Getting Warmer

So the other night I had a hankering for a nice lemony, olivey tagine. We got some chicken thighs, and everything was going as planned when I got it into my head– based on the squishiness of the ground in certain places– that a trip to the garden might be a good idea. And so it was. The beds are mostly thawed, and we got a ton of carrots and parsnips out in no time, with lots more still there. Even some of the indestructible greens are making a comeback, including radicchio, mizuna, Asian cabbage, and endive. And a few chioggia beets are still holding on under the plastic, though they might be completely woody by now. The greens, at least, will get et.

The roots, plus sweet potato, onion, preserved lemon, olives, spices (cumin seeds, ras-el-hanout) and chick peas which I had simmered in leftover dashi for a few hours to soften got all cosy together and bubbled away until thoroughly giving and fragrant. We ate it over whole wheat couscous, and it was damn fine, tasting quite authentic and super-satisfying on a chilly evening.

And of course I saved the bones, so a couple of days later (yesterday, to be exact) I threw them in a smallish pot and made a gorgeously perfumed stock. At this stage, I wasn’t sure what dinner would be, but an idea was forming. I defrosted some Washugyu flank steak, already cut for yakinuku, and thought about pounding the strips a bit and then rolling them up around scallions to make negimaki, but had sort of an Italian feeling so I made some pasta dough instead. While it was resting, I mandolined a turnip into paper-thin sheets and blanched them, sliced some king oyster mushrooms thin and caramelized them pretty hard in a bit of duck fat, and wilted some spinach with garlic. I whipped up a quick tomato sauce using good purée, wine, herbs, garlic, and olive oil, and then made a roux with duck fat and flour in the mushroom pan and strained in the Moroccan chicken stock to make gravy. And I began to cook the pasta while I quickly browned the meat.

See where this is going? A piece of pasta, then some sauce, turnips and mushrooms, more pasta, gravy, then meat…

Then pasta, sauce, and spinach…

Then pasta, gravy, and mushrooms…

And then pasta, a dollop of sauce, mushroom trimming brunoise crisped in duck fat, and marjoram leaves. The result was a lighter yet extremely full-flavored lasagna, with no cheese and none of the gut-bomb after effects of the traditional version. Next time I might flavor the pasta– with herbs, or fennel pollen, or something aromatic– but it doesn’t need a whole lot. Once the garden is up and running, the possibilities will be limitless.

8 comments to Getting Warmer

  • The Spiteful Chef

    That's so fucking sexy, seriously.

  • cook eat FRET

    ditto

    really really…

  • Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

    Wha, you don' like da gut bomb? Geez…

    ;-)

    Cool take on lasagna. Been meaning to get around to the handmade lasagne thing, complete with homemade ricotta.

  • Heather

    My choggias (and my goldens) turned to wood, then to punky sponge thanks to the freak weather that came right after the baby.

  • Heather

    Oh, nice dinner.

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  • peter

    Zoomie: Yeah, man.

    Kristie: Thanks.

    Claudia: Dittohead.

    Hank: No, I like it too much; that's the problem.

    Blanche: The beets are no good. But the Asian cabbages are roaring back. It's a wonder to behold.

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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