Thursday, May 31, 2007

Salisbury Steaks

Weds. 30 May
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Holt brought home some perfectly good but already cooked hamburgers from the Memorial Day picnic, and this was all we could think of to do with them.
This dish was named for Dr. James Henry Salisbury, a 19th-century American physician who believed that it was good for you to eat chopped beef three times a day. We could not find a single recipe in any of our regular cookbooks, not even the 1960s Betty Crocker; but luckily my old friend and American-food-fan Joan had done one for our grad-student-communal-household publication, the Frost Street Cookbook. She used Durkee brown gravy mix for hers, but Holt and I had to make do with fresh ingredients.
So brown a chopped onion in oil until it's transparent, and add about a half pound of sliced mushrooms. Fry them until they're dark and give off their liquid. Then add about a cup of meat broth: we used nine ice-cube-tray-cubes of our homemade veal stock, and when they melted, we nestled the hamburgers among them, adjusted the seasoning, covered the pan, and let it go on a low simmer for about 20 minutes. Ideally, the burgers should soak up the sauce a bit, so it couldn't hurt to poke a few holes in them to encourage that. By the end, there was a good amount of sauce to moisten the dry meat, and it actually tasted pretty good.
We served this with Cajun potato salad that Holt made for Memorial day. It was actually based on our previous New Orleans potato salad but used regular russet potatoes (boiled as unpeeled cubes, with a splash of Zatarain's in the water) instead of whole little redskins, added chopped red onion, and had an oil-vinegar-and-grain-mustard dressing rather than mayonnaise, since it was going to sit out on a warm picnic table for a while. Both were damn tasty, though cubing the potatoes before you boil them makes them break up a bit too much.

Fettucine with Sausage, Mushrooms, and Cream

Tues. 29 May
This is an outgrowth of our Sausage Alfredo recipe, due to the fact that we had some standard white button mushrooms as well as a leftover half a pound of bulk (hot) sausage.
Still very easy. While the pasta is cooking, crumble and brown the sausage in a large pan. When it gives off enough oil, throw in about half a pound of sliced mushrooms and stir them about until they darken and give off their liquid, and until the sausage is no longer pink. Add up to a cup of heavy cream, with some minced fresh sage leaves if you have them, and a pinch of crushed red pepper if the sausage wasn't hot. Let that simmer and thicken (adding grated parmesan or romano, if you want to get it thicker faster) until the pasta reaches your ideal state of al-dentitude. Toss the pasta in the pan with the sauce, and serve it forth.

Creamy leek soup

Mon. 28 May
This appeared in the May issue of Gourmet.
It differs from our standard vichyssoise-style recipe in containing just a small amount of potato, in having several other vegetables instead, and in being served warm. Made it more interesting, and savory. We skipped the additional onion, thinking that it would interfere with the leek flavor; and instead of the dollop of whipped cream, Holt lovingly marbled the surfaces of the bowls with unwhipped cream. But you could just throw a blob of sour cream on top, if you so chose.

Biermetts and onions

Sun. 27 May
The Saturday before Memorial Day, and at Findlay Market, Kroger's Sausages was under siege. Still, we managed to get some andouille for potato salad for the Classics Dept. cookout (see above) and some Biermetts for that night's dinner. Just browned them in the pan with the onions, which are done low and slow, with a little oil, and covered. First the onions get transparent, then limp, and finally they caramelize - you can open the pan for the last stage, and even give them a shot of paprika to make them browner.
Dinner was accompanied by - what else?- cold German beer.

Pain perdu with 'Murkin sausage

Sat. 26 May
A quickie before going out to the opera (Iphigénie en Tauride, set in a sort of post-apocalyptic basement--and it was a better setting than Chicago's black box). Yes, it's our old, old, old friend, the challah menorah, making one last (non-kosher) appearance as French toast, with a side of American hot breakfast sausage.

Keema Alu

Friday 25 May
This is a recipe from New Joy. Indian food is now officially American. "Keema" कीमा is the same as modern Greek "kima," (κιμάς) for ground-meat, and both are from Turkish "kıyma" (verb kıymak 'chop, mince'). After all, Turkic food terms (and rulers) were everywhere from the Ganges to the Danube.
So: heat oil in large pan and sauté:
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Add and stir-fry for a minute:
2 minced garlic cloves
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground chile
Add 1 lb ground beef and sauté until it's no longer pink.
Throw in 1/2 cup or more chopped tomatoes, not drained (this is different from New Joy, as they tell you to drain them, add back a little juice, and later add an extra cup of water!!) and 1/2 lb. boiling potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until potatoes are tender (ca. 20 minutes), adding a bit of water if the level looks too low.
Add salt to your taste, sprinkle with a handful of fresh chopped cilantro, give it a stir or two, and serve.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Coconut-lime chicken with scallions

Thursday 24 May
A new adaptation of our basic Thai-style green curry.

2 chicken bosoms, skinned and boned (deskinned and deboned?) for a change, and cut into 1" cubes.
Lots of scallions (say 12) cut on the diagonal into inch lengths, with the white and green parts separated.
1/2 can coconut milk
healthy pinch of laos powder
1 1/2 tsp green curry paste (we use Mae Ploy brand)
1 tsp nam pla
4 kaffir lime leaves, if you've got them (they freeze well)
1 limesworth of lime juice

Using the top coconut milk as your fat (this was, in fact, a leftover half can in the fridge, so solid and completely uniform in texture) stir fry the dollop of green curry paste (to your liking and heat-tolerance - taste-testing along the way is a good idea) for 2 minutes or so, until busted-up, dissolved, and fragrant.
Add the scallion whites and stir fry for 5 minutes.
Add the chicken, the rest of the coconut milk, laos powder, a splash of nam pla, the lime leaves, and finally the lime juice.
Cook for 10 minutes. Add the scallion greens.
When the scallion greens are tender and the chicken is done, eat it.
Since this has abundant sauce like most Thai dishes, you can serve it with rice to sop it up. We licked our plates clean—literally.

Leftovers from Sunday

Wednesday 23 May

Thin slices of cold leftover pork, served with mayonnaise thinned with a little lemon juice and zipped up with a quarter of a chilpotle in adobo. To complete the canvas, a few also-left-over potatoes, carrots, and shallots, plus a side salad of marinated artichokes tossed with the last of the multicolored roasted peppers.

Roasted vegetables

Tuesday 22 May
Cranked up the oven to 500º. Filmed the bottom of the big roasting pan with oil. Added asparagus spears; then 5 minutes later, peeled shallots, and portobello mushrooms soaked in olive oil and sprinkled with thyme. Then 5 minutes after that, lots of zucchini just cut in half lengthwise; it's all done when they're all done. Sprinkle with kosher salt. No meat at all this time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bucatini puttanesca

Monday 21 May
Mo' ho'. For what puts the putt in puttanesca, see the blog HERE.

Pork loin with mustard and ginger marmalade coating

Sunday 20 May
On a soft early summer night, we had Jean and Donald over for dinner. As a prelude, we sat outside in the garden and nibbled on olives, multicolored roasted peppers, goat cheese with oregano, and crackers. With a Santa Barbara wine for Barbara.
Dinner was the simplest: a pork loin with coating made of the last of a batch of Greaves ginger marmalade from Niagara on the Lake (tender fruit capital of the world) and an equal amount of our home-made full grain mustard, thinned out with a little pommeau we just happened to have on hand (and ain't nobody more po-mo than we are.)
Into the roasting pan went (in order of hardness): potatoes, carrots, parsnips, shallots. The ingenious beeping thermometer was of no use as we sat outside, but let us know when the pig was done anyway (I let it go on a tad too long: 140º and no higher is perfect for a loin roast). The wine was Pinot Evil - fairly unmemorable, except for the three monkeys on the label.
We cleared our palates with a salad of freshly-gathered garden lettuces, served in the French style on the same plate (why would you waste all that lovely juice and browned bits?) - though with Italian balsamic vinaigrette.
For dessert, bread pudding with Graeter's, which we're going to eat until we run out of it. The pudding that is, not the Graeter's, which luckily never runs out.

Soft-shell crabs—Lemon-Pepper Pasta Primavera

Saturday 19 May
We don't normally describe lunch here, but Luken's had soft-shell crabs ($2.50 each).* Now I (Holt) think of myself as fairly fearless in the kitchen. I bone out lamb, cut up poultry, gut and scale fish, and do various other mildly gristly bits with a certain smug self-satisfaction, but I have to admit offing the crabs got to me. I've done it often before, but these were a particularly lively bunch (shudder). But they are so tasty that it's worth what Alice B. Toklas called "Murder in the Kitchen." Maybe next time I'll just let the fishmonger mong them for me.
There's a good guide to soft-shelled crabs HERE and a very graphic (but it lets you know what you're getting into) guide HERE.
The best cooking method is the simplest, as always with the freshest (all right, maybe too fresh) food. Toss the cleaned crabs in flour, mixed with salt and pepper. Sauté in butter. Deglaze with lime juice. Eat 'em all up.

On to dinner. Saturday is the day for advance prep, long simmers, roasting peppers (see below), and the like. So perfect for fresh pasta, which needs some rest. The master recipe is HERE. We added white pepper and lemon zest to the basic mix, let it rest, rolled it out, and ran it through the fettuccine-izer. Out of the infinitely variable ingredients for pasta primavera, we chose asparagus (cooked a little in the pasta water), mushrooms, zucchini, then cream and cheese. Very, very fresh and simple.

*Both "soft-shell" (attributive adjective) and "soft-shelled" are recognized by American Heritage, Webster's, and the OED. However, usage rules, and Google counts 234,000 hits for "soft-shell crabs" vs. only 24,000 for "soft-shelled crabs."

New Orleans Potato Salad

Friday 18 May
With benificent forethought, we had tossed every new potato we had into Tuesday's Louisiana boil. So we had lots of lovely spice-impregnated tubers, plus a few crawfish, slices of andouille, and even a shrimp or two which had escaped our vigilance by hiding in the bottom of the pot, ready for this salad. We boiled up an extra handful of shrimp, chopped everything up, and bound it together with mayonnaise, a lime's worth of lime juice, and a touch more of a "Creole" spice mixture (salt, garlic, red pepper, etc.). Mighty good eatin', cher.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mahi x 2 Coconut Curry Stew

Thursday 17 May
A great dish from the June 2007 Food & Wine.
It's a recipe by Padma Lakshmi (great name, by the way), who's not only the overly glamorous host of Top Chef, but is also married to Salman Rushdie. And by the way, she is NOT allowed to invent a dish named "Salmon Rushdie," as we have already done that - all right, we keep saying we're going to, and we will… eventually . . . along with Feta Complet.
We didn't have any fennel, and Jagdeep, our local Indian grocer (who's not much of a businessman, to tell the truth), didn't have kaffir lime leaves, though he does have fresh curry leaves in the fridge in the back. But the dish is wonderful even without them.
Here's her unaltered recipe, which we quartered to make two servings:

Eight 6-ounce skinless mahimahi fillets
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled
3 large shallots, thinly sliced (1 cup)
8 small dried red chiles
12 fresh curry leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
8 kaffir lime leaves
1 large fennel bulb—halved, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
4 cups carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
Two 15-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish

Put the mahimahi fillets in a large, shallow dish. Pour the lemon juice over the fish and season lightly with salt. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
In a very large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the garlic cloves and cook over moderately high heat until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the chiles and curry leaves and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ginger and lime leaves and cook for 2 minutes. Add the fennel, carrots and curry powder and season lightly with salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring a few times, until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes longer.
Add the mahimahi and any accumulated juices to the casserole, nestling the fish into the stew. Cover and simmer over low heat, shifting the fish a few times, until it is just cooked, about 15 minutes. Transfer the fillets to a large, deep platter. Pour the sauce over and around the fish. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.

Steak Salad with Black Bean, Corn and Mango Salsa

Wednesday 16 May
The real purpose of the Albuquerque Broil was to provide left-overs for this steak salad. Holt had read Adam Gopnik's critique in The New Yorker of a dinner cooked by Spencer in one of Robert Parker's (no relation, alas) novels, and was inspired. Spencer cut up the steak and cooked it—he may be the perfect post-romantic, post-feminist hero, but he ruined the steak. Holt made a salsa the day before, while waiting for the crawfish boil: two ears of sweet corn (cooked and removed before anything else went into the pot), soaked and cooked black beans (nearly 30 minutes in the pressure cooker), plus chopped red onion, cubed mango, juice from one lime, salt, and fresh coriander. All this rested overnight in the fridge. Then cubed the cold steak and added a little olive oil and a pinch more salt. Perfect summer food.

Not-So-Fat Tuesday or Crawfish Boil Redux

Tuesday 15 May
Bert and Susann left us a bottle of Zatarain's as a house gift, so with half a bag of crawfish still in the freezer from the real Mardi Gras, we had to have some friends over. Tom and Liz came bearing Mr. Mondavi's Sauvignon Blanc (when we toured the winery, the guide just called him "Mister") and a new wine that the guy at Ludlow Wines recommended when Tom told him what we were going to have for dinner, Sitios de Bodega’s Conclass 2006, from Rueda in Spain (sauvignon blanc plus two Spanish varietals, verdejo and viura). Crisp and perfect with the mud bugs!
We pretty much did the same as for real Mardi Gras, which is: throw everything into a giant pot. So in went all our little redskin potatoes (maybe 30 in all, with plans for left-overs), 3 andouille, 8 cloves of garlic, 4 onions, 4 ears of corn (cut in half), a lemon (ditto), plus 1 TBSP (all right, 1 1/2) of Zatarain's, and a mess of salt. Once the potatoes were close to done, we added the crawfish and a pound of frozen shrimp to eke out the paltry feast.
For dessert there was Ecumenical Bread Pudding, made from the frozen remains of the challah menorah from which we've made the Christmas pud in the past. No raisins, just lots of bourbon in the egg and milk soaking mixture. Serve with Graeter's . . . and bourbon.

Poulet Célestine

Monday 14 May
One of the great and simple French country dishes.
Season two chicken breasts with a little kosher salt and brown in a nice hunk of butter (say, 2 TBSP plus a little oil to raise the smoking point of the fat). When you flip them, add about a pound of sliced mushrooms. Sauté till the mushrooms are browned and starting to give off juice. The next step is optional, but fun. Add a glug of cognac, let it warm for 15 seconds, then tip the pan to flambé the cognac. (We were out of cognac—quelle horreur!—and bourbon or rum would not have done.) Then add two chopped up tomatoes, a smidgen of wine (accommodating for the tomatoes and mushrooms giving off more juice), a minced garlic clove (at this point, not in the sauté, for French subtlety), and a pinch of cayenne. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove chicken and mushrooms to hotted-up plates and reduce the sauce. What makes this work so well is the acid of the tomatoes, which cuts the unctuousness of the chicken fat and butter.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Southwest London Broil with poblano-and-goat-cheese-stuffed potatoes

Sunday 13 May
A simple and fortuitous meal. We sat out in the garden drinking a very pleasant Lussac-St-Emilion, while the potatoes nuked quietly within the house. We've more or less given up on baking potatoes (unless the oven is already on for some reason), since the microwave really does do a better job and faster. We broiled the London Broil (a curious thing to do), which was dusted with the last teaspoons of a chili rub we had made up ages ago and whose exact ingredients escape us now, and so it became an Albuquerque Broil. Then renuked the potatoes, and filled them with goat cheese, butter, and the left-over sautéed poblanos from day-before-yesterday's quesadillas. ¡Muy bueño!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cucumber and Smoked Salmon Napoleons

Saturday 12 May
After a heavyish lunch, we wanted a light supper before a weird but not displeasing "adaptation" of Massenet's Werther. So we made these cute, nouveller-than-thou cucumber and lox napoleons. Remember a couple of years ago when everything in every restaurant was stacked and called a napoleon? Us neither. The benriner makes short work of long cucumber slices (and fingers, if you're not careful). The mortar was a little goat cheese whipped up with cream and dill. We topped them with pickled ginger and scattered them with chive blossoms for the ultimate die-yuppie-scum touch. It was cool as a . . .

Then Graeter's after the opera. Strawberry chip is in season. Ahhhhhhh!


Friday 11 May
There were scraps of cheese all over the place (but that's another story), and we were seeking a somewhat light though protein-rich dinner, so quesadillas recommended themselves. We also had a single poblano pepper left all alone. So we lovingly diced and sautéed the poblano, slathered some tortillas with the wetter parts of the bottom of a jar of salsa, mounded the assorted cheese gratings and poblano dice on top, topped that with another tortilla, and fried on both sides in the pan of poblano-scented oil. Served topped with the last scrapings of the salsa.
It did not escape our notice that every dish this week featured a tomato sauce of some sort. Let's hear it for Nahuatl, the nightshade family, and Solanum lycopersicum (which means wolf-persian-fruit, i.e. the peach, obviously from the well-known fact that wolves just love to eat tomatoes, or possibly peaches, or less likely Persians).

Squid with Feta

Thursday 10 May
Kalamarakia me feta is our take on the old standard of garides me feta, shrimp with feta (see Hybris with shrimp).
It starts with a simple Greek tomato sauce: onions sautéed in oil (no garlic, so as not to distract from the sweet notes), a can of diced tomatoes, seasoned with fresh oregano and the two magic ingredients: a shot of cinnamon and a pinch of allspice. We defrosted the squid rings (just dunked in cool water for about five minutes), which keeps them from throwing off too much water, and then slid them into the sauce. Cover and cook till tender (about half an hour), finally add cubed/crumbled feta and cook until it's soft.
Yummy, but we're still working on our Frenchified dish to be called Feta Complet.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Spaghetti and meat balls

Wednesday 9 May
Yes, dear friends, sometimes nothing else will do. We still had half of the batch of previously-frozen tomato sauce, and, after pizza, what could be more American than spaghettinmeatballs? I ask you.
The basic recipe for meatballs is in New Joy, though they do some funny things that I wouldn't, like adding red wine and sprinkling your balls with onions (probably a result of that wine). Anyway, it's pretty simple: to a pound of ground beef in a big bowl, add a small onion minced fine, a big clove of garlic ditto, parsley ditto, a lightly beaten egg, a half cup of breadcrumbs (we used the last of Kathy's oatmeal bread), a couple of ounces of grated parmesan or romano, and a squirt of tomato paste - about a Tbspful. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of allspice, which brings out the meaty flavor. Smush the whole thing together until it's well mixed, and roll it into meatball-sized meatballs. We like to run them under the broiler rather than laboriously boiling and browning; put them on a slotted pan with a catcher, three inches from the ca. 450º heating element, until browned, about 6 minutes on one side, a bit less on the other.
Of course, you've been timing your spaghetti-boiling and sauce-heating and plate-warming so that it's all done at once (Ha! But it won't hurt the meatballs to sit in the turned-off oven for a little). Roll the spaghetti in the sauce, plate it out, adorn with as many meatballs as you want (we had 7 each out of the 22 we made), and dab with whatever's left of the sauce, plus more grated cheese. Damn tasty.

Chicken Piccata

Tuesday 8 May
Home late after a lecture, so something that is the essence of quick and easy. 2 chicken bosoms (not boneless, not skinless; bones and skins = flavor), sprinkled with thyme and kosher salt, (not dipped in flour, which just make them gummy), seared in olive oil, then a splash of wine, and cooked covered for 20 minutes. Take off the lid, add the juice of one lemon and a mess of capers. Cook till the sauce is thickened.
Served this with a Kirby cucumber salad into which went thin rings of two unexpectedly virulent shallots. Had to fish most of them out, since they completely overwhelmed the poor little cukes.


Monday 7 May
Holt made pizza for the first time, which is odd since he's been making the family bread for the last fifteen years or so, and often makes focaccia (which differs from pizza in the way that one species of sparrow differs from another). But we had bought a hunk of pepperoni on spec, and suddenly it seemed the thing to do. A good quick meal, too, in its way, since you can make the dough up in about 10 minutes in the morning, leave it to rise in the fridge, then roll it out when you get home. Thirty minutes is all it takes to rise again. (Busy Moms, however, will still want to order in, the way God intended).
We topped two nice-sized freehand semi-rectangular pizzas with some tomato sauce that Barbara had made previously and frozen, then the basic mutz (American industrial mozzarella) and the pepperoni. Into the oven and onto the pizza stone (which really is great for breads) at 400º, and 20 minutes later our hard palates were hanging down in ragged tendrils. So you know it's authentic.
William and Shirley do this all the time for a great dinner party: big bowls of various toppings and they put the guests to work making their own dinner.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Smoked Sausage with Sauerkraut and Horseradish Potatoes

Sunday 6 May
This sounds like a wintertime meal, and it is - the late spring freeze put the chill on vegetables and fruits across the country, and various fresh green things we'd hoped to see in the farmers' market just aren't there yet.
The sausage was just some store brand on sale, so it helps to slice it up and brown it in the pan. Then throw in some good brand of sauerkraut - we get ours from Eckerlin's in Findlay Market, and it gets warmed in the same pan, perhaps with a splash of beer, once the sausage slices are toasted. I wouldn't dare tamper with the true Lower East Side barrel-made sauerkraut this way; but then, if I had any, I would eat it all cold immediately.
Just to make the whole thing more Germanic, we boiled some Kartoffeln Yukon Gold and whipped them up with cream and a spoonful of horseradish (Mr. Gene Green's Findlay Market brand - the purest and freshest around). Ach, du lieber, it was good.

Tilapia Veracruz

Saturday 5 May
A double whammy. Or, if you prefer, the bifecta of holidays: Cinco de Mayo and Derby Day! What to do? We followed our motto on religion: "All of the feasts. None of the fasts." So Mint Juleps (with the new mint from the garden) accompanying chips and salsa (the drink is the main event) while watching Barbara's pick, Street Sense, romp home. She chose the horse not only for the name (a good pick for a New York girl), but for the jockey Calvin Borel, whose name is pronounced almost as if he were family. Holt's horse, Glueshoe, was somewhat less fortunate.
Then, for Cinco de Mayo, a Veracruth sauce for fish: onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil, a couple of chopped roma tomatoes (surprisingly meaty for this time of year), capers, lot 'n' lots of green olives, half a lime, plus the non-traditional additions of a handful of oregano (just because we have so much of it) and cilantro (just because). We simply slid the fillets into the sauce, cooked on low, covered, for 10 minutes.
The drink of the evening was a Tequila Sunset, a drink we've just invented, born of desperation: orange juice, tequila, and—since we had run out of grenadine syrup—a splash of Boggs cranberry liquor, one of several strange booze-like objects we inherited from Lynne's parents' candy-making business. Rather tasty in fact.

Poulet en saupiquet with cold grilled asparagus and zucchini

Friday 4 May
Haven't done this since January and the last anchovies of a giant tin were crying out, "Use us, use us," in their tiny high-pitched anchovy voices. Salty goodness.
The few roasted vegetables that had survived Wednesday's onslaught did coldly furnish forth the table.

Fettucine al Salmone

Thursday 3 May
We're due for it, as we last had it in February. But that's about how often we go to Trader Joe's and get lox bits.

Vegetable Feast

Wednesday 2 May
Note: vegetable, not vegetarian (definitely not Chay-friendly). Though the asparagus was simply roasted in the oven at 500º with the zucchini spears going in later, then drizzled with extra-virgin, the other vedge was meat-laden. We sautéed some freshly shelled fava beans with a bit of ham and a splash of wine. Also baked up some big mushrooms stuffed with: onions fried in bacon with thyme and oregano, plus hoarded/frozen crumbs from nice Kathy's oatmeal bread. Kind of a pity to run riot through a week's worth of fresh vegetables, but we couldn't help ourselves.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Albacore steaks Kasibeyaz in Creamy Tomato Sauce

Tues. 1 May
This is a wonderful discovery from the latest issue of Food and Wine. It's very easy yet subtle, and perfect for the kind of thick frozen fish steaks you get at Trader Joe's.
Notice, as the recipe says at the end, that the sauce is more soup-like than thick and clingy. And all the better for it. We did it with albacore and served it on platters, but any deep plate will do fine. Don't be afraid of the final shot of vinegar, which will not curdle the cream in the sauce. The poblano gives it a refreshing zip. The only change we made was skipping the mysterious injunction to drain the tomatoes and then add back a half cup of water.

Shrimp with Asparagus and Oyster Sauce

Monday 30 April
This is a Chinese-style dish with ingredients and methodology similar to the Shrimp with Snow Peas we cooked back in February.
The only changes were that we chopped the asparagus into inch-long pieces, separating stems from tips; put ginger (along with the garlic) in the initial stir-fry of the vegetable as well as into the shrimp marinade; stir-fried the asparagus stems first, then added the tenderer tips; and steamed the vegetable in more chicken broth for a longer time (asparagus is tougher than snow-peas). The asparagus soaked up the broth, so the oyster sauce needed a delicate hand; perhaps a half-tablespoon did the trick.

Vichyssoise with sorrel

Sunday 29 April
Our version is the rustic one. Others might call it cheap and lazy, but in fact, the overly raffiné version (created by Louis Diat at the Ritz c. 1917) doesn't appeal to our pleasant peasant sensibility: too much waste, and running the purée though a sieve or chinoise produces a perfectly uniform and utterly bland texture, besides dirtying a utensil unnecessarily. So 1) we don’t peel the potatoes, 2) we use way more of the leeks than purists would, 3) we don't strain it, and 4) we tend to turn it back into Potage au cresson. In this case, we made it on the lazy Saturday, left it to chill overnight, added some half-and-half (left by our guests), some cream as well, and then a chiffonade of sorrel from the garden. Vive l'Amerique!

Baby artichokes, shallots, and garlic with Pork medallions

Saturday 28 April
A foraging trip to Findlay Market discovered some baby artichokes at Madison's. At $2.89 for nine cuties, they were irresistible. We still remember a woman sitting in the shadows of the Rialto in the Venice market, snapping, peeling, trimming artichokes with incredible speed and dexterity. It seems hard to discard so much of the tasty thistle, but in the end it's actually fairly economical, since the tender innards can be braised and eaten whole. Shallots and whole cloves of garlic make a tasty addition. The basic recipe and technique is here at Epicurious.
Just snap till they're pale, trim a bit, cut in half, dunk in some acidulated water, and Roberto è tuo zio.
We served these with a couple of pan-seared pork medallions, dusted with thyme leaves and pepper. The meat was definitely the side-dish to the splendid spring vedge.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Pasta with Tomato and Pepperoni

Friday 27 April
Another standard, using up a butt end of pepperoni. We last had it mid-February.
Lately it's been just as cold as it was then, so an appropriate dish.

Tarragon Chicken with Asparagus

Thursday 26 April
A quickie. Chicken bosoms, pressed with chopped fresh tarragon from the garden, kosher salt, and pepper. Sauté in butter, then add a splash of white wine, cover, cook for 10 minutes. Add a little more wine or chicken broth if it gets dry. The sliced asparageese go in when you flip the chix for the final 10-15 minutes' steam.

Steak and Onions

Wednesday 25 April
Defrosted a thick IGA T-bone, painted it with Worcestershire. Fried up all the onions that were sprouting in the bin. Drank with good Italian red wine that Jim left us. Magnifico.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Tuesday 24 April
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig. Not much in the mood to go out and forage, and luckily found that Bert, Susann, and Jim, who had been staying in the house for CAMWS (the one time friends descend en masse to Cincinnati, and we're out of town!), had left us bacon, eggs, and parmesan. So a comforting spaghetti carbonara was declared. We can't believe that we haven't had this since September, but the blog don't lie.

A Moveable Feast

Monday 23 April
Ann and David put us up at the Spencer Silver Mansion, where we had a hearty breakfast thanks to our hostess Carol. Then another wonderful, never-to-be-forgotten day of sailing (sometimes sailing away from the Army patrol boat warning us off of the Aberdeen Proving Grounds--mysterious booms and puffs of brown smoke). Before the drive back to Philadelphia, we stopped back at the Tidewater Grille for several dozen local oysters (their coats were brushed, their faces washed, their shoes were clean and neat). Magnificent, sweet with just a hint of salt, especially good with ice-cold beer. Alas, we may be spoiled for mere Bluepoints from now on. Back in Philadelphia, the feast continued with Ann and David's salad and pasta with a particularly creamy pesto.
Thanks, Ann and David, for a weekend we still dream about!

The Tidewater Grille, Havre de Grace, Maryland

Sunday 22 April
After an amazing and exhilarating day sailing with Ann and David, we hosed off and went out to their favorite restaurant. It was Sunday and the first good weather of the season (but as David says, "Any day is a good day for sailing"), and the Grille's larder had been pretty much stripped bare. The kind waitress listed the things they were out of, including the local Chesapeake Bay oysters (which merely forced us to come back the next day - see above). So for starters we had a platter of sautéed shrimp, followed by the crab cakes (which David rightly insisted should be broiled--the unmarked case as it turned out. Apparently lesser breeds without the law will have them deep-fried). They were perfect: all crab, just enough "cake" to hold together. The Grille was also out of lobster tails. All to the good really, since they're not local and never interesting. Instead, Kind Waitress doubled up on the scallops for a broiled seafood platter with fish and more shrimp. We watched boats and drank wine, and as it got darker, watched waves and drank cognac. Heaven.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Seafood Unlimited, Philadelphia

Saturday 21 April
After a fantastic family food fress at La Masseria (thanks, Louise!) in Manhattan, we headed back to Philadelphia.
Where to find the best seafood in Philadelphia is a contentious topic. Beyond the quarrel between Bookbinder's Seafood House, Old Original Bookbinder's, New Unoriginal Bookbinder's, etc., you can go downscale with Walt's King of Crabs (phone conversation, ca. 1988: "Hello, do you have crabs tonight?" Walt's: "Lady, that's a personal question.") or upscale with places like Striped Bass. We are fans of the Sansom Street Oyster House, and had a couple of lunches there on this visit, for old times' sake. But by far the best seafood we found in the city was when Ann took us to Seafood Unlimited.
It's a fish market up front, with some tables at the back. Unprepossessing, but the waitstaff is friendly. We started with a dozen Bluepoint oysters - good, but see above for the Chesapeake Bay mothers of all oysters. The big deal was the freshness and the perfect preparation of the fish. We had pepper-crusted shad (a first for us; a beautiful delicate fish with not a bone in sight) and a baked potato; and pan-seared bluefish, accompanied by the best french fries ever, all washed down with a bottle of Firestone Sauvignon Blanc.

Baby Buddha

Friday 20 April
After a hard day spent classicizing in the newly opened Metropolitan Museum Greek and Roman Galleries (known as the "Rogues' Galleries" for the preponderance of stolen, smuggled, contextless, and forged objects, with the proud names of the smugglers, I mean collectors, painted on each wall), Andi proclaimed the need for a symposium. So we headed downtown to Baby Buddha, a Chinese place where fresh, tasty vegetables are an important feature; so very Chay-friendly.
A symposium is not a symposium without drinks, so Singha beers were served to those over age 21 (Sorry, Michael!)
Appetizers included steamed vegetable dumplings, fried pork pot stickers, cold sesame noodles, shanghai-style noodles, and amazing barbequed spare ribs (with a side of moist towelette). We then proceeded to the spring specialty, snow pea leaves with garlic; they didn't have quite enough for a serving, so they eked it out with fresh water spinach. There was also fried tofu on a bed of watercress, and for the carnivores, beef and scallions, salt-and-pepper squid on spinach, pork fried rice, and sweet and sour chicken. Nice, creative, fresh-tasting Chinese food.