Comfort food, but healthy

A cold, crappy day, that hindered the installation of the garden fence so it will take another morning to complete. In response, something comfortable and simple: roasted chicken thighs with a spice rub perched on sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs that roasted on the rack below the chicken. We drank another 1997 Teófilo Reyes Ribera del Duero.


The warm weather and impending garden are inspiring so many culinary thoughts these days; when the plants wake up it seems crazy not to have every meal centered around them, with meat or fish as a garnish, or a rich side dish. So tonight, on the eve of the garden fence going in (and thus despite the lack of any actual vegetables) wild Alaskan salmon was an appetizer to a very simple plate of rice, steamed sweet potato, and sautéed bok choy, all with a tahini/miso/mustard/lemon sauce. The sashimi had the usual sesame oil heated with smashed garlic, then nama shoyu and lemon added after sauce- so the hot oil and then the lemon juice cook the fish a tiny bit- and it was garnished with garlic chives from the yard.


This pic is from lunch, actually; I almost made potato salad last night but the spuds ended up in the curry instead. So today I steamed cubed new potatoes and tossed them with olives, pickles, ramps, scallions, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and a dressing of olive oil, cider & balsamic vinegar, mustard, and lemon juice. Really tangy, creamy, and addictive, and served on a bed of mesclun.

For dinner, brown rice, pinto beans (soaked, then simmered with cumin and coriander seeds, onion, garlic, chile powder, cinnamon, and paprika) and a salsa of grape tomatoes, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, and lime. Rolled up in a whole wheat tortilla with avo, they hit the spot. Both of these meals show how quickly the gears shift when the weather warms up.

Melting Pot

The many-flavored sauce entered the home stretch with this one, as it became a curry with cauliflower and fingerling potatoes added, plus the requisite spices (and a couple of ramps; they just arrived, and we’re eating half of them and planting the other half.) It keeps getting richer and deeper, and may be the first recorded instance of sopressata ending up in a curry.) I also made little rolls with wonton skins, filled with shiitake, shredded kale, and scallion. They look deep-fried, but I used only a tablespoon of olive oil on the pan. Their sauce was ponzu/soy/rice vinegar/honey and we drank another Turonia albariño.

The same, but different

Chicken thighs, leeks, and some sliced shiitakes browned in the big sautée pan, while sliced burdock cooked with more shiitakes until soft, then had the rest of the oyster soup added to it, along with the last spoon of osso buco demi-glace, parsley, cumin, cinnamon, and pepper. Then the sauce went in the chicken pan (deglazed first with a splash of red wine) and it all cooked together for a bit while I steamed some broccoli- which I can’t seem to get enough of these days- to go on the side. This kind of hovered between chicken with gravy (specifically the burdock-mushroom gravy from Xmas) and turkey with oyster stuffing, and meshed well with the lavish pleasures of a Pleiades XV.

Two if by sea

The leftover oysters went in a pot with cubed new potato, the rest of the turnip/daikon mash, a bit of tomato paste, garlic, a squeeze of lemon, and water to cook into a chowder of sorts; in order to amplify the chowderness (chowderivity? chowdertude? chowderosity?) I whisked in a bit of yogurt and butter at the end, along with some halved grape tomatoes for color and contrast with the paste. The corn meal from the oysters did a great job of thickening this up to a rich stewy consistency.

While the soup was cooking, I made rolls of smoked salmon, avocado, pea shoot, and garlic chive (from the yard) with a peanut/lemon/miso/ponzu/truffle, olive, and sesame oil sauce with grape tomatoes as a garnish. We ate this first, and drank a 2006 Château Roquefort Corail- the first rosé of the season (which might be optimistic, given the storm right now bearing down on us like a shotgun full of snow.)

Pizza Plus

I got some shucked oysters from the market, rolled them in corn meal and spices and browned them in a pan. They weren’t quite the fried oysters we had at Uglesich’s in New Orleans a few years back, but they weren’t bad- and no doubt a tad healthier- especially with a horseradish mayonnaise I whipped up. I was sad to hear that they decided to close, but given what happened soon after it seemed like a prescient decision. Having the waiter there tell us “You have ordered well, Jedi” ranked up there with having the snarky indie-record store clerk compliment me on my purchases once years earlier back in the city.

To go with the oysters, a pizza with artichoke, roasted pepper, olive, herb, garlic, parmesan and topped with pea shoots when it came out. We drank a 2001 Belpoggio Brunello, which has the finesse of that great year, but none of the funk and whallop one looks for in a great Brunello.

Osso Buco

Another cold, snowy day warranted some hearty food, so pasture-raised Veal shanks from the freezer got a good long braise in the dutch oven along with carrot, leek, onion, parsley, fennel seed, herbes de Provence, dried porcini, and red wine. Meanwhile, I steamed cubed turnip and daikon and whisked polenta with parmesan and pepper. I was trying to make two identical-looking creamy bases for the rich meat, but didn’t get the roots soft enough (even though I did match the colors pretty well.)

So the mashed parsnip mixture became quenelles instead, and the strained and reduced braising liquid became a sauce for all. Pea shoots wilted in a pat of butter with salt and lemon went on top. We drank a 2002 Fagus de Coto de Hayas Selección Especial old vine grenache that John brought for paella night but we didn’t get to. It has all the red fruit and tanginess you expect from grenache, with good depth and smooth tannins. New world style, but without the cloying sweetness; old vines and good winemaking make this well worth a try.

Cold outside

I had made a broth from a chicken leg bone and the steak trimmings from the other night plus carrot, celery root, and onion, and tonight added galangal, ginger, garlic, and lemon juice. After simmering for a bit, I strained out the pieces and added the two leftover baked squash halves and the soft carrot from the original broth, then stick-blended it all smooth and added back tiny bits of the super-tender steak. To complete the meal, a salad, and soba with a tahini/soy/nam pla/vinegar/sauerkraut juice sauce and black sesame seeds. We drank a 2004 Leitz Dragonstone riesling, which worked particularly well with the floral galangal and sweet squash flavors in the soup.


Chris, Liz, and Nissa came for dinner while Sirkka and Christine were in the city. Chris brought a big steak, and a bottle of 1990 Batasiolo Barolo that was tragically corked. We grilled the steak, baked acorn squash, braised burdock with galangal and ginger, sautéed bok choy, and made a salad. I opened a 1999 Martinetti Barolo “Marasco” which was gorgeous. Liz made an amazing cashew-vanilla-grapefruit cream that we ate on grapefruit and blood oranges with toasted almonds.

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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