and red pepper juice, so seeing snapper in the store today I figured I'd try a variation with some carrot juice thrown in. And then I remembered the blue potatoes. In back there are cubes of caramelized turnip with onion, to the right the potatoes mashed with Greek yogurt, all around is the pepper-carrot juice reduction, and on top of the crispy fish is the foam that the juicer invariably leaves on top of the catch bowl. It tasted good; honestly I phoned in the presentation because I don't feel good (again.) This winter is a freaking chore.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hurried Curry

Wanting something vegetable-based, and given what was in the fridge, I turned as so often before to Indian ideas. Vegetarian food is so often much more interesting with South or East Asian techniques (although dear Italy still offers pretty stiff competition.) Thus was born another tofu curry, with a little milk and half a baked sweet potato to thicken it, as well as carrot, leek, onion, and our own frozen peas. I turned some lavash into a serviceable substitute for garlic nan by brushing it with butter and chopped garlic then broiling it for a couple of minutes. Rejuvenated brown rice completed the meal. Less than 20 minutes from start finish, and pretty tasty besides. We opened our last Dr. Loosen riesling, which did exactly what it was supposed to do.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


For Liz's birthday this year, a much mellower gathering than last time, and everyone brought something. My contribution was this multi-layer crêpe tart with mushroom duxelles between the crêpes and truffle butter brushed on top. You can't really tell in the picture, but it was really nice and layery once cut. Other dishes included braised radicchio, ceviche of halibut, baked wild salmon, pastis-flambéed shrimp, salad, and some other things I'm forgetting now. Dessert was an insane vegan chocolate tart with mint-cashew cream and another, more literally insane chocolate cake that had a strong herbal aroma. Wines included a 2003 Peter Michael chard, a 2000 Kistler chard, a 2001 Pignan, and a 2003 Pintia, that even now, days later, is really tannic and has a profoundly port-like nose. I forgot to write down which vineyards the chards were from.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Breakfast for Dinner

We've had this wretched flu all week, and are only just climbing out from under it, so this was a meal worthy of such a hangover. (My Father is English, and when I was living there spent a memorable weekend in Sheffield- late-night Dalek imitation with trash cans was involved- with friends where we soothed throbbing heads with eggs, beans, chips, toast, mushy peas and pints of tea.) I had the foresight to soak pinto beans in the morning, and get them on the stove about two hours before dinner. With salt pork, onion, BBQ sauce, ketchup, vinegar, herbs and water, they bubbled while I baked sweet potatoes- chips being far too ambitious- braised kale, and fried eggs. Tomorrow we might start eating like healthy people again.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pizza, Quickly

Christine's favorite: onion, olive, garlic, caper, and fresh mozzarella. The other one was pesto and dried tomato. The dough only had 2 hours to rise but it came out all right- still miles better than any purchased alternative. Half white/half whole wheat seems to work pretty well.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Good Gravy

This is totally standard roast chicken, roasted roots (carrot, sweet potato, parsnip, onion, garlic, fingerlings, rosemary) and brown rice. Taking it to a special level of extreme deliciousness was the gravy; to the roux that the pan drippings made, carving juices, then minced preserved lemon and a big dollop of pesto. It transformed everything it touched. We had our very last 2001 Domaine la Millière CDP. I will miss them; for 20 bucks it was a terrific wine.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


So the other week, trying to find high-end provisions for the fancy dinner, on a whim I turned into this place on an ugly stretch of an ugly main road because the sign says caviar and I figured they might also have truffles. Bingo. Now the truffles were not fresh, but in a jar, but they sure did the job. And in addition, they had the elk, foie gras, and a bunch of other stuff including U.S. Kobe beef (only ground, lamentably, but good for the wallet.) So I got a couple of Kobe burgers to see if they were any good; grinding such great meat seemed silly, but they weren't very expensive, so what the hell.

So out of the freezer they come, and into a pan. On the adjacent burner, fingerling potatoes in smoked duck fat with garlic and rosemary. Next to that, shredded kale in a steamer. Once flipped, gruyère added to melt on the meat. Bread toasted. The suspense was palpable. Cheese melted? Check. Center pink? Check. Mustard, ketchup, and our new batch of gorgeous fuchsia kimchi (half red, half green cabbage.) Gentle pressure on top slice to compact and ooze the toppings. Bite. Chew. Smile. Damn good- very beefy. And smoky fatty spuds, and sweet silky-crunchy kale. And a 2002 Novy Page-Nord syrah, which is really not at all our taste any more, but it's a good burger wine, and C likes 'em big & fruity, like Tom Cruise. Worth the hype? Who knows, but it was a superior burger.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bistro Fare

Again, the leftovers spoke, supplemented by Gruyère from the store and thus was dinner made. First, a couple of onions, nicely caramelized, were transformed as if by magic into some pretty fab soup with the addition of the rest of the beef broth I made for the 10-grain risotto. I cut the marrow into pieces and threw that in, too. Now I know this is supposed to be subsequently baked in a little dedicated onion soup crock, and I still have a couple of my Mom's ancient ones, but they're in the city. You're also not supposed to put bone marrow in it, either, but I'm crazy like that.

In addition, we had some sole left, so I steamed a bunch of fingerling potatoes and then mashed them together with the fish and the rest of the parsnips, plus a little cream. With grated parm on top, into the oven while I steamed a big bowl of kale and tossed it with oil and balsamic. Then, from the oven, voilà: brandade of sorts. Again, not so traditional, and do I mind? Not so much.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Matchy Matchy

Often color is my jumping-off point for figuring out what to make for dinner; it's my training, and a big part of what I do professionally. So Christine's purchase of some sole combined with the braised cabbage already in the fridge (and the desire to try a variation on the cornmeal crust from last week) all led to this. Parsnips are incredibly sweet right now- one of the blessings of winter- so I steamed a few and mashed them silly with a dribble of cream and some white truffle "cream" (really a purée with olive oil and other mushrooms, but delicious.) The result was a dish harmonious to both eye and mouth. Even more harmonious, including some pretty funky overtones, was a 1978 Geoffroy Gevrey-Chambertin "Clos Prieur" that seemed a little tired (it might be the last of those bargain Burgs from the summer) but over time developed that astonishing darker fruit nose and layer upon layer of subtle, elegant perfumes- some very faint- that once again show what wine meant for aging does with some age. It was well worth the cooked bottles to have some that were this good.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bird Food

I liked the 10-grain "risotto" from the other night, so I tried a different version. Since I had grabbed some beef bones at Fleisher's recently, I roasted them and then made a simple stock (saving the marrow for something else.) Cooked like risotto, with parsnip added for sweetness and contrast, the variety of grains all cooked at different rates; some disintegrated into creamy starch, while others stayed intact and remained al dente. The result was a wonderful texture and rich, sweet, meaty flavor. I finished it with a bit of grated parmesan, and topped it with some leftover black truffle from the Friday feast. This dish was kind of a high-end take on those suet bells crusted with seeds that you put out for the birds in winter, and a pretty great match with a 2002 Savigny-les-Beaune "La Dominode" 1er cru by Bruno Clair.

* the 10 grains are millet, rye, winter wheat, oats, triticale, barley, spelt, corn, flax, and vetch. (Local, organic, and stone ground.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Call Any Vegetable

As a departure from our rich and splendid weekend, I went for something hearty yet clean, trying to make it both healthy and satisfying. So for protein, red lentils made into dal- Milo loves them and they don't need to be presoaked. Then the roasted kabocha that ended up as the tortelloni filling went in a pot with some canned tomatoes, carrots, onion, seeds and spices, and some water, and simmered to combine all the flavors. And for a contrasting veggie side, cabbage braised with caraway, mustard, and cider vinegar (pretty much the same as I made the other night.) Had I used dairy or coconut milk, or more intense spices, it would surely have been better, but for those recovering from a weekend of many pleasures, it was about right.

From Scratch

Sunday seemed like a good day to do some cooking, since we were all kind of tired and it was the kind of blah day that inspires nesting. Milo found the last of our (uncut, still fine) Halloween pumpkins and wanted to make pumpkin pie. In addition, I wanted to turn the rest of the pork stew meat into sausage, and make more fresh pasta. So I busted out my Mom's old Kitchen Aid and set up the meat grinder, adding garlic, thyme, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and a drop of wine, then fridging the mixture until it was time to cook it. We made a super-simple pasta dough, though I used wine instead of water to adjust the moisture. Milo helped me roll it out into fettucine.

We had some pie crust in the freezer left from Friday's dinner, so we cut and steamed the pumpkin, added maple and agave syrup, 5 spice, extra cinnamon, and mashed it all together. Once cool, we stick-blended it super smooth with an egg added and poured it into the half-baked shell. After the crust was nice and brown, I turned the heat off and left it in the oven so it could evaporate a little more; one egg was enough to hold it together, but only just. It did end up with the light and velvety texture I wanted as a result. I whipped some cream, since we also had some left from Friday.

While it cooled, we boiled water and browned sausage. To the sausage, I added peas from the garden via the freezer, some tomato juice from an open can, and a splash of heavy cream. To the water, the pasta, and then tossed it in the sauce. We had it with the salad I forgot to serve on Friday, and no wine because we needed a night off.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Meanwhile, Elsewhere in America

Patton Oswalt, who is famous because I mentioned him here, wrote a review of the new KFC "Famous Bowl" that is worth a read. If you disagree, just be glad that I didn't link to the Squirrel Melt video. Oh, wait. I did.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fancy Schmancy

John and Debi brought Tim (up for the weekend from FL) for a decadent dinner. I made the food; John brought the wine. That was the deal. Normally with multi-course meals I can see the dishes in my head beforehand, but in this case they were a little blurry until just a few hours before dinner. Most of it came out pretty well, though I had to scrap one course and I forgot to add a couple of things to a couple of dishes. I also forgot the salad, which I had picked right before they came. In any case, here's the rundown:
First, black truffle and foie gras stuffed scallops with coarse cornmeal crust, spicy microgreens, and yuzu kosho-sesame-wasabi tobiko mayonnaise. A nice intro, kind of New Orleans meets Japan.

1999 Dom Perignon

Then celery root, parsnip and leek soup, almost entirely pulled out of our mostly thawed garden mere hours before, and garnished with chives and white truffle oil.

2002 Michel Niellon Chassagne-Montachet 1er cru "Les Champgains"

Next, hijiki-saffron tortelloni (adapted from Alex) stuffed with a purée of sweetbreads and kabocha cooked with onion and thyme and deglazed with Armagnac.

2000 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne
This is one of my favorite food wines; it always seems to open up to a new level with something rich, delicate, and funky like this pasta.

Moving on to red wines, we had a wasabi pea-crusted roulade of mahi-mahi with fenugreek-yogurt collard purée, mango-avocado salsa, slightly under-fermented kimchi (the cold weather slows it down) and a pan sauce.

2002 Orion
This is the one Parker gave 100 points to, and it was insane. It was the first time tasting the 02; ours are still lying down. I've gotten turmeric flavors from Orion before, but this time it was more like fenugreek, so the match with the collards was unbelievable. This wine doesn't taste like anything else made on planet Earth.

Going deeper, pork braised in cider and smoked duck broth with caraway-cider vinegar braised cabbage (smelled like sourdough rye) and "risotto" made from a mix of 10 locally grown organic grains. I made pescatarian Debi a curried root vegetable pot pie for this course.

2003 Sine Qua Non "Inaugural" Syrah
Another hundred-pointer, I think it's the best SQN I've had. Much less in-your-face than the others, it was both nimble and huge. The face that they're finally growing their own grapes seems to have taken their winemaking to even more exalted heights.

Then, elk tenderloin cooked sous vide for 30 minutes at 50˚ C and seared, with smoked duck fat fingerling home fries and a fermented soybean-cocoa sauce. Debi got a black truffle chawan-mushi instead.

1989 Montelena

Last (we skipped the cheese) were little banana tartes tatin that I forgot to photograph on account of being just a tiny bit plowed.

2002 Kracher Scheurebe Trockenbeeren Auslese No. 5
A wonderful match with the bananas and caramel, and not at all cloying.

A couple of observations:

1. One of the dangers of improvising food like this is that things will fail, either to be as good as they could have been, or just altogether fail.

2. One of the dangers of pouring so much unspeakably great wine into oneself while attempting #1 is that the likelihood of mishap or omission goes up exponentially in proportion to the volume of wine.

As a result, it fell short of what I had hoped for, but still made for an incredible Friday night. Then on Saturday we went to their CD release party at Levon Helm's place. Not too shabby.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Our local market has good fish, but the only kind we'll eat is the wild salmon, since it's not yet overfished and is safer to eat than other varieties. So we're lucky that it's just a mile down the road, but it means I have to work at coming up with new ways to make salmon (today I'm going to the better market 10 miles away for some variety tomorrow.) I rubbed this filet with salt, pepper, and fennel seeds, then got a pot of polenta going and set some collards, onion, and water to simmering while a big kabocha squash roasted in the oven. I puréed the greens with yogurt and finished the polenta with a pat of butter. For a sauce, and a bit of excitement, I juiced some tangerines and reduced the juice with yuzu kosho, agave syrup, soy sauce, and nam pla. The last glass of the Vacqueyras was just right, and enough, considering how tired I was; were it not for the family, I would have had raisin toast with butter and gone to bed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Earth Tones

The garden gave us more bounty today, in the form of celery root, collards, and cabbage. I shredded the greens and cooked them low with a bit of salt pork, and cooked the celery root with a broccoli stalk and the last of the parsnip-burdock mixture in the fridge. Once soft, I puréed it all together with a pat of butter and a drop each of white truffle oil and Mexican vanilla extract. I had made some pickles the day before by vacuum-sealing carrots, burdock, and parsley stems with white miso and leaving them in the fridge overnight to marinate. An organic ribeye steak, seasoned with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence, cooked sous vide at 54˚ C for an hour. We drank a 2003 Jaboulet Vacqueyras that handled the spectrum of earthy flavors pretty well; roots, greens, meat and miso all harmonized nicely for a rich winter meal.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Good Day

First off, it's warm here for a few days. Really warm- flirting with 60˚ today. So yesterday afternoon I grabbed the scissors and headed out to the garden. Here's the result: about a dozen different kinds of greens, all happily defying the winter under the plastic covers (with Milo helping to wash them.)

And to further illustrate the inspiration that the warmth has brought, here's a quick summary of all three meals today. For breakfast, my new favorite: a peanut butter, sambal oelek, cilantro, and scallion sandwich with a little sesame oil and lemon juice. A fantastic beginning.

It's not often that I have or take the time to make exactly the lunch I want; it's usually more a matter of convenience and available leftovers. This time, though, I felt motivated to turn the rest of our gorgeous smoked salmon into a pâté with butter, lemon juice, herbs and a little olive oil. Combined with toasted pita, the rest of the Thai-style sweet potato salad, pickles- garlic-stuffed olives, cornichons, homemade beets- and a glass of just-squeezed tangerine juice, it was the sort of lunch to remind me that it's time and effort well spent to eat this way whenever possible, no matter how busy the day.

And for dinner, the greens, tossed with olive oil and a little sherry vinegar plus brown rice made sticky & creamy by recooking with a little water, burdock and parsnip braised with soy sauce, and crispy tofu tossed in our barbecue sauce. Like summer in January.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sunday Brunch

Sunday seems like a good day to use the remains of the week's meals in an efficient and delicious way. Tonight will be fridge soup, but first brunch. Homemade smoked salmon, Greek yogurt, and pesto combined to make an omelet filling; leftover roasted potatoes (and the whole cloves of garlic they roasted with, sliced) made home fries. It's honestly impossible to imagine a more delicious omelet: unctuous and creamy inside, with the deep yet delicate smoky fish, rich yogurt and intensely vibrant pesto all combining with the hint of truffle oil I beat into the eggs. The only thing missing was a micro-greens salad from the garden, but I didn't get out there until later to clear some snow away and pull back the plastic so all the greens can get some fresh air and sun in the mild weather we have on tap this week.


Josie and Kees- of sambal oelek fame- and 2 of their 3 kids joined us for dinner. Kees brought a tortilla with sweet potatoes and chorizo, plus a spicy tomato sauce, and I smoked a side of salmon over our applewood since it was actually above freezing outside for the first time in what seems like ages. Other dishes included sweet potato "noodles" marinated in a Thai dressing (peanut butter, sesame oil, vinegars, sambal, soy sauce, nam pla, agave; the result is pretty close to green papaya salad) roasted fingerling potatoes and kale braised with a little salt pork. Those are turnip and black radish pickles near the top. Because they love Pleiades so much, we had another XV, and then a 2002 Aquila sangiovese so they could try something higher up the Thackrey spectrum. For dessert we had a stinky, sweet, crumbly, creamy Berkshire Blue.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

South By North

This is some Southern-style cooking, but done a little differently. Country pork ribs, rubbed and then vacuum sealed with espresso, salt, garlic, 5-spice, and pink peppercorns cooked sous vide at 66˚C for 5 hours; it would have been longer, but I didn't get to it until after noon. Later on, I put sweet potatoes and quartered red kabocha in the oven and cooked collards with onion and a bit of salt pork. Once the meat came out of the bath, I mixed the juices with some of our BBQ sauce and poured the resulting lusciousness over the top. I chose a 2005 La Spinetta Langhe Nebbiolo to go with it, and it sure did- ever more so as it opened up. Yee haw.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Bliss Bowl

There's a vegetarian place in Williamsburg called Bliss that we used to go to when we lived in that part of Brooklyn, in large part because it was cheap and featured the "bliss bowl" which consisted of brown rice, beans, greens, tofu or tempeh, and a tahini-miso sauce. Over the years, it has become a more malleable idea in our kitchen, but essentially means the same thing: a perfect meal in a bowl (there's also a restaurant in Brattlboro, VT called the Common Ground that has a "square meal in a round bowl" on the menu- same idea.)

Fot this one, brown rice, kidney beans, tofu cubes crisped in olive oil, steamed broccoli and carrots, leftover braised red cabbage and tahini-miso sauce. The kicker, which took this to a whole other level of taste and cold-crushing greatness, was some homemade sambal oelek brought to us direct from Holland by Josie and Kees (their neighbor or something makes it- it's pure genius.) This stuff makes the kind in the green-lidded plastic jars that we get in Chinatown taste like tinfoil marinated in white vinegar. It's subtle, complex, gorgeous, and wicked hot. It makes you want to put it on everything, including peanut butter sandwiches. We finished the riesling, which I like a little more now that it's sat in the fridge.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Tom Kha Gai

We left Vermont a day early, since everyone felt crappy and we wanted to sleep in our beds. I did bring back some of the chicken broth and meat, figuring it would come in handy for dinner, and remembering the coconut milk in the cupboard. In addition to the coconut milk, I also added lime juice, a big smashed thumb of ginger, and a bit of green yuzu kosho (I keep meaning to order some kaffir lime leaves.) Simmered until the ginger flavor filled out, and served with braised red cabbage (water, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil) plus leftover curry and brown rice, it was just the right combination of medicinal and comforting. As the least sick of the three of us, I had one glass of a 2006 Loosen Bros. "Dr. L" riesling; it's slightly fizzy, and otherwise unremarkable, but would make a decent aperitif with an Asian-flavored amuse-bouche. It's good to be home.


This is a picture of the grill my Grandfather made for cooking in the Vermont fireplace. It's pretty nifty; adjustable height, sturdy, and in this case expanded with the addition of a large fish cage on top of the regular grill. When I was a kid, my job was to spritz any flare-ups with a squeeze bottle. On the grill are burgers done according to his recipe: with an egg and chopped onions mixed in. (He often added some ketchup too but we left it out.) While the burgers were cooking, I made chicken soup pretty much exactly the way my Grandmother did, although I added garlic since my family was all sick. Thus did the house once again fill with the smells that permeated it since before I was born.