Friday, July 27, 2007

Mahi-Mahi with Mushrooms

Thursday 26 July

Mahi-Mahi is a favorite here at the Department of Redundancy Department. Holt got the inspiration for the preparation from what we had on hand - fresh mushrooms, black plum tomatoes, frozen Trader Joe's mahi fillets - and also from a recipe that, according to reviewers, would taste good on a car bumper.

Ours was simpler, without the lily-gilding or the Gruyère cheese. We just fried up the sliced mushrooms with butter, a little oil, and fresh thyme, until they darkened. We set them aside in the oven, and in the same pan sautéed the diced tomatoes and salted-and-peppered mahi fillets. When the latter were just done, we put them on heated plates, returned the mushrooms to the pan with more fresh thyme, and mixed in a dollop of heavy cream. Poured the resultant sauce over the resultant fish, and boy was it good.

Red-Wine-Braised Duck Legs

Wednesday 25 July

Before leaving for Indian Lake on Tuesday, we had made the leg-portion of Duck Fest, so we had an easy dinner waiting us.

We used dried cranberries (because it was the only dried fruit left in the house). Good choice, since they just disappeared into the darkening sauce. Also a very good gravy for mashed potatoes.

Essence of Summer at Indian Lake

Tuesday 24 July

We drove up to see our friends Vaden and Ginger at their summer place on Indian Lake, a not-too-far-off part of Ohio, though we'd never been there before. It turned out to be idyllic, an archipelago of little islands strung together with bridges and lined with quasi-Venetian canals; but instead of palazzi, you have little cottages all along the edges. We enjoyed walking, boating, and even swimming among them, and we could see going back next year to take a census on which type of sculpture is more popular locally: the wooden Indian, or the wooden lighthouse.

Ginger and Vaden prepared us a perfect summer dinner, which went in stages. It started with fresh local corn, just boiled; the best we've eaten so far this year.
Then on to what I've started to think of as Ohio Ambrosia: fresh farm tomatoes, both yellow and red, cut up and salted in a bowl, so their juices come out; then some hot linguine is thrown into the bowl and stirred, and it's served with a scattering of basil on top.
Caesar salad came next, with eggs that not only had been coddled, but praised and told repeatedly how brave and pretty they were. And they were, too: these were Amish farm eggs, with yolks yellow as marigolds. The next day, we visited the farm, saw the contented chickens who produced them, and managed to spirit away a dozen for our own.
For dessert, Vaden baked a pound cake, also with the aforesaid eggs, so it was lovely and yellow. It went beautifully with her home-made lemon yogurt ice cream topped with candied lemon peel.
We ate out on the terrace, looking out over the water; and by the end of the meal, it was actually so cool that we had to get sweaters and go inside! That's paradise for two denizens of steamy Cincinnati, and we thank Vaden and Ginger for introducing us to it.

Grilled Corn and Shrimp Salad

Monday 23 July

The first of the local corn is showing up at Findlay Market. Bought six nice ears on Saturday, had three for lunch, then roasted the others for the grilled corn and shrimp salad which we had about a month ago, and said we said we'd have again. And lo, it was so.
Just pan-fried the shrimps for ease, with little loss of flavor.

Duck breast with cherries

Sunday 22 July

Where yesterday's dinner originated from what we had in the garden, today's came from what we found at Findlay market: Indiana cantaloupes, Bing cherries, and a duck.

We started the meal with prosciutto melone, or in this case the aforementioned cantaloupe, adorned with some shavings of Schad's ham that we had around.

Duck and fruit is a classic combo, and we had duck and cherries. We broke down the duck as usual: breasts for one meal, legs for another, carcass to make stock (which we did as we cooked the breasts).

The recipe we used was intriguing, with an unusual sauce. Since it was new, we followed it very closely. So here it is:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 small)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Scant 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper (1/2 medium)
1 plum tomato, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/4 lb dark sweet cherries such as Bing, quartered and pitted (3 cups)
2 (3/4-lb) boneless Moulard duck breasts with skin*
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or chives
Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer

Heat oil in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, garlic, and shallot, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 7 minutes.
Add tomato paste, black pepper, cumin, hot pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in wine, vinegar (to taste), and sugar and simmer 1 minute. Stir in mustard, 1 1/2 cups cherries, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer 1 minute.
Purée mixture in a blender until very smooth, about 1 minute (use caution when blending hot liquids). Force cherry sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and transfer 1/4 cup sauce to a small bowl for glazing duck.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.
Score duck skin in a crosshatch pattern with a small sharp knife and season duck all over with salt and pepper.
Heat water in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over low heat until hot, then add duck, skin side down. Cook duck, uncovered, over low heat, without turning, until most of fat is rendered and skin is golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Transfer duck to a plate and discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet. Brush duck all over with cherry sauce from bowl and return to skillet, skin side up.
Roast duck in oven until thermometer registers 135°F, about 8 minutes for medium-rare.
Transfer duck to a cutting board and set skillet aside. Let duck stand, loosely covered with foil, 10 minutes.
Immediately after covering duck, carefully pour off any fat from skillet, leaving any brown bits, and add remaining cherry sauce, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups cherries. (Cherries will lose flavor if cooked; heat from skillet will warm sauce.)
Holding a sharp knife at a 45-degree angle, cut duck into slices. Sprinkle with chopped herbs and serve with cherry sauce.

Note that the amount of curious flavorings (cumin, mustard, etc.) are quite subtle, and the combo of tomato and cherries works out much better than we originally thought. The use of both cooked cherries (in the glaze) and fresh cherries added at the last minute is also a good touch.

One change we'd recommend: The method of cooking the breast skin down in a tad of water does an excellent job of rendering off some of the duck fat, but leaves the skin too chewy. So instead of roasting in the oven for the final few minutes (which can also too rapidly run up the internal temp.), broil it to crisp the skin.

"Pasta fritta"

Saturday 21 July

Molti anni fa, when we were first in Rome, we went down to a place highly recommended by friends at the American Academy in Rome and Trastevere locals, called Da Paolo. There was no menu and the waiter simply rattled off the evening's specials. Between his accent (what we thought was typically Roman and later learned was in fact Abruzzese) and our nearly complete ignorance of Italian, the only name we managed to get was "Pasta fritta." "Fried pasta," we thought, "how interesting. By all means, let's try the quaint local specialty!" What arrived was a delicious dish of distinctly tasty but un-fried pasta with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. Only then did the lira drop: not pasta fritta but pasta fredda, not fried but cold. Still, "pasta fritta" it has been in our house ever since.
So, some chilled twisty pasta (in this case, cellentani) dressed with a little extra virgin, then showered with tiny dice of: straightnecked yellow squash and Early Girl and black plum tomatoes from the garden, red onion, red peppers, mozzarella bocconcini, oregano, basil, lemon juice, and olive oil, plus yet another mistake, Asiago pressato (mistaken for aged Asiago), semi-soft and lovely.
Since it was a perfect summer's day we ate outside on the patio, looking at the garden. Ahhhh.

Ahi Tuna en papillote

Friday 20 July

A great and infinitely adaptable recipe.
Here's the original:

1 small fennel bulb, stalks discarded
3 medium carrots (1/2 lb)
1/2 lb small red potatoes
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, slivered
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 (1 1/2-lb) piece center-cut salmon fillet, skinned and fish cut into 4 square pieces

Special equipment: a mandoline or other manual slicer, 4 (15-inch) squares parchment paper kitchen string

Place a large baking sheet on bottom rack of oven and remove any other racks. Preheat oven to 400°F.
Halve fennel bulb lengthwise. Remove most of core, leaving enough intact to keep layers together when sliced.
Using manual slicer, cut fennel bulb (lengthwise), carrots (diagonally), and potatoes into 1/8-inch-thick slices, keeping vegetables separate.
Blanch vegetables, separately, in salted boiling water: fennel 2 minutes, carrots 1 minute, potatoes 2 minutes. Transfer fennel and carrots with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water, then drain well. Drain potatoes.
Toss fennel and carrots with olives, zest, thyme, half of garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Toss potatoes with remaining oil and garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
Divide potato mixture among centers of parchment squares. Season salmon with salt and pepper and place on top of potatoes, then top salmon with fennel mixture.
Gather sides of parchment up over fennel mixture to form a pouch, leaving no openings, and tie tightly with string.
Place packages directly on hot baking sheet in oven and cook 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

1. All the parboiling (not blanching) can be done in the same pot. The important thing is that the potatoes go on the bottom. So fish (!) them out first with a slotted spoon and coat them with olive and some salt and garlic.
2. Then parboil the other vedge in order of hardness: carrots, then fennel.
3. Fennel is best, but we did it this time with celery (not blanched then) and red peppers, fried up first.
4. Any nice meaty fish will do.
5. Check the temp. right through the packets - should be 120º F. - with the instant read thermometer.
6. Foil works great if you don't have parchment - just open the finished packages and slide the fish mounds onto a plate (you don't want to be cutting the tinfoil with your knives). But the parchment makes a great and attractive presentation. You can do the classic French style heart, but we find that simply folding a square of paper over the fish, then pleating the edges tightly works just as well. Serve on plates and snip each package open for each guest, letting them inhale. Remember fish steam is good for the complexion.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Belated Bastille Day - Poulet à l'estragon

Thursday 19 July

In honor of Bastille Day, which we missed, a French classic. Chicken bosoms (skin and bone on - do we have to say that any more?) with some tarragon and kosher salt pressed on, sautéed in the beurre de la belle France. Then throw in shallots, more tarragon, a bay leaf, shot of wine. Cover, cook 35 minutes. Reduce the juice till it's of use, and add the cream. Heat, and eat.

While preparing dinner, we read this appropriate section of a letter from our friend Helene in Philadelphia. "The high point of the Bastille Day Festivities is the 'storming' of the Bastille - a.k.a. the Eastern State Penitentiary. One of the owners of a local restaurant dresses up as Marie Antoinette and flaunts herself from the balcony of the prison, drinking champagne as the town crier reads out the crimes of the aristocracy and the crowd boos. At the immortal line 'Let them eat Tasty Kake,' Hostess Twinkies are thrown into the crowd (it seems Tasty Kake is not willing to donate several thousand of their Krimpets for the occasion, so Twinkies are used instead). Eventually, Marie is carried down to the guillotine and the crowd is asked whether to cut off her head or grant clemency. Regardless of the crowd's will, clemency is granted, but the guillotine is used to chop several watermelons as proof that it is in working order."

Next Bastille Day, we'll have watermelon for dessert. But this time, all we had besides the chicken was a small salad of cukes, arugula, and the VERY FIRST TOMATOES, all from our garden.

Smoked Whitefish and Lox Sandwiches

Wednesday 18 July

Home again, home again to one of the greatest sandwiches ever created by the mind of man. We had hit Costco while in TN, and returned laden with smoked whitefish salad. We swear, if they could just guarantee that they'd always have this in stock, we'd join up in a instant.

So our post-drive-home dinner was simply whitefish salad on toasted english muffins . . . and here's the important part . . . topped with nova lox. Nothing takes the taste of Anglicanism out of your mouth like Yiddishe cuisine (if that's not an oxymoron). It's another of our bids to win the Goyishe Cup for Interfaith Understanding through Food.

As a side dish, we made nice Kathy's napa cabbage slaw with blue cheese. This is very tasty, even if you don't much care for blue cheese, and unlike most coleslaw recipes, you can serve it immediately, without having to wait for the cabbage to marinate and relax.
You just shred up a 2-pound napa cabbage,
add a quarter cup of diced onion (preferably red)
and crumble ca. 8 oz. of blue cheese on top of that.
Then you shake up a dressing composed of
a half cup of oil,
a third cup of cider vinegar,
2 minced garlic cloves,
a Tbsp. of sugar,
a tsp. of celery seed,
a quarter tsp. of dry mustard,
and some salt and white pepper.
Serve it right away, and finish it all - it gets a mite limp after a while.

Penne with Pesto and Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Tuesday 17 July

Holt's sister Becky had brought a double armful of basil to JoDee's, but had to leave before Holt turned it into pesto. Today we got the traditional ingredients together (See how-to-make-three-pounds-of-pesto) and JoDee's vasty Charybdis of a Cuisineart made short work of the job of pesto-making. So when we came back magically hungry from the Harry Potter movie, we had short work of making penne and pesto. Even the teenagers tried it.

We then stuffed up some of our own squash blossoms, imported at vast expense from southern Ohio, for dessert. Only Laura tried a blossom, on the condition that Barbara bite off the end in which the anchovy nestled. But no problem - that left more for US!


Monday 16 July

Our kind brother-in-law, Miles, took us all (7 adults, 2 teenagers) out to Chili's. No good deed goes unpunished. The kitchen hit a total melt-down. For a long time nobody got food; then they got the wrong food; then some of them found the food they got wasn't so edible. But our nice waitress did her best, and everyone was as sweet as pecan pie.

Away Down South

Sunday 15 July

An amazing day. Went up to THE University of THE South at Sewanee, and happened upon the closing day of The 57th Sewanee Church Music Conference, with a chorus of 150 Anglican church musicians, specially composed anthems, and an organist literally pulling out all the stops (including trumpets) in the All Saints Chapel - which is like the University Church at Oxford plunked down in on a hill in Tennessee, but with a window dedicated to the ordination of women! Enough smells and bells to make the Pope sorry he had ever seceded with all his minions from the Church of England. And we got to see colorfully-surpliced choristers playing frisbee before lining up.

Afterwards we had a good solid cafeteria lunch (turkey and dressing and whatever else you wanted) in the amazing McClurg Dining Hall, the sort of thing that Gothic revivalists could only dream of (and no one could budget for).

Then on to the moving and elegant Chapel of the Apostles, which should be seen to be believed.

And just for fun, we drove off-campus to see the grandiose Templeton Library, founded by Sir John Marks Templeton. It's a giant Palladian villa, and was supposed to hold his papers, but now it seems to have been been turned into condominiums. Quite the view off the back porch (the whole expanse of the Sewanee valley), and in the front is the funniest fountain ever built, with a Disney-esque statue of the financier holding his very own book, The Humble Approach. Humble, indeed.

Oh, and then there was dinner. We went back to JoDee and David's for a summer meal of fresh corn, tomatoes that tasted like tomatoes, and chicken quesadillas that tasted like quesadillas.


Saturday 14 July

We drove down to Holt's sister JoDee's house in Tennessee. Holt's Dad took us out to Jim and Nick's Bar-B-Q. Mighty fine eatin' for a chain. Holt had the baby back ribs and brisket, Barbara the pulled pork. Both were pretty lip smacking. The "sides" were great: collards (still with some texture), creamed spinach, fine renditions of potato salad and baked beans, plus a house specialty of "cheese biscuits," really more like corn muffins made with grits, soft and almost creamy inside. Plus all the moist towelettes you could handle. We took home a lot in our doggie bags, and it wasn't for the doggie.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pork scaloppine with lime and chili

Friday July 13 (oooooh…)
A sort of variation on the standard veal/pork piccata, mostly because we had a dollop of butter from the chile corn.
So we fried up your basic slices of pork breast, but dusted with cumin, coriander and kosher salt. Then we deglazed the pan with wine, and monter-ed au beurre with the lime/butter/chili juice.
Served this with the cute, cute, cute, baby squash. Just steamed for a minute and perfect for swirling around in the sauce.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Piazza Bianca with Zucchini Flowers

Thursday 12 July
We're still in a lovely glut of squash blossoms, so we made a pizza bianca topped with same. The dough (frozen from last time) reanimated beautifully while we were at work. With a schmear of olive oil (olive oil comes in schmears now?), garlic, and a sprinkle of grated Swiss cheese, it was delicious, though a scattering of salt would have been an improvement. The untraditional Swiss was chosen because it was what we had in the house - exclusively, but it wound up giving a little extra flavor that the store-bought brand of 'Merkin mozzarella might have lacked.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Galettes de pommes de terre, saumon fumé, crème fraîche

Wednesday July 11

Okay, okay, it's latkes, just like we had at Hanukkah. But this time with real sour cream, red onion, and chives from the garden. And isn't it pretty?

Jean-Robert at Pigall's

Tuesday 10 July

July tenth is Barbara's birthday, so Attention Must be Paid and a Special Dinner Must be Had (Birthday of a Salesman). Holt chose Jean-Robert at Pigall's, which is one of the city's top tables. It's an elegant and understated place, nicely quiet, with beautiful appointments and meticulous yet friendly service. The staff makes you feel special and welcome, and the food is special (and welcome) too, using local ingredients in interesting and delicious ways. Here's what Jean-Robert (himself - see below) presented.
First, some house sparkly and amuse-bouches (because Americans can't pronounce "gueules"): a crisp little packet of duck confit, and salmon rillette on an egg mimosa.
For appetizers, lamb shank raviolis (made with gyoza wrappers) in a sauce of more of the savory meat, mushrooms, and sugar snap peas; and a plate of luscious sweetbreads (you can't say "luscious calf's thymus glands" with a straight face) on a bed of white grits adorned with Serrano ham and various roasted vegetables. The same treatment would be good for seared scallops, and in fact the flavors and textures of the two are not so different.
As main courses, we had halibut with a watercress "crust" - really a topping - accompanied by purple potatoes, sunchokes, and fiddlehead ferns (very woodsy) in a nice Thai-style carrot and lemongrass sauce; and half a guinea hen on a (soggy) potato galette; but the herb-and-riesling reduction was nice, as were the asparagus, mushrooms, and brined radishes alongside.
The wine was a nice but rather characterless Provençal rosé; it's tough to match a dinner that's so light but substantive. The gent at the next table was ecstatic about his Lake Chalice Pinot Noir from Marlborough NZ, and perhaps next time we'll have something meatier to go with that.
For dessert, Holt ordered bittersweet chocolate tart with cherry ice cream and coulis; and Barbara had rhubarb mousse formed into a rocket and set in a launch-pad of pistachio frangipane, with goat cheese-honey ice cream. The odd shape of her choice made it difficult for the staff to insert the necessary birthday candle, but they managed to stick it in the side of the frangipane. They are too well-bred to sing, which was appreciated, but they slipped in a wrapped pound cake for later, and of course some chocolate truffles to go with the coffee. As we were sipping, Jean-Robert himself ambled by, and we discussed his burgeoning Cincinnati restaurant empire. Frankly, we'd be happy if he got even more restaurants than the four or five he has; despite the odd slip, his cooking is elegant, creative, and damn tasty.

Poulet Célestine

Monday July 9

This is pretty much the same as what we had on May 14, but we used four thighs instead of two breasts, we did have cognac, and the tomatoes were far better, farm-grown, from a stand at Findlay Market. When we complimented the farmer on his produce, he said, "WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" So we obligingly shouted how good his tomatoes were, in earshot of all his prospective customers. Barbara, following in her foremothers' footsteps, then asked him if he'd take fifty cents off the price for good publicity, but somehow he didn't hear that either, and she didn't mind.


Sunday July 8

More meat! Still more meat! So it was hamburgers with fried onions on english muffins - in fact, just what we had on January 19, but without the potatoes. We did, however, have Parker's Perfect Pickles, freshly made and jarred in June, as in the picture.

Superfast Steak, Potatoes, and Fresh Pickles

Saturday July 7

We're still on a meat rampage, so we bought a couple of T-bones and threw them on the grill while nuking some russet potatoes to be adorned with sour cream and chives at the table.

But the pièce de resistance was the Superfast Salt-and-Sugar Pickles, a recipe from the June issue of Food & Wine. Holt had found some perfect tiny cucumbers at the Farmers' Market, and he sliced them fanwise and salt-and-sugared them as directed. After ten minutes, he washed off the salt and we crunched them up. They were great, but the salt-monster he lives with is encouraging him to try not rinsing them next time.

Chard & Yard (Sausage)

Friday 6 July

One thing we were sure of - we wouldn't have fish for dinner again today. We got out some Eckerlin's yard sausages, but instead of doing them with onions as usual, we heeded the call of the rainbow chard plant, which was putting out more leaves than it could hold up. The cooking method was not so different from THIS, but we didn't add potatoes.
Somehow the flavors of the yard sausage and chard just didn't go together - perhaps it needed a mustard sauce or some other shot of savoriness. Next time, we go back to onions.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Everything from a Salmon III: Chowdah

Thursday 5 July

The whole poached salmon made its final appearance, as chowder. While breaking up the salmon at the end of the first meal, we save the poaching liquid, leftover cream sauce, mirepoix, any scrappy bits of salmon, and any platter juice in one big jar. What I love about this is that it's so rich that it congeals into a sort of fish jelly.

So into a pot go some onions, to brown lightly in butter, or with a rasher or two of snipped-up bacon, if you have it - we didn't. Then add diced potatoes, with just enough water to barely cover. Cook them with lots of salt till tender. In the meantime, take the three cobs of bi-color corn you had deliberately left over from vedge-fest, the day before yesterday, and scrape them off the cobs with a knife. When everything else is tender and done, add them, all their juice, and the fish jelly with all the stuff in it, plus any scraps of salmon that may have been hiding elsewhere. When it's hot, add milk to the consistency that seems right to you, thickened, of course, with lollops of cream. And when that's hot, pour it into bowls and put your head down in it.

This means we've had seafood every night from last Thursday on, except for Tuesday's vegetables. Oh, and we didn't finish all the chowder. Like Achilles and the Tortoise or Napoleon brandy, there's always just a little bit left.

The Glorious Fourth

Wednesday 4 July

Jean and Donald kindly invited us, Susan, and Mike over for an Independence Day celebration, which was supposed to begin with a pleasant swim in the pool. This was unfortunately forestalled by an enormous monsoon-like thunderstorm, so we sat, dry and happy, in their pleasant parlor instead, and relaxed with wine and cheese (brie, blue, feta, and cheddar), spicy hummus, crackers and chips.

When we proceeded to the red, white, and blue-bedecked table, we cleared our palates with a green salad with ginger dressing while Jean and Donald pampered us, constantly topping up our glasses and filling our plates. The main course was a superb salmon (!!!), served as broiled fillets topped with pesto and decorated with lime slices. What I think is a close approximation is published here.
Accompanying the salmon was a palette-like platter of colorful broiled vegetables: green and yellow squash, eggplant, onions, mushrooms, sugar-crisped carrots, and red, green, and yellow peppers. Oh, and some rice, which supplied the white. Everything was tender and tasty.
Of course, the pièce de resistance (what is this, Bastille Day?) was dessert. Here Jean could return to her patriotic color scheme: fresh strawberries and blueberries, home-baked shortbreads, and whipped cream to cement them together. So we patriotically ate till our eyes popped.

Though the rain was still threatening, when it got dark we drove out to Oak Park and enjoyed the fireworks display. It was a festive crowd, and the screech of rockets was almost drowned out by the delighted screams of small children. Despite a bit of drizzle, we oohed and ahhed through the entire display, and Mike, who was smart enough to bring a camera, got some pictures.
Then Jean brought us back home and forced us, yes, FORCED us, to eat Frango chocolates and drink cognac - or absinthe (whose reputation for deadliness is not unmerited). She is the hostess with the mostes', no doubt about it. So thanks, Jean and Donald!

Vegetable Medley

Tuesday 3 July

After so much fishy goodness, we turned to the vegetable kingdom. (We once tried to convince a vegetarian friend to become an ichthyophagous vegetarian like another friend, Janet, by claiming that fish are as dumb as vegetables. This piece of sophistry was unsuccessful.)

We set about cooking various vedge using three types of heat: boiling, frying, and roasting (not in fact as bad an idea for a summer's day at it might first appear).

1. Beets, roasted. Tender, baby beets went into the oven at 475º first, since even baby beets take longer than anyone else.
2. Beet greens, sautéed, with shallot and garlic, following the advice of Chef Julie at Nectar, whom Barbara ran into at Findlay Market. Needed a splash of wine and to be covered. Monter-ed au beurre (monty-o-burr-ed?) at the last moment. Amazing how a sink-full of greens cooks down to two heaping tablespoons each. Tasty, but not perfect like hers.
3. Corn, boiled: 5 ears of bi-color corn in a pot of boiling water. Saved three for chowder. Served them painted with a chili-lime butter.
4. Garlic, roasted: Garlic is a vedge round these here parts. A handful of cloves tossed, unpeeled, into the beet roaster. Went pretty fast, 'cuz they were nearly caramelized by the time the beets were done.
5. Asparagus, roasted. Once the beets were done, we extracted them to a bowl to cool and substituted the asparagus.

What's amazing is how perfectly the beet skins peel off when rubbed in paper towels (it also would help to have Julia Child's asbestos fingers, though). Maybe Helene would like beetskin paper to go with tomatoskin and onionskin?

Somehow, eating only vegetables makes you feel virtuous - until you start breathing roast-garlic breath on everybody.

Salmon Cakes, or Salmon Redux II

Monday 2 July

One of the things we like most about making whole poached salmon is the leftovers, and the leftovers of the leftovers. We always get three meals from a whole salmon: the salmon proper (der Lachs an sich), then cakes, then chowder (see above).

This was also the showdown, the Cake-Off: Salmon Cakes vs. last night's Crab Cakes. The salmon cakes, again with mayo and a little chopped red onion and celery in the mix (not too much, this ain't tuna salad), won, we think, by a small margin, though they were helped along by a caper deglazing sauce, and a cuke and tomato salad on the side.


Sunday 1 July

Ever since we bought the salmon, we knew we were going to have a fishy week of it. So, since we didn't finish off the crab enchiladas, and we also had some crab left over, we decided to have Crabfest '07. We made up some little crab cakes (as usual, with a little chopped red onion, and mayo to bind) and had them with the nuked crab enchiladas. Not bad, but as we always say, Vaden's Ginger makes the best crab cakes in the world.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Whole Poached Salmon

Saturday 30 June

Barbara caught this big salmon at Kroger's (it didn't fight much), so we invited Julie and Liz over for an impromptu Saturday Night Sit Down.

The recipe is simplicity itself, straight from Julia's The Way to Cook. Make a big batch of mirepoix of vegetables, cut in 1/4 inch dice, with the usual suspects: carrots, celery, and onions. Sauté the carrots first in lots of butter, then add the other guys. Put the vedge down as a bed in a fish poacher, or a pan big enough for Mr. Fish (who can be curled up if you need to). Stuff the cavity where the guts used to be (check first for guts) with sprigs of thyme, parsley (if you got it, ours is bolted now), and here's the secret: TARRAGON.

Pour in an inch of wine, cover and cook over a low flame or two, for about 40 minutes. I set the automatic probe thermometer to 140º, but alas, the only defect of the automatic probe thermometer is that you can't hear it out by the garden where we were having margaritas for which Julie brought the fixins. We're planning to combine the A.P.T. with a baby monitor, and become gazillionaires. We also had chips and a freshly made pico de gallo: just diced-up tomatoes and red onion, plus chopped fresh coriander, lime, and salt. The theme of the evening was obviously vegetables diced into tiny cubes.

We rescued Mr. Fish, pulled off the skin and the brown bits. Set aside most of the tiny dice of mirepoix, then poured all the sauce into the cleverly reserved and NOT washed up pan in which we'd initially sautéed the mirepoix. Then we added more of the magic tarragon, and some chopped up leaves of sorrel. Reduced the sauce, added cream, and returned mirepoix to the pan at the end to heat up. Some of the resulting sauce got poured over the plattered fish for decoration, and the rest got passed at the table, with nice pieces of the salmon fillets. Served with a lovely Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi, which Liz brought.

Dessert was Graeter's Peach ice cream, which we think is our favorite flavor, especially since it's only available in fresh-peach season, that is, right now. We topped it with some local black raspberries, rising from their bath of Triple Sec like some goddess or other on the half-shell.

Squid and Squash (Blossoms)

Friday 29 June

Barbara planted a bunch of monstrous-looking yellow squash and zucchini plants in the garden this spring, all for the sake of (eventual) squash blossoms. Actual squash is only a side benefit, a result of her letting a few get away and develop beyond the point where you can batter-fry the tiny little things. After all, you can buy squash anywhere, but squash blossoms are rare, precious, and also delicious.

I came up with this batter one summer in Rome, when Barbara was away on a dig. I had no recipe but I tried to duplicate what we had had together in various restaurants, especially those in the Jewish Ghetto of Rome. So separate an egg (for this big batch of stuff, three). Whisk up the white until foamy. They don't have to be stiff, like for a soufflé or anything. Then whisk enough flour into the yolks to make a stiffish paste. Fold the whites in to the yolk paste. Add a pinch of salt e eccolo!

I delicately opened the flower petals with my fingers, spread the blossoms wide, and gently slid in a sliver of mozzarella mated with a fragment of anchovy. Stroked and twisted each flower closed, the green veins making gothic tracery on the orange leaves Each swollen pod, full to bursting, dipped in the batter . . . OK, Mr. Obvious Man will stop now.

We used the old electric skillet, better known as the chicken pan for its role in making fried chicken (which we never do). But we needed more protein, so after the squash blossoms were done and keeping hot in the toaster-oven, a handful of squid rings went into the remaining batter and were soundly fried.

Served squid on one side of the plate, squash blossoms on the other, with a wedge of lemon in the middle. All we needed was the Adriatic - or at least the Tiber.