Sunday, November 25, 2007


Saturday November 24

On Thanksgiving, after we had cooked all day and eaten all afternoon, everyone sat down to watch the animated film Ratatouille. We were charmed by the clever drawings and script, though while all the publicity for the movie concentrated on how the artists studied the movements and actions of real chefs, we were struck by how much they had studied the movements and actions of real rats.

The climax, of course, is the desperate moment when Remy the rat comes up with an elegant version of ratatouille to serve to the restaurant critic Anton Ego. The recipe was adapted from one by Thomas Keller, who also served as advisor to the film, and can be found on the World on a Plate blog.

We certainly didn't make such an elaborate, benriner-intensive recipe when we got home to our clean but cold house after a 350-mile drive from Illinois. Instead, we did the simplest version (no tomato-skinning, no pepper-roasting) of the peasant dish, cleaning out our vegetable bins for the various ingredients, and gradually shedding our coats in the grateful warmth of steam from the stew, while the furnace slowly brought the house's temperature up to the low 60s.

So heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a big non-reactive pot (avoid aluminum, unless you want your eggplant to resemble your rapidly decreasing gray-matter) and sauté a two large chopped onions and two minced cloves of garlic until transparent. Cube up two large eggplants (skinned, if necessary), add them to the pot with a dollop more oil, and keep cooking, adding more oil if they begin to stick or burn. When the eggplant cubes are dark and tender, throw in about a cup of chopped green pepper; we used our garden poblanos of course, but bell peppers of any color are fine. Cook a bit more, then add two cups of finely-chopped or puréed fresh tomatoes - again, these were from our garden, but good canned tomatoes are fine too. At the same time, sprinkle in about 2 Tbsps. of chopped fresh oregano, the same amount of fresh thyme leaves, and if you're not using poblanos, a dash of red pepper flakes. Let it all stew for 30 minutes more, until the flavors are melded and all the vedge is tender. Taste, and add salt as needed; if it needs a bigger shot of tomato flavor, squeeze in some tomato paste from a tube. Serve in big bowls with grated parmesan or romano cheese on top.

If you have leftovers (and we didn't), just wait - this tastes even better the second day.


Friday November 23

After slaving over various hot appliances all day yesterday, nobody wanted to cook at all, especially when there were so many tasty leftovers in the house. So all of them got re-hotted, the extra turkey breast was sliced, and Martha made some more cranberry relish (throwing in a few of Helene's pecans this time).

For dessert, JoDee sent a cheesecake, and along with it we managed to polish off the last of Jacob's pumpkin pie and Joanna's birthday carrot cake. It's a good thing we went for a long walk today, or we'd all look like Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons.

A Traditional Thanksgiving Feast

Thursday November 22

It was not just Thanksgiving, but our niece Joanna's eighteenth birthday as well. So at an interval in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (at a time when Barbara could be forcibly wedged out from in front of the TV), we celebrated with a hearty sausage strata and a carrot cake (made by Becky) cleverly decorated with carrots and "18"s in a checkerboard across the traditional creamy icing.

The feast was scheduled for 2 PM, so preparations began soon after the birthday breakfast got cleared away. Everybody pitched in, and to keep their strength up, Joanna made cream cheese-stuffed mushrooms, while we provided some of Helene's salted giant pecans and Barbara's smoked bluefish pâté. The latter was made the night before we left, according to this recipe, but this time it benefited from a squeeze of lemon juice in the process.

We were to be fourteen at dinner: Becky and her husband Steve; their children Melanie, Joanna, Madeline, Jacob, and Caroline; his parents Chuck and Martha; her and Holt's father Harold; friends Kelly and Genevieve; and of course Holt and Barbara. The meal combined a multitude of family traditions in a most satisfactory way, and no vital element was missed.

The main feature, of course, was the enormous turkey. This (plus an extra turkey breast) was barded with bacon by Martha, and roasted unstuffed.

Dressing in the southwestern tradition was made of crumbled cornbread and sausage, masterminded (along with everything else) by Becky.

The requisite sweet-potato casserole was dotted with brown sugar and toasted in the oven; Melanie increased the usual topping-to-sweet-potato ratio by cleverly undermining her second portion.

Joanna accompanied that with regular mashed potatoes (thus strengthening her biceps), as a canvas on which to display Martha's giblet gravy.

Holt roasted asparagus, while juggling the rolls that were also warming in the oven to do so.

And to please every palate, there were three kinds of cranberry sauce: Martha's raw cranberry and orange relish; Barbara's cranberry chutney; that jellied stuff from the can that the children adore.

The sweet finale was a picture-perfect pair of pumpkin pies, baked by Jacob.

What an accomplished - and full - family!

Taco Pizza

Wednesday November 21

Today we drove over to Carbondale, Illinois, to spend Thanksgiving with Holt's sister Becky and her family. Our niece Melanie was coming home from college that same day, so to welcome her, Becky made her favorite, taco pizza, pretty much as she had this time last year. Not to mention Cool Ranch Doritos and salsa. So I won't mention them. Nor shall I mention praeteritio.

Instead of a green salad, Holt cooked up some extra grated carrots left over from the carrot cake (see above) with ginger and lemon juice; very tasty, and surprisingly popular even with the vegetable-reluctant among the children.

For dessert, Becky made crèmes brûlées to celebrate Holt's birthday, and we licked every little cup clean.

Holt's Birthday Dinner

Tuesday November 20

Since we were going to drive to a big family Thanksgiving in just two days, Holt decided to have a quiet birthday celebration at home this year. Not that it wasn't going to be fancy. Here is the menu:

Beef tenderloins: Holt cleverly cut two choice inch-and-a half-thick slices off the ends of the tenderloin we served to Jeff and Caroline this past summer, and froze them for just such an occasion. They were crusted with thyme and kosher salt, seared in a hot pan, flipped every two minutes, and then set in the oven until they reached 120 degrees, just barely medium rare.

Chanterelles sauce: to enrobe (good word, huh?) the meat, we got fresh chanterelle mushrooms from Madison's and made the sauce that La Côte Basque used to serve with veal medallions, saving one or two chanterelles to top each tenderloin, as directed. Holt also had a lot of fun flaming the cognac.

Turnip gratin: we've had this very recently, but loved it so much we had to have it again, only this time we used goose fat. Its spicy creaminess went very well with the strong woodsy flavors of beef and mushrooms.

With the meal, we served a nice little bottle of red…Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1989. We bought a case of this wine in 1991, when it was named Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year. We thought we were splashing out then, when it was $35 a bottle, but now it's up to $200-300. Aging has made it lighter but more complex, and its rating is higher now than it was in 1991; but as we've said before, it throws a sediment like a raisin pie, and has to be strained and decanted.

Every birthday demands cake; Holt's demands chocolate cake. So he decided to bake our nephew's chocolate soufflé cupcakes. They're delectably intense, and intensely delectable, so here's the recipe.

Mike Sosin's Chocolate Soufflé Cupcakes
(makes 12 cupcakes)

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 stick butter, plus extra for greasing a muffin pan
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. natural process cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
4 Tbsps. flour
pinch salt
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt the chocolate with the butter and vanilla, either in a double boiler or the microwave. In another bowl, thoroughly mix the sugar, cocoa powder, flour, and salt.

With your mixer starting at low and gradually working its way up to high, beat an egg at a time gradually into the chocolate mixture. Blend in the dry ingredients a little at a time, so there are no lumps. Beat at high for 5 minutes, and then refrigerate for 5-10 minutes.

Abundantly butter a 12-cup muffin pan, and dust a little cocoa powder into each one. Fill each cup with the cooled batter, about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until puffed up; serve at once.

You can serve these with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream on top, with a fruit sauce lapping the bottom, or both. But as Mike says, they are good all alone.

Sorrel Vichyssoise

Monday November 19

Another main dish from Epicurious designed to get the last lovely taste of our garden greens.

We pulled up some of the precious few leeks that came up this year, and our still-abundant sorrel and chives. The soup was scrumptious hot as well as cold, and the potatoes gave it enough body to make it an entire meal.

Sorrel has two faces. As one of the reviewers complained, the half-pound required by this recipe cost about $20 where s/he lives. Also, the book-minded remember only the elegant dinner from Brideshead Revisited when they hear of sorrel soup. But another reviewer (like Barbara), was reminded of his Polish grandmother's recipe, and yet another pointed out that s/he was growing sorrel in a pot in a Manhattan apartment, and it grew like a weed - as indeed it is.

It's hard to grow sorrel from seed, but a healthy plant will spread to the point of being invasive, and little runners come off it in late summer and can be transplanted. The flavor is light and lemony, unless you overcook it (as my grandmother did), when it becomes sour. She thought it cleared the blood; modern health-mavens would say it contains antioxidants, or lutein, or something. Have we mentioned that we don't care? It is delicious.

Swiss Chard with Poblanos and Hominy

Sunday November 18

Swiss chard and poblano peppers were among the last survivors in our garden, so this recipe sang out to us from the pages of this December's issue of Food & Wine.

It's billed as one of "7 amazing sides" (a word we dislike), but it's hearty enough to be a vegetarian entrée, sort of a posole without pork. One hint, though: the recipe as written contains no added liquid, but it really needs some. We reserved the liquid from the can of hominy, and added it as needed after the chard stems had gone in. The result was still stewy rather than souplike, and very tasty. Not to mention the antioxidants and other healthful stuff you get from all these vegetables, which we won't, because as you may have noticed, we don't care. We eat good food because it's good.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving Bonus: Cranberry Chutney

Barbara won a second prize (and she wuz robbed!) for this chutney at the Hamilton County Fair last August.

It's not only delicious, with a complex but not-too-demanding flavor that makes it perfect for other roasted meats as well as turkey, but it's all done in the microwave, and can be presented on the table the next day in the same dish, so long as you have a good-looking 2.5 quart microwave-safe covered casserole.

Start this at least a day before you want to serve it, with:

1 12-oz. bag fresh (or frozen) cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 orange, skin intact, chopped into quarter-inch cubes (discard any seeds)
juice from a half lemon (about 2 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. shallots, minced (or you can use sweet red onion)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp. dry ginger powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 tsp. cayenne pepper
2/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup shelled unsalted (preferably raw) pistachio nuts, whole or coarsely chopped

Combine all the ingredients except the raisins and pistachios in your casserole. Cook covered at 100% power for 4 minutes. Uncover, stir, and continue cooking for 5 minutes more, or until the liquid is bubbling and the cranberries start to burst open.

Remove from the oven, and stir in the pistachios and raisins. Cover and set aside to cool and let the flavors ripen, preferably for an entire day. After that, refrigerate, and serve whenever you're ready.

Any leftovers can be put in a covered jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for months.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Roast Beef with Roasted Vegetables

Saturday November 17

Bottom round roasts were on sale at the IGA, and when cold weather is coming on, there's nothing better or simpler than a classic roast beast.
We didn’t' even bother with the red wine deglaze, but followed the directions of the Department of Redundancy Department (they're back again) and had au-jus gravy.

Back in spring, we steamed vegetables, but in fall it's better (and easier, and creates fewer dishes to wash) to roast your rude root vegetables in the same pan as the roast beast. We did shallots and chopped carrots and parsnips for the last hour in the low oven, and they came out brown and tasty.

Pork with Napa Cabbage

Friday November 16

Can you believe that we still had half a Napa cabbage, the other half of which had gone into last Friday's blue-cheese slaw? We decided to treat it as a Chinese stir-fry, so we defrosted a half-pound package of scrappy pork ends.

Barbara cut the pork into thin bite-size slices, and marinated it in:
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Shao Xing wine
1/4 tsp. sugar, and
a grind of white pepper.

Holt cored the Napa cabbage and cut it into half-inch-wide slices, about the same size as the pork. He cleverly kept the thicker bottom slices on one end of the chopping board, and the thinner top leaves at the other.
He also minced about a Tbsp. of fresh ginger
and a couple of garlic cloves.
The whites of 3 or 4 scallions got chopped into inch lengths, while the greens were chopped more finely and kept separate.

We put out vegetable oil,
rice vinegar, and
hoisin sauce;
and that completed our mise-en-place.

Barbara heated the oil in the wok over medium heat, and stir-fried the Napa cabbage, thicker slices first, adding the ginger, a little salt, and extra oil if needed as it cooked. When she got to the thinner parts of the Napa, she added the scallion whites, and finally, when the whole thing was crisp-tender, the scallion greens for a few last stirs. She turned this out into a covered platter, to keep warm.

She reheated the wok, this time to high, and stir-fried the pork with the garlic. When the meat was just browned on all sides, she put the vegetables back in, lowered the flame a bit, and stirred in about a Tbsp. of vinegar and about a Tbsp. of hoisin sauce, tasting often; the idea was to get a barbecue-y yet sweet-and-sour taste. Once we got that, the dish was done, served, and chopsticked up.

Cow Pie

Thursday November 15

If Shepherd's Pie is made from sheep (usually "lamb"), but we cook it with ground beef, it must be called Cowherd's Pie, right? Well, maybe.

We were inspired to cook this, oddly enough, by Gordon Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares." On this show, he remade the truly horrific-looking shepherd's pie served at a place in Westhampton called Finn McCool's into something good to eat.

His own amazing foreshortened version is HERE,
and his abbreviated version is also visible on YouTube.


He uses lamb, of course, so we adapted - thus the "Cow Pie." Also, into the finished ground beef mix, we threw some chopped vegetables (mainly potatoes, carrots, and parsnips) left over from the pot roast. Oh, and we made the potato topping with cream rather than egg yolks. Still delicious, though.

Minestrone (ancora) with Mediterranean Tuna Salad

Wednesday November 14

As we mentioned below, there was enough leftover minestrone from a couple of days ago for two more bowls. That's a very light dinner, however, so we fleshed it out with a salad.

There's still a profusion of lovely young lettuces in the garden (!), and some saved and sill-ripened garden tomatoes (even a Purple Cherokee or two). That and some slices of red onion, marinated artichoke hearts, a few black olives, and a can of oil-packed tuna, when tossed with good oil and sherry vinegar, produces the kind of tuna salad I first encountered as a light lunch in Spain. With soup, it's a dinner.

Turnip Gratin with leftover Pot Roast

Tuesday November 13

As soon as we saw this recipe in last month's Gourmet, we knew we had to try it, as we love turnips, cream, and cheesy bakes. It came out great, even though our cast-iron skillet was a bit big for the halved recipe we made, so the result was sort of a gratin/galette. Keep the heat low; you want to brown the bottom layer of neaps, but since you can't really tell how they're doing, go by sense of smell.

For protein, we sliced up the leftover pot roast from Saturday and just nuked it in its own juices. The combination was comfort food heaven.


Monday November 12

Or, as the Department of Redundancy Department wanted us to say, "a big minestrone soup" (they've been so full of themselves since that Napas with Napa and Napa thing).

The soup was inspired by a basket of fresh cranberry beans we bought from the same farmer at Findlay Market who had sold them to us in the spring. The pods were a little crispier, but the beans inside were nice and tender.

We also wanted to use some of the moth-chomped but otherwise perfectly good cabbage sprouts and just-on-the-edge tomatoes we still had in the garden. The perfect recipe, then, was a minestrone. This one is based on Marcella Hazan's Minestrone di Romagna, though we simmered the vegetables according to their tenderness, not all at the beginning and then boiled for three hours, the way she does it. I have no idea what zucchini that had been sautéed and then boiled for three hours might look like - probably nothing.

So, in a large soup pot cook the following on low heat in a combination of butter and oil, for about 2-3 minutes each while chopping the next ingredient:
2 sliced onions
2 chopped carrots
a chopped stick of celery.
Then add a cup or more of chicken broth and enough water to bring things to a good level, so that everything is covered and can float a bit.
Add a cup or so of cranberry beans and however much shredded cabbage you have.
Cook these until close to tender
Add 4 or so boiling potatoes in small cubes
Throw in a cup or more of finely-chopped or puréed tomatoes

The whole thing simmers for three hours or so. All you need to do is stir occasionally.
In the last half-hour, add a chopped zucchino
and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve topped with grated parmesan or romano cheese.

There were two bowls for each of us, and a couple of bowls left over for later - minestrone is one of those things that's even better as a leftover.

Napas with Napa and Napa

Sunday November 11

Yes, friends, the Department of Redundancy Department has taken over this blog.

It started when Holt bought some Napa sausages (our favorite type, made with pork and bell peppers) from Kroeger & Sons at Findlay Market.

We fried them up with some onions and a few tiny (hot) poblanos from the garden.

We also had some of the wonderful Napa cabbage slaw left over from two days ago.

It was while we were eating our Napas with Napa that we discovered that the wine we were drinking (Charles Shaw "Three-Buck Chuck" Chardonnay from Trader Joe's) came from the Napa Valley.

Completely unplanned, but there it is.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pot Roast

Saturday November 10

Our basic guide to pot roast is a simplification of Julia Child's classic smothered brisket recipe from The Way to Cook. It requires no pre-browning and sits happily in the oven for 4 hours with only an occasional baste. I can't believe we haven't had it for a year or more - at least, I can't find it when I search the blog, though it may be hiding under another name.

3-4 lb. beef brisket - though we use any braising cut of beef we can get at the IGA, following the wisdom of Alton Brown: top, not tip.
2 large cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (plus some fresh, if you've got it)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup oil
2-3 onions, sliced (not too thin)
1-2 cups diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
3-4 potatoes, ideally a boiling type like Yukon Golds, redskins, or Kennebecs
2-3 carrots
any other vegetable you'd like - parsnips, turnips, cauliflower, you name it.

Get your covered pyrex casserole or Dutch oven out - make sure it has enough room for both the roast and the later vegetables.

Mash the garlic up with the dried thyme, salt, and pepper, until it's a paste. Whip the oil into it, and rub the result all over the beef. You can let it marinate like this in the fridge, or proceed directly to roasting. If the latter, plop the beef in the center of your casserole, and pile first the onions, then the tomatoes (mixed with any fresh thyme you happen to have), on top of it. Cover tightly, and place in the center of a 300-degree oven.

Leave it there for 4 hours total. You should baste it once after 45 minutes, when the vedge and beef start to give forth their juices, and sort of irregularly thereafter, whenever you happen to wander by. The cover and the vedge on the top keep the whole thing moist, and there will be plenty of liquid in the casserole.

About an hour before you want to eat, cut up the potatoes, carrots, and/or any other vegetable you like that takes about that time, and throw them in the casserole, basting and submerging them in the liquid. Tenderer vegetables can go in later in the process and simmer for however long they take. Once the vedge is almost cooked, you can take off the lid and let some of the liquid evaporate. But we like it with plenty of sauce.

At the end, the beef is so tender you can pull it apart, or just take it out and slice it across the grain. Serve with the vedge alongside, and douse both with the abundant beefy juices. We love this reheated as leftovers as well.

Pork Piccata and Napa Cabbage Slaw

Friday November 9

When giant boneless pork tenderloins go on sale, we buy a whole one (a long narrow thing, ca. 5-6 lbs.), cut it up into proper dinner-sized portions, and freeze most of it. Slightly stringy lengths are cut into thin pieces for Chinese barbecue (char siu); nice round bits are sliced either into half-inch-thick medallions or paper-thin scallopine; and there should always be at least one 2-pound length left whole, for a pork roast.

The thinnest slices are suitable for any scaloppine-type recipe that usually uses veal or chicken breast. We chose the classic piccata, which uses Barbara's favorite flavor, lemon, and is as quick as a very quick thing.

Lay out 4-6 paper-thin slices of pork, salt them a tiny bit, and pat them with the leaves from 4-6 sprigs of fresh lemon thyme.

In butter and oil, brown the pork scaloppine on each side, about 4-5 minutes total. Set aside in a warming oven.

Deglaze the pan with 2-3 Tbsps. lemon juice. Stir to thicken it over high heat, and throw in a Tbsp. or so of capers.

Get the pork out, and pour any juices off it into the pan, where they can thicken a bit more. If the pork needs rewarming, you can toss the slices in the pan, but if it's still toasty, just lay them out on plates, pour the hot sauce over, and serve.

Here's the directions for the tasty blue-cheese slaw we had alongside, originally Nice Kathy's recipe.

This is the recipe we think of first whenever we get a napa cabbage.

Southwestern Stuffed Chicken Breasts and Fresh Artichokes

Thursday November 8

Don't tell anybody, but the stuffing for this was mainly leftover cheese and roasted poblanos from our Halloween chiles rellenos. We often find ourselves making something just because it uses up leftovers from something else. That don't mean it ain't good, though.

So finely chopped up the poblanos (prob. 1/2 cup or so), a huge handful of cilantro (and Holt has huge hands—elegant, though), and the leftover swiss-goat-(Swiss goat?)-ground coriander-ground cumin mix, and stuffed it under the chicken bosom skin. Baked in the oven at 350º for 25 minutes. Needed some more salt next to the flesh, however.

As for the artichokes that were our second course, Holt prepared them in the ordinary way, but he rubs them with lots of lemon juice, and throws the juiced-out lemon halves into the water when he boils (actually, pressure-cooks) them. The pressure-cooking takes around 20 minutes.

You need a dip with fresh artichokes, and we made the very simplest one (possibly because we were herbed-out?): mayonnaise flavored with curry powder and just a drop or two of soy sauce, until it gets to be a light golden beige. You have to let it sit for a couple of minutes to let the curry flavor develop, but it is excellent with any type of vegetable crudités as well as with artichokes.

Penne with Salami and Zucchini

Wednesday November 7

We had the British version of this just over a month ago:

But the basic American recipe is still HERE

and still good.

Herbfarm Crab and Lemon Thyme Soufflé

Tuesday November 6

And yet a third recipe from the Herbfarm Cookbook - we are really on a roll here.

Holt somehow did what Elizabeth had done and forgot to preheat the oven, probably because he was waiting for Barbara to get in from the garden with the lemon thyme. The soufflé was thus a touch more sloppy than it would have been otherwise, but damn tasty nonetheless.

original recipe for
Fine dry bread crumbs, for the ramekins
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons minced lemon thyme
1/2 pound fresh crabmeat, picked over to remove cartilage
Freshly ground pepper
6 large egg whites, at room temperature

Butter six 6-ounce or four 8-ounce ramekins and coat with bread crumbs, tapping out any excess. Set the prepared ramekins in a large shallow roasting pan.
Melt the butter in a medium sauce-pan. Add the flour and whisk over moderate heat until bubbling, about 1 minute. Add the milk and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and whisk until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks, then whisk vigorously over moderate heat until the mixture boils again. Whisk in the lemon thyme. Transfer the soufflé base to a large bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Whisk the soufflé base until smooth, then fold in the crabmeat. Season with salt and pepper.
Beat the egg whites until they hold firm peaks. Stir one-third of the beaten whites into the base to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites. Spoon the batter into the ramekins, filling them to within 1/2 inch of the rims. Wipe the rims clean.
Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the soufflés for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve immediately.

What we did instead was make our standard big ass soufflé (which we haven't had since March!) using swiss cheese and lotsa crab. The main inspiration from the Herbfarm is the lemon thyme and no onion/shallot in the soufflé base. Very crabby, very good!

(Yes, I know I've already put up a picture of the egg yolk just like this one, but the Euclidean perfection never fails to amaze me. The vedge is here just 'cuz it's pretty.)

Salmon with Sage-Roasted Asparagus

Monday November 5

Another recipe from the Herbfarm Cookbook.

Original recipe:
Roasted Asparagus with Sage and Lemon Butter
2 pounds thin asparagus, ends trimmed
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
30 sage leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Shredded zest of 1/2 lemon
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for shaving
Preheat the oven to 450°. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the spears are just tender when pierced with a knife.
In a small skillet, melt the butter over moderately low heat. Add the sage leaves and cook, stirring often, until the butter is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Transfer the asparagus to a warmed platter and spoon the sage-lemon butter on top. Garnish with the lemon zest, top with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and serve.

We cut this down for two people but a full l(u)b. of asparagus. When the gooses were just about finished, we shoved them over and plopped down 2 salmon steaks. Done in 5-7 minutes with a flip in the middle. No cheese.
They also have a variant where the sage leaves are fried and the asparagus is dressed with lemon juice and olive oil for a salad.

Herbfarm Eggs Benedict with Sorrel Sauce

Sunday November 4

Today we got The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld out of the library, and we both fell in love with it: Holt because it gives a whole new take on some classic recipes, me because it integrates the herbs I'm already growing into an entire range of dishes. Take this eggs benedict: its sauce uses the giant bush of fall sorrel that has been calling out to us from the garden; and using sorrel means that you don't have to thicken the sauce with egg yolk and then thin it with lemon to get both citrusy flavor and richness.

1 Tablespoon butter
a half of a small shallot, minced (just over a Tablespoon)
4 ounces sorrel, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1/8 cup heavy cream
pinch salt
fresh ground white pepper
2 English muffins, split; we used Holt's fresh-baked buns (click for a picture of Holt's cute buns).
4 large or extra-large eggs
4 generous slices smoked salmon or nova lox (enough to cover the four half-buns), at room temperature
snipped chives, or snipped chive blossoms if there are any.

For sauce, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, less than a minute. Add half the sorrel, stir until it's wilted, then add the rest of the sorrel and continue to cook until it melts into a purée, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cream, taste, and season as you like with salt and pepper. Leave it on a low simmer, stirring occasionally.
Get the muffins or crumpets toasted in the toaster oven; leave them there in the warm.
Do the egg-poaching however you usually do it. We have little metal egg-poachers that we set in a covered pan of gently-boiling water until the whites are set and the yolks still soft but warm.
When the eggs are almost ready, arrange two of the toasted bun-halves on each of two warmed plates. Smear each bun with a little of the sauce, and top that with a slice of salmon to cover. Gingerly lift the eggs out of their poacher, and put one on each bun-half. Top those with the rest of warm sorrel sauce, and sprinkle each with chives or chive blossoms, for that touch of class that will make you feel more elegant as you grab your plate, snarf it all down, and maybe even lick the plate afterward.

Crab Cakes and Chipotle Mayonnaise on Garden Greens

Saturday November 3

It's always good to have some crabmeat on hand in case the urge for crab cakes strikes. We used to buy the little tuna-type cans, but now we get a pound can of the better-quality refrigerated crabmeat every time we go to Trader Joe's, and just stick it in the refrigerator.

The general ethos for crab cakes (and indeed, salmon cakes) is here.

To make two crabcakes each, we used about half a pound of crabmeat, and added a Tbsp. or two of finely diced red onion, celery, and a few Holt-made breadcrumbs. The binding is just enough mayonnaise to hold it together, with a dab of Dijon mustard. The patties get carefully dipped in finer Holtbreadcrumbs, then fried in oil.

The garden is now agog with tender fall lettuces, so it was easy to pick a spinnerful and make green, springy beds for the crabcakes.

We adorned them and the cakes with some mayonnaise mixed with lime juice, chipotle and its adobo sauce (which we also keep on hand in the fridge). More rummaging in the garden produced the requisite chives to cross on top of the cakes like a great la-di-da poofter.

We're also adding a picture of Holt's incredibly cute buns:
And Barbara, who's just incredibly cute.

Giant Steak with Truffled Potatoes

Friday November 2

We bought an over-two-inch thick, 1.77 lb., aged Australian T-bone at Jungle Jim's on our last visit, and froze it. We left it out all day today to defrost, and it still had a core of ice in its middle when we got home for dinner. A little careful nuking on defrost took care of that, but it was still a damn big steak.

In order to make sure it was done perfectly both outside and in, we first grilled it, using the Frequent-Flipping Method, until it was nicely browned on the outside, and then stuck in the thermometer probe (set to ping at 120 degrees) and shoved it into a 400-degree oven. When it was done, we were somehow able to let it rest for 10 minutes before falling on it.

In the meantime, we had steamed up some Yukon gold potato cubes, and now we threw them in the Kitchenaid and whipped them up with butter, cream and salt. They got mounded on the plate and drizzled with some black truffle oil, while Holt whacked chunks off the giant T-bone. A lot of the steak's weight was indeed bone, but you won't hear either of us complain about it. The meat was blissfully tender and a little gamier than the normal un-aged supermarket beef, but all the better for it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Penne with Portobellos Trifolati

Thursday November 1

The basic recipe is here: but we just did it with parsley that Barbara grabbed out of the garden in the dark.

Have we really not had this for over a year?! It's delicious nonetheless.

Poblanos Rellenos with Garden Salsa

Wednesday October 31

Halloween is a big deal here in Clifton; gaslights add atmosphere to our streets, and people decorate their big old houses with orange lights, skeletons, cobwebs, and piles of grinning pumpkins. We don't go too far down that road - we buy one sincere pumpkin from a Findlay Market farmer, and carve stars in its eyes - but we do dress in costumes and offer excellent chocolate candy, which we selflessly pre-taste so that our costumed trick-or-treaters will get only the highest quality.

This Halloween, temperatures were in the high 60s, and the garden was verdant and lovely - even the basil was still green. So we had a pre-trick-or-treat glass of wine out on the patio, and picked fresh poblanos, coriander, and tomatoes for tonight's dinner. Holt got everything ready - roasting the peppers, mixing up a goat-cheese and swiss mixture for the stuffing, and mixing the chopped tomatoes, onions, and coriander with lime juice for the salsa - so that when the trick-or-treating ended at 8 PM, we could just put everything together.

The methods are here, with earlier references.

The chiles were small but tasty little mouthfuls, and we had five each. And it is so odd and wonderful to have garden tomato salsa even in October! I guess we can learn to live with global warming.

Tilapia with Tarragon Cream and Eventual Peas

Tuesday October 30

Our tarragon plant is so luxuriant that we thought we'd use a bunch before it dies back for the winter. It's excellent with fish, so tilapia fillets came out of the freezer to host it. We sautéed some shallots in lots of butter, added a shot of wine, and slipped the permafrost fish into the bath. Covered and they were done in about 7 minutes. We fished them out and set them on a plate in the warming oven, while we made the tarragon sauce from this dish to go with them. We just reduced the poaching liquid, added lots and lots of tarragon, and swirled in the cream.
We used raki instead of pernod, but you get the idea.

We were so preoccupied with fish and sauce that we forgot we had a basket of sugarsnap peas, bought from the Cheap People at Findlay Market on Saturday, that was supposed to be the accompanying vegetable. So after the first course, we topped, tailed, and steamed the peas. Even with a little butter, they weren't so sugary or snappy, so we won't get them again until it's properly Spring.

Rotini with Tomato-Pancetta Sauce

Monday October 29

At Findlay Market last Saturday, they were rewarding anyone who took a survey with free biscotti from Angelina's. We are never averse to a free taste, and the biscotti were pretty good, though Holt's are of course far superior.

While at Angelina's, we decided to try a slab of pancetta; Krause's pancetta is spiced, which is too much like capacola for us. A quick browse through Epicurious came up with several recipes for a pancetta and tomato sauce for pasta. The basic ethos seemed to be:

chop up a couple of ounces of pancetta;
cook it in a pan until crisp, adding some chopped garlic OR some chopped onion;
sprinkle a pinch of black pepper if using onion, crushed red pepper if using garlic;
add a cup or two of chopped tomatoes (ideally cherry);
let simmer until tomatoes soften, and one recipe says add a quarter cup of cream;
shower with a big handful of basil leaves, and mix the pasta in with the sauce.

We tried this using the last little crop of garden tomatoes, garlic, but no pepper, as we wanted the smoky taste of the bacon. All I can say is, be more generous with the pancetta, and hope that your tomatoes are juicy; ours were not, so we added the cream at the end. It was good enough, but still needs to be tinkered with. Maybe needs romano cheese?

Garbure (sic)

Sunday October 28

We had a chicken carcass; we had a cabbage, or rather what was left of a cabbage after the damn cabbage moths and the even more damned squirrels had had their nibbles. What to do? The answer lay in Larousse Book of Country Cooking: a nice garbure. No, not garbage, though it is another garbage soup. And it has a disputed etymology and a thousand forms like gazpacho and I ain't going there. The constants are white beans (which we used) and duck/goose confit (for which I substituted the chicken carcass), and a smoked ham hock (for which I substituted bacon). But apart from that, I followed the recipe exactly. Here's a recipe that's pretty much the Larousse.

So soak yer beans overnight in yer pressure cooker (this was an especially stony little group and had to be very keenly picked over).
Strip all the good meat off carcass.
Toss busted-up carcass in cooker with a diced onions, 2 or so cloves of garlic, 2 big chopped carrots, 6 or so of cubed potatoes, lots of sprigs of thyme (because thyme is of the essence), a couple of sprigs of parsley, bay leaf, pepper. Pressure cook everything for 20 minutes or until beans is tender.
You could add the bacon directly to the pot, but it might be a tad pale, so I went ahead and fried it up and added some more onions for that smoky taste. Then add it all to the pot with the shredded cabbage, the nice meat, and pressure cook some more (10 minutes).
Fish out the carcass, thyme and parsley branches, add salt if necessary.
Soooooooooooooooooooooooo good.

Barbara's father, who loved bean soups, would have praised Holt to the skies (and even forgiven the bacon) for this one.