Monday, March 31, 2008

Tilting at Windmills

This is my first entry in the Royal Foodie Joust contest, and underwent a bunch of last-minute changes due to weather and whim. The required ingredients were some form of seafood, citrus (lemon or lime) and coconut. Initially I wanted to make ceviche with scallops and coconut ice cream, but figured ceviche was too obvious. Plus it's still cold here, so cold food didn't seem right. I did want to make the ice cream, though, so I modified it and bought some nice tuna instead of scallops. The coconut had been sitting on the counter patiently awaiting its fate. (Which was to have holes drilled in it, then get bashed apart with a hammer on the kitchen floor.)

To begin, I marinated the fish in kimchi juice and coconut water. I made the coconut-saffron-preserved lemon ice cream by simmering coconut milk, coconut water, and grated coconut meat along with our last preserved lemon (minced) and some saffron threads plus agave nectar and a bit of curry powder. While it was churning, I made a mango salsa with lime juice, togarashi, fish sauce, and a pinch of brown sugar. I also caramelized shiitakes with garlic and ginger until they were all crispy, and I floured, egged, and rolled the tuna in a mixture of panko and grated coconut. Once the ice cream was nearly ready, the fish went into a bit of hot oil to brown.

I intended to finish the dish with grated smoked coconut, but the rain precluded getting the smoker going, so I used a little more of the fresh. All the flavors worked pretty well together, and the ice cream melted into the salsa forming a wonderfully unctuous sort of tropical paella sauce that contrasted nicely with the crunchy warm fish and mushrooms. There was a good balance between sweet, savory, and spicy, as well as warm and cold. Not bad at all for what were essentially really fancy fish sticks.

If you want to vote for this entry, please go here. At least I already have a coat of arms.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


This morning I did some much-needed shopping, and also picked up some things for the garden; the experiments at overwintering some of the veggies have been so successful that I started a bunch of things in the ground a month early, figuring that the plastic will protect them from the colder nights. Time will tell, but they're all hardy things and should be fine (until we tear them from the ground and devour them, that is.) I also picked a bunch of beautiful turnips, which I shredded along with our horseradish, plus fennel, pak choi, jicama, leek, carrots, and daikon and packed into the fermenting crock to make a hot slaw to accompany all the grilled and smoked things that lurk right around the corner.

For tonight, post slaw-making, I took the 10-grain/burdock mixture from osso buco night and formed it into patties, floured them, and fried them in the fry oil from last night. Want to make something good taste better? Cook it in (gently) used French fry oil. I didn't stuff them with cheese or anything, since I ate our last hunk of stanky taleggio as a snack while cooking. Because of the high proportion of polenta in the mix, these ended up like the mutant children of hush puppies and arancini. But in a delicious, crispy way.

And I braised shredded fennel until it was meltingly tender, and pan-roasted the fish, and cooked the greens from our turnips in the fish pan to wilt them and clean it, and opened some wine. A 2005 (I know, I swore off them, but there wasn't anything else that felt right) Jadot Vosne-Romanée. I have mixed feelings about Jadot, but this was a pretty good deal so I bought it. Now that it's been open for a bit, it might be relaxing, but from now on all the 05's go to their room until 2010 or later. Unless someone else bought it. Or there's no other pinot to match with salmon. Or it's Tuesday. Or Thursday.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Seoul Food

Well, not really, but Korean-inspired at least. To begin, I ground some local grass-fed beef stew meat with garlic, herbs, salt, and (after separating some for Milo) togarashi. I let it sit while I cut sweet potato fries and chopped pak choi, and while the fries were going cooked the meat and then sautéed the greens in the burger pan with a little lemon and soy sauce. Topped with homemade kimchi, these were damn fine burgers. The togarashi gave them an intense flavor with good heat, and the kimchi added a pickly crunch with more heat from our homegrown cayenne peppers. This is a keeper, and could become sausage, meatballs, or a filling for peppers, etc. in a second. They unsurprisingly went particularly well with a couple of beers.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Sometimes having nothing easy in the fridge can be a jumping-off point for a much better meal than the standard go-to things that I grab or make by default. In this case, as with Easter breakfast, a couple of eggs saved my bacon. I mixed up some pasta dough, and while it was chilling in the fridge I took Tuscan kale, pine nuts, feta, garlic, and lemon juice and spun them all in the food processor for a bit. We're running low, but there is still some guanciale in the house (got to order more cheeks and hang them up for summer) and I minced and crisped it in a pan then folded the little lardons into the kale spread.

Milo helped me roll out the dough, with parsley in the top sheet, and thus were ravioli fabricated from next to nothing. For the sauce, I grabbed a jar of our cherry tomato purée from the pantry- it's yellow because the bulk of our crop come canning were yellow and orange- and enhanced the velvety goodness with a knob of butter, olive oil, a smashed clove of garlic, and herbs, then let it simmer to thicken. Gorgeous sweet sauce, slightly bitter yet pork-bolstered filling, toothsome pasta: the elements all played well with others. And to finish, another salad of baby greens from the garden. Plus, we got to enjoy this delicate dish with the rest of both the Sancerre and the Sangiovese, which is how life should be.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Awesome Buco

I had the boy all day today, so I wisely thought ahead and pulled some beef shanks out of the freezer to thaw. By late afternoon I was beat, but at least had the beginnings of dinner under way. I peeled and sliced some burdock I dug up a couple of days ago- nice big fat roots- and threw them into the rice cooker with yesterday's chicken broth and the local 10-grain blend augmented with extra brown rice, quinoa, and polenta since there wasn't quite enough. With the addition of some dried porcini, it cooked up into a kind of polenta-risotto hybrid that warrants more tinkering; the hands-off ease of it all is appealing for days spent pursuing Deconstruction Monkeys™ all over creation.

The meat received a most traditional post-browning braise with aromatics, wine, herbs, and tomato paste for a couple of hours, and I made mash with the rest of the dandelion and arugula. All together, the dense, nutty grain and burdock mix was an excellent substrate for the rich meat and liquid (I hadn't had time to chill it and remove the fat) and as always the mash was a perfect bright green counterpoint to all the various browns. The one drawback to cooking the shanks for this long is that the marrow mostly disintegrates into the liquid, but lacking that pleasure one can take solace in the super-tender meat. Some consolation can also be found in a 2000 Aquila Sangiovese by Sean Thackrey, which by his own admonition is never to be confused with Brunello but nonetheless makes "la bella figura" with semi-traditional fare such as this.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Oh, Right, Easter

I woke up this morning figuring that I should have planned something nice for Easter, but that since I hadn't- bad parent/husband that I am- I should pretend that I had and figure out what I could bust out convincingly. To begin with, we had eggs. A good start, and lucky, because the wife she likes the eggs so we're often low or out. And I had bought a big bar of organic super-dark chocolate last week, thinking to make the melty cakes again soon. So what I'm saying is I got a huge assist and came off looking pretty OK after all. I made crêpes.

When I make them, I like to have two kinds: a savory and then a sweet. It's the win/win of breakfasts, like getting to have waffles AND an omelet without feeling like a giant hog. The first was pesto and feta, topped with the leftover pesto chicken gravy. The second was chocolate-cassis sauce and kumquat marmalade (we mercifully also had a handful of mostly still good kumquats at the bottom of a fridge drawer.) I melted the chocolate and some butter in a double boiler, then whisked in some Vermont cassis to finish it. The sliced kumquats simmered in honey, 5-spice, and pear juice.

Man, is it nice to shoot using the morning sun for a change. I never use the flash, so in the evenings I have resorted to some pretty silly setups to try to get a decent shot. This was effortless.

Then, after a lovely day that included an egg-hunt and lunch at some friends', dinner was chicken broth from the carcass with tofu and fish balls made from the leftover snapper, pesto mashed potatoes, ginger, garlic, and a bit of activa to hold them together. I also made udon and blanched spinach in the pasta water. Finished with togarashi and black sesame seeds, it all made for a big bowl of goodness that provided a welcome change from the richer food of the day's earlier meals, and had excellent company in another Millet Sancerre.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

By The Book

So the chicken I wanted to make yesterday waited patiently until today, and received a totally traditional treatment. No fancy anything. Fingerling potatoes roasted with garlic cloves and rosemary, steamed broccoli, lemon-pesto gravy, and a salad of our amazing baby greens that are really shooting up now that the days are lengthening. I'm working on some ideas, so sometimes auto-pilot is a good way to fly.

In keeping with tradition, a pinot noir to go with the roast chicken- a 2006 Siduri. There's quite a breathless review of it here, which I enjoyed, but I do have to say that after the wines on Thursday (and in light of what I'm learning about my own taste as I get deeper into it) that by the second glass the charm diminishes, and thereafter the thrill is gone. I've mentioned before that their single vineyard pinots are much better- and they are- but even they are not playing in the same league as well-made Burgundy. It sucks, because the dollar is fast approaching parity with toilet paper, and good Cali alternatives would be most welcome. But the really good ones cost as much as grand cru Burg, in which case why bother?

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Boy And His Fish

I wanted to roast a chicken tonight, and Milo wanted to come to the store with me. When we got there, he instantly saw and requested a whole red snapper so I obliged him. He even asked for it from the guy behind the counter, and once we got home he couldn't wait to hold it.

The fish just fit in our big sautée pan with a little butter to crisp up both sides, then I poured in a little rice vinegar and covered it to steam. Consolidating leftovers, I steamed some fingerling potatoes and mashed them up with the leftover celeriac purée and kale pesto to make a nice vibrant green mash. Once the fish was done, out it came and I deglazed the pan with blood orange juice plus a little agave syrup to make a sauce that turned out to be just about the same color as the fish. Milo ate the eye, and declared it to be "yummy." It was.


After a couple of days in the city it was wonderful to finish of with another stellar dinner at Kris & Ken's house. Because it was a weeknight, Kris kept it "simple" which for them means only three courses and five wines. Here's what we had:

For an aperitif, a glass of Planeta "La Segreta" 2005, followed by a 2002 Chablis grand cru Valmur by William Fevre that was a beautiful accompaniment to shrimp on wilted cabbage and coconut with hot curry spices.

With the main course- rack of lamb with mashed potatoes and peas- we tried my bottle: a 1990 Olga Raffault Chinon "Les Picasses" that was elegant, mature, and almost Californian or Châteauneufian in its hot Earth flavors. Moving on from there, Kris pulled out a 1999 Vincent Girardin Chapelle-Chambertin that wasn't fully open; after the Chinon it felt tight and cranky, though still offered a lot. So for the cheeses (Comté and Selles-sur-Cher) he went back and grabbed a 2000 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru "Les Fontenys" by Roty that had the most gorgeous nose of sandalwood with just a hint of cherry and licorice at the very end. In the mouth, different- elegant and austere but supple and seamless. We agreed that it was almost better as incense; it's a wine you want to swirl and smell, then put down again. Drinking it is almost an afterthought (but not really.)

We finished the night with a little Paul Giraud 1er cru Grande Champagne VSOP Cognac that was perfectly delicious. Dinner with these two never fails to be as good as food, wine, and company gets. And best of all, by the time I left their place, it was Spring.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Yesterday I was out in the garden taking advantage of our recent thaw to dig some burdock and look for stray potatoes (there was one, but it was rotten.) I also thinned the Asian cabbage, because it's really forming heads now and I want them to have room. I know that all the brassicas are going to bolt in short order, but in the meantime it's pretty great to have fresh greens right out the door, and the warmer weather means I don't have to shovel the damn garden any more to get at the food.

Tonight I wanted to keep with the complex single plates we've been enjoying lately; it's a fun way to play with contrasting flavors and presentation, as well as being a handy way of regulating portion size. When there's a trough of pasta on the stove, it's easy to go back- but when this is put in front of you and that's pretty much all there is, it emphasizes the completeness of the meal on the plate. In all three cases, I found myself eating more deliberately and being perfectly full at the end. A variety of strong flavors helps. And wine.

The flavors in question this time around: pan-roasted wild salmon with cranberry tapenade, the cabbage sautéed with garlic, puréed celery root with yogurt, and radicchio mash with truffle oil. Pleiades is always great with salmon, and tonight was no exception. We should be getting our XVI soon, and I'm excited to try it. It occurred to me after I shot this that it looks a bit like a coat of arms: a bend purpure on a field saumon proper, with a chief purpure and flaunches argent and vert. Hypothetically- not like I'm a nerd or anything.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Carciofi Alla Romana

There were some particularly beautiful organic artichokes at our local store yesterday, so I picked a couple out and today they came in super-handy. Milo wanted kidney beans, and we had white ones, so I put them in water to soak and then went to work, jumping back in around 3 to simmer them with sautéed onion, garlic, and rosemary so they'd be ready at 5 when I normally knock off for the day. (Pre-child, we'd often eat at 9 or 10 but that's now ancient history.) Leftovers and perishables dictated the rest of the meal.

I made more of the arugula-dandelion mash, because it's awesome, and goes with everything. I wrote a post about mash here, and I can't say enough good things about it. It's intensely flavored, raw, super-healthy, and as comfortable on a plate of vegan fare as it is offering a fabulous counterpoint to red meat. It's infinitely variable, and can be made with any fresh seasonal greens (including weeds like dandelions, purslane, and garlic chives.) Expect to be bored silly by how many times I mention it in the coming months.

So tonight's resulting dinner was the white beans folded into the leftover parsnip purée, topped with an artichoke, accompanied by mash, and finished with lemon juice, the artichoke cooking oil, and parsley. Artichokes are notoriously cranky wine partners, but cooking them this way so that they caramelize makes them much friendlier. It also means that the eater doesn't have to do any work because the cook already did; everything on the plate is edible, and said caramelization guarantees that every little bit will be eaten. This (and the less-healthy "alla giudia" method) are simply the apotheosis of artichoke preparation- you don't ever go back. We drank a 2006 Sancerre by Franck Millet, which for the money is a pretty nice wine that flattered this complex spectrum of flavors like good lighting does good painting.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Since I've been galavanting, I wanted to make a dinner tonight that made up for my absence, so I stopped at the store on my way home (after very nearly running out of gas because one of the service areas was closed) to get a few things. So we had elk medallions on parsnip purée (with the now-customary combination of yogurt, vanilla, and truffle oil) with a reduction sauce of red wine, hama-natto, cinnamon, and a bit of butter to thicken, plus some slaveringly good arugula-dandelion mash on the side. It felt great to pull out the suribachi and pulverize some greens, and I'll need those muscles toned for the impending onslaught of gardeny goodness. The ume plums in the mash did a nice little thing with the miso beans in the sauce, and the plate covered the full spectrum of tastes; with a little bit of tweaking this dish could star Keira Knightley and win like a million Oscars.

I had a 1999 Tempier Bandol on the counter, meant to go with the Gros Noré we drank the other night when our guests had to cancel. So we didn't get to try them together, but I'm glad- this was a great companion (supporting actor, if you will) that really handled all the strong flavors well while still asserting its own considerable character.

Play On

Thursday I caught a ride with John to Boston for Micro's 10th anniversary show; it had been a while since I saw them play, and nothing beckons like a night out with dear friends while other dear friends play 2 sets of Moroccan-infused face-melting alien sex funk. Before the show, Andrew and I went to get many fabulous pizzas from nearby, which we ate with a White Barn 2005 Syrah-Grenache blend, a 2001 Chèze Saint-Joseph, a Cali syrah made by an alumna of Sine Qua Non, and a 2005 Turley zin. John brought the three Cali wines; I forget the details. An elegant feast in the cramped confines of the backstage lounge, and music that truly be the food (and drink) of love.

Today I returned from NYC where a different lineup (it changes every night) played at Alex Grey's place; I had some stuff to do in the city so I combined business and pleasure, as is my wont. Before that show, my Brother and I had a bite at my favorite Chelsea joint. It's my oasis of choice when I need respite- in the form of gnocchi and espresso- from the gallery slog, and was right around the corner from the gig.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I've been tending to forget to make pre-fermented pizza dough the night before, so lately I've been using a much simpler (if less tasty) recipe that only takes about three hours to rise- though I do make it half white- half whole wheat for better taste and nutrition. Unfortunately, our tired-ass old yeast just didn't have what it takes to make the dough light and bubbly. The end result was more like a really big ugly cracker with pizza toppings on it. (Having said that, they were pretty good crackers.)

The first one (pictured) had caramelized shiitakes with garlic, parsley, and spinach, and the second one was an all-time favorite: onion, garlic, Kalamata olive, capers, and parsley. It's essentially a pizza puttanesca, though without anchovy or hot pepper for the kid's sake. An astonishingly rich and layered combination of flavors that show each other off wonderfully. To drink, a 2001 Saint-Joseph "Cuvée Ro-Ree" by Domaine Chèze; a favorite under $20 and just the ticket to transform a big ugly pizza cracker into a thing less risible.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oh Well

We had made plans with Chris and Sirkka to get together for dinner, so this morning I pulled a giant (8 lb.) lamb shoulder- complete with ribs that I could have turned into chops if it hadn't been frozen- and got to work. It was too big to fit in anything but the oven, so I broiled it for a bit to render off some fat and get a good brown on it. Then I stuck it in our giant pot with mirepoix, tomatoes, olives, preserved lemon, espresso, 5-spice, cumin, a bottle of white wine, and a few bits and pieces from the fridge.

After a few hours I came in and hacked it into smaller pieces so they could all be submerged in the liquid. After a few more hours I separated the meat from the fat, strained the liquid into a bowl and put it in the freezer to cool. Once the fat hardened, I pulled it off and added some of the liquid back to the meat on a low simmer. I made garlicky kale pesto and more cranberry tapenade since it's so good with lamb (and pork; it straddles the two very different meats brilliantly.) I also steamed some parsnips and puréed them with yogurt, feta, vanilla, and truffle oil. Using white wine makes for a more delicate jus, and the tapenade and pesto did very different things to enhance varying aspects of the falling-apart meat.

Meanwhile, our friends had to cancel at the last minute, so Christine and I had it all to ourselves, along with a 1998 Gros Noré Bandol which is a wonderful lamb wine and also went well with a couple of stinky cheeses for dessert: a positively rank taleggio and a blue castello. There's a ton left; anybody want some?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Steak and Eggs

I had a great meeting (which will lead to some bad-ass future posts, methinks) about 2 hours North of here this afternoon. At meeting's end, the host gave me some eggs we grabbed from out the chicken coop on the way to my car. Upon return home, I took the last slices of roast beast from the fridge and gave 'em a sear in a buttery pan, followed by two of these freshest eggs; they stood up in the pan when cracked in. Then I ate them, with a splash of the wine reduction sauce that remained and a whole wheat English muffin to mop up the polyvalent goodness. To accompany, a 2001 J. Lohr Paso Robles cabernet (brought by someone to the memorial dinner) that is a lip-smacking Cali cab of the sort I would never buy but would happily quaff, say for example hypothetically with steak and eggs for dinner after a long, productive day.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday Gluttony

Probably because of the anniversary of my Mom's death, but also because of impending spring and the burgeoning joy and optimism which normally attend the change in weather (and bolstered by having ordered a ton of seeds) we had an excellent sequence of Sunday meals that culminated in our family favorite back when I was a kid. To begin, pancakes, but with yogurt mixed in for extra richness. To compensate for the all-carb beginning, for lunch we had a fridgestrone that has been in the making all week: the chicken/lamb broth, Israeli couscous, orzo, kale, green beans, the chick pea stew, leftover sweet potatoes and canned tomatoes, and a bunch of other things. Built over a couple of days, it was at its peak of rich complexity.

Then, dinner. I was in the garden earlier snipping microgreens for a salad, so I washed them. A big hunk of beef, rubbed with the special house espresso-based rub, and barded with some of the still-fatty pig skin (that I saved because pig fat) got a good roasting in a hot-ass oven. While said roasting was under way, I took the leftover cauliflower and brought it to a boil in more of the broth, then stick-blended it with a chunk of feta into a lovely purée. I also busted out a quick Yorkshire pudding batter (you see where this is going, right?) The soup was intended to be our first course, and it was, but upon tasting the meat and the red wine reduction I made to go with I realized that with a bit of horseradish stirred in the soup would be a genius side for the meat. So for seconds that's just what I did. We opened a 2005 Beaune "Clos du Dessus des Marconnets" by Pernot that did not justify the hype the 05's have gotten; with a mouthful of meat it was fine, but it either needs time to relax or it's just kind of stingy. A couple of hours open helped only a little.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Thousands Of Miles In The Blink Of An Eye

So today I was told, pursuant to Christine's trip to the market, that a nice vegetable coconut curry would be a good idea for dinner; that seemed a doable, if predictable course, given the quantity of animals we've dispatched this week (last night, a lovely lamb stew at our neighbors' house.) But then, upon throwing wide the fridge door, I did see shiitakes, and broth made from lamb and chicken bones, and our own kale from the freezer, and lo I transported the country of culinary inspiration to Italy instead. Just like that, because I can. Italy, India- what are a few letters when ignoring my wife's request is what really matters? Besides, she loves everything I make.*

Thus the chick peas I had soaked and simmered became the base for a lovely rich stew that included the juice from a can of tomatoes, leftover steamed sweet potatoes, and a big hunk of what was fatback and became- post trimming for my homemade lardo that's now under way- a big strip of pig skin with some fat attached. This all simmered for a bit while I caramelized the mushrooms with garlic, and deglazed with wine, then threw the kale into the same pan with still more garlic and deglazed that with lemon juice. Not a pretty plate, but deep, varied, and satisfying, and well met by another 2006 Saint-Cosme côtes du Rhône- a sturdy and assertive country table wine fit for this kind of peasant fare.

* This assertion has a margin of error of plus or minus one broken whiskey bottle wielded menacingly while I cry and apologize.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Give A Boy A Fish

The rain continued through the morning, though later on we got nice bursts of sunshine and the air was gorgeous- cool, sharp, clear, fresh- suffused with that early spring wet smell that takes me back to being a kid and spending all my free time in the woods. Alone, or with a friend, it was all about being outside and exploring. The smells of the seasons are instant time machines back to simpler days when catching frogs or kicking down dead trees were the sum of an afternoon's agenda.

Tonight it was just Milo and me, and we had a nice piece of salmon to play with. I cooked his, because he likes it better that way, but sashimi'd mine. To accompany, steamed sweet potato and kale (our two-tiered bamboo steamer was perfect for this) and a salad/salsa of mango, avocado, and Asian pear with lemon juice and olive oil. For the sashimi, I made a little lemon/sesame oil vinaigrette with lots of pepper and some sudachi powder. A 2005 Siduri pinot was a good match to these lighter flavors, but after all the other lighter wines this week I was acutley aware of how front-loaded it is; on the nose, a lovely flowery-ass pinot funk, and good tart fruit in the mouth, then not so much, with decent acid to finish. I've always believed that the defining quality of a higher-priced wine is that middle palate, and the samplings this week have only strengthened that opinion. You don't get what you don't pay for.

Comfort Food

It's still raining, and our stream has risen to the point where it overflows through the field and rejoins itself down below the garden. This happens a couple of times a year; at some point I may rebuild the stone wall where the water comes through- especially if I plant some fruit trees out there. We have had an absurd amount of precipitation this winter.

So for a rainy evening, something rib-stickular and warming: roasted chicken thighs (separately, with whole garlic cloves) roasted cauliflower, brown rice, and the ever-ridiculous pesto gravy to tie it all together. I can't say enough good things about this gravy; it's as good as the burdock-shiitake gravy from Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. We finished the Rasteau, and opened a 2002 Las Rocas grenache- this was one of our cheap favorites in Brooklyn that we always bought for barbecues on the deck, and someone brought it to the dinner in Boston. I wanted to see how it was with a few years on it, so we took it home with us. It has the classic tartness of grenache, with not much complexity, but no glaring faults. A good picnic wine. (I shot this before I added a nice green garnish of chopped parsley, but made up for it by having it float eerily like a UFO.)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Spring Forward, Already

Lamb rib chops to me are win/win; they're way more interesting than steak, yet cost much less than the loin chops or rack. I brined these in that corked '97 Gevrey-Chamb from a while back plus salt and herbs, then dried them and gave them a good rub with salt, garlic, pepper, cinnamon, and herbes de Provence. Meanwhile, I put diced onion, then turnips, then shredded kale successively into a pan with about 10 minute between each so they could caramelize and so each vegetable would be just right at the end. Deglazed with a little lemon juice, it had good sweetness, complexity, and earthiness. I also steamed and mashed sweet potatoes, and made a pan sauce in the meat skillet with the last dollop of our cranberry tapenade and red wine.

To accompany this hearty goodness, we again had the happy chance to compare two wines: an already open 2006 Château de Saint-Cosme Côtes-du-Rhône with a newly popped 2005 Domaine Beau Mistral Rasteau. They're both well-made wines, with the Rasteau having a bit more in the middle, and softer tannins; the extra year, "villages" distinction, and somewhat higher price all had to do with the difference. This dish was an excellent match with both. Our current storm (number 317 for this winter so far, but who's counting?) is rain instead of snow- there's no doubt we're warming up a bit, and very excited about it too. I think we had one period of three days where the ground didn't have snow on it this Winter.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Dinner for Claire

This weekend we went to Boston for a potluck dinner my Brother and I organized to commemorate the 5th anniversary of our Mom's death. It was an excellent excuse to see friends and family who we don't spend nearly enough time with. In keeping with family tradition, there was a ton of good food and much warm conversation; the entire thing was a testament to how much she is still missed. Her Grandson was a big hit, and justifiably found to be adorable by all present. I made more of the ricotta gnocchi (just like for Christmas) but this time tossed with kale pesto, and sushi of rare duck breast with kumquat marmalade and togarashi. Linda, our host, made wicked lemon squares that she wisely forgot to put out; we brought many home with us today. I made us all brunch this morning: rosemary fingerling home fries in the rendered duck fat and scrambled eggs with the kale pesto beaten in.

Life is what it is; 57 is a terribly young age to die, and her never meeting Milo is something I still have a hard time with. But we put our shoulders to the wheel and try to do justice to the memories of our honored departed with word, deed, progeny, community, and food.