Saturday, August 07, 2010


Friday 6 August

Beans from Sunday, and Indian eggplant from Tuesday. It's multi-ethnic clean out the fridge night.

Luau in your Living Room: Hawaiian Meatballs

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.

Sole and Salmon Timbales

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.

Indian Feast: Chicken and Eggplant

Tuesday 3 August

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.

Sole with Corn Relish

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.

Long-simmered beans with sage sausage

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.

Blue Marlin steaks with Tropical Salsa

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.

Pasta "Estate"

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.

Deconstructed Salade Niçoise

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.

Guacamole and Chiles Rellenos

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.

Penne alla Saffi

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.

Ceviche in avocado

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.

Spanish Potato Salad

Sunday 25 July

Much as last time, only we put in some yellow bell peppers and did it at the last minute, so it didn't marinate and it was WARM. A different ethos, but just as good.

Summer Cilantro Pasta with Scallop Ceviche

Saturday 24 July

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.).

Thai Beef Salad/Yam Neua

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.

Tuna Souvlaki

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!

Steak and Potatoes

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.

Pre-Dental Dinner with Liz and Becky

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.

Tuna Salad

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.

Portobello Burgers

Sunday 18 July

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.

Pork and Sweet Corn

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.

Hot Dogs and Sauerkraut

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.

A Festive Dinner with Julie

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.

Tarama and Tuna

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.

Spanish Tortilla

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.

Vicenza: Tre Visi

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.

Padua: Barbara’s Birthday

Saturday 10 July Padova

For 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.

Padua: Enoteca Cortes

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.