I didn’t have a ton of time yesterday, so I convection-baked chicken thighs with a spice rub and put them on top of polenta with some roasted Roma tomatoes (roasted alongside the chicken) and a salsa made with more tomatoes (Roma and pink Brandywine) plus red onion, cucumber, lemon juice, and poblano broiled until the skin blistered and came off easily. I had thought about going the chiles rellenos route, but the wife is not eating cheese right now. I could have stuffed the peppers with polenta, but only thought of that after they were fully blackened and not so structurally integrous. So I made it into a vaguely deliberate pile and called it dinner. And it was good.
Today I had a little more time to mull over the steps that lead to dinner, so I coaxed a little more richness and detail out of the various components. To begin, more Roma tomatoes, since they’re going off like plump fireworks every day now. (Tomorrow I will go buy a big box at the weekly market in town to supplement our crop and get to canning sauce for the winter). This time around I baked them like before, but with thyme, copious olive oil, and a fat clove of garlic cut in half. So the top halves half-dried and caramelized, and the bottom halves confited. Once done, I removed the thyme stems and blasted all the rest in the processor until it was all lovely, smooth, and thick. Here are the before and after pics, because it’s now actually worthwhile for me to take pictures:
While all this tomatoey erotica was transpiring, the pressure cooker was working its barometric magic on some local organic navy beans, water, and a mirepoix of our guanciale, fennel, onion, carrot, parsley, and celery. “Why, it makes its own broth!” you might say, and you would be right to say it. Freaking awesome. Getting the quantity of the water right is the trick, so that when the cooker is opened it’s neither a soupy mess nor a stuck, blackened disaster. Usually I like to err a bit more on the watery side, and then simmer off the extra liquid while I finish up the other things.
In this case, the other things were puréeing the tomatoes, toasting some local sourdough to a bean-supporting stiffness (I have fully fallen off the bread wagon lately) and mincing a grab of parsley. And thus: crostini as dinner. I had thinned the midsummer plantings of rutabaga, daikon, and black radishes- all woefully underdeveloped due to the awful weather; it’ll be a miracle if they reach a decent size before the season ends- so I washed and sautéed the various greens with garlic, lemon, and olive oil for a bright, fresh, crunchy counterweight to the rich, creamy beans and deeply savory-sweet tomato sauce. Also elegantly balanced was our beverage: a 2003 Ada Nada Barbaresco “Valeirano” that’s every bit as good as Mary describes it here. We bought it from her, and I fear that we may be down to our last couple of bottles. It’s my kind of wine; decadent yet austere, wise beyond its years, and tannic enough to improve over another decade or two (not that it will have the chance).