Curry

First, a pot of brown rice (with plenty extra for leftovers.) Then, dal of red lentils with fenugreek, coriander, cumin, and mustard seeds. Last, a tomato-based curry of tofu, carrots, onions, the last of some sheep yogurt, and various powders and pastes. The dal is really worth te few extra minutes; dried lentils keep forever and it adds so much to the plate to have a rich, creamy counterpart to the much sharper curry. Perfect with great beer from Wolaver’s- winter can’t touch us.

Liz’s Birthday

A fantastic party, up at Allaire studios, on top of a mountain, on a freezing night. Colin from The Tasting Room in NYC came up to make about 20 of us a crazy dinner, and we brought wine to go with. The meal began with oysters, then crostini of smoked trout, accompanied by Sine Qua Non’s “Backward and Forward” which tasted like mutant Sherry, as well as some Kistler Chards, and then we sat down. The first course was a lightly pickled winter vegetable salad, followed by a parsnip and black truffle soup with popcorn (that stayed crispy unlike every crouton I’ve ever made.) Phenomenally sweet from both the perfect parsnips and the local milk. We had worked our way into a Kistler pinot noir, as well as other things.

Next came mushrooms and pea shoots on grains, and two enormous whole roasted sea bass, so we cracked John’s magnum of 1995 La Landonne, which tasted like a smoked version of the 1996 Chave Hermitage John had stashed in the kitchen for Colin (and a few lucky others.) Liz and I had each brought a 2000 Orion, which was the perfect, deep, hedonistic close to this epic meal. There was dessert, but I honestly don’t remember much except that it was carrot cake.

Borscht

In honor of my Grandfather, J. Howard Beck, on his 100th birthday, we made an updated but still honest version of borscht and blini (he was born in Poland, specifically in the shtetl of Rozvadof) that I think he would have enjoyed. Having beet salad and red cabbage already in the fridge, I added the last half pint of lamb demiglace from the freezer, as well as some broccoli stalks, and simmered it for an hour or so and then stick-blended it into a nice smooth purée with buttermilk. While it was cooking, I made some blini (not with buckwheat flour, but still good) with the rest of the buttermilk, parmesan, and lemon zest. For the blini, a sauce of yogurt creamed with anchovy, truffle salt, and pepper, which did a decent job of substituting for caviar and sour cream. Lacking Slivovitz, we cracked a 1999 Turley Moore “Earthquake” vineyard zinfandel, which was fitting juice for the architect of our family. Sort of like Maneschewitz by way of a Côte-Rôtie. L’Chaim.

Loose ends

The remaining barley with the addition of milk, agave syrup, and bananas, simmered this morning into a yummy breakfast for Milo. For lunch, we all had tortellini in a classic fridge sauce: the stuffing from Xmas, which Christine puréed last week with a can of tomatoes into soup (like a chickeny pappa al pomodoro) mixed with the kale pesto left over from a recent pizza, plus the last of the short rib liquid and the last of the frozen peas. Great sauce, and the fridge is pretty efficiently cleaned out for a shop tomorrow. Tonight we go out, and for the kids I made mac and cheese but with whole wheat pasta, buttermilk, parmesan, cheddar, and kale pesto mixed in as a stealth vegetable that also turned it a nice green.

Short Ribs

I got home later than I had hoped, but still had time to get these pretty tender. Browned, then simmered in wine, tomato paste, soy sauce, onion, dried porcini, and chard stems, served on barley with the strained and reduced cooking liquid and red cabbage braised in more wine and soy, they found a special place between beef-barley soup and corned beef & cabbage. We tried two different 97 Bordeaux: a Pavillon Rouge de Margaux and a Talbot. We both agreed that the Margaux was better; I think the second wines are the best deals in Bordeaux, especially from an underrated year. But the next day the Talbot was the clear winner- still elegant and pretty rich while the Margaux was flat. It’s always so much more fun to compare two than to have just one.

Pretty Colors

I made beet salad the other day, and saved the cooking liquid for something else; it’s not as strong as actual beet juice, but a decent substitute. So I reduced it with soy sauce and honey while I seared up some nice wild salmon (I also made the rubbed shrimp like we had before Xmas as an appetizer) and refried some brown rice with cherry tomatoes. Broccoli raab with smashed garlic and lemon cleaned up the pan after everything else was done.

Simple Soup

The shrimp shells left from making the shumai yesterday became the base for tonight’s dinner; along with an onion and garlic, plus some white wine, they simmered into a really nice broth. Bean thread noodles and blanched baby bok choy rounded out the soup, and scallions and cilantro finished it. We drank the rest of the cheap white- a 120 Sauvignon Blanc- which for 6 bucks was peachy, had good acidity, and went well with the soup. Hard to argue.

New Year’s Eve

I spent the day making various finger foods for John and Debi’s party; he and I had worked out a vague plan so I contributed 4 things to what turned out to be an incredible night of food, champagne, and dancing. We made pie crust, and with my half I used a muffin tin to make little shells. These got filled with grated gruyère, then caramelized onions, then a pinch more cheese, then pine nuts and finished baking at their place. I puréed shrimp with ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce, then assembled and steamed the shu mai at the last minute so they’d be nice and hot. Blanched chestnuts, aduki beans, and uneboshi paste also became a purée, and it went into little wontons that I fried in coconut oil- crazy good- like little vegan bean donuts. Last I made duck sushi; 2 seared breasts that had marinated in clementine juice and soy sauce, sliced and put on John’s sushi rice, then finished with the marinade reduced in the same pan (fat poured off) along with sliced kumquats and honey.

John made kabocha purée with ricotta salata in his mini tart shells (their muffin tin is smaller, so they were really little) as well as tofu sushi with BBQ sauce, tuna spread on toast with tomato, rice balls with black tahini baked until crispy, and two fillo rolls: one with the tuna filling, one with radicchio and truffle oil. We drank a lot of champagne.

Old Burgundy

John came over to make pie crust for their party, so we opened a couple of old Burgs I bought for a song in Kingston: a 1976 Drouhin Clos des Mouches and a 1978 Geoffroy Clos Prieur. The Gevrey-Chamb was the favorite, but over time the Beaune gained some sweetness. John left before we ate another Moroccan chicken stew with preserved lemon, olives, and sweet potatoes. By the end of the night the wines were tied: over the hill, but elegant in their way. There’s no faking the age, and when that’s what you want, nothing else will do.

Almost vegetarian

Our friend and neighbor Mimi came over, and I made Indian food (or an approximation thereof.) Chick peas simmered in coconut milk, tomato paste, spices, and capon broth I made the day before from the carcass had broccoli added at the end so they would stay bright green. I also sautéed Kale with onion, garlic and lemon, and mashed sweet potatoes with ginger and cinnamon. The burdock/shiitake gravy had many spices added to it and reached the end of its run as a wonderful side (for lunch we had supplì of the carrot risotto with smoked gouda and bacon in the middle, and the gravy, plus canned tomatoes, was the sauce.) We drank organic Vermont beer by our favorite brewery.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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