Taco Belle

We went over to C&S’s house, bringing some of the duck confit (Chris’ favorite) plus the salsa, tortillas, a smoked coffee-tamarind-molasses-red wine-agave reduction to go with the duck (which tasted like mutant hoisin sauce) and some red snapper. I made a ceviche with the fish, citrus juice, celery, onion, and cilantro, and they made a salad, guacamole, and pulled out a turnip-hijiki dish from the day before. So we had soft tacos with either ceviche or duck and various sauces, accompanied by a 2003 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sclossberg Riesling Spätlese and then a 2002 Domaine du Closel “Clos du Papillon” Savennières, which were both remarkable matches- the first with the ceviche and the second with the duck.

Variations

Given a pound of ground beef the options are limited only by what else is in the kitchen. Having a garden means being able to make a million dinners on any given day. One of my go-to dishes is a Bolognese pasta- especially on a day like today, which I spent cutting an entire sheet of MDF into ornate shapes with a jigsaw- so I modified the usual recipe to include nothing but our own vegetables. Thus: meat browned with mirepoix (same as last night) and then simmered with many herbs and lots of tomatoes. Chiffonaded kale got a quick blanch in the pasta water before a toss with salt, pepper, oil, and cider vinegar, and I made a big bowl of mash with the favored galia endive. Simple, humble, satisfying (the mash is killer with all things meat) local, and extra good with a 2000 Carver Sutro petite sirah.

Hard To Argue

I pickled beets and turnips a couple of days ago, and had one of each left over, so I steamed them until soft, then puréed them and added egg yolk and rye flour to make gnocchi dough. Today we used it, along with tilapia and garden goodies. Fennel, celery, onion, and carrot sweated while I rolled, cut, and boiled the gnocchi. Then veggies out and gnocchi into the same pan but with duck fat to brown all over. The fish got a cornmeal and spice dredge, and replaced the gnocchi along with a bit of oil to keep it going. Last, lots of multicolored cherry tomatoes and herbs deglazed with wine dissolved all the gorgeous brown stuff off the bottom of the now well-seasoned pan. Fish, atop gnocchi/mirepoix mixture, surrounded by tomatoes and topped with fennel frond is what you see here: rich, crusty fishy goodness with superfresh al dente fennel crunch, chewy earthy gnocchi and sweet, tangy tomatoes all melded together into a perfect late summer meal.

Three Lefts Make A Right

So two mornings ago I started a pre-ferment for the same whole wheat recipe I made last time, intending to bake it in the Dutch oven for a better shape and crust. Come evening, lo and behold, we were out of white flour, and low on whole wheat. So I used rye to make up the difference and kneaded in the pre-ferment and let it sit overnight to develop further and end up like the no-knead recipe. Shaped, rested, then dumped into the hot pot (seam-side up, which avoids having to score a blob at the bottom of a 450˚ casserole) then baked, it came out pretty well. The crust is the best yet, and the crumb is lovely. The change in flour wants a pinch more salt for flavor and a bit more water for crust, but overall a winner. The Dutch oven method guarantees a beautiful shape, and a better crust than most home ovens can achieve. I’m going to use it for most loaves from now on. Steaming, schmeaming.

Ken’s Birthday

On short notice, Kris invited me down to the city to join them for a celebration. It was well worth the trip. Excellent food, wine, and company. Here’s the menu:

Crab Cake and Smoked Trout on Toast
1997 Bollinger Grande Cuvée

Mushroom Soup with Bellota Ham of Joselito, Shiitake Mushrooms, 7-day cooked egg yolk & Arbequina Olive Oil Air
1951 Barbeito Sercial Riserva Velha Madeira (from his birth year)

Alaskan Wild Scallops with Corn Sauce, Papadum, and Flowering Chives
1982 Dauvissat “Les Preuses” Chablis

Grilled Langoustine, Langoustine & Vegetable Tempura with Honey-Pecan Butter
1989 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne

Lamb Belly with Gazpacho Jelly, Gazpacho emulsion, and “Chlorophyll” Foam
1995 Pignan

Piemonte Beef, Potato Purée and Haricots Verts
1997 Poggio Antico Brunello

Selection of Cheeses: Valencay, Pecorino Rosselino, and Saint Vernier (Savoie)
(plus my pork pâté)
2003 Luce, 1994 Pignan

Mocha Chocolate Layer Cake and Lemon Tart

Needless to say, Kris outdid himself yet again. The portions were so perfect- and the number of people divided each bottle so ideally- that I even drove 100 miles afterwards so I could wake up here rather than in Brooklyn and thus have a full Sunday with the family.

Back From The Shadows

Needless to say, I got sick too, though not as badly. (Let’s hear it for massive doses of vitamins and echinacea.) Today we all started to feel like normal people again, and the weather shifted from the cold, rainy 60s we’ve had all week to the hot, muggy 80s in the blink of an eye. I caught up on some gardening and preserving: 3 bags of green beans blanched and frozen, another big crock of cucumber pickles put down below to ferment, and 2 quarts of this lovely salsa made from our many-colored cherry tomatoes (red, orange, yellow, green, white) plus serrano chiles, onion, and cilantro. The only non-garden ingredients were some lemon juice, cider vinegar, and salt. We had porcini agnolotti (from the store) with a stilton/butter/fromage blanc sauce and sautéed zucchini since it was all I could manage.

Loafing

This is a recipe from Bread that uses a pre-ferment for those of us too lazy to get our own sourdough starter going (and keep it going; they’re like pets once you have one.) I made one freeform loaf, and threw the other half in a pan so I could put the first one on the stone with the peel and then plunk the other down next to it. They crusted up pretty well, though next time I will steam the oven more; another possibility would be to try it in the preheated Dutch oven like the no-knead recipe I tried a while back. But the crumb is nice, and the flavor is pretty great, especially with local cultured butter. Plus the house smells incredible.

Lasagna

A cold, rainy day and sick wife and son called for straight-up comfort food. I made this with almost no fancy flourishes- just plain and simple. Ground beef, pasta, tomato sauce, local fromage blanc- all organic- and mozzarella on top. The goat cheese added a nice touch, so next time I might use ground lamb in place of beef, and throw in some olives. But this time it was all about easy and quick. And yummy.

Chicken Soup For The Son

Milo has a cold, so garden goodness in the form of carrot, onion, celery, and parsley went into a pot with chicken thighs to make broth. The carrot, subsequently cubed, and the chicken meat combined with the strained broth, wild rice, and orzo to make a simple, archetypal dinner that he slurped up with abandon and yet was refined enough for us to enjoy on a less sniffly level.

Off The Hook

Noah and Deanna stopped over on their way back to Brooklyn which gave me the perfect excuse to try the pizza dough recipe from Local Bread. Not only is it the new book from our local bakery founder, but the recipe comes from the very place in Campo dei Fiori in Rome where I used to go for bread and pizza rossa almost every day (though truth be told, often I wouldn’t get that far since there was another, closer place with equally good pizza- but inferior bread.) Someday I would love to write a guidebook for walking tours of the pizzerie rustiche of Rome, with favorite little churches and less famous sights thrown in.

This is an insanely wet dough, but stretchy, so I did manage to get it out near the edges of the peel. We made two: the first with cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs all from the garden, and the second with potatoes from the garden and black trumpet mushrooms from the woods. The crust was a winner, and I was transported back to those magic times spent eating this perfect food while leaning against the fountain in Piazza Farnese. I also made a crudo of wild salmon and sautéed the last of our escarole to make room for spinach in the fall, and we made the tomato and cucumber salad that we have almost every day. We started with rosé, then moved on to a 1997 Soletta Cannonau Riserva which was quite rich and still young. For dessert, we had Roquefort and Stilton with a 1996 Château Theulet Montbazillac.

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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