Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chili's, Atlanta Airport

Wednesday June 24

Yes, the contrast was ludicrous, but what could we do? They had Bass Ale on tap. We got the least obnoxious thing on the menu, a couple of hamburgers (Holt's with bacon) with french fries.

Madrid-Barcelona, Barcelona, again

Tuesday June 23

After a late start and an odd lunch (tapas at el Quim de Boqueria, in the big market, where we ordered by look and ended up eating okay octopus and what turned out to be ensalada cap-i-pota, "head and leg" of pork, i.e. headcheese salad), we spent some time by the pool, as our legs (and heads) were exhausted. Around five, we went up to the Parc Guell for an evening stroll around the crazy mosaics, a peek at the Casa Gaudí, and a beer under the palm trees with the green parrots. But we had no dinner ideas, so we gave up and headed back to Madrid-Barcelona.

After ordering a bottle of Martivillí Rueda, we started off with another thing we'd seen at that other table the previous night, "Festival de closca/feast of shellfish," a bounteous dish of steamed mussels, clams, vongole-style clams, and shrimp, with a whisk of parsley oil. There was also a nice plate of xipirons fregits, fried squidlets as good as those at La Trucha. Our mains were Llobaro (sea bass) a la brutesca, and tonyna amb tomàquet confitat i crema de rulo/thick tuna steak with "crystallized" tomato. The tuna was not red in the middle, as ours would be, but was still tender and juicy.
We ended up with a little dessert, a semifred de torró amb xocolata calenta - just sound it out and you'll figure it out. It was luscious.
Looking back at our two and a half weeks here, we seem to have had fish or seafood every day, and just about everything was fresh, tasty, and carefully, even elegantly, prepared. We were also lucky in that the euro had slid down to $1.40, which meant that a 15-euro set menu - which contains not just tourist food, but things the Spaniards eat themselves - came to around $21. In fact, some of our best meals - at La Fabrica, Cuca Fera, La Cuineta, Degusta, Madrid-Barcelona, or La Trucha - didn't go over $90 for both of us, with wine and everything included.
So thanks, ASMOSIA! We loved Spain, and we hope to go back again.

Madrid-Barcelona, Barcelona

Monday June 22

On to Barcelona.
We had had the nice desk guys at our hotel call for reservations at some chi-chi place that only had an answering machine, and when we walked a few miles to get there, we found them not open. So we hiked back to our alternative (always have an alternative!), Madrid-Barcelona, and were glad we did.
We don't know why the "Madrid," because the restaurant is resolutely Catalan, and like another place we saw, adheres closely to the linguistic regulations. So we had to start with cava, a dry Anna Codorníu, as we admired the warm terracotta-colored walls set off with black and white. Our starters were caneló de tonyina, creamy-sauced tuna canneloni, and mongetes amb marisc, which confusingly translated as tender beans with seafood - we thought we'd get white beans (Tuscan style), but they turned out to be green beans with some shrimp and mussels. We meant to then share only one dish, as we'd had a late (unremarkable) lunch, but while we were eating our octopus (pop) with romesco sauce, the waiter whisked by with a paper cone, which he emptied onto a plate at a nearby table with such a waft of good smells that we had to use our best "we'll have what they're having" gestures. It turned out to be "paperina de verduras," a paper cone of quick-fried piping-hot battered vegetables, and it was the quintessence of yum.

Taverna Mam i Teca, Barcelona

Sunday June 21

It was our first night in the city, which is very different from Madrid. We found this restaurant on, and though it wasn't far from our four-star (yay for overbooking and upgrades!) hotel near Plaza Catalunya, it is in a very sketchy neighborhood, with mainly an immigrant population. Lots of Filipino shops, halal butchers, and luckily a Havanan bar, because Mam i Teca doesn't open until 8:30, and we needed a few mojitos to help pass the time.
This is sort of a hippy place, only a few tables, a vast range of single malts (!), and shows slow food's red snail. We started with a celebratory copa di cava, and then the house shiraz, Edra xtra syrah 2005, "a big ol' grape stomp in your mouth."
Espárres girgoles amb padró (grilled mushrooms, asparagus, and green Padron peppers); tender red piquillo peppers, like cardinals' copes, in juicy oil. Confit duck leg (pato, anec) with empurpled shallots, and a crispy Llenguardo fish.

La Trucha, again

Saturday June 20

As we were footsore from wandering around the Buen Retiro gardens, stopped for lunch at the only place on our way that was open, el Rincón de Sanabria, where our guesswork Spanish worked only halfway. We were safe with the entremeses Español - various types of ham and chorizo, plus a little manchego cheese - and the Libral fish. But when Barbara ordered "caracoles" expecting snails, what she got was snail-shaped pasta, the Spanish equivalent of mac n' cheese; and the waiter seemed to say that "magret" was fish, but it turned out to be pork stew with fries.

Back to La Trucha for dinner, as the other two places we'd gotten off the Fodor's website didn't look good. Our nice waiter found us a cava, which turned out to be Friexenet Carta Nevada (just like home), and started us off with a lovely hot platter of thin-sliced fried eggplant (berenjena), and another of grilled asparagus. Our mains were chopitos, fried baby squid, which is a specialty of La Trucha's, and as we had to have at least one trout dish, an escabeche with garlic, bay leaves, and pepper. After all that we couldn't manage dessert, but our nice waiter gave us each a shot of the Basque liqueur pacharan, on the house.

La Trucha, Madrid

Friday June 19

Lunch outdoors at Café Gigon, just outside the Biblioteca Nacional, where we'd been manuscripting. The set menu was not memorable (don't EVER order pasta in Spain - it's usually overboiled), but the setting and service were elegant, and they had those wonderful fans that blow cold mist over the diners.

In the evening, went out to La Trucha, a traditional-looking place with wicker chairs and tiled walls. Service was friendly and quick, and the food was excellent. We started with mixed appetizers, or Verbena de Canapés - little toasts with anchovies, tuna, smoked salmon and bacalao, and even caviar. Trucha a la Truchada (and how can you not?) was butterflied fried trout, with a stuffing of bacon/ham in the middle. Emperador a la plancha: swordfish scattered with garlic and herbs, with casseroled potatoes, mayonnaise and lemon. And a vin blanco (Rueda) di Madrid: Solar de la Vega.

Lhardy, Madrid

Thursday June 18

This was one of two options from the guidebook for tonight's dinner. We passed it by because it looked too expensive, but when we got to the other (Casa Labra) they announced that it was closed - though there were people in there eating, and it was only 10 PM. What is this, Cincinnati? And it started raining, so back to Lhardy, which boasts of being one of Madrid's oldest restaurants (oh, come on, 1839 - there are places in this town where Goya was a busboy).
It is certainly a genteel period room, with ornate ormolu, dark wood, and pieces of elaborate silver scattered about. The maitre d' was shatteringly polite, and the tuxedoed staff almost too attentive, but we are past the age of being affected by that. The olive oil came in little bottles with the restaurant's name (Mom would have loved them), but the bread was hard, not fresh.

We only ordered main plates, as we were still stuffed from a decent late lunch of tapas-style cold fish and salads at the Prado. One main was very good - Milojas Solomillo, a stack of lovely rare slices of steak with tender asparagus stems between each one, topped with a cream sauce and pink peppercorns. The wine, Tagonius 2004 (which we're told is local) went beautifully with it. Unfortunately, the other main, "Presa Iberica," or pork leg with chestnuts and aroma of truffles, was in fact several slices of fatty - and let's be honest, fatty and tough - meat in an uninteresting, untruffled sweet brown sauce, with a few hard chestnut balls alongside; when you tried to cut them, you were afraid that they would skitter off your plate and smack a waiter in the eye.
Frankly, one of the worse meals we've had here, and at three times the price of the best.

Txoko Taberna, Madrid

Wednesday June 17

Who wouldn't love a restaurant run in one of the world's most isolated languages? This taberna, in the basement of the Madrid Basque club, has basic appointments and fascinating orthography.
Wine: Txapoli (Roke-ren Berezia Vinebask), a half-sparkling white which the waitress poured from two feet above the glass.
Pimentos rellenos, filled with cheese and meat, dipped in batter, swimming in a warm (not hot) red sauce.
Cibollas relleños, one big onion stuffed with cheese in white sauce.
Little squid stuffed with meat and more squid (each neatly sealed with a toothpick) in a smooth sauce of their own ink.
The nice waitress offered us a sweet, mild liqueur called Pacharan as a lovely parting gift.

Terra Mundi, Madrid

Tuesday June 16

We had no excuse for a big dinner. We'd had a big lunch (and a welcome sit-down) at the Sidreria Kupela, just behind the Thyssen-Bornemiscza, as a break from what Holt called the Bataan Death March of Art. Three types of bacalao: in herby yellow sauce, green sauce, and red (but not spicy) sauce. A spice-rubbed duck breast, grilled, with some sweet dipping sauces of apple and orange squash. And a great red wine, whose name I hope we'll find in our notes.
But when 10 PM rolled around, we felt ourselves called to consume industrial quantities yet again, and strolled out to Terra Mundi (which is right up Lope de Vega from la Fabrica - we felt like dropping in and saying hello). This place is all about good local produce, especially meats, so we had 'em: solomillo de buey Gallego (slices of beef al vin de Mencía, with cubed fried potatoes and little pimentons de Padrón) and delicious zorza, little cubes of spicy pork over the same type of potatoes and pimentons. The wine was a Campillo rioja crianza 2005, and very good.

La Fabrica, again

Monday June 15

We spent the day at the Reina Sofia Museum, seeing a lot of art (contemporary, political, surrealist, meaningless, breathtaking, and of course Guernica). We ate lunch at the cafe, where an "ensalado di pollo" meant the usual bowl of greens with some croutons and a few flecks of chicken, but the "baby hakes" platter turned out to be two small fish "en colère," biting their own tails.

Everything else was closed on Monday night, so we were FORCED to return and eat La Fabrica's really good food. Wine: Alberiño Fillaboa 2007, quite good but not as great as yesterday's. Zamburinas, smoked queen scallops (with their roe) in a red sauce, were good but much like smoked mussels; Ventresca (tuna belly) with pisto, a sort of puttanesca without pasta, or ratatouille with fish; and a sublime platter of pulpo a la Gallego, slices of meltingly tender octopus in oil and dusted with pimenton de la Vera, the best we've had since Fino in London.

La Fabrica, Madrid

Sunday June 14

Our work in Tarragona done, we rode off into the sunset for Madrid.

First, tapas and a jug of Sangria at Lateral, which is apparently the chicest spot in Madrid these days. We had to sit indoors, but that turned out to be a good thing, as it was hot and noisy out there in Plaza Santa Ana. And amazingly, the place had really good food: excellent albondigas ternera, tender little meatballs in sauce; and a good standard tortilla Espanola, with potatoes.

Then dinner at La Fabrica, a hole-in-the-wall recommended by the guidebook. We walked in past a lively crowd of neighbors watching the soccer game in the front bar, and were served by a friendly waiter in the cool, tiled back room. He confided to us that Spaniards "consumed indústrial quantities" of food, so in the spirit of the country, we had an enormous cold salad (which the waiter wrote down as Salpicón) of every kind of fresh seafood - absolutely espectacular. Then little toasts topped with white cheese and slices of home-smoked salmon and bonito.
Wine: the bill said "Real Castelo," the waiter's copy said "C. Rueda," but it may have been vino blanco "Tramoya." Absolutely delicious, very much like a Sauvignon Blanc.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cuca Fera, Tarragona

Saturday June 13

An exhausting day, spent with the enthusiastic Asmosians, crawling over a hot - and frankly rather uninteresting - quarry, and then tracing the stone it produced (broccatello) all over the city of Tortosa. After the usual welcome by the mayor (a young, hip politician who can really talk to the geologists) and the pleasing tradition of a "copa di cava," a pleasant, but uninspiring, midday meal of various paellas at Paiolet, and more stone-crawling until we were about ready to drop. Which we did, eventually, at our hotel.
We'd wanted to eat at Cuca Fera - named for a sort of dragon-headed tortoise, a folk-creature in these parts - since it's a sister restaurant of Pulvinar, so chose it for our last night in Tarragona. It proved to be ultra-fashionable but still friendly, in the way we've seen here: lots of well-dressed couples eating immense chateaubriands, lots of smoking, and a table of transsexuals that made us feel like we were in an Almodovar film.
Wine: a rosato, Llompart with the grat motto "ex vite vita."
Sardines "de Tarragona" on "Armenian bread." What precisely made it Armenian we never did find out.
Beefsteak of tuna - yes, a triangle of good fresh tuna grilled briefly so the inside was red, and sliced to look like many little beefsteaks - with red pepper and eggplant.
Salmon marinated in lime and butter with spices.

Pigal, Tarragona

Friday June 12

We went out with Rob tonight, celebrating a successful end to the conference. Tried to get into La Cuineta - what would it be like for dinner? - but it always seems to be closed in the evening, so maybe it's only a lunch place. Instead, went to Pigal, which was welcoming, and had comfy chairs and a smiling, super-efficient waitress.
Started by sharing a platter of every type of carpaccio - beef, cod, and salmon, and delicious agnolotti in cream sauce. Then fish - espatilla xai, and rap (monkfish) - less creative, but still good. Washed down, and saluted, with lashings of cava. Unfortunately they were out of the gin and tonic sorbet, but we had mojito instead.

Les Voltes, Tarragona

Thursday June 11

We couldn't resist - went back to Txantxangorri for lunch, and had the tuna and bacalao salad again, plus a big roast vegetable platter with beef slices and goat cheese, and a shrimp remoulade.

Dinner was the big ASMOSIA banquet, at Les Voltes, whose great attraction is that its downstairs banquet room is in fact one of the barrel-vaulted supports of the ancient Roman circus. The only way to handle these huge events is just what they did: put the wine (both red and white) on the table, send around big plates of appetizers (chorizos, cheeses, peppers, etc.), and give everyone one of two main plates, which allows Barbara and Holt to share. In this case, it was fish and duck, and both were pretty good.

La Cuineta, Tarragona

Wednesday June 10

This was just a 15-euro set-menu lunch, but one of the most tasty and adventurous meals we had anywhere. La Cuineta (which I gather means the Kitchen in Catalan) was decorated in tableware - collages of forks, ladles, etc. Spotless tablecloths, several couples with child, and a keen-eyed waitress doing everything. Started with "Ensalada pensimentos de primavera," an absolutely fresh and delicious salad spiked with asparagus and edible flowers, with every leaf sparkling; and an "Empadrado," a cylinder of white bean, egg and tuna salad, topped with a layer of caviar, and a raspberry in the center - like a salty little chocolate cake.

Then the main courses: little bacony slices of cabrito - kid - on tender potatoes, and the amazing rabbit in chocolate - not mole, but real chocolate sauce - with fresh figs. The plates were exquisite. We should have had dessert, as I could see a raspberry tart like a Chardin painting on the sideboard, but we just couldn't.
Then Barbara got whisked off to a nearby quarry until dinnertime, at which point she called Holt and he came to meet her, her old X-Aphrodisias buddy, John, and his grad student, at El Llagut again. We cannot for the life of us remember what we had, and the copy of the bill is too faint to be read, but it may have been just mains, of fried calamari and Llobaro (sea bass); we photographed the latter in a mosaic at the local archaeological museum the very next day.

The Forum, Tarragona

Tuesday June 9

We wanted a fish place for the midday meal, and once again depended on the nice man at the hotel, who sent us to El Llagut (conveniently opposite the museum). Started with entremeses: shrimp in shell, sardines in oil, smoked salmon on toasts, and sea-snails you could barely winkle out of their conchlike shells (with several we gave up); also a bowl of some steamed mussels, which were easier to get to. Our fish mains were Lluç al forn, hake adorned with parsley and big chunks of garlic on a mound of crispy sautéed potatoes, and arroz amb galeres - a cauldron of rice soupy with squid ink and parts, and some wierd-ass buglike crustaceans that had very little meat in their transparent shells, but were fun to pick at.
The wine was that of the University in whose Rectory the conference is being held: Universitat Rovera I Virgili (quite good, for an academic wine...). There were even desserts included in the set menu - nice icy lemon sorbet, and crème catalan (brulée).

It's always a bit frustrating to go out with a bunch of people after a day of papers at a convention. You walk around, looking for a place that will satisfy, if not please, everybody. There's always some reason for objection or hope of something better, so you keep walking. Some fall behind, some get lost. When you get to a place you like, there are no seats left for such a large party. So that's why eight of us were shut out from Txantxangorri, which was packed, and headed across the Plaza to the Forum restaurant.
The meal was filling, cheap (a 12.50 euro menu - can't beat that), and fine, with copious amounts of wine. We started with canellone stuffed with spinach and some white asparagus with prosciutto - I mean jamon. The fish main was dorado, which was just okay, but the beef was a thin but perfectly rare entrecote with gorgonzola sauce. Irene forgot what she ordered and ate Clayton's meal, so he had to wait while they cooked another one.

Pulvinar, Tarragona

Monday June 8

Actually, there were two good restaurants today. After the opening of the ASMOSIA conference that brought us here (okay, it stands for Association for the Study of Marble and Other Stones In Antiquity - are you happy now?), we found our friend Elise and walked to one of the seven or eight restaurants marked on a map handed out by the so-helpful hosts of the conference, the Catalan institute for Classical Archaeology.

The one we hit was Degusta, and we just ordered a 15-euro set meal - which turned out to be amazingly elegant and perfectly prepared. As we're in that territory, we started with a Cava - Sant Sadurni d'Anoia l'Hereu de Nit 2006, which turned out to be an amazing lilac-pink, and would make a terrific wine for weddings and chic parties. Our starters were bucatini topped with sepia, parsley, and garlic in oil, and asparagus halves on a little fish terrine. We then went on to delicious conejo (rabbit) and more sepia - a line of little ones stuffed with rice, with a red chive and tomato sauce. There was even an elegant torta with starfruit for dessert.
In the evening, after the welcoming "cup of cava" at the amazing Tarragona Town Hall (with a giant sarcophagus in the center), we went out with Elisa, Deborah, and William to a snazzy place perched above Tarragona's stepped street, Pulvinar. Barbara had a pizza alla Tarragona - how often do you get to eat pizza with red peppers and cod? And Holt had bacalao rubbed with pimentón and grilled (which was a mite overdone), along with grilled eggplant, zucchini, and big oyster mushrooms.

Txantxangorri, Tarragona

Sunday June 7

We arrived, sleepless and sticky, in Barcelona, managed to find, get tickets for, and get aboard the bus to Tarragona, and washed up in our nice hotel, the Astari, exhausted. We slept until about 6 PM, but knew there would be nothing open for dinner that early. We asked the kind man at the desk if there was a tapas place that might be open, and he pulled out a card for Txantxangorri.*
We had some doubts about a place that has cards available at hotels, but none were realized. There are about a dozen tapas/pizza/set menu places around the charming, noisy Plaza de la Font, but Txantxangorri had a chalk-scrawled list of tapas, no pizza or tourist menu.
We sat down, ordered white wine and water, and began to pick things off the list. As homage to Calvin Trillin, we had pimentos del Padrón, a whole fried green heap of them, generously salted.

Also sepia como Iñaki Aizpurua, excellent cuttlefish in thick red sauce. But the runaway favorite was ensalada de atun y bacalao - we expected the latter to be salt cod, but in fact it was not just fresh, but seemed RAW - and delicious, a sort of Catalan sashimi. A lovely splash of red pepper sauce was on top, and the whole was wonderfully refreshing.
We sat and drank and ate and people-watched for about an hour and a half. We are still amateurs at Spanish time, but we're delighted to learn.

*chan-chan-GORY approximately. Holt likes Catalán, cuz it sounds even closer to Latin than Spanish.

Airline Food

Saturday June 6

Somewhere over the Atlantic.

A truly awful "meal" courtesy of Delta (because they haven't figured out a way to charge you for food when you'll be on board for over 7 hours): three strips of chicken in a sickly sweet sauce; some carrots and rice; a shredded paper salad; some crackers, cheese, and a cellophaned brownie. Next time, we'll bring sandwiches (actually, we did bring leftover souvlaki from yesterday's party, but we ate it for lunch).

Party at Kathleen and Steve's

Friday June 5

Kathleen and Steve threw a potluck cook out to say goodbye to William and Shirley. We brought focaccia tarted up with olives and artichokes. Steve and Eleni tended the sacred fires under yogurt-marinaded chicken and beef souvlaki. There were salads galore. Laura brought a rich and moist tres leche cake, which, by the way, is not available in Spain.

Clean-Out-the-Fridge Frittata

Thursday June 4

A good way to get ready to go away. Reach into the vegetable bins and fry everything up into a freet.

Santa Fe Cincinnati Chili

Wednesday June 3

We scored a couple of pounds of V-burger (venison) at JoDee and David's, and decided to make an actual chili version of the dreaded Cincinnati chili. So first we made a batch of red chili flavored pasta (1 1/2 cups flour, 2 eggs, 1 TBSP oil, 1 TBSP or so of chili (not chili powder) and a shot of fine salt: all whirled up in the RobotCoupe. While that was resting, we cooked up the V-burger with garlic and onions, lots more chili, and the dangerously ripest of the tomatoes. Ran the pasta through the rollers and slicers to make a nice fettuccine and topped it with the sauce. Thought about beans and bright orange cheese to make it a five way.* Then we thought again.

*Recently the nearby corner two painted wooden plaques went up under the 4-Way stop sign. One depicted a steaming plate of Cincinnati chili, the other a group of naked men involved in improbably athletic sexual activities. Alas, we didn't go back to get the camera, for the installation lasted only a day even in our pinko-homo-commie neighborhood. At least the chili's still there.

Provençal shrimp & asparagus with every kind of herb

Tuesday June 2

We got a nice forest of local asparagus, so we cut it on the bias and cooked it till a little tender in a frying pan with water. Then drained it and made a basic tomato sauce in the same pan (less work for mother), minus water, but plus oil, garlic and onion, with a pinch of saffron and then a couple of handfuls of oregano, chives, marjoram, and parsley. We buried some large shrimp (from the Unified Department of Oxymorons) in the sauce and served up the herbaceous mess with a summery Ste. Michelle rosé.

Cold Chicken and Hot Artichokes

Monday June 1
We dined on cold chicken with Pike's Perfect Pickles (which truly live up their names).

Then for the main course: giant artichokes with curry dip.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Penne with asparagus, lemon and cream sauce

Sunday May 31

Even we can't handle the amount of local fresh asparagus we've been getting lately; all the farmers at Findlay Market have caught onto the fact that we'll happily pay five bucks a pound for it, and we know we will miss it when it is nonetheless gone. So as a variation from the usual Saffi, we did the asparagus and penne (both boiled; first the asparagus, then after it's fished out, the pasta) in a cream sauce, flavored with a lemon's worth of zest, and some juice too.
There were some raspberries and cream for dessert. You can't have too much cream - no, don't take it that way, I mean you really should.

Wahoo with Mango, Corn, and Red Onion Salsa

Saturday May 30

We got some whacking thick chunks of wahoo! from the fish guys at Findlay Market. I don't know if this is a new fish for us, since we have had something called "kingfish" in both England and New Zealand, and this may have been it (or them). It came in great two-inch-thick slices, but was supposed to be cooked a little more than tuna, so it wasn't rare in the middle - a succulent, flavorful white fish. The fish is for grilling: a little oil and some of the Spanish sweet ("El Angel")
We got a few cobs of corn and a Candy Mango from Madison's as well, so Holt made up a salsa. A bit free form, but basically he stripped the kernels and pan toasted them. Let them cool off and added lime juice, coriander leaves (yes, we are indeed trying to use it in every dish, as if in an episode of" Iron Chef: What's Going to Bolt in the Garden"), red onion, and the aptly named candy mango. Sweet corn, sweet mango, sweet life.

Shabbas Roast Chicken

Friday May 29

Actually, Barbara's family always had roast beef on Fridays, but chicken is pretty traditional in Israel. We prefer ours with flavor, though. That's why we chopped up some fresh rosemary and lemon thyme and stuffed it under the skin when we put the bird in the oven to roast.
In the same pan went carrots, parsnips, shallots, and onions, tossed with oil and salt, to become brown and caramelized.
Finally, Georgia peaches (just in at Madison's) with strawberry chip ice cream for dessert. Trafe, but who cares?

Venison Nachos

Thursday May 28

You saw it here first. We came home from Tennessee with a roll of V-burger, gift of David the hunter. Barbara thought of making it into tacos, but Holt elaborated that into nachos.
A mess of onions sautéed in olive oil, a little garlic, then the V-burger. The innovation is treating all dry spices as in Indian cuisine (an’ cooking): frying them in the oil to make a gravy. In this case about ¼ cup each of cumin and coriander (the grinded-up seed), then the liquid: six or so chopped tomatoes. Barbara brought in an armload of coriander (the plant, verging on tree) and we tossed that in as well.
The seasoned meat got piled on taco chips, and a small haystack of grated monty jack was showered on top. Thank god, no Velveeta.

Poached Eggs with Peameal Bacon and Asparagus

Wednesday May 27

Barbara smuggled home a big chunk of peameal bacon from Canada (don't tell anyone - oops, I just did). It's such a Canadian thing - back bacon rather than belly, brined rather than smoked, and rolled in what I understand used to be actual yellow pea-meal, but is now usually cornmeal. The Canadians, of course, don't have anything called Canadian bacon.
So we just sliced it thin and fried it, while boiling water for asparagus and for poached eggs. Holt made a Hollandaise sauce to slather on, and Barbara gathered fresh tarragon to sprinkle over. It ended up a rather elegant meal, like a disassembled (Canadian) eggs benedict.

Pork Mr. Pig and German Potato Salad

Tuesday May 26

Our favorite Findlay Market eating spot, Mr. Pig's Barbeque, has been shuttered up for a depressingly long time (we mourned the passing of the original Mr. Pig). But we still had a little container of their barbeque sauce, which we reverently slathered over a couple of sautéed pork medallions.
We went to New Joy for a potato salad recipe, which a nice blogger usefully gives here; lots of paprika.

It was almost too flavorful to be German, but maybe it's because we used French grain mustard instead of dry.

Memorial Day Rainout

Monday May 25

This afternoon was the traditional departmental Memorial Day picnic, which Steve and Stephanie were kind enough to hold at their home. Though Steve's barbie is by definition Australian, the fare was traditional American - hot dogs, hamburgers, and lots of interesting potluck salads and desserts, including Holt's bourboned pecan cake (the South, having risen again, will sit right down and get happy after a piece of this). But alas, like last year, it rained (is there a hoodoo on Australians hosting Memorial Day in America?), and we couldn't do the Latin play Holt had planned. (General wailing and gnashing of teeth).
A lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers demands a light dinner, so that night we made a couple of lovely salads with fresh mozzarella and herb dressing.

Dinner with Liz

Sunday May 24

We haven't seen Liz for a long time, so there was much to catch up on when she came over. We decided on a Greco-Turkish theme, starting with mezes/mezedes of Holt's own taramasalata with rosemary crackers, salted almonds, and a bottle of the excellent Yeni Raki that Burcu and Murat brought us when they visited.
Then we came to the table, because the second course was giant artichokes (pressure cooked as usual) with a 3-herb dipping sauce foraged from the garden, and you can't eat these without the sauce dripping down your chin unless you sit well-pulled-into the table.
A really nice simple Greek wine (Skouras White 2008) went with, of course. From the new and excellent Market Wines at Findlay Market.

Our main course was garides me feta (shrimp in tomato sauce with feta cheese). The recipe comes from the Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Unrelated Cuisines, but it's really just as we described it here when we did it with squid (and doesn't that sound wonderful?). Used fresh tomatoes this time, because we had them; and Holt now peels them when we cook with them.
Dessert was local strawberries from the Farmers' Market on the last toasted slices of Holt's Easter lemon cake. Opa!

Napas with Red Onion and Radicchio

Saturday May 23

Barbara is still trying to find things to do with the few not-yet-bolted radicchio in the garden, and came up with this nice recipe.

She had to stand on line behind the Memorial Day crowds at Kroger's in Findlay Market to get the Napa sausages, but results were worth it. Would be a good variation for any bitter green - chard, broccoli rabe, etc. On the other hand, this is great with just the onions too.

Spaghetti Puttanesca

Friday May 22

Barbara brought home an oily opened can of anchovies, and the (by now) traditional poot helped us use enough of them to get them into a less oily, sealable jar. Fresh tomatoes, too, though it's not really the season yet.

Lois Kain Memorial Chicken

Thursday May 21

We can't believe we haven't had this dish for over three years, but it must be so, because we can't find it on the blog. It comes from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking - but we use lime instead of lemon, for a purer Southwestern (Indian) flavor. It takes a shitload of fresh coriander, which we were happy to pluck off the four volunteer plants that are trying to go to seed in the garden.
The name comes from the fact that Lois used to hate fresh coriander, and this dish would have been the death of her. That was a long time ago, though - her tastebuds soon saw the light and now she adores it.

Steak Diane with Asparagus

Wednesday May 20

We had steaks; we had asparagus. Holt had some vague plan of doing a béarnaise sauce and thought that the result was called steak diane. When we went to look it up in New Joy, we found out it had nothing to do with either asparagus or béarnaise, but we decided to do it anyway . . . but with asparagus. We had forgotten about this way of preparing thin steaks. Its origins are much disputed - anywhere from Escoffier to NYC in the 60s, but rather clearly meant, I think, to be done table side by waiters covered in flaming booze.

None of the recipes seem to have anything in common except the steak and the flames - but that's okay, those are what we had.
Joy’s recipe is basically:
After pan frying the steaks, remove and let rest while you make the sauce.
In the oil and fat, sauté a shallot. Add some brandy, flambé just for the heck of it. Then the fun part is: add 1/4 cup beef stock (we used the last of our veal cubes), some more brandy, and the secret ingredient:
1 TBL dijon mustard

plus 2 tsp lemon juice and
1 tsp worcestershire sauce

Boil the sauce down a bit, scraping up the traditional brown bits and steaky goodness into the sauce.
Pour sauce over steaks and garnish lovingly with parsley.
Asparagus, not mushrooms (or black beans, which is what Epicurious used, for god's sake!) on the side. Plus little yukon golds, dolloped with the last of the sour cream, and bestrewn with chives. What are you going to be, a purist or a foodist?

Pork Medallions with Mushrooms

Tuesday May 19

Holt announced proudly that he had found a package of pork medallions FOR TWO in the freezer - not those sad little packets for one, with only two teeny slices off a boneless loin. We just sautéed them in the traditional fashion, patted with thyme and a bit of sage. Also fried up some regular ol' button mushrooms with thyme A splash of wine, a glug of cream and Roberto è tuo zio

Lecture Night Saffi

Monday May 18

As we said - with penne.

We're still getting the nice local asparagus from the Lisianthus Lady at Findlay Market, and of course, Schad's ham from Krause's.

Dinner at Julie's

Sunday May 17

We love going over to Julie's for dinner. It's not just the good food and fun conversation, but the beautiful decor. Also we get to look at her new paintings - and her old ones, for that matter.
So while we had a grand old bitch session about the university over white wine, she served us hummus with crisps. Then, in her beautiful salsa-red dining room, presided over by a constellation of Mexican Virgins (it's not what it sounds like), we ate roasted chicken breasts and potatoes, with asparagus. For dessert, fresh strawberries and a dollop of cream - in this season, what could be better? So thanks, Julie, for a warm and friendly evening.