Friday 6 August
Beans from Sunday, and Indian eggplant from Tuesday. It's multi-ethnic clean out the fridge night.
Thursday 5 August
We bought and chopped up a pineapple for Saturday's tropical salsa, and though it had kept well (once we had sprinkled on a little Water of Life, otherwise known as Triple Sec), we had to use it or lose it. So we decided to go retro, and make Hawaiian Meatballs.
Our go-to-guys for retro cuisine are Jane and Michael Stern, whose Square Meals is lots of fun. But their recipe was just a bit too midwestern (carrots? really?), so we improvised.
For the meatballs, mix up:
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 onion, minced
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tsps. soy sauce
1/8 tsp. allspice
salt and pepper
I would also add a beaten egg, if I had it to do again.
Mould these into about a dozen round patties; they are panfried in oil until browned, and it's easier to panfry patties than globular meatballs.
Set out the meatballs on plates, and in the same pan, start the sauce:
Half an onion, chopped
Half a stalk of celery, chopped
Sauté these until tender.
Add a a cup of chopped fresh pineapple, with some juice (and triple sec), then:
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
Taste and correct the seasoning; you could add some brown sugar if you wanted it sweeter, but we didn't. It turned out as a chunky salsa-style sauce, and went well on top of the meatballs.
Wednesday 4 August
We had some little scrappy bits of sole left over from Monday, so we decided to whip them into timbales. Sole is an ideal fish for mousses and moulds, as it is slightly gelatinous, but it has very bland flavor, so we kicked it up with a package of Trader Joe's smoked salmon pieces.
Our guide was Julia Child's Way to Cook - and it really is the way to cook.
First, Holt made a choux paste - not a polish, mind - using:
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsps. butter
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs
If you've never made choux paste, it's sort of magical. You can watch how it's done on web videos like this.
At the end, we added a tsp. of fresh thyme leaves (we used lime thyme).
In the meantime, we whizzed up the following in the robot-coupe:
5-6 oz. sole
4 oz. lox pieces
Mix in about a half cup of heavy cream, and then a dribble more at a time with the machine on pulse, till it's smooth.
Then all the choux paste when it was ready and cool.
Season with salt, white pepper, and yet more lime thyme leaves.
Put the resultant fish mousse into buttered ramekins, set them in a water-bath in a 350-degree oven, and let them bake for around 40 minutes till puffy. You can then let them cool for ten minutes and unmould them, but we just ate them out of the ramekins, and they were fine.
But we also did a little experiment. The mousse looked nice and stiff, so we took some extra and spooned it onto a silpat sheet in the same oven the ramekins were cooking in. After 30 mins, it made a nice brown puff, and tasted great.
We served our timbales with the tail end of the corn relish we made on Monday. Basically the same ingredients went into both meals, but they tasted different - and delicious - each time.
Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking is one of our standbys, and she had the idea of pairing these two dishes. They take some advance preparation, but you can intersperse bouts of cooking with weeding trips out to the garden. Believe me, with the swelter outside, it's cooler to slave over a hot stove.
We started with The Lake Palace Hotel's Eggplant Cooked in the Pickling Style. You can get the recipe here.
Barbara had it ready by the time that Holt got home, so he was ready to tackle the Malai wali murghi, or Chicken with cream.
We used two chicken breasts, and though we didn't have any garam masala to add at the end, the result was still creamy smooth and luscious.
Monday 2 August
We've been eating a lot of fish recently, as it is light and quick to cook in this long, sweltering summer. In landlocked Ohio, we depend on Trader Joe's frozen fish, which is now making the praiseworthy transition to using only sustainable sources. We defrosted a pound package of dover sole fillets, which gave us four tiny fillets (to be panfried) each, plus leftovers to use on Wednesday (above).
On the side, we made a fresh corn relish by stripping three boiled butter-and-sugar cobs of their kernels, and adding some chopped red bell pepper and a shot of lime juice.
Sunday 1 August
We love our giant crockpot from Canadian Tire, as it lets us spend the entire day elsewhere and come home to a house perfumed with savory cooking smells, not to mention an immediate dinner.
In this case, we had cannellini beans soaking since yesterday night, and this morning we drained them, fried up a tube of sage sausage, a couple of chopped onions, and a handful of fresh chopped sage leaves, and put it all in the crockpot with water to cover by a half inch. When we got home it was perfect, with the sausage risen to the top and browned.
Saturday 31 July
Barbara missed out on the fresh bluefish in Findlay Market, so Holt bought something else blue - marlin steaks, to be quickly panfried. They are sort of like tuna steaks, so we did them medium-rare, so they'd be tender on the inside. And since those are from Florida and the Gulf, he visualized a tropical-fruit salsa to go alongside. It was made out of pineapple, mango, red bell pepper, and cilantro, (all from the market) doused with lime juice. Very Caribbean.
Friday 30 July
This is done with the fruits of summer: zucchini, tomato, and basil; so we renamed it. I don't know why it's called pasta primavera when it includes basil, which even in Italy is more of a summer herb. Certainly our garden basil (both Genovese and purple ruffle, planted by our kind garden sharecropper, Allison) is only now getting big enough to have its top leaves plucked.
Some local heirloom tomatoes just simmered in a pan with a bit of garlic; then we threw in a couple of zucchini, cut into batons, until tender, and finally added cream and chopped basil. Toss with penne, and that's it.
Thursday 29 July
By "deconstructed" we really mean cut down to its essentials: tuna (in this case fresh, not canned), green beans, and a dijon and anchovy vinaigrette tossed over both.
(Though Holt wanted to use the concept of "tuna" to show the eternal regression of a play of opposites within a semiotic system.)
So we began with thick tuna steaks, rubbed with salt and thyme, and quickly panfried.
We have actual green beans growing from the plants Allison sowed in our garden! Of course, they supplied about 5 of the half pound of beans we had for dinner; the rest came from Findlay Market. We blanched them and marinated them in oil and salt for a couple of days.
Holt made the savory dressing with Spanish olive, lots of anchovies, lemon juice. Then lots of olives.
Yet another great, light meal for summer.
Wednesday 28 July
We had a fourth avocado from Monday, and it went into Holt's traditional guacamole tonight.
Red and yellow tomatoes went into the pico de gallo, along with lots of coriander, onion, and a squirt of lime.
The poblanos were HOT! We stuffed them with shredded monterey jack and goat cheese (more of the former) and a handful of chopped fresh oregano leaves, just seasoned with salt and white pepper. The purity of the cheeses helped temper the chiles, once they were dipped in egg, then in seasoned cornmeal, and fried in oil. But they also needed a douse of yogurt to keep them reasonable.
Tuesday 27 July
We said from the very beginning:
that this was the pasta we made most often, and anybody who counts on this blog will see that it's true. That's because it's good, and it uses Holt's favorite vegetable, asparagus.
Monday 26 July
Lovely leftovers: we are thinking of writing a cookbook under this title. The point would be, here are dishes that start out as large, elegant servings of something (for example, a poached whole salmon) and also provide enough leftovers that you can ring changes on all week long (cold salmon salad, salmon cakes, salmon chowder) without getting tired of them.
As it happens, we made twice as much ceviche as we needed on Saturday, but this simple adaptation of the leftovers made it seem like it was all part of the plan. Barbara spotted nice perfectly ripe avocadoes, so we just shared them between two plates, and filled them with the still-fresh-tasting ceviche.
This is our first pasta since leaving Italy, so it had to be good. In fact, it may be one of Holt's best inventions, which came out of his own fertile - nay, seething - brain AND NOT OFF THE INTERTUBES. It tastes good enough to be on the menu of a New American Bistro for $40 as an entrée, except they're out of it because too many people love it. You heard it here first, so keep this one to yourself and your best friends.
So first, the pasta, fatta in casa:
1/2 cup (two handfuls) of coriander pureed in the RobotCoupe, then 1 1/2 cups of flour, a pinch of salt, and two eggs, whirled until it comes together. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for a while.
Then the ceviche:
good bay scallops (a pound)
red tomato, chopped - make sure your tomatoes are flavorful and local
yellow tomato, chopped
half a green bell pepper, chopped
a quarter of a sweet vidalia onion, chopped
2 lime’s worth of lime juice
Toss the ingredients together and throw them in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Run the pasta through the rollers and cut into fettuccini.
When the pasta has boiled, pile the ceviche, with a little juice, over the hot pasta, and mix. The temperature is supposed to be just lukewarm, so it's good for hot summer nights, and THE FLAVOR IS AMAZING.
There was a good amount of ceviche left over, which we kept in the fridge for
use on Monday (q.v.).
Friday 23 July
I can't find this anywhere on the blog, and I cannot believe that we have not made this for the past five years. So I will just guess that we HAVE, but just for lunch. It is what we do when we have just a few toothsome strips of steak left over from a previous meal (say, Wednesday's - and yes, we did have to scrape some gorgonzola butter off them).
We use the recipe from Jennifer Brennan's Original Thai Cookbook - the one with the hot pink cover.
So first, make the dressing. In a food processor, whiz up the following:
2 cloves garlic with a little salt to soak up the juice; then
EITHER 2 green serrano chiles (seeds and ribs scraped out) OR 1/4 tsp. of the chili sambal that we call Malaysian Death Sauce
the bottom third of a stalk of fresh (actually, we freeze it) lemon grass
4 mint leaves
4 coriander leaves
1/2 Tbsp. Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp crushed red chili flakes
Pile up the following decoratively on a plate:
lettuce leaves (preferably several colors and textures)
thin-sliced sweet or red onion
thin-sliced cucumber or zucchini
more fresh coriander leaves
- or bell peppers or radishes or cherry tomatoes or whatever your heart desires.
Pile the steak decoratively on top, and pour the dressing over.
It's a summer breeze, but with a fiery hint of chile.
Thursday 22 July
The crazy hot weather out there (and note, we're staying in here with the air conditioning) makes Greek food very attractive. In the summer it's fresh, simple, quick to cook, and it raises our nostalgia level for various past indulgences in and around Omonia (and Monastiraki, and Volos, and... )
The standard souvlaki fish is swordfish, but Trader Joe's frozen 'ahi tuna steaks make just as good a skewer (once defrosted and cut into chunks), and are even more flavorful. Barbara marinated them for an hour in a bowl of extra virgin olive oil whipped up with both the zest and the juice of a half lemon, showered with a handful of fresh chopped oregano. They went onto a well-oiled hot grill and got turned and rotated every minute, until they were creamy opaque on the outside, with a few grill marks. The insides stayed pink and succulent, just as they should.
To go with it, we made a mild version of tzatziki: drained plain yogurt with diced cucumber and chopped fresh mint, salted just a bit. Opa!
Wednesday 21 July
Sometimes you just crave something simple, especially when both the temperature and the humidity are in the 90s. Luckily our house is air conditioned now, and we can turn on the stove without melting. So what appealed to us was steak and potatoes, an eternal (though carnivorous) theme upon which we have played many variations.
In this case, we got some thin-ish top sirloins from IGA - only 2.99 a pound, which is a bargain. We pre-seasoned with salt, pepper, and a dab of liquid smoke, and mashed up a healthy dose of gorgonzola butter to plop on top once we had pan-fried them to medium rare.
On the side, potatoes boiled with a clove of garlic and mashed with butter. It's what's for dinner, again.
Tuesday 20 July
Our friend Liz was going to have some dental surgery the next day, so we wanted to give her a dinner that would keep her protein levels up while she healed, as well as say "hi" to her sister Becky, who came in to take care of her and drive her home from surgery.
We still have plentiful baba ghanouj and tarama and olives, so as we chatted around the table, we had them as appetizers, with warmed pita bread.
Our main course was a wild, mushroomy dish of Poulet Celestine, which I'm spelling without the accent so that we can give this as a reference to the original recipe (with accent).
And then, in the French fashion, a green salad, courtesy of Liz.
We desserted with a bowlful of Madison's local blackberries on top of heaping scoops of Graeter's coconut chocolate chip. Liz will also be having Graeter's after her surgery, as ice cream is the perfect thing for sore gums, but it never hurts to start early.
Monday 19 July
No, not what you think. Thick slices of rare tuna steak (left over from Wednesday) adorning a bed of fresh garden greens, with red ripe local tomatoes and a nice vinaigrette. Oh, and leftover baba ghanouj and tarama with pita on the side.
We bought some big portobello mushrooms on spec at Findlay Market, and though we were thinking of just slicing them up for a big vegetable grill, we decided to try grilling the caps whole, as we saw on Steve Raichlen's Barbecue U.
We simplified the recipe considerably, though. Consider it a gift for all our vegetarian friends and students who got tired of the constant cheese barrage at the Vesuvian Institute.
For three-four big mushroom caps, we mixed up a bowl of the following marinade:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ketchup (or barbeque sauce)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
a dribble of liquid smoke
salt and black pepper
While they were sitting in that (we didn't have time, but you can marinate them for 1-2 hours), we heated the grill and prepped the rest of the sandwich makings:
thick slices of white onion - these too were brushed with marinade and grilled
juicy red tomato slices, adorned with leaves of fresh basil from the garden
a frizz of garden lettuce, both green and red
crumbled gorgonzola cheese
sandwich spread: in this case, a combination of Pace picante salsa and mayonnaise, just to season and moisten the bread
and doorstop-size slices of Holt's homemade whole-wheat bread, toasted (those who cannot obtain bread this good will have to settle for hamburger buns).
When the grill was hot, we plopped the onion slices on one half and the drained mushroom caps, gill side down, on the other, moving and flipping them as necessary. We basted the caps as they cooked for about 3 minutes, then turned them over, spooned more marinade in among the gills, and gave them about 4 minutes more; halfway through, Barbara added the crumbled gorgonzola to hers, as she is a blue cheese fanatic.
When the mushrooms were tender and the onions were browned, we stacked the ingredients up into Dagwood-style sandwiches, and wrestled them into our mouths. They dripped, and crumbled, and were delicious.
Saturday 17 July
Findlay Market farmers had piles of fresh green and golden corn out today, so we bought three ears and just boiled it up as a first course. It only needed butter, salt, and corn-holders.
For the second course, we had some leftover slices of Saturday's pork tenderloin, which we served cool, with a sauce of adobo-lime mayonnaise: New Mexican to go with the Spanish flavors of the pork. How do you make this sauce, you ask? Just a dribble of adobo sauce from a can of chipotles (we keep a jar of these in the fridge), mixed into store-bought mayonnaise at the last minute, and loosened with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Friday 16 July
Ever since July 4, we have been salivating for good ol' Amurrikin hot dogs and kraut. But in Barbara's New York childhood, hot dogs were all-beef "specials" from a kosher butcher, and the sauerkraut was the transcendent stuff, only vaguely related to cabbage, from the barrels of "Very Good," the legendary pickle man of the Essex Street Market.
Neither can be duplicated here in Porkopolis.
We settled for a dog-off between Kroger's of Findlay Market, whose North German Metts were billed as being "just like the hot dogs of your childhood," and once again, Eckerlin's plump garlic franks. The kraut came from Eckerlin's, and since it was far inferior to Mr. Very Good's sublime product, could be heated and mixed with Mr. Gene Green's horseradish mustard as a means of improvement.
Verdict: Eckerlin's garlic franks were more flavorful than Kroger's bland metts. The kraut, once doctored, was passable. We gobbled 'em down in seconds flat.
Thursday 15 July
A multi-ethnic American meal that began with appetizers: Greek olives and taramasalata, from yesterday; middle-eastern Baba Ghanouj, made according to the classic Moosewood recipe (therefore Israeli, if you judge by Mollie Katzen's ethnicity); and pita bread, from Dearborn Michigan via Dean's Mediterranean Market.
Our main course featured a small tenderloin of pork which Barbara had marinated in classic Spanish spices (2 parts smoked hot Pimenton de la Vera to 1 each of oregano and ground cumin, mixed in oil with a crushed clove of garlic, salt and pepper) and Holt roasted according to Julia's method of baking at 375 until it reached internal temperature of 140, then broiling the top; far better and more juicy than starting at 450 and then lowering the temperature, as new Joy does. The requisite vegetable was bok choy (there look to be hundreds out in the garden) stir-fried and then steamed with chicken broth and hoisin sauce.
Dessert was Canadian shortbread dipped into English lemon-curd, and a bowl of cherries from Washington state (he didn't chop the tree down, honest). Wines: Spanish Rueda Con Class, and a nice Mondavi private selection Chardonnay (2008) that Julie brought. And that's American enough for anybody, even the Arizonans.
Wednesday 14 July
Still living out of the fridge, where a jar of tarama has resided as a staple since I don't know when. The resultant taramasalata was perhaps even a little more authentic than our previous one, in that we used pita bread that had been sitting in the freezer for a while; just moistened it and squeezed the water out.
Other gifts from the freezer gods were a couple of 'ahi* tuna steaks from Trader Joe's: once defrosted, these were dressed with oil, salt, a squeeze of lemon, and some fresh chopped oregano, and just pan-fried until medium rare.
A salad of not-yet-completely-bolted garden lettuce and chopped tomato balanced all the fishy fish. So the result was distinctly Greek, in celebration of Bastille Day.
* 'ahi, turns out to be Hawaiian (a marketing ploy, but real Hawaiian in any case) which explains the mysterious ' (for glottal stop). Now stop your glottis and get on with dinner.
Tuesday 13 July
Though we did venture out to the IGA to scrounge some fresh food on our first day back, there were lotsa sprouty but still good potatoes left in the pantry. Holt chopped them up into tiny cubes (he loves doing that) and panfried them with onion and a lone Spanish chorizo from the freezer, crumbled. Plenty of hot pimenton in it, so no need for spices or even salt.
Monday 12 July
We flew from Venice to Atlanta to Cincinnati, and during the 20-hour journey suffered the usual torments of little breakfast, a "lunch" and "snack" of airline food (though that coming from Europe is always better than that coming from America) and no sleep. So when we got home at around 9 PM, we each had a bowl of cereal and went directly to bed.
Sunday 11 July Vicenza
The morning and most of the afternoon spent wandering around looking at Palladian and other -ian architecture and fulfilling a long-standing desire to see the Teatro Olimpico. So wonderful, especially to Holt who is obsessed with perspective systems.
We stopped latish into the Antica Trattoria Tre Visi for “lunch,” and met with a wonderful prezzo fisso, with a frankly magnificent spread of “vegetarian” antipasti, vegetarian including sarde in saor, and prosciutto meloni. You could have grazed on that alone, but we went on and had primi of eggplant parmesan (superb, and who’d a thunk you could get it in the summer), and a cute puff pastry fish fillet.
For secondi, a tasty bunny and vittelo tonnata
And it included desserts: plum crostini and a cooling watermelon.
You’ll come for the architecture, you’ll stay for the watermelon.
Saturday 10 July PadovaFor Barbara’s birthday we went out to the calmly comfortable Osteria Dei Fabri. A rather hot evening and so we relished being met with a glass of cold and frizzante wine, and only right for the birthday girl. Primi were the classic Venetian sepie in nero (squid ink being a running theme) and bigoli (a sort of thick tubular spaghetti native to the Veneto with a bit of whole wheat in the mix) all’ anatra (which has its own web page for gosh sakes).
Stinco de maiale with a creamy soft polenta, which we think we’re going to go for from now on—the texture was just more pleasing than the ordinary slab.
But the best was the pesce spada affumicata (smoked swordfish) as a carpaccio with pea shoots and tender greens and toasted bread and butter.
Wine: Montecchia Ca’ Emo Colli Euganei 2008, a cabernet franc from the Euganean hill just a little ways outside of town. Nice and complex.
Friday 9 July Padova
We got into Padua latish in the afternoon and set out to find the highly touted Enoteca Angelo Rasi (Riviera Paleocapa 7) only to discover on getting there that it had been magically transformed into the Enoteca Cortes. We were somewhat afraid that we had hit the only Spanish restaurant in Padua and thought of wandering off somewhere else but we passed by the hedged off patio right on the river (as the address hinted) and turned back. Boy, are we glad we did. The food is not Spanish but echt Veneto (as we say) and changes every week (so no guarantee that any dish we had will be there when you get there. Then, hell, there’s no guarantee that the restaurant will be there when you get there). Even on a somewhat steamy Paduan night the patio was lovely, with rushing river sounds in the background.
The cuisine was Venetian but with some Sardinian touches. We went with an all fishy meal. So the wine was a Soave classico ronchetto (a Veneto standard) from Portinari 2006.
Primi: Taglionini neri al astice: the lovely fresh-made squid ink tagliolini (which Holt hasn’t been able to make in about 20 years, because you can’t get fresh intact squid any more or at least not in Ohio) and the little crayfish/lobster. But here was a nice touch, because the astice came deshelled: no struggling to penetrate the outer defenses of with what nephew Robert used to call armored insects. Then raviolini of salmon and bottarga (the salted fish roe that goes into tarama, etc.)
The secondi were more fish: merlusa Spanish style (bit dry) but nice salad; and rana pectatrice, that is the hideously ugly but tasty monkfish with a slash of pesto and Brussels sprouts (bit over done).
As we left the owners very kindly offered us a parting shot of Sardinian lemoncello.
Thursday 8 July Urbino
For our last night in Urbino, we hit La Balestra (“Crossbow”), which had given off a simpatico vibration as we wandered by around lunch time.
A nice young waitress brought us a plate of papardelle di duca, broader than elsewhere, with a ragu of wild boar sausage. Then freshly snipped gnocchi with duck (real ducky with a fugitive bone or two). For secondo, we split a plate of lamb stufato (beef stew) Urbino style, which was, we must confess, a bit too salty. The meaty dishes called for a red, so “Maioliche,” from Rosso Conero (a DOGC area), 2006.
Wednesday 7 July Pizza in Urbino
After the stunningly beautiful frescoes of the Oratorio di San Giovanni Battista (1415), we headed out for a night of feasting, only to find of the three restaurants recommended, one had closed for vacation, one had been renamed (and closed for vacation), and the other was just plain closed. So we sauntered into the pizzeria Morgana. The joint was pretty dead—all right, we were the only ones there at 8:00—but the staff was nice, and we had two pizzas: a classic boscaiola (woodsy with mushrooms and sausage), ‘tother with cacciota (the local creamy cheese) and picante salami. The almost too picante salami called for a flagon of the house white. A little side salad with an ingenious spritzer for the balasamic vinegar, which Holt used creatively. We left at 9:30, still the only folks there, and it was only on crossing the square that we realized what everyone else in the world knew: it was the semifinals of the World Cup, you know, where Brazil and that other country, whatzitzname, play soccer to the death.
Earlier that afternoon: other white tasty wines in the square.
1. pecorino (not just a cheese): an old grape newly revived in Abruzzi and the Marche: very lovely, crisp, cool, and long flavors.
2. Vermentino di gallura, yet another new grape, this time from Sardinia. Nice taste of peach and tangerine.
Not to mention the fabulous crescia sfogliata at Il Ragno d’Oro at the top of the citadel. Crescia (pl. cresce) is an amazingly flaky and satisfying fried puffy flatbread (not a contradiction in terms). The secret is in the lard. And we pass the calories onto you, the home reader.
A nice article about Crescia and a recipe:
Tuesday 6 July
After the glories of the Palazzo ducale, and a nap (not in the museum by the way), we headed out for evening drinks on the swallow-swooped veranda of Le Tre Piante (directions below).
A little antipasto, with prosciutto, melone, various nice meats, rucola (arugala in the south and America), shaved parmesan, and pickled onions/cauliflower/mushroom/pepper, led somehow inextricably to dinner.
Two primi: tagliolini arcobaleno, the colors of the eponymous rainbow (and not “Head Whale” in case you were wondering) being the green of zucchini, red of tomatoes, and gold of eggy pasta (all house-made), with lots of little pieces of calamari. Then tagliatelle with cecchi (the chickpeas that saved the Roman Republic), rucola, and pendoini (which turn out to be grape tomatoes). All excellent, made with pride.
Address: V. Voltaccia della Vecchia 1 (☎ 0722 48 63). From P. della Repubblica, take V. Veneto, turn left on V. Nazario Sauro, right on V. Budassi, and left down the stairs onto V. Foro Posterula.
Monday 5 July
A day mostly devoted to getting to Urbino.
(By the way, once we got to Pesaro, we asked six people, all of whom worked for the bus company and were wearing uniforms, where the bus for Urbino left from. Got only two completely different answers. Pay no attention to anyone except the woman behind the gelato counter, which, according to a very helpful, peeling, faded, xeroxed, unique, carefully hidden piece of paper, doubles as the biglitteria. She will inform you rightly that there is no espresso autobus, the claims of the OFFICAL WEBSITE for il stesso autobus notwithstanding, and is the ONLY person who actually knows what’s going on).
After settling in we chose a restaurant open on Mondays but closed on Tuesday. We arrived ridiculously early (7:55) to the very pleasant Trattoria Antica Urbino, with our choice of table (we were the first, of course), looking out over the garden where bottle-plants were growing.
An antipasto of pears wrapped in prosciutto and grilled.
Then tagliatelle al tartuffo: butter and shaved truffle, simplicity itself, and so perfect.
Only one secondo (uno per due, a useful expression) of fesa rosmarino. Fesa is veal rump, rather on the steaky side. Not a revelatory dish. With a verdura of a gratine of melanzane and tomate.
Wine: Rosso Conero by Lanari, a nicely tannic mix of Montepulciano with just a shot of Sangiovese.
After a long morning in the Archeological Museum, we found ourselves on the south side of town. A recommendation from VirtualTourist stuck in the mind, that a restaurant called I Tri Scalin (who needs final vowels!) was a place where families went for Sunday lunch. It was Sunday; it was lunch time; and the ipod real came to the fore. A quick peek at the downloaded webpage gave us the address: via Darsena 52, and the sear
ch function actually found the street on a pdf map, something of a walk outside the walls, and the search function for more nice people in Ferrara, led us to the spot.
No menu, as such. The waiter reels off what they have today, but for our benefit, he did bring over a printed list, and told us what dishes “non c’è”: these included donkey stew (to Holt’s slight disappointment and greater relief). We asked about salama da sugo con purè di patate. Too hot, he said. Instead we checked off another of the classics: pasticcio di maccheroni. Take fresh elbow maccheroni, blend with a white sauce charged with nutmeg and ground meat, and bake it in puff pastry. Only the Italians can put a starch inside another starch and make magic.
The best dish, worth the detour all by itself, was the agniolini with pesto and cherry tomatoes. N
ot the usual blender pesto, but finely chopped basil (growing everywhere in July), set off by the acid of the little tomatoes. No nuts.
For a cold platter: vitello tonnato. For a hot: fritto vegetale, crackling bits of zucchini and eggplant. Plus it made its own dessert: batter-fried apples and crema, sprinkled with powered sugar.
A half liter of the house white. It effervesced. So did we.
Despite thinking we might never eat again, we did. The peckish feeling returned around 9:30 and after a pleasant walk we entered the bright and bustling Cucina e Butega (bottega to those of us whose Ferrarese is a tad rusty). All our restaurants have been rather sedate till now, so it was a pleasure to enter a well-lit, crowded, but not clattering space.
A well thought out menu of mostly slow cooked, easily plated dishes. We asked about salama da sugo con purè di patate. Too hot, he said. Holt finally understood, when Barbara likened it unto ordering “turkey with all the trimmings” in July. A restaurant might well give it to you, but would be wrong not to protect the ignorant from their follies. (Not one of the guidebooks which listed the “typical” dishes mentioned that this is a winter dish).
We ordered rabbit: coniglio disossata , which arrived in nice slices (nices slices?), rolled around prosciutto and a whole zucchini running the length. Then oca arrosta with mele verdi: goose dark and rich, where the green apples had melted into a background sauce.
The wine was called Zefiro, which we ordered purely for the name of our nephew Zephyr, Not only did it turn out to be from a region we had read about and wanted to try, the Colli Piacneti, but a totally new grape, Ortrugo. It was wonderful, bright, crisp, fading to a delicious mineral water flavor at the end. Since all the wines are frizzante by default, they use fermo to mark a wine as “still.”
Holt went up to ask about desserts and then, at the very end of our time in Ferrara, he was granted his wish: a dessert called “salama a sugo,” prepared only there, a rich creamy chocolate cake with zabaglione, which we swear is (lightly) flavored with turmeric.
And so we left Ferrara having finally sampled all the classic dishes (sort of).
La Romantica is a Ferarra classic, so we had Ferrara classics. We asked abbout salama da sugo con purè di patate. Too hot, they said.
First, cappellacci di zucca, largish tortelloni filled with zucca puree, in a light cream sauce just tinged with , sprinkled with walnuts. Now, zucca is a problem word, used in Italian for every type of gourd, and universally translated as “pumpkin.” The zucca in question was what we’d call “pumpkin,” a sweet pie pumpkin with overtones of sweet potatoes, which is the combo we’ll try when we make this at home.
The other, strozzapreti, “strangled priests,” was the best. The pasta is thin irregular pieces rolled between the hands, served with a light brodo with shavings of onion, radish, carrot, celery, and fennel. Each vedge was fresh and tasted clearly of itself. A very restrained, elegant dish.
Then, a thin tuna steak, decorated with a pink grapefruit mayonnaise, and a delicate fish called pagro, in a potato crust: ultra thin slices of potato fitted around the fish and crisped in a hot oven.
The wine was Aulente, San Patrignaro, a sauvignon-chardonnay blend, a perfect fit for the fish.
(Earlier that afternoon: Kind Chiara had recommended K2 (kappa due) for gelato (Yes, it has its own facebook page). Barbara remembered the general directions and still more kind people pointed it out as it hoved into view. We had coco, stracciatella, lemon, and fior di latte.)
K2: Via Armani 30, 44100 Ferrara +39-53-224-0332
After a day in La Schifanoia (gasp-making), the Museo Lapidario (yawn-making, unless you’re the sort of person who enjoys escaping the heat to puzzle out Latin inscriptions, and you know who you are); lunch in a park (on a pickup piadina; Holt saw the sign stuck in “il famoso salame rosso” too late); a nice conversation with a girl named Chiara, who loved her home town and had studied in Virginia; then, the smaller scrappier museums: Palazzina Marfisa d'Este (mostly about the ceilings and a great barrel-vaulted “arbor”); and a quick pop into the main building of the University (only the doorway remains of the original building, but most importantly we found the bathroom, undoubtedly used by Copernicus himself), we sought out Ca’ d’ Frara (House of Ferrara in farrarese - not to be confused with Ca’ di Frara, the wine), a good restaurant. We asked about salama da sugo con purè di patate. Too hot, they said.
Holt confounded the nice waiter by (this time) ordering three primi! Even in the air-conditioning a red meat heavy meal seemed out of the question. So we ordered mussels and clams in a pleasantly spiced brodetta, with bread to sop it up.
The hit was tagliatelle in a white sauce (wine and oil only) of prosciuto: a festival of salty goodness. And for the “secondo”: a bollito misto with two cold sauces. The waiter and the waitress both referred to it as a salad, which confused the heck out of Holt, who was imagining a bowl of various boiled fishy things. Instead a salad as promised, attractively arranged, with something of a salad niçoise about it. Green beans and greens, we think, with one big prawn, several small shrimp, etc. but on the whole rather bland and we’ve already forgotten about it.
Thursday 1 July
After the dig ended B&H headed off on a tour of humanists, first to Ferrara, home of the Este family, Guarino’s school, Ariosto (whom we've read), Tasso (whom we haven't, but we've seen all his operas), and Olympia Morata.
A good recommendation took us to L’oca giuliva (“The Silly Goose”). We could sit inside (air-conditioned, a great blessing in Ferrara in summer), but looking out (a great blessing in any Italian town). We were greeted with proseco and little green olives filled with riccotta. Now, it seems that every wine from around here, or maybe the whole of Le Marche is fuzzy and fizzy, the reds, the whites, the rosati, too, probably (though we have yet to try the last), so we continued with the local Bosco Elencho Frizzante.
We started by sharing a primo of ravioli stuffed with radicchio, robiola cheese, and coarsely ground almonds, with an aromatic pesto of ortiche (“nettle”) and mentuccia (“pennyroyal”), which we're going to try to duplicate at home.
For secondi, two Ferrarese specials, roasted eel with pickled onions (which had a puréed raw tomato sauce under it; perhaps a little underspiced for the dish?) and a rich flavorful leg of faraona (guinea-hen) stuffed and served with mostarda of apples and pears and (a pleasant surprise) slices of pickled ginger.
The restaurant was crisp as was the service. Alas, despite splitting a primo (in defiance of all that is good and proper), we were too stuffed ourselves to indulge in any of the pastries for which Ferrara is famous. We'll try tomorrow.
Tasting notes from Il Brindisi, already open for business in 1435, where the very nice young sommelier who, when I asked to try a grape I had never had, recommended:
Bursôn 2006, a negretto longanesi, which was new and nice: complex, with rich, slightly gamey tannins.
We also had a Vingeto Saetti, a lambrusco di Modena, with that fizzy feel on the tongue, hints of coffee and something else: plum?
Whites: Corte Madonnina (the main négociant in these here parts), sauvignon (also the principle grape): crisp and flinty.
Lo Scambio, a chardonnay from Ravenna, very honeyed.
The pictures on the website don’t lie. This really is the view from our room.
The only problem is that Barbara and her hearty team from Brock have been too busy actually Restoring Ancient Stabiae (specifically excavating the gardens at the Villa Arianna) to keep much in the way of notes.
So just a few highlights. The kitchen does a remarkable job of providing three meals a day, to varying groups of students and scholars, with due (if perhaps not over bold) consideration for vegetarians. The crowd at dinner ranges from 30-90 depending on who’s where. The food was always good and every so often great. There were fresh baked croissants dusted with powered sugar for breakfast (at least there were until we all had to start the day at 7:00). An eggplant parmesan (for about sixty) stands out in the memory as does the going-away dinner for the Brock group, with phenomenal salt and pepper shrimp and calamari (for some reason the phrase “shrimp eyes” made the rounds of the Brock students).
Our main culinary adventure occurred on our way to Paestum, when we stopped off at an ultramodern, ultra-fresh buffala mozzarella factory, Vanullo. The cows even have their own automated milker and scratchers. People line up for hours to get the mozzarella which is made fresh every day and sold only on that day. Since a long bus ride in the heat is not good for mozzarella's freshness (or ours), we were served bocconcini that had been in a cow only a couple of hours before and which popped with fresh whey (No whey! Whey!).
One other memorable night was dinner with the Villa People, a group of friends, many of whom had worked for Canada Bell in British Columbia, and were now traveling about and stopping to work with Kathy on the garden excavation. They had rented a huge villa (hence the name) in Piano di Sorrento and invited us over for a game of Dodgem Cars (to get to the villa), Follow My Leader (to be led through the lemon trees of the garden of the villa), King of the Mountain (to climb to top of the villa), and Eye Spy (to be flabbergasted by the views from the top of the villa). The Villa People were so kind and so generous. The antipasti were perfect for sopping up the lashings of wine: roasted artichokes, all kinds of olives, cheeses, salamis. Then pizza. Yes, we finally had pizza near, if not in, Napoli.
Barbara really only got away once. Following Steve Ellis’ advice, after a long day in Naples, we set out to find some seaside shanty called “San Maria’s” or something like that, above what Steve swore was the best water in the Mediterranean. Not much to go on, but we learned that the name had “chalet” in it, and by asking everyone every two blocks and following the old tramway tracks to the very end, we discovered ”Chalet Annamaria,”* The real clue was asking if there was a fontana proprio qui vicino, and being directed to the cunningly disguised source. People were filling up every kind of container, from reused coke bottles to 10 liter tuns, with what one must confess to be mighty tasty water indeed: just traces of magnesium, not too minerally, but with a unique but refreshing palate.
While watching the boats and feeling the evening breezes, we had a insalata di frutta di mare (a little too much kamaboko), fried calamari and shrimp (not as good as the good-bye meal), and vongole verace in a rich buttery sauce (the best of the lot), portioned out over a couple of hours, several refills from the fontana (not so) segreta. But the hit of the evening came around 8, when normal people start eating, and the Oyster Kind set up his stand directly opposite. He shucked ( but did not jive) and presented us with fresh tasty salty oysters. The folks at Annamaria (including, we think, Annamaria stessa, seen bustling back and forth between various chalets) have no objections. A perfect marine ending to a long day.
Tuesday 18 May
First, wine and some finely stinky Morbier cheese over at Julie's house.
Then home for a beautiful lemony lamb, cut off the leg and broil- roasted according to Julia; served with parsleyed potatoes.
And in patriotism to Brock, whose students Barbara is taking to dig at Stabiae tomorrow, a Strewn terroir cabernet franc - our favorite lamb wine.
Monday 17 May
Fava beans are such a spring thing, you have to eat them when you can. So we do, and did: sautéed a little chopped onion, added some rich chicken broth, and simmered the beans in it until tender. Holt takes the outer shell off before he eats them, but Barbara just crunches them whole in their sweet meatiness.
The venison backstrap that our brother in law David so generously gives us comes as little medallions these days, so it's easiest to pan-fry it quickly, just about two minutes on a side, so each piece is still rare and tender and juicy. Then, as it rests on the plate, you can deglaze the pan with some marsala and stir in some of Barbara's second-prize-winning cranberry chutney, for a fruit flavored sauce that goes well with gamy meats.
This afternoon, when Barbara had to free a stupid fledgling caught in the strawberry nets, she found eight ripe strawberries. For dessert, we ate them and a first ripe Georgia peach with Graeter's strawberry chocolate chip ice cream, featuring a dark chocolate monolith that took up about a third of the pint.
Sunday 16 May
What do you do with three little fillets of sole, a bouquet of dill, and a dozen or so shrimps that didn't get used for last night's sole roulades? There are several options, but the path of least resistance on a very cool spring evening was to flour and fry the soles, then set them aside while we sautéed a panful of sliced mushrooms and poured cream over it. Once it thickened, we poached the shelled shrimp in the sauce, showered it with dill, and poured it on the side of the golden fillets.
Saturday 15 May
Things are getting a mite crazy around here, as we prepare to head out for a field season at Stabiae in Italy, but we wanted to see our good friends before we all took off. So Liz, Julie, Kathy, and Russel came over and shared in a potluck supper, which kept anyone from going plumb crazy to put a whole dinner together.
We started out on the patio, where the pink and white roses were blooming their fool heads off, and had a first toast with prosecco from Julie and a wonderful wild mushroom strudel appetizer in phyllo pastry, from Kathy.
The main course was Holt's sole and smoked salmon roulades.
The lox was a bit scrappy, so he cleverly ground it up with a bit of extra sole and smeared it on the fillets to be rolled up, which worked perfectly. He also cooked up some extra shrimp and mussels to adorn the plates, using the shrimp stock as the basis for his sauce. This was so beautiful on the plate, and even more so on the tongue!
Julie brought a salad with dried cranberries and raspberry vinaigrette, for a nice palate-cleansing tang after the main course; and for dessert, Liz provided a chocolate turtle cake that was deliciously gooey and sweet. We loved the dinner, and we love our friends.
Friday 14 May
It's always a pleasure to go to dinner with Liz, because she has such a European sensibility about dinner parties. For example, this one began with nice wine, crusty bread, and lashings of luxuriant imported French butter, a taste that none of the American varieties can rival. Then there was a hearty sausage and chickpea stew with savory curry flavors; and for dessert a rhubarb and ginger mousse.
Thursday 13 May
Okay, I was making this up. There's not much in the fridge, so I chopped up a couple of little sprouty onions and a big clove of garlic, sautéed them in olive oil, added a big clump of old sun-dried tomatoes in oil from the fridge (chopped), and simmered with a can of tomato purée until it got dark and sludgy. Then threw in a handful of pine nuts and a big bunch of fresh oregano leaves from the garden, and as it cooked down, a few shots of white wine to sweeten and lighten it.
As I cooked the spaghetti for it, I realized that I should have had some goat cheese (or good mozzarella for choice) out and flaked and warming, so that it could be tossed in at the last minute and form warm gooey chunks over the pasta. But it was too late, so I just stirred it into the sauce, where it melded and was warm. Which is all you can ask, really, of a pasta sauce - or a friend, for that matter.
Wednesday 12 May
I don't know what any Greek would say when asked to put mayonnaise on fish, but I bet it wouldn't be printable. Nonetheless, this "Greek" dish worked great with just frozen mahi mahi from Trader Joe's.
We didn't top with the lemon slices, and it melted nicely and tasted good - though not Greek - anyway. I suppose you could use them if it looked like the fish was getting too crisped on top.
Tuesday 11 May
This was a late night in the department, so we needed a quick dose of protein and carbohydrates. The ideal: steak (left over from yesterday, sliced and brought to room temperature), horseradish sauce (ditto), and a nicely crisped fryup of parboiled potatoes, onions, and a shake of pimenton della Vera. Dessert: Graeter's seasonal variation on a delightful theme, chocolate coconut ice cream with chocolate chips and almonds - or the frozen Almond Joy.
Monday 10 May
Holt had a yen for some red meat, so Barbara hunted and gathered him some from Kroger's. These were steaks weighing a pound and more, so we anointed them with Worcestershire sauce and grilled them using the frequent-flip method. Our condiment of choice was a horseradish sauce: about a teaspoon of Mr. Gene Green's fresh horseradish from Findlay Market, plus about a tablespoon of mayonnaise and about two tablespoons of nice thick yogurt; season with plenty of salt and a modicum of white pepper. Alongside, we had some sliced zucchini sautéed with garlic and doused with a bit of white balsamic vinegar.
Saturday 8 May
Cooking at the Kelley house is lots of fun. All you have to do is rummage in the freezer and find lots of tasty wild animal parts that David has shot. Then you cook them. This was a long-simmered stew of two wild turkey breasts, cut up in chicken broth with bay leaves, thyme, and sage. Then carrots, sautéed onion and celery, and potatoes were added in their turn. We served it up after several hours, and not only was it good, but Laura and Garrett both ate and enjoyed big bowls of it. We consider it a big success.
Friday 7 May
We drove down to Smyrna, Tennessee, to see the family; Ralph and Geraldine, David's parents, had just left, but they left behind a fridgeful of tasty stuff, including a nice meat sauce and a bag of pasta already made. We didn't feel like facing much prep, so reheating the sauce and just throwing the spaghetti in was a natural. This is just to prove that we don't insist on fresh pasta every night.
And for dessert, we had Ralph's bread pudding, made with his own peerless, matchless biscuits. Melting goodness.
Thursday 6 May
The farm eggs from Findlay Market have daisy-yellow yolks, and make beautiful sticky pasta. We've been looking forward to making crab ravioli with it for a week or so, since we opened that can of crab from Trader Joe's. The filling was much as here, except that we didn't have any red bell pepper.
Just butter and lemon juice poured over the ravioli; we previously used grated romano, but this mixing of fish and cheese flies in the face of received Italian opinion.
Monday 3 May
A susurrus of suckery: Holt had to go out for faculty dinner with a speaker at Wild Ginger, where the food is only -eh-. Barbara stayed home in the garden, where the breeze was cool, the skies spectacularly blue, and the earliest roses were just blooming, and had her first beer of the season (Samuel Adams Lager) and a Spanish tapas-style tortilla with potatoes and chorizo. Ahhhh.
Sunday 2 May
A wonderful soup we made out of the gleanings of yesterday's trip to Findlay market - in fact, the same thing we made exactly a year ago on Kentucky Derby Day.
This time we used the kernels off two early ears of butter and sugar corn as well as the favas, asparagus, zucchini, potatoes, onions and carrots. The broth was chicken, and the fresh garden herb was chervil.
Saturday 1 May
Archie and Sharon always give terrific parties, with conversation as good as the food, and wines from everywhere (we should have brought one - Becky had given us a bottle of fine Illinois wine at Christmas that would have been good to sample). High points were homemade dolmades, shrimp with cocktail sauce, many cheeses and dips, then mains of pork loin stuffed with herbs and roasted, salmon fillet, rice pilaf, and many cakes for dessert. Thanks, Sharon and Archie!
Friday April 30
After living on yogurt and apples for too long, Barbara had a yen for serious protein. So we got two nice thick New York strip steaks and fired up the grill. Garlic mash potatoes on the side.
A special occasion called for a special wine so we rootled away in the root cellar and disgorged the 1998 Mezzino Barolo that Brian gave Holt for his birthday in 2004. It had aged very well (as which of us has not?), with firm tannins (as which of us . . .), and blackberry notes (as which . . ).
Sunday 25 April
The nice young Amish guy at Findlay Market had baby bok choy. He had been carefully separating the leaves but Barbara told him more people would buy them if he left them intact. So this week we picked up some, and (as it was Holt's night to do the dishes) had them in a one-frying-pan meal.
So we sautéed the BBC (baby bok choy) with the last of the Ontario garlic in a little oil until the leaves were just a little crisp, then steamed covered with a dash of wine. Removed to the hot plates.
Then the pork medallions coated with lovely herbs from the garden. Parsley, sage, oregano, and thyme (dang! so close). Deglazed with another shot of wine. Decorated the plates with thyme and sage flowers.
Saturday 24 April
Not really a baby bluefish, more a toddler. Two of the blue would be too much. So one pan-sized bluefish, with cavity stuffed with parsley and thyme, roasted at 475º with the asparagus.
Barbara, with her whaling skills intact, neatly flensed the fish.
Wednesday 21 April
A last appearance of the wop salad, again as a topping for fish, but this time Trader Joe's frozen mahi mahi, sauteed quickly on each side. We placed it on a green salad: supermarket romaine lettuce and some puntarelle and radicchio from the early garden, tossed with the fruity olive oil our niece Joanna brought us from Spain, and some white balsamic vinegar.
Tuesday 20 April
Barbara was working at home, and the weather was a mite chilly, so a roast chicken was the perfect dinner. Since the herbs are so fresh and juicy in the garden, she skipped the canonical lemon and stuffed it with a sheaf of chervil, parsley, and lemon balm, with chopped tarragon leaves under the skin of the breast. And then, since she really wanted a crispy skin, she rubbed it all over with softened butter, and put it on a rack in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes while she prepared the shallots, carrots, and waxy new potatoes to throw in the pan around it. Once the vegetables were tossed with olive oil and salt and went in the pan, the heat was reduced to 350. And by the time Holt got home, an hour later, there it was.
Monday 19 April
Barbara brought the giant Canadian Tire crockpot home, so we used it to slow-simmer a savory pottage of chickpeas on Saturday. It had Spanish-style chorizo from Kroger's, fried with onion and a slurry of the universal coriander and cumin, plus a shot of pimenton della Vera; it's always good to toast the spices in oil, Indian-style. Then the whole thing got stirred together, with more chopped onion and a can of crushed tomatoes. Served it two days later, when it had had time to think about itself.
Sunday 18 April
It was so nice to get back to Findlay Market, where the nice people had some big ol' poblanos they said they knew we would like. And we did. They got roasted and peeled, and the next night we stuffed them with a combination of goat cheese, boring IGA provolone, and sun-dried tomatoes. We were out of cornmeal for breading, so we baked them in the oven - unwisely, it turns out, as the melting cheese mixture was able to run out of the peppers much more easily that way.
Served the pepper-and-cheese puddles along with fresh ground-up tomatillo salsa, made with lime juice and the first tender spring leaves of cilantro - our favorite garden weed.