Monday, August 27, 2007

Off to London

Yes, Dear Friends,
Holt and Barbara are off to Merrie England.
There's good food to be had and dollars to be hemorrhaged.
We'll continue the blog of culinary adventures once we're settled in.

Posole, reprise

Sunday 26 August

The posole that I remember from Wednesday. Like most stews, even better a few days later, when it's had a chance to get comfortable with itself.

Italian Sausages with Poblano Chiles

Saturday 25 August

We had some Italian sausages (made at our local German butcher shop) left over from Saturday, but instead of grilling them with bell peppers and onions in the classic Feast-of-San-Gennaro street-food fashion, we sautéed them (first open, then closed) with our own poblano peppers (sliced) from the garden, some non-ex-garden onions, and some chopped very-much-ex-garden tomatoes (mainly black plums and San Marzanos). The tomatoes broke down and helped make the onions and peppers meltingly tender as they steamed with the browned sausages under the lid, and the poblanos added a spicy kick of their own. You could have put this on an Italian hard roll and walked around with it, but why bother?

Summer fare at Julie's

Friday 24 August

Our friend Julie is a painter, and loves vivid colors and vivid flavors. So going to her house for dinner is always a pleasure, even when the outdoor temperature is hovering around 100 degrees and cats stretch their paws under the doors to test the strength of the air conditioning. We brought cold white wine and garden tomatoes, and our friends Kathy and Russel brought cold white wine and English barley water. This is the first time we've tried the latter; when mixed with ice water, it's more like lemonade than the thin gruel I thought it would be.
Julie wisely followed the weather conditions and made an all-cold summer spread. It started with wrapped bites of melon in prosciutto, and sliced tomatoes sprinkled with fresh basil. Then came cold lemon chicken, accompanied by potato salad in a dill-yogurt dressing and a cucumber salad in vinaigrette. Finally, there was Graeter's peach ice cream, the best flavor that Graeter's has, and that's saying a lot. And of course (did I mention?) cold white wine, before, during, and after. We were revived, relaxed, refreshed… all those re-things. Thanks, Julie!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Chicken with Zhough

Thursday 23 August

We ran across the enormously entertaining blog,
and were introduced to zhough, which is a wild and hairy Yemeni chile pesto. We followed the Tiny Banquet Committee's recipe, which comes from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets.

We used our bright green jalapeños from the garden. Now, I know what your thinking. OHIO chiles, which must be like Cincinnati chili. No way José! These boys were fierce. When I first sliced them up, I began sneezing, and the zhough spiced the air throughout the lower floor of the house. I made the paste up in the morning, and despite numerous interim hand-washings, when I wiped my lips at lunch the residual chile oil still toasted my tender flesh. I was beginning to wonder how I was going to get my contact lenses out that night.

We followed the TBC's advice and stuffed this hell paste under the skin of a pair of chicken bosoms. Sautéed in oil, a bit of wine, covered. Barbara had the brilliant idea of adding some cream to the sauce, and we also tossed in some steamed diced potatoes that I had been thinking of smashing. The result was wonderful: zippy but not to the level of cellular disruption that I'd been fearing. The cooking had tamed the chiles and the creamy sauce was perfect on the tatties.

Tom and Lynne joined us for wine and travelers' tales (but not the jihadi chicken).


Wednesday 22 August

The posole that I remember from my New Mexican childhood may not be the posole that I actually had in my New Mexican childhood. Nevertheless, the recipe is an attempt to recreate a Proustian moment (if Proust had had a New Mexican childhood). The first adult version came about on New Year's Day 1999 (posole is traditional for good luck on New Year's) with a frozen 5-lb. bone-in pork loin that had escaped notice in the back of the freezer. We pressure-cooked the porkberg and it worked pretty well. Our version of posole is sort of a green chile stew, and it's never made exactly the same way twice.

Today's recipe (to the extent that there is one) is Holt's, but except for the initial roasting and skinning of 6 or 7 poblanos from the garden, the execution was Barbara's.

First, get your pork: any cheap cut, in this case three pounds of "Western-style ribs," which turned out to have only two tiny bone fragments in them. Chop it into chunks, and sauté them in oil (or if you trim them a bit, in their own fat) in a dutch oven. Open up two one-pound cans of posole (ideally one white, one yellow). When the pork is browned, drain the posole water from the two cans into it, add a sliced onion and two or three peeled garlic cloves, cover, and simmer for an hour and a half. At the end of that, add the reserved posole, plus another sliced onion and more garlic if you want it; the previous flavorings will have dissolved in the broth. Also add your previously-roasted and chopped poblanos (or, okay, a pound or more of canned green chiles), the leaves from a big bunch of coriander (reserving a handful) and the juice of one lime. Simmer this (open or closed, depending on how liquidy it is) for another half hour, until the onion is tender and the pork is shredding nicely. Stir in the reserved coriander, season with salt, and serve in big bowls, with beer on the side. There'll be enough left over for another meal at least.

Stop by our house, and say those six words that mean so much: "I'll have a bowl of green."

Fettucine al Salmone

Tuesday 21 August

Do I repeat myself?
Very well then I repeat myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
And I may get larger still . . . so there!

Chiles Poblanos Nuestros

Monday 20 August

We've done the stuffed poblanos many times before (here, here, and here), but this time they came from our own garden, as did the tomatoes and the coriander (but not the goat cheese).

The salsa was made with the contrasting dark Purple Cherokees and a bunch of the bright yellow Sunburst cherry tomatoes, quartered (also diced red onion, coriander, and lime juice, of course).
Both were very juicy, but too juicy for a bed of pico de gallo, so we drained the mixture. Barbara then had the brilliant idea of adding a shot of vodka into the drained liquid and pouring it into glasses with ice. ¡Ole! and the best ever Bloody Mary was born.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Eggs Beatrice

Sunday 10 August

We invented Eggs Beatrice. I want to make that perfectly clear. Now, I'm not claiming that other people haven't invented Eggs Beatrice since, or even that we necessarily invented Eggs Beatrice first, merely that we came up with the idea ourselves one fine lazy morning around 1985. We had made (and eaten) Eggs Benedict, and began to speculate what Eggs Beatrice might be. Barbara suggested that if he was a bit of a ham, she was a bit of a cold fish. So Eggs Beatrice was born: Nova Scotia lox instead of Canadian bacon (both of which are neither . . . you know the rest . . . discuss) and —this is the important part— a lime hollandaise. If it doesn’t have lime hollandaise, then you know it's merely some pale imitation of our Eggs Beatrice.

The great difficulty is getting everything au point at the same moment (which may be one of the great differences between us the dedicated amateurs and them the professionals). The eggs poached exactly so that the whites are firm but yolks set on the outside only, still slightly liquid in the center; the EngMuffs toasted and still warm; the lox thin-sliced by a Certified Loxologist and laid out in EngMuff-sized circles to lose its chill; the lime hollandaise just thickened, being continually whisked so it doesn't scramble; the plates warmed, the table set, the wine poured.

Then you build it all together as fast as you can: warm plate, toasty EngMuff, splash of lime hollandaise schmeared on it, circle of lox, perfect poached egg, generous ladleful of lime hollandaise, and finally, a gentle sprinkle of cayenne for contrast over the top; in this case, times four, two eggs each as a full dinner portion. Then fall to, and if you've done it right, they're snarfed up immediately. In fact, we generally award this the Order of the Finger, which is used to wipe up every delicious trace of lime hollandaise from the plate.

All-day Tomato Sauce, Pesto Pasta, and Eye-talian Sausage

Saturday 18 August

While Eve was delving out in the garden, Adam was cooking. The tomatoes, despite the ravages of one b*st*rd squirrel who takes a healthy bite of a single tomato a day and then just tosses it aside (doesn’t it know there are squirrels starving in China?), are coming in thick and strong.

So Saturday was spent reducing a trug-load of tomatoes into sauce. The black plums needed to be skinned, so the whole factory went on high alert: making little x's in the base of each tomate, then dunking them all in boiling water for a minute, then peeling each one. Also took the time to roast and skin lots of poblanos for stuffing and posole later on this week. Some 5 lbs. or so of black plums, San Marzanos, Early Girls, and Rutgers, a handful of garlic cloves, a mess o' onions, and a small copse of oregano went into the pot to cook down for four hours. Whatever was left over from tonight's dinner (and it wasn't much - this sauce really reduces) would be labeled "red gravy" and put in the freezer for a couple of meals down the road.

Nice home-made sauce demands nice fresh pasta, so in the interval I kneaded up a batch, tossing a cube of pesto into the mix. It produced a splendid dark green pasta, which we sliced into fettucine.

Finally, fried up some gen-you-wine Eye-talian sausage (from Eckerlin's - count on Germans to be Italian), let it stew a bit in the lovely sauce, put it all together, and Roberto è tuo zio!

Florentine Steak and Beans

Friday 17 August

We still had some lovely Tuscan beans, and what better to go with them than a lovely Tuscan steak. Well, New York strip, actually, but we did grill and anoint it with olive (?) oil and lemon like a true Fiorentina.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Thursday 16 August

Another place that's both trendy and perfectionist about its food is our friend Liz's house. We brought the herbs, and Liz made a perfect summer dinner out of them (and other things).
Mojitos to start with (mint).
Then pizza margarita with fresh mozzarella (and Genovese basil).
A cool chicken and papaya salad (with Thai basil in the dressing) - and now we know how ripe papaya is supposed to smell and taste.
And a very refreshing dessert of grapes in thick yogurt, sprinkled with brown sugar.
Lots of wine and good conversation, of course, with Liz and her friends and colleagues, Patrick and Aarati.


Wednesday 15 August

This was the day to take Holt's Blue Ribbon Vest out on the town. So after a look-in at the Saul Steinberg show at the Art Museum, we went to Daveed's, which is both trendy and perfectionist about its food.

We started with an amuse-bouche: a spoonful of avocado-citrus salad (grapefruit, lemon, and lime) sprinkled with passionfruit juice and "ginger caviar" - ginger and basil seeds, I gather. There was also a wonderful white bean-zucchini puree served with rosemary bread to mop it up.

For our real appetizers, we had cold grilled shrimp with yuzu, seaweed, sweet chili, and little rolls of purple rice, and nicely-seared Digby Bay sea scallops, perfectly au point, topped with candied lemon peel, napped with yogurt and brown butter, and with a side of slightly pickled fennel. We split a split of Kenwood sparkling wine - appealingly appley, but a bit sweet, and should have been served colder.

The next course included a roast quail that had too many wildly different tastes going on around it: stuffed with an oyster dressing, but sitting on a bed of green curry, with coconut that sort of went with the curry, but shallots that went better with the dressing, and then an inexplicable (and to Holt, unwelcome) puddle of pink chicken liver purée - which Barbara took care of - and a fried quail egg on top. We liked the lamb chop better - succulence itself, it came with some actual fresh porcini that was not less succulent, and the shoestring, coffee, and vanilla potatoes were not bad alongside. We went with the suggested wine for the lamb, a 2004 Château Haut-Guiraud Côtes de Bourg; very tannic, but when our nice server decanted it for us, it opened up and became big, fruity and peppery.

We ended the meal with a clever dessert concept: creamy lemon panna cotta in a clear bing cherry soup with fresh cherries and almonds. Very refreshing, though we could have used a straw as well as a spoon. But that's Daveed's - surprising, and excellent.

Beans and Friends

Tuesday 14 August

"Beans and Friends" was one of the index entries in the old Moosewood Cookbook. Barbara made the beans, Holt grilled the friends.

Last Saturday, several of the farmers at Findlay Market had fresh cranberry beans, otherwise known as borlotti, in lovely speckled pink pods. I bought a pound or so, and prepared them in the casual way suggested here.

I shelled them, put them in a pot with water (to cover plus about a half inch), a couple of peeled garlic cloves, three black peppercorns, and a handful of fresh sage leaves. They simmered until tender, about an hour and a quarter for these fresh beans. I threw out the wilted sage, crushed up the garlic, added more salt and some olive oil, and let them cool in the fridge. Just before serving, I sprinkled more fresh chopped sage, salt, and pepper over them. Alongside, we put some Italian-style canned tuna in olive oil, again jazzed up with more oil and salt. The verdict: them boys is tasty.

Friends invited for the roast included sliced onions, red peppers, Portobello mushrooms, and tender little halved kousa squash (from Nancy at Shady Grove). All took a bath in olive (we hope) oil, were dusted with thyme and kosher salt, and had a nice lay-down on the grill. Once they moved to the platter, they were so pretty they had to have their picture taken.

Shrimp Paella

Monday August 13

My first archaeological excavation was at Alcudia, a Roman site on Mallorca, in Spain. Though we lived in a touristy large hotel where the food was "continental," i.e. bland and usually stale, there was one memorable excursion when the Director's housekeeper came to the beach with a wagonload of equipment, made a wood fire, and cooked a paella of freshly-caught seafood, ladling sea water right into her enormous woklike pan. It was one of the most delicious things I had ever tasted, though at age 18, and on my first trip abroad, I hadn't tasted much.

Needless to say, this recipe is not that, though it has its own virtues. Though labeled "healthy" and "easy," which usually indicates something nasty in the cook shed, it's actually delicious.
Here's our take on it.
Sauté a chopped onion and red pepper ditto in olive oil.* Add one cubed-up Spanish chorizo.** A generous pinch of saffron and pimentón della Vera get sautéed in the oil, too. Then 3/4 cup Arborio rice, coated in the fat, as for risotto, but then 1 1/2 cups broth (with some wine to fill it out) are poured in. Bit of salt. Covered on low for 25 minutes - the Arborio needed the extra 5 minutes - and you just throw the raw, de-shelled shrimp in to cook in the last 5-7 minutes. It's done when the shrimp is opaque and the rice is tender.
Simplicity its own self.

*after the big New Yorker article we're now afraid, very afraid.
** This is the smoked, hard sausage, not the loose crumbly Mexican kind.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Herbed Chicken Breasts with Green Beans

Sunday 12 August

We had bought an experimental papaya from the cheap people at Findlay Market the day before, a green thing about the size and shape of a football, but much heavier. We read up on papaya in New Joy (ours was probably Mexican; the papaya, that is) and got some recipes, most of which make it into salsa. We figured that chicken would be a good main ingredient for that, so we defrosted a couple of chicken breasts. And then we made the mistake of cutting open the papaya. It was by no means ripe. So jettison the southwestern chicken breasts with papaya salsa.

Scramble to the refrigerator to look for other inspiration. We had also bought some fresh-picked green beans from the Farmers' Market, so now we were thinking Middle rather than South American. And since there were ample amounts of garden thyme and rosemary, we just chopped some up and shoved it under the chicken breast skin. Then browned the chicken in olive oil, added white wine and the juice of a lemon, and let it cook covered for a half hour or so. We steamed the green beans separately, and when they were tender and the chicken was done, we plated it all out, reduced the sauce, and poured it over everything. Not what we thought we were going to have, but good nonetheless.

Seafood Stew

Saturday 11 August

Even though it was for lunch, we just had to show a picture of the lovely Purple Cherokee (right) and Rutgers (left) tomatoes from the garden: so flavorful, so juicy.

Holt had been dreaming about a stew of scallops and squid (both in bags in our freezer) in tomato broth (lots of tomatoes now coming in from the garden). He based his approach on the Cuisine of the Sun recipe for Suppions à la Nicoise.

So lots of chopped onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil, then half a bulb of fennel, sliced (the other half having gone into the napa sausages), then about half a package of thawed squid rings. Salt, pepper, and a generous pinch of saffron. Then lots of chopped tomatoes (black plums, which are rather small and would have benefited from being skinned). Wine to wet. We let this cook for 40 min. until the squids got tender, then tossed in a pound of little frozen scallops. The only trick is to get them off the heat after they're cooked but while they're still tender and not reduced to nubbins (or even pencil erasers). The result is light and fragrant and not too tomato-y.

Pernod would have been the best drink of the evening to follow this up, but we made do with an old, old, old bottle of arak, deeded to us by any number of Turkish friends/archaeologists/Turkish-archaeologist-friends.

Various Fish-Snacks and Fresh Artichokes

Friday 10 August

Holt had found some nice big globe artichokes at Findlay Market last Saturday, but trimming them, getting the pressure-cooker up to full speed, and then letting them cook for 25 minutes adds up to about an hour, and we tend to get hungry sooner than that. The solution is to have snacks in the interim. We ended up having three courses.

First, while in the throes of artichoke and sauce preparation, we had pickled herring snacks (from Blue Hill Bay, which is what Acme in Brooklyn calls itself when it wants to sound New Englandy) on toast made from Holt's whole wheat bread.

Next, we had salmon cakes, made out of the leftover materials referred to yesterday, simply held together with a bit of mayonnaise, dipped in the last of the breadcrumbs, and fried.

Our last course, of course, was the artichokes. We served them with two dips: mayonnaise flavored with curry powder and a drop of soy sauce; and a green sauce of garden sorrel and garlic chives, lemon juice, and capers, whizzed up with some olive oil. Worth waiting for.

Tilapia with tarragon stuffing

Thursday 9 August

As stated below, Holt found the sauerkraut a bit too sauer and so wanted something rather soothing for dinner. Not exactly a cena bianca, but a gentle meal.

This lovely recipe from Fine Cooking magazine was found by Googling.

The basic premise is that you fold tilapia fillets over a filling of breadcrumbs with sautéed scallions (we just used a bit of leftover onion), lots of tasty tarragon, and an egg to bind. Then pour wine/broth around and about, and bake at 400º for 20 minutes.

For the broth, we used a tub in the freezer labeled "Salmon Juice," a quick fumet we had made from the bones and bits of a whole salmon we bought on sale a while ago, cut into serving-size pieces, and froze for subsequent use. The "salmon juice" turned out to have more salmon than juice, but the liquid was perfect for this dish, with a touch more wine to eke it out. The salmon bits got fished out (get it? we've done this joke before, haven't we?) and mixed in with some breadcrumbs left over from the stuffing, ready to make salmon cakes the next day.

Rather than the mustard sauce the recipe calls for, we just deglazed with wine and added cream (yes, we finally got cream!), which made a scrumptious sauce. On the side, some of the last sweet little zucchinis from our garden, cut into batons and quick-fried until tender - and gentle.

Garlic Franks and Sauerkraut

Wednesday 8 August

It's been up around 100 degrees every day, and stepping out of doors is like walking into a clothes dryer. So quick meals that don't require much cooking become yet more attractive. Years ago, we had some excellent garlic metts from Kroger's Sausages, though they haven't made any since then. But while nosing around Eckerlin's butcher shop at Findlay market, Barbara spotted some sausages labeled "garlic franks." As Eckerlin's also sells home-made sauerkraut, she bought both, for a casual but complete summer meal.

When I (Barbara, if you haven't guessed already) was growing up in New York, my mother bought sauerkraut and pickles fresh from the barrels of "Very Good the Pickle Man" outside the Essex Street Market, on the Lower East Side. He was called that because the only words he ever spoke were "Very good, very good!" But Mom had to buy twice as much as she normally would for a Jewish family of five - because I could eat as much of it by myself as the other four combined. I got to be quite a feinschmecker about it too; for example, winter sauerkraut is far superior in texture and flavor to summer sauerkraut. But as Very Good and his barrels are long gone, one must compromise.

One would also never apply heat to true Lower East Side sauerkraut, but for regular kraut, I follow the American trend. We pre-fried the franks in a bit of oil, then threw the sauerkraut in on top and let them steam. It still needed more flavor, so we washed out the remains of a jar of mustard with a bit of Bitburger beer and poured it over everything. If you had a bun, you could put the dogs in it, but we just had them on a plate with more mustard; and of course, beer to go with it.

This meal satisfied the sauerkraut maven, but it gave the non-sauerkraut-maven an upset stomach. Ah well - perhaps we will return to this being a meal that one of us has when the other has to be away.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Gazpacho update

Alas, "the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact."*
I sent out a call to Language Hat and the response was most satisfying, if deadly for what I thought (in my ignorance) was the correct solution. The full discussion is here:
The gazaphylakion etymology, which seemed so plausible (by a bunch of syncopes: gaz(a)ph(yl)akion?) is totally boooooogus. The likeliest etymology is provided by the learned Polyglot Vegetarian from a *kasp-aceus, meaning roughly 'made out of scraps/residue'.

To summarize his findings:
The -acho suffix is from Latin -aceus (which I should have seen), a nice productive suffix, which passes through Mozarabic to show up as -acho.
The gasp- is from a pre- (or at least non-)Roman word *kasp-, which isn't Classical Latin, but does show up in a mess of Romance languages:
Asturian caspia 'apple residue'.
Dialectal Italian caspu 'grape residue'.
French gaspaille 'cereal residue'.

To which I will only add that Meyer-Lubke, Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch p. 809, no. 9685, derives these, Sicilian kaspu 'olive dregs' Piedmontese kaspi, Bergam. kaspe, SW French gaspa all 'wine dregs' from Arabic kusb 'Satz beim Ölpressen'; but then says "doch sieht man nicht wie ein arab. Wort nach Norditalien gelanngt sein kann." "But one cannot see how an Arabic word made it to North Italy." A punto.

The helpful readers provided even earlier attestations of gazpacho in Spanish in Arte de Marear AUTHOR: Guevara, Antonio de. (1481-1545) DATE: 1513.
While earlier English versions are found in the earliest translations of Quixote. The history of the valorous and vvittie knight-errant, Don-Quixote of the Mancha Translated out of the Spanish., London : Printed by William Stansby, for Ed. Blount and W. Barret, 1612.
"I had rather fill my selfe with a good dish of Gaspachos, then bee subject to the misery of an impertinent Physician, that would kill mee with hunger."

And there the matter rests, except, of course, an etymology meaning "made out of leftovers," suits our style of cooking so much better than even "treasure house."

*Thomas Henry Huxley, Biogenesis and Abiogenesis (1870)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Tuesday 7 August

De gazpacho / no hay empacho "You can't have enough of a good thing," or so my Spanish dictionary informs me.

Still too freaking hot. This gazpacho was more a chopped salad than the grilled/puréed version we did last time. Garden cukes, red onion, half of a (third) prize winning poblano, the other red pepper left over from the Napa sausage meal, all in little cubes. These went into the fridge with a little chopped coriander, salt, lime juice, and sherry vinegar. Then we whizzed up the tomatoes (Rutgers, Early Girls, and Sungolds from the garden) and added them when we got home.

Holt had wanted to try adding some stale bread (a traditional ingredient after all; except, of course, that there's nothing that isn't a traditional ingredient in each of the absolutely unique and authentic gazpacho recipes). Verdict: the bread was probably a mistake. The various phase changes made the soup too much like a physics experiment: first, a solid (chopped salad stage), then a liquid (pureed tomato stage), then a colloidal suspension (porridgy bread stage). Not bad, mind you, just not as good as the grilled version.

Holt maintains the whole thing would have been better if the tomatoes had gone in at the beginning and been colder. Barbara maintains that refrigeration (in this case, it would have been for eight hours) spoils the taste of tomatoes. The outcome to be decided by the jury from Iron Chef (Japanese version, featuring at least one giggling actress) or two out of three falls, whichever comes first.

And now: More about gazpacho than you really wanted to know.
It's prety clear that the Ur-Gazpacho was similar to Greek skordalia, that is, a grinded up old bread+garlic+oil kind of thing.
Even in the first definition in Spanish there is no single authentic recipe: Diccionario de Autoridades (1734): "Cierto género de sopa o menestra, que se hace regularmente con pan hecho pedacitos, azéite,* vinagre, ajos y otros ingredientes, conforme al gusto de cada uno. Es comida regulár de segadóres y gente rústica". (A certain type of soup or stew, usually made with bread torn into pieces, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and other ingredients, according to each person's taste. It is usually eaten by harvesters and country people.)

The etymology is wonderful. American Heritage says "Spanish, probably of Mozarabic origin; akin to Spanish caspicias, remainders, worthless things." But caspicias isn't attested until 1899.

The Real Academia Española's Diccionario de la lengua española (22d ed.) has finally tracked it down. We begin with Ancient Greek γάζα (gaza) 'treasure'; but wait, we can go even further back! Pomponius Mela (and who can doubt him) tells that it’s a Persian word, and sure enough there is a Persian ganj, Sanskrit gañja meaning 'treasure' (now before you get excited this is not to be confused with Sanskrit gañjâ meaning 'hemp'; Hindi gânjh(â)). So we have the Greek word γαζοφυλάκιον (gaza-phulakion) 'treasure-guarder', 'treasure house'. This is borrowed into Mozarabic as *gazpáčo and hence gazpacho, a little treasure house of edibles. Cool, huh, Indo-Iranian through Greek through Arabic to Spanish to our table.

If Language Hat can get me an etymology for gañja (and the other ganja, too), I'd appreciate it. Our cheap-ass university doesn't have a copy of Mayrhofer's Kurzgefasstes (!) etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindischen. We're all waiting for the musical.

The first Spanish dictionary, the Diccionario de Autoridades connects it with Italian guazzetto (a wild guess), but I repeat it for the sake of John Florio's wonderful definitions in one of the greatest dictionaries of all times and with one of the greatest titles Queen Anna's New World of Words (1611): "Guazzétto, any kind of fine sauce for meate. Also a kind of daintie pottage." and "Guazzéttare . . . Also to make good cheere with fine dishes or sauces up to the knuckles."

*azeite, Modern Spanish aceite likewise is borrowed from Arabic زَيْت zayt '(olive) oil' (with the definite article al-zayt/az-zayt.

The first attestation seems to be Cervantes himself, Quixote Book II. 53 (Sancho Panza resigns his governorship):
"Mejor me está a mí una hoz en la mano que un cetro de gobernador; más quiero hartarme de gazpachos que estar sujeto a la miseria de un medico impertinente que me mate de hambre."
(I'd rather have a sickle in my hand than a governor's scepter; I'd prefer to stuff myself with gazpacho than be subject to the misery of a meddling doctor who kills me with hunger.)
But then that's probably the gazpacho manchego (of course), which is more of rabbit stew.

Here's the OED's first citation: 1845 R. FORD Hand-book for Travellers in Spain I. I. 69: " a cold vegetable soup, and is composed of onions, garlic, cucumbers, pepinos, pimientas, all chopped up very small and mixed with crumbs of bread, and then put into a bowl of oil, vinegar, and fresh water."

Penne Carbonara with Ham

Monday 6 August

Still no sight of cream. Too d@mn hot to shop. Also too many eggs (mostly because we bought those lovely Amish eggs on top of a doz. we already had a home). So another quick improv. using the butt end of the first-cut ham we usually buy at Krause's. Just the usual carbonara (which we haven't had since 24 April; again the blog shows its worth—I would have sworn we had this every other week) but with little batonettes of the ham understudying the role of bacon. PDG.

Napa Sausages with Fennel, Onions, and Peppers

Sunday 5 August
Despite yesterday's heat, we'd had a successful raid on the market (as Auda Abu Tayi would have said). So we made our favorite sausages with the above-named vegetables braised alongside. The fennel added a different touch to the usual red bell peppers and onions.

Corm with Steak and Gorgonzola butter.

Saturday 4 August

Barbara is addicted (not too strong a word) to Lolcats. We now find it almost impossible to call it "corn" anymore.

Unbearable heat has set in. Findlay Market was starting to wilt. But we found a stand with some bright golden corn. We decided on a minimal heat/minimal prep. grilled New York strip steak ('bout 1 1/2", I think), so we thought we'd just grill the corm (see?) too. Probably a mistake. Whether the variety needed boiling or we just didn't leave it on long enough, the outer skins of the corN (see, I can do it, if I put my mind to it!) were pretty tough. Tasty, but rebarbative.

Barbara had wielded her chef/palette knife and made a mess of gorgonzola butter. For the steak, not the corm (dam', almost had it).

Salmon with Sorrel and No Cream Sauce; Quickle Pickles.

Friday 3 August

"Have we got cream?"
"Of course, we have cream."
"So is there anything else you can think of?"

The sorrel, which had bolted, is now back in force. So I (Holt) planned to make a sorrel sauce with the cream I had confidently assured Barbara was in the fridge. Two nice thick salmon steaks, fried in butter. Splash of wine and cover. 120º. Remove to heated plates. Chiffonade of sorrel in the lovely juice. Cook till wilted. Squeeze of lime. Open fridge. No cream. A quick rethink was in order. Maybe a hollandaise? But I'd used up all the egg-whites and didn't really have time (or the desire) to start a new frozen egg-white container. Béchamel? Too . . . white. So just monté-ed au beurre. And the result was splendid. Just lime and fish juice with the flavor of the sorrel coming through tart and clean. See, I planned it that way all along. But now I got me a terrible jones for hollandaise.

While all that was going on, Barbara made up a batch of quix pix, using this recipe.
It uses both horseradish and dry mustard, nice and spicy, but there is way too much dressing for just two cucumbers. I halved the amount, used three regular cukes from the garden (seeds and all - and didn't rinse the salt off, just drained and patted them dry a bit), and it came out very tasty.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Fair

Thursday 2 August

When I was a boy (which should be a clue to the attentive reader as to who is writing this part of the blog), we would always go to the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque. My father, who has the great and good gift of throwing himself into the quiddity of things, would ride the Tilt-a-Whirls, throw baseballs in the rigged games, and inspect the cows and horses with a knowing air. He and my Mom helped work our church's taco stand. The highlights were the sheep dog trials and the Indian art show (now apparently "Native American Art Gallery"), with the best potters, jewelers, and weavers from all over the state competing for the Best of Show ribbon.

Barbara and I have always liked county fairs, and have gone to the Wayne County Fair in the Poconos with Andi, Joel and the boys. But it was only after we moved to Cincinnati and went to our local county fair that we thought we'd try our luck. We struck gold (well, blue, actually) our first time out, and we've been hooked ever since.

The Hamilton County Fair is always held on the hottest week of the year, and opening day is adjusted accordingly to make sure lots of lemonade and beer gets sold. Nonetheless, we had a great time. We inspected the chickens and rabbits with a knowing air; we attended the cattle judging (our favorite part, because the judge always explains exactly what he's looking for; he has pronounced views on the proper "femininity" for heifers), and the traditional Demolition Derby. A llama attempted to kiss Barbara ("save the drama for your llama").

Since the rule is that all fair food on hot hazy summer days MUST be deep fat fried, or at least boiled for hours, our actual dinner was:
1. Dad's BBQ - a pulled pork sandwich cooked to the consistency of cotton wool, though it did have good flavor; and
2. the sine quo non of Ohio fair food, pork "tenderloin" - a cutlet sandwich, which with mustard, pickles, and a little onion, wasn't half bad. But the best tenderloin sandwich in the world (in our not-humble-at-all opinion), is at

Gnaw Bone Food and Fuel
4947 State Road 46E
Nashville, IN
as discovered by Jan and Michael Stern and written up in Gourmet.
Two recent blogs here and here.

And now, the PRIZES:
(drumroll, please)
For Holt:
BLUE RIBBON (1st premium) in Shaped Bread. The original idea was a wheat wreath, like on the old wheat-ear pennies, but I made the little ears way too big, and by the time the dough had risen, it had taken on a more succulent appearance. Following the Third Law of the Kitchen ("when all else fails, rename it"), I called it "Cactus Bread."
BLUE RIBBON (1st premium) in Hors d'oeuvres: Honeydew Melon Soup. We were right to favor the honeydew over the raspberry.
RED RIBBON (2nd premium) in Whole Wheat Bread. Mine was a pretty simple recipe I've been making since graduate school, a bit sweet with honey. The first prize winner was also best in show, and I could see why: a faultless round loaf, straight from the glossy pages of Baking with Julia, with a wheat shaft design in raised dough and a perfect dusting of flour. This is now my new benchmark (all right, what I really mean is I want to beat the guy next year. I think he also won first prize for rolls and even English muffins!)
RED RIBBON (2nd premium) in White Bread. This was my pane Pugliese, which I still maintain is the best bread ever, and I can only ascribe the second prize to massive corruption or temporary madness on the part of the judges.
RED RIBBON (2nd premium) in Sweet Pickles. These were the wonderful Parker's Perfect Pickles, adapted from this recipe in an issue of Gourmet so old it's not on Epicurious. Again, only corruption or madness explains this.

For Barbara:
BLUE RIBBON (1st premium) in Vegetables, specifically Swiss chard: yes, the Chard from the Yard, a frequent guest at our table and in this blog, was also a big winner at the Fair. Of course, it wilted a bit from the pressure, but luckily that was AFTER the judging.

WHITE RIBBON (3rd premium) in Vegetables, for Other Chile Peppers, i.e. three cute little Poblanos.
RED RIBBON (2nd premium) in Relishes, for Cranberry Chutney. We can't ever seem to get better than second prize in preserves, probably because we've got those vicious Amish farm women to contend with.

Last, and least to do with foodstuffs, though emphatically not least in importance:
BLUE RIBBON (1st premium) in Embroidery, for a vest for Holt. I started working on it five or six years ago, then had to set it down while my lens prescription changed, but the prospect of entering it into this year's Fair encouraged me, and I finished it the day before it had to be submitted. Now he can wear it proudly, and take me out to dinner in celebration - though we're not going to a place that makes pork tenderloin!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Cellentani with Chard-Tomato Sauce

Wednesday 1 August

Rabbit, rabbit. No that's not what we had; it's what you say on the first of the month to ensure good luck (a superstition inherited from Vaden, who assured us that if you fail to say it first thing, you can always make up for it by saying "Tibbar, tibbar" at the end of the day).

The herd of Swiss chard, too, was culled for the Fair, and the losers were promptly eaten. Swiss chard isn't Swiss and probably isn't even "chard," a situation complicated by the fact that this was Rainbow chard, but only one color; it's still the red sole survivor from last year's crop that wintered over.
The simple recipe is here.
We used a half a can of puréed tomatoes (from the eggplant parmesan stoo), which worked perfectly, especially when showered with grated romano cheese on the plate.

Three Cold Soups

Tuesday 31 July

Tomorrow, 1 August, is opening day of the Hamilton County Fair, so today was the day to get your entries down to the Agricultural Pavilion (4-7 PM). We've been entering (when we've been home) since 1999. Most of yesterday and today was spend trying various things and eating the results. We'll tell you how we did later.

Cold soups are perfect: the Fair enters them as hors d'oeuvres, and they need no cooking at this season, which is usually hotter than the hinges of - you know.

The first was raspberry. We had found some lovely berries at the Market, ate half of them immediately over Graeter's peach ice cream and dunked the rest into the true water of life, i.e. triple sec. Grinded up with a little drained yogurt to make the first soup, which was a kick in the palate of the essential juice of raspberry (as Mr. Mantalini no doubt said to Mrs. Mantalini).

The second was honeydew. We had tested the melon itself for dinner the night before, and it was lovely and sweet. Grind up fresh mint leaves with a little sugar (to act as grit), then blitz the honeydew. At this point you can add a little apple juice (the frozen concentrate) or orange juice, but usually it's best on its own. Yogurt, again, to taste. This we've been making for years, usually as part of a ying-yang soup. The yin is usually a similar cantaloupe soup, but flavored with the old folksong quartet of "cinnamon and ginger/nutmeg and cloves" (. . . "and that gave me / my jolly red noves"). Add two reserved melon balls for the spots.

After pouring off a cup each to enter at the Fair, we had a soup-off, with a lunchtime yin-yang. There was less raspberry, and the honeydew was more complex, but it still looked awfully pretty.

Dinner (not a Fair entry) was roasted vegetable gazpacho. While Holt's breads for the Fair were rising, we grilled some tomatoes and our first poblano pepper from the garden, plus a red onion. Stripped the skins, and whizzed them all up with cilantro and many a de-seeded cuke (which are also starting to appear in abundance, usually hiding under the leaves until they're bigger than Barbara wants them). This soup was waiting for us, nice and cold, when we got back from the fairgrounds. Served up with the smaller of the two loaves of whole wheat bread, whose big brother had gone off to see the Fair, and possibly been exchanged for some magic beans.

Honeydew, and Double-Squash Frittata

Monday 30 July

The first course was honeydew melon, being field-tested for one of tomorrow's cold soups.

In the garden, the squash blossoms are getting out of hand, so we culled the herd and made another freet, with some of the tiny, cute, actual yellow squashes cut up in it, too.

Barbara made ingenious use of Gentleman's Relish (and who doesn’t relish a gentleman, I ask you?), a relic of John and Priscilla's All English Take Home Christmas Gift from our 2005 visit. All the other prezzies (Cumberland and HP sauces, ginger in syrup, Old Hookie mustard, Eynsham honey) were eaten up long since, but the Gentleman's Relish has lingered on in somewhat reduced and drier circumstances - like many a gentleman before. Now Gentleman's Relish is in fact merely anchovy paste (as opposed to Poacher's Relish, which is smoked salmon), and so perfect for making the frittat-oid equivalent of zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy.

So we sautéed the diced tiny squashes, then poured over them six beaten-up, wonderfully yellow, Amish eggs. Squash blossoms were arrayed on top, scattered with fior di latte mozzarella, and then for the top, Barbara grated the somewhat crusty old gentleman together with the romano, and sprinkled it o'er with gay abandon (not that there's anything wrong with that). The usual final broil in the oven made the top even more golden than the squash, blossoms, and eggs had done already.

Taking Stock, and the resultant Chicken Enchiladas

Sunday 29 July

We had run out of frozen chicken broth and were making do with frozen veal stock cubes, which qualifies as a household emergency (okay, it's an odd household). So on Saturday we settled in to make a new batch.

Barbara is the chicken soup maven around here, but it has nothing to do with her Jewish heritage. Her mother's chicken soup was watery and unseasoned, and the soup and chicken we got on Friday nights while on excavation in Israel was appositely known as "wrung out of the kibbutz laundry." Instead, she was inspired by the Japanese cult classic Tampopo, where a hero rides out of the West and shows Tampopo how to make perfect broth for her noodle shop. The big secret was that the soup should simmer at the lowest heat, and it really works.

We like to make a large stock of broth here in the Department of Redundancy Department, and freeze it for continual use. So when we debone any raw chicken, whole or in parts, we put the mainly-defleshed bones, necks, backs, and wingtips into a freezer bag. When the stock of frozen broth runs low, we get out the bag, which now has a couple of pounds of bones in it, defrost it, and prepare it in the following manner.

A bag of raw chicken bones (about two chickens' worth)
cold water to cover and float them a bit
1 onion, peeled and quartered
celery leaves from one bunch of celery
a bay leaf or two
an odd number of whole black peppercorns (pure superstition - it can be as few as 3 or as many as 7)
a big sprig fresh parsley and/or thyme, if you have it; if not, never mind.
Note: no salt. You only add this later, depending on what you're making out of the broth.

The cooking method is essentially the same as that for the roasted chicken carcass that goes into Garbage Stew.

Put all the ingredients in a soup-pot and bring it to a low boil very slowly over medium heat; then immediately turn it down to the lowest heat possible and let it simmer (one bubble, then another - that's how slow it should be). This will prevent scum from rising to the surface, but even if it does, don't worry - you'll take care of that later. Let it simmer at least 2 hours, though it can go for 4 or 5, until it's a nice golden-green color. Then let it cool until it's handleable.

Now, process it for use and storage. Place a colander or sieve over a big bowl (ideally with a pour spout), and pour the broth through the colander. Put the bowlful of strained broth in the refrigerator, to deal with tomorrow. When the detritus in the colander is cool enough, pick over the bones and remove any edible meat, plus the soup onions (delicious, if a bit limp). You can put this stuff in some of the broth for soup, or chop it up for chicken salad or enchiladas (as in this case).

The next day, all the fat will have risen to the top of the bowl of broth and solidified, so you can skim it off and either throw it away or freeze it too, for later use as schmaltz. Underneath the layer of fat glimmers the clear soup - it may even be a bit gelled. Pour or ladle it off into 2-cup-sized plastic storage containers for freezing. Have lots of containers ready, but you needn't use more than 5 or 6. The way to do this is to pour the first container about 3/4 full of broth. Do the same thing with the next one, and the next. When the broth is beginning to run low, don't fill up a new one, but top up the containers that already have broth in them to 5/6 full. There may be some dark solid stuff toward the bottom of the bowl; if you're a purist, you can throw this away, though we usually store it separately and find some use for it.

Once you've got 5 or 6 containers of broth in your freezer, you can use as much or as little as you like, whenever you like. You can melt 2 or 3 at once for a meal of tortellini in brodo. Or you can pop out a still-frozen one and let it sizzle in a hot wok for a couple of seconds to moisten and steam your stir-fried broccoli, then put it back in its container and into the freezer again. And you can start stockpiling raw chicken bones in the freezer bag for your next bout of homemade stock.

Oh, and the resultant enchiladas were what we ACTUALLY had for dinner.

Fresh fettucine al salmone

Sat. 28 July

Yes, it's our old friend, Mr. Lox, but on Saturday there's time to make nice fresh pasta with lemon and white pepper (last seen Saturday 19 May).

This is the fifth time we've had this since we started the blog in September, which is really not too repetitive when you think of how easy it is and how much we like it. The basic philosophy is here:

Remember: a shot of lemon vodka in the cream, a shot of lemon vodka in the cook.

Eggplant Parmesan Stew

Friday 27 July

We had bought a pound and a half of little Italian eggplants from the Pepper People at last Saturday's Findlay Market, because we had a craving for the taste of eggplant parmesan; but it's summer, and we didn't want to do all that breading and frying and baking, especially on a Friday when we're tired anyway. Now, we've tried shortcuts before, and they haven't worked all that well. This time, we decided to skip the layering of the eggplant altogether, and use the basic parmesan ingredients to make a type of stew - though, in smaller amounts, this would also be fantastic as a sauce for pasta.

Take a pound and a half of large or small purple eggplants, skin them if necessary, and cut them into half-inch dice. Chop a large onion, and mince a couple of cloves of garlic. If you have nice, meaty fresh tomatoes, dice them up; but a can of crushed or diced tomatoes does as well. From the garden, collect a handful of fresh oregano and a half handful of fresh basil (ah, the joys of a summer garden); if the leaves are large, tear them up. If you happen to have your garden in California, collect a bay leaf from your laurel tree; unfortunately we do not, but fortunately our friend Phoebe does and has sent us a bough of real Turkish laurel, which we are treasuring with slow use.

Now, heat some vegetable oil in a large pan, and stir-fry the eggplant and onion under high heat; you hope it'll absorb less oil that way. Salt it as it darkens and gets tender; add more oil if necessary. When it's tender, lower the heat to medium/low and add the garlic, tomatoes and bay leaf and let them simmer for about a half hour, until the tomatoes are broken up and sauce-like.

While that's been going on, you have grated some parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, and cubed up a bocconcino or two of fresh mozzarella; we used one, plus a chunk of the Asiago pressato we got in Tennessee, which proved to be a great buy, more savory than the usual American fresh mozzarella. When the eggplant is very tender and the tomatoes properly saucy, shower them with the parmesan and the fresh oregano and basil, and cook them a bit more. Taste and adjust the salt, and add pepper if you like; then, at the very last minute, stir in the cheese chunks, and serve it into bowls (or onto a heap of pasta) immediately - you want the cheese to be still chunky in the stew, not completely melted.

This did what it was intended to do, and hit the Neapolitan spot.